It is the perfect timing to reestablish the tradition of answering some of the questions in public. Feel free to ask Natalia anything chess-related or personal. All e-mails get a reply, some of them make it to the weekly FAQ section.
Q1: Why did Russia fare so badly at the Women's World Chess Championship? Are Russian players overrated as compared to Chinese?
A1: No, I don't think so. In my opinion, there are three main factors behind it: 1) China has a higher level of government support in chess 2) Some of the leading Russian players didn't qualify for the WWC 3) a few players (Kosintseva T, Kosteniuk, me, Shadrina) were exhausted after the Russian Superfinal.
Q2: Do I have to announce a check? What happens if the opponent doesn't see it and makes a different move? I win, right?
A2: Nowadays announcing a check is considered to be old-fashioned and extravagant. In a standard game only 3 illegal moves lead to a forfeit. In a blitz game one illegal move is enough for a loss. Anyway, I have seen a lot of kids enjoy capturing the opponent's king in this case and claiming a point. That has to do with the fact that many novices are being taught that the ultimate goal of the game is to eliminate the opponent's king...
Q3: Do you turn on a chess engine when viewing games online?
A3: Most of the time no since watching games with an engine reduces the instructive value of the process considerably. However, when I am commentating, or need to find out the correct evaluation of an extremely sophisticated position, I may switch on an engine.
Q4: I regularly trained my own style (openings, positions...). After a few tournaments,
I know my frequent opponents' strengths and weaknesses (not all, but some). Question
is... Should I train my style in general as if I were to play against an unknown player?
Or should I train and study against my regular oponents to beat them? or both?
(Note that my regular op. and I are "the elite" in my city =D so it is important to
crush them! jeje) Thanks.
A4: If you wish to improve in chess in general, you will have to work on your weaknesses anyway, no matter what you know about other players. Also, even if you decide that your aspirations don't go beyond your city, there will be new young competitors whom you will have to study. In my opinion, it is easier to learn to play well oneself than to spend all the time trying to understand what others are doing badly.
Q5: I saw few mind-cracking Semi Slav Anti-Moscow games played in recent tournaments
which hardly support Black plus well known Semi Slav experts like Aronian switching
to other openings. Is the Semi Slav is out of date?
A5: The Semi-Slav is a classical opening. Such lines may either be fashionable during a certain period of time or not, but they don't disappear from the chess scene completely.
Q6: Most times when I play a chess game, I try to make moves based on positional
principles. Sometimes I try tactics but on most occasional I am not very successful.
On the other hand, I get the solution right most times when I do a tactics puzzle,
which means that I don't evaluate the board right. So my question is how do I
analyze the board better and use the tactics at the right time?
A6: This is a matter of style. Some positional players are quite skilled at solving tactical puzzles and calculating variations. Nonetheless, during a real game they prefer cautious moves that improve their position slowly, but safely. Being a good tactician is either "in the blood" (i.e. when you have gut instincts), or not. You may also want to follow my friend, IM Vlad Akselrod's example. He used to play in a rather boring strategical way, and one day decided to change his style completely. At that time Vlad couldn't tell a promising sacrifice from a give-away (since it requires experience and intuition), so he just sacked, sacked, sacked. Often he simply ended up down a piece and lost, but in other cases he managed to win quite exciting tactical games. This has provided him with valuable experience and allowed to boost his practical tactical skills (which are somewhat different to puzzle-solving abilities).
Q7: What is your primary motivation in chess? Money? Fame? Victories?
A7: Love for the game and the people who play it. Search of harmony and constant self-improvement.
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