05.08.2005 Women's chess. Ekaterina Kovalevskaya

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?

If everybody knew her secret, they would play like she does… Judit showed a really professional approach to chess. It was long ago, in 1998 it seems to me, when I spoke to Psakhis. He told me – if only you could imagine how Judit works with trainers, how much she demands and how much she derives from this work! These qualities depend on a person. Polgar sisters were taught to work on chess since childhood. They are able to work both on their own and with trainers.

Is there “elite” in women’s chess?

It’s difficult to speak about any elite as there are few women’s tournaments. Certainly, there are great names – Zsuzsa Polgar, Xie Jun, Antoanetta Stefanova. There is a constant rotation in the top twenty, but these three players obviously stand out. Both in their play and understanding of chess. However, I did not feel a gap in class when I was playing with Xie Jun, but Chinese chess players have a peculiar understanding of chess. A few years ago it was possible to mention Alisa Galliamova among the elite, but she almost does not play now, and it’s difficult for her to maintain the level.

Why in your opinion Alexandra Kosteniuk successfully manages to combine her career of a chessplayer with shootings for advertising and fashion magazines?

We must not forget about Sharapova, who is in great demand as a model and a brilliant tennis player at the same time. Sasha is sportive in her character and she is always ready to prove the leadership both to herself and to the others. It is apparent from the way she disposes herself to a struggle, the way she sits at the board and calculates different variations… She fights to the end, never giving easy time neither to herself nor to the others. She works a lot, takes part in training sessions and prepares seriously for various tournaments. Not all the female chess players have such an opportunity. Kosintseva sisters, in my opinion, lack the help of highly qualified trainers. That’s why their progress slowed down. Vika Cmilyte played incredibly at the age of 15-16, but did not make any progress afterwards. Indeed, she is a world class chess player, as well as Kosintseva sisters, but getting back to the previous question, they do not show a super-level, that their supporters had a right to expect from them as judged by their potential. Kosteniuk is also in the group of women’s chess leaders, but she keeps on working.

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

It’s very difficult for me to compare. Female chess players with 2400-2500 rating take part in the world and European championships. Men with the same rating do not take the risk of winning the world championship, this is an average rating for them, that’s why we play a bit different games. You fight for the best result in the world and European championships. In the average men’s Swiss there is a struggle for the prizes. The titles of a champion and a vice-champion make a big difference, believe my great vice-champion experience. The difference between the first and the second place in the Swiss is not that big, hence so many chessplayers are ready to be satisfied with a modest result. There is no doubt that it’s more interesting to play for the titles. I think that on the whole women play a bit stronger than the men with the same rating.

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

I’d love this to become true! But I do not see how women’s chess can exist separately from the men’s for the time being. The same situation is in tennis – with a male player of which rating can play female first racket?

If I am not mistaken, top female tennis players challenged famous but long-retired men, and lost all the games...

Indeed! In chess women sometimes participate in men’s tournaments, and sometimes quite successfully. I can remember Polgar, Stefanova in this regard… Our sport is more loyal and women can struggle against men, while it’s difficult to imagine in other kinds of sport. That’s why I’m not sure that men’s and women’s chess should be separated. I would prefer that women’s chess was of more interest.

Do you have any ideas about a chess show on TV? Could one use attractiveness of female players as a tool to gather more interest to such a show?

I think, it’s possible. It’s very important to attract attention of TV and other mass media. There is an example of working in the right direction – a beautiful calendar was published after the championship of Russia: 12 participants, 12 months. It’s a good advertising of women’s chess! There are very many beautiful girls in chess, but there are some specific problems as well.

Kosintseva sisters are very attractive girls. But when they were interviewed before, they did not talk much… Now they are easier to talk with, they try hard. However on the whole, I think that women are easier to contact with than men.

Should the training of girls and boys differ?

I do not see any particular difference. I was studying chess with boys. This is a strong stimulus as well – when an eight years old girl defeats 13-14 years old boys, it cannot but make chess more attractive! Co-education does not harm, it spurs up...

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

It’s a difficult question! I’ll put it the following way: as a real patriot, I always support our players. It’s difficult to mark out anyone particular…

Photo from ChessBase archive

Questions were asked by Misha Savinov.

This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals

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