30 December 2016

Dmitry Andreikin: You Just Need to Play Strong Chess

The European Blitz Champion answered the questions of Dmitry Kryakvin.

- Dmitry, congratulations on yet another one of your successes!  How were the events unfolding for you in the capital of Estonia? Which games have become instrumental to your achievement? 

Thanks!  I started the rapid section with a quite convincing 5.5/6.  The following day I had to face Alexei Shirov, who had a 100% record.  I got a good position out of the opening, full of fighting potential, but went for a risky pawn sacrifice and following some precise rejoinders from my opponent did not have enough compensation to make even a draw.  I played the following game as Black against the young Polish Grandmaster Kacper Piorun. I was in control of the game for quite a while, but at some point overestimated my position and got too carried away with an offensive, which resulted in my missing a knockout counterblow.  It goes without saying that a second loss in a row ruled out any chances for a successful overall outcome in such a tournament, and even a few wins at the end enabled me to take 19th place only.


- Were you much upset about the failure? 

This is true, but on the other hand, it gave me hopes for the upcoming blitz.  The thing is that I had a substantial time surplus even in the games I lost.  For some reason I could not bring myself to calculate even in bad positions as I played more intuitively, “with my hand”.  This is exactly what you need when it comes to blitz. Following some adventures, I scored 11.5/12, upon which I was to be faced off with Rauf Mamedov, who had 12/12.  Rauf is a traditional favorite in every blitz event, especially, I think, since he was also a bit frustrated with the rapid tournament and was willing to make up for it in blitz.  A 1.5-0.5 victory was a real help for me.  

The second half of the tournament saw me at the top board.  It is important that on day two, unlike what happened in the rapid section, I managed to pick up where I’d left off.  My games followed different scenarios, but I succeeded in demonstrating dynamic and risky type of chess on the whole. My last move in the tournament against Zhigalko, 19…f5, looks symbolic.  In order to clinch the first I only needed a draw.  Nevertheless, being in a very comfortable position, I decided to ditch a pawn without any particular reason, at which point the engine gives +2 to my opponent.  I made that weak move so convincingly that Sergey accepted the sacrifice and immediately offered a draw, which I could not refuse. The last time I played with such youthful enthusiasm was some 5-6 years ago. 

- At present there is a lot of discussion going on among grandmasters, journalists and chess fans about whether rapid chess is about to catch up in popularity with the classical one, if not taking into account all the prestige around the World Championship match. What is your opinion? 

It is hard to say. If we talk about the Russian tournaments, the Rapid Grand Prix of 2012-14's is of greater interest in this respect, in my opinion. I am not sure about the underlying causes. This is perhaps due to modern format of competitions going slightly stale with the spectating audience. On the other hand, this year's Russian Championships with reduced time control were organized on a qualitatively higher level if compared to several previous competitions. We should not of course forget about the many-year tremendous blitz and rapid world championships that bring together the world's strongest chess players and allow them earning a year's share of prize money in the case of a success. The classical format cedes ground neither, with most of the traditional open tournaments and round robins running from year to year and with the Grand Chess Tour series being on the rise at that... We can safely say that the status quo remained unchanged during the last couple of years. 

- What qualities are essential for a good blitz or rapid player?  What makes it different from the classical chess? 

It might sound hackneyed, but you just need to play strong chess.  On the other hand, for blitz and rapid chess it suffices to be armed with a few well worked out and perhaps not overly principled or correct systems.  It is a lot more than that when it comes to the classical chess openings: your repertoire needs to be more varied and your style of play more universal.  

Rauf Mamedov, Dmitry Andreikin and Sergei Zhigalko

- Our audience is active in sending us their questions. This is one of them: Do you think the prizes for the European Championship are low for such a number of grandmasters?  Why do professionals still go for it? 

What can you say – there is never enough money :)  It is true that the tournament is more of a festival, which is also true, however, about the Russian Rapid and Blitz Championships.  On the other hand, the absence of big prizes enables you to relax somewhat and play for fun, while the title comes as a pleasant makeweight to the enjoyment.  It is no secret that the top players get decent conditions, while the remaining participants are provided with affordable accommodation rates by the organizers. 

- Do you take any special training for the reduced time competitions? Do you play on Internet and on what sites? What is your opinion of the newly appeared Сhess.com? 

I have been playing blitz very seldom lately. I have been regularly taking part in the prize tournament on Chess.com, which, unfortunately, is held only once a month. Incentive playing spices things up even on the Internet. I sometimes show up on ICC or Playchess, although those sites have ceded some of its former strength and popularity. Catching a "big shark" online there is far from easy nowadays. 

- Do you feel it more challenging to perform in the European or the Russian Championship held in the hotel "Zhemchuzhina"?  Do you plan to participate in the World Championships? 

There is no doubt that the European Championship has a stronger lineup of “top” players, but that is not what matters most. The key factor lies in the number of participants.  This number is overwhelming for the European Championship, and, therefore, to end up in one of the top positions you have to score much heavier, while the price of a single error grows significantly.  Any defeat immediately throws you many places backwards.  

I am not going to participate in this year's World Championship as my family and I had already planned to go on a trip to the Scandinavian countries for Christmas and the pre-New Year holidays.  Being on this wave of success now gives you a feel that it might have been worth giving it a try after all!  

- Let is go back to issues that concern our readers. The following question looks interesting. Do the world's leading blitz players are known to play for money nowadays, as it used to be the case back in the Soviet times? Can you imagine Carlsen throwing out a challenge to Grischuk for 50 thousand euros, or, say, Andreikin doing same to Ding Liren, and then they make a clandestine match of it? 

Even some 10 years ago rumors had such matches taking place, but now I think it is out of popularity. Usually strong players are capable of earning good money through the already mentioned world championships without putting their well-being at stake. As for me, I am against turning chess into a game of gambling. 

- What was your impression of the Carlsen-Karjakin match?  How would you have acted in the tiebreaker games if you were in Sergey’s shoes? 

I cannot say that I paid too much attention to the match.  In terms of chess, it did not bring anything special, but the intrigue was there up to the very end, however.  I cannot say how I would have acted in the tiebreaker games since it is clear that the psychological stress in such situations is of paramount significance.  You will never feel that tension unless you sit there at the board yourself.  

All in all, from what I saw, I got the impression that Karjakin was well-prepared physically and mentally.  Over the whole course of the match he looked pretty confident, with the burden of responsibility and authority of the World Champion not affecting him to the extent you might have initially anticipated. At the same time, Carlsen was stronger theoretically and practically and played with more drive, which ultimately led to a logical outcome.   

- Please tell us a couple of words about your team Alkaloid, the winner of the European Cup. What is the lineup, sponsors and why are there so many Russian-speaking players on the team's roster after all? Which matchup proved crucial for the fate of the Champions League? Once we have touched the point of abroad events, please share your impressions on your performance in the Chinese division? 

Since the December issue of the "64" magazine will feature a big article on the European Cup and our team as well, let me be brief now: I have been performing for the Macedonian club since relatively long ago, since 2012. We are probably not the most renowned players in the world, but the people are young, full of ambition, and oriented at results.  One of the positive aspects is that the lineup changes are almost non-existent, which paves way to building up own aura and even "team soul." 

The major team sponsor is an eponymous pharmaceutical company "Alkaloid", which was founded in Macedonia in 1936 and has eventually grown up to have subsidiaries and shareholders all over the world nowadays. As a matter of fact, the company employees, interested in the development of chess, are the founders of our team. In the beginning the club only performed in the Macedonian League (and used to be more than 20-time its champions), but has recently entered the European arena as well. It goes without saying that this "gold" is crucial both for us and for the small country in general. 

Rounds 5 and 6 became decisive, in which we managed to take down "The Bronze Horseman" of St. Petersburg as well as stand our ground in the most testing of matchups against "Siberia."

As for my trip to China, it was a sort of challenge. The thing is, combatting Chinese players comes hard to me wherever it takes place. Besides the negative statistics, the games would also begin at 8 am Moscow time, which I am not quite accustomed to. This said, I consider the final result 2,5 out of 4 to be quite decent, especially since playing against major opponents I succeeded in keeping my black color intact, such as against a strong teammate from the Macedonian team Yu Yangyi. Thus, "my" club from Shanghai retained the lead and became champion in terms of the latest playing season's results. 

A surrender of yet another Ryazan grandmaster's opponent

- One more question from our reading audience: "Dmitry, you are a regular winner and successful participant of the abroad tournaments run to the Swiss system, such as in Stockholm, Abu Dhabi and Reykjavik.  When will you give us a chance to cheer for you as a participant of the Russian Team Championship Superfinal?" 

As for the Russian Team Championships, I used to be a long-standing member of the Saratov team. I played for the Krasnodarsky Krai team in 2015. Both teams have unfortunately dropped out of the competition. It feels like our team championship has yet to overcome the crisis that has sunk many years ago. The participating teams are on the decrease. Besides, the majority of teams prefer contracting a player for a couple of tournaments only, whereas I prefer playing in the European Cups for the Macedonian team for above-stated reasons.

If we talk about the Superfinals, I won the title in 2012 and that’s why, perhaps, I don’t feel like going through the qualification cycle.  This year I thought I would qualify by rating, but the regulations concerning free places were not very transparent from my point of view…  In general, the Superfinal and I are getting along fine without each other at the moment.  

- What about the chess life in your native Ryazan and whether you managed to implement the Dmitry Andreikin's school project? 

I have not been deep into Ryazan's chess life lately. However, I know that it has not become any better since. There exist certain problems with the club in which I met Viktor Pozharsky and began my chess career. There has passed away a well-known journalist Anatoly Ponomarenko, who was for many years a chess columnist in one of the local newspapers. 

The Ministry of Sports keeps financing certain tournaments for me and for a few other regional top athletes as well as running regular competitions for fans of this game, but no global changes have taken place yet. 

- What plans do you have for upcoming tournaments and future qualifying cycles? 

I will play no more this year.  After the New Year holidays there starts a tournament in Wijk aan Zee.  It is a tough and lengthy competition, running January 12-29.  Depending on how it goes for me, I’ll put together a plan for future open tournaments.  In the upcoming months those might be Aeroflot, Dubai, Reykjavik. I still have not given up hopes of getting into the FIDE Grand Prix series, but there is nothing I can do about it.  

- To wrap things up, here comes a question from the fans that is impossible not to ask taking into account the realities of the XXI century. Do you intend to have your own PR manager and whether some other leading Russian grandmasters will follow suit of Sergey Karjakin? 

Since I am not a public person by nature, I do not think I really need one. I usually manage to solve everyday household issues on my own or with the help of my wife. On the other hand, I have no special demands to ask of tournament organizers. Let other players decide on this on their own. I do not rule out that someone might go along this path sooner or later, but the most important thing is that it should have a positive impact on his/her chess performance. 

Pictures taken from the official tournament website