Living life the Jobi way (2/2)

by Sagar Shah
11/5/2015 – Did you enjoy the first part of our interview with the top Georgian player Baadur Jobava, he laid out a plan for ambitious players to become better. In part two he talks about great players like Alekhine, Capablanca, Carlsen, Kasparov, etc.; about his wife and new son Maximus, about Chess 960 and women's chess. In the end he has priceless advice for chess lovers who wish to improve.

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Living life the Jobi way (2/2)

Interview with Baadur Jobava by Sagar Shah

In the first part of this unique on-the-wheels interview Baadur Jobava spoke about his first few years in chess, how his style evolved and also suggested a plan for ambitious players to become better. In part II he talks about great players like Alekhine, Capablanca, Carlsen, Kasparov, etc. He also speaks about his wife Aleksandra, his newly-born son named Maximus, best friends, chess 960 and women’s chess. At the end he has a priceless piece of advice for every chess lover who would like to improve.

SS: You did not fare well in Tata Steel Masters 2015. Do you think that lack of a stable opening repertoire was the reason for your downfall?

Baadur’s interview at the start of Tata Steel 2015

BJ: Tata Steel 2015 was one of the hardest phases of my life. I was going through a tough situation in my personal life and was really in bad form. Just have a look at my game against Magnus Carlsen. Everything was going pretty well and I just blundered in one move. These personal problems are the reason why my rating dipped nearly 80 points. Nobody can understand it, and they blame my poor play on many different reasons. But I would not like to talk about it in this interview. Suffice it to say that I am coming back. I won the HZ Open in Vlissingen, Netherlands in August, and now gained a few rating points in Abu Dhabi. I am slowly and steadily inching back towards 2700.

Baadur against Magnus in Tata Steel 2015

SS: Can you tell us something about your game against Carlsen that you won in 2010?

BJ: First of all I was happy to play against Magnus after five years. The first time I beat him was in 2005 in European Championships in Warsaw. In the five years from 2005 to 2010 he made huge progress and his rating was somewhere around 2830. Since childhood I would always relish the opportunity of playing stronger opponents. I am not scared of anyone. When I played against Carlsen in 2010 he was completely out of form. He lost three games in that tournament: to me, Tomi Nyback and Sanan Sjugirov. When I saw the move 6.e4!? it was a hard one for me to resist, because when you are playing a strong opponent like Magnus you would always like to imbalance the play. Turns out that 6.e4!? was a move that had never been played before, apart from one or two amateur games.

Baadur Jobava – Magnus Carlsen, Olympiad 2010

6.e4!? was a typical Jobava move to complicate the game

[Event "Khanty-Mansiysk ol (Men) 39th"] [Site "Khanty-Mansiysk"] [Date "2010.09.24"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Jobava, Baadur"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E24"] [WhiteElo "2710"] [BlackElo "2826"] [Annotator "Krasenkow,M"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2010.09.21"] [EventType "team-swiss"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2010.11.18"] [WhiteTeam "Georgia"] [BlackTeam "Norway"] [WhiteTeamCountry "GEO"] [BlackTeamCountry "NOR"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 Nc6 {A rare continuation (with the idea of ...e6-e5), to which White replies with a genuine novelty on move 6!} 6. e4 $5 $146 {[%cal Ge2e4]} Nxe4 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qxg7 Qf6 9. Qxf6 Nxf6 { This position presents a typical positional conflict: White has a bishop pair with an asymmetrical pawn structure (which should favour him), but his own pawn chain is damaged (doubled pawns). Such positions are very hard to evaluate; usually the better player prevails.} 10. Nf3 b6 11. d5 $5 {A curious pawn sacrifice, which Black, however, rejects.} Na5 12. Nd4 Kf7 13. dxe6+ dxe6 14. Bf4 Ba6 {Black keeps the tension. He had a good chance to simplify the game:} 15. Nf3 Ne4 16. Ne5+ Kf6 17. f3 (17. h4 $5 Nxc3 18. Rh3 Ne4 19. Re3 $44 {[%cal Yg2g4]}) 17... Nd6 18. O-O-O Rhd8 $6 {Again avoiding drawish lines like} 19. h4 $1 {Now White obtains pressure on the kingside.} Nf7 20. Nd7+ Kg7 (20... Ke7 $2 21. Bg5+ $1 Nxg5 22. hxg5 $16) 21. Rh3 $1 (21. g4 $5 Bxc4 22. Bh3 $36) 21... Kh8 $1 22. Bg5 $6 Nxg5 23. hxg5 Kg7 24. Rh6 $1 Bxc4 25. Bxc4 Nxc4 26. Rdh1 (26. f4 $5) 26... Rh8 27. f4 $6 c5 $6 28. Rxe6 Rae8 29. Rxh7+ Rxh7 30. Rxe8 Kf7 31. Ra8 Rh1+ 32. Kc2 a5 33. Ra7 Nxa3+ 34. Kd2 $1 Rh2 $2 35. Nxb6+ Kg6 36. Rxa5 Rxg2+ 37. Kd1 Nb1 38. Rxc5 {and White converted his material advantage without major problems:} Nd2 39. Nd5 Ne4 40. Rc6+ Kf7 41. Ne3 Rg3 42. Ke2 Ke8 43. Re6+ Kf7 44. Re5 Nxc3+ 45. Kf2 Rh3 46. Rxf5+ Kg6 47. Rf6+ Kg7 48. Nf5+ Kg8 49. Kg2 Rd3 50. Rd6 Ne2 51. Rg6+ Kh8 52. Rh6+ Kg8 53. Ne7+ Kf7 54. Ng6 Kg7 55. Kf2 Nc3 56. Ne7 Ne4+ 57. Ke2 Ra3 58. Nf5+ Kg8 59. Re6 Nc3+ 60. Kf3 Nd5+ 61. Kg4 Ra1 62. Re5 Rg1+ 63. Kf3 Rf1+ 64. Kg2 1-0

SS: What do you think about Magnus Carlsen’s style of play?

JB: Well what can I say? I have to agree that he is a great player. I quite like his style of play. It’s original and he is a big fighter. He has excellent fitness and plays right until the very end. He is very strong, but that does not mean that he cannot be beaten. If there is some weakness that I have to pinpoint it would be his theoretical knowledge of openings, but now he has worked on it and improved substantially. Many times he thinks he is too good and underestimates his opponents, making poor moves which strong players can take advantage of. For example in his game against Grischuk in the Sinquefield Cup he played very passively and lost. After the game he said he was very ashamed of his game – these are not my words.

SS: What about your encounter with Garry Kasparov?

BJ: Kasparov is monster on the board and it’s very difficult to play against him. I gave him a tough fight and at one point the position was objectively drawn, but I was under time pressure and it is not always easy to play against such a great player when low on time. I blundered and lost the game but it was nevertheless a very good learning experience. I am still searching for revenge (laughs), but maybe I will not get it in this lifetime!

Baadur with Garry Kasparov and Giorgi Giorgadze
after winning the Gerogain Championships in 2012

[One of the passengers from the bus asks] Who is better: Kasparov or Carlsen?

BJ: What sort of question is this? Kasparov was the best player in his age, and Carlsen is the best right now. This is not a diplomatic answer, it’s the truth. It’s impossible to compare. I tell people that it’s a pointless question. All World Champions were great players at their time. It’s like asking who is better – Maradona or Pelé. Both were geniuses in their own way. Why do you ask only about Carlsen or Kasparov? Why not Capablanca, who used to crush his opponents in blitz taking one minute against five? It was impossible to play blitz against Capablanca. My opinion is that he was the best blitz player ever. This was said by Lasker about the young Capablanca.

SS: What do computer evaluations mean to you?

BJ: The computer is a very good assistant. And very good as a helper, but you just should not be addicted to it. I know many players who are obsessed with engine evaluations and do not use their own brains to calculate. I do not like these new age commentators. They do not want to put in work or their energy. They just watch the engines, take a note of the variations and write them down. This is not what people want. I think the spectators want to know how grandmasters think and not how computers are thinking. It doesn’t matter if you are wrong, you must try to give your own opinion and analysis. Just imagine going to a university and a computer is reading out from the book. This is not what they need. A professor who gives his own sense and opinions will help them improve.

SS: And what if the commentators go wrong?

BJ: So what? They are human. Of course they can go wrong. Do you mean to say that the old masters of the past were not great players? If you would see Botvinnik’s best games you might find 100 mistakes with the help of the engine, but it does not diminish his work in any respect.

SS: What happens when you face these world class grandmasters who are preparing all the time using engines? How can you compete with them?

SS: I dislike the approach of many of these new generation top grandmasters. They study 30-35 moves of theory and cannot use their own brains. For example if you play a move like 1.b3 then you can outplay many of these players. But the problem is that even 1.b3 is turning into mainstream theory! So that’s the sad part. They just switch on the computer and try to find the best way to play against it.

SS: So how can a player like you with a creative bent of mind break into the top ten?

BJ: As I told you I am trying to find a median between creative play and computer analysis. For example there was a tournament on PlayChess which is called something like “Centaur chess”. Here you can use a computer at any time during the game. So, many players would connect to a very strong engine and let them play for themselves. But do you know who were the ones winning the games? The ones who were using their own mind along with computer engines – half man half computer = centaur style. Strong computer + strong human always beats very strong computer.

SS: With the Candidates coming up in March 2016, who do you think would be the next challenger to Carlsen?

BJ: I don’t really know and I am in no position to answer who deserves to be the challenger.

SS: Alright. Tell us about your chess idol? Do you have one?

BJ: It’s without doubt Alexander Alekhine.

The great Alexander Alekhine is Jobava’s favourite chess player

What do you think about the Re3 game played by Alekhine against Reti? Don’t you think it was the best calculation ever?

Richard Reti – Alexander Alekhine, Baden-Baden 1925

In the above position, Alekhine played a brilliant combination starting with 26…Re3!! For all those who would like to see this game with enlightening commentary by Garry Kasparov click on the link below:

Garry Kasparov’s analysis of Reti-Alekkhine -1925

[Event "Baden-Baden"] [Site "Baden-Baden"] [Date "1925.04.25"] [Round "?"] [White "Reti, Richard"] [Black "Alekhine, Alexander"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Kasparov"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "1925.04.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "20"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. g3 e5 2. Nf3 e4 3. Nd4 d5 4. d3 exd3 5. Qxd3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Nxd2 O-O 9. c4 Na6 10. cxd5 Nb4 11. Qc4 Nbxd5 12. N2b3 c6 13. O-O Re8 14. Rfd1 Bg4 15. Rd2 Qc8 16. Nc5 Bh3 17. Bf3 Bg4 18. Bg2 Bh3 19. Bf3 Bg4 20. Bh1 h5 21. b4 a6 22. Rc1 h4 23. a4 hxg3 24. hxg3 Qc7 25. b5 axb5 26. axb5 {[%cal Ge8e3] White's strategy seems to be working very nicely. The isolated black pawn is doomed to fall within a few moves. But Alekhine wasn't going to passively wait for destruction. He finds a way to completely change the unwanted course of the game.} Re3 $1 {All of a sudden the white king feels insecure. The audacious rook cannot be taken:} 27. Nf3 $2 {From now on Alekhine makes a series of moves that sweep White off the board.} ({The impudent rook cannot be taken:} 27. fxe3 $4 Qxg3+ {with mate; and even after}) (27. Bg2 Rxg3 $1 28. fxg3 $2 (28. e3 $1 {is much stronger, but Black still has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material:} Nxe3 29. fxe3 Nd5) 28... Ne3 29. Qd3 Qxg3 {wins. In the last variation 28.e3! was much stronger... (see above). Alas Alekhine's original attempt to complicate the position could have been met by simply}) (27. Bf3 Bxf3 28. exf3 {ending Black's activity; or even by the cold-blooded}) (27. Kh2 {Black will continue to apply pressure on g3:} Raa3 $1 {and the rook still cannot be touched} 28. fxe3 Nxe3 29. Qb4 Nf1+ $1 30. Kg1 Qxg3+ 31. Bg2 (31. Kxf1 Bh3+) 31... Ne3 {and mate. But the quiet 28.Ncb3 would have given White the upper hand. However, confronted with Alekhine's dramatic assault Reti panicked - unfortunate for him, lucky for the world of chess!}) 27... cxb5 $1 28. Qxb5 Nc3 {Now the black pieces are swarming} 29. Qxb7 (29. Qc4 {doesn't help: hilft wenig:} b5 $1) 29... Qxb7 30. Nxb7 Nxe2+ 31. Kh2 {[#]} (31. Kf1 {is hopeless too:} Nxg3+ 32. fxg3 Bxf3 33. Bxf3 Rxf3+ 34. Kg2 Raa3 { etc. White's position has lost its attraction, but how can Black make something serious out of that? Both 31...Nxc1... (see below)}) 31... Ne4 $3 { What a move! This new member of the cavalry regiment will turn White's defence lines into dust. Now White's best chance was 32.Nd8... (see below)} (31... Nxc1 {and}) (31... Rxf3 32. Rxe2 Rf5 33. Rb2 {lead to an obvious draw.}) 32. Rc4 { Reti, using nice tactical attempts, desperately hopes he will be able to exchange the terrifying black pieces. 32...Bxf3... (see below)} (32. Rd8+ Rxd8 33. fxe3 {although after} Rd5 $1 {Black wins the pawn while his pieces still dominate the board.}) (32. fxe3 $2 Nxd2 {loses right away.}) 32... Nxf2 {The simple refutation - Black takes the key pawn on f2 and keeps all threats alive. } (32... Bxf3 {is met by} 33. Rxe4 $3 Bxe4 34. fxe3 Bxh1 35. Kxh1 Nxg3+ 36. Kg2 Ne4 37. Rd8+ Rxd8 38. Nxd8 {with good drawing chances.}) (32... Nxd2 {also doesn't work} 33. Nxd2 Rd3 34. Nc5 $1) 33. Bg2 {Black is clearly winning, but Alekhine's final combination makes this game a true masterpiece.} Be6 $1 34. Rcc2 Ng4+ 35. Kh3 Ne5+ 36. Kh2 Rxf3 $1 37. Rxe2 Ng4+ 38. Kh3 {Neither now nor before could the white king move to the first rank because of the deadly check on a1} Ne3+ 39. Kh2 Nxc2 40. Bxf3 Nd4 41. Rf2 Nxf3+ 42. Rxf3 Bd5 {and the abandoned knight on b7 is lost. The endgame with a piece less is hopeless, so Reti resigned. I think there is reason to nominate this game the most beautiful ever played in the history of chess.} 0-1

I think more than calculation it was the intuition which should be praised here. Alekhine believed that there would exist something like Re3 in this position. Similar intuition in modern times is possessed by Vishy Anand. When he was young it was absolutely impossible to beat him in rapid or blitz because the first move that came to his mind was usually the best one. Of course without calculation intuition is not so useful. Intuition helps you to find the best move in the position on the first feel. In big time pressure then you switch to intuition mode. You no longer calculate all the variations – your hand does the playing. But this intuition is developed by a lot of hard work. For example when I worked with Topalov, once in 2006, I understood his talent. He has an amazing understanding of positions. He could get to know the critical point of the position in a few seconds. I really enjoyed working with him. By understanding I mean that he would realize the evaluation of the position at first sight and suggest a plan in the position – which pieces to change, which to keep. By the way Botvinnik too had this same gift. There was a famous game when Mikhail Tal played with Botvinnik. Tal wrote in his book that after the game many people including himself and Botvinnik were analyzing the position. Tal was like a machine giving one variation after another. And after he was done, Botvinnik simply said in this position I will change this piece and keep this one on the board. After Botvinik left Tal and his friends kept analyzing and in the end they were all shocked that all their variations were leading to the same conclusion – Botvinnik was right. This is what I mean by understanding. You must study a lot of games to improve your intuition and increase your knowledge of the game. And coming to the topic of Alekhine, the first book that I read was Alekhine’s Best Games, and you would be surprised to know that it was also the first book studied by my wife Aleksandra Dimitrijevic!

SS: What a co-incidence! Now that we are on the topic of Aleksandra, can you tell us how the two of you met?

Baadur divorced his first wife and married Aleksandra Dimitrijevic,
who is a WGM and a FIDE trainer from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2015

BJ: I met Aleksandra about a year ago in Italy. I was playing the ACP golden Classic in Bergamo in 2014. It was Emil Sutovsky’s idea – he got the sponsors and organized the event. The point was to have adjournment sessions like the good old days. It was an interesting tournament. Aleksandra came to play an open tournament over there. One of the days I was in the Chinese restaurant with Emil and Aleksandra messaged Emil to ask where he was. Sutovsky told her and that she could come over. She did, and that was the first time we met. Things clicked and we slowly fell into a relationship. Next time we saw each other was at the Tromsø Olympiad 2014. Things were going very well, and in 2015 we decided to get married. Now we are together and expecting the birth of our son. Do you know what we are going to name him? Maximus – because of the movie Gladiator in which I really love the role of the main character named Maximus! [ed - A healthy Maximus was born in the Jobava family on the 21st of September]

SS: Your brother, Belgar, is also a chess player. In your encounters do you always fight it out or agree to a draw?

BJ: No, usually we made pre-arranged draws. Once I won the game in Georgian Championships because it helped me qualify for the next event. When he was 12 years old he became the Ukrainian Champion. He stopped playing chess after he achieved the IM title. But I think it is fine because we already have one GM, one IM, one WGM – and one dog and eight cats – in the family [laughs].

SS: Who are your best friends in chess?

BJ: I have many great friends in chess, like for example Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Malakhov, etc. Malakhov is a great guy, very polite, down to earth. I do not know why he did not become stronger than he currently is. Maybe he did not realize how strong he was at chess. His opening theory is very good and also his understanding. Practically he is a very good player. Grischuk is a great guy and also one of the top players of the world. There are so many guys like Wojtaszek, Nevednichy (who was just sitting behind him in the bus). He is also a great person, slightly older generation, but whenever we meet we have a great time. I do not want to answer this question further because I am sure I am forgetting many people and I do not want to offend anyone.

SS: Suppose you were given an option to stop normal chess and start playing chess 960, what would be your reaction?

BJ: This idea of chess 960 is completely illogical. People call it very original, but I don’t like it.

SS: That’s surprising! I thought a creative player like you might love chess 960.

BJ: Ok, some of the starting positions are interesting, but not all. It’s just too random and that’s the reason why I don’t like it.

SS: What do you think about women chess?

BJ: I don’t like women chess – it’s not normal chess. Maybe women will be angry with me when they read this, but I say what I think. Basically you cannot compare men and women chess. I absolutely agree with Nigel Short’s comments. Hou Yifan is good, but objectively speaking she is much weaker than the top men players.

An interviewer’s delight: Baadur always speaks what he feels

SS: What’s a normal day like in the life of Baadur Jobava?

BJ: It depends. Sometimes I cannot even look at chess. Before a strong tournament I try to work hard for five to six hours a day. I persevere before the tournament and try to conserve my energy during the event. Many years ago I was working very seriously on my physical fitness, but not anymore. I would like to restart it.

SS: What are your favourite sports?

BJ: I really like Ping-Pong, football and ice hockey. I like to watch ice hockey, but I have never played it.

SS: How do you finance your play? Do you have a sponsor?

BJ: I do not have a sponsor. If I am invited for a tournament all my expenses are taken care of. But if I am not then I have to make my own arrangements. It’s some sort of gambling. You work hard for an entire year and say during the tournament you fall sick, all your hard work is lost. I do coach sometimes, but not on a regular basis. Above all I am a professional chess player.

SS: So what are your future plans?

BJ: I will be a father soon. I hope my son is healthy. As for chess, I will play the Euro Cup and Russian Team Championship. Then the Swedish League, the Malmo Cup and the European Team Championship in Iceland. My aim is to go back to 2700 so that I receive more invitations for closed events. The organizers do not like players who are losing rating points, so getting back to 2700 is my priority.

SS: Do you think that your happy-go-lucky character affects your chess?

BJ: Usually off the board characteristics determine one’s over the board play. For example Georg Meier from Germany is very calm and cool guy and that is reflected in his game. My own approach towards life is also shown in my play. Generally, partying and enjoying affects my play, but sometimes positively too.

SS: What is your ultimate aim in chess?

BJ: To become the World Champion was of course the childhood dream. But now I am objective, I know that it’s difficult. I am not really thinking about it. I am trying to find my best style of play and whatever is in my control I will try to do it to the best of my abilities.

SS: What is your message to all the youngsters and chess lovers out there?

BJ: Chess wise I would say don’t use computers, use your brain! On a general note my advice would be that in the race to be more successful we tend to forget what is more important in life – human relations. That’s why life has become so fast. It’s like a race, some sort of global hypnotization. We should slow down and understand that loving each other is the right way to live life.

Huge thanks to my wife, Amruta Mokal, for helping me to transcribe this entire interview

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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