Interview with E Kotlyanskiy


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Thibault de Vassal    (2010-03-16)
Interview with E. Kotlyanskiy

Congrats again to Edward Kotlyanskiy, new FICGS chess champion after beating Xavier Pichelin (2577) in the 12 games final match of the 3rd cycle.

Edward kindly accepted to answer a few questions on his match and correspondence chess in general :


> Hi Edward, first of all congratulations for winning this 12 games match against the former FICGS chess champion, Xavier Pichelin. You had to score at least one point more than your opponent, what was your strategy when the games started?

Knowing that I had to score at least +1 against Xavier, I had to try to get the games into complex positions where there are many options to play for both sides. At the point when the games started, I was the underdog to Xavier (mainly due to the face that I was rated about 200 points lower). In part, I think that one of the reasons why Xavier allowed the games to reach such complex positions is due to the fact that his rating was undoubtedly higher than mine and therefore he probably assumed that he could “outplay” me. Although this was simultaneously a brave and admirable choice, I think an option that many other players would have pursued would have been to play “drawish” lines with the hope of having all of the games ending in draws. I have great respect for Xavier due to the fact that he didn't choose such a path and allowed us to put on a hard fought show that was worth watching.

> What could you say on the hot moments of the match?

The first game in which I thought I had very good chances to win was game 34739. In this game (particularly on move 18) Xavier played the move Nb8?? Looking back at the move, I realized that the game was lost for him. I assumed that Xavier probably underestimated the threat of f5. There were no good responses and/or countermeasures for the move f5. For example, if 19) gxf5, I have 20) Nxh5 Nc6 21) Rc3! Bxh4 (Qd8 was also possible) 22) Qf4 Be7 23) g4! His king is just clearly caught in the attack! 19) exf5 also fails to 20) e6 f6 (trying to keep the king safe) 21) Bxh5!! gxh5 22) Nc6 Rc3 and therefore it’s easy to see that it is just a matter of time. Xavier did try something better although even that failed due to some nice moves. I believe that 21) g7 came as a surprise to Xavier (or that at least he hadn't seen this move when playing Nb8). After Nxh5 (another neat move), another line that I thought Xavier would enter (which is also losing) is 22) Qxc2 23) Qxc2 Rxc2 24) Nf6+! Bxf6 25) exf6. Clearly my pawns are just too strong! Knowing that I am winning after the mentioned alternatives, the other games (although I won three others) were just necessary to hold without falling for any tactics/tricks.

A second game I want to briefly comment on is game 34729. I played a very nice (although I am not sure if it is winning just yet) move known as 17.a4! It was a very nice way to open the position on both of our kings. In all honesty, the move that I think was winning in this situation 25) Rd3, I did not even consider too highly until the position reached that very move. After a relatively short analysis, I was indeed pleasantly surprised to see that; overall, it was completely winning for me.

> What could you say on the advantages and inconveniences of this 12 games match format played at a quite fast time control?

From the days when I first starting playing correspondence chess, I have always been accustomed to making moves rather quickly. In fact, when I first started playing, in some games I made moves within 10 minutes of looking at the position. Although I take a lot more time to analyze now-a-days, I still consider the speed of my play to be relatively faster compared to most other correspondence players. Playing 12 games simultaneously can have drawbacks as not having enough time to properly analyze; however, I didn't have such a problem. With the exception of a few games that I was playing on IECG at the start of the FICGS Championship, the 12 game series was my main concern.

> Without revealing your secrets, how would you define modern correspondence chess as a centaur (playing with chess engines)?

These days, it is impossible to play correspondence chess on a high level without consulting the engine. It is also unlikely that one can achieve a lot of success just by following the engine blindly (even after a long analysis). Personally, I know that some of my friends believe that in correspondence chess you are just following the engine but I believe that most “high level” correspondence players know that it just doesn't work that way.

In my opinion, one of the most important skills that a correspondence player should have is having some sense of where the engine he is analyzing with is faulty. To give a well known example, many people know that there are certain endgame positions that an engine alone can't be trusted in (a simple case is the wrong color bishop). In essence, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of whatever engine you are analyzing with is critical to playing correspondence chess at a “high level”.

> Why did you choose to play correspondence chess, do you play OTB (over the board) chess as well?

Before starting correspondence chess, I played OTB chess for quite a few years. When my schedule became busy, I realized that I wouldn't have much time to play OTB in clubs. I came across correspondence chess and got hooked on it very quickly. Also, I began to enjoy more of the subtleties of the game; something that is just lacking in OTB blitz games. I imagine that some people prefer to play practical chess (OTB) in which a move order wouldn't make much of a difference; however, I guess I am a perfectionist and believe the game should be played on as high of a level as possible.

> How many correspondence games do you usually play at the same time (on different chess servers or by email)? Would you say that it is an addiction?

Usually, I played about 5 to 10 games on average on all different sites. I did play via email on IECC but wasn't fond of playing by email therefore I went back to server only sites (IECG, FICGS, Schemingmind).

I can definitely say that correspondence chess is an addiction. All too often, I catch myself analyzing games when I really should be doing something much more time sensitive. Well, at least I can say that this addiction paid off in that I am the new FICGS champion!

> Are you interested in other games?

As far as board games go, chess is primarily the only game I play. At times I do play games like monopoly and scrabble with my friends. Another interest that I have is billiards.

> The next challenger for the FICGS chess champion title is SM Eros Riccio (winner of several PlayChess PAL freestyle tournaments). Do you think that you'll play him? What does this perspective inspire in you?

I can't wait to play Eros! I believe that he would be my toughest opponent yet (although I have played GM Leitão, Rafael (fide elo: 2619) and managed to draw). Eros is like an unstoppable juggernaut in corr chess. That said, I look forward to our games and I am certain that they will simultaneously be challenging and entertaining.

> Thanks and best of luck in your future games!

Thibault de Vassal    (2010-04-27 12:27:54)
Interview with E. Kotlyanskiy

The next final match "Edward Kotlyanskiy vs. Eros Riccio" in the FICGS chess championship should start in about 2 months from now! As always, I'm impatient & excited in advance :)

The next cycle should start on july 1st as well, the waiting lists will be open on may 1st, a few days more to wait!