GM Sergei Zhigalko is a chess legend in Belarus. He earned his IM title in 2004, his GM title in 2007, and while in pursuit of the norms won the U14 World Chess Championship (in 2003) and the U18 European Chess Championship (in 2006). GM Zhigalko is national champion for his country in 2009, 2012, and 2013 and represented Belarus as top board in Chess Olympiads 2010, 2012, and 2014. He won Baku Open in 2011 and 2012 and shared first in Nakhchivan Open 2012.
In recent years Sergei Zhigalko is not active on the board, but he compensates with solid online activity. Together with his brother GM Andrey Zhigalko and his wife WFM Tatiana Zhigalko they have a very successful online chess academy. He shares his story and more in an interview for Chessdom.com.
We are here with GM Sergei Zhigalko, just a few days after his silver medal in the Offerspill Chess League start. Sergei, you finished right behind the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, but the event was full of strong and titled players. Tell us more about how you got to play in the Offerspill League.
It’s a great honor for me to play in the tournament together with the World Champion! Actually I didn’t plan to participate in any tournament that day and found out about Offerspill League accidently just an hour before the beginning. Although I was quiet tired after chess lessons with my students I couldn’t afford to miss the chance meeting with Magnus Carlsen. In a rush I prepared for my YouTube stream and the fight began. The tournament was tough and exciting!
You had a fantastic start with a victory against Magnus. Later Magnus had return wins.
Yeah it’s a great luck and happiness to beat the World Champion. It feels quiet special, no other win can be compared with those over the World Champion.
Objectively I didn’t have to win in the first game. In the middle I blundered nice tactical trick 19…Qg3, but managed to defeat the position while Magnus lost his precious seconds. In rapid games, especially in blitz and bullet time is as important factor as the position. Eventually Magnus run out of his time, although the final position was won for him.
In our second encounter Magnus sacrificed almost all his pieces for attack. Although the attack seemed quite dangerous objectively it was incorrect. With precise defense Black could handle the position. But I spent too much time and made a huge blunder followed by a check mate.
The last game was tough and interesting it looked like real swing: first the advantage was on my side, then – on Magnus’s, after that I had winning position again. Finally I lost because of time factor.
Our total score with Magnus on Lichess is 353:131 in his favour, so we played quite a lot:) We also met over the chess board. The most memorable game for me was back in 2003 in the World Youth Chess Championship under 14. That year I not only beat the future World Champion but also won the 1st place in the Championship. Later we met in Rapid and Blitz World Championships (2015, 2018). I took 2 draws and lost 1 game.
You broadcast the whole Offerspill event on your Youtube channel. It was a real show to followed live by many. Is it difficult for you to play fast chess and broadcast at the same time? How often do you make these live broadcasts? When can people join to follow?
At the very beginning when I just started my YouTube channel it was quiet a challenge for me to play chess and speak simultaneously. If you’ll look at my first broadcasts, they are a complete disaster :) But training makes miracles. Now I got used to it and enjoy streaming a lot! Probably, it’s the key why my streams are followed by many: I’m doing what I really love.
Usually I make 3 broadcasts a week: on Tuesday I stream from Titled Tuesdays, Saturday a general stream and some other random day during the week if there’s an interesting tournament like Offerspill League for example. You can join my broadcasts here: https://www.youtube.com/c/SergeiZhigalkoChess/videos I’ll be very happy to see you!
We love your website http://zhigalko-sergei.com/, it looks very professional! Tell us more about it, the services you offer and the team behind the website.
1,5 years ago I finished my career as a professional chess player and began coaching. Together with my brother GM Zhigalko Andrey and my wife WFM Tatiana Zhigalko we started a small online chess school. We provide individual lessons for kids and adults for any chess level. I work with Russian-speaking students, while Andrey and Tatiana hold English classes too.
Are you now dedicated entirely to chess online or you are looking forward to chess on the board?
The chess world has obviously changed, online chess is thriving. Now I probably will not exchange online platforms for a real board. The only real tournament I’m looking forward to is the World Rapid and Blitz Championship. It has always been my favorite event!
This year the World Chess Championship match between Carlsen and Nepo is coming. Do you plan to cover it online? What is your prediction for the match?
Once I had an experience of covering chess games as commentator. To me that’s not so much fun as holding streams while playing myself. So I don’t have plans on covering the match. But I hope to visit the match in Dubai and immerse into that incredible match atmosphere.
Although I think chances are 60/40 in Magnus favor the match promises to be really exciting. I hope we will enjoy tough and unpredictable battle.
More about the World Chess Championship: Carlsen – Nepomniachtchi 2021 – all the information / Carlsen – Nepo – the reactions / WCC 2021 – the venue