Interview with US-Ladies Champion IM Anna Zatonskih who will compete at the “6th International Ladies Chess Gala” at Berlin on November 25th, 2011

By: René Gralla, Hamburg, Germany

She is Ms Cool at the board: Reigning US-Ladies Champion WGM Anna Zatonskih, 33, has survived several showdowns Armageddon-style, and with ELO 2502 the mother of a 4-years-old daughter will be the top favourite during the up-coming “6th International Ladies Chess Gala” on November 25th, 2011, at Berlin. That competition is a rapid chess tournament that is organised by the German daily “Neues Deutschland”. Anna Zatonskih even stays on top of things when things start to get dizzy – as the Ukrainian-born four times Ladies Champion of the USA has demonstrated during a spectacular game of chess that she has fought out underwater in Curacao three years ago.

Therefore her opponents at Berlin should better wrap themselves well: reigning German Ladies Champion 2011, 23-years-old WIM Sarah Hoolt (ELO 2286); 25-years-old German WGM Elisabeth Pähtz (ELO 2461); 19-years-old Ukrainian WGM Mariya Muzychuk (ELO 2469). Anna Zatonskih talks with Hamburg-based author René Gralla about the thrill of Armageddon finals and games of chess underwater. Herewith the German version of the interview that has been published by the Berlin-based tabloid “Neues Deutschland”:

More information about the 6th International Ladies Chess Gala 2011 at Berlin:

Excerpts of the interview.

RENÉ GRALLA: This year’s 6th International Ladies Chess Gala at Berlin should be a kind of déjà vu for you. In 2008 you have taken part in the International Ladies Chess Gala for the first time, that has been the 3rd edition of that rapid chess tournament, and back then you had to face the older one of the sisters Muzychuk, namely WGM Anna Muzychuk. Three years later you actually compete again in the German capital, and now you have to face the younger one of the sisters Muzychuk, namely WGM Mariya Muzychuk. Isn’t that a little bit strange?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: No, it is not strange. I have already played versus both sisters during one foregoing tournament this year.

R.GRALLA: In 2008 you had qualified for the finale of the 3rd International Ladies Chess Gala, and then you had to battle it out against WGM Anna Muzychuk. But in the end you lost, and WGM Anna Muzychuk became no. 1 and you became no. 2. Therefore on November 25th, 2011, at Berlin, there you will go to take revenge, because WGM Mariya Muzychuk has to face the revenge as being the substitute for her older sister Anna?!

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I guess so. Though I would not mind playing German WGM Elisabeth Pähtz in the finale as well!

R.GRALLA: At least you are the top favourite: you have the best ELO-rating in comparison to the other contestants. So you will go for the win on November 25th at Berlin 2011?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I will try to show my best chess. I don’t have such huge rating advantage.

R.GRALLA: Are you going to make your opponents smack their kings across the room in anger – just the same way as Irina Krush has reacted after she lost the finale of the US-Ladies Championship in 2008 against you because of being just a single second under time, during that famous Armageddon-style that has become a hit on!

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I hope nobody will smack any pieces at Berlin. I hope we will demonstrate fighting spirit only during our chess matches.

R.GRALLA: Anyway, your opponents will better get prepared for one more Armageddon-style finish at Berlin. Since you seem to be the Armageddon-style specialist: We just think of this year`s US-Ladies Championship when you have won the Armageddon-style finale against Tatev Abrahamyan!

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I don’t enjoy Armageddon games. It is very difficult emotionally because any small mistake may cost you everything. And I don’t have any chance to fix it. It requires nerves of steel and enormous concentration.

R.GRALLA: Put your hand on your heart: Maybe you do love the thrill of the Armageddon-style-situation? That rush of adrenaline?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: No, I repeat, I don’t like it at all. It is very hard though sometimes I have the ability to concentrate better than others in decisive moments.

R.GRALLA: Irina Krush or Tatev Abrahamyan can tell you a thing or two about it. Conclusion: The modus of the International Ladies Chess Gala at Berlin – being a rapid chess tournament – is perfect for you?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I will tell you about it after the tournament.

R.GRALLA: Having survived the dreaded Armageddon several times you seem to be the perfect candidate for bouldering, bungee jumping or rafting!

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I would never do climbing without rope nor would I ever do bungee jumping. I also don’t have any desire to parachute. But I would consider rafting. I was born at the seacoast and I love water. I have already tried out a sort of rafting for beginners. I have done that on my birthday, over there in Kapuskasing, in the northern part of Ontario, Canada. Moreover I like snorkelling and scuba diving. I want to get certified for scuba diving some day.

R.GRALLA: What is the most spectacular encounter that you have had during scuba diving so far? Maybe a shark?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: A game of chess.

R.GRALLA: A game of chess?!

ANNA ZATONSKIH: That very game – with a real arbiter and a real chess clock – has taken place on the occasion of the 2008 Curacao Chess Festival in order to promote the tournament. The organizer Fabio Mensing and International Arbiter Alex Roose devised the event. The venue was the Curacao Aquarium, and I played against IM Robin Swinkels from The Netherlands. That has been the first known underwater match in the history of chess, I guess.

R.GRALLA: Sounds amazing. How deep was the water?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: Three meters. And the water was very warm, probably 25 degrees Celsius or more.

R.GRALLA: Have we got it right? There has even been an arbiter around during that crazy game?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: Yes, that was arbiter Alex Roose. I loved his outfit. He was wearing a real jacket, a tie and swim pans underwater!

R.GRALLA: And you have checked out the positions during the game whilst floating above the board? Has it been difficult to check out everything on the board – whilst being forced to check out the positions on the board through your diving goggles?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: I have often done blindfold simuls on ten boards. During that game underwater it was not very important to see every square. And the result – I drew against Robin Swinkels – was not that important anyway. I wish I would play more often in such a special “atmosphere”.

R.GRALLA: Apart from driving your opponents insane during Armageddon games or terrifying some fish during chess matches underwater you are the happy mother of your four years old daughter Sofia. How do you manage to combine those two things: pursuing a chess career and being a perfect mother?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: It is a difficult task. I don’t play as much as my younger rivals. I have declined many invitations to compete in tournaments because I have wanted to spend more time with my family.

R.GRALLA: Mariya Muzychuk – one of your opponents during the 6th International Ladies Chess Gala 2011 at Berlin – has started to learn chess at the sensational young age of two years! Have you already taught chess to your daughter Sofia too?

ANNA ZATONSKIH: Sofia knew all pieces on the board at the age of two years old … and that has been the end of that. She is more interested in other things.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: ,