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Evgeny Miroshnichenko: Apart from chess itself, I act as kind of psychologist

Evgeny Miroshnichenko, this name is very famous in the world of chess. Some of chess people call him “Miro”. He has twice become the Ukrainian National Champion, won several strong competitions. But now he is more known as the chess commentator and chess coach.

Here in Abu Dhabi he coaches the men’s team from Iran for Asian Nations Cup Chess Championship 2016. He is very interesting person to chat, thus we asked him to say a few words about his work for Iranian team, commentating in the latest Candidates Tournament in Moscow and work with Mariya Muzychuk when she won her title one year ago.

ACF Media: Evgeny, first of all tell us please do you play chess now yourself? What was the last tournament you participated?

Evgeny: It might sound funny: a professional chess player plays in non-professional tournaments. I have recently moved to Moscow. So, one of my last chess tournaments was Moscow team championship, which is played three times per week on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Evgeny Miroshnichenko

Evgeny Miroshnichenko playing

So, there are strong and less strong teams participating. I was playing on the first board and I had more or less decent competitors, 2500 plus. I became a winner of the first board by force of a habit. Though the feeling is strange. I can’t say that I am tired to play though. I don’t do well, frankly speaking. I spend more energy, no one likes to lose, as you may understand. You play less because you realize that some time ago you did it better than now.

Plus it depends on how you approach a game. Some people enjoy playing. Me, I play in a tense emotional state. I spend a lot of emotional energy. I have not played in any decent competitions for more than one year. If I remember well, it was at the end of 2014, I was the winner of the first board of the Romanian league. A tournament included players as Nisipeanu, Volokitin and others.

After that commentating and coaching job enthralled me totally. If you ask me if I miss it? Yes, I want to play now and then. But my wish disappears quickly, just as soon as I start. There is a theory though that a coach should play once or twice per year not to forget a competitive game itself.

Coaches show openings, work with computers, and sometimes it is funny that you simply are not able to calculate on board. So, I would agree with this theory that a coach should play from time to time.

So, what I want to say is that I am not retired from a competitive chess. I just play less now.

GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko

ACF Media: You are known as a chess coach. Please tell us what was your most interesting experience in coaching chess players?

Evgeny: It is indeed difficult to answer this question on the spot. I have worked with so many chess players, but I cannot call any of them my student. I have not worked with any of them for a long period, let’s say. I have a chess player with who I meet periodically and exchange with chess ideas, this is Yuriy Kuzubov from Ukraine. He became the National Champion of Ukraine in 2014 having competed against Ivanchuk and other strong players.

As for the most interesting and significant coach experience, I hope that I was of a good help to Mariya Muzychuk when she was playing her match for the title. It was kind of unplanned cooperation. I was a commentator there and I was requested to help her during the match.

Another good and productive cooperation was with Anna Muzychuk. We went through two FIDE Grand Prix without any defeat, having +4 in one and +5 in another. Perhaps women’s chess fits me somehow. Maybe it’s a psychological thing in it.

I would like to say a few words what I mean by psychology in chess. It is easier for me to work with people who understand what I really mean. I mean apart from chess itself, I act as kind of psychologist. Not the one who tells you how to reach happiness or love. I try to explain to my students what a game of chess is, what is behind this duel. What happens to your opponent and yourself while you play chess.

For instance let me recall my work with Sarasadat from Iran. There were many gossips around her performance during recent FIDE Grand Prix. It is all bullshit of course. She is very talented. But ok, she did not understand what was going on psychologically. She has a common problem which is seen in the Asian countries. We have discussed this issue with Salem just few minutes ago. A chess player who achieves some good results, he outplays everyone in his own country and has no more motivation. Salem confessed that the same happened to him some time ago. Later he understood that he has to go further.

When those players start participating in big international competitions, they realize that they are not used to such big stress and tension. So, this is basically what I am trying to explain: game is not finished until it is finished.

Evgeny Miroshnichenko

Evgeny Miroshnichenko

ACF Media: You have foreseen one of my next questions: you are a coach of the men’s team of Iran. But also you are helping Sarasadat. Tell me how it happened. And another thing, chess in Arabic countries as well as in Iran, the approach to the game, does it have any difference from chess in other countries?

Evgeny: Yes, it happened very unexpectedly thanks to Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, whom we all know very well. He contacted me during the World Cup in Baku, before the first leg of FIDE Women’s Grand Prix.

In general I liked the idea. I checked her games and understood that she is talented. Strange though, for I have not heard about women’s chess in Iran before. So, I started working with her and the last tournament she participated was successful for her: she finished second in the FIDE Grand Prix in Tehran.

During this work, an idea to cooperate with the men’s team of Iran appeared. So, now you can see the so-called first edition of our cooperation. Before I worked only with a 12-years old National Champion of Iran, by the way, another chess talent from this country.

So, there are many talents in Iran. And what they do, they are trying to find someone to work with.

ACF Media: Yes, Sarasadat had a comparative ascent lately. What is her phenomenon to your mind?

Evgeny: In fact her super successful performance seems so obvious in the light of her previous not so successful games. First leg of FIDE Grand Prix in Monaco she played unspeakably badly. She made three-four draws and lost the rest of the games.

I think it happened due to the lack of experience. But she was a decent Grandmaster, having played against male chess players as well. So, I cannot say that I have made a revolution in her growth. Of course we have spent a lot of time learning new openings, general things. Could sound funny but it was something new for her to know that one can spend four hours per day studying chess.

Hikaru Nakamura Evgeny Miroshnichenko

Hikaru Nakamura and Evgeny Miroshnichenko

ACF Media: maybe you will share with us a secret: apart from openings, what kind of courses you have gone through with her?

Evgeny: Well, apart from analyzing some points in the openings, we study something else: methods to take a right decision in different periods of chess game, how to organize your thinking while playing.

Of course it is obvious, everyone knows: you should have a plan after the opening, calculate variations and find the best one. But no one knows what and when exactly to do. So, we try to learn how to optimize thinking, distribute time during a game and so on and so forth.

I am trying to teach her how to approach a game, which I think is a right one. So, in another words it is a development of chess thinking.

ACF Media: How do you estimate chances of Iran women’s team?

Evgeny: It is a very interesting tournament chess wise. If men’s division, playing swiss format, can be dependent on pairings let’s say, and it is hard to make any prognosis.

But in the women’s group they play against each other. They made a small breakthrough in the first round, having outplayed the Mongolian team. But still, it is very difficult to predict. Everything will be decided in one-two of the coming rounds: they will face strong Indians, cool Chinese and also Kazakh girls. Of course they have a potential. Much depends on Sara.

ACF Media: When I see you, I always associate you with women’s chess. Let’s speak about recently ended World Women’s Chess Match. Since you know Mariya Muzychuk and you have worked with her, to your mind, what were the weak points of Mariya during her match vs Hou Yifan?

Evgeny: Score doesn’t reflect a real difference in level, I think. I mean that she could have lost with smaller difference in a score.

She lost her second round with white, could not find one move which could have brought another result, could have changed the whole situation. The thing is that Masha is objectively weaker than Hou Yifan. Girls generally rarely approach chess from a technical point of you: to make objectively stronger moves, to treat openings more deeply, let’s say. Another approach is to play against an opponent herself: girls try to make uncomfortable moves, put her opponent in an uncomfortable position. So, Masha is a representative of the second approach. There were openings where Maria put Yifan in a strange uncomfortable position. Anyway Yifan was stronger.

Another thing is a double edged opinion on playing at home. At home everything is easy. I agree, maybe it would not have been better to play in China. But Masha spent a lot of time for non chess activities, playing a role of wedding general.

Ok, after all, we must confess, Yifan is objectively stronger. She is a player which is not easy to win. Though under some conditions: Yifan in a bad shape, her opponent in a good shape, atmosphere, stress or something, maybe it could be possible that Yifan can be outplayed. It is all very subjective.

Wei Yi with the tournament commentator Evgeny Miroshnichenko

Wei Yi with the tournament commentator Evgeny Miroshnichenko

ACF Media: You are also known as a chess commentator. You were commentating the recently concluded Candidates Tournament. Please tell me about your impressions. What was the most interesting chess wise interview there?

Evgeny: Well, yes, at the Candidates matches I was requested to hold some of the press conferences. Let me speak about this part of chess activity a bit. Press conference is something which I like less than everything else.

Though I must agree that press conference is what chess fans need.

Another thing is chess commenting. We, commentators, still cannot define how we should proceed and make live commentaries better. Some people say that some of us are too primitive when commenting. But ok, honestly, of course we can go into deep analyses with computer consultations, calculating different possible lines. But who will watch us? Only those 500 top professional grandmasters who understand what we are speaking about?

But if we speak about other chess fans, farmer or housewife, we have to make it simple. By the way I liked the idea of Candidates organizers who invited a presenter from Russia Today, absolutely non chess person. So, it is an interesting experience. I wish other organizers will catch it as well.

There is a good profit of coaching and commentating. You comment, you see something new and you try to teach it to your students. So, double benefit.

ACF Media: Sergey Karjakin has become a candidate for the World Chess Champion title which he will play against Magnus Carlsen in November this year. Can you give us some comments, how do you see a match Karjakin-Carlsen?

Evgeny: Karjakin won the matches deservingly. Perhaps there was no clear advantage and confidence from the very beginning that he will win. A score is a score after all. But we have to keep in mind that Caruana’s plan was to win with black. So that is why he chose a strange opening. As for the match Carlsen-Karjakin, it will not be an easy match. Hard to predict at all.

ACF Media: Thank you, Evgeny. It was a nice interview.

Interview by Kema Goryaeva

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