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3 August 2017

Daniil Dubov: Strong Performance Will Never Go Unnoticed

The Higher League winner answers Dmitry Kryakvin’s questions

- Danya, my congratulations on your success! As far as I understand, the astrological prediction, published on our website over the start of this year, has come true in that the Higher League success was promised to none but you.

- Thank you! Never even heard of any forecasts! Please publish them as often you can!.

- How has the tournament been unfolding for you, which games do you evaluate as the most crucial ones?

- The event has had its share of ups and downs, and no game was of no importance. I set out for the Higher League in the company of my girl-friend, and it is her victory in many respects as well. I used to be so unbearable, especially sometime after crossing the tournament midline, that it was a challenge for her to deal with my negative emotions. Snezhana is not a chess person, which makes it hard to explain her why I go crazy or am otherwise in a bad temper after the game. But, thank God, she has somehow coped with it.

Today I feel that I am given a unique opportunity to justify this mental anguish suffering – it has served some purpose, at least. As for the chess side of the matter, I think of my performance as a more or less even one. I have had eight good games and a bad one against Levin. It is hard to have no bad tournament games at all. As for the drawing of lots, I have definitely enjoyed the better side of it.

– Do you mean the ultimate round? It was a topic of hot discussion on chess websites and forums as to whether or not you were or were not into luck indeed.

- Well. I have had this feeling of dissatisfaction dating back to as far ago as the Higher League in Tyumen. Yes, I was sixteen years old then and the result was obviously brilliant and so on and so forth, but still ... Losing the game while having +5 with one round to go and rolling back to the second place due to additional tie-breakers seems logically inconsistent from the human point of view. I was upset by not having taken first then. In a certain way, the current success makes it up for the Tyumen sufferings. It is absolutely illogical that I have finished first now! There are such players as, for example, Evgeny Romanov, who have had a much stronger tournament display. We could name yet others, but I have been lucky with the drawing of pairings as well as with the openings. It has turned out this way despite me, but it feels good nonetheless!

– You have been through many Higher Leagues and have come to know the difference. What about the Rosa Khutor event?

- My first Higher League was in 2012 in Tyumen. It is, of course, hard to be dissatisfied with the then result, but it was very a hard-earned experience. Back then we set out together with Sergey Yrievich Shipov, while staying in the room next to ours was Alexander Valerievich Khalifman. The sound-proofing was so gorgeous that Khalifman's bath tap was heard running day and night! It was stifling in the rooms with no air conditioning. I played well, and had no reason to be upset, but I think the conditions left much to be desired, objectively speaking."

The tournament in Yekaterinburg was quite the opposite: the tournament was well-organized, but I performed poorly, which left me happy. The only thing that I was not particularly happy about was their inability to officially name any single hotel. I think that a tournament of this level should have some official hotel named. Otherwise, the Yekaterinburg tournament was a good one.

It was followed by a tournament in Vladivostok, which I lacked stamina to go to and missed it for that reason. The Kaliningrad tournament seems to have been a decent one. Ty my mind, the Kolomna experience was just awful! I do not state this because it was my failure. Still, plus thirty degrees in the playhall was a bit too much! As opposed to this, the current reality was a pleasure. It has been superb both inside and outside of the playhall!

The only thing I wish improved is longer tables! Even a guy like me had not enough room to rest his elbows on. And what has it been like for the giants of Khismatullin and Bocharov’s caliber? It must have been very hard on them. However, these are trifle problems, but otherwise everything has been fine.

The future winner arrived for his decisive game with Andrey Belozerov well in advance

– Has it ever been the case of your pressing your neighbors’ clock button, or vice versa?"

- No, it has never happened, but I have another problem - I'm a left-handed person and had for this reason to show up in advance all the time in order to adjust the board’s position and fit my things in place. The right-handed player, seated to my left and arriving after me, could my encroaching on his on his/her territory. Therefore, I had to appear earlier and shift the board slightly to the right. I did same thing prior to my ultimate round game against Belozerov.

- When preparing for the interview, I came across a great interesting conversation of yours with Oleg Barantsev on Back then you arrived at a sad conclusion about lack of great recent achievements. Has the situation changed since then? By the way, who do you work with at the moment?

- It seems to me that there has changed absolutely nothing. Yes, I like my current level of play more than my previous one. Although I have taken the Higher League, I suspect that my life will not be affected by it at all.

Once we have come to the point of working on chess, there are two people who I really study chess with. Firstly, it is Max Matlakov, and the latest events have shown the work to be of a beneficial nature.

It was a pleasure to hear Mark Glukhovsky over the phone congratulating me on winning the Higher League. He told about interviewing Max in connection with his European Championship victory. There was such a funny moment. Max recalled the start of our collaboration, when my belief about everyone playing badly passed on to him so that he started defeating everyone!

Of course, my deepest respect (I think the secret can be revealed now) to the second person: I communicate and work a lot with Boris Gelfand. I am sincerely grateful to him for a huge number of tips about chess and not only! Even here, during the tournament, he was never short of them. They have proven of crucial importance in practical terms and did work well for me, thank God!

Well, I have always been assisted by Vasily Vladimirovich Gagarin. We were together at the European Championship in Minsk.

- Indeed, it was my great pleasure greeting Gagarin every day at the playhall entrance!

His support was vital for me. We kept in touch by phone on a daily basis. Snezhana will confirm that after each round I would call Vasily Vladimirovich from my hotel room.

- Please put in picture those readers who might not have kept track of the European Championship in Minsk.

– I ended up scoring plus four in Minsk. It was sufficient to qualify into the World Cup, although I am entitled to be there anyway based on my results from the previous European Championship. The Minsk proved a somewhat weird tournament for me. I advanced to plus four by round six. I performed decently, in general, but failed to score yet another victory. I had a sureproof win against Maxim Rodshtein in the penultimate round, but failed to bring it home. This is how I ended up at plus four. Although I am satisfied with the creative side of my performance, the sportive side of it left me unfilled. As opposed to that, the Rosa Khutor is simply brilliant in terms of the first place outcome, which feels as if out of the sky.

Daniil Dubov and Sanan Sjugirov have ended up sharing first

- Our website readers are interested whether the Higher League’s winner has a supercomputer?

- No, I do not have one. Now it has become very convenient for lazy people like me - Chess Base comes in with an absolutely awesome feature. I hope Max will not rebuke me for coming out in the open with this one, but it seems to me that it is no longer a secret. There is such a sophisticated feature known as "cloud". For little money only you can link up to a powerful computer that costs tens of thousands of dollars. It is as if you rent it out to look into your lines.

- This is an online feature, right?

- Indeed, you really suffer when there is no internet. However, the Tulip Inn provided a good connection.

- Is there any telling if the connection is safe?

- There are no guarantees whatsoever, but who needs my files anyway? None will make anything of them.

- Let us talk of cyber security for chess players of your level. On the eve of the latest world championship match one of the headlines was about Magnus and Sergey having their computers protected.

- Honestly speaking, what does Sergey need to safeguard against in the first place? Do not attach much importance to everything they write. Let's say that tomorrow my analysis database will be out there in the network for everyone to see. So what? Probably, someone will learn something interesting, but it will be no big deal. That is, what you find out for Black is correct in any case, and everyone will know exactly how you are going to make a draw in the Grünfeld. Meanwhile, whatever you find for White is for one game only. Anyone is likely employ it ahead of you anyway.

Thus, in the ultimate round Sasha Motylev employed a plan, which I had had in store since long before. I have played 6.g3 many times in Najdorf with the idea of meeting 6... e5 with 7.Nf3!?, but no one has ever challenged me with e5. Sasha told me during the competition that he and his colleagues had this prepared for Kramnik (the Motylev-Kokarev game ended in a draw on move 24 - ed.). I had it ready for myself. Therefore, all these ideas are of a here-and-now value.

- Well, your collaboration with Gelfand amounts to quite something... Boris Abramovich is quite an authority for me in chess!

-I have an impression that when I study chess, Boris also does it. Or maybe we do it together. However, when I sleep, Boris studies chess, and when I walk, Boris goes on studying chess!

I have a huge respect for it, I try to follow suit as well. In any case, it is of extreme importance to have a living example like this. I feel like having experienced a qualitative shift. It might not have influenced the rating, but my inner feelings have changed. Some new openings, confidence in my capabilities - all this is largely due to Boris. In a certain way, I regard him as a teacher, and I am very grateful to him.

- Much has been said lately about succession of chess generations in Russia? I have even come across an article with Sergey Shipov’s expert opinion, which you are also part of.

- Yes. The thing that I like most about it is the definitions that the author attaches to each of the target persons. Have you noticed it, haven’t you? This is undoubtedly great! This one is the smartest, that one is such and such, and I am a guy from Vykhino.

- I have read it, of course! Can the four Musketeers and their pursuers step into the shoes of our older generation national team members?

- The question is exactly whose shoes are they supposed to step into.

We will have a new generation of decent seven-hundred rated players. Max’s rating is already 2730, Volodya Fedoseev’s one is high as well, Vlad Artemiev is yet another player rated about 2700. Maybe I will pull up to that level as well. This is all good, but will there be a person of Grischuk's or even Kramnik’s stature? And who is going to contest the crown, honestly speaking? There are no realistic candidates but Kramnik and Sergey. That is, the 2700+ level certainly makes for very good chess players, generally speaking. Will these chess players grow into such chess masters as Kramnik? This is far from clear.

- Speaking about the crown contest, do you keep track of the Grand Prix series?

- I do. By the way, I receive e-mails from Agon. There has recently been a very funny episode, let me share it. I open my mailbox and find a message from Agon. The subject is “Invitation”, added by “Grand Prix”. All of us being insane optimists by nature, my first thought was that maybe due to my high blitz rating I was invited into the Grand Chess Tour! I open it, and here they are offering me to come to Geneva at my own expense to watch the guys play. A sort of an invitation "for the elect." I did not accept the invitation, as is known to those who watched the Higher League...

In general, the Grand Prix format is a sound one. Not a few players display tendency towards draws, but those who do fight, score a lot of points nonetheless. The qualification cycle’s main upside is its consistency. There is a Grand Prix format, and this is good in itself.

- Any chess interview without asking about Carlsen looks strange nowadays. Do you think there is going to be a real challenge to the World champion in the near future?

- I have a special concept about Magnus. I have discussed it with many, but my view is not shared by everyone. Thus, Carlsen used to whitewash every previous event he participated in, whereas his latest performance in a number of events has been clearly underwhelming so that his starting-round triumph rate has dropped to one out of three, figuratively speaking. I am inclined to think that his relative slump is likely linked up to the following problem. He has somehow become a skilled hand against an older generation players like Anand and Gelfand, against which Magnus features a great plus in all formats. Then he has turned the tide in his favor against Kramnik. There arrived a moment when a super tournament lineup would consist of players failing to put up any opposition to Carlsen, every second featuring something like -7 against him!

- And what exactly is different now?

- Tournament lineups sport younger players now. Thus, Magnus’ score against So is only plus one and is equal against Giri for that matter. Although having a big plus against Nakamura, the latter has stopped going down in recent games. His only real customer is Vachier-Lagrave. Aronian has turned tables on Magnus by having scored a number of victories. Carlsen has come to face less people experiencing psychological problems when facing him. It seems to me that, fears aside, playing him will no longer be such a big deal. I have a rapid and a blitz games against him (the 2015 world rapid championship had Daniil outplaying the champion completely, but missing the decisive finisher and the game ended in a draw – ed.)

Let’s say there used to be games when I was not so comfortable, but otherwise this is a usual situation of another person playing you without anything special about it.

- And were you present when the video shows Magnus flying off the handle?

- Yes. They have a peculiar approach to showing real life events…Sergey would tell time and again how he left the awarding ceremony. It makes absolutely no sense to me. I ended up third and also ascended the stage to take my medal. Well, here we go on standing after being awarded. With confetti falling in showers, everyone is waiting for something else to happen. I did want to leave, but was uneasy of doing so ahead of others. I have many friends who root for me, although not chess players themselves - they watched it too. We had a lot of laugh together and thought that it would have been great had I left first. As if saying, "Screw it, again failed to take the World Cup, only third place, what a failure!" I did not do it, Magnus was the first to leave, but everything had more or less decent appearance.

As for his postgame Norwegian urban slang... In my opinion, this is not quite the thing to do. But yelling is his choice, what can I do? We must give him credit though – when playing football together, I had no feeling that he was in any way a prima donna. He plays football in a normal fashion, absolutely like a man. He never says you anything over some close action moments. Yes, he likes to win. On the other hand, he has won on so many occasions that he has probably got used to it by now. Therefore, from the human point of view Magnus is an absolutely normal person.

- While on the subject of football, have you watched the Confederations Cup? What are your impressions?

– Our logic behind it is really weird. The team played one good tournament in years, which was the European Championship in 2008. We must realize that the stars were aligned in our favor back then with the brilliant coach and Arshavin in the team. We won only two good matchups, but for some reason we all keep expecting them play on like this forever. Football players seem doing their best, but it's clear that if they cannot play better, it's not their fault. Objectively speaking, we do not have such a strong team after all. They played their strength. Why do we criticize Cherchesov or anyone else? Why do we have anticipation of something great all the time? I do not know why Sergey believes that the Confederations Cup final will be Russia - Chile? It defies me. Maybe he has just been asked to voice this opinion.

- We have been through similar situation in chess, there was a period when the national team was given a tongue-lashing as well.

- I have recently come across Dolmatov’s interview on e3е5 given after the 2004 Olympiad, where the Russians took silver and played brilliantly, but the Ukrainian team played even better! The interview is titled something like: “If someone has played better, this is not a tragedy yet.”

Dolmatov was then under fire and some time later was removed from the post of head coach. It was just a decade ago. We took second and it turns out to be a deafening failure. That’s it, the coach should be removed. Lord, such was the time back then! Now it is clear that in any given tournament we are much more unlikely than not to take first. We are certainly one of the favorites, but all other teams put together have a lot more chances.

– Here is Kasparov coming back! Yet another ten-year parallel. What do you think Garry Kimovich’s result is going to be?

- I do not think Kasparov is going to finish first. He is likely to end up either with slight plus or with slight minus. This leg of Grand Chess Tour features a mixed composition after all. Certain players could be replaced with stronger ones. Anyway, the tournament distance is long, and it seems to me that Kasparov’s performance is not so formidable nowadays after all. Let us wait and see.

The last year's American blitz tournament, where he challenged the US team, had very few people notice that his performance faded when people included him in their home preparation. On the first day Kasparov showed up to employ new ideas in the Scotch or Vienna game or some other opening. However, on day two So, Nakamura and Caruana came prepared and it became much harder for Kasparov. Now they have even more time for preparation, and this reduces Kasparov’s chances even further. I will sooner root for him, but I do not buy an idea of his crushing success. We are about to find out!

- What is your attitude towards the now fashionable trend of PR in chess?

– No attitude, I should say. It is hard to promote something nonexistent. In my opinion, Sergey’s case is a funny one. Karjakin gives interviews and says, "I root for Barcelona, because Carlsen roots for Real." With all due respect to Kirill Zangalis’s work, I have a feeling that they imitate Carlsen in many ways, only putting it in the framework of Russian reality. Carlsen makes a kickoff in one of Real games, and it gives them ideas to involve Spartak to pull off same trick since Real will unlikely have them honored.

Let us have a look at other chess players, however… I have high esteem of Ernesto and his cause is a noble one. Indeed, chess in Ingushetia is on the rise and it seems to me that the main thing is just to keep playing chess. It goes without saying that strong performance will never go unnoticed! Failing this, no amount of PR will make people care about you! Same Boris Gelfand has never been involved in PR for that matter. However, when he takes microphone to share something, his words carry considerable weight. If Gelfand says something like, “Look, this is my point of view and this is what I believe in,” his opinion is held in respect.

- What about players of your generation?

- Volodya Fedoseev, for one, says that he, too, wants to be famous. Same as Sergey, he uploads pictures on the web. Back from the gym with Zangalis, you immediately see their pictures uploaded. There is simply no longer visiting a gym for fun, you have to say, "Look, I introduce Volodya into sports". Kyrill has his own approach and takes pictures of every pull-up. It is hard for me to understand this. Nevertheless, I see no harm in this either.

– Meanwhile, you have many fan-friends rooting for you, right?

–These are mainly my school buddies. When the Russian team championship was taking place in Sochi (by the way, the Zhemchuzhina hotel provided excellent conditions), we formed a sort of "ménages à trois household". I came in with Snezhana, then my school friend showed up suddenly. So what? The weather was fine, and Snezhana’s friend arrived afterwards as well. And here we were, the four of us, hanging out there. Many people whom we came to know then, keep writing with questions about our wellbeing, chess life and tournament standings, and so on.

– What are the nearest plans of a Higher League winner?

- I am dead sure to participate in the World Cup and the Superfinal. Other than that is unclear yet. I envy people who know to plan their chess calendar in advance. I am nowhere near that. I'm used to a huge number of tournaments in the first half of the year - no need to have anything planned. They somehow find you all by themselves: the Aeroflot, the Russian Team Championship, the European Championship. With the second half of the year on the agenda, I start thinking where to play. Meanwhile, it turns out that there are no events to play in.

I have had an absolutely cosmic experience with an in-between tournaments gap starting with the Tyumen event we have just mentioned. I performed gorgeously, and it was summer. I think I also went on to participate in the Superfinal, and my next tournament was only in winter! Since then nothing has changed, I am not very professional in this planning aspect.

Prize winners at the awarding ceremony

– Then, let it be seldom but to the point!

– Thank you.    

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