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Monday, January 23, 2006

Playing Chess: Interview with GM Yelena Dembo

Dennis Steele: "Yelena, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer questions from the ChessManiac community.

Questions from the ChessManiac Community:

Daniel Wayne Snyder: "Who was the most famous person you played?"

Yelena Dembo: "The strongest player I have played with was Garry Kasparov. It happened in a simultaneous display, when I was 9 years old (11 years ago). Of course I lost but actually 5 years later we had a talk about this display and he remembered well both me and our game."

Daniel Wayne Snyder: "How long did it take to become a GM?"

Yelena Dembo: "I became WGM when I was 17 years old and two years later I became men's IM (of course it was more complicated to get the IM-title than the WGM one)."

Maurício Rocancourt Moreira: "I would like to know what you like to do besides playing chess--if you like music, reading, sports, etc. Also, do you have another occupation besides being a grandmaster?"

Yelena Dembo: "Besides chess I like very much to listen to music (Classical, Soul, R&B, Pop, etc), I like to read books, to watch good movies. I like physical training, long walks, to travel to new countries (I have played in about 20 countries but I want to visit more…)."

gumbie: "Why do you change your country of residence so often? You have certainly moved about!"

Yelena Dembo: "It is easy to explain why I had to move from one country to another so often. We moved with my family from USSR to Israel in 1990 because USSR was collapsing. I think everybody understands this. We then moved to Hungary in 1998 because in Israel there were just Open tournaments (and not often!). Being in Budapest I could go to any country in Europe to play any tournament or league (of course men's). I moved to Athens, Greece in Dec 2003 because of a simple reason : I got married to a Greek!"

Alexey Hurricane: "Is it easier to play in person or on the internet?"

Yelena Dembo: "It is easier to play over the board than on the internet."

Daniel Wayne Snyder: "What was your hardest game?"

Yelena Dembo: "The most complicated game in my life was against an FM from USA - N.Castaneda. In the game and its variations I sacrificed a Q, two R, a N and 6 pawns! There were a lot of people watching and I think I lost many kilos during the game!"

Daniel Wayne Snyder: "Could a person get awarded GM Status Honorably?"

Yelena Dembo: "It is possible to get the Honorary GM-title after the age 60 or so due to great achievements but I am sure the level of the player at this age will not be the level of a real GM."

Racter: "How often are you taken by surprise by an opponent's move? Do you ever find that an opponent makes a move you had not considered at all?"

Yelena Dembo: "Of course opponents often make moves which I didn't consider. I don't have to foresee bad moves and variations."

Matthew Romoser: "Most Grandmasters get to where they are today because they spend many hours per week studying the game of chess. However, can you recommend a self-directed chess training method for somebody who can perhaps (on a good week) dedicate 2 to 3 hours to improving his / her game? Where should somebody in that situation focus? How can I get the best use of my limited time?"

zroyalrook: "I would like to know what books, or methods GM Dembo would suggest for a player that wants to make the jump from class b player to class a and beyond."

NewfieKnight: "I have only been playing chess for about7-8 months. I wonder if you could recommend a good book that would help me understand strategies and how to set them up?"

Gaskin: "I've been playing chess for 30 years now and I feel as though I am playing as well as I ever will at an intermediate standard. Ms. Dembo, do you have any advice as to how I can raise my game? I play chess everyday but still I stay at roughly the same level."

Hesham: "I want to improve my rating quickly, do you have any ideas?"

Yelena Dembo: The main question that (naturally!) interests all of us is how to improve. First of all it is necessary to have a very good chess-trainer. To clarify this: not a player (even with a rating of 2500-2600!) but a professional trainer who likes and knows how to teach, and does it using the most modern methods. A trainer who immediately sees what his student does wrong and immediately sets out to improve it! But the most important is that he teaches the student how to think correctly during the game. If the student doesn't know how to think correctly he will never be able to play very good chess. Even if he studies much theory, reads many chess books, etc. To speak about books which might help is also a very complicated question. What can be very useful for one player can be very bad for the other, like medicine! It is necessary to know the level of the player, his style, age and much more, to recommend a particular book which will be useful to this particular player at the given moment!

As a concrete way of improving I can suggest my lessons (this way I can guarantee quick improvement). I teach seriously and quite a lot from the age of 13. Now I have students from about 30 countries and their levels range from beginners (unrated) until IM (about 2450 elo). I give private and group lessons in our family's house, on and on ICC. I am an official trainer on ICC and

What do we do on our lessons? Modern opening theory (if it is necessary) Serious
analysis of the student's games. I have a big collection of special middlegame and endgame positions (about 10000 - exactly this collection helped me to win 7 medals in European and world championships!). Even studying 10-15 positions from this collection raises the level of all the students. They start thinking differently during the game.

Studying special chess-rules (my students call them "Dembo rules"). These rules are very easy to understand and very useful. These rules are not mentioned in books but the best players use these rules. For example, Garry Kasparov was using them from a very young age. These rules were discovered by my parents (high-level professional trainers) and myself. It is impossible to play chess good without knowledge of these rules. But knowing them it is even possible to become very talented...

By the way, I myself almost finished writing a chess book. It is an unusual book and I am sure it will be very useful for beginners and professionals. And what is good that friends say it is easily readable. This book is about my methods of teaching chess, methods which helped me and many of my students to improve quickly. I suggest to chess players who would like to know more about me to check out my personal website (especially the page "My best games")

Dennis Steele: "Yelena I would like to thank you very much for being a member of the ChessManiac community and for taking the time to do this interview. I would like to invite all the members of the ChessManiac community to visit Yelena's website at
View Some of Yelena Dembo's Games Here.


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