23 July 2019

Alexandr Predke: Confident of Success When Playing for the Ural State Mining University

The Russian Higher League winner answers Dmitry Kryakvin’s questions

– Sasha, congratulations on your big success! Please bring us up to date about yourself!

– Thank you! I was born in Dimitrovgrad, a city in the Ulyanovsk Oblast. I went to a regular secondary school that happened to teach chess as part of lower grades curriculum. Our teacher took note of those with some chess ability and invited them to study at the chess club. Although not immediately, I agreed to take up chess with the club at the age of 8. There were only a few people in Dimitrovgrad to study chess with at that time, so I really appreciate their efforts. I want to highlight my first teacher, Sergey Sychev. He was the one teaching me how to play and cultivating the love of chess.

– How did you find yourself in Togliatti in the first place?

A failure in the U14 section of the 2007 junior championship of the Volga Federal District sent me into in the First League of the Russian Championship. I ended up winning the tournament, but of more importance was that my success resulted in my mother’s taking an interest in the Tolyatti chess school she read up on the Internet. We decided to go there and see for ourselves, to talk with the director of the sports school Gulnara Salakhova. I was 14 and rated around 2200. Having won the Junior Premier League only, it was perhaps not much to write home about. Nevertheless, Gulnara Ravilievna suggested that I go to one of GM Yuri Yakovich’s training camps. It was the starting point of my plunging into the chess life of the Samara Oblast. I moved to Togliatti on July 2009 and have represented the Samara Oblast ever since.

– And your rating moved far beyond the 2200-point afterward, right?

– The results were not slow in coming. There also followed my debut in international tournaments, such as the Chigorin Memorial and the Moscow Open. I made some IM norms almost immediately. Already in 2010, I won the U-16 Premier League of the Russian Championship, and my rating was 2400+. During my stay in Tolyatti, I worked mainly with Yakov Vladimirovich Geller, but there were also some classes taken from IM Boris Vladimirovich Abrashkin and GM Yury Rafailovich Yakovich. I can not help but praise the benefits of the training sessions given by the school nowadays. Back in my days, the classes were given by Yakovich and Kharlov. I much thank everyone who used to assist me.

Now I am a resident of Moscow, and I would very much like to thank my girlfriend Masha Severina and her entire family for their support. With everybody playing chess in Masha's family, each online broadcast with me being part of it is subject to close monitoring.

 Maria Severina and Alexandr Predke

– By the way, why has Maria been missing from the latest tournaments? She seems to lack no success or abilities to try qualify for the Higher League.

– Indeed, she enjoyed a lot of success in the junior championships, and she is a female international master. However, as Masha entered the Higher School of Economics, she found it hard to mix her university studies with the game of chess.

– How was the tournament unfolding for you, which games were decisive from your point of view?

– It was a smooth start for me, and I enjoyed the ease of my performance. I managed to get an opening edge more often than not. Besides, I did manage to convert, which is quite different from just getting an edge. Sometimes you get many winning positions in a row and manage to convert none. I was in the lead going into round seven as White with Alexey Sarana. I decided to make the most of being the first player, but it turned into a complete failure as the opening went out of my hands and my play was rather underwhelming in general so that my losing the game was a deserved result.

My round eight game against Vladimir Fedoseev was of paramount value. I succeeded to win, and my tournament goals changed. I did not aspire to finish first then, aiming at getting into the top five instead. Vladimir overdid it, and I managed to profit from it. The last round encounter against Alexander Motylev went more or less smoothly and ended in a logical draw. Alexey Sarana and I ended up sharing points, but additional tie-breakers landed me first.



– Is it your first success of this magnitude or have you already had success with strong Swiss tournaments before?

– It is, in fact, my first adult Swiss-system event that I have taken. Having been a participant of many Russian Cup legs and European opens before, I happened to finish in the share of first, but have never won one as I found myself edged out into the second or third by inferior tie-breakers. I did well at this year's European Championship and qualified into the World Cup.

– What do you attribute your success to? Did you have any special preparation or mindset going into that competition?

– I succeeded in winning quite a number of games. Again, as you get winning positions, pressing your edge home makes a lot of difference, but it may also happen the other way around. I did convert all my winning chances here. Thus, David Paravyan chose to transpose from an inferior and unpleasant endgame straight into a losing one. Alternatively, Artyom Timofeev allowed me to checkmate him instead of opting for an unclear position by giving up an exchange.

Predke – Timofeev


Timofeev's last move overlooks White's nice combination. In lieu of 20...Bf6-c3 he should have gone for 20...h6 21.Bxf8 Kxf8 22.d4 (22.Bxc6 Bxc6 23.Rxb4? Bc3) 22...Rd8, retaining some compensation for the missing exchange. Now White is winning by force.

21.Bxh7+! Kxh7 22.Ng5+ Kg6

Or 22...Kg8 23.Qh5.

23.Rh4! e5

White checkmates Black nicely in all lines: 23...Rh8 24.Nh7 Rxh7 25.Qg4+ Kf6 26.Qf3+ Kg6 27.Rg4+ Kh6 28.Qh3# or 23...f6 24.Qh5+ Kf5 25.g4+ Kf4 26.Re4#.

24.Nh7 Black resigns.  


Predke – Paravyan

Black is worse, but 30...h4 or 30...Rc5 entitles him to reasonable hopes of a draw. Being pressed for time, David Paravyan blunders by offering the trade of rooks.

30...Rd8? 31.Rxd8 Rxd8 32.Rxd8 Kxd8 33.h4 – now White is about to create a remote passer and the Black’s kingside pawns are confined to the squares of his bishop’s color. Alexandr Predke converted easily after the time control move (notes by D.Kryakvin).


– As I see, the drawing of lots regularly pitted you against your friends –Sanan Sjugirov and Maxim Chigaev among them.

– This is a sport, and there is not much you can do about it. I have good friends, and all my games were free of incidents and ended in draws.

– Do you like Yaroslavl? How did you spend your rest day?

– I went to the riverbank. It is a lovely place, by the way. I had luck in that it was sunny and, unlike other days in Yaroslavl, it rained for about 15 minutes only. I had a pleasant walk around this beautiful city. I am looking forward to a similar experience in Votkinsk and Izhevsk!

The Higher League winner taking a walk around Yaroslavl


– Where do you study? Is it the Ural State Mining University that can boast quite a number of young gifted chess players?

– I started by entering the Tolyatti State University, and after that, I, indeed, changed schools and moved to the Ural State Mining University of Yekaterinburg. To study there is not always easy, but athletes do enjoy some flexibility and an individual approach to their needs. Our strong team often goes to tournaments. You never lack the confidence of success when playing for the Ural State Mining University. We are heading to Hungary for the European Student Games in a short while. Despite being a rapid event, it is an important one, and we will do our best to play well.

– This year had no football championship running during the Higher League, which probably gave you free time to watch other chess tournaments.

– Yes, I kept an eye on chess events taking place in Croatia, China, and Israel. There were some very exciting games, and your participating in a tournament usually never stands in the way of viewing games of strong chess players. Superb performance, as usual, was delivered by Magnus Carlsen, and I was pleased with Boris Gelfand’s victory in a tournament in Israel. It is a double pleasure when there wins a person who you read about in books earlier.

– In which events do you intend to participate soon?

– I have a very tight schedule as I am going to Riga to the Tal Memorial, then to Hungary to the European Student Games, to the Russian Superfinal in August, and to the World Cup in September.

I wish you good luck!

– Thank you!