Vugar Gashimov: "I think in 1-2 years I can become even the number 1"
And 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.
Participants (top 30)
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!
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.
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.
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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