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Aug 8,2002

chess chess

Many thanks JoeBlack (Evgeny Atarov, http://www.joeblack.h1.ru/)
for his kind permission to publish the interview with Alexander Motyliov.

Alexander Motyliov
“Chess has been always beautiful to me!”

May 2001

Probably Motyliov is the most unexpected Russia Champion for the last years. Even more unexpected than Volkov was last year: Sergei, when he sat in the prize car, had won already many tournament victories, so he only verified his class by winning the Russia Championship 2000. Now Alexander had simply no outstanding achievements, or almost so. He showed decent results several times in large opens and performed well at the Russia Junior Championships several times (but he did not win them)…

Two rounds before the finish of the championship he was not regarded by anyone as the champion to be. Then, after he defeated Malakhov in round eight, the guess appeared, what if he wins, although Lastin and Kharlov still were considered more probable candidates to win the champion’s crown. So it was only when two central games of the final round were over that Motyliov got the right to wave his hands happily, crying, “I did it, I am the Champion!”

But he refrained. He went to the analysing board and spent an hour and a half there moving pieces. From time to time his face lit up with a happy smile… This expression of tired satisfaction had kept long on the Champion’s face then, all the time when he was accepting multiple congratulations, and when the gold medal was glowing on his breast, and when he was granting this interview at half to three in the night.

To be honest, I am glad for Alexander, even though during the tournament I was rooting for another Alexander, Lastin. To win the Russia Championship at 21 is something! In fact, for him this victory is only a good basis for forthcoming, still more important achievements, but also it is a reward for the great work he did for the last years …

– Did you feel anything special when you came to Elista, or was it an ordinary qualification tournament for the Europe Championship for you?
– I felt nothing special. There were many players who came right after the Dubai Open, and my task was simply to qualify for the Europe Championship. Of course I hoped to perform well, but this ‘well’ implied third place at best. I never thought of winning the Championship…

– Was this because of your age and lack of experience?
– Rather, I am simply not used to winning tournaments. Such a strong Russia Championship, all the more! I am glad I did it now, but I can’t speak about the future. I can’t even realise this at the moment… In Dubai I shared 1-8 places as well, so it was particularly unusual for me to finish first again, I had never played well two times in a series before.

– If the tournament started anew now, would you have expected yourself to win?
– No, of course I wouldn’t! It is a pure lottery.

– Have you already accustomed yourself to the Champion’s title? It did not take long from Volkov last year…
– It’s hard to tell. When I thought about this for the very first time, it seemed to me I’d jump high as soon as the game was over, yet nothing of this sort happened. Perhaps I have not yet realised this in full… Maybe, because I do understand well: Volkov was the Champion last year, I am now, somebody else will come next year. I don’t think I can win again!

– Do you consider yourself on the same level with the players who were Russia Champions in previous years? Svidler, Khalifman, Morozevich, Sakaev…
– I have not thought about this... The point is that there are many young players now who have not entered the elite yet, but I think soon we shall speak about Lastin or Najer as respectfully as we speak about Svidler or Morozevich now! Take Morozevich: when he won the Russia Championship three years ago he was not the same as now. Well, he had an ELO of about 2600, he had won several tournaments, but this was all. So everything changes, and perhaps someone will be pleased to be listed on a par with me in several years.

– When did you feel that you were in good form at this tournament, that everything went all right?
– However strange this may seem, I can’t tell I was performing especially well in Elista, at least I did not feel so. It was as usually. But this is my happy year: I played decently in several tournaments in Spain, then in Dubai… I only began to think about this after I defeated Malakhov with Black in round eight. Before this I played as usually, without great plans, without any thoughts about the final success.

– But how about your brilliant victory over one of the ELO favourites of the tournament, Shipov?
– I hold Shipov in high respect both as a grandmaster and a chess player. Although he was obviously out of form at this tournament, my victory over him was very inspiring for me, it was a different level of chess! His class is really very close to the chess elite.

– What was your purpose in the last game with Kharlov: did you want to hold on simply or maybe you were ready for a tough struggle to vindicate your right to be the Champion?
– Of course there was a temptation to make a draw and avoid excessive emotions, yet, on the other hand, I wanted to vindicate something too... Indeed, it depended mainly on the game Najer - Lastin. That is, I was ready for a draw from the very beginning since it meant great winning chances to me, but… if Lastin had won, then I’d have made every effort to win as well!

– So if he had won and you hadn’t, then you would have been very upset because of this missed chance, wouldn’t you?
– Of course, I would. My chances were so high, and I did not want to miss this opportunity! Now I can say I am content that I’ve played a tough and sharp game with Kharlov. It would be quite unpleasant to finish with a dull draw…

– Are you satisfied with the quality of your play at the Championship?
– There were only two games I did not play really, with Lastin and with Chernyshov. All the rest were in struggle from first till last move. Generally, I am satisfied with my play.

– Try to estimate yourself from the chess point of view: how far have you advanced for the last years? I remember the time when a score a little higher than 50% in Swiss Opens of the Russia Cup was considered a real achievement for you...
– Yes, at the Russia Championship 1998 in St.Petersburg I was 57th out of 61 players with 3 points out of nine. But for the last years my results have grown considerably, quite unexpectedly even for myself… Perhaps I gained confidence at last! I can't point out at what moment it happened, but for the last years the number of incontestable authorities with whom I'd agree to draw in any situation decreased to nought for me… I pose now a concrete task to myself and try to fulfil it, not fearing anybody, ready to fight.

– Do these changes have psychological or purely chess grounds?
– I worked on my opening repertoire to extend it and escape narrowness. I used to play the Queen's Indian and the Dragon for Black only… Now I simply can't imagine how one can play such openings. I devoted much time to this work lately.

As for the psychological aspect… Last year I happened to play with Adams. It was so unusual to oppose to a player with ELO over 2755, I hesitated very long what opening to choose. As the result, I refused to play 'my' variation because of a game Kasparov - Adams in which he gained a good position… Being nervous, I forgot the order of moves, got a worse position with White and lost without fight - then I realised how important psychology is in chess! You must be confident of yourself, of the stuff you play, of your ability to do your best, regardless your opponent's person.

– Then I'll ask you about your own confidence concerning the decisions you take over the board.
– It's hard to tell what is going on during the game. But after the game is over I try to be as impartial as possible. I don't keep to the rule that if I played something once, I have to play it forever… I am very glad when I feel was following the rules of the chess harmony in some game, and a series of moves brought to the consistent result. It's a great pleasure to do this… However it happens not often, unfortunately.

– Can you state your chess creed? What is your purpose when you sit over the board?
– Well, chess became my profession, so this should be the starting point here. I've mentioned already that to play a strategically consistent game is a great pleasure for me. It's the same, whether it was full of tactics or subordinate to a single strategic plan. Consistency is my aim at present… However struggle is very important for me as well, the strain of fight, even when it is not faultless. It's hard to separate one thing from the other, the same as regarding art and sport in chess separately.

– I wonder which of these constituents is closer to you?
– I believe I am closer to sport. At last, points do matter, but… when analysing my games, I am very glad to see good play.

– Approximately a year ago I had an interesting discussion with Valery Popov. He explained the drawing result in your blitz match with him by the fact that you both are Spieler's, that is ready to play practically any positions...
– It's very interesting to hear Valery's opinion. Yes, we played a match with 3 min control, but I somehow did not think about our play in this aspect. Generally, blitz is mainly fun for me. I can't play seriously outside of a tournament...
As for the opinion that I could 'play any position'… I don't know. For example, I don't like playing positions which I consider equal or slightly worse - playing for a victory, I mean. It's quite unnatural to me, I have to force myself… Formerly it was the same, but now it's hard for me, so I offer draws frequently in such positions. To me, when the position is equal, a draw is the consistent result, so I don't worry about this.

– In your present condition, do you enjoy playing chess, or is it your work first of all?
– It's hard to tell what I feel over the board. I don't know if this could be called entertainment, I try to create something over the board… It's closer to work or contest, what I feel. Later, when analysing the result of my work, I may feel pleased, but during the game it's hard to enjoy a move…

– What means the mood for you? Can it influence your play?
– As a rule, I try to distract from the state in which I came to the game. The only problem is that it's hard for me to play with all my strength against a friend of mine. So far it is my hardest problem...

– Do you manage to override yourself?
– Fortunately, I happen to play against friends not often, especially in crucial rounds. This time I avoided this problem luckily.

– Let's talk about your friends then. There are plenty of strong players now in Ekaterinburg, yet I can't remember to have heard anything about your friendship with any of them. Why so?
– Yes, I don't comply with the fellows there very well. It's hard to tell why it happened so… For example, I stand on good terms with Vokarev, Ovechkin, Maxim Sorokin, but they don't play in such tournaments. I don't know why, we are simply different people, have different interests. Somehow neither Shariyazdanov, nor Rashkovsky have became friends of mine…

– Do you regret that your city fellows did not support you in Elista and were not eager to congratulate you on your victory?
– No, I don't regret this, as well as I don't feel my circle of acquaintance to be deficient. It is quite large, by the way… I come to Moscow regularly. I don't have many close friends, but who does? Besides, I have a lot of buddies.

– Is friendship important for you in the analytical work?
– Lately I haven't worked with anybody. I've had problems with this kind of collaboration always…

– So you are a player on yourown…
– Practically, I am. I have a trainer, of course, Terentiev, but he hasn't taught me much lately. After a certain moment, perhaps after I've left the school behind, it's hard for him to give me something. Then, I spent once a week at a session of the Dvoretsky school. I believe it was very helpful for my chess growth… Sometimes I meet Vokarev, but it happens quite irregularly now. The reason is simple, I come home, to Ekaterinburg, too seldom now.

– So you really don't have any contacts with other players, do you?
– Oh, I've recalled! Not long ago I worked a little with Rogozenko from Moldavia. And I feel it was helpful!

– It looks as if you don't seek any contacts yourself. Do you prefer working on your own?
– I don't seek them, but I don't avoid them as well. If there were more possibilities… I believe it is very good for any player! A different line, a different look at the position.

– Are you capable of working hard?
– A very complex question. I do know how lazy I am!

– Do you have any periods of maniacal chess work when you start and can't stop for a week?
– Sometimes I do have such times. But I am unable to set a concrete task for myself: to do that much on that day. I can loll about doing nothing or work for a week without break… So I can't tell how much capable of working I am - more or less so.

– Do you feel sometimes you have not done everything you could have done in a game?
– But seldom. As I've told already, I am in process of a serious reformation of my opening repertoire, so I work mainly on openings. Of course, it's very important to know some endgame positions, but for me studying endings is a sort of relaxation… You set it up, look at it, say, "Oh, it's interesting!", and start analysing. With openings it's not so easy, you have to know theory! First, it saves time, with the new control it is very important how long it takes to make first 15-20 moves. Then, it helps you to get a fitting position. This work is very important and takes many efforts, but I've got used to it already! Of course, it's quite unpleasant to find out during a game that you have been mistaken and have estimated a position incorrectly. Then you have to work more on this…

– Do you regret that you did not attend elite chess schools like Botvinnik&Kasparov or Dvoretsky&Yussupov schools because you were too young when the USSR collapsed and which they ceased working?
– I don't regret anything. I am content with my life. Perhaps it could have been nice to come there at some moment, but… it did not happen. So what's the use of thinking about this?

– Who were your chess idols when you were a boy?
– I played always in the attacking, combinative style, and in all my openings I performed a fianchetto of the King's Indian bishop in one way or another. Until a certain moment I simply knew nothing about strategic elements in positions… Naturally, my idols were Tal, Shirov. Sometimes I managed to perform some combinations and was very pleased with them. But the day came when I realised I couldn't play this way any more. After a junior tournament I somehow revised fundamentally my understanding of chess, my approach to it. I realised I did not know the most elementary lows of chess.

– Was there any concrete reason for this?
– Yes, my game with Malaniuk from the Russia Cup 1997. There was an ending with rooks and bishop vs. knight by Vladimir. It was drawn with rooks, and lost after an exchange. After the game Malaniuk asked me why I did not avoid the exchange of the rooks. It was a revelation for me, to avoid the exchange. I was sure that when my rook stood on an open file, and another rook attacked it, I was simply unabel to retreat with it anywhere…

– What was the effect of this revelation?
– First of all, I learned to get satisfaction not from combinations only, but also from strategically consistent play. Weak squares, bad pieces, etc. And this produced certain results!

– You say you consider yourself a professional chess player. Have you ever thought what your ultimate dreams about your chess career are?
– To be honest, I haven't yet set any high achievements as an aim for myself, as well as I did not want to finish, for example, third at the Russia Championship. If I am content with my work after a tournament and can say to myself, "I did my best or almost so", then it's OK. If not - then this is my limit. So I must work as long as I can, I must try to play better and better…

– So your own estimation is the chief criterion for you, isn't it?
– Of course it's important for me what other people think about my play, but my own feeling is more important. Nobody else can know how much I've given to it and how much more I can give…

–When you play a game, do you play it for yourself only or for those people who support you and root for you as well?
– When I come to a tournament, I see there are many people to whom it's interesting, so I try to play better for them too. I like people gather at my board, analyse my game… Although… I don't see them when I play, my concentration is too high.

– In your home chess club in Ekaterinburg I saw a stand with your photos and routes of your trips…
– Yes, it's so fine when there are people who are not indifferent to you. You want to do your best for them!

– When you were a beginner, did your folks at home welcome this hobby or considered it something temporary and insignificant?
– My father is a strong amateur player, and my grandfather plays chess as well… They tried to help me all the time. At first I did not want to play chess!

– Then, what did you want to do?
– Like most boys, I liked active games, football, for example. I was able to play football day and night. Until a certain moment chess was something secondary for me, but then I came to the local chess club Etude, there were excellent trainers there who taught me to love chess …

– When did chess become the main object of your thoughts?
– At first I simply played, travelled to various tournaments, it was interesting to see new places, to meet people. It's hard to tell when I realised that chess would be my profession. But for a series of good results, but for my own hope for the future success…

– Could you have ceased playing?
–Probably, I could. Although… no, I hardly would. Only if I had played very badly, I'd have realised I should find some other occupation. But my situation was absolutely different.

– Can you compare your attitude towards chess when you were a boy and now? Don't you feel you love them less now?
– I don't think so, chess has been always beautiful to me! It is not victories that matter, although winning is pleasant too, the harmony of chess is beautiful. Such a diversity of positions… When looking on them, you can't imagine they may get boring ever. This is a sign of happiness, when you do what you like most of all!

The little - know episodes of Alexander Alekhine's creation by Victor Charushin
Playing chess for more mutual understanding in Europe. Press Release
Opening for White according to Kramnik" - II (English Opening)
Alexander Motyliov. "Chess has been always beautiful to me!"
Opening for Black according to Karpov.
Seagaard ChessReviews about "Mikhail Tal games 1949-1962".
Open letter of GM Valery Salov
Chess sites in Spanish
Lightning Chess
Valery Salov: Conversation with Alexander Khalifman
Valery Salov: Conversation with World Champion Xie Jun
Opening for White according to Kramnik
Gennady Nesis: The rich history of the ancient game
A. Khalifman. Opus 1, Opus 2
Puzzle (K. Mueller 2000, Original)
Alexander Baburin: Launch of Two New Chess Web

"He who fears an isolated queen's pawn should give up chess". Siegbert Tarrasch

"The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move"! David Bronstein.

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