– Dmitry, congratulations on your successful performance in Khanty-Mansiysk. What does getting in the FIDE Grand Prix series mean for a chess player, generally speaking?
– That depends on what kind of chess players they are. For anyone from the world’s top ten, these tournaments probably do not represent any value on their own, but they are an opportunity to fight for the World Champion’s title by getting in the Candidates Tournament.
I haven’t been pampered by many invitations to elite tournaments recently, so for me this is also a series of strong competitions where I can battle against leading chess players and see what I am capable of.
– Which of the three stages in which you participated do you consider as the most successful and interesting for you in terms of chess development?
– The last stage in Khanty-Mansiysk where I scored many wins in a tournament with very strong participants. This has given me some food for thought as to how to prepare and to play.
– Please comment on your performance in the first two Grand Prix stages.
– I wasn’t lucky in the first stage in Tashkent because I was sick the entire tournament: at first I had a cold, and then, on top of that, a food poisoning. At the end of the tournament I lost two games; in the ninth round Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeated me in a position where I had a strong advantage.
The Tbilisi tournament was successful: I won two games and lost none, even though I had a few difficult positions. There is also some luck in my getting a clean second place with this result.
– Which game of the Khanty-Mansiysk stage do you consider to be the best, and in which you think you weren’t lucky?
– I think the best game was versus Anish Giri because this is a clean win against a very strong opponent, where I needed to make difficult decisions at all stages of the game. A real achievement. There was also a relatively clean victory over Sergey Karjakin, but there I was a bit lucky because the queen-catching resource was somewhat accidental.
I wasn’t lucky in the encounter versus Leinier Dominguez in the second round. But, on the other hand, it is strange to attribute one’s own mistakes to bad luck. What can I say here? I made mistakes.
– You’ve demonstrated very uncompromising results in Khanty-Mansiysk. What is the reason for this?
– The big share of decisive results in my games was actually the consequence of a large number of mistakes made both by myself and by my opponents. The former led to losses instead of draws, the latter to my wins.
The tension was very strong in the last stage, so everyone made more mistakes than usual. I think there were more decisive games in this tournament as a whole than in the previous stages.
– Even the walls help at home?
– To begin with, I would not have participated in this series if the last stage hadn’t been held in Khanty-Mansiysk. This is quite a piece of luck for me. But in fact, I always perform well in Khanty-Mansiysk: I won two Russian Cups and defeated very strong opponents in World Cups here.
And the Grand Prix stage in Khanty-Mansiysk, where grandmaster Denis Khismatullin was my second, was luckier than the other stages since I share the first place here. If we forget that I lacked only a little to get directly into the Candidates Tournament, this tournament can be considered as a great success. So I am happy that so big competitions are held in Khanty-Mansiysk.
– Natalia Komarova, the Governor of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, came to the competition twice. Are you pleased with such attention?
– Of course, attention to a tournament is very important. I think this is the way it should be. In Kazan, Mintimer Shaimiev visited the Superfinals too, and leaders came to the Grand Prix stage in Tashkent.
– Are you pleased with the tournament’s organization?
– I can’t say anything new. Khanty-Mansiysk always hosts all the tournaments at a high level, and the Grand Prix stage was no exception.
– Are you going to root for Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura at the World Cup in Baku now? If one of them makes it to the finals, you get into the Candidates Tournament as the Grand Prix series’ third place holder.
– First of all, I am playing in Baku myself (laughs). Yes, Caruana and Nakamura have announced that they want to play in the World Cup, but unfortunately they still have the time to change their minds… But if they play, I hope that one of the three of us will get to the finals!
– How are you going to prepare for the World Cup?
– I haven’t thought about it yet. Before the drawing procedure, I am not going to prepare specifically for the World Cup. As soon as the drawing is finished, I will look at the pairings and consider whom I might face.
Besides, I have the Russian Championship Superfinals in August, and I need to prepare for them as well.
– Where are you planning to play before the Superfinals and the World Cup?
– In the French and Macedonian Leagues.
– Unfortunately, none of the Russians has made it to the Candidates Tournament so far. And the Russian team only got the fourth place at the last World Championship. In your opinion, what is this decline in the performance of our chess players connected with?
– It seems that all Russians are having some issues with stability. Many play well, but no one is demonstrating very strong play consistently. All Russians have their ups in individual contests, but they are followed by the downs.
Even in the Grand Prix series, Russians won three tournaments out of four, but none of them got to the Candidates. This affects the team accordingly. Competition is very strong, and to get into the team one must show some outstanding play, but in the process the player exhausts his energy somewhat and can’t perform at the same level for the team.
Furthermore, a series of successes often results not only from objective strength, but also from luck or from good shape at a certain moment. Therefore, excessively high expectations appear, while in fact it’s not easy to repeat such a success.
Photos by Kirill Merkuryev