Interview with former World Chess Champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov

Interview with former World Chess Champion GM Ruslan Ponomariov

January 31, 2020 0 By Sebastian Fry


Hi everyone. I received some questions from German magazine
Rochade. There is like 15 questions and I decided to
record my answers to share it with more people. So let’s go one by one. In general the idea is to answer some short. First question, what was the most unusual
experience you had during a chess tournament? Well, I guess more or less, all tournaments
are kind of well organized. I can’t blame so much about anything, at least
from my point of experience, but once I remember I played in Mexico in the city Cuernavaca,
it was limited, let’s say funny moment and aspect, how organizers solved the problem. We played tournament. The time control I think was one hour and
30 minutes for the whole game with 30 seconds increment. I played versus Argentinian grand master Rubén
Felgaer. In some moment we both had five minutes left
on the clock, I thought I had some kind of advantage, but it was still complicated and
suddenly some accident happened with electricity in the tournament hall. There was like electricity, no light at all,
so we can’t continue to play the game so what to do with such a situation? I think it was something like 2005 as far
as I remember and in some moment okay, organizers proposed return back to the hotel, but it
was maybe something like at least 20 minutes driving maybe slightly more. And just to continue there because this was
like a huge accident, with electricity It was hard to do. We were both like confused and the logical
would be like maybe to start to play game from the beginning. But there was no time for this and some kind
of the logical part of the game were missed. Well because it’s like time trouble and we
were both having the same like possibility to think a little bit. But yeah, this was kind of unusual experience
that I had a little bit funny thing that when they played in St Louis versus Hikaru Nakamura
friendly match. We played some rapid games in St. Louis in
the United States. There was some hurricanes, tornadoes but nothing
like really dangerous. But yeah, in some moment or organizers as
well said that there is possibility that can be some tornadoes and we need like to go downstairs,
but okay. So this kind of react I would say unusually
for me experience during games to postpone it. Okay, second question. You became one of the youngest grandmaster
in history of chess at age of 14 years in 1998, I would say 14 years and 17 days. This was a record at that moment. Now the grand master’s are younger, I think
Sergey Karjakin is holding a record with 12 months and some 12 years and some months but
ok. How much time did you dedicate to chess back
then compared to today? Truly speaking in 1998 it was so many years
ago, more than 20 years already ago, so I don’t really remember each kind of detail. How did I train, what do they do? But as far as I remember at that moment since
I was just 14 years old, I didn’t have that kind of responsibilities, kind of much stuff
to do apart of studying in the school and also studying chess. So that time when I didn’t like study in the
school, I can dedicate to chess. So probably I spent more time in 1998 compared
with today because now I have also responsibility for family, for myself, not just working on
chess. Okay, next question, four years later in 2002,
you became the youngest world champion when you beat your competitive Vassily Ivanchuk
in the finals of the FIDE World Chess Championship (in Knockout System). Yeah, we played much in the knock out system. It was eight rounds, eight games match, since
there were two world championship until 2006. How did you experience your victory and the
plans about the possible match with Kasparov? Again, it was so many years ago. How did I experience my victory? I think after World Championship we played
in January, I had tournament in Linares, which starts and so February some kind of begin
of March. So I needed like to prepare again for the
tournament. Well I probably celebrated it so I don’t remember
exactly how and how and what about plans with possible match against Kasparov until 2006? Well about Kasparov I would say in that moment
I kind of experienced that lack of maybe well organization, it was planned. First it was lots of like negotiations about
possible reunification because Kasparov was not part of FIDE at that moment. Some people who remember and at that moment
was still talking how unite the titles and then some of them after many talking, it was
a announced that my possible match versus Kasparov in Argentina, but then after some
time it was cancelled in Argentina. Then it was scheduled in Yalta, in Crimea,
in Ukraine and then it was again cancelled. So I guess it’s affected in bad way me and
Kasparov. That moment I would say that I didn’t really
experience it, good chess, good games. If you will check Kasparov’s results that
moment that I don’t think he was in the best shape either. If you will check probably Kramnik who was
also part, he also didn’t like place super well at that moment. At least now I would say after so many years
we kind of have system, people maybe don’t will say that not everything is perfect, but
at least it’s system. And I hope that FIDE learned something and
they will not like to change to reschedule, but it’s always like in danger in that moment. Okay so next, how did your life change after
winning the World FIDE Championship in 2002 in the way that people recognize and behave
towards to you? Well at that moment of, from my point of view,
well it was totally of course unexpected in some kind of stuff because no one became World
Champion in so young age and I couldn’t expect that it would be me in that moment. I was living in really small city Kramatorsk
and yeah, I remember when I came back home, like people who were even waiting on the train
station was like lots of people. I was kind of scared, I would say oh my God. I became kind of celebrity, but then I just
don’t know. I had I think more or less normal. I was trying to be, to have normal life. I guess it’s that moment that is nothing like
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, like people really care so much about each kind of follower,
et cetera. I just wanted to continue my life normal. Then I moved to big city, to Ukrainian capital
Kiev and people still recognize me there, but okay city is much bigger. And then it’s kind of, I would say more like
privacy I had at that moment. Next question; how does a normal day of work
at home look like? How many hours a day do you work on chess
and more importantly, what are you working on? Well if it’s about now or it’s about like
before. If it’s about now I can say that I’m nowadays
not on a so professional level. I’m still enjoying chess but I’m also trying
to dedicate not only like to play chess professionally also trying like to sharing my experience
with people about chess and I have some family responsibilities, et cetera. But I guess if you like if you want to play
on top, on top of chess, yeah you need to like organize your life at that moment to
be really like professional. It’s not only how many hours, the quality
of hours that you spend and nowadays I guess it’s more like even challenging. With all kinds of computers and information
that people should deal. Yeah, we are going smoothly to the next question,
how different is the preparation of a super Grand master like you from super preparation
of an amateur player? Well I guess amateur player, you kind of don’t
care so much about results and super grand master. Hmm I remember when I played really on top,
top level, each detail was important. How do you sleep, what do you eat, what’s
your mood? And you need to do lots of preparation and
you need to keep lots of concentration. People sometimes even like, couldn’t imagine
how hard it is. Well, sometimes I’m looking like nowadays
for example, tournament in Wijk aan Zee goes and I can really see like difference in the
moves, in the preparation it’s really visible. Someone who has worked harder and someone
who like maybe celebrated, spend more time, celebrating winter holidays with families. How many hours do you normally prepare before
a game or is the work is already done when you come to a tournament? Well of course a lot of work should be done
before a tournament because during tournament the time is still limited and you need to
have like energy I guess before the game. Also depending on the tournament, if it’s
like Swiss tournament you don’t know names of your opponents, so you need like to check
what’s your opponent playing and if it’s a Bundesliga, sometimes even you know your opponent
only one hour and 30 minutes before the round. So you try to kind of find balance to repeat
lines, theoretical lines and to keep some energy because the game can be long but yeah,
lots of work should be done of course before the tournament. Next question: Who are your chess idols and
for which reason? I can’t say that I have any idols probably
because I am professional myself, but when I was small kid, I had some influence. There was some Soviet books with the best
games of each world champion, not only male but also female. Also some classical players who didn’t become
World Champion but who were competing for world champions and it was nice illustration. I was really like enjoying so much and in
general I tried later maybe in some moments like some kind of copy of it and trying to
look the best for everyone. What’s your recommendation for how to deal
with defeats in chess? Well in general I guess everyone experiences
loses in chess. Some of us long streaks like Ding Liren has
100 games streaks without losing but then he lost again, now Magnus Carlsen is playing
without losing single game, but I don’t know. It probably mathematically he would loose
games anyway. Even in this kind of streaks he was lucky. He had best position, which normally his opponent
should convert to winning. Well, my suggestion how to deal with defeats,
it’s not pleasant feeling just, I’m personally, I’m trying like to focus more on my next game,
try to sleep a little bit like I’m trying to rest, maybe it affect in some aspects that
depending on my mood or my situation, like I would feel that I should play maybe more
safer or more maybe opposite. I would feel like I want revenge and I want
to strike my next game. Well, depending of course on situation and
the opponent and after the tournament I’m already trying like to check more calmly. What was the reason why I lost this game? But yeah, it probably comes with some experience
and I can say that it’s so simple to deal with defeats. So next question. How do you think will the chess world will
look like in 10 to 20 years? Do you think we will see significant change? Truly speaking I don’t know how chess will
look like in 10, 20 years. I even don’t know how it will look like in
three years something, not only chess world but in general, the whole world. We are now living in I think industrial computer
era and there is lots of changes coming much, much faster and it’s difficult, really difficult
to predict the future. I just hope that it still would be like interesting
to play chess even despite there is lots of computer developments like AlphaZero for example. I guess there will be more Rapid and blitz
tournaments. I personally even would like to see such changes. Chess friends in Germany know you also for
playing in Bundesliga for Hockenheim from 2017 on. Can we still expect to see you there in the
future for sometime or what are your future chess plans instead? Yeah definitely, I like to be in Germany. I also remember playing in Mainz tournament
and then this tournament disappeared. I also played in Dortmund tournament, in Hockenheim
actually my first team in Bundesliga so far I’m really like the team spirit. Yeah, definitely will come, the season is
still like going on. My captain always tells me don’t say when
you will exactly come because we need to look to keep our life in secrets that our opponents
can’t prepare well but definitely I will come, so see you guys would be nice to see
you. We can come, we can have like talks, make
photos, et cetera. What do you like to do besides chess? I mean I like, I like to read, I like to watch
movies. I like to live a healthy life, to spend time
with my wife, with my son in general. I like to learn new things. Now in this moment I somehow I still don’t
have driving license so I’m trying to learn how to drive. Did
you always want to become a chess professional or did you consider working in the regular
job? Well this is like two questions in one question. About did I always want to become a chess
professional? I can’t say that I always wanted to become
a chess professional, it just somehow came to me smoothly. I was studying in the school, then I studied
in the university, but so far since I became World champion and grandmaster so early, for
me it was not so much doubts, to become or not become chess professional. It’s working for me and its gives me joy and
if it’s well paid I thought, it’s kind of nice to be chess professional, why not to
use this chance? And about consider working in a regular job. I mean if I not, I can understand some parents
about them worrying about their children, what their life is going to be and yeah, probably
if you are not Grand master at age 14, 16 that it’s kind of late for you nowadays to
become chess professional. And probably you should try to learn new skills,
but for me also, I don’t know what to say about regular job. I don’t really understand what means term
of regular job. Personally I’m open minded, I’m open minded
to learn new skills and I just would be happy to do something useful for people in general. And I’m not like consider like, I personally
don’t want like to go just to the office, well if it’s needed, I don’t mind to go. But just go for going like people, some people
have regular job, wake up seven o’clock in the morning and come back six o’clock in the
evening. I guess it’s also important that you really
like what you do and it’s kind of, you are doing stuff that’s useful for the people. For example, my wife, she is freelancer and
she’s professional interpreter translator and she is also a professional vocal singer. Just recently she was singing with her band
in Madrid in Zamora in Palencia, so everyone finds their own way in this life. Yeah and you can be definitely a chess professional
as well. I don’t see why it cannot be your regular
job as well. What is your recommendation in terms of analyzing
with the computer? I can’t say that I’m such a huge expert
with computers in general, for me computer, it’s like a partner, like a coach. If I have some doubts, some questions, I can
always consult this with computer. The problem is computer is still not explaining
so well why he suggests one move and not another one so we don’t have this kind of conversation. Let’s say and for me it’s also interesting
to see how other people work with computers. And all the time there is progress with engines,
now we have like Stockfish already I think 11 and AlphaZero. In my time when I remember in 2002 when I
became world chess champion, I only used computers instead of bringing in books, I had like a
database to check games of my opponent. And even in that moment the database was not
really huge but computer was slowly and I needed something like maybe 30 minutes to
search the games on my computer with MS-DOS version. So now there is lots of progress. And the last question, in short words, which
general advice can you give our readers to improve their skills in their chess in the
following parts of the game; opening, middle game, end game? Well about endgame there is lots of chess
books, theoretical books. I guess you should also do some tests, practices. There is lots of online, in Germany there
is Karsten Müller, Dr. Karsten Müller from ChessBase who does like regular shows. Before it was Dworetski. About opening, everyone has different tastes,
some try to play more aggressive openings. Some like to play lots of openings. Again, this is like personal. Again, there is like lots of books, lots of
games. Of course you can learn on your own but it’s
always nice to have some partner or some coach as well. About middle game, I guess middle game and
opening are sometimes connected because you learn pawn structures, typical plans. For the middle game maybe you should also
learn, calculate variations, there are also good books about this. So basically, I guess with the books, with
the coach, with good partners in your chess club, you can learn lots of stuff. The biggest problem I think nowadays it’s
like organize your time because time is the most valuable thing that you have in your
life and time is going on, so try to organize your studying plan. Well, to spend, I guess most of the professionals
of course spend more time on openings, even like spending time on openings, trying to
organize it. Well, okay guys, this were all 15 questions. You can, I will maybe publish this video on
my Twitch or YouTube channel. You please also consider to buy or subscribe
to Rochade. Maybe if you have more questions, you can
then write in your comments or send me some message on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you very much and see you soon.