Aleksandra Goryachkina: My Goal is to Perform to the Best of My Abilities
The winner of the FIDE Women's World Cup gave an interview to Anna Volkova and Eteri Kublashvili
– Aleksandra, our congratulations on this huge success of yours! Your career knows many tournament victories, inclusive of national championships and the FIDE Candidates tournaments. You also finished as a runner-up at the previous World Cup event. This time, what are your feelings after this victory? How do you rate it in terms of difficulty?
– Thank you! Knockouts are in general never easy to play. So, this final feels to have been a real challenge. I think it was a rather smooth and confident sailing for me up to the final match. Then my nerves got the better of me when I thought that I hadn't won the final yet, and this is when the problems came to the forefront.
– You navigated the first three rounds more than confidently, without tie-breaks. You won your games as White and drew as Black. Please share your insight into this tournament period: did you manage to catch wind into your sails, or were your opponents not so difficult after all?
– One should bear in mind that my high rating pits me against relatively low-rated players. Therefore, the initial three rounds offered not the strongest opponents, and it was otherwise possible to score even more points overall. However, I attained the minimum goal, and it was enough for me.
– If speaking about your turning points, the tie-break with Harika seems to have been pretty long and tense. Was it the most challenging match of the tournament?
– The most challenging was probably the final match. Harika is a pretty tough opponent, motivated to get into the Candidates tournament. Since I had already qualified, she was probably better off not playing me in the first place. However, that was the way of the tournament bracket. It happens. The classical part was a relatively uneventful couple of draws with nearly no winning chances coming my way there. And I won the first tie-break game as Black, which cannot be claimed as a much-deserved victory. My opponent just blundered a piece in one move. On the other hand, I unexpectedly went down in game two as White in a rather lop-sided fashion. She delivered a very good game, however. Then I decided to stabilise the situation somewhat, and we made two draws again. I won the first blitz game with the black pieces yet again. Playing White in game two, I pulled myself together to keep things under control and avoid any pitfalls that I had come to experience only too well by then.
– The final was quite dramatic, not everything going smoothly for you. Please share more about this match, in which your opponent was not the most famous one.
– I started the final match not in a very good shape, to be honest. Newly-appeared health issues negatively influenced my over-the-board performance. On the other hand, it was not without luck sometimes siding with me as well. I am happy to have finished the tournament with a good result.
– If we mention your recent major success, it's second place in the FIDE Grand Prix series and winning this World Cup event. These competitions belong to different formats. Which format feels more comfortable in terms of playing?
– The one that allows you to win. No two times are ever the same.
– Who was your help at this tournament, who supported you? We saw your father, we saw some of the fans who would come specifically to watch your games. How do you rate the importance of support at tournaments like this one?
– All the support came down to pure encouragement from my dad and my fans. Needless to mention, this much of cheering here came as something unexpected to me. It was a challenge in terms of coaching support because I didn't have anyone assisting me, which is certainly not an easy matter to cope with at the knockout events.
– How do you manage to cope with physical fatigue in general? After all, the tournament was underway for nearly a month, and you faced quite challenging opposition, often the strongest chess players in the world.
– I guess you better do the bare minimum and avoid tie-breaks. They are a real drain of your inner resources. And if you have this time available for restoring your strength instead, you recover/prepare for upcoming games and sleep better, and things generally go more smoothly for you as a result. I have already highlighted in one of my interviews that in going into knockouts I try to imitate Alexandra Kosteniuk, who had won both the World Women’s Championship (that was the tournament title back then) and the Women’s World Cup without any tie-breaks along the way (if my memory serves me right, of course). What a display of chess prowess, indeed!
- What about your spare time in Baku? Did you do any sightseeing around the city? Are you accustomed to the heat in general?
- I cannot stand the heat, I hate it. That’s why I would never go out before 9 p.m., so it felt quite bearable. We stuck to the same routine of strolling along the embankment but nothing more than that.
- Your dressing nicely at all times is highlighted by many. Do you share an idea of things that do and do not bring luck?
- It seems to me that almost no one mentions it. Kateryna Lagno comes to mind in connection with this, while they often claim that I am always gloomy and angry (laughing).
- I don't know, I haven't seen anything like that, to be honest.
- They might have softened their opinion somewhat following my victory (laughing). When it comes to dressing, lucky things are comfortable things for me to wear, in general.
- Do you read any news or follow social media during tournaments?
- It is very bad to be one of the tournament favourites because they will always write bad things about you. They will criticise you no matter what you do. “She didn’t play well enough, she didn’t look good enough, her tournament performance was not confident enough.” This is why I don’t read them.
- How do you keep up your physical shape? Do you go in for some sport?
- No, I am being lazy.
- How are you going to use your prize money?
- I would not characterize this prize as a big one considering the infrequency of such tournaments. Thus, I even went into the red with my last year’s income. Therefore, if divided monthly, this prize no longer looks like a substantial figure.
- Following such a long competition as this one, what is the best rest for you?
- Just to get enough sleep (laughing). I am so tired of air flights that I never travel anywhere and try to rest at home instead.
– What are the upcoming tournaments on your agenda? Which goals do you want to attain?
– I think to participate in Grand Swiss, and in the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships at the end of the year. My goal is to perform to the best of my abilities.
– Thank you so much. Please accept our congratulations one more time. We wish you more victories and success to come.
– Thank you!
Photos by Stev Bonhage and Anna Shtourman / FIDE