The interview took place on February 27th, 2015, after the final round of the Tbilisi tournament.
E.SUROV: Chess-News is on the air, Evgeny Tomashevsky is with us. We are now in Tbilisi, in a Georgian restaurant. Bon appetite!
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Thanks, and good evening!
E.SUROV: By the way, how do you like the food here in Tbilisi?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Georgian cuisine is wonderful! The meat dishes, khachapuri, salads, beans - everything is great. Now, we are having mostly khinkali on the table, it's also great. [...]
E.SUROV: How do you like Tbilisi, in general?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: I have been feeling very comfortable here. As I've already mentioned during the press conference, Georgian culture is popular in our family. Moreover, it's also popular in my home town of Saratov. That's why it's pleasure for me to play in Tbilisi. I've been feeling here like at home, which could probably be noticed.
E.SUROV: It often happens, not always but quite often, both in men's and women's Grand Prix series, that a participant who had won a stage wouldn't manage to repeat that success, neither in the next stage nor at all. Have you pondered over this tendency?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: No, I haven't paid attention to that. First of all, it would be an exaggeration to say that I had had a firm intention to win this stage. Indeed, I had expected to perform well, to get a good score, but it's not that I had expected to finish exactly first and thus had studied the statistics of previous winners. In my opinion, this statistic is relative, as all statistics are in general. It could go one way today and another way tomorrow. What's the number of stages those observations are based on? Ten stages, okay, maybe even twenty - anyway, the distance isn't long enough to generalize.
E.SUROV: But do you understand that the situation has been changed for you? Now, before the final stage, you are among the three favorites of the whole Grand Prix series. Will you try to instil something in your mind and play the Khanty-Mansiysk stage as if nothing has happened?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: I'm not going to instil anything in my mind, I will just keep playing as usual. If you aren't calm, it lessens your chances. What's the point of being worried? I think one of the factors that assured my good result in this stage was exactly my objective perception of the tournament situation during each part of it. What's the point of depriving myself of this advantage voluntarily? [...] One should just come, play and be calm. It's only in the course of a tournament that you could think about your chances and things like that.
E.SUROV: Anyway, what are the other factors beside calmness, that have assured your success?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: First of all, I came prepared really well. Not only I've been long working on chess in general - I was also preparing exactly for this tournament for 2 months. That's why I didn't play at all after the Qatar open. Apart from the openings, I've prepared physically and psychologically. Alexei Iljushin has also done a good job.
E.SUROV: Alexei Iljushin is your coach and second, isn't he?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Yes, he is my coach, second, and friend. He is almost like brother for me. Besides, my family was also helping me during the preparation by creating the necessary atmosphere. So, the preparation had been really long and targeted, and it has worked. In addition, the tournament went successfully for me from the very beginning.
E.SUROV: A question from our reader, Felix Lukashevich: 'What do you think about the King's Indian Defence and the Grunfeld Defence? How correct are they, in your opinion?' As for me, I would ask about the KID first. It's an amazing question since it was nearly the only opening you were facing this year as White.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Well, once there was Grunfeld. If Svidler had also played King's Indian I wouldn't have known what to do at all! However, to some extent, I had supposed that I would face openings with g7-g6 as White, since people usually study the list of players before a tournament and see who they could try to outplay with Black. I think I had been high on such lists of many participants, so I wasn't taken by surprise. But, of course, I was expecting to face more Grunfelds than KIDs. No one could suppose that the King's Indian would occur five times. Today (before the last round game vs Radjabov - CN) I even told Alexei that I would be afraid to laugh out loud during the game if it would occur for the fifth time, although he was sure it would. [...]
Now, about their correctness. It's clear that both openings are absolutely correct. Well, maybe, the King's Indian is a trifle less correct than the Grunfeld, but that's extremely difficult to prove in practice (for the record, Tomashevsky scored 4/5 against the King's Indian in Tbilisi - CN). I think both openings belong to the group of totally correct, normal openings. As for the Grunfeld, it's simply what people are most afraid of when they are White.
E.SUROV: What is your playing style, in general?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: I think it's quite flexible. It's rather based on objective estimation of my resources and abilities in each particular situation. However, it's not that any opening would suit me. Most people would probably say that my style is positional, requiring a solid approach to the opening stage.
E.SUROV: Misha Pushkin asks: 'Did you have any doubts before the tournament'?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: One always has doubts before a tournament. 'If you don't have doubts then you shouldn't go on the stage', actors say. It was a strong and difficult tournament, and, of course, I had had doubts. But one should be able to fight them somehow, just to come and play, and I am usually able to do so when I'm in good shape.
E.SUROV: Then, talking about life in general, are there things you have no doubts about? Some strong beliefs, maybe?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: As a matter of fact, I try to avoid creating too many things like that for myself, because I don't think that having no doubts means being intelligent. In my opinion, doubts are a sign of intelligence. One should doubt even the most obvious things now and then. If there really is anything I try not to doubt, it's something coming out of heart, such as my feelings, affections, friendship. That is, if I trust somebody, I will trust this man entirely - in friendship, relationship, or love. So, that's what I don't like to doubt. But I try to doubt everything that can be subject to analysis.
E.SUROV: Someone, I don't remember who, said: 'Better is to trust a hundred people and be mistaken one hundred times than live without trusting anyone'. What about you - have you been disappointed with people?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It might be so. In general, I tend to trust people, but, of course, I've been disappointed with people more than once. However, such situations always teach you something.
E.SUROV: Was it more often than you hoped it to be?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: No, it wasn't. In general, I think I'm quite a lucky person, particularly in terms of people I've happened to meet in my life - they are much more often good than bad. But you can't avoid disappointments anyway.
E.SUROV: Now a chess question from Andrey Shtukun: 'What is your approach when you realize that your position is too bad or simply lost? What do you prefer - to play calmly for a draw or to muddy the waters as much as possible?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It's according to each particular situation. That is, you play for a draw only if you consider your drawing chances to be sufficient, while, as a rule, if you think there is no real chance you will burn all the bridges. It depends on your estimation of the chances to survive. If I think the chances for a draw are equal to the chances of losing, I'd rather play carefully. But this is very rare, as you're usually able to weigh your chances and determine whether they are sufficient for a draw by careful play or not. If they are, you will try to hold. If they are not, you will muddle the position up.
E.SUROV: Another question from our feedback: 'How does your average day go in terms of training? How many hours per day do you study? How much of this time is allotted to solving tactical puzzles?'
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It's a good question. Even though I've been asked it repeatedly in my interviews, the answer would always be different, because, for example, the amount of work we've done as the preparation for the Grand Prix has been really large. When you are to prepare for a serious tournament, the preparation takes nearly all your time. It's hard to say exactly how much it takes per day on average. Sometimes it's up to 10 hours, while sometimes you feel you should take some break. But on average, you have to work every day intensely and a lot. As for solving tactics... 'For a chess player, solving tactics is the same as practicing scales for a piano player', as Yury Sergeevich Razuvaev (Tomashevsky's long-term coach in the past - CN) would say. In general, I can't say I need it badly, but anyway, it's better to 'practice scales' now and then, just to keep your mind agile, to keep up the rhythm. So, I think one should do tactical exercises from time to time anyway. I don't know exactly how much time I spend solving tactics, but it's a part of my preparation, of course.
E.SUROV: You are known to be keen on mind team games. Do you feel it's also sort of 'practicing scales' for your chess?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Maybe. However, I support the point of view that solving math problems develops nothing but the skill of solving math problems.
E.SUROV: Is that true about chess puzzles too?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It's all the same. And the same could be said about mind team games - I don't think there is any correlation between such games and chess, since the tasks are too different by nature. The only thing it develops is some general playing skills. Anyway, it's sort of brain training, and that's already good enough.
E.SUROV: Another question from our readers: 'Imagine that you've suddenly lost your chess skills. What occupation would you choose, then?' Although I don't understand how it can happen all of a sudden.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It sometimes happens: bang! - and you feel like you've lost all your skills. In this case, I usually try to get them back. [...]
E.SUROV: Nevertheless, let's try to imagine this situation. What would you do instead of chess? For instance, let me ask you - of course, I'm by no means wishing you it - what happens if you take the last place in the next Grand Prix stage. Will you feel like 'having lost your chess skills'?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: I'm not sure it's a good idea to ask such questions beforehand. I've experienced enough chess failures, considering even the latest 18 months. I've managed to have two bad tournaments even between the World Cup and the Grand Prix. However, with age the understanding comes: it's just about ups and downs, good and bad periods, not about losing the skills. Actually, the main skill of a chess professional is the ability to rise and go ahead after failures, to pull yourself together over and over again. It's the hardest thing in our job, as well as in any sports - to do it again and again, to make yourself do routine job every day. While you are able to do so, you always have a chance, and you don't think you've lost your skills. As soon as you feel you lack strength for this, you might already think about something else. About what? Well...
E.SUROV: Okay, let's imagine that chess has got banned. Let's say, it gets banned by the church.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Ah, many other things are interesting to me, there are many things I could be engaged in! Sports, financial analytics, journalism, some kind of teaching or coaching. During my spare time, I try not to be obsessed with chess. Nevertheless, chess occupies a very particular place in my life. But if chess have to be factored out, there are many other interesting things to do.
E.SUROV: I can't help asking yet another typical question. Your marriage hasn't influenced your rating yet, has it?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: It has. Positively.
E.SUROV: Positively? How is this possible? Please tell me the secret.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Why not? Maybe it had happened a couple of times that someone had lost his rating after the marriage, and then this 'rule' has been formulated. It seems to me it's about unconfirmed statistics again. Besides, it depends very much on your chosen one. Actually, I'd like to thank my wife a lot and dedicate this victory to her (although she isn't too fond of public panegyrics). I'm very lucky in this respect, and maybe my success in Tbilisi is the result of my marriage.
E.SUROV: After this, I even feel a bit reluctant to ask the next question that came from our Vkontakte group: 'What game from this Grand Prix stage is the most memorable for you'?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: [...] The most memorable game in a tournament is usually the decisive one, which has brought the victory. In Tbilisi, it was the game vs Andreikin, which was also the most difficult and crazy. On the other hand, I can't say that any other game from Tbilisi isn't dear to me. Let me single out the game vs Grischuk: it was the critical one both in psychological and sportive respect. After it, I realized I got the real chance for a high place, because Grischuk is probably the most uncomfortable opponent for me among the top players. I used to hardly draw him, let alone beating him.
E.SUROV: Vladimir Fomin: 'No one could suppose that you would have such a brilliant and smooth tournament.' By the way, Vladimir thought Andreikin was the favorite. 'I wonder if anything had happened in your life that contributed to this success? I understand that you had prepared well, but to win so convincingly, by such a wide margin - it requires some particular burst of energy. Where did it come from?'
E.TOMASHEVSKY: First of all, I think that some people could have supposed it - they are my parents. Sometimes it seems to me that my family believes in me much more than I believe in myself. Before each tournament, my dad tells me, calmly and routinely, that I will win, and describes how I will win. Usually I just smile, but sometimes I really win tournaments, which maked me think - maybe he wasn't so wrong after all? My mom also supports me a lot. Now my wife is a big support as well.
E.SUROV: Do your parents watch your games live during the tournaments?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: One can hardly drag them away from the monitor!
E.SUROV: Are they also chess players?
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Rather, they are not. [...] They are just rooting for me, and it seems to help. Now, I've also got great mother-in-law and father-in-law, who are also my supporters. In fact, the whole Saratov roots for me - I have many friends there, and this gives me a huge impact. It's real pleasure to feel that you aren't playing on your own.
E.SUROV: Among the questions from our readership, I like this one. 'Kasparov or Karpov?', it goes.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: Very nice indeed. It is like 'red or black'. In what sense? Political?
E.SUROV: By the way, what if I really ask you to play a game, in which you have to simply choose one option out of two, without any explanations? I would add several questions myself.
E.TOMASHEVSKY: You know, I would have chosen 'or'. That's what my nature is about. I am not too fond of having definite answers for all occasions.
(Translated from Russian by Andrey Deviatkin)