Reports | December 18, 2009 21:20

Vugar Gashimov: "I think in 1-2 years I can become even the number 1"

Vugar Gashimov, top seed at the European Rapid Ch 2009And you thought you had seen the last chess moves of 2009 from the top players. Well, no, there's one more gig with 2700 players before the year ends: the 9th European Rapid Championship, the upcoming weekend, with Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexei Shirov among its participants. We have an interview with top seed Vugar Gashimov, by GM Bartlomiej Macieja.

The European Rapid Championship 2009 will take place on the 19th and 20th of December in Warsaw, Poland. It will be clearly the strongest championship ever. 769 participants have already registered. The average rating of the top 10 participants is 2700.

European Rapid Ch 2009

Participants (top 30)

European Rapid Ch 2009 Participants

Interview with the highest rated participant of the European Rapid Championship 2009, Vugar Gashimov

"It would not surprise anybody, if Ivanchuk won the European Rapid Championship 2009. But I also wish to win the tournament and it means it will be interesting!"

Bartlomiej Macieja: How many times have you been to Poland?

Vugar Gashimov: Let me count. I played tournaments in Swidnica 1999 and in Bydgoszcz 2001, as well as the European Rapid Championship 2005 in Warsaw. So now it will be my 4th time.

BM: Were you satisfied with your result in the European Rapid Championship 2005?

VG: In principle, I don't take rapid tournaments so seriously. At the same time I try to win each tournament in which I participate, thus I find my previous result disapointing and I will try to succeed this year.

BM: Does it mean that you will consider every place other than the first one as a failure?

VG: In principle yes, but it would not upset me much, as this year has been very successful for me. Obviously, a victory in Warsaw would not harm.

BM: Who do you consider to be your main rival?

VG: My main opponents are obviously Ivanchuk and Shirov, but one can't forget about Movsesian, Malakhov and Bologan. However, the most important is how I will play. If I play well, it will not matter who will be sitting on the other side of a board. If I play badly, the same rule will apply.

BM: After a defeat in the recent World Cup, Vassily Ivanchuk said he was very disappointed with his performance and most probably he would find a tournament before a New Year Eve in order "to win at least somewhere". It looks like Vassily is motivated stronger than anybody else to win the European Rapid Championship. Do you think you can prevent his plan or you will be satisfied also with the second place?

VG: In principle, everybody knows that Ivanchuk is a very strong player, who is able to win any tournament. So it would not surprise anybody, if he won the European Rapid Championship 2009. But I also wish to win the tournament and it means it will be interesting!

European Rapid Ch 2009

BM: How do you evaluate chances of Polish players? The current title holder is Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

VG: In principle, Polish players have a slight advantage, as they participate in this tournament every year. As for Wojtaszek, he is undoubtly a strong chess player, but I think it will be difficult for him to defend his title, as this year the tournament will be much stronger than last year. Possibly, it will be the strongest European Rapid Championship ever.

BM: This year already 769 participants have registered. How many times have you played in such big tournaments?

VG: So far I have played 4 massive tournaments: 3 times in Cappelle la Grande and the European Rapid Championship 2005 in Warsaw.

BM: How do you prepare for rapid events? How does your preparation differ from a preparation for tournaments with longer time controls?

VG: The difference is that I basically don't prepare for rapid events, because there is no sufficient time between rounds.

BM: What about a psychological or a physical preparation? Maybe you rest?

VG: My typical preparation I do every day irrespective of if I play in a classical or a rapid tournament or if I don't play at all. As for a psychological preparation, I do it myself. Let's say I am a psychologist for myself and I don't have problems with it.
I don't always manage to do a physical preparation, but if only I can I surely do it. Mainly I play football. Sport is also a way to rest for me.

BM: How do you evaluate your performance in the World Cup 2009?

VG: I was in a bad shape, but nevertheless I managed to qualify to a quarter-final. I think for the first time (it was my first World Cup) my result can be considered acceptable.

European Rapid Ch 2009

BM: Many spectators were surprised when you offered a draw with white to Ponomariov on move 15.

VG: As I have already said, I was in a bad shape, and the position in which I offered a draw was equal. In principle, I should have won in a rapid tie-break. In the first game I didn't win with an extra piece. If I had won that game, everything would have been different. But it is already past, now I think about the tournaments which are waiting for me, not about those that have already past.

BM: A very successful for you personally and for the whole Azerbaijan team was the European Team Championship in Novi Sad. What are your impressions?

VG: Impressions are obviously remarkable. Everybody expected the Azeri national team to win somewhere, as we were getting stronger and stronger every year. Starting from 2001, every year the average rating of the team was increasing. The appearance of Zurab Azmaiparashvili in the team helped us to play as a real team, what immediately led to the result.
The tournament was successful for me personally too. I performed well and additionally I won to Stellwagen one of the most important games in my career.

BM: It was a very long and tensed game, but it looked like Stellwagen could have escaped for a draw. What were your thoughts in the end of that game, when you stayed alone at the battlefield?

VG: More or less at the moment when I stayed alone, Russia finished their match 2-2. It became clear for me that my victory would bring gold medals for the national team of Azerbaijan. It is very difficult to play in such moments due to the pressure of responsibility. But I played very well until some point and I got a winning position. Then I made a mistake. Since that moment Stellwagen defended very well, he played all best moves, but it seems he got tired from suffering, as I was creating him problems with every move. I was waiting for a mistake, it happened in the end and I used it. I think everything was quite logical, the national team of Azerbaijan played against almost all strong opponents and was leading from the first round.

European Rapid Ch 2009

BM: End of the game, end of the round, end of the championship, and a huge happiness inside the team, but I think in the whole Azerbaijan as well. Is chess popular in your country?

VG: Chess in undoubtly very popular in Azerbaijan. Indeed, we have huge chess traditions, Kasparov was born and became the world champion in Baku. The victory in the European Team Championship has made chess even more popular.

BM: In such a case, the government surely helps top players of the country?

VG: I can say only on behalf of myself - I pay all my expenses and I don't have any support.

BM: It is very strange, you are currently the strongest chess player of the country. Have you, at least, received any special prize for the European Team Championship title?

VG: It is strange, but this is reality. We got only what we were promised for the first place before the tournament.

BM: You are already 6th in the world in the current FIDE list, your rating continuously grows and there seems to be no limit. What do you think, when will you become the number 1?

VG: It simply requires a lot of work and a good play. Under such conditions I think in 1-2 years I can become even the number 1.

BM: And that is what I wish you! Thank you very much for the interview!

VG: Thank you. You are always welcome!

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


PP (NL)'s picture

Number 1? Yeah, dream on... ;-P

notyetagm's picture

Dream on? Where was Gashimov in the rankings two years ago?

Would you have believed me two years ago if I had told you that Gashimov would be the World #5 within two years?

unknown's picture

He must wait for Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Aronian and Carlsen to retire.

Frans's picture

"Dream on" is not appropiate indeed.

I like his attitude towards chess and "chess-psychology" a lot! He wasnt my favourite before this, but after this very insightfull interview, i give him a lot of credits.

Coco Loco's picture

It's good to be an optimist!

PP (NL)'s picture

If it's a matter of words: I'll take it back.

Is "not likely" more suitable? :-D

British fan's picture

"Dream on? Where was Gashimov in the rankings two years ago? Would you have believed me two years ago if I had told you that Gashimov would be the World #5 within two years?"

He's #7, not #5, and he will never be #5, because he will never be as strong as Aronian. Dream on.

British fan's picture

The live ratings are listed right on this very page!

noyb's picture

I admire Vugar's resolute belief in himself, but he has five obstacles in his path: 1) Carlsen 2) Topalov 3) Anand 4) Kramnik 5) Aronian. When he proves he can play with them successfully and defeat them, then I'll be on the bandwagon. My bet? Not a chance!

Jo's picture

I saw him playing on the chessbase server a couple of years ago, his rating was sky high (I think he was 1 or 2 at the time in bullet) I thought he must be cheating. At the time he was asking very deferentially whether any of the Bundesliga or West European teams would sponser him- don't think he got any offers or invites. It sounded like he was having problems getting anyone to take him seriously. Its real cool to see him make good.

@noyob Sounds like your prepared to offer 1000/1 - I'll take 3/1 he overcomes at least two of them 5/1 hes in the top two and 7/1 hes top of the rating heap within the next 2 years . I'll also give you 7/1 on Aronian or 7/1 on Kramnik making top rating. Chess Vibes can hold the money.

Put up or shut up

Glenn Bady's picture

Very well said, Jo on December 18, 8:20pm

Eiae's picture

I think he will be one of the main rivals for Carlsen for the chess throne for years to come

Thomas's picture

We shouldn't forget or neglect that these words were virtually put in Gashimov's mouth. The question wasn't an innocent "What are your plans for the next two years?", but literally "What do you think, when will you become the number 1?". What should his answer be? If it were "never", others might accuse him of lack of ambition ... .
Therefore the title of this report may be a bit misleading, even though Gashimov is correctly quoted. If I were Peter Doggers, I would have chosen the sad-but-true "I pay all my expenses and I don’t have any support" ... .

CAL|Daniel's picture

while your point is legit Thomas... I don't think we can blame Peter for his choice of title... the point of it was to get the article read so i'd declare Peter's intentions a success.

Ark's picture

I would have read the article simply because he is Gashimov and would be invited to Linares 2010, this attempt at smearing him is surely despicable.

Castro's picture

And yes, Gashimov answered fairly:

"It simply requires a lot of work and a good play. Under such conditions I think in 1-2 years I can become even the number 1."

Even I could answer like that (just put 5-6 instead 1-2 years, for the bigger ELO leap), because "such conditions" include "good play" (forget the "lot of work", that doesn't work :-) ).
Indeed, everybody with REALY good play would get there. It only takes our play to be "good" everytime it is compared with each of our opponents, nothing else!

Word games... ;-)

dan's picture

Agree with Thomas, but the title is good from journalism p.o.v. meanwhile gashimov still need time to prove himself, as in world cup i only see him playing lower rate player. and that's is ... "i am in bad shape"

Inventorist's picture

Can we have a follow up interview, with the Rabble of Rome interviewing Gashimov, and throwing all the questions like they do at the press conference? Would be great, seeing patzers get put in their place by an educated man, Off The Chess Board.

merlin's picture

Gashimov is the less known player from the top 10 list and it is natural that his ambition would sound odd to patzers. Personally i think that the main thing that makes the difference at this level is the opening (except carlsen of course) so i don't find his statement strange.To the contrary i think it would be really really disappointing and strange if any of the top 10 didn't have that ambition..

British fan's picture

"Can we have a follow up interview, with the Rabble of Rome interviewing Gashimov, and throwing all the questions like they do at the press conference? Would be great, seeing patzers get put in their place by an educated man, Off The Chess Board."

If you consider a 23 year old pro chess player who has dedicated thousands of hours to his chess career educated, that speaks volumes about your own educational level.

Thomas's picture

Yes I understand Peter's reasons, and didn't mean to say that his headline choice is altogether wrong. I am maybe more puzzled about the choice of question, particularly as it was asked by Macieja rather than sone enthusiastic and patriotic Azeri journalist. Maybe Macieja's motives were similar: "If I put in something provocative and controversial, the interview will be more widely disseminated and read" - which in turn is also publicity for the rapid event. All this might say more about journalism in general and about us readers.

Personally I agree with Ark, but even if the interview was still widely read it would have received less comments - only Jo and myself hinted at another aspect: Gashimov got that far without much support from others.

Still it makes at least some sense to ask Gashimov about his further ambitions, whereas Castro (no idea who he is in real life) might only be asked "Will you become #1 of your local club?" :) . Was Gashimov ever asked "Will you enter the top10?" or "Will you become #1 in your own country?". If so and his answer was "yes", in hindsight those goals were realistic. And if the next goal is not reached within two years, three answers would be possible and legitimate:
- "I didn't play well enough"
- "I didn't work hard enough", or
- "Some other players are still better than me"

BTW, there is yet another 2700 gig this year - the Superfinal of the Russian Championship from 20-29 December with Svidler, Jakovenko, Alekseev, Grischuk, Tomashevsky, Riazantsev, Khismatullin, Vitiugov, Timofeev and Sjugirov (info found at the German Chessbase tournament calendar). This might be a reason why relatively few Russian players participate in the European rapid event.

chris's picture

Unfortunately getting to the top, like winning a game, doesn't depend solely on what Gashimov does, nor how hard he works. It also depends on the other eight top ten players who want to replace the number one, & of course on the number one trying to cling on to the top spot.

Still Gashimov is the least known of the top ten players & his performances show he has the right to be there.

Maybe Carlsen will do a Pillsbury, & start chasing women or whatever instead of working at staying number one. & maybe some total outsider (Giri, Robson, Cori, Lagrave or someone we haven't yet heard of) will crash the party.

christos (greece)'s picture

When you are number 5, I think it is very logical to aim to become number 1. I would actually find it strange and unnatural, if his goal was to become number 2.
"To limit your ambitions is to ultimately limit your skills" (I don't remember where I have read this quote).

Labelled's picture

Why does everyone keep saying he`s #5. He is #7 for god`s sake.....

And for him to reach Carlsen I think it will take a wonder or two. My prediction is that Carlsen will stay at the top for years to come. Imagine the kid after a few months of opening training with K. He will be unstoppable...... Just look at how ell he`s done with really poor opening reportoare...

Good luck Gash!!

Thomas's picture

I will repeat what I consider the most revealing quote from the interview:
"I pay all my expenses and I don’t have any support"
Two things come to my mind - leading to 3) below:
1) Gashimov got as far as he got already basically working on his own? The same holds true for Carlsen for most of his career (until Kasparov "popped up" as his coach).
2) Armenia - Azerbaijan's rival in chess and enemy in other fields - has no oil, but a system of state support for top chess players. Azerbaijan (like Norway) has oil resources ... .
3) If Gashimov's interview "rings a bell" with some rich Azeris: What is his potential if he now gets sponsors and a qualified coach? Kasparov is taken, but he is not the only one!?

bentje's picture

Well. first thing on my mind was also:

Dream on. Lets face it. Gashimov beating Carlsen? NO WAY.

His face by the way looks really strange and not symetric. I know thats totally not interesting but just noticed.

Anyway i wish the guy good luck. He is great player and noone can argue that :-)

VolleyD's picture

Best clarification: "If I had won that game, everything would have been different"
After next 1-2 years you can say the same..

Labelled's picture

Haha.... Nice one VolleyD!!

Thomas's picture

Hmm, in the World Cup one bad game (in rapid or blitz) can make a lot of difference. And it was a setback in Gashimov's career - he had another one in September 2008, scoring 1/5 in the Spanish league and losing 18.5 rating points. Such things can happen once in a while ... .

But generally his past and current rating looks like this:
Jan 2008 - 2665
Jan 2009 - 2723
Nov 2009 - 2758 (6th on the official list, currently 7th on the live rating list)

He gained 25 points in 2009, if he gains another 25 points each in the next two years - well, he will still be a bit behind Carlsen but getting close ... . Those who say it's impossible can predict the future, I wouldn't claim such a thing for myself.

Slavmonster's picture

It looks like Malakhov is a real force to be reckoned with. He's just won Rapid EC fairly and squarely. Chucky came second by beating Gashimov in the last round. Thus Gashimov finished somewhere down the list.

ceann's picture

Looks like stardom has gone to Marty Feldmans head judging by his play....

Rothschild's picture

Gashimov speaks the truth. He is young and storming ahead - of course he COULD become #1. The reason people are provoked by his statement is bc of too much fanboyism and too little actual knowledge of playing chess actively and training.

blueofnoon's picture

It is funny how people have reacted to this article... Didn't much lower rated Nakamura once make it clear that his ultimate goal is to become the world champion?

Questionmark's picture

My goal is also to once become number 1. First I'll get through the 2000-barrier, with 1-2 years of hard work. And from then on, i think it will be smooth sailing :)

Jens Kristiansen's picture

So you want to become number one? There is a quite simple receipe on that, reached by some proper and deep calculations:
You just have to win 120 games in a row, then for sure you will be number one in the world.
I have personally tried to do that several times, but (so far) never reached more than eight wins.
Merry Christmas!

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