The rules are simple - send us your questions and see them featured in the weekly Q&A column!
Q1: Karjakin and Carlsen: what is their record against each other? I've been saying for a year that Carlsen is only ahead because of politically motivated invitations to better tournaments.
If this is true, then if you raise some stink about it, it may help improve the
A1: I am not sure, but I think Carlsen is ahead. Of course, getting invitations to top events helps speed up a player's improvement. However, you are bringing up a very complex issue of "fairness". Different people have different starting conditions, from talent to environment. Depending on whom one likes more (Carlsen of Karjakin), one may come up with reasons why Sergey or Magnus have been deprived of certain opportunities, and keep arguing forever. Luckily enough, Sergey is #5 in the world now. This means he will probably be playing at all the top chess events, and we will all enjoy his rivalry with Magnus.
Q2: Is it common that professional players do "suffer" from "unwanted effects" after
fathering/mothering a child ?! With it I mean sleepless nights, sleep deprivation, anxiety, etc. Also, as an "habitue" in more high profile events, are you aware of recent
fathers/mothers complaining about that ?
A2: It depends on the person. Objectively speaking, parents have less time left for work. Also, priorities tend to change, especially for women. Quite often this leads to people either abandoning chess, or to losing rating. However, those who stay and enjoy being a parent often experience a "second youth" - being more well-rounded and happy than their opponents, they have the energy and motivation to succeed. Remember Kasparov saying he didn't want to quit chess until his son is mature enough to feel that his Dad is a king? As to the second part of the question (complaining) - I wouldn't say so. Most partents are, fortunately, happy people, so why complain about having a son/daughter?
Q3: Can you give any general advice for American male chessplayers trying to woo Russian female chessplayers?
A3: Why such a sad smiley? Most people consider it cool to date foreigners (since it's a rare thing), so your chances are increased. Especially given that, according to the statistics, Americans are popular with Russian girls.
First of all, don't talk chess with them (unless you are very good). Asking about their favorite opening, boasting that you know what en passant means, or losing in 15 moves won't do the trick. Secondly, Russian girls are known for being beautiful, caring and faithful. Most of them are not interested in a one-night stand relationship, and you had better keep that in mind. Thirdly, you should have genuine interest in the girl's personality and culture. Don't stress that difference between USA and Russia too often; instead try to widen her horizons and (very important!) learn something new yourself.
Q4: Natalia,what is your daily routine during a tournament?
A4: In the morning I wake up and eat my breakfast, check out the Internet and review my preparation (for about an hour, sometimes less). About an hour or 1.5 hours before the game I have a lunch. After the game I return home, have a supper and a rest. Then I briefly analyze the game (to find out if I need to patch up my openings) and scan my next opponent's profile. This gives some food for thought on what opening to play. Then I have some spare time (no universal way to spend it). Also, whenever there is a rest day, I try to spend it actively - meet my friends, attend a performance, go shopping, etc.
Q5: I was trying out the idea, 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. c4 to change the nature
of the French Defense completely. I know it accepts an isolated d-pawn, but it
generates a lot of kingside attacking chances. I saw the idea in a Maurice Ashley
game. Is this idea practical for real over the board chess at any level or is it
just a good idea to win rating points on the Internet.
A5: Well, there is nothing new to this Exchange French variation. White doesn't have any real advantage there (although scores decently), but the position is perfectly playable at any level. The main idea of this line is to avoid extensive mainstream theory and beat the opponent on your home turf. Btw, is it really good for winning rating points on the Internet?
Q6: Hi Natalia! What piece of advice would you give to an adult who is a beginner in
chess? Do you think it is too late for him to make any real progress and reach an
expert/master level? What do you recommend?
A6: My main advice would be to enjoy the game and take one step at a time. One doesn't start running before learning how to walk, and before that - how to crawl. Adults who take up on chess only to boost their ego and feel special about being a master usually don't make it, or have to purchase the title on the black market. On the contrary, those who are patient, persistent, ready to accept failures from time to time; and improve slowly, but steadily, have a better chance. Also, most chess specialists agree that expert level is attainable for just about anyone. The only question is how much time/energy you are ready to invest.
Q7: I got a short term memory and I believe in theory than memorizing opening. Whereas
in case of end-games I agree with memorizing them. So,could U tell me how to
understand a theory behind opponents' every move?
A7: I am a little confused. By "studying theory" most people mean exactly understanding (and memorizing) openings, middlegame plans, the resulting endgames. If you are asking a general question, i.e. "how does one know how to react to an opponent's move", then the answer will also be very general. Knowing the theory hepls save time and mental energy. If a player is strong enough, he/she will be able to find a decent move even without knowing the theory. However, as I have already mentioned, it takes time and energy, thus giving the opponent an edge. There are three main paths here: 1) study the openings 2) play something offbeat or simple and try to win "on class" rather than due to better opening preparation 3) remain a weak player (the one who neither has chess understanding like #2, nor chess knowledge, like #1). To sum it all up, if a person has perfect understanding, he/she doesn't need to know anything. If he/she has perfect knowledge, there is no need for understanding (just like Nalimov's database). However, in the real world no one has either, so we have to try to find the optimal balance.
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