Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Interview with Evgeny Tomaskevsky; hints in evolving as a chess player

I’ve chosen to Pick some things out of the very excellent Interview that (English translation) from ane Interview that Evgeny Tomashevsky gave. 

Evgeny Just won the third round of the grand prix and is now one of the favorites to place in the Grand prix Series (1st and 2nd finalists are automatically enrolled in the next Candidates tournament to compete for the opportunity to face Magnus Carlsen in a match for world championship in 2016).

It might be appropriate to share some brief biographical information.  Evgeny Tomashevsky is a Strong GM from the Russian town of Saratov; in the caucus region of Russia.   His positional play, and quiet demeanor has earned him the nickname “the professor”. 

 While the most recent grand prix is not his only big win (2nd in the 2007 Aeflot open is pretty impressive)- this just might his biggest victory yet, having earned an impressive amt of grand prix points and winning decisively over grandmaster after grandmaster.

His interview is both interesting and instructive.  I’ll try to keep my commentary in italics as to not be confusing…  Bold face shall highlight what I think is very interesting.

E.SUROV: It often happens, …. 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. (you see in many strong chess players an effort NOT to fret and obsess over standing.  Instead most of them usually echo the thought- I’ll do my best and let the results fall where they may)
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?   (huge!  any given lingering feeling would do the same, and I think  that one should work, quite hard to get a mastery over our feelings as we play our opponents.  Beware of the emotion and work on grounding yourself in objectivity.)  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: 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. (I like that he seeks to promote of feeling of great doubt, AND remain calm.  For me ttoo often… ‘Doubts Escalate into a Feeling of Un-calmness and then patzer chess and tactical destruction’…  so I think we should be careful not to bury our doubt as we do our million puzzles. Doubt that there IS a pattern in there.  And Who knows perhaps, the author missed some hidden refute!  If you look for it and don’t just presume that the pattern is of course a win;  you’ll be fostering critical thinking that will serve you well…)

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..   ( NOT the most revealing look at the training program of a superGM’s nonetheless there is a few kernels of insight.  First It confirms my opinion that whatever ELSE your training program should contain; it should contain tactic puzzles; and tactic puzzles should be done as continuously as possible.   Second I think in the end, intensity is the most relevant part of a training program and a necessary part of making the sincere and honest effort to improve.   Lastly even with one of the world top GM’s the training program varies and is sometimes more or less.   Persistence is IMHO one of the great keys to getting out of the patzer grades.  And Persistence as in consistent  effort, course corrections, and personal aspirations)

There most interesting.  I’d think him, if I could.  He is clearly a strong GM with a  good attitude and lots of future potential.  It would be interesting to see him strengthen and climbing the charts. 


  1. As for training programs, you can never really use what GMs say, before they all had an awful lot of practice/training in their younger years, that we (amateurs) hadn't.

    Russian players may even had systematic coaching as youngsters, and solved thousands of puzzles back then.

  2. I find his pychological approach to the game, the most interesting part of the interview.

    I also think that if tactic puzzles appeal to the one of the strongest positional players alive; there are certainly good for patzers like myself.

    the idea of embracing a "calm" outlook on my chess, resonates with me right now. my training program isn't really in good shape (less time and intensity) and I've had some recent embarassing blundered games.