Aleksandra Goryachkina's 2017 interview. "I thought I was Jack Sparrow!"

Aleksandra Goryachkina's 2017 interview. "I thought I was Jack Sparrow!"


Aleksandra Goryachkina has just won the Women's Candidates' Tournament, earning a World Championship opportunity against Ju Wenjun. I've decided to let the readers know a bit more about this young prospect.

This interview was conducted by Eteri Kublashvili after Goryachkina won her second Russian Women's championship a year and a half ago.

Sasha, congratulations with your win! As we know, Russian champions, both men's and women's, get a Renault Kaptur car. Do you have a driving license?

Thank you. No, I don't.

And you can't drive?

I don't have a driving license, so I obviously can't.

But sometimes a person can drive despite having no driving license. And vice versa. Are you planning to obtain a driving license in the near future?

No, not yet.

You'll give the car to your dad or mom then?

Yes. I'll find whom to give it to. (Laughs)

And what are you going to do with the prize money?

I'm always doing the same thing with all my prize money: I give them to my mom, and she controls them. She works as my chief accountant. (Smiles)

So, we can call her your manager as well?


Last year, Aleksandra Kosteniuk told me in an interview that the car was her main incentive for the win. What was the driving force behind your win?

Not the car, surely. The first prize being a car is great, but it's a great responsibility as well. Because the first place is totally different from all others. And everyone tends to crack under that pressure. There was a moment when I understood that I didn't really want that car, I just wanted to play as well as I could and finish in the top three. I flopped in the last year's superfinal, and this one was tough as well. And I understood that the car wasn't the main priority for me. Not at all!

Aleksandra Goryachkina with a photo of the Russian Revolution in the background. The banner says, "Suffrage for Women!" Photo by

Yes, the tournament wasn't the easiest one for you, with losses in important games. Let's discuss your playing and the tournament.

I lost to Valya Gunina and Alina Kashlinskaya. The start wasn't too great: just 2.5 out of 5. I defeated Olya Girya, drew Natasha Pogonina, Nastya Bodnaruk, Alisa Gallyamova, and lost to Valya. It was very difficult for me to play. I chose wrong openings, everyone's prepared well for me, it was hard in general. My fatigue showed: I came to the championship straight from Khanty-Mansiysk, where I played in men's classical Yugra Governor's Cup and rapid Yugra Cup. Before the rest day, I was completely exhausted; I thought that this was the end, it's hopeless, I have no strength and no result.

But that one rest day was enough to fully replenish my strength. It was almost like a whole new tournament. I regained my strength and played much better!

So, you may consider yourself lucky that there was a rest day after round 5, not round 6?

Yes, we can say that.

And what did you do in your rest day?

I visited the Aurora. My dad got me there by trickery. He said, "Come on, let's look at the ship, take some photos." And then I learned that we were going to the museum. (Laughs) But I liked the open space, I felt like Jack Sparrow. My main goal was to avoid falling overboard. We had a guided tour, looked, listened. It all turned out pretty well.

Are there any games you're particularly happy about?

I can't say there are many. I'm satisfied with my first play-off game against Natasha [Pogonina]. The round 10 game against Zhenya Ovod - I can't say that my win was totally deserved, but I like this game.

Before the last round, you shared first place with Pogonina. Did you have any special strategy for the 11th round?

No, I didn't think too much, just went and played. My main goal was not to lose, because in that case I wouldn't get anything because of the worst tie-break. My dad thought that the probability of a tie break was very small, two wins or two draws at the same time were unlikely.

During the round, I saw that Natasha had the draw almost out of the opening, she could've agreed for a draw after an hour. I don't know why she wasted her strength and played on. I understood that if I don't lose, I'll still have chances for the first place, but I had no chance to win the game. If the position allowed, I would've played for a win, but the position didn't.

What were your thoughts before the play-off?

Just play. No matter if I get anything or not... The tournament was hard, I had to use all my remaining strength. The main goal was to control time.

Play-off match between Goryachkina and Pogonina. Photo by

Do you like classical or rapid chess more? Or you don't have any special preferences?

Just two years ago, I thought that the shorter was the control, the weaker I played. But now, all my three ratings are almost equal. And I even started liking rapid chess more than classical, since you're still playing more or less normal chess, but don't spend the entire day at the board! (Smiles) The preparation is different, the feelings are different. You play five games a day, and don't get so upset with your mistakes. (Laughs)

After winning the 2015 superfinal in Chita, you said that GM Ruslan Scherbakov worked with you. If it's not a secret, who's your current coach?

We stopped working with Scherbakov that same year, and I haven't had a coach since then. We're searching for one now, there are some candidates, but...

So, there were only training camps with the national team?

Yes, but there are only one or two of them in a year, that's too few. So I'm working by myself mostly.

I see. What can you say about the superfinal's organization?

Everything's all right. If we compare that with Khanty-Mansiysk, which is considered the "capital of chess" with one of the best chess infrastructures, then, playing-wise, it was similar. I don't know whether it's good or bad. The playing hall was 20-25 minutes from the hotel, like in Khanty.

You prefer walking to the game rather than riding?

I walked to the game, and then took the bus back. I didn't see much sense to leave my room 40 minutes before the game, when the bus took off, so we moved out about half an hour before the game, to take a walk. But there was a downside: I haven't thought it out and came to St. Petersburg with my usual mascara instead of moistureproof one! I came to the games looking like a panda! (Laughs)

Photo by

Speaking of appearances, dress code in chess is currently a hot topic. The tournaments are often held in the countries that are, should I say, exotic for us. Was wearing hijab in Iran comfortable for you?

Playing in hijab is awful, and I'm fully against such regulation, because it's more about adaptability than about chess: who did play in such clothes before, and who didn't. Playing aspects become less important. I've played two rounds in Iran, it was very hot in the hall. We were told that we had to cover everything, from buttocks to head. Don't know how it was afterwards, but the first two rounds were very difficult.

At the end of the month [December 2017], I'm going to Saudi Arabia; they promised that women would be allowed to wear suits. This is much better - at least, there wouldn't be any headscarves.

Is it hard to play blitz in a suit jacket?

This is probably going to be a problem. But men do play blitz like that.

Still, men usually wear more comfortable clothes at the World Cup rapid and blitz tie-breaks, for instance.

Yes, I came to the superfinal play-off in less formal clothes; I was a bit embarrassed, because at the clothing ceremony, you do have to dress more formally. But the choice is simple: either you look good or play comfortably.

So, you're still conscious about the "picture", how the players look at the tournaments. And dress code is important for you, but without excesses, right?

Yes, I agree. It should be comfortable and convenient to play for all. For instance, not everyone is used to playing blitz in suit jackets: sometimes it's hard to bend your elbows, stuff like that. I wore a ruffled blouse for two games and then I realized that you just can't get into time troubles in such clothes, because you'll just knock down all the pieces! I had to hold my sleeve with the other hand, and I told myself, "No time troubles!" (Laughs)

Goryachkina in the "no-time-trouble" ruffled blouse. Photo by

Is the venue important for you? What's the difference between, say, a museum and a gym? Do you get distracted by the scenery?

No, I don't. But there's a difference in playing conditions. In hotels, sports halls and other similar places, there are metal detectors, special toilets for participants, other anti-cheating measures are taken. Air conditioning is different too. And in museums, there are more logistical troubles - with toilets, with air conditions, with cheaters. So, it's all up to you, the organizers. You have to get everything right. (Smiles)

But for chess, the Chess In Museums program is very useful: many people come to watch, the tournaments get a lot of advertising. So, there are both plusses and minuses.

How much interest do you pay to the talks about cheating, such as the recent case of Solozhenkina and Asaubaeva?

I read a bit, but I can't say anything. You're innocent until caught.

What would you do if you thought that your opponent behaved suspiciously? Would you go to the arbiter immediately, or not?

I wouldn't. You see, I played against Sandu at that European championship. And I didn't even sign the petition, even though my dad wanted me to. They couldn't find us that day: I don't know whether it's for better or for worse.

I can't say anything... Perhaps there was something, perhaps not. What can you say if your opponent sits at the board and never goes away? At that tournament, I saw a situation when some grandmasters (not coaches) entered the hall with their phones turned on and started typing something. Yes, I saw that.

Concerning Asaubaeva - I can say that I saw that at the European championship, she and her mom didn't go through the metal detector where you have to give up your pens, keys and other things - they entered through another zone, with phones and everything. But I can't say anything for sure because I didn't watch them afterwards. That's what I saw, no more, no less.

I see. Tell us about your future plans.

The next half-year is already scheduled. Gibraltar, Aeroflot Open, men's and women's European Championships... a lot of things.

You play with men often. Did you consider quitting women's chess altogether?

No. I play with men to perform better in women's tournaments afterwards. Playing against men is not my goal.

Thanks for talking, Sasha. Good luck!

Thank you.

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