Interview with GM Kovalenko

7/24/2015 – Becoming a 2700 GM is a not an easy feat, sometimes they are even separated with the fictitious title of "super grandmaster". Very few grandmasters have crossed the 2700 mark, but it is almost unheard of that one of them does it by only playing open events! Dorsa Derakshani sat down with Igor Kovalenko after the Najdorf memorial and asked him: "how did you do it?"

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Igor Kovalenko has been on an roll! He has won several open tournaments back to back, and he has crossed teh 2700 mark without playing an invitation or a round robin in some time. Fresh of his victory in the Najdorf Memorial, which we reported here, the talented young WIM from Iran, Dorsa Derakshani, sat down with him for a brief interview:

Dorsa Derakhshani: Congratulations Igor for winning the tournament! It seems like you have a knack for winning memorial tournaments!

Igor Kovalenko: [laughs] yes! I'm the champion of the chess cemetery! I'm ready to play all kind of memorials! Well, I've studied all games of the champions, and specially Najdorf for this tournament. I usually try to play in the style of whom this memorial chess tournament is being held for. So here I was trying to be like Najdorf.

Igor Kovalenko hast just breached 2700. Here he is during the interview.

DD: These two last years seems to be pretty successful for you: just in these past 2-3 months you won four high level opens in a row: THE Lasi Open, the Bulgarian Chess Summer, the 34th Zalakaros Open and now the Najdorf Memorial championship. You also won the Keres memorial, the Hungarian National Championship 2014 Sax Gyula Memorial, became the Latvia champion, in 2014 and 2015 won the Baltic zonal! Quite a performance! So what does it mean for you and what was your special secret?

IK: I have many secrets, one of them I will not share, mainly, the way to success is to feel your opponent. When I feel him, the way he plays comes under my control, but if I don't feel my opponent, then the game will become unclear. In past few tournament, I started feeling my opponents more and more, so I believe that is the reason for my results.

Warsaw center

DD: What exactly do you mean by “feeling the opponent”?

IK: Honestly, my style of playing changes depends on whom I'm playing. Either the opponent is younger or a senior or a player from China, India, Russia etc. they all have their special style and each have a different way of playing, so I'm trying to attack them by understanding and feeling their weaknesses. I can play both the chess of 21st century and also the classic 17th century chess.

DD: You mean Soviet chess and also computer chess?

IK: I rarely can find and do the first suggestion of the engines, so I think I'm more of a classic chess player. I always try to be as uncomfortable as possible for my opponents and making such moves is the thing.

DD: So by this, we can say you expected to win the tournament before it began, right?

IK: yes, my only regret is I got such few points!

DD: Few points? 8.0/9? Few?

IK: [big laugh!] yes.. exactly! I got 8 out of 9. It means I missed one point. Mathematically, a good score is 9 out of 9 so I'm minus one!

Igor Kovalenko and the winners in Warsaw

DD: Wow! So what did you do before the tournament? How did you prepare against your opponents in the tournament?

IK: Well, before the tournament I was just relaxing in Ukraine! And basically in the tournament I wasn't preparing at all...

DD: Which game of yours do you consider the best?

IK: There was no such game here! But I liked my first round game which I played 1.e4, c5 2. Be2... I just decided to improvise on the second move!

DD: You just joined the 2700+ rating elite, how does it feel?

IK: I don't really feel it at the moment.. but probably the difference will be that some other tournament director will invite me to their events.

DD: Please tell us more about when and how did you start playing chess?

IK: in Ukraine, in my home at the age of five. I'm from a small town. I started participating in tournaments only after my school was over. So ten years ago I had a rating of 2270 .

DD: Could you tell us how did you ended up in Latvia? Your first federation was Ukraine if I'm not mistaken. And it seems like you were confidently rising to the top!

IK: I like living in Latvia because I have relatives there and also Riga is a good place where I can easily travel to any other tournaments. Before I changed my federation I consulted with Mr. Shirov about this matter, because I was already living in Latvia and changing my federation seemed logical. And that's how it happened!

Najdorf Memorial Playing Hall

DD: So you finished your university in Latvia?

IK: No, I went to university in Ukraine but I had a tournament at the same time of giving my final papers. And I decided to participate in the tournament instead.

DD: Your career now is a professional chess player, any further plans about being a trainer?

IK: No! I will only be a trainer in I start playing very badly! Right now, I just want to play more and more. In opens or leagues both are fine by me.

DD: Are you satisfied with how your chess career and personal life is going on?

IK: No comments for personal life! [laugh] but yes, I am happy with my chess career.

DD: Any further plans? next tournaments?

IK: I have a tournament in August which is being held in Riga, then I plan to win the world cup in Baku and also win the blitz and rapid world championship which is being held in Berlin.

We wish you the best of luck.

The closing at the Najdorf Memorial

Dorsa Derakhshani

Dorsa is a Women International Master from Tehran. She currently lives and studies in Iran, but is a passionate World traveler. This year alone she has played in tournament spanning from her home country Iran, passing through Moscow and even the Thailand Open in Bangkok.

At only seventeen years of age, she has a 2280 rating, making her the fourth highest rated Iranian female player. She was the u14 and u16 female Asian Champion in past editions of their Continental Youth Tournament.


Topics Kovalenko, Najdorf
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