Chess Interview: IM Konstantin Kavutskiy – United States of America

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Reykjavik Open 2016

IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess player, coach, and writer currently residing in Mountain View, CA. He was the 2014 Southern California Champion and in addition to playing frequently he also teaches lessons in private, online, and after school. Kostya played for the San Jose Hackers and recently started streaming through Twitch (loving it so far). He really doesn’t do much other than chess! His first book, Modernized: The Open Sicilian was published in February 2015.

General Questions

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Left: Alex Kavutskiy Right: Kostya Kavutskiy

When and how did you start playing chess?

I first started playing at the age of four, my grandpa taught me the rules once after school and shortly thereafter my brother and I started attending weekly group classes. When I was five I started playing regularly in scholastic tournaments.

What studying techniques have you used to get to your current level?

When I was working towards master I focused a lot on improving my visualization. I would play lots of blindfold chess with my friends and also try to solve simple puzzles without looking at a board. I really treated my ability to calculate like a muscle—the more I worked on it, the stronger it became, and my play really improved dramatically.

I also learned to ask a lot of questions while studying. Like if I was going over a game, I would look for alternatives to the text and ask “why wasn’t this move made” or “what’s wrong with this move” and then try to figure it out. If I couldn’t, I’d input the position into the computer and see what Rybka thought. Whether or not my move was good, I learned more from really analyzing rather than plainly going through the game.

What is your most fond memory you have of chess? You may state multiple.

It’s quite recent but making my 3rd IM norm was truly special. I had been working on it for so long and had enough misses where I felt like I was cursed. Then to achieve it thanks to incredible luck was really something. A friend of mine also made an IM norm at the same tournament, and it happened to be my 24th birthday, so as you can imagine we celebrated quite heavily. Also my recent performance at the 2017 Reykjavik Open was quite special, which you can read about here: https://new.uschess.org/news/kostyas-magical-reykjavik-open-recap/

But honestly nothing to late-night blitz/bughouse sessions, where a bunch of chess players stay up all night playing nonstop. Those are truly a blast.

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Young Kostya

Has chess helped you become the person you are today?

Absolutely. Through chess I’ve been able to experience incredible emotional highs and lows, feelings of deep creative satisfaction as well as existential despair. The game really calls out some rich emotions in all of us! I can’t imagine a serious chess player not being shaped by the game in some way.

Who is your chess idol and why?

From a purely chess sense I am amazed by several players – Keres, Fischer, and Kasparov come to mind as they were really dynamic and brilliant attackers. I’m also hugely impressed by the ingeniously creative play of Ivanchuk, Shirov, and Morozevich, and of course in the modern era: Carlsen, Caruana and Nakamura have done some incredible things over the board.

When thinking about an idol in terms of both chess and personality, to me Peter Svidler is not only a superb player but is also a fantastic commentator, and makes super-GM level chess seem accessible to the average Joe. I’m also very impressed by his fantastic humility—despite his amazing skill he never lets it get to his head and seems to be one of the nicest guys around.

Is there any advice you can give to a person who is interested to begin?

Don’t be afraid of anybody and don’t try to play like anyone else. Come with your own ideas to the board and stick to them. If you lose, modify your strategy but never stop believing in yourself. Next, don’t peg your happiness to your results. Chess progress is erratic—you can work for 6 months straight without seeing any improvement and then all of a sudden everything clicks and you start playing on an entirely different level. But your enjoyment of chess should remain steady regardless of your tournament results.

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Young Kostya…yet again!

Would you recommend this game to your family and friends?

I’d recommend they learn just enough so they can appreciate how difficult and infinitely complex the game is, but not more than that. Chess is hard, and stressful, and frustrating! Once you know enough about the game to realize when you’re making mistakes, it becomes very painful to one’s psyche. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

Unique Questions

Do you travel to play chess? State your most favorite tournament you’ve been to!

Yes, I started traveling a few years ago for chess but only around the United States. In 2016, I traveled to Gibraltar, France, Reykjavik, Brussels, Calgary, Dublin, and the Isle of Man. They were all quite an adventure! I really enjoyed my time at both Gibraltar & Reykjavik, but honestly each tournament was really a fantastic experience. The Isle of Man International was also great as I got to face Alexei Shirov in Round 1. It was truly an honor. I mentioned him above! In Cappele-la-Grande I got to sit next to Artur Yusupov. Also awesome.

Yusupov - 2016 Cappele-la-Grande Open
Left: Artur Yusupov Right: Kostantin Kavutskiy

You play for the Lindenwood University Chess Team, can you tell us about that experience?

In 2012 I was living in Los Angeles and not really up to much. I got an offer to join Lindenwood University to play for their chess team starting in 2013. I’m very glad I accepted–I got to live in a new city, be close to the Saint Louis Chess Club, and enjoy a new experience. The team itself was also great, we would train weekly with some great GM coaches, including Yasser Seirawan, Ronen Har-Zvi, Varuzhan Akobian, etc. and overall being on the team was a lot of fun. I only got to go to one Pan-Am, where we didn’t do amazingly but did have a wonderful time.

Can you say being a chess player has helped you do well in University?

I feel like chess develops a specific ability to be able to think quickly, critically, and intuitively all at the same time. This without a doubt has helped me with my studies, especially Accounting, because it’s like all calculation basically and puzzle solving. I aced Accounting.

From what I know, you are also a Chess Instructor. What type of teaching method do you use?

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Isle of Man 2016 – Photo by: Mike Klein

I could be wrong, but I believe the #1 goal of a chess coach nowadays is to motivate their students and show them the way forward. All the resources are out there now…everyone can get Chessbase, Stockfish, all the recent books, all the videos and just learn everything themselves. But it takes a coach to sculpt a plan for each individual, what they have to work on and for how long, etc. A coach should also set reasonable goals and expectations, and explain exactly what it takes to reach the next level, Expert, Master, Grandmaster.

When I do teach, I always talk about the practical aspect of whatever we’re learning. This is why you need to learn this idea, or this motif, look how common it shows up. I’m always trying to ‘teach them to fish’, haha, if I show a nice game, I want to show how they too could have played that game, how they could have found the winning move. It’s also up to the coach to not only make chess fun and interesting, but important too. That’s how to get (in my opinion) hard-working students who get the most out of chess.

Thank you for the interview! 🙂

 

 

Chess Interview: Harish Kumar from India

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Harish Kumar is an International chess coach and a chess enthusiast who is looking to promote the game of chess by teaching the growing players. Harish has been teaching since the age of 20 and trained many students across the globe. In a short playing career, Harish Kumar has been in top 20s Nationally, top 10 in the State and won many Regional events. He’s always been enthusiastic to do something for the game. Harish achieved the Title of Arena Grandmaster in Chess.

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General Questions

When and how did you start playing chess?

I was first introduced to the game of chess at the age of 9 by my uncle when I saw him playing chess with his friends.

What studying techniques have you used to get to your current level?

I used to play solitary chess which helped me a lot to understand the patterns and practice a lot of tactics. Moreover I like to go through master games, especially of my idol Viswanathan Anand. I like to play blitz chess over the internet as analyzing those games helped me a lot to improve my openings.

What is your most fond memory you have of chess? You may state multiple.

To be honest I can’t really differentiate which is the best moment, I have three unforgettable moments in my life, first when i defeated a 2100 elo player after sacrificing my 2 pieces. As a coach I became happy when my student won $2300 in an age group championship. Moreover maybe this is the best, as I met Vishy Anand and also invited him to visit my city.

Has chess helped you become the person you are today?

Definitely chess helped me a lot it helped me to plan my life. Of course it made me creative and imaginative person.

Who is your chess idol and why?

My Chess Idol is Viswanathan Anand, five times World Chess Champion. He is India’s first Grand Master and is a big inspiration for every Indian chess player. After spending some time with him, I found him to be a man of friendship which I like the most about him.

Is there advice you can give to a person who is interested to begin?

My advice to beginners who want to start playing is to enjoy the game, make milestones in their career and work hard to achieve it. I will suggest them to learn chess as a hobby and if you have a good feeling for it do not hesitate to become a professional. You can be a good coach, player or an organizer. There are lots of opportunities in chess. This game is endless!

Would you recommend this game to your family and friends?

Definitely, I will recommend chess to my family and friends because it is a great game. It will really help them to improve their life. It improves memory concentration, imagination and is helpful for everyone as I think that there is no age limit in chess.

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Harish Kumar  with 1st Australian GM Ian Rogers at the Fide World Chess Championship

Unique Questions

Do you teach most levels?

I teach chess to beginners, intermediate and advanced players ( up to 2200 USCF level).My experience and involvement in the game is helping me a lot to do this.

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Chess Student: Danielle from Texas

Do you use a different teaching method for beginners, intermediate and advanced players?

Definitely I need to use different teaching methods.

I need to slow down while teaching beginners because they take more time to understand. After teaching basics, we should ask them to play with each other. Practice is the key factor in chess. Intermediate section is different We need to go for different tactical themes. More basic openings we need to cover Level of problem is different. Advanced level is unique We need to teach them more complicated positions, advanced opening strategy, endings etc.

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Chess Student: Jack Baile from Hong Kong

Would you recommend your friends who have young children to start playing chess? Will it improve their school habits?

Yes, I recommend everyone who have young children to introduce this game to them because it improves their school performance. Moreover it improves memory concentration, will power and creativity. This game is a combination of math, science and sports.

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Chess Student: Joshua Lewis from California

What advice can you give other chess instructors out there?

My advice to all the chess coaches is simple that is to teach chess with utmost dedication. A coach should be honest and always be friendly with students. They should try to have a student for a long term and try to do self analysis instead of using computers.

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Chess Students: Shreyas Reddy/Nitin 1st place in Sai Baba Mandir Temple Chess Tournament

Do you prefer private/semi private lessons, group lessons or online lessons?

I prefer all kinds of lessons. According to my experience, private lessons are best. Online lessons are best when you work with advanced students if they don’t have the option for private lessons. I always prefer one to one coaching as its good for both the student and the coach’s growth.

Chess Student: Dhruva Patil, 2nd Place at K-12 National Chess championship – Kindergarten 2016

Thank you for the interview 😀

Chess Interview: GM Denes Boros from Hungary

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Denes Boros is an active Chess Grandmaster with a degree in Psychology. An experienced Chess Coach and Chess Journalist. Boros was the Chess Journalist at the Carlsen-Karjakin World Championship Match in New York City.  You can contact him via email: Dennisboros64@gmail.com , Twitter: @Gmasterg4, and on Facebook: GM Denes Boros.

General Questions

When and how did you start playing chess?

I was around 6 or 7 years old, when I saw my oldest brother playing chess. Curiosity got the best of me and I learned more about the game by watching my brother and his coach play and study chess together.

What studying techniques did you use to get to your current level?

I read books, lots of books! I especially enjoyed a book by Istvan Bilek, who wrote about the 1978 victory of the Hungarian Olympic Team at Buenos Aires. I found my first chess hero’s in that book, the ever-creative Sax Gyula!

The second book I read, was about Garry Kasparov and his road to becoming a World Champion. It was a peculiar read, as it was from his second’s perspective, who gave many insights of the chess world of the 80’s, while also talking about the inner thoughts and struggles of a true champion!

All in all, I reached the Grandmaster title, because of hard work and diligence, and the drive to know. Chess is not easy to master, but if you love the game, and you study hard, you will eventually reach your goal!

Has chess helped you become the person you are today?

Yes. I learned how to be disciplined, and thorough as a chess player. It greatly helped me in my academics, because I learned to organize my thoughts and my study material as well! Chess also helped me to appreciate art, because there are many moments, when you realize that you actually create a beautiful motif, or combination, which you can share with fellow competitors and it’s fun to share these moments with other people!

Who is your chess idol and why?

It’s a long list starting with Kasparov, but my favorite players are Tal, Keres, Bronstein and obviously, Ivanchuk!

I am fond of players, who appreciate the beauty of the royal game! It is possible of course to play chess as a sport, but let’s be honest, chess is more than that. It is like mixed martial art, it’s both engaging as an art form, and as a sport!

Is there an advice you could give to a person, who is interested to begin?

When you play chess, focus on the positives, enjoy the game! Chess is meant to be fun, and you know, passionate people will eventually become successful, whether they like it or not!

Would you recommend this game to your family and friends?

Yes, definitely! It is a wonderful pastime, and it helps you to grow as a person. I believe it’s a great tool to teach kids that as in life, sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose, but it’s not a tragedy! It also helped me with my academic,s as it taught me to focus at a young age. I think chess helps you to grow as a person.

Unique Questions

You have been to the Carlsen-Karjakin Match in New York, what was your impression?

It was a thriller, and although very few expected it, but Sergey Karjakin did manage to put Carlsen to test.

How did you get the chance to be at such a prestigious event?

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Casual conversation with GM Robert Hess, Chess.com Commentator at the WCC Venue – Photo by Andras Roder

I was asked to do commentary for a St Louis radio, and I also wrote articles for a Hungarian website. It was a really colorful and fascinating event, I got to meet journalists from all over the world, especially thrilled to meet, and talk with people from American Chess Magazine, Wall Street Journal and Dirk Jan Geuzendam from New in Chess!

I also had a great story at the World Championship. At the press conference, after Game 3, I asked Magnus about playing 17. g4, instead of g3, trying to expand on the Kingside. He first looked at me, if I had some problems with the basics, but the more he looked at it, the more he liked my idea! I really appreciated that he took my question so seriously. That was a great experience as a Grandmaster Journalist! Check out the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFlF1MIbYuw from till 1:31 or read how Mike Klein from Chess.com describes this story aptly from his perspective: https://www.chess.com/de/news/carlsen-can-t-airlift-karjakin-s-berlin-in-round-3-draw-5804

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GM Denes Boros’ suggestion for Calrsen on move 17.g4!? on the demonstration board.

I was really happy with the press conference, but to my surprise, I was even asked by New York Times to give a summary of Game 11. They liked it so much, they asked me to give the final summary for the Carlen-Karjakin Match as well!
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/sports/magnus-carlsen-and-sergey-karjakin-in-dead-heat-in-chess-championship.html and my final summary https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/nyregion/magnus-carlsen-defends-title-in-world-chess-championship.html

Who did you want to be the next world chess champion- Magnus or Sergey? What is your thought on the event in general.

I did not have a preference, I just wanted to see a hard-fought match for the world title, and I am glad it turned out to be one!

Magnus deservedly won the match, but Sergey was really close, if he would have had a more subtle psychological approach, he would have been even closer to the chess crown!

What do you think about chess psychology?

I studied psychology and I believe that it’s importance will increase in the future.
I think that understanding psychology is crucial in chess, especially on the highest elite level!

Take for example Game 8 and Game 9 of the match. In Game 8, Karjakin was patient and was rewarded for it, paradoxically in Game 9, he should have been more aggressive. Why, because he had the psychological momentum, and you could see from the two player’s body language who was in the driver’s seat! Karjakin missed his chance when he avoided complications in Game 9.

Carlsen on the other hand deserves a lot of credit for staying calm, when everything seemed to go totally astray for him.

Last, but not least, can you tell me what was your most memorable tournament you’ve had abroad – as well as stating how many countries you have been to?

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Playing chess at the St.Louis Chess Club

I have travelled all around the world, and played in three continents and 12 countries! I have been to India, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, just to name a few.
My most memorable event was in St Louis, when I became the Club Champion in 2016. I been to many Chess Clubs, but winning at Saint Louis Chess Club was something special!

Thank you so much to GM Denes Boros on such an interesting interview! If you have any questions for him, please don’t be shy contacting him. More interviews are to come – stay tuned!

Snow Lake Hiking Trail – North Bend, Washington

Over the weekend I went on this gorgeous hike called Snow Lake. To those of you who do not know, I am on a very long vacation out in the west coast. Currently staying around Seattle. It’s very beautiful here – there are many hikes to choose from.

A few weeks ago, I got to visit Victoria, British Columbia. The last time I was there – 2005 for the Canadian Youth Chess Championship where I placed 1st. I am hoping to see Vancouver very soon because it’s less than 3 hour drive from me!

If any of you have any suggestions on what I can see in the Washington/British Columbia area, comment below or send me a private message: yelizavetaorlovachess@gmail.com.

Here a few pictures from the Snow Lake Hike! The hike was about 7 miles….but we actually got lost at one point and might have done more. The one negative about the hike was once we got lost we had to go up this really rocky steep hill…

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/snow-lake-1