Aleksandra Goryachkina: "Becoming a Women's World Champion Is Not a Dream: It's a Goal"
© RIA Novosti/Maksim Bogodvid

Aleksandra Goryachkina: "Becoming a Women's World Champion Is Not a Dream: It's a Goal"


Aleksandra Goryachkina's interview to the RIA Novosti reporter Oleg Bogatov, given on 20th June.

Aleksandra, your victory was quite unexpected for many. Which goals did you set for yourself before your first tournament of such importance?

I had one goal: to win. Because in a tournament where only the first place is important, there can be no other goal - only to win.

How long before the start did you learn that you're going to play in Kazan? You were only the first substitute. [Hou Yifan declined to play.]

I can't remember the exact date, but about two months before the start. Or a bit later.

When you set your goal to win the tournament, whom did you consider your main competitor?

Everyone, because the line-up is very evenly matched, and it was hard to predict who would play better, who's in a good form and upon whom would luck smile.

In the first three rounds, you had to play your compatriots from the Russian national team: Aleksandra Kostenyuk, Valentina Gunina, and Kateryna Lagno. Is it good or bad to play against someone you know well at the start?

I think it was a good variant: it's always better to begin the tournament with games against opponents you know best.

You scored 2.5/3, defeating most of the "national team", and took the lead. Did you think back then that if you started so well, the whole tournament would also go well?

I didn't think about that, because three rounds out of fourteen is more like a demo version of the tournament. But it was clear that I was in a good form, and everything might turn up well.

Believing in myself

It was the first tournament of such magnitude for you, and you played against three former Women's World Champions and two participants of the world championship matches. Did it worry you that they had much more high-level experience and knowledge?

In such a situation, the main thing is believing in yourself. The worst thing that can happen is when you start doubting. Almost nobody believed in me in the first place, and if I started doubting myself as well, nothing good would've come out of that. And the "more knowledge" bit is inaccurate.

After the first leg, you led the tournament with a +4 score. The result was unexpected - both in you leading and the fact that it was hard to imagine that someone would win 4 games out of 7 against such an evenly-matched field. What did you think after gaining a substantial lead over everyone?

Only a half of the tournament has passed, and now I had to play everyone with opposite colours. The opponents who lost to me as Black now had White and a score to settle. It was too early to count the points, there was a lot of games ahead.

The game against Dzagnidze decided a lot

Many specialists think that your game against Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia in the first leg was crucial. She was just a half-point behind, got a good position and could've overtaken you if she won. But you withstood the pressure and defeated her. Do you agree?

I think this was the second turning point for me. The first one was in the second round, against Valentina Gunina, where I played good. And the final position, after Nh4, has probably been making the rounds at all the chess sites - the game was won by such a beautiful move, literally from almost nothing. And the game against Dzagnidze, when we both were in the lead, was probably decisive in determining the single leader.

In the beginning of the second leg, you won two games in a row and led with a phenomenal 7.5/9 score. Did you understand what have you just done?

To be honest, I was totally concentrated on the tournament and didn't distract myself with feelings, such as whether I understand my achievement or not. If it goes well, you have to continue doing that. I didn't let myself relax, because there were five rounds ahead. It's a lot of games, and everything can happen. But, of course, subconsciously I knew that if I don't go insane (smiles), such an advantage would be enough to win the tournament.

Were you in a particularly determined mood before the 12th round, where you could already win the tournament - and won it?

Before the 10th and 11th round, I was already thinking that I could clinch that very soon. So, I concentrated even more than usual, knowing that I had to win it early and then relax a bit in the end.

I think I could have played better

Which game would you describe as your best in the tournament?

It's hard to name only one, because I'm always unhappy, and I always think I have to work even more. And I think that I got a bit lucky, some things just went my way, and my wins are unworthy. (Smiles)

Why unworthy?

Well, they were decent, but I think I could have played better, won more quickly and decisively. I'm always thinking I've done something wrong.

But surely now it's hard to be unhappy with the result and quality of play? When you've achieved the stated goal and did it convincingly and in style, without any questions?

There's always something to strive for. For instance, not to lose the last game, because it's often decisive [Goryachkina lost to Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine in the last round].

Those who defeat me get brilliancy prizes

Were you annoyed that despite winning six games, the brilliancy prize was given to your opponent in the only game you've lost?

I was, but it often happens for some reasons. (Laughs) I lose, and my opponent gets the brilliancy prize. It's not the first time, I got used to that.

What did you feel at the closing ceremony, when the FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich officially declared you the tournament winner?

I didn't have any special feelings - I think I didn't do anything phenomenal. I don't even have any euphoria - I only feel very, very tired. And I think I don't fully understand what happened yet. I do know that I won the Candidates' Tournament, but I'm yet to comprehend what's going to happen next.

How are you planning to rest, and for how long?

I'm going to visit my grandparents in the Orenburg Oblast, to Orsk. I have to rest and talk to the loved ones - those who don't need anything from you, who are just glad to see you.

I met my coach two weeks before the tournament

Aleksandra, your father Yuri constantly accompanied you at the tournament. Did you have other coaches?

GM Konstantin Landa. I met him two weeks before the Candidates' Tournament. I learned that I was going to play in Kazan later than other players, so I had less time to prepare. I'd like to thank the Russian Chess Federation: they very quickly helped me to find a specialist who held a week-long training camp before the tournament and supported me in Kazan. Everything went very well.

Specialists have noticed your obvious progress, you have played almost flawlessly in technical positions - what's the reason?

I worked by myself a lot. And you could say that if I came with a coach who helped me, my playing level would increase. Before, I would come to the tournaments on my own, and my opponents usually had help. And I think that I had no problems in playing technical positions in Kazan.

Aleksandra, how did you manage to keep such a concentration, composure and calmness during the whole long and gruelling tournament, while your opponents were prone to mistakes? Did you have any special factors?

Of course, here's my greatest talisman: my sister Oksana, she's nine years old.

Oksana is probably more glad for you than anyone.


A dream is something impossible, a goal is something to reach for

Do you plan to work with other coaches for preparation for your World Championship match? Where are you going to start it?

It's hard to say about the coaches. And I'm going to start training shortly. I'll formulate a plan, and the tournaments I'm going to play in would also become a part of my preparation for the Ju Wenjun match.

Have you already started studying the Chinese player's style?

The tournament had just ended, and I learned that I was going to play her. So there was no time to look up anything yet.

You probably had a lot of congratulations in the social networks after your success. Or were you concentrated only on the game?

During the tournament, I never logged in to any social networks. And I wouldn't say I got a lot of congratulations there. Many fans congratulated me in person - we were playing in Kazan, in Russia. There was a lot of congratulations.

Can you say that winning the Candidates' Tournament is a dream come true?

I'm not calling something I can do myself a "dream". A dream is something unattainable, something that doesn't fully depend on your work, skill and luck. And to win the Candidates' Tournament, I worked a lot, and my work paid off. This was not a dream, this was a goal.

So, becoming the Women's World Champion is also a goal rather than a dream?

Yes, it's a goal too, because I can achieve that through my own efforts.