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Monday, March 06, 2006

Online Chess Interview With Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk

Alexandra Kosteniuk, an International Woman Grandmaster (WGM) (1998) and an International Master among men (IM) (2000). During the FIDE Congress in Calvia (2004) awarded the title of Grandmaster (Men), becoming the 10th woman in the whole history of chess to get this title. Kosteniuk is the Women's Vice Champion of the World, a title earned at the World Championships in Moscow in December 2001. Kosteniuk earned the European Champion 2004 and Russian Champion 2005.
Born in the Russian city of Perm on April 23, 1984. In July 2003 she graduated from the Russian State Academy of Physical Education and now is a certified professional chess trainer. In 1994 she became the European Champion among girls under the age of 10, and a month later shared first and second places at the World Championship under the age of 10.

In 1997, Kosteniuk became a Woman International Master (WIM) at the age of 13. It is said that Alexandra reached this mark slightly quicker than Maya Chiburdanidze. Kosteniuk was awarded the GrandMaster title in November 1998 at the 33rd World Olympiad in Kalmykia. Kosteniuk's current ELO rating is 2514, which makes her now the fifth strongest woman in the world. Kosteniuk's USCF Rating is 2565 which makes her the highest rated woman in the USCF.

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

Questions from the ChessManiac Community:

silverman: Do you think that chess is a sport or simply a pastime?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: I think chess is definitely a sport, because it has all the elements of sports, such as very high competitiveness, where you always want to do better, and you compete against others. Also, you should to be in very good physical shape to play chess well, as chess is quite demanding.

Brimstone: In your opinion, does Fischer random Chess determine the stronger player more effectively then our standard tournaments? And if so, do you support the revsion of our standard tournaments?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Yes I do like Fischer Random (also called Chess960) very much. In Fischer Random, there is no need to memorize opening variations for hours, as an original position will appear on the board already on the first move. That's a wonderful advantage as nowadays Grandmasters spend much too much time studying openings, and in some games the moves are played by memory all the way to the end of the game, for 20, 30 or even 40 moves, this is ridiculous! I am thankful to Bobby Fischer for his very good invention of Fischer Random and I hope that it will be more adopted in the chess world, that would make chess more interesting to play and also to watch.

cormac patterson: I was wondering what one or two books you feel were most important to your development.

Alexandra Kosteniuk: It is good to read chess books, especially commented games of past champions. The recent Kasparov series about past world champions is great, as well as the Bronstein book about the Zurich 1953 chess tournament.

Rony1000: I want to know what should be the first step, if I want to be a grandmaster.

Alexandra Kosteniuk: It's very tough to become a Grandmaster, and you should go little steps at a time. Before becoming a GM, you should become an IM, and before that a Master, and so on. Start by playing and beating a player a little better than you, and then move up. My advice to beginners and intermediate players would be to study first chess endings, that's the way to start chess study, then study the games of past champions.

(Peter)don duck: What form does your game preparation take? i.e. do you have a team who analyse your opponent's previous games or do you prepare alone? Also, do you play Internet chess?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Hi Peter, my chess preparation has many facets to it. When I prepare for a concrete player, yes I do look at possible variations that may arise but looking at his or her previous games. I have a trainer who gives me advice and gives me training exercises, which are necessary to make progress at chess. Once in a while, I do play on the web, but it is mostly to test out new opening variations, and so I do it using an anonymous account. I always try to play the strongest players possible, that's the only way to improve.

zroyalrook: With the multitude of chess openings, what would you suggest to be the best strategy for beginning/weak players to practice openings in tournaments?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: I think the best thing for a beginner is to play very well known openings, like the Sicilian defense or 1.e4. Those openings have many ramifications and the more the player progresses the more he will learn if the openings are wide. If the player sticks to a very unusual opening he will learn less. Also, you will be able to follow GM games who play the same well-known variation you do, that's also an advantage, you will be able to progress studying their games.

chessbot Fritz 5. 32:What do you think about chess computers and how high the ELO for chess compuetrs can get.

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Chess Computers are getting better every day, since computer processing power increases. So their ELO should increase also with time I suppose. I prefer to play humans, though, it's much more fun!

slobodan: Does chess encourage or constrain your love life, and if yes how much?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: One should not mix one's personal life with one's professional life, and always strive for harmony between the two.

Deathless: I've been reading about your exploits on the Internet and, as a woman myself, I must say it is a breath of fresh air to see a young attractive lady making a big splash in the sometimes stodgy world of chess.

There are plenty of young boys looking to be the next Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov, hopefully your example will see more young girls being interested in chess as well.

Do you think one day we might see a world champion who is female? (as opposed to just a woman's world champion) When?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Yes I do think women have a chance to become overall world champion (men-women together), there is no reason why not, women are as intelligent as men in theory. But this will take time, as it is not so long women have started to play chess professionally. But one can already see the general tendency of women's ratings going up the more they play chess tournaments with men, that is unavoidable! My advice to women is to play in tournaments, and certainly not limit themselves to girl-only or women-only tournaments. It is much more helpful for a woman to play a mixed tournament than a women-only tournament.

Deathless: Do world class female players have a style in chess that is different and distinct from male players?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Not really, it depends on the level of play, the stronger you become, the less mistakes you make, and your style looks to be more solid.

Deathless: In one of the Internet resources you gave your email address and offered to help those who wanted to improve their chess. This is very generous of you! What kind of help do you provide?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Many parents of young children write to me and ask how to teach their children chess so that they do not lose interest in the game. I try to do my best to help them!

Captain Dave TSA: How did you first get interested/involved in chess?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: It's my Dad who taught me chess at the age of 5. I was quite happy my Dad spent so much time with me and I loved the game, as he would give me little gifts (chocolates, etc) when I answered his questions and solved his problems correctly. I was very happy to make my Dad proud of me!

Captain Dave TSA: Are you from a large family? How many brothers and sisters?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: My family is not very large, I have a younger sister called Oxana. She is studying in Moscow University to become a journalist.

Ken S: Do you think men and women think differently in playing chess, or are their thought processes basically the same?

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Hi Ken! I think basic thought processes are very similar between men and women, since it's a matter of calculations and imagination, finding the right candidate moves, seeing variations, evaluating risks. It depends more on the character of the person than on his sex. A male GM and a female GM might have a very similar chess style whereas two male GM's might have totally different ways to approach the same chess position.

Dennis Steele: Thanks for your time Alexandra.

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Best wishes to everyone in the community.

Please visit Alexandra Kosteniuk's website for more information.


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