15 October 2023

Vladislav Artemiev: I Have Become More Ambitious

Russian champion is interviewed by Eteri Kublashvili

– Vlad, my congratulations on your victory!  Have you ever had such a winning streak in your career as in this Superfinal? 

– Thanks for the congratulations. In fact, this streak is somewhat unexpected, because it's difficult to win six games in the "classics", and it's twice as difficult to do it in a row, because nowadays, as you know, the level of opening preparation is quite high for most players, especially grandmasters. I think I had exactly three winning games, maybe four in a row, but never six.  Maybe it had happened in rapid and blitz, but that's another story.  

– Well, it's the "classics" that we are talking about.  Was Tsarskoe Selo a good place to play?  Has the beauty of this historical place inspired you?   

– The place is really beautiful. I liked everything very much and it was nice to be part of this festive occasion and to play in Tsarskoye Selo, such a landmark place for our country. I would like to thank the Chess Federation of Russia, the St. Petersburg Sports Chess Federation, all organizers, partners and people involved in the competition.  It was all very smooth, thank you. 

– Going back to chess, which game did you like the most?  

– Actually, it's difficult to single out any one game, because I think at least two or three were very interesting. – However, I'm probably particularly pleased with my win over Evgeny Tomashevsky, because it was won in a positional way: I had the edge and was pressing, but the position was very close to a draw.  Evgeny is a very strong, tough and not easy to outplay opponent. So maybe it was this win that started the streak that followed. 

– Who are you working with, who helped you in this event, if you do not mind my asking?

– Throughout the tournament, I was assisted by a person we have recently started working with, but whose name I will not reveal for now. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to this person!  

– How about your visa to the United Kingdom?  Are you going to the Grand Swiss and how do you rate your chances of qualifying for the FIDE Candidates Tournament? 

Yes, I am lucky that everything is fine with my visa. It was approved at the end of September. So I already knew about my visa when I went to the Superfinal. So I had purchased tickets, booked a hotel and otherwise resolved all these technical issues.  I hope to compete for the highest places, I will try to play my best game. I don't want to guess, but I think I have definite chances.  There are two tickets to the Candidates Tournament, but the qualifying competition is very strong. It seems that my current rating will put me in about 24-25th place on the start list. However, it is not all about ratings, so I will fight.  

– Indeed! The chess world is regularly rocked by cheating scandals. What do you think about the recent conflicts with Niemann? He was already suspected by more than one chess player ....

– With many people, indeed.  Both with companies and people.  But it's a complex story.  I think it's better to leave it up to other people and concerned parties to judge that.  

It is indeed a big problem when it comes to cheating. It is very difficult to catch a chess player of a certain level - a grandmaster or a strong international master - red-handed. This is known as "clever cheating".  Sometimes it's enough for such people to use clues two or three times per game, and the outcome of the game is basically sealed. That's why we have to take some measures...  

– And what do you think are the most effective mechanisms against cheating? Delaying the broadcast or something else? What is the most effective measure?  

- Yes, delaying the broadcast for 15 minutes or even half an hour.  Then again, I don't think that will solve the whole problem. I think we need to hire a team of IT specialists.  Maybe even invite hackers as consultants (laughing).   

– That's an interesting idea!  When you play in online tournaments, don't you feel that some players seem to play unfairly? 

– I think it depends on the tournament you're playing in. For example, I've had the experience of playing in various tournaments, including the Magnus Carlsen series or the series on Chess24. I had no suspicions there, because the line-up is always excellent with Carlsen, Nakamura and other top chess players participating. But when I played in Title Tuesday, for example, some of the games were very suspicious. Thus, here is a little-known opponent who can hardly have such a low level of play, and who manages to come up a series of great moves. It happens from time to time, and is a source of suspicion, of course.  

– Alas. Now I'd like to talk about more pleasant things. You already have two children – have you involved them in chess already?  

- Yes, it's a burning question, really.  We have introduced our eldest daughter, Anna, to the initial setup of pieces and basic principles of the game.  She's already four and a half years old, but I don't think she's particularly interested.  She goes in for court tennis. Maybe she will like it, and chess is for general development, why not?

– And your youngest daughter is quite small, isn't she?  How old is she?

– Yeah, she's a year and a month old.  We'll wait a few more years.  

– What do you do in your spare time when you are not playing chess? 

– Actually I don't have much spare time.  Either I'm at tournaments, training camps or some other chess-related events, or I try to spend time with my family, because children are the flowers of life, it's really true.  And it seems to me that we should use this time wisely, because children grow up quickly - they will be adults before you know it. When I have time, I like to listen to music, of course. I also like something  sports-related, such as swimming. 

– To watch others or to swim yourself? 

– To swim myself.

– Let's talk about your aspirations to become a champion... All in all, your chess career is excellent, you're a titled athlete, you play blitz and rapid very well, you've now won the Russian championship. To become a world champion you obviously have to give up something and devote yourself entirely to this path. Are you willing to give up some "mundane" things yourself, like the ones you have just mentioned?  

– This is not an easy question to answer. By the way, I think that many chess players with a certain potential and ability face this question. I'll say about myself that maybe I have become more ambitious now, and I've started to spend more time on my chess.  

– Speaking of the World Champion title, how do you feel about the fact that Magnus Carlsen refused to play a match at all and that the current World Champion Ding Liren has practically not played any tournaments in his new status?

– Yeah, maybe he won't be playing anytime soon.  

– Doesn't that devalue the title?  

– On the one hand, it's a pity that Magnus refused. Nevertheless it's a certain loss for the chess world, because Carlsen is an icon and a media figure known to everyone. He stands out as a chess player in the first place.  In my opinion the replacement was not quite equal.  I have to admit that Ding Liren was somewhat lucky to have this match, but on the other hand it wasn't his fault, he just used his chance.  He and Nepomniachtchi had had a great match; Ding Liren fought hard, showed good sportsmanship, and ended up winning.  

– And then he stopped playing chess. 

– Well, he has taken a break, a pause.  I don't know the reason for this. I thought maybe he got married, but then they said he didn't: he's recovering, he's stressed out. 

– Well, it affects the status of the title itself, doesn't it?  For example, a world champion used to be a god.  Nowadays, one refuses, and the other doesn't play. Won't this, for example, discourage the younger generation of chess players?  

– It is going to have some devaluing influence, because now it's obvious that the world champion is not the strongest player in the world.  So Magnus is still number one. I like Ding Liren: he's a very strong player, but he had a break in chess during the pandemic and there were objective reasons to reduce his tournament activities. It is clear that he is conditionally in the top 5 in terms of level, but I don't think he is even number two now.  And he's the titleholder - that's the way it is now. But as they say, we shall see what we shall see.

– Continuing the theme of world champions, who would you like to play a match with?  Hypothetically.

– I would like to meet Mikhail Tal and talk to him.  I like him a lot.  I think he was a warm-hearted man. And I would have played a blitz match with him.  As for the classical chess, it would be interesting to play with Anatoly Karpov. I wonder how I would have fared against Garry Kasparov* (listed by the Russian Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent).  These champions have different styles and approaches. 

- I have a few more abstract questions to ask of you.  Is there any place in the world where you would like to play a chess tournament? 

- That's an interesting one. All in all, I like to play in Russia. I've played in Moscow so many times already... I have recently been to Vladivostok, which I've wanted to visit for quite some time. I'm very happy about it.  Where else would you like to play?  Maybe at the North Pole, if such a tournament is organized.  It should preferably be a three-day even to see if it is a positive experience or not (laughing). 

- What would you do in life if it weren't for chess? 

– I've been in chess for so many years now... I think I'd be involved in sports in some way, maybe as a sports functionary.  Something like working in the Ministry of Sports, for example.  Because I like sports and organizing competitions, and in general I like everything that has to do with sports. 

– Vlad, thank you for the interview, and I wish you good luck! 

– Thank you, good luck.


Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili