3 September 2015

Evgeny Tomashevsky: I Managed to Turn Disappointment into Extra Motivation

The Russian champion answered Eteri Kublashvili's questions.

– Evgeny, congratulations on the victory! It's clear that you're in an excellent mood because of the result, but are you pleased with the play that you demonstrated at the Superfinal? Have you achieved all the targets that were set?
– Yes, I am pleased with my play and the energy charge, the aspiration for victory that I showed throughout the tournament. Of course, I made some mistakes somewhere, not without that. There were dangerous moments in the first round and in several next ones, but on the whole, I think I played profound, interesting, and aggressive chess, I tried to play actively, I created chances for myself. I think I showed good play.

– Which game was the most interesting in terms of its creative aspect?
– I like and remember best all the games that I won, each in its own way. There were different genres, different degrees of flawlessness, and so on. I also liked the game with Sergey Karjakin, where he was in a very combative mood, but I was able to hold the ground completely in complex maneuvers.

– Thanks to what did you manage to win the Superfinal this time?
– I would like to believe that this is the result of the systematic work on myself that I keep doing over the past few years. I also said that after the victory at the Tbilisi Grand Prix stage, which, so to say, was the first robin, or maybe not even a robin but a bigger bird...

– Talking about Tbilisi, that was probably an eagle!
– Yes. On the whole, I felt back then that I can play at a high level. I really wanted to confirm this at our national competition, given that my best result in the Superfinal had been a bronze, and I had won it eight years before.

– Many young participants played in Chita. Is there a generation change going on?
– I wouldn't rush to talk about a generation change. I think this issue as a whole requires a more serious analysis and a more substantive discussion. I think that the compliments going to young players only create additional pressure on them. We can talk about it when the young prove their strength.

As for the composition, everyone who wanted and could play in Chita did it. There were plenty of highly motivated young players and a few recognized stars. I would in no way underestimate the lineup: anyone could make his mark here. If we played this tournament once again, its outcome could be completely different.

– Did you come here from Khabarvosk?
– Yes.

– And you ended up in Khabarovsk after the China – Russia match. As we know, Sergey Karjakin didn't give his teammates a single chance to play. How did that match develop from the viewpoint of the participants who didn't play?
– Well, my wife Lida and myself left home on July 14. We stayed in Europe first, then we visited the Macedonian League, and then we went to China, where we rooted for Sergey together. We were actually very pleased with his performance, because the most important thing in such matches is the result, and the more convincing it is the better. We weren't upset at all that we didn't have a chance to play. During all that time I saved up energy, charged up myself with positive feelings, prepared myself, psyched myself up, and, just as importantly, got acclimatized. When I came to Chita, I slept during the first days from 12 to 9 ― I don't remember ever having slept so much! Before the incident with the food, I had just an ideal timetable and an ideal condition. And after that, everything was excellent too.

– What conclusions were made after the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix?
– There were many conclusions, but I don't want to unveil all my secrets. First of all, I had to recover the taste for the game, and get back after that disappointment because it was huge. This probably wasn't evident from the result, but there were a lot of missed opportunities in Khanty-Mansiysk. Finally I managed to turn this disappointment into additional motivation. I don't want to talk about any conclusions in particular. I want to believe that I will still use all this when playing at the highest level.

– For instance, at the World Cup? How do you assess your chances?
– If you feel well in a round robin and you are in a good shape, you can talk about fighting for the top places, although even in this case everything may go wrong. The World Cup, on the oter hand, is such an unpredictable tournament in terms of its format, and such a dense one in terms of the competition that anything can happen. Of course, I am going to fight, like in any tournament recently. I will do my best to show at least the same level of play as at the Superfinal, then there are decent chances to move forward. But anyway, it's difficult to say a lot about a knockout tournament before it started. Lots of factors should combine.

– Did you see this Superfinal as a key tournament on its own, or was it a kind of testing ground before Baku?
– It was a very important tournament for me. After I failed to get on the candidates' list... By the way, going back to the issue about conclusions. When I failed to get there, I was upset a bit. But then I looked at my schedule for the end of this year and beginning of next year and understood that I was going to play almost the same tournaments, but now they would stop being just training and preparative ones but would have a value of their own, and I decided that it was good. The Russian Championship Superfinal is a sufficiently important competition to play it not just for training. I prepared specifically for this tournament and I am glad that I was able to show here almost the maximum of what I am capable of today. 

– During the Superfinal Magnus Carlsen published his suggestions on the Internet as to how the system of playing for the championship title should be changed. How can you comment on the world champion's suggestion? 
– This suggestion needs to be considered more seriously anyway. On a purely intuitive level, I agree not with Carlsen but rather with Kramnik and Gelfand. At the same time, I support people who show their respect for the world champion, who isn't afraid of expressing his opinion on such pressing issues, while running risks and maybe depriving himself of his privileges. Perhaps it's good that this issue arose now, but at the moment I would still like to support the classic system instinctively.  A match is a hen laying golden eggs. It's a brand that attracts a huge number of people from the non-chess world. Maybe it's not the time yet to abandon matches.

– How do you assess Russia's prospects at the forthcoming European Championship?
– I think we always have good prospects. We just need to play a single normal tournament where everyone will get everything to work. We like drawing far-fetched, sweeping conclusions, but it should be understood that the team only plays three tournaments over two years. That's negligibly small, and at a certain moment our guys will simply have to show the maximum of what they can do.

How to do this is another question. Unfortunately, we couldn't do this at the world championship. I am not a proponent of any radical changes, nothing like that, I just believe that we really need to do our best to make everything work for us. And how to do that is a question to the coaches' team and the management. 

– The Russian Chess Federation's President Andrei Filatov will be leading the team starting from January 1. What do you think about it?
– Nothing for now, to be honest.

– Is it still too early?
– Yes, and I am still far from thinking about that. Even more so since at the European Championship, as I understand, there will be the old coaching team. It's still too early to speak about it, because the nearest major tournament under the leadership of Andrei Filatov will be the 2016 Olympiad, and so much water will have flown under the bridge before it... We shall see, as they say. We face all decisions on this matter in a reserved and composed manner.

– Will the glorious Saratov team, Economist, come back?
– Unfortunately, even the talks about it have ceased now. Since Vladimir Dines, president of the Saratov Social and Economic University, lost his former position at the university and in the region, the attention to chess was reduced to zero. Unfortunately, this remarkable project was simply abandoned. It's difficult to speak about it since Vladimir did so much for the development of chess in the region, and the project itself was about to move up to the international level. And the university's current leadership isn't interested in chess development.

– What's happening with chess in the region and in Saratov proper?
– Nothing particularly good, even though there is some progress. During the time when Economist was functioning, other universities followed our example and created their own chess programs and are helping young players. For example, the Saratov State University is helping several promising players, including my wife Lida. The agricultural university has a chess program. Changes have now been made in the management of the regional chess federation, and there are hopes that there will be serious progress. I would like to believe that Saratov will further strengthen its image of a chess city, which it acquired thanks to the achievements of Economist, as well as Natalia Pogonina, Baira Kovanova, myself, Lida, and others.

– Yes, that would be great!
– Unfortunately, otherwise we can simply lose a chess region. All this work was done meticulously, little by little, over ten years, but they don't need ten years to ruin everything. Ten months is enough if not ten days.

– Are you performing for any club now and will you go to the Euro Cup?
– Yes. This year I had to miss the Russian championship because I believed that it was much more important for me to prepare for the Khanty-Mansiysk stage. 

I will be playing for the Macedonian club Alkaloid at the Euro Club Cup. The atmosphere is great there, there are very professional managers and nice people in general. The composition is going to be very promising, and, naturally, we will have the highest targets. If I am not mistaken, we must be among the top three in terms of the average rating, and our goal is to finish among the top three. This will be an interesting experience: I have never played for a foreign team at the Euro Cup. To be honest, I have played for very few teams apart from Economist, there were just single tournaments. Alkaloid is probably the second team for which I have been playing in more than one tournament.

– Your rating keeps growing steadily. How important is it to be in the top 10 for you?
– It is important. It's not the most important indicator because the rating reflects the current strength of play, and it's still more important to play well. But the rating is important because being in the top 10 means frequent invitations to major tournaments. As I learnt from my own experience, playing regularly with the world's strongest chess players speeds up your progress considerably. By the way, I wouldn't say that my rating keeps growing from year to year. I had a leap this year, after Tbilisi. A good calendar is paramount! You grow much more quickly in the top tournaments. Even though many people say that it's not so important now and you gain experience in any tournaments, I still realized that I became stronger from tournament to tournament. That was really obvious in the Grand Prix series. I played fairly well but timidly in Baku, but it was already very different in Tbilisi. I missed some opportunities in Khanty-Mansiysk, but that's another story: the stakes are huge there, and so on.

– Is the pressure strong?
– That's another story, it needs to be discussed separately. The tournament was extremely dramatic, one could write a whole book about each round. But yet one such tournament can give you more if you use it right than several less important ones. That is, it is important to play in serious competitions, and making it to the top 10 plays a key role from this point of view, of course.

– If I am not mistaken, your first supertournament was the Tal Memorial 2012 in Moscow?
– Yes, the first and one of the few. I am very grateful to everyone who helped me get there, but at that moment it was a wasted effort, as they say. I played there almost immediately after the world chess championship, where I helped Boris Gelfand. I felt like a squeezed lemon and wasn't really ready for such a tournament as the Tal Memorial, neither physically, nor in terms of chess preparation. Although the result was not too bad, minus two, that was enough for the unrivalled last place. I didn't like that experience. Of course, that tournament helped me, but not to such an extent to which it could have helped. Most importantly, many things happened by chance. When you are a regular participant of such tournaments, you play differently, but one has to earn this status. 

– Do you have time for your favorite hobbies during tournaments? What are your hobbies?
– I like talking about my hobbies, I have a lot of them. At the Superfinal I mostly had time only to rest and to sleep. But we talked a lot with Daniil Dubov and were even able to play the intellectual game "What? Where? When?", this is one of my hobbies. On the whole, there was no time for a hobby in Chita, but I will make up for that when I get back.

– You didn't even manage to read?
– No. I really tried to bring all my energy into the games, so I didn't read anything more serious that sports news during this tournament.

– Did you like the tournament organization, if we don't count the incident with the food during the day off?
– The food was excellent! I think the case you mentioned was an accident: someone either left a bad product, or failed to make proper heat treatment. But in general, the organization of a national competition in Chita was one of the best I ever saw. Even more so since Chita is my home turf, so to say: I am probably the only Superfinal participant who already was here last year. Maybe that helped me too.