Interview with Casino Barcelona winner

by ChessBase
11/6/2013 – Csaba Balogh earned his IM title in 2002 and in 2004 he obtained his grandmaster title. In 2006 he finished 2nd in the Hungarian Chess Championship. Now Csaba Balogh has added a brand new title to his extensive curriculum: the famous Magistral Casino Round Robin tournament, held in Barcelona between 25 – 31 October. The PR manager of the event Ana Matnadze interviews him.

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Csaba Balogh earned his IM title in 2002 and in 2004 he obtained his grandmaster title. He won the U-16 section of the 2003 European Youth Chess Championship. He was also a member of the national team that won both the U-16 World Team Championships 2003 and the U-18 European Team Championship in 2003. In 2006 he finished 2nd in the Hungarian Chess Championship. In 2011 he tied for 2nd-5th with Parimarjan Negi, Murtas Kazhgaleyev and Jon Ludvig Hammer in the 13th Dubai Open Chess Championship. The game he describes as one of his "most memorable", is a win over Viktor Korchnoi, at the 5th Gyorgy Marx Memorial (2007). Now Csaba Balogh has added a brand new title to his extensive curriculum: he won the famous Magistral Casino Round Robin tournament, held in Barcelona between 25 – 31 October. The PR manager of the event Ana Matnadze interviewed him.

Interview by Ana Matnadze

Anna Matnadze: Hello Csaba, welcome to Barcelona and congratulations on winning the tournament! Could you please describe to us your preparation process for the Magistral Casino? What chess analyzing program do you use?

Csaba Balogh: Thank you!

My preparation was mainly based on getting into form for the event. I played only one tournament before this one this year, beside that one only league games, but those are different. So, I decided to participate on the Corsican circuit right before Barcelona, which is only rapid and blitz event, but still it forces me to calculate a lot. My results were decent there, so I was looking forward optimistically to Barcelona.

I don't do any special preparation for the games. As Black, I play my repertoire, I only need to repeat a bit the lines I expect to play by my opponent. As White, I usually have a much wider choice and I try to drive the game to the direction where I believe my opponent will feel himself the least comfortable. Of course, for this I need to study his recent games and try to find out whether I have better chances in a tactical or in a positional fight. I use Houdini 3 Pro engine as a help.

AM: Whom were you expecting to be the most difficult opponent? Are you happy with the quality of your games here?

CB: Well, I was sure, if I manage to play in form, then I should score some wins without a loss. I was not afraid of any of the games beforehand.

In general, I was happy with my games. I was pretty sad to see my pairings, that I had more black games altogether and from the first 4 rounds, I have 3 blacks. Before the last round, I had 4 blacks and 2 white games, I would have finally wanted to push hard for the win with white, but draw was enough to secure the first place, even if somebody would have caught me, I had the better tiebreak. According to this circumstances, I think I managed to make the maximum out of my games, if I had more whites I could and would have tried for more.

AM: And which was the best and the worst game, and why?

CB: I like the most my game against Alsina Daniel. My win against Lopez Manuel was much more spectacular, but there my opponent helped me a lot by choosing a very bad plan in the opening, while against Alsina I had to work very hard throughout the entire game. Even, when I got winning position, my opponent was defending extremely tenaciously.

My worst game is clearly the first one against Sam Shankland. I managed to miss my flight to Barcelona and I had to travel on the day of the first round. My new flight was delayed and I was in big rush from the airport to not even miss the round. After I arrived by luck to the game, I could not calm down, I was still nervous and simple managed to mix up the opening and I made a losing move instead of an easy equalizing one. My opponent missed some wins, although none of them were trivial, in all lines he should have foreseen a key move after some 4-5 moves in a forced line. This was the only game, where I was in danger to lose.

AM: Had you been to Barcelona before? Did you plan any sightseeing now?

CB: I played in Barbera del Valles Open back in 2009 and afterwards I spent 2 weeks in Barcelona. I really like the city and I am also fan of the football team. :)

Unfortunately, during this tournament I had no time for sightseeing. I prefer to not do it before the game, because it takes a lot of energy, while after the game it was already too late.

AM: How were your first steps in chess? Who was your first trainer?

CB: I started quite late, I was nine years old when I played my first tournament. In the local school, they have launched a chess course, where the coach became my first trainer. He is IM Borocz Istvan, a pure tactical player. I reached around 2200 under his control and afterwards my new coach was IM Petran Pal, who had a great feel for positional chess and with him I got close to 2600. That is why I like playing both tactical and positional games.

AM: Who is your trainer now?

CB: I would already prefer the word of working-partner. I have worked very intensively with GM Peter Leko in the last years, and now I started to cooperate with GM Arkadij Naiditsch. Occassionally I work with some other 2650+ players, but they are my main partners.

AM: Tell us about your daily life, what is a normal day?

CB: Well, it is difficult to describe, because since last year I started some different things beside chess. Those take a lot of time, but lets say I still work around 5-6 hours in average on chess, including the weekends.

AM: Being a chess pro is tough. We are constantly traveling. What is your secret to dealing with jet lag?

CB: I would also like to get some advices here, because I am also suffering when I need to deal with jetlag. :) Actually I only have problems when I need to set the clock forward. When I played in the USA with -8 hours, I had no problem at all, but in China with +6 hours, I just sometimes could not sleep at all in the night, which is of course seriously affecting our performance in chess. They say, for a perfect acclimatization, one must travel as many days before as the amount of hours in the time change. So, to China I should travel 6 days before the tournament.

AM: And your secret as to how to recover from a bitter loss?

CB: To recover from a bitter loss is really hard. If someone gets outplayed, then nothing happens, but if you lets say just crush your opponent and you expect resignation, when suddenly you blunder a queen, then it is hard to deal with it. Like one strong GM said after such a day, if I survive this day, then I live forever. :) (e.d. we believe the actual quote was "If I don't kill myslef tonight, I will live one thousand years" - Ivan Sokolov)

AM: What do you think would be necessary to do to make chess more popular? What would be your strategy or ideas to attract more Sponsors?

CB: Actually this chess in schools program, which has just started might affect chess very well in a positive way. Not only the children, but also their parents might fall in love with our sport. As more and more people are getting interested and involved on it, new sponsors should come as well.

AM: What do you think about the “short draws phenomenon”? What would be the mechanism to avoid them?

CB: I am also against short draws. Actually in the last round against Hansen, when I needed a draw to win the tournament, my opponent played an opening against which I could have forced a draw by repetition on move eight. A draw would have been perfect result to me, but I thought in this way it is just shameful. This 30-40 moves rules are good in my opinion, draws are a part of the game and but 40 moves in the game could not have been eventless.

AM: What is your opinion about cheating? It is becoming a very serious problem.

CB: Yes, I am really afraid of it. It is really so easy to cheat nowadays and if somebody does it just a bit cleverly, he will never get caught. FIDE must try to fight against it, this should be one of their first priority, because more and more cheaters are coming to chess.

The top three of the event. Csaba (middle), Hansen (right) and Edouard (left)

AM: What do you think about World Championship cycle and matches?

CB: I like the current cycle a lot with the Candidates tournament, the World Cup, the Grand Prixes and the World Championship match. It is a clear system now and many strong players get their chances. About the upcoming match: I believe Carlsen is the best player at the moment even if he loses now to Anand, but in one match everything is possible. Anand might have chances if he survives the first part of the match, then the tension grows significantly on Carlsen and as we saw - for instance at the Candidates tournament - in the most critical moments event his nerves are failing. But, I consider Carlsen to be the favorite.

AM: About time controls Mr. Balogh thinks that…

CB: Recently, it is very difficult to play two tournaments in a row with the same time control, which is of course not good for the chessplayers, as they all require different time consumption. One time control in all classical tournaments would significantly ease the life of all chessplayers.

AM: How do you manage to control your nerves? Do you have any “secret” before, after or during the games?

CB: Before and after the game, I dont do anything. During the game, I get nervous when I am down on time. So, I try to play fast and never get into any serious time trouble. Something like having 10 minutes for the last 3 moves is perfect for me. This could be trained by calculation exercises. Of course, if our opponent causes too many problems or the position requires it can be unavoidable to get into time pressure, then we need to survive somehow. People in general are agreeing that chess is not good for the nerves. :)

AM: What would be your advice to young people (well, younger than yourself, I mean!) who are just starting to play chess and take it seriously?

CB: I would recommend to them to solve combinations, study the classics and theoretical endgames. All World Champions had different styles, one can master all elements of chess with them. They should learn the basics from these three things if they want to be strong one day. Analyzing with computers should be done only in a later stage of the career.

AM: Which opponent has impressed you the most both chess-wise and in personality matters so far? Do you have any chess hero?

CB: Peter Leko is a brilliant chessplayer and a real gentlemen. His knowledge is amazing. Unfortunately his games are a bit dry recently, one only gets his real knowledge if he analysis with him. I hope he soon overcomes these difficulties and he gets back to top 10, where he really belongs to. I am amazed by Kramnik's games from the last few years. He changed his style to one I really like. I would like to see a Carlsen-Kramnik World Championship match soon.

AM: And now, your plans for the future?

CB: I play in the European Team Championship in a couple of days in Warsaw and in the Zurich Open at the end of the year. Between them, some league games in different countries and maybe one more tournament, which is not set in stone yet.

AM: Oh! See you in Warsaw then and good luck there and everywhere! Thank you very much, Csaba, for an extremely interesting interview.

CB: Thanks and good luck to you too!

The victorious Balogh Csaba with his trophy from Casino Barcelona

Ana Matnadze

Anna was born in Telavi, Georgia in 1983. She became Georgian Womens' Champion in 2004 but has since moved to Spain, the country she currently represents. She holds the title of International Master as well as Woman Grandmaster. She is one of the top 100 women players in the world.

She is also a prolific author, including the book "Anna la Vampiresa". She wil represent Spain in the upcoming European Team Championship


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