21 September 2015

Mikhail Antipov: I Didn't Believe Till the End That I Would Become the Champion

The World Junior Champion talks to Vladimir Barsky.

Our talk started right after Mikhail had defeated Francesko Rambaldi in a dramatic battle and continued at the press conference, where the Russian grandmaster spoke in his new role of the World Junior Champion. 

“Mikhail, did you feel really nervous before the last game?”

“Yes. I wasn't able to sleep for a very long time the day before.”

“Did you prepare for the game?”

“No, the opponent plays a whole lot of different openings, so I just reckoned what I would play in each case, but I didn't prepare specifically. As a result, I got a bad position after the opening, it was absolutely lost, but I tried to defend in such a way that there wouldn't be a simple, forced win. After which my opponent, who had too many choices of tempting continuations, yielded to the tension and blundered.”

“Was there a moment when you lost hope?”

“No. I defended and thought: "It's far from certain that he will win this position". I understood that it was lost, of course, but he had too many choices with each move, and the nervous tension was too great. I started playing quickly because I understood that if I thought for a long time I wouldn't be better off. The important thing was to play confidently, and then I would probably have some chances. I wasn't too surprised when Rambaldi made a mistake. However, I didn't expect him to lose the game, I hoped for a draw at the best.”

“Was it harder to play this round because it was in the morning?”

“Rather because it's a very long tournament. The morning round is not so bad, but 13 rounds... Of course, by the end of the tournament you can't think straight.”

“Have you had any experience of such long competitions?”

“Only the U-20 World Championships, in which I played twice before this: in 2012 and in 2014.”

“And were they successful?”

“Last year I played badly, scoring 8 points. And in 2012, I didn't fight for the prizes yet, I played more or less OK and gained about 10 rating points.”

“What goals did you set before this championship?”

“The most important was to endure such a hard trial and stay in the race! But, of course, I wanted to play as well as I could. Before the tournament I mostly worked on my physical shape: I jogged in the mornings. It's very difficult to keep focused throughout such a long distance.”

“Do you consciously seek very complex, non-standard play in every game?”

“Yes, such play is to my liking! I don't like quite and stable play. I believe that it's easier for me to snatch the initiative in a complicated fight.”

“Who was it difficult to play with?”

“I had a very interesting and difficult game with Karen Grigoryan, which I lost. At one point I assumed for some reason that I had a big edge, although objectively I couldn't play for a win. I should have calmly played for a draw.

“As a whole, I had a lot of fighting games, it's difficult to single out any of them. I even had a tense game in the first round.”

“Which game are you particularly pleased with?”

“The one versus Van Foreest, where I managed to perform a beautiful mating combination. Particularly my move 15.Rc1 with the idea 16.b6. I knew that he would play 15...a6.”

“Did you find this idea at the board?”

“At the board, of course! I prepared for this variation at home, but I wasn't aware of the move 11...Qd7, after which my position is probably a bit worse objectively: Black has no problems whatsoever. I wanted to give up a pawn and play for initiative. I understood that then I would have chances in any case.”

Mikhail Antipov and Natalya Komarova

“As far as I know, you stopped playing in junior tournaments at some point...”

“Well, yes. Only the U-20 championships, I haven't played in the younger groups for many years, since about 12. Junior tournaments are not very helpful in terms of pure chess growth, but they always make you play for a win. They form certain important qualities.”

“Who do you train with?”

“I continue working with Sergey Dolmatov. We train at the Dvorkovich Saloon several times a week, each session lasts for about four hours.”

“Do you play a lot?”

“Certainly about eight tournaments per year. These include both opens and team competitions.”

“Are you continuing your education somewhere?”

“Yes, I am studying educational psychology at the Russian State Humanitarian University.”

“Are they serious studies?”

“Yes. I finished the first year and moved on to the second.”

“Which will be more important in the long run: chess or the psychologist profession?”

“I think that my life will involve chess in any case, and studying at the university helped me resolve some of my personal issues.”

“What are your plans for the near future?”

“I don't know yet where I will be playing this year, but early next year I am bound to go to Gibraltar.”

“Did you like it in Khanty-Mansiysk?”

“I would like to thank the organizers of the competitions: everything was at the highest level! Some World Junior Championships were held in much worse conditions. I was pleasantly surprised both with the tournament itself and the city, which I liked very much. And, of course, I am happy that I passed such a challenging distance with a good score. I didn't expect till the very last moment that I would become the champion!”