Interviews with Aronian and Nakamura

by ChessBase
2/19/2014 – The Zurich Chess Challenge was won by Magnus Carlsen, who was all over the international media. Second and third in this strongest event in the history of chess were Armenian GM Levon Aronian and US GM Hikaru Nakamura, number two and three in the world rankings. On the final day Chess TV's Anna Burtasova interviewed both of them, on a variety of subjects. We bring you videos and transcriptions.

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The «Zurich Chess Challenge 2014» was the first category 23 tournament (average rating 2800+) in chess history. Six players – Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Boris Gelfand and Viswanathan Anand – played in a classical round robin, from January 29 to February 4th 2014 – with a rapid tagged on.

The classical round robin was won by World Champion Magnus Carlsen with a sterling 3027 performance. Levon Aronian, the world's number two rated player, finished second with a 2869 performance.

In the rapid tournament Fabiano Caruana of Italy came first, followed by American GM Hikaru Nakamura:

Despite Carlsen's poor performance in the rapid, scoring only 2.0/5, his superior standing in the classical tournament, which counted for double, allowed him to top the leaderboard a point ahead of both Aronian and Caruana. The three of them were far and away superior to their opponents, especially Anand and Gelfand who had relatively poor showings in both events.

After the tournament had finished, on the evening of the closing ceremony, WGM Anna Burtasova conducted interviews with Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura. We have extracted some of the key passages as text extracts, but would advise you to listen to the video interviews in full.

Interview with Levon Aronian – February 2014


  • My play had good and bad moments. Generally I am happy, because the result was decent. But the play is something I need to work on.

  • Every tournament where the World Champion and the ex-World Champion play is a very good tournament. With the exposure that we had – the media, people lining up – it was very special. My expectations were pretty high and I was trying to deliver my best. I suceeded in some sense. But next year, if I get invited, I will try to show even more of my best play.

  • When does he plan to become World Champion? – Unfortunately my plans don't coincide with the plans of the others. I've been planning to become World Champions for a long time already, but so far not everybody likes that plan.

  • Magnus Carlsen said he considers you the strongest rival for the World Championship. When you play him do you have special feelings, do you put more power in them? – Generally when you play the World Champion you try to beat him. I was quite successful with Anand – beating him while he was World Champion. So far with Magnus I am not that successful. But what I am counting on is that now that he is World Champion I will have more chances.

  • Previously I used to be foolish enough to spend a lot of time to go to dinners with my fans – when you get a fan base you get excited about it and make professional mistakes. But now both my fans and I understand that work comes first.

  • I really like playing in Holland. I really like playing in China, where I play terribly, but still enjoy it. I really enjoyed playing in the United States, where I played terribly. If you enjoy a place too much you might not perform so well. One thing for sure: I enjoyed playing in this hall, in Zurich, where I had very interesting games.

  • My last book? I'm still reading Black Spring by Henry Miller. The last book I finished was by Henry Miller again – once I made the big mistake of reading him in Russian, but now that I have read him in English I realise that he is a wonderful writer. The last movie? Last night my girlfriend and I were watching a Japanese movie by Yasujiro Ozu. I also have a big interest in art, and also in music.

Interview with Hikaru Nakamura – February 2014


  • One move changed the whole course of the tournament. There's no knowing what might have happened if I hadn't played 37.d6?? against Carlsen.

  • I just try and play games out. It's exciting – I enjoy the adrenalin rush of playing exciting games. Perhaps it's not the same as some of the other players, but at the end of the day I feel you might as well create some exciting games and bring some entertainment to the fans. We are all professional players, but when we move on, when we retire or die, all that will be left are our games.

  • I'm always on Facebook. I will tweet, but I very rarely look at the comments during the events – it's a bit too much to deal with.

  • With regard to the Candidates (where the world's number three is not playing) – I didn't qualify, it's that simple. It like my game against Carlsen: I can look back and think what if, but it is in the past and you have to move on.

  • I think that outside of Aronian I am the biggest threat for Carlsen. I don't really care what Carlsen says, I simply sit down at the board and play the game. [Carlsen had said that Aronian was the biggest threat].

  • Thanks to the ban on Internet poker in the US I haven't played poker since I played in the World Series one year. I will always be interesed in the game, but I can't say it is anywhere near a profession for me. For me the focus is on chess.

  • Other interests? – In general I like reading a lot, book on just about everything. I'm also quite interested in languages, and spend a lot of time studying Italian and French. Sometimes I'm into hiking. Maybe I have too many interests, and that's why I'm not so good at chess. I just try to enjoy life as much as I can.

Carlsen shows his lucky win vs Nakamura

The above is a bonus video on a topic that was clearly playing on Hikaru Nakamura's mind.

The interviews with Aronian and Nakamura were conducted by Anna Burtasova. Anna is a WGM (2009) from Russia who has a nice list of achievements, including under-14 Russian vice champion and under-16 champiuon, as well as winner of tournaments like Mondariz, Kharkov and Jakarta. But she has devoted most of her 27 years to chess journalism. She graduated as a lawyer from Vladimir State University, moved to Moscow and worked as an editor and reporter for the Russian Chess Federation website. Later she joined the FIDE Cess in Schools Commission as General Coordinator. Her articles have been published in chess magazines like "64 Chess review", "New in Chess", "Schachmagazin 64", "Schach", etc. and of course she did a few articles for ChessBase. In May 2013 Anna joined ChessTV team as an editor and reporter. We hope to see much more of her work in the future.

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