19 September 2018

Dmitry Andreikin: I Dedicate My Superfinal Victory to My Father

Two-time Russian champion answers Dmitry Kryakvin’s questions 

– Dmitry, I congratulate you on winning the Superfinal! How was the tournament unfolding for you? 

– Thank you! It is important that the tournament started with the win. When you get “plus one” quickly, you find yourself in a comfort zone. One way or another, you sleep well and eat heartily. I have always thought that Superfinal is a very long tournament, and it is important to have a good start to feel as many positive emotions as possible during the event. 

– Let us follow this long distance from the very beginning until the end. 

– I think that my game with Denis Khismatullin was normal. I had prepared an interesting idea with 9.c4. I had expected that he would probably prefer some forced lines. Black could have started cautiously with 7…Kf6, but he played 7…b4, and it turned out to be very interesting 8.Ka4 Kf6 and 9.c4! – a strong move. Perhaps, White is better in all lines, but maybe hisreply 9…d6 was not the best one. White has many interesting continuations here, but I was not into the game yet and played rather quickly but not very strongly. Finally, it all boiled down to a complex position.   


Andreikin – Khismatullin after 9.с4

At one point, he could have played more precisely by placing his king under attack and trying to capture at least one of my queenside pawns. However, Denis didn’t play like this, opting for a worse opposite-coloured bishops ending instead. In addition, I managed to win this position gradually, although it was objectively a draw to the very end. Nevertheless, my practical chances were decent, whereas he was already finding himself in a time trouble. In general, I can say that the game was dictated by me from the opening. 

– Then there followed a series of draws, right?

– Then there were many draws made, but these draws seemed to me normal ones.  I played my game with Mikhail Kobalia with the white pieces again and also uncorked an interesting idea in the Caro-Kann Defence with 3.exd5 cxd5. I played 13.Nf3 and then immediately jumped 14.Ng5. I played this line in the recent Macedonian League. By the way, Dmitry Jakovenko and I were teammates in Macedonia. 

– Is the Exchange Variation of Caro-Kann with Nf3-e5 apopular line now? I have seen several Carlsen’s games. The women’s Superfinal saw many games in Caro-Kann with 3.exd5 cxd5! 

– It all beganexactly with Magnus. He started to play like this a very long time ago, then Kramnik picked it up, and now many people play like this. However, it is important that I plant my knight on e5 immediately. The majority of chess players first develop the bishop to b5 and it seems a bit weaker to me. I got a good, promising position in the game with Mikhail, but I sold it too cheap somewhere. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken the pawn on g6 and should have continued pressing him with: g3 and Kg2. It seemed to me that I had chances to convert an extra pawn, but he was defending very skillfully. 

– And then you faced your teammate. 

– Yes, I faced Jakovenko in round 3. Maybe his position was a bit better first, maybe my position was a bit better in the end. However, the game resulted in a rather dull draw. In the game with Nepomniachtchi, I implemented one of the ideas I had prepared in Macedonia. This line for White is quite rare. Khairullin defeated Mamedyarov like this at Aeroflot Open once. Nevertheless, if Black knows it all well, this endgame shows up on the board immediately. Maybe White still has some practical chances, but they are not very serious. Probably, I could have played in a trickier way by trying to transpose into an endgame and saving “a” pawns.However, the game ended with a quick draw. 

– Your position in the game with Alexey Sarana looked very dubious.

– Sarana and I played a rare line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with Bg4. Didn’t we play something along these lines in old days? Recently, Magnus has employed it against Giri with the black pieces. Curiously enough, although Magnus is young, he is a producer of many interesting ideas. (by the way, it was Alexander Alekhine who invented bishop’s move to g4 in his match versus Bogoljubov– D.K.).I also played like this with Bai Jinshi at the Chinese League at the end of 2017. That time I had managed to win, but Sarana acted in a very tricky way. He didn’t reply with h2-h3, he, sort of, made no headway, but nevertheless he got a good position. Maybe the point is even if White makes two extra moves b3 and Bb2, Black’s position is better than the one without these moves. At one point, Sarana moved his knight to d2, exchanged the light-squared bishops, returned his knight to f3, and put his pawn on e4.  

– It so happens that White has better statistics, doesn’t it?  

– I don’t think so. I could have played more aggressively, I just underestimated his position.  I thought that I could make an easy draw after 23…с6, but somehow I forgot about his several threats. As a result, I found myself in a tough endgame. Maybe in the end, the endgame was tenable, but it all was very passive and unpleasant. That’s why I introduced some complications into the game – it does not feel likestanding still. The silicon mind doesn’t approve of my choice, but I think that it is a normal move from a practical point of view. Of course, Sarana could have easily won at one point and I saw it. We passed the time control, I spent all my time, but I still didn’t find salvation. However, my opponent moved his king to a wrong place after my check on c2, and the draw followed immediately. In general, I got lucky! 

– What was the cause for a quick draw with Oparin? 

– Sometimes it happens to me. Actually, I had no mood and I had slept badly the night before. 


Photos by Eteri Kublashvili

– During the broadcast, Sergey Shipov said that you hadn’t been able to fall asleep till 5 a.m.!  

– Ah! Grisha (Oparin – ed.) and I talked about it. Indeed, I fell asleep at 5 a.m. I tried to force some action but I had such a condition that I agreed to repeat moves, all the more I have already had no advantage there. I decided: «Okay, I will make a draw». Maybe, my head was a bit tired, maybe, I had some emotions after my previous game. Okay, then: I had some rest, I didn’t go on a trip, I slept as always. 

– Do you usually ignore excursions on free days?

– Yes, I do. I spend free days passively.My assistant went on the trip and then told me about it showing photos. I just slept. Then I had a very interesting game with Ernesto Inarkiev, where I was playing well up to the particular point. I was well-prepared for the line where 5…с6 was played. Sometimes this position happens when the black knight has already been developed to c6, and here White’s a bit better. But thanks to a tricky e6-f5 move order, I have this move c6 in store. Soon White faced a hard choice: what to do with the knight on g5? It is stupid to move it to h3, because as soon as it is placed on f4 I will knock it down with g5. If he plays h4 I will answer with h6 and then I will take the h4 pawn!

Ernesto made several not very good moves; meantime, I transferred my knight to c7 and then I fortified my center.It was possible to press the centre positionally, or like I did – in a combinational but rather risky way. According to the engine, I was playing this position very weakly, but I actually like some of my decisions. In particular, 18…Rс8 and 19…Na8 are rather aesthetic and strong moves, but the computer doesn’t approve of all this play. At one point, I made quite a big blunder there.  

– The commentators were going to invite the winner for a press conference. What did you underestimate, or where did you miscalculate?  

– I must say that White could get an edge. So the play was quite weak from both sides. I thought that I was winning by 32…Nc4. I missed that he could move his king to f1 and cover it with his queen – that was a problem.I didn’t see this move – I thought I was finishing the game with Nc4. I considered White’s only resource to be 32… Nс4 33.Ke1 Bb4+, and White can defend himself from a checkmate only by 34.Bd2 giving up the bishop. I thought I was winning this way that’s why I played with my knight. Then when we reached the position after 37.Qе1 I, having seconds, was calculating some knight sacrifices but I saw no checkmate. And I also forgot that my queen on c1 was protected, so I could have played 37…Nf5 there. But I thought that there was a mate. I looked at the position: no mate, seconds are running short, and I also forgot that my bishop on a3 was protecting the queen. 37…Qхе1 is an extreme idiocy! I just gave two extra tempi to White and he managed to survive.   


Inarkiev – Andreikin before 32...Nc4+?

– Yes, it was indeed bitter blow. I saw you after the game finished… 

–  Of course, such a draw should throw one from balance. But I am glad that I managed to pull myself together for the game with Dubov. I think that, firstly, this game is very important as it is, and secondly, it is a small victory over oneself. It was a pleasure to win this game exactly after failures because I often start reeling after them. 

- Really? I didn’t notice it.

- There were many tournaments…For example, Tal Memorial 2018, where I was playing splendidly before my game with Grischuk. As soon as I didn’t checkmate Grischuk in two moves, I started losing to everyone. Sometimes it unsettles me and I don’t know why. It didn’t happen before. 

Anyway, I defeated Dubov. I like that I managed to pullmyself together, but still the game is far from being ideal. The opening was good, there was a rather strong attacking idea 14.h4! Bхh4 15.Qd3 f5 16.Qе3! but then I messed it up. I played 27.g4 very recklessly. I mean that g4 is a good move but 28.g5 is, of course, delirious. He had several good opportunities to equalize and make a draw but he didn’t manage to do it. In general, Black had several options to protect himself but Dubov wasn’t defending the endgame in the best way. The endgame turned out to be not so simple but I managed to win it somehow. It was a very important victory!  

Then the game with Nikita Vitiugov followed. It was a draw after Wojtaszek - Giri (Shamkir, 2018). I only had to remember things there. Nothing to write home about. 

- Many people were surprised by such a peaceful and quick result in the round 10 game. 

- Then I played with Evgeny Tomashevsky. This game is also strange, to tell you the truth. I was preparing this line. If I’m not mistaken, Morozevich had played it with Caruana many years ago. There had been many high-level games as well: Karjakin – Kramnik, Karjakin – Anand, etc. This line seemed very interesting and playable to me, but Zhenya surprised me with 6…b6. I understood that I could play 9.Nхd5, like it was in Karjakin – Kramnik, but it wasn’t on my agenda. I decided that I was going to attack on the kingside. 

Moreover, I was in a combative mood from the very beginning because I thought that a draw would give me nothing as I had to play with Volodya (Fedoseev – ed.) with the black pieces on the next day. I understood that I would not even be in top 3 after two draws, but Zhenya equalized very precisely. Maybe, the final position is a bit better for White, but I wasn’t ready for this kind of a struggle. I wanted to attack, but there appeared a positional bore. So I decided to save pains. As it turned out, maybe this energy was of a great help to me during the tie-break. Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with my game, one shouldn’t make a draw like this with the white pieces, but, on the other hand, my opponent was better prepared in the opening.  

So we’ve made it to the final round. What did happen? Of course, I didn’t expect such state of things. I decided just to play with Vladimir, but he cannot and doesn’t want to make draws. Maybe he didn’t need it on that particular day, but I think that he cannot make draws in general. He is always fighting, but he played quite unconvincingly against me.


– It happened that all of a sudden Black found himself in a fine position after a breakthrough in the centre, didn’t it? 

– Yes, it did. I prepared 5…g6 move because he had defeated Bu Xiangzhi with 5.Bf4 in a recent round-robin event in China. So I was expecting repetition. I had in passing planned to play g6and it turned out that the game could end with any result. In other words, I’m placing my forces on the sixth rank, then I make a breakthrough e6-e5, and the board is full with pieces. I also didn’t really want to make a draw, because, I am repeating myself, it wouldn’t likely bring me a medal. 

– Did you have an inferior tie-breaker? 

– Yes, I did. The point is I had more games with the white pieces and wins against Khismatullin and Dubov. So I had the worst tie-breaker. I would have taken the fourth place in case of a draw. In other words, I wasn’t seeking after a draw; I wanted to play instead. Still Volodya was acting in a manner uncharacteristic of him. I don’t know whether he got overexcited or was it something else, but he was playing quite unconvincingly and allowed me to realize с6-d5.  

Black’s position got a bit better. Firstly, it was just a bit better. When I found Qf6 and the rook’s transfer to d8, clouds began to gather over White’s position. It was necessary to banish the rook from e8 in order not to allow Bb5. Then the position was really good, but I successfully wrecked it because I missed 31.Bd5!  

– Does White make it to an opposite-coloured bishops ending?  

– I just thought that I had already won. I considered to play 30…f5 31.Bb7 Kf7 31.Bхa7 Rс7 32.Rb8 Bd6, and there is no protection from the check. And here he plays 31.Bd5! I was ready to agree to a draw after several moves. The rooks were exchanged, but I thought that there were no chances even with rooks because white pieces were active.  

– The commentators noted that White had chances for a draw after the loss of the second pawn.  

– That’s not the point. Volodya dared to play 36.b5 in a critical moment. White can move his king to the centre, and draw is agreed. He played 36.b5 Kе8! The point is if he plays 37.Bb8, I would reply 37...Kd8 threatening to take his pawn while the white bishop cannot take the a7 pawn because it gets caught. Maybe he reckoned on 36.b5 Ke6 37.Bb8 with a draw.


Suddenly the grandmaster from Saint Petersburg played 36.b5

In fact, I can understand Volodya: one doesn’t want to calculate any fortresses when one just lost a pawn out of the blue. Shipov also told me that it was possible to build a fortress with the king on d4 and the bishop on d8. Probably, it is most likely a draw, but… To tell you the truth, at that moment I was sure that I would win and Volodya got upset, moved his king forward, but I just had to calculate an easy line there. According to Shipov, it is fate, when such a position is being won. Actually, I was just walking around the playing hall watching Kobalia and Tomashevsky play. I was thinking: “Will I be in top 3? Most likely, I won’t. Okay, to hell with it. I’ll do it next time”. And here Volodya plays 36.b5? It’s fantastic, of course.  

– What were you thinking before the play-off? Did you work out any strategy?

– First of all, I was glad I had made it to the play-off and I was glad to finish this Superfinal at all. To tell you the truth, recently I have played such long tournaments very seldom. There are mostly comfortable Chinese leagues with only 4 games in my schedule! But this event was long, hard, and rather nervous. I have already got out of the habit to play like this, but I decided to accept the challenge. So I was glad that I had secured the second place at least and I had no special strategy for the tie-break. I thought: “I have to play as I can, there’s nothing to talkabout”.  


– So you didn’t have time to make some plans during the break, did you? 

– No, I didn’t. I had about one hour and a half. I purposefully didn’t plan anything. We had some tea with chocolate and I listened to music. When you play a tournament, you still have many ideas in your head during it. Still there was my preparation against Jakovenko for the round 3 game. I remembered my thoughts and just went to play.

He surprised me on the spot by trying to repeat my today’s game with Fedoseev. It doesn’t inhere in Dmitry. He is more inclined to choose classical openings but here he developed his bishop to f4. I don’t consider this move to be quite good. I think that Black can equalize there by various ways. I took a look and 5…g6 seemed interesting to me in terms of a struggle. Nh5 is also a normal move, but then I started playing not very precisely. I am not sure whether I had to play с6-d5 – it turned out to be clumsy.  

– 20…a5 is a blunder. Did you miss his queen’s pass to b6?

– Yes, it was a blunder again, but I considered my position to be solid. I could stand still, but I missed 22.Qb6 and then made another blunder. One mischief always introduces another. My position became tough. At one point, Dmitry could exchange the second rook on c7 and take the e6 pawn, but he gave me some practical chances and I managed to complicate things as a result. Of course, then I realized that I was seizing the initiative. 38…Qh3 is not a very precise move. He could have moved his bishop to a6 first. Dmitry was in a time trouble. The bishop is strong, while his king is running. Such positions are not tenable when one has only seconds. Although, the computer evaluates it as “-1” or something like this, but practically the game is drawing to a close. I missed 39.Ng3 and thus I had to transfer the game to the queen vs. queen endgame. Again I think that I was playing quite strong up to the moment, but, curiously enough, even a silicon friend shows that there is no precise way to win anywhere.  

– Was Dmitry defending very tenaciously?

– Yes, he was. Although it seemed to me that I was just about to promote the pawn, but I didn’t find a tricky way to do it with a check being in a time trouble. As a result, I underestimated the fact that the queen was taking the pawn on h3 from d7. Of course, I got very upset but what could I do? If you win the first game with Black, the play-off is close to its end, but the situation grew precarious after a draw. I decided to play closed lines with 1.Nf3, 2.e3, which I had prepared against Tomashevsky with the white pieces. But to tell you the truth, I couldn’t imagine that Dmitry would reply as he did in the game. For some reason, I thought that he would do something else. I didn’t like both the design and the kind of the struggle. I understood that complications were at hand and I thought that in fact I would rather make it to a “sudden death” game. 


– So weren’t you against a draw? 

– No, I wasn’t. I did offer him a draw! 

– When?

– First of all, I asked an arbiter whether it was possible to offer a draw. I played 14.Qb1 and made an offer. Black replied14…Bb4 but it is a weak move. Probably, he spent more emotions on refusing my offer and made a move forward. But it turned out that after 15.Qа1 bishop is absolutely out of place on b4 while I want to play a3-b4.  

– Did Jakovenko consider that your chances in blitz were higher and decided to press down on you in rapid? 

– Most likely, he did. He didn’t want to play blitz because I had defeated him twice in Sochi at the last Russian championship. As far as I remember, I have a good score against him. So he decided to take a risk. The position is very complex but I didn’t quite like it.  

– Did Black hasten to sacrifice his piece on e3? 

– I think he considered that I would deviate from the check not to h1, but to f1, and there he had a cool bishop’s move to h2. Computer doesn’t show it but from the human point of view it seemed to be unpleasant. 

Andreikin - Jakovenko. It turned out that Black’s attack didn’t succeed after a hazardous knight sacrifice on e3

I felt that the end was near after 26.Kh1. It was important not to blunder anything, for example, some rook transfers. I calculated that the best decision for him was to give up the queen for two rooks on d1 and continue struggling somehow. But in the game I won the match quite easily. 

I dedicate my victory at Russian championship to my father who will turn 60 in September. When I, all of a sudden, started to doubt whether I should go to Superfinal or not, my father told me: “What are you being afraid of?” I came here and won. 

– By the way, what do you think about Satka?

– Journalists asked me such questions. I cannot say that we have seen a lot here. We went to a lake, to a stadium, we walked.We found several parks where one can sit. It was especially pleasant when I finished my games quickly and there was a sun still shining in the sky. Of course, it was a great bonus, because I could go for a walk, breathe some fresh air, watch others play. It is always interesting to see other people making mistakes! Far from playing yourself.  

– What can you say about living conditions?

– Let’s say that I expected them to be worse. I think that the hotel was quite decent. Maybe it seems so-so by sight, but the rooms are rather comfortable. Still there were some problems in it. For example, once there was no light for about three hours. The point is that usually I was sleeping up to 12 p.m. and I wasn’t always aware of what was going on in the morning. There was no light once; there was no water one day as well. So such small domestic problems were taking place, but in general it all was comfortable. Our café was nearby, food was also quite decent, and a homelikeatmosphere was convenient.  

I have already told in interviews that maybe it is better to organize such long tournaments in small towns. Because when you play for a long time, it is desirable not to be irritated by any outside factors. In a small town, one can go for a walk, eat, read a book and fall asleep after the game. For example, like I did during the World Cup in Tromsø. I also felt good there and nothing was distracting me from play. One can easily seclude oneself al fresco and then win a game.  

On the contrary, Tal Memorial in Moscow. The tournament is fine, the organization is brilliant, everything is rich and abundant, but, for example, there was always a dog sitting on my way to a café. The dog was old and miserable and there was a tablet on it asking for money for food. Such things still irritate one despite oneself when one passes by like this every day.Thus, in a big city, you can always face more things which will irritate and unbalance you a bit. Of course, after winning the tournament, I cannot say anything bad about it.  

– Our readers ask questions. Please tell us about your assistant, because he is not very well-known to the Russian chess community.  

– His name is Nikita Lepeshkin. I would say that he is a semi-professional in chess but we have worked together for quite a long time. We had a training camp with him and Nikita Matinian before the 2015 World Cup. We’d had a well-formedteam already. 

- Why Lepeshkin, not Matinian? 

- Maybe, I would have invited Nikita Matinian, but he is playing in Iran at the moment and he is quite busy with his coaching work in general. But one has to understand that Superfinal requires an assistant. Actually, I don’t like it myself, but, first of all, accommodation is cheap here. Secondly, I supposed that it could be a bit boring here that’s why one needs such a person in places like this in order to talk about something, to watch films and TV series. Perhaps, it is useful in general. 

Of course, I don’t regret I have taken Nikita with me. He is a person with good vibes, he is rather optimistic. We have cooperated for quite a long time. He understands chess and he can express his opinion. In a certain percentageof cases, I pay heed to him. More often I don’t do it, but nevertheless, he was helpful here.  


Champion’s coach Nikita Lepeshkin on the left

– A question from our readers: have you ever given it a thought about replacing Nikita with a grandmaster to supply you with powerful novelties?

– First of all, powerful novelties come from the engine. However, Nikita is on good terms with the computer, but the point is not even that. It is clear that I would not mind assistance from someone of Rustam Kasimdzhanov’s caliber. It's great when it all comes together - him being a nice person, a strong chess player, and a FIDE world champion at that. He is likely to have something under his belt in terms of psychology, but it is all about finances at the end of the road. This is why things stand as they are.  

In general, I am not a fan of investing huge money into chess. Chess is my job, and I would rather use it to earn money than vice versa. Having a strong grandmaster to help you is great on the one hand, but costly on the other. Honestly speaking, I am of the opinion that a player does most of the work himself anyway. I mean mental anguish that a player has to endure over the board in the first place. An assisting coach can’t hurt, but unlikely affordable to me if too costly. 

– There is something  else I would like to ask you. Were you not scared by the earthquake that occurred before the last round?

– The thing is, I stayed up late and managed to fall asleep only around three o’clock a.m. They say it occurred sometime around 5 a.m. As far as I know, Nikita was among those who felt it, but I must have probably just fallen asleep. When it started, I was fast asleep and could not wake up. This is why I was completely unaware of it.  

– By the way, there passed information about inauguration of the Andreikin school in Ryazan. Tell us more about it.

– We have an official opening soon after moving into a new building. Right now, there is an agreement with a commercial organization, and this is a commercial school for that reason. There might be even as many as two schools. However, both are going to be commercial institutions.  

– Has there been an attempt to secure budgetary funding?

– Budgetary funding is hard to secure. There is a demand on the one hand, but it is clear that people are not ready to pay something big on the other. Chess might be popular, but most people tend to view it as a very democratic sport. Therefore, the majority believes in always having an option to study chess for free. As far as I understand, the commercial approach is rather developed in Moscow. This is not as simple in our realities, but there is a certain amount of demand. Let us wait and see.  

– Is your wife supposed to take any part in this process?

– She is going to be one of the coaches. We planned to have four coaches and two groups for children and adults. The schools is physically based at a recreational center. The latter also accommodates a cafe, restaurant, bowling, swimming pool, yoga and so on. Chess center will be part of it as well. To be honest, I have not been much involved in the process. It was not me, but another person making all necessary negotiations.  

– Do you think your victory in this Superfinal as likely to somehow influence this situation in Ryazan?

– I do not think so. Victories are victories, but the time is such that everyone looks after his financial profits. Any victory would usually lead to verbal greetings, taking pictures and shaking hands, but then everyone is off to look after his own interests.  

– Last question from the readers: "The Russian champion, who had fought Kramnik and participated in the Candidates, now plays in opens which names are even hard to pronounce. Is he no longer invited to elite events?”

– Do you mean the open tournament in Denmark? Nikita Vitiugov and I have recently been discussing this tournament. He was also participating, and we shared an opinion that one needs to play somewhere anyway. Talking specifically about the Danish tournament, I do not go to every event that comes my way. I select opens with decent conditions and sights pleasant for me to see. I am fond of Scandinavian countries for their tranquility, and I also liked the Danish open a lot. We may be sitting and talking here now because of that open giving me a kickstart. First of all, because I performed well there. It has given me a charge. It is a wonderful place featuring golf courses, a forest, a beach nearby, as well as excellent food. I went there with my wife and my child. We enjoyed out time there. I do not understand why refuse an opportunity like this.  

Let us go back to our conversation with Nikita. We came to the conclusion that with not so many offers for players of our rating there was no avoiding going there. I carefully select events to go to. The tournament venue is of great importance in my choosing. If I like the place, if it's nice and interesting, I'll go there. And vice versa. Last year gave me many chances to gain a foothold in round-robins, but it never worked out for me, and I need to make do with what I have now. I have no regrets whatsoever. Each event seems to have pros of its own. The Chinese league appeals to me a lot in this respect. It features good atmosphere, tranquility, and is a pleasure to be part of.  

– What fate is there in store for your award Renault Kaptur? Let us inform the reader that you know to drive, and that I was even lucky to be given a ride in your car once.

– That’s a good one. I do like the car that I have now. I will offer Renault to my wife, of course. It is up to her if she wants to drive a new car. We need to get to know the vehicle in the first place. But, again, we need to see if the white color, an automatic gearbox, some other female-specific features and so on suit us. We see about the car. If she likes it, she will be the one driving it.  

– Do your wife and you teach your kid to play chess?

– Yes. Our daughter was progressing over a certain period. She knows to move pieces, but has yet to come to grips with delivering a checkmate. That is, she knows the rules and how pieces move about the board, but to deliver a checkmate is beyond her yet. Right now her excitement about chess is flagging. As she has started taking lessons with the children's center, her interests have shifted elsewhere.

– What about the Russian champion’s plans for the near future? What is next after the Kurnosov memorial?  

– Back at home I have to take care of chess schools related issues, as well as some social life activities, and coming up on the agenda afterwards is the European Cup. The Chinese Leagues has two tournaments in store for me in October and November. We are battling it out for the first place there. We have a habitual contest with the team of Shanghai.  

We have a pretty robust team, our two women are very strong. One of them is the ex-world champion Tan Zhongyi and a second female player is rated about equally. The boys are slightly weaker, but the team lineup is subject to a formula of three boys and two girls. If the girls win two games steadily, the boys would usually succeed in squeezing out a point with me participating as well, and that's enough for a match victory. We battle it out with the Shanghai team, which, for example, had Grischuk as its member for the entire last season. Theirs is extremely strong team either. They have recruited Harikrishna now. Underway in that League is an interesting fight of a specific nature. There seems to exist a biased attitude towards the Chinese League. As if something is missing there, as if it's not professional. It seems to me that it is there that one will taste a spirit of fighting and enjoy comfortable conditions in principle. I have no idea why certain players would refuse from participating in the Chinese League. Besides, there is also a European Cup with me playing for Alkaloid. The captain would always wish me luck, encouraging Jakovenko and me to share a tournament success.  

– The Russian Superfinal’s tie-break turned out to be a battle of teammates, right?

– Indeed. I was just saying at the beginning that we were preparing for the tournament at the same place. The captain’s dream has come true. European Cup, the Chinese League... I seem to have something else planned, but my memory fails me now. That’s probably it. I do not worry about staying home for a couple of months for lack of tournaments. I am only for it.  

In December I will, of course, head for the rapid and blitz championship. Skopje is a venue of the European Championship. Quite a decent city, in my opinion. It is both nice and inexpensive. Bearing a certain resemblance to Rome, it is by far cheaper. Should there take place the world championship in rapid and blitz this year, I'll probably make myself take part in it.  

– Did you miss it last year?

– I had other plans back then. I was then just fresh from China from the Mind Games. Having played well there, I had no more inner reserves left; besides, we had a tourist trip coming soon. It being a preplanned trip, the announcement coming out a month ahead of the tournament left me no time to rearrange things. However, this year I intend to play if the event is not shifted in time.  

– What is your forecast for the World Championship match between Carlsen and Caruana?

– This is a good one. I find it hard to come up with any answers. Carlsen is a favorite, but Caruana is obviously on the rise and confident in himself. Whether it is enough to challenge Carlsen is another question. It is clear that he has matured as a person, feeling more confident in his ways. It might be largely due to the above-mentioned Kasimdzhanov. I think Caruana has changed and become a stronger player.  

Caruana has demonstrated quite a number of fresh opening ideas lately. The matchup promises to be exciting. I would traditionally put my stakes on Carlsen. Again, a lot is likely to depend on the match opening part. The first to score will immediately turn into a match favorite. If Caruana grabs a +1 lead, he is a favorite.  

– What is your take on the Russian team’s chances at the Olympiad, given the US team’s strengthening by elite "legionaries"?

– What can I say about the Olympiad? As Grischuk said, “Decent team, decent chances.” What else to add to it? The Olympiad allows some players to make up for a temporary slump like this. Let’s hope it is going to be the case. The American team seems a favorite to me. Again, talking about an imaginary stake, I would rather put one on America. It is hard to tell it one way or another about China. The team China operates as the mood takes them. Their top two boards, Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi, are now on a big rise, as well as making part of our Macedonian team. In fact, China is another team without weaknesses. Their Bu Xiangzhi defeated Carlsen twice last year. They are to be reckoned with. Let us also not forget about Azerbaijan.  

Overall, it will be of interest to keep track of the Olympiad. I am not a fan of investing big emotions into events I am not a participant of. That is, I cannot say I will be always there tethered to a computer, watching and rooting for the team. It will be a point of keen interest, however.  

– What does your experience of participating for the team tell about result achieving?

– You mean delivering for the team? The team has to have players not fearing taking risks and losing, players not prone to psychological pressure. This is very important! I do not know if it is a coach or a player himself to take more credit for it. Any team event will obviously take more in the way of responsibility and psychological pressure than an individual one. As for me, individual events lend themselves more comfortably than the team ones. Besides several scorers not fearing risks, there must be a common desire that no one loses as well. No one losing obviously means the team is bound to win. It is very important, as Dmitry Jakovenko puts it, to be able to size up the degree of risk. There is no doing without going for it, but a risk needs to be within justifiable boundaries. Besides being bad in principle, a defeat in a team tournament even in one game tends to deprive confidence from a person more often than not. Accordingly, each new defeat backfires on a person, which is quite another cup of tea for a team having no spare players.  

– At a tournament, when you are not busy playing chess, what are you fond of doing? What are your hobbies? What do you watch? What do you read?

– At this particular tournament, we plunged into watching movies. We started by watching all Batman series, the latest trilogy. Then we switched to Dr. Strange. Going into the rest day, we went to the third part of Gogol. I liked it. Not at all bad for a Russian movie.

The only moment, which feels like kind of out of sync, is where Pushkin and Lermontov show up at the end. However, it gives a general impression of an interesting and intriguing film. I rather liked it.  

Then we got tired of movies because I needed time in the evening to get myself prepared for the upcoming game. There is no avoiding insomnia anyway, which is to a certain degree made up for by watching something. We finished with the films and switched to various TV shows. I do not know if it is worth mentioning the TV shows. We revisited again the good old “Nasha Russia.” They touch upon the theme of Chelyabinsk there, right? We decided to dwell more on it. Still, it was a fun to get a laugh and relax in general.  

– What about your non-tournament life?

– I rather gravitate towards relaxing in real life. There is an intensive thinking process at tournaments, while in the out of chess life I have more in the way of entertainment and rest, let’s put it this way. Going out into nature, playing computer games, and a mushroom hunting in the fall is something we never miss. Being a football fan, I was watching the World Cup matches, but never made it to the stadium. I could have transited through Moscow, but the ticket prices were already exorbitant there. I was not prepared to part with 70000 RUR for a ticket. I enjoy some traditional hobbies, such as football, driving a car, spending time with my family, not to mention spending time with my daughter.  

– I thank you and wish you good luck!

–Thank you.