16.06.2005 Women's Chess. A.Volzhin answers the ACP questions

Judit Polgar is the only woman who plays at the level of best world players, she is preeminent among the other women. What is the secret of her achievements?

Judit is a real phenomenon, and that is it. In men's chess there were some periods when the strongest player, the champion of the world reigned with the same breakaway from the others. It happens probably once in 100 years.

Why in your opinion Alexandra Kosteniuk successfully manages to combine her carrier of a chessplayer with shootings for advertising and fashion magazines? What helps her not to repeat the destiny of Kournikova?

I would not pose the question in such a way. Why shootings for fashion magazines should somehow hinder from the game? The women, even the leading world players, are occupied considerably less than their male colleagues. They have more free time, and each of them has her right to decide how to spend it. Some prefer discos, and Alexandra uses her free time more effectively... Moreover, the chess talent of Alexandra seems to be greater than the tennis one of Anna. However, though she had never won any tournament, Kournikova remained in the world's top 20 during almost the whole career – it is also not so bad.

Is there a difference between women's and men's chess?

They vastly differ. First of all, the matter is the level. A majority of distinctions issue from the disparity in a level of play of the strongest. Men's games are more consequent. If one catches an opponent in the opening, he normally carries the game to the victory. In women's chess there are considerably more mistakes, and the advantage changes hands many times. Maybe, it is a drawback of women's chess, but maybe, it is a plus? Such a play is more spectacular, more attractive. It is possible to compare it with table tennis. Men's table tennis consists in serving and quick beating. Women usually get into a fight; there are long-lasting plays for a point. Someone likes the process of a struggle; someone prefers a highest level of the play that is close to ideal. The same thing we see in chess. Someone would prefer show and tension of a fight; integrity and logical completeness of the game may be important for others...

However, it is probably impossible to explain all the distinctions of the female chess only by the disparity in a level of play? If we consider men players rated, for example, 2450-2500, do they play differently?

If we discuss in a stereotyped way, we can say that women are perhaps weaker psychophysically – they do not endure 6 hours of a tense struggle so well, it is easier to confuse them with an unexpected move, and so on. However, if we compare the play of men and women rated 2450-2500, then former are obviously not stronger! Women are perhaps more professional, especially if they work with a competent trainer, while men with such a rating are usually amateurs. Probably, they both play equally strong, but in a different way.

Is it possible that women's chess becomes a professional sport?

It can happen. From the theoretical point of view, it has another target group. Alas, there is no management of chess neither in RCF nor in FIDE. Surely, time has been lost. One should have started in time, when all sports began to break through on television. Now one has to substitute others to reach the television, which is much harder. If our present leadership cannot make a business of a sport that 100 millions of people are interested in – it is not worth a pin. It is obvious for me that one could make professional sport of both men's and women's chess.

The problem is that now in chess there is no product that would be interesting for a public. Tennis and biathlon found an appropriate form, and the chess leadership even does not know what it has to search for! However, when in 90s all sports developed, chess was violently degrading. Therefore, now the financing of chess is at the expense of players themselves, grandmasters play on the amateurs' entrance fees...

Granted, a television is more interested in showing girls instead of sullen men. Do you think it is possible to use this to create a chess show on TV, to popularize chess?

Of course! Women players are very telegenic, and they speak well. It is not so difficult to make such a program, even having a limited budget...

Should the training of girls and boys differ?

I do not think so. Frankly speaking, I am not an expert in children's chess, but if we take into account the age specificity... General psychology does not make a difference between the psychology of girls and boys at the early stages. Therefore, I do not see a necessity to create gender-specific methods, and there are no obstacles for the integrated study. Of course, children's psychologists can give more qualified answer.

Does a very good relationship – not only professional, but also personal – between a coach and a female player helps to improve the results?

Good personal relationship is a basis for everything. In one of his books Kotov cites Simagin: a trainer is like a wife (Simagin talks about men's chess), and when the slightest distrust emerges, you have to divorce. I cannot imagine how one could be a coach and have no good personal relationship with his student. Successful work is based on an absolute personal trust.

Whom of the female players do you like, judging by their play and personal qualities?

Alexandra Kosteniuk is an example of a sporting approach. Many girls lack her sporting qualities and purposefulness. At the present moment she is the leader of Russian women's chess, although just a year ago I wrote in one of my articles that I like the play of Tatiana Kosintseva more... In Europe Viktorija Cmilyte is the brightest talent. Although some circumstances that have no relation to chess (kids, family) prevent her from realizing her talent in full measure...

Questions were asked by Misha Savinov.

This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals

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