Participants

Pavel Eljanov

Lives:

-Kharkiv, Ukraine.

How I learned to play chess:

-When I was 5 years old, thanks to my mother (her level is about 1800).

If I hadn’t been a chess player I would be…

-A doctor.

My personal hero in the history of chess:

-Garry Kasparov.

What I think of playing in Malmö:

-Glad to play there in such a tournament with nice traditions.

My best achievement in my chess career:

-Semi-Final in World-Cup 2015, and my victory in Astrakhan GP 2010.

Have you been in Sweden before?
-I've been in Gotenburg in 2005 during European team chess championship.

What do you know about the Swedish chess scene?
-Ulf Andersson was the last one top-grandmaster from Sweden. I think it's time to have another top GM.

You crossed the 2700-barrier ten years ago, and you have been among the world´s best chess players since then. Could you please tell us what you think is the main reason why you have managed to stay at the top for so long?
-I'm always trying to improve my chess style, to find something new in our game. I'm enjoying that process sincerely.

You have won Gold in the Chess Olympics, you play elite tournaments and you are top 15 in the world. Are you living your dream right now or is something missing?
 -My dream is of course to qualify for and play in a World Chess Championship match.

You have played all the top ranked chess players. Which game do you remember most?
-There are many memorable games of course and it is hard to choose one. But let it be my game vs Topalov in Wink-aan-Zee, 2008. It was my first win against a 2800+ player.

You have acted as a second for both Boris Gelfand and Magnus Carlsen during two different World championship matches. How did your work with Gelfand and Carlsen differ?
-They are both great players of course but with a very different approach to chess. Boris has a more analytical approach and Magnus a more practical.

And you weren´t hired as a secret second during the match Karjakin–Carlsen… ?
 -No.

You became a father 2011. Do you teach your daughter chess?
-I think that it’s not correct to force children to do something against their will. My daughter knows how to play and sometimes we play some games (she is not bad actually). But now she likes different things more and I don’t want to put pressure on her.

What is your goal in the Tepe Sigeman tournament?
-As in the well known proverb: "Bad is the soldier who does not dream of becoming a general". I will try to win the tournament of course.

Pavel EljanovDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2755
Ukraine

Baadur Jobava

Lives:
-Tbilisi, Georgia.

How I learned to play chess:
-My father taught me chess.

If I hadn’t been a chess player I would be…
-An icehockey player. It’s still not too late!

My personal hero in the history of chess:
-I don’t have any heroes.

What I think of playing in Malmö:
-It’s a good city, I like it.

My best achievement in my chess career:
-That was indeed my individual gold medal in the Chess Olympics in Baku 2016.

How is the chess scene in your home country, Georgia? 
-Chess is very popular in Georgia (maybe not as in previous years, but still) and it has support from the government.

You are famous for hard fighting chess games and interesting openings. How did you get this playing style? 
-I like chess as a GAME first of all. That’s the answer to my style.

Your peak rating so far is 2734, back in 2012. Your rating dropped significally, but now it´s raising again. How do you explain your rating fluctuations?
-Well shortly, because of private problems.

How will you prepare for the TePe Sigeman Chess Tournament?
-Only practical stuff, like playing a lot.

And what is your goal in the tournament?
-1st place and good games!

Baadur JobavaDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2713
Georgia

Nigel Short

Lives:

-Athens, Greece.

How I learned to play chess:

-My father taught me during a rainy weekend in England. You know, we have an expression in England: ”It always rains in Manchester”. We were nearby Manchester that weekend, so it´s almost true!

If I hadn´t been a chess player I would be…

-A lawyer, like my brother.

My personal hero in the history of chess:

-Almost too many to name. Of course I was influenced by Bobby Fischer in my childhood. I started to play chess during the ”Fischer boom.” But then he stopped playing. I never liked Bobby Fischer´s behaviour afterwards.
I also like Karpov, and I remember his book of his collected games. I am also a big fan of Paul Morphy and Alekhine.
Nimzowitsch is also a hero of mine, not because of his book ”My system” – it´s quite boring actually. But Raymond Keene introduced Nimzowitsch in an excellent book. Capablanca is another hero despite that he surprisingly lost his world champion title against Aljekhine. As they say: ”If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.

What I think of playing in Malmö:

-It´s good to be back. I have always liked the Sigeman Tournament. A friendly event with nice atmosphere.

My best achievement in my chess career:

-My highlight was beating Karpov in the candidate’s semifinals with 6 to 4 in 1992.
And I claim that I have a world record – to be the only player to have won chess tournaments on six continents. Only Antarctica is left...

Tell me about your experiences in the Sigeman Tournament?

-It’s a small tournament with only six players and five rounds. It’s a sprint. You have to be on your toes right from the start. I tend to be sluggish in the start. The good thing is that I will play two tournaments before Malmö. I should be in good shape.

During a lecture about your world championships match vs Garry Kasparov you told that it took nearly 20 years until you played through the games again. Is that really true?
-Yes, that´s true.

Why did it take so long?
-I have negative associations with the match. It was a difficult one and an important moment in my chess career.

How do you view your match against Kasparov today?
-I failed to take a number of opportunities in the match. So be it. I did not disgrace myself, and I am proud that I reached the final. The amount of pressure and tension was much higher than something else. You have to experience it to know the feeling. I still regret my preparation for the match, I thought that my real problem was that Garry Kasparov´s openings were far better than my mine. I tried to neutralize that advantage, and did a good job. I should have paid more attention to the practical way to play the match, like pacing my moves and handling the pressure. I was too nervous and I got in time trouble.

Did you relive your experiences when you followed the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergej Karjakin?
-Yes, that match brought a lot back to me. I watched the encounter with big interest. Magnus was not on his best. It was interesting to see how things went in a strange way. Karjakin did nothing in the openings, Magnus neutralized them and dictated the things. But Magnus got frustrated and lost a reckless game. He pushed too far in positions where I would have been happy with a draw. Magnus won in the end, but my prediction before the match was that Karjakin had a 33 percent of a chance to win.

Nowadays you still are a celebrity – also on twitter!

-Yes, twitter is indeed quite interesting! I joined twitter not that long ago, say about four years ago.  Twitter gives you a huge opportunity to speak out about chess. I have 22 800 followers, and I am in the news much more thanks to Twitter. Everything can happen on the Internet. During my stay in South Africa I decided to visit Victoria Falls. Oddly enough I was the only passenger on the plane and I asked the staff to take a picture of me in the empty plane. That picture went all around the world.

You supported Kasparov in the FIDE president election in 2014. Kasparov lost badly. What have happened since then?
-Well, I have quit all this and I am now happier as a human being. The less I invest my emotions regarding FIDE the better I feel!

How many tweets do you write per week?
I tweet very often! But not as work. I write tweets when I feel like it. Twitter is a good way to put chess news in the limelight. I am not impressed with chess journalists. They can do better! My latest tweet as we speak was about the 30 000 dollars the host of women´s world championship in Iran spent on the (mostly absent) Appeals Committee, which did nothing.

Do you regret any tweet you have written?

-No, not really.  I do delete a few of my tweets, but that´s because of spelling mistakes.

You have worked hard to change the world of chess. What does your Chess Utopia look like?
-We are so far from Utopia, more than you ever can imagine. But one thing is crucial. You have to find large corporate sponsorships for events. I am in all in favour of Grand Chess Tour, but I don’t like their new rating system. A complete mistake.   

How much do you train and play chess nowadays?
-I don’t train at all. I work on chess during tournaments, I have become lazy. When you only work during tournaments, then you need to play more!

What is your main goal as a chess player – and a human being?
-Chesswise: I want to win a tournament in Antarctica! I still like to win chess events. I get a thrill from that. I also enjoy beating today´s chess stars. When I beat Caruana I reminded people that I am not dead! And as a human being... Well, enjoying myself. The big point of being a chess player, is that you realize that life is pretty pointless. It doesn’t have a purpose.

But, still you have a family. What do your kids do for living?
-
My daughter works at a company who makes documentaries. My son is on his last year in school. He plays a little chess. He is not a strong player but has been enthusiastic lately – after my win against Fabiano Caruana. He got inspired by that.

What is your goal in this year´s edition of the Tepe Sigeman Tournament?
-I would like to win. In general, that´s the case in all tournaments. You will be remembered for your victories.

Nigel ShortDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2688
England

Nils Grandelius

Lives (city):
-Malmö, Sweden.

How I learned to play chess:
-My grandfather taught me at the age of six.

If I hadn´t been a chess player I would be…
-No idea… I guess some kind of academic in a social science field.

My personal hero in the history of chess:
-There are a great many, but I really adore Polugaevsky’s approach to chess.

What I think of playing in Malmo:
-It’s a super location, and of couse an additional joy to play in my own home town.

My best achievement in my chess career:
-Winning European u18 Championship in Albena 2011, and winning Abu Dhabi Open in 2015.

You have participated in Sigeman Chess Tournament before. Your best memory?

-2012 was the best year – world class players like Caruana, Leko, Giri and Li Chao, all in the same tournament. We went to see a handball game together and hung out some. I am still friends with all the players.

What is the difference between you now and last time you participated in Sigeman Chess Tournament? Both as a person and as a chess player.
-As a chess player, I hope I am more mature and all round than last time. I have more experience of top level competition, this has hopefully made me a little tougher and harder to beat. As a person, I have had many exciting experiences, hopefully without losing my youthful enthusiasm!

The last 2-3 years, you have been Sweden’s no. 1. Your rating is now +2600, what does it take to break through the 2700 barrier and be top 50?
-Stability. Even though I am more all round now than before, there are still a number of things that do not always work. On a good day, I can easily match +2700 players, but I have too many bad days that lower my performance.

What do you prefer? Open tournaments or closed Berger tournaments like Sigeman Chess Tournament? And why?
-I like some variation. It is hard to compare the two, and both have their advantages. Open tournaments are often very exciting towards the end, since there often is a lot at stake. In a closed tournament, players are more evenly matched, and it is a lot about being able to play well many games in a row. This makes me think that closed tournaments is a more accurate reflection of the true level of your chess abilities.

Last spring, you qualified for the Norway Chess event and had to face world champion Magnus Carlsen. Could you tell us about that experience? Both the tournament and the game against Carlsen?
-It was great! Everyone was friendly and willing to share their knowledge, and the games themselves were almost always very interesting. Against Carlsen, I played rather boldly and got punished hard, but it was still interesting. All in all, I learned a lot throughout the tournament.

You were part of team Carlsen during the New York world championship games. What did a normal day look like during these weeks?
-Get up around 8-9 o’clock, analyze openings until the evening, the a couple of hours of free time, and then follow the games. Bed time somewhere after time trouble, and then same again, next day.

What would you like to achieve to be happy with your chess career?
-I do not think that there is clear definition of ’success’. I have achieved quite a lot, but there will always be more things. My general goal in chess is to constantly improve. This is at the same time both modest and very ambitious.

What is your goal in this year’s Tepe Sigeman Chess Tournament?
-Of course I want to win!

Nils GrandeliusDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2665
Sweden

Erik Blomqvist

Lives:
-Stockholm, Sweden.

How I learned to play chess:
-The local chess club came to my school and showed the kids chess.

If I hadn´t been a chess player I would be:
-I have no idea but surely all hours spent on chess could have been used differently.

My personal hero in the history of chess:
-Ivanchuk is one of my favourites.

What I think of playing in Malmo:
-I think it is fine. I have played in Malmo before and the previous Sigeman tournament was a very nice event.

My best achievement in my chess career:
-Probably winning the Swedish championship 2016.

You played the Sigeman Tournament in 2014. Your best memories from that?
-It was a great opportunity and a nice event. However, I did not play on the level required for that kind of tournament.

You had many good results in 2016. Third in the Rilton Cup in January, then winning the Swedish and Nordic Championships. What was the key factor in this?
-Perhaps it was time to up my game, after being stuck on the same rating level for a couple of years. There was no dramatic key event, it was more like some pieces fell into place in my game.

You are approaching the 2600 barrier. What do you think it will take to get to +2600?
-Of course improved chess skills, but also more mental stability, to minimize the number of bad results.

You and Nils Grandelius will represent Sweden in the Tepe Sigeman tournament. How good friends are you and Nils? And who usually wins?
-We are quite good friends, though we do not see each other that often. The statistics favour Nils, but we have also played a number of draws, among these the last three years in the Swedish Championship.

Many of us have followed your way to the top. Do you have a coach?
-No, I do not.

Do you have any training tips?
-Chess videos are convenient, when it comes to improving your chess.

What is your goal in this year’s Sigeman tournament?
-First of all to play good chess. We will have to see how far that takes me.

If your performance during 2017 was to be summed up in one headline in December, what would it say?
-As long as it is positive, it would be ok!

Erik BlomqvistDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2546
Sweden

Harika Dronavalli

Lives (city):
-Hyderabad, India.

How I learned to play chess:
-My father introduced me to chess. 

If I hadn’t been a chess player I would be…
-I can't imagine doing anything else than playing chess :)

My personal hero in the history of chess:
-Judit Polgar.

What I think of playing in Malmö:
-I am excited and looking forward to play in Malmö!

My best achievement in my chess career:
-World Women Championships – my bronze medals in 2012,2015 and 2017.
 
You took bronze in the world women championships just recently. And you were really close to reaching the final. How do you rank your performance in Tehran in your chess career?
-Of course winning bronze is a good result but at the same time, i am disappointed because I wanted to win gold medal. I would rank it as one of the good results in my career but not the best.

To become a women´s world champion – is that the main goal of your chess career? Or do you have other goals?
-I also want to become world number 1 among women.

You had many successful chess tournaments last year. Besides the bronze medal in the world championships, you won FIDE Women´s Grand Prix at Chengdu, China and climbed to 5th spot on women´s world ranking. How do you explain your having such a strong chess year?
-Last year good performance was the result of continuous work on improvement of my chess playing strength.

Have you played in Sweden before? And are you a good friend of Sweden’s chess star Pia Cramling?
-I haven´t been in Sweden before and of course, Pia Cramling is my good friend :) and I really feel inspired by her that she plays so well at her age. In the future, I would really like to fight and continue playing chess like her.

How do you prepare for a strong closed tournament such as the TePe Sigeman Chess Tournament?
-I just try to do my routine chess work and be in good shape for the tournament.
 
And what is your goal?
-To play good quality games and give tough fight to all my opponents.

Harika DronavalliDavid Llada, photo@davidllada.com
2531
India