26 July 2015

Sergei Rublevsky: The Chinese Team Features no Shortage of Reserves

The senior coach of the Russian women's team Sergei Rublevsky talks with Vladimir Barsky about the tasks that our team was up to during the friendly match against the Chinese team in Ningbo.

"During the match I wanted to evaluate the immediate team reserves. Our two main team members, i.e. Kosteniuk and Lagno, did not play and we invited Aleksandra Goryachkina (although it should be noted that she has already performed for the national team earlier) and Alina Kashlinskaya instead. The Chinese women appeared to experience the same kind of problem as their team was missing Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun and they were replaced by younger players. No special athletic tasks were set by me in front of the team, but to win, of course, was what we were aiming at. Recently, our team has managed to successfully face the Chinese women over the board, but this time the host team proved to be superior."

"Although it is true that we were first to take the lead, fighting on with each subsequent round was becoming ever more demanding, when the last two days saw us collapsing deservedly with a landslide score."

"Was our team leader Valentina Gunina out of her best shape?"
"Yes, it is so. On the other hand Ding Yixin from the rival team displayed poor performance at first also and it was largely due to her that we succeeded in gaining the lead. Thus, in a position that featured a decisive edge for her she missed a simple (albeit spectacular) blow by Kashlinskaya and lost the game. However, eventually Ding Yixin opened up, and even went on to defeat Valya in the last round, so all our trumps were overtrumped and the game was up. "

"Lei Tingjie and Tan Zhongyi have recently joined the national team, and were now displaying a tremendous level of performance! Thus, in the blitz warm-up they both scored 8.5 points out of 10, when our best score was only 6 points. You should have seen how much confidence they demonstrated when playing blitz! With only seconds remaining on the clock, they showed no jitters as they went on calmly calculating lines and coming up with strongest moves. It shocked me when I started thinking that if they continued playing in a similar fashion during classic games, we are in for a very hard time. And it turned out exactly so as they also went on to be the leading scorers for the Chinese when it came to classic games."

"Are they good at calculating lines?"
"This is their strongest reinforcement and they now have another two powerful boards, coupled with Shen Yang, who also showed quite decent performance in Ningbo."

"As Alina Kashlinskaya arrived immediately after her wedding she was probably going through difficult time while trying to switch between celebrating to operating moods?"
"Nevertheless, Alina ended up collecting the highest amount of points for our team - 2.5 out of 5. Olga Girya has recently participated in the men's section of the Higher League and has mustered a "+1" score in this very strong tournament, but here, in Ningbo, her game was getting out of her hand. Sasha Goryachkina and Natasha Pogonina acknowledged having run out of energy towards the end. Anyway, I have got a lot of useful information for myself to take into account."

Natalia Pogonina and Alexandra Goryachkina are at the front row; Valentina Gunina, Olga Girya, Alina Kashlinskaya and Sergei Rublevsky are at the back row

"What can you say about the organizational aspect of the match?"
"It was perfect! The organizers even purchased us comfort plane tickets. I played in this match in 2008 myself and back then the arrangements were on a lot more modest level. Then the Chinese were setting in front of them a goal of winning at any cost, whereas now they are constantly underlining the fact that the match is of a friendly nature. For them it was also important to subject their young crop of recruits to testing. They have met almost all our requests such as to organize an open buffet for lunch, to start games after lunch; they organized an interesting and not tiresome sightseeing tour during the weekend with a wonderful dinner to wrap it all up. We played in an excellent hall with air conditioning, while during games the participants could refresh themselves by taking some customary European desserts. In 2008 it was not like this; the last round, for example, started at 8 a.m."

"Moscow time?"
"No, local time! Why so early? It was only natural that we failed to come up with our usual performance and went on making a mess of everything. However, this time it was an extremely friendly atmosphere in which playing was a sheer pleasure."

"Frankly speaking, in the women's team competitions our team has never encountered five difficult-to-play opponents in a row. Therefore, it has proved to be a serious challenge to our girls! Who are considered our major competitors at the Olympics? China, Georgia, Ukraine, India, Poland, but these five matches are usually scattered along the distance, while this time you have to face the strongest opponents, to repeat the same openings, and to spend a lot of time for preparation on a daily basis."

"What are the upcoming competitions for the women's team to take part in?"
"At the end of the year the European Championship is scheduled to take place and good news is that the Chinese team is not participating there, so this is going to be somewhat easier for us in this respect! Next year the Olympic Games will run in Baku. I hope that Katya Lagno will regain her shape for these competitions and our lineup of players will be as best as possible."

"By the way, at the start of this year we succeeded in defeating the Chinese women at the World Cup with a 3-1 score. However, their young chess players have come to acquire a tremendous level of self-confidence over time from some unknown for us sources and it feels like they have leaped up to yet another quantum level."

"What about our own reserves?"
"Here they are, all of them. Among younger players, save for those who have played in the event, we can also mention Bodnaruk. There is no one else in sight at the moment."