"I would like to become a Grandmaster" - An interview with German IM Dinara Wagner

by Tatiana Flores
11/21/2023 – On 12 October IM Dinara Wagner sat down with international chess journalist Tatiana Flores to talk about her chess career and personal interests. Wagner also shared her impressions of the European Chess Club Cup and gave interesting insights into the support she receives from her surroundings. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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About Dinara Wagner

The 24-year-old top player was born in Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia. A great passion for chess in her early years led her to win the Russian Junior Chess Championships for Girls three times. In 2016 she finished third at the World Junior Chess Championship for Girls. Wagner left the Russian Chess Federation and played temporarily under the FIDE flag after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In May 2022 she officially joined the German Chess Federation and shortly afterwards won the German Women's Masters tournament. In the meantime, she has raised her rating from 2287 to the current 2461, earned three IM norms and two GM norms. Wagner graduated from Moscow in 2020 with a bachelor's degree, after which she moved to Heidelberg in Germany to start a master's degree in economics. She and German GM Dennis Wagner got married in December 2021.

At what age did you start playing chess?

My grandfather taught me how to move the pieces when I was six years old. I loved the game immediately, so I asked him to show me more and more. Then he showed me the Scholar's Mate and the basics of chess. At one point, when I started to play better than him, I asked my grandmother to send me to a chess club or a coach who could teach me more. I was six and a half at the time, so I've been playing chess ever since.

What are your goals in your chess career?

I want to become a GM. I want to complete my third GM norm and reach 2500 Elo. I'd say that's my biggest short-term goal. In the long term, I want to be in the top 10 women's rating list.

When and how would you like to make your next and final GM norm?

I will have this great opportunity at the Women's Grand Swiss. It's a very strong open tournament with many GM title holders from many countries, so it would be good to win it there. It would also be the first norm that I've achieved in an open tournament and not in a round robin.

Was it difficult for you to combine professional chess with your studies?

It's not that easy, but because I take my time and don't take too many classes in one semester, it's a lot easier. I always know how many tournaments I'm going to play in a semester and then I can work out how many credits I can take. It makes my life a lot easier that I can choose which courses to take, which ones I'm interested in and yes... I really think it's fine, it's doable. A lot of chess players do the same. Some even study very difficult things where you can't miss much. I think I can still catch up all by myself and it's not as hard as if I were studying something like microbiology or something like that. (laughs).

IM Dinara Wagner will fight hard to earn her last GM norm to reach her goal of becoming a chess grandmaster. | Photo: Mark Livshitz.

What is it like for you to play for Germany now?

It's cool! I really like it! I am grateful for the way people have welcomed me when I came here. I'm starting to feel at home. I'm learning German, trying to speak it. It's not going as well as I'd hoped, but I'm still trying (laughs). I really like our national team, all the players and the coach, so I'm very happy to be playing for Germany.

You have just come to win the European Chess Club Cup Women's title with your Romanian team Superchess. How do you feel about it?

It's also a very nice achievement. One of our team-mates told us that it was her first continental gold in adult chess and it was the same for me. We'll be playing in the European Chess Championship with the German national team in November and I hope it will be a similar success.

What's the story behind the virus that has made so many of the players sick?

Yes... there were some problems with the water in some of the hotels. Dennis was one of the first ones to get the virus and the first night was horrible for him, so much so that he decided he couldn't play the next day. Then we decided we weren't going to eat in that hotel anymore, so we went out to eat somewhere else. Then we heard that there were new cases every day and it turned out that these people were still eating at the hotel. We thought it would be safer if I didn't touch anything there (laughs). It was a shame, of course, because it was such an important tournament and a lot of teams that were playing for medals were suffering.

What are your most important achievements in chess so far?

I'd say it was winning the Women's Grand Prix in Nicosia. I think that's my biggest achievement in chess so far, because it was a very strong tournament with many of the best players in the world.


The Kalmyk-born player is proud of her win at the Women’s Grand Prix 2023 in Nicosia. | Photo: Photo archives of Dinara Wagner.

What hobbies do you like to pursue in your free time?

I like getting together with my friends and just talking or doing something together like playing board games, I really enjoy that! (laughs). I also like to watch series with Dennis, although I don't know if that counts as a hobby. Yeah, in the evenings I just try to relax a bit and what else do I like? I also like to browse social media, although I don't know if that's a hobby or a waste of time (laughs). Yeah, just all the things people do these days.

Do you and your husband – GM Dennis Wagner – support each other in chess?

Yes, we do! We try to motivate each other, we also help each other by reviewing recent games together. We discuss what we missed, what we could've played, new ideas. We also talk a lot about openings and before each game we motivate and support each other. I think it's nice to have someone who totally understands you when it comes to chess. It's a very good feeling.

What would you like to change for better in the chess world?

I think there are so many things that could be changed, but the first thing that comes to mind is the media coverage of women's chess. It could be broader! For example, there was an article about the European Club Cup on one of the bigger platforms with the results and all the games were covered. There were pictures and it explained how the tournament was played, critical moments and everything, and then there was a paragraph about the Women's Club Cup with the final standings and that's it, the whole article versus one paragraph. And there are a lot of articles like that, especially when the Open and the Women's are playing at the same time. The Open gets all the attention and the women not so much. Also on social media there is a lot more talk about the men or the open tournaments. You can always find these tactics or move sequences "find the best move or continuation" and they're mainly from the men's games, even if the women's tournament is going on at the same time. I think this is a good starting point to improve the chess world, because some problems are so deep and profound that it's hard to make an immediate impact, but this one is so easy to change. You just have to go and do it.

You're expected to surpass the Elo rating of Germany's current No. 1, GM Elisabeth Pähtz. You were very close to her before she played in the Women's World Championship a few months ago. What are your feelings and thoughts?

I know, but I have no pressure. I think if it happened I'd be very happy, but it's not something I'm worried about. We're both trying to improve and keep playing at a high level. We push each other and help each other grow. There's no big rivalry or anything like that. We're good friends with Elisabeth and we just hope that if I manage to become number one, we'll all be happy about it. But like I said, it's not my biggest goal.


Dinara Wagner says that it would be a step forward if chess content addressed players neutrally, instead of mostly in a masculine form. | Photo: Mark Livshitz.

Thank you very much for your time, Mrs Wagner! The ChessBase team and I wish you all the best for your future career!

The interview was conducted in English via Zoom on 12 October 2023.

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Tatiana Flores was born in Andorra in 1998 and moved to Germany with her family when she was 14. She works as a chess journalist, poet and multilingual author. In addition to chess, she is also passionate about literature and music.
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