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Tomashevsky: It is all a question of motivation and mood

3/25/2009 – A week ago 21-year-old Evgeny Tomashevsky won the European Championship, and at 2664 Elo points he is clearly on his way to the super-tournament circuit. In a frank indepth conversation this young Russian GM, whom his friends call "the professor," talks about his chess career in general and the European Championship in particular. Interview by GM Dejan Bojkov.
 

Interview with the European Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky

By GM Dejan Bojkov


Please, introduce yourself to the readers.

GM Evgeny Tomashevsky (Saratov, Russia) was born on 01.07.1987. My mother is a doctor, and my father a Professor and Doctor of Engineering Science.

When did you start playing chess?

I learnt to play chess at the age of four, in the family environment. In January 1994 I asked my parents to send me to the chess club.

Who were your first trainers?

My first trainer became WFM Alexandra Shestoperova, and after that for a long time I used to work with her husband, IM Alexey Shestoperov. I am very grateful to these remarkable people who in the uneasy 1990s in Russia did a lot to help establish myself as a chess player.

What were your first chess achievements?

The first success came in 1997 when I became Russian youth champion under ten, and took a bronze medal at the European Championship at the same age. I have in my credit many medals in various youth championships in Russia, Europe and the World. The most memorable ones were the Russian youth title under 18 (in 2001 at the age of 13), and the world silver medal under 18 in 2004. I became IM in 2001 and GM in 2005. Not that early, if you look at the current standards, but I did not have the luxury of sponsors’ support at the early stages of my career. Fortunately these problems are far less now. I am a student in 5th course in SSSEU (Saratov State Social-Economic University), and our rector, Prof. Vladimir A. Dines, is a great supporter of chess. I am trying to study quite serious, although at the current moment I consider myself being a professional chess player.

What are the other interests that you have?

The range of my interests is wide – sports and intellectual games, literature, science, cinema, music… I love to be with my friends, in nice company, to have a delicious meal. I try not to concentrate only on chess and believe that diversity in life is not a problem. In our game, too.

Who do you work with now?

Currently I work with the famous GM Yuri Razuvaev. His part in my latest successes is enormous. He has the amazing gift to show one the main point of any problem, rare tactfulness, and of course, formidable chess erudition. The union with Yuri Sergeevich was gift of destiny.

Did you have a second in Montenegro?

In Montenegro I was without a second. The EICC is surely a significant event. However, payment for a trainer is a great luxury.

Did you have a special preparation before the European Championship?

No, I did not prepare especially for the tournament in Budva. Still, the break between it and the “Aeroflot” open was too short. Moreover, nowadays it is very difficult to imagine a player making special preparations for an open tournament. For a round-robin or knock-out tournament, when you know your opponents long before the start, it is another story. I just tried to get in a good psychological state before the start of the Budva EICC.

You mentioned the “Aeroflot” open that you played just before EICC. The patriarch of the Soviet Chess School, Mikhail Botvinnik, would not approve this approach?

I considered “Aeroflot” as a good training for Budva, since I have not being playing chess for more than three months – quite a rarity for an current professional. Botvinnik’s verdict is of course immensely significant (for me he is in general one of the most respected and admired chess players for all times). However, nowadays the event calendar is too dense and we need to be able and play everything in succession…

You scored 8/11 in the classical part of the tournament. Which was the most difficult game for you? In one of your game the legendary Ulf Andersson did not appear for the game. Do you know why?

The most important game for me during the whole classical part appeared to be namely… the unplayed game with Ulf. This paradoxical statement demands of course an explanation. This is it: at the last year’s EICC in Plovdiv I played very badly and could not sense the taste of winning. Here I started with 2/2, but then four colourless draws followed in a row. This lowered my mood, and I started to catch a glimpse of “the Plovdiv ghost” on the horizon. In such situations you may lose confidence in your “breaking power”. In order to get back my state of mind I urgently needed to win. This is why the preparation was very tense, and the whole morning before the game I was more anxious than usual and felt psychological fatigue... After my opponent’s forfeit I went on the level +3 , only a win away from qualifications for the World Cup. So I became relaxed, and finished the rest of the tournament confidently – relatively effortless draws with the black pieces, and wins as White.

To be fair I was very lucky to gain a point without playing – and in addition to this I obtained an additional free day. It is difficult for me to judge why Andersson did not appear for the game. However, people informed me that this was by far not the first case in his career…

Which game from the tournament did you like most?

I cannot say that I lit up this tournament with masterpieces. I appreciate separate well-played parts in the games against Artashes Minasian and Sanan Sjugurov, as well as the relatively good win against Anton Shomoev. But surprisingly, in my opinion, the best game that I played in the whole tournament took place in the tie-breaks against Vladimir Malakhov, in the first game of the final match.

In the rapid matches you showed nerves of steel. Did you practice blitz before?

Thank you for the compliment, but I am afraid it is not well deserved. My nerves were strained to the maximum during the tie-breaks. Probably just a bit less than the nerves of the others. I do not play blitz that often, but also not that seldom. My blitz self-esteem always varies. Sometimes I think that I am strong in the rapid games, sometimes that I am very weak. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the game of blitz for me is a question of motivation and mood. In a good psychological state of mind and high concentration I am sure that I can give a tough time to any established “blitz master”.

In general, what do you think about the system where after eleven exhausting days of classical chess the champion is determined by rapid chess?

Naturally, this system is not perfect. However in other tie-break systems like Buccholz or Berger other problems are possible. For instance, the champion can be defined by a game played on board 100. Take a look at football –people often criticize the penalty shootouts, call them lottery. But nothing better has been found so far. In general I believe that rapid games to define the champion as a tiebreak are not the worse variation. By the way, other systems are also possible. What is important is that they are not changed during the tournament.

In the first match against David Navara did you intend to repeat the position three times in the first game?

Frankly speaking, I played the match against Navara poorly. My sluggish play as White did not bring any advantage and I did not mind the repetition of moves. However, in the coming time-trouble I was forced to struggle for the draw. In the second game I was a tiny step away from elimination. During that game the evaluation was changing drastically – at some moment I was worse, after that winning, then I was again completely lost, and at the end, I won. This match became only the first act of escalating emotions.

You recovered after a starting loss in the second match against Baadur Jobava. What helped you calm down?

I believe that Baadur spoiled his chances all by himself. Probably, he could not stand the pressure. He started the tie-break from the 1/8 finals, but was the hidden favourite since everyone knows his strength in rapid games. And, as it quite often happens, he got nervous only a step away from the finish. I managed to keep calm since, there was nothing left to lose.

The “Armagedon” game you won as white? Did you choose the colour yourself?

I was lucky in that case, too – in both cases I had the right to choose the colours in the “sudden death” games. In my opinion having the white colour is much more advantageous – the extra minute has a colossal significance. A draw in such game is highly unlikely result. Actually the game against Baadur was the first “Armagedon” in my life, and I got the chance to test my theory in practice. The proof appeared to be quite convincing.

In general, you did quite well as White. Are you a typical “white” player?

A curious thought, but to some extent quite fair. The statistics for my white games are very good. The last two years, after Aeroflot 2007, I lost as white only one game while achieving a good winning percentage. The funny thing is that I never considered my white openings as being especially powerful. The positive result as a rule was achieved after the openings, in the middle game battle. Although lately I also managed to press at the beginning of the game…

In the final match you started with a win against your compatriot Vladimir Malakhov, but then lost as white. What actually happened in the second game?

As I already mentioned, the first game gave me a deep creative satisfaction. In the second game I did not want the play to turn “dry”, I wanted to become a champion in a serious fight, with the ideal score 2:0. I believe that the game was quite noteworthy, since Vladimir also played it very creatively. So far I haven’t had the nerves to analyze it, but people told me that I could have won at some moment. However, in the end a rook endgame arose in which white could the draw with minimum technical difficulties. And with that came disaster. I simply forgot about the clock and lost on time!. This was a tough blow. What does it mean that you lose only one in your last 80 white games, and then, when you need the draw, you lose one out of one? By zeitnot? To play the “Armagedon” after this was extremely hard. We did not have to think about quality chess any longer.

Finally, tell us about this decisive game of the championship.

Fortunately for me Vladimir, after all these nerves (he also had to start from the 1/8 finals), hardly felt any better. As a result everything ended more than unexpectedly – my opponent blundered a rook instead of claiming mate in seven. Thus I felt like a man who won at the lottery rather than a chess event. I would like to use the case to pay the credit to Vladimir – he took the defeat fantastically, stoically, like a real gentleman.

How was the organization in Montenegro?

The general opinion is that the organization of the championship was most probably the best in the history of the European championships. Even if I had not won the title, I would support that opinion on 100 %. Everything was perfectly organized, including the small details, and the attitude of the organizers towards the participants was warm and honorable.

In the Russian magazines I read once that your teammates call you “Professor”. What is the reason for this?

Not only my teammates, but my friends, too. There are probably a number of reasons for this. First of all my glasses. Secondly: my father is a Professor, and many know about this. Last, but not least – sometimes I have started philosophy and reading on morality.

You are one of the Russian hopes for fresh blood in the Olympic squad. How real are your chances to play for the team?

Russia is probably the only country in the world where the European Champion does not (quite objectively!) automatically take a place in the national team. We have enough players of extra class. But to play at the Olympiad is my dream. And I am ready to work hard for it.

Do you expect invitations to super-tournaments after this success?

As practice shows it is better not to count on this. The European Individual title is not an achievement of such caliber that it can immediately impress the organizers of super-tournaments. I am not pampered with high level tournament offers, but I am ready to consider any of them.

You are the youngest ever European champion, what are your plans for the future?

Plans I have a lot. I would like to develop my personal life and chess career, to graduate the university with dignity. But most of all I have the dream that all the people who surround me are happy. This is what I wish the respected readers!

Thank you for the interview. Hope to see you soon in the super-tournaments!

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