Interview With GM Antoaneta Stefanova

by IM Anna Matnadze

Anna Matnadze: Are you happy with your result at the Magistral Casino Barcelona?

Antoaneta Stefanova: Yes, I am happy. I tried to play well in every game. The tournament was very strong, and I’ve played well. I just lost in the final round, but Dreev is a special player, plus I was black, you can lose. I can not complain.

Anna Matnadze: What is your preparation? How many hours a day to spend with chess?

Antoaneta Stefanova: I am not very disciplined. Some people might comment that this is bad, but … I can work eight hours or more when inspired, but there are days that I don’t even touch the chess set.

I enjoy reading chess books, take my time to understand them well. Sometimes it is being said that this is the time of Fritz, of Rybka, and so on. But I like to immerse myself in reading, thinking, understanding.

Anna Matnadze: What to think of the fact that machines are becoming stronger?

Antoaneta Stefanova: The programs do not intrigue me. Today, there is so much information and analysis that almost an entire game can be a line brought from home. I would prefer to improvise on the board, which makes a chess match more human.

ETCC 2007 Round 6 16

Antoaneta Stefanova leading the national team at the European Team Chess Championship

Anna Matnadze: Which format do you think is best suited for the world championship?

Antoaneta Stefanova: I won in knockout format, therefore I can not complain (laughs). True, there is a lot of tension, but this happens irrespective of the format. When there is a goal, there is tension as well.

For example, I like the new idea of the FIDE Grand Prix on Women. As I understand it, the winner of the Grand Prix will play the winner of the knockout, and then leave the World Champion.

Anna Matnadze: What time control do you prefer?

Antoaneta Stefanova: The shorter, the better – but with increment. I like to play with a second time control.

Anna Matnadze: Still, chess is not represented in the mainstream media, like, for example, football or tennis. What could be done about it?

Antoaneta Stefanova: Well, in football or tennis people can tune in at the middle of the match and immediately understand what is happening. The television plays an important role. Although we have the advantage of the Internet … I think that step by step we will learn to use it better and achieve better results. But I do not know what could be done immediately, in this instant. And I’m not the only one who doesn’t know (laughs) …

But as of late, chess is becoming integrated in media. For example, in France there is already significant progress in this regard. Also MTel Masters is proving very successful. So, step by step we will succeed …

ETCC 2007 Round 9 12

Antoaneta Stefanova and Chessdom CEO Anton Mihailov

Anna Matnadze: Your country has fantastic achievements in chess, those of Topalov, Georgiev, yourself … What should be done in a country to grow players of that caliber? Tell us something about chess in Bulgaria. How does it work? It is a compulsory subject in schools?

Antoaneta Stefanova: It’s tradition. Not all schools have chess classes, but some do. For example, my nephew is in a private school and they have chess. There are also clubs, but mainly, there are specialised chess schools. If a father wants his son to play chess, they go to one of these schools. There are many Grandmasters giving classes.

Interview courtesy of IM Anna Matnadze and Magistral Casino de Barcelona website. GM Stefanova is currently playing at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, bellow is her 3rd round game.

Ruslan Ponomariov – Perhaps I became a world champion too soon

Why is he refusing to play in Foros and for Ukraine…

Former World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov turned 25 on October 11th. We bring you excerpts from an extremely interesting interview given on this occasion to GM Dmitry Komarov for magazine “Sobytiya”. For more juicy details about haircuts, his girlfriend, jumping into frozen river etc, read the full interview on Sobytiya pages (Russian).

- Perhaps I became a world champion too soon – recollects Ruslan Ponomariov – people expected too much from me, and I was trying my best to comply with the new status. But it was not so simple. Today, chess is not clearly dominated by one single player, even if he is world champion, as it was during the times of Karpov or Kasparov. Even the slightest details are important, and if something goes wrong, the rivals will not forgive it. Yes, I am now left in the shadow, but chess is my profession. I still work a lot. After all, you know: you can’t do anything if you do not practice to keep your shape.

Q: In this period of six years since you won the championship, you managed to obtain two degrees of higher education.

A: Ever since the Soviet era, there are prejudices in our society that one must necessarily have a university education. So I chose the Institute of Law, which was not far from my home in Kramatorsk. My thesis “Challenges and prospects for improved legislation of international sports competitions” was devoted to the analysis of the contract for my abandoned match with Garry Kasparov. Then the Kiev State University of Physical Education launched chess specialization after a long break, and I decided not only to support my friends, but also to receive the knowledge. This summer I defended thesis on analysis of chess software. I was invited to stay in graduate school, but I didn’t want to.

Ponomariov yellow suit

Ruslan Ponomariov

Q: How profitable is your profession?

A: Chess is not a sport where you can earn a lot. Particularly in comparation with football, tennis or golf. The fact that chess is not included in the program of Olympic Games is affecting its prestige and popularity. By the way, recently I’ve got a call from the tax authorities. They read in the press that I earned lots of money (win at the World Championship was about 380 thousand dollars worth, after all tax payments. – D.K.). We had to explain that newspapers do not always publish accurate information. Besides, I paid from of my own pocket for all the training sessions. And sometimes it even turned against me. I hired Veselin Topalov to be my coach in the long period of preparation for the match with Kasparov, paid him substantial fees. But as it turned out, he gained more from this cooperation. He is now first on the FIDE list, and I am 22nd.

Q: Do you receive a state salary?

A: The salary for a member of the Ukrainian national team is two thousand hryvnia (around $350 USD – ed.) per month. But I refused to take it. I want respect for chessplayer’s work and due reward. At some point sportsmen’s career ends. Four years ago I wrote straightforwardly in “Facts” that the winners of the World Chess Olympiad (State paid 10 thousand hryvnia for this success. – D.K.) should be given reward equal to the gold medalists from the Olympic Games. Since then nothing has changed, and therefore I didn’t play for the national team in the last three years.

Earlier, when I was a kid, it was interesting to play for the team. But in 1998 we won bronze medal, and I scored a decisive point. Then I won World Championship and took gold at the Olympiad. So I proved my professionalism, I now call for the officials to do the same.

Ponomariov Mtel 06

Q: Why did you refuse to play in a traditional superturnament in Foros?

A: As far as I know, some of the participants, including foreign ones, are being paid starting fees on the top of the prize fund. The first time I played for free, but now I insist that conditions should be on the level of major international tournaments. Why should Ukrainians, and not only chess players, earn for their work less than the citizens of European countries?

Thanks to Kaleid and GM Golubev for notifying us about the news.