The head of the Azerbaijani national chess team that won the bronze medal at the European Team Championship, behind Russia and Armenia, Teimour Radjabov, gave an exclusive interview to the Russian language sports news agency APA. It contains some very startling comments.
On the Bronze Medal win at the European Championship: This is of course a great success. I think our players competed well – we should not forget that European chess is the strongest in the world. I am sure that we will achieve more success in future.
On the clash with Russia, after leading until round five: We lost to the main favorites of the European Championship, the Russian team, and it had a bad influence on me. We lost three games in round five, and one ended in a draw. But this score does not reflect the potential of our players at all. Before competing with the Russians we were thinking about defeating our rivals. We were scoring well until that round. The Russians defeated us and won the gold medals.
On the loss to Slovenia in round six: We did not think about losing to them. We took risks and that led to our defeat, an unexpected defeat. I think we are to blame, as we did not assess our opponents correctly. We thought that we would win without any difficulty.
On the draw against Armenia in round eight: Of course we had chance to win it. But the situation changed gradually. Vladimir Akopian offered me a draw, after Shahriyar [Mamedyarov] and Rauf [Mamedov] had finished their games with draws. I did not accept, because by then Vugar [Gashimov] had a bad position. He lost, so I had to defeat Akopian to draw the match, and I managed to do it.
On the team's feelings before this round eight match: I will not deny that we were very nervous. Regardless of where we meet, the enemy is the enemy. We all have feelings of hate towards them. But you must try to suppress those feelings and not let them interfere. Chess must be played with a sober head.
On the atmosphere in the hall at the time: The Armenians had a lot of active fans. The Armenian Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian had arrived there, and I saw him in the hall during most matches. The President of our federation, Elman Rustamov, also attended our match with the Armenians and supported us. We understood the importance of the match and adhered to the principles of the encounter.
On the roots of this first historical success for the national team: First of all collective fight. Friendship in the team was one of the main factors. We thought about the team first of all. None of the sportsmen fought to improve his personal rating. This is very important. Our failure in the previous competitions worried us, as we felt that we had the capability to win medals.
On whether the team is capable of winning greater victories: I believe in it. Though our team has been composed of teenagers, we are known in the chess world. All teams fear and respect us. We are in the list of the strongest national teams of the world. For the first time, we have two Azerbaijani chess player is placed in the top ten in the world, which shows that our chess occupies a high place. I do not doubt we will win greater victories in future competitions. The world team championship is being discussed at the moment. Our team is the bronze medalist of the European Championship and so should also participate in this competition, which will involve the ten strongest countries in the world. But I heard they want to give the right to organize the competition to Armenia, and in this case, our team will not be able to take part. If Armenia is commissioned to organize the competition, our federation will appeal to FIDE.
On his your target at the World Cup in Khanti-Mansiysk, Russia: The competition will start on November 24. I am still trying to rest after European Championship. That’s why I will not participate in the Mikhail Tal Memorial. As the World Cup is held according to the knockout system, one defeat is decisive. That’s why I will do my best to be very careful and move forward step-by-step. If I achieve it, I can expect success there.
After our report on the APA interview had appeared we received the following communication from Teimur Radjabov:
I would like to appeal to all reporters writing about chess, the editors-in-chief of chess magazines and web sites, to all reporters and chess fans.
As a sportsman playing on the international level and giving plenty of interviews, I, unfortunately, cannot follow all statements ascribed, sometimes in a supernormal form, to me by reporters.
All the more, reporters do not submit to me the text of my interview before it is published, which is what happened in the latest case. Therefore, please, treat this issue with due understanding.
True, we do not have simple relations with Armenia, we are virtually in a state of war, and 20% of our lands are under occupation. Naturally, all this leaves its effect when contests are held between our countries, and the stir created by media and fans from both sides are understandable.
However, I would like to state that the Azerbaijani people, including me as its representative, are tolerant and will never stoop to pathological nationalism. We all sincerely believe that common sense will prevail at the end and the conflict between our countries will be resolved peacefully and within international law.