18 November 2016

To Make a Dream Come True, Hold It in Your Heart

Bibisara Assaubayeva and her mother Liana Tanzharikova answered Dmitry Kryakvin's questions.

The 2016 World Youth Championship has given Russian fans a lot of joy: for the first time in recent years, the Russian delegation has achieved a crushing victory. Our young players were far ahead of competition both in Khanty-Mansiysk and Batumi. The Russian Chess Federation's website continues a series of articles about the young talents. Now it's time to turn our attention to the Georgian Championship's heroes.  


A sudden scoop caused a stir in the chess world this summer: Bibisara Assaubayeva, a rising star of Kazakh chess, makes a transfer to the Russian Chess Federation and moves to the Moscow region under the wing of the famous chess activist Sergey Nesterov. Already in the status of a Russian athlete, Assaubayeva won the world championship in Batumi with flying colors. Dmitry Kryakvin, the RCF website's reporter, talks to the prodigy child and her mother Liana Tanzharikova. 

Congratulations on your victory! Please tell me how the path of our little chess star began and how she became familiar with the ancient game played on dark and light squares? How old was the girl?

B.A. Hello! I learnt about chess at 4 when I saw the awarding ceremony for the World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk after the World Championship in Nalchik (2008). I wanted the crown as well then. Mum wanted to buy it for me, but I wanted to win it like Alexandra! 

Then my grandpa taught me the rules of the game and told me how chess pieces moved. At four and a half, I went to the Debyut chess club in Almaty, the coach was Oleg Dzyuban. He said in a strict voice, "No, no, no, I won't take such a little girl!" I was terribly upset. But then I showed that I knew how to move the pieces, and he agreed. He said that I would have to work for two or three hours a day, and if I started to cry I wouldn't be allowed to classes any longer! It seemed to me then that all the adults were so mean...  

In what city did you live before moving to Russia? How well is chess developed in Kazakhstan and who helped Bibisara to perform?

L.T. We lived in Astana, but Sara had long been trained by Russian and other coaches. Chess doesn't develop in Kazakhstan as well as players deserve it. No pain, no gain. We promoted our daughter ourselves, invested money in her, organized the best training sessions. Being trained by a good coach costs $50 per hour! Many coaches from Russia will confirm that we paid such money! Sara worked for 6 to 8 hours per day, sometimes without days off.

Tell me about the first performances at world championships. Do you worry a lot when your daughter plays decisive games? What are the impressions from the tournament in Batumi?

L.T. When she was 7, Sara won a girls' U-8 championship, it was the World Schools Chess Championship. Sara won 9 out of 9 and had 3 points ahead of the nearest runner-up. She deserved a candidate master's title, but our federation lost it out of sight, and we weren't aware of such a rule. 

In the same year in Brazil, Sara took the first place in the U-8 World Championship, a point ahead of the competitors. It was a difficult championship! She had to face three strong Indian players, one after another, and one of them was the champion of Asia. They were all one year older than Sara. But Sara won to become the world's youngest FIDE master in history.

As a mother, I always worry, but I don't show it. Deep in my heart, I really believe in my daughter! But she is just a child, so anything is possible. Our impressions of Georgia are among the best, Sara played well there last year and brilliantly this year! All countries are beautiful in their own way! 

At the start of the path. Liana Tanzharikova and Bibisara Assaubayeva

What were Bibisara's other chess triumphs?

L.T. Sara has under her belt three gold medals of the World Schools Championship (2011, 2012, 2013), two gold World Championship medals (2011, 2016), a silver medal "with golden glints" for sharing the 1st and 2nd places at the World Championship (2014), a silver medal from the Asian U-12 Championship (Sara was 10).  

Other achievements include the Dubai Sheikh Cup, where she had to face 14-year-old boys (2014), and her win at a festival in Abu-Dabi (2014) was achieved in competition with adult men. Sara became the best among women in Batumi (2014) and Astana (2016).

 Why did you move to Russia? Do you regret having lost the chess ties with your home country?  

L.T. Sara always wanted to train in Russia. When we took the decision, we understood that it wouldn't be easy! But we are not looking for easy ways. Competition with strong opponents will ensure good growth. And chess ties with my home country were always non-existent, and continue to be so. Our parents and friends always support us. 

How did you meet Sergey Nesterov? Tell us about the Moscow region, do you find serious support there?

L.T. We met him at the tournament in Taganrog. I remember this moment well. We talked to his assistant Andrey (Grivtsov, executive director of the Rostov Region Chess Federation ― editorial comment), and he was kind of wary of us all the time. I didn't understand what the matter was. He kept a distance from us.

Then Boris Gelfand came, and we talked with him till midnight ― Sara was thrilled! When we came to that tournament a year later for the second time, we brought our national souvenirs as a gift. And then Andrey admitted: "I was so afraid of you! I thought you would ask for money."

A question seemed to be written all over my face, and Andrey continued: "Last year members of your team came from Kazakhstan and complained very much that their Federation was not helping, that they were in a very bad situation. And Sergey gave 20,000 roubles to each girl." I felt like hanging my head in shame.  

Now we live in Khimki, and the city administration supports us.

A simul for adults in the Chess Lounge at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum

The website's readers are interested if the championship was a difficult one and who were your main rivals in Batumi? What games were special for you? 

B.A. All my opponents were strong in Batumi. I played against the rating list's top ten. Two games versus Chinese chess players in rounds two and five were crucial. It's very difficult to prepare for playing against the Chinese, they know the opening theory very well. But I outplayed them after completing the opening phase. The game versus Asadi from Iran in round 7 was a double-edged one, and with a beautiful finish. 

Asadi (1980) ― Assaubayeva (2287)

26…Nf4! 27.Bxf7+ Kxf7 28.Ng2 Nxh3+ 29.Kh2 Nf4 30.Nxf4 exf4 31.Qc1 Qh4+ 32.Kg1 Qxg4+ with checkmate.

How many hours a day do you do chess? Is it difficult to combine chess and school studies? What are your impressions from the Russian school, where are the teachers more strict, here or in Kazakhstan? 

B.A. I do chess four hours a day now. The school studies are easy, I get prepared, pass the tests and don't think about it. Now we have holidays, and I like it! 

Do you have favorite male and female chess players? Are you familiar with Judith Polgar's work and do you dream of competing with men as well as women?

B.A. I respect all top players, and I respect women who became male grandmaster. Yes, I am familiar with Judith's games. I think she took a lot from Bobby Fischer, whom I like even better.

What are your short term goals in chess?

B.A. I have a lot of goals, but I think that one must achieve a goal first, and only then announce it. 

The World Champion with a well-deserve prize

You often play in adult tournaments. Don't you have cold feet when you play someone who is older than you? And conversely, aren't you bored to play against lower-rated girls of your age after that? 

B.A. Yes, I often play versus adults, and after the first moves are made on the board, there's no difference to me who is on the opposite side. I take each opponent seriously.

Do you have any hobbies along with chess? Do you like books, movies, or pets?

B.A. Yes, I like reading foreign and Russian classical books. Of course, I've read Harry Potter, but this is not my genre. I like going to the movies. I like dolphins and I dream of swimming together with them. 

Will you follow the Carlsen ― Karjakin match, and if so, who are you going to root for?

B.A. I will follow the match and I'll be rooting for Karjakin. But I also like the way Magnus plays.  

What's your greatest dream in life and in chess?

B.A. My mum told me when I was a small child: to make a dream come true, you must hold it in your heart.

Photos from Liana Tanzharikova's Facebook page. The closing ceremony photo by Stanislav Fokin