Winner of the Women's World Cup, grandmaster Alexandra Goryachkina, in an interview, spoke about her attitude to the change of citizenship, assessed the political position of Sergei Karyakin, complained about popularity, and also confessed her love for figure skating.
The Russian woman defeated the representative of Bulgaria Nurgul Salimova in the final of the competition in Baku. Goryachkina is the 2020 vice-world champion and won the right to play again in the Candidates' Tournament for the World Chess Crown in 2024.
“I was rooting for Trusova at the Olympics”
– Alexandra, you are wearing a red suit today. Do you prefer this color?
– By the way, I don’t wear red very often. But I believe that red is the color of victory. And I usually use these colors at the closing ceremonies of tournaments in which I have won. Because Alina Zagitova won the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in a red tutu, and Yulia Lipnitskaya in Sochi became the first in a red coat. Therefore, I always associate the color red with victory.
– Judging by your words, you are partial to figure skating.
– Yes, I watch competitions, I like it. As well as the fact that this is a fairly fast sport, the athletes' program lasts about three minutes, and you are free (with a smile).
– Who do you sympathize with in women's single skating?
– Recently, I was rooting for (silver medalist of the Beijing Olympics) Alexandra Trusova. But now our athletes are almost not allowed to participate in international competitions, so I hardly follow them. Now in figure skating, probably, there is an (age) shift, we need to choose new favorites.
– At the Games in China, Russians Kamila Valieva, Anna Shcherbakova and Trusova fought for victory. Why Alexandra?
– I have friends who only root for their favorite. Only this way and no other way. I wish victory to all our athletes, and when they fight among themselves, I don’t single out anyone. But my sympathies were on the side of Alexandra Trusova.
– On Tuesday, 16-year-old figure skater Alina Gorbacheva unexpectedly disappeared in Moscow, and everyone was knocked off their feet in the search for her. Have you been monitoring the situation?
– I watched the news, but it’s a rather strange story that she lives with a coach from an early age, where are her parents? There were a lot of questions, but it’s good that everything ends well and nothing terrible happened.
“It would be easier to play with a Ukrainian”
– In the World Cup final you were on the verge of defeat more than once. There weren’t moments when you thought: well, that’s it, only silver again (Goryachkina is a finalist of the 2021 World Cup – ed.)?
– No, I had chances in all games. But in some moments, I’m probably a little to blame, and in others I was a little lucky. But there was no such feeling that it was the second one again. After all, I also win something, so I’m not always second (with a smile).
– When you found out that in the final you will play with Salimova, and not with the Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk, Didn't your soul feel any better? After all, the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, taking into account the political situation, could lead to some incidents?
– I was encouraged not to be fooled by minor provocations and just play chess. I stand for sports outside of politics. And there were no prerequisites that something could go wrong. And in terms of chess, it would probably be a little easier for me to play with Anna. Because we played a lot of games, I know her well and understand what we need to prepare for and how she plays. And Salimova is a dark horse in chess terms. But she was in very good shape, everything was going well for her, and she had, perhaps, the tournament of her life. Perhaps in some psychological moments it was a little easier for her, but maybe not (with a smile).
– After the start of the SVO, did your relationship with Ukrainian women change a lot? Maybe they stopped saying hello or you caught sidelong glances at yourself?
– This is all very exaggerated. We also say hello, but not in the presence of television cameras, so that they do not have any problems.
– Did this situation somehow affect you, your family and friends, or, fortunately, did it pass?
– I will say again that I am for sports outside of politics. You can’t demand something from others, so I start with myself and don’t comment.
– How do you feel about the fact that quite a lot of Russians have recently changed their citizenship?
– Russian citizenship has been changed before, it’s just that now, until August 31, they have simplified the possibilities for the transition. Due to the fact that the Russian Chess Federation moved (from the European Chess Union) to the Asian Chess Federation. And those grandmasters who wanted to stay in Europe stayed there, changing their national federation. Everyone in this situation is looking for what is best for themselves, chess players have a short career, and I don’t blame this choice at all.
– Have you ever received an offer to come under the auspices of another country?
– No. What if it did? I try not to talk about what didn't happen. I would think, depending on what kind of (financial) offer it is (laughs).
“I don’t strive for popularity”
– Alexandra, you are probably the most popular resident of Salekhard?
– Probably not. In general, I view my fame in such a way that I do not consider myself a public, media, or popular person. And it’s somehow hard for me when people recognize me on the street. But now, every time I go out somewhere, everyone recognizes me. And this is very difficult for me.
– But having achieved such success, you have to get used to it?
– It’s still a trait my character, so publicity and media exposure is difficult for me.
– But increasing popularity can lead to new sponsorship contracts?
– Maybe, but so far fame has not brought anything (laughs). Sometimes I open up, but so far it hasn’t brought me anything good.
– I think you’re not even on social networks?
– Yes, I was there, but then I left. Because I thought it was a waste of time. And recently there have been many such unpleasant, as it seems to me, moments. And I thought it was a good kick (with a smile) to say goodbye to them. In addition, many of my friends did this too; we switched to communicating by phone. And everyone is happy.
“There was no support from the federation”
– You once said that last year you became the only participant a national team that did not receive financial support from the Russian Chess Federation? Why did this happen and has the situation changed this year?
– Now at least the dialogue has begun, but we are still in the process.
– So you only receive a scholarship from the Sports Training Center?
– What was meant was that in addition to the scholarship, there would be funding from the federation for coaches and for trips to tournaments. I was protected from this a little, and I learned about the possibility of such help quite by accident, from another member of the Russian national team. She said: “They give me so much,” I replied: “It’s kind of strange, I need to find out (laughs).”
– It turns out that this year you too there was no financial support either for traveling to tournaments or for working with a coach?
– At the moment – yes . But now at least some dialogue has begun, they want to help me, so the situation is improving.
– Is a reward of 50 thousand dollars for winning the World Cup a lot or a little for a chess player of your level?
– I think this is a small prize, since last year my earnings were in the red. It turned out to be such anti-earnings (laughs). As a one-time payment, this is a good prize, but if you divide it over 12 months and subtract the costs of travel and seeking help from trainers, then if there is anything left, it will be a small amount (with a smile).
– How much does an elite chess player need to earn to be in the black – about 150 thousand dollars?
– To do this, you need to play a match for the title of world champion, because all other tournaments do not give so much money. Or, at least, if you don’t qualify for a title fight, you need to win all competitions in a row. Last year I was second in the world for the whole year, first in Russia throughout the whole year, and in the end this is how it turned out (with a smile). It happens.
– Before the Candidates Tournament in Kazan, you started working with grandmaster Konstantin Landa. Then he helped you in the final match. What components did you add, what were the positive aspects?
– Since in 2019 we met him just two weeks before the start of the Candidates tournament and only held a mini-camp, then everything it grew together immediately. Because the necessary chemistry arose, we collaborated on human relations, he was a very efficient coach and, let’s say, did not pull the blanket over himself. I was in charge, and he adapted to me very well.
– How much did his death from cancer at the end of 2022 hit your feelings and emotions?
– After the match for the world title (held in January 2020), we did not contact so often, so his departure came as a surprise to me. We are all living people, we all have illnesses, and, unfortunately, nothing can be done about it. Medicine, alas, has not yet come up with a pill for all diseases.
– Sergey Karyakin believes that in international competitions it is necessary to play only under the Russian flag. Don't you think that by doing this he is somehow burying his career and maybe it would be worth looking for some kind of compromise?
– This is Karyakin’s decision, I am tolerant of other people and their opinions. And I take a different position: that, let’s say, this is not as important as, for example, coming and winning. And before all these events, we played not under the Russian flag, but under the auspices of the Russian Chess Federation. They also came under a neutral, one might say, flag and won the World Team Championship. It was also a neutral flag, but it was just different. Everyone in the world knows where we came from and where we will return. Therefore, I believe that it is better to come and win in a fair fight.
“Taking a loan for my sake is a lottery”
– Alexandra , do you like television series?
– Yes, I also watched “Game of Thrones,” and now I’m waiting for the release of the second season of “House of the Dragon.” I have seen many TV series – “House”, “Elementary”, and everything related to Sherlock Holmes. The last one I watched was Money Heist. But I mostly start watching when they are already over. To know exactly how much time you can spend on it. And if you didn’t like something, you can always watch the last episode (with a smile).
– Don’t wait for the release of each new episode?
– Yes, I really don’t like it. I want to see everything at once and not have to suffer.
– You give the impression of a taciturn and reserved girl. Have there been any reckless actions in your life that you enjoyed?
– Probably not, because I am a very cautious person. And I know for sure that if I want something, then at that particular moment that’s exactly what I wanted to do. And in life I have few regrets, because I know for sure that everything was planned and was always under my control.
– Tell us about the story of the loan that your parents had to take out for your trip to the first World Championships for girls under 10?
– In general, I didn’t remember about it; my parents only recently told me about it. That tournament in Vietnam was really significant for me because I won it. And for me it was probably the start of my professional career. And when I found out about the loan, I told them: “Are you crazy? (with a smile). It’s a lottery, and it doesn’t matter what I said then that I would win.” I was only nine years old, which can be taken from a nine-year-old child, because anything can happen (laughs).
Even now, as an adult, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to win in any tournament. But then I had so much confidence that I would tear everyone apart that I quite confidently won the world championship.
– You are now the calling card of Salekhard and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Do local authorities continue to help you?
– Let's just say, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes they help, sometimes they put a spoke in the wheels (with a smile).
– But they gave you an apartment or a house?
– This was quite a long time ago, even when the second part of our family arrived in Salekhard. But this is not directly our apartment, it is a service one.
– So even now you, the world vice-champion and winner of elite tournaments, do not have your own apartment in Salekhard?< br>
– How would you characterize Salekhard?
– The city is like a city. It’s cold almost all the time, but you need to dress warmly (with a smile). But I always respect Salekhard and Yamal; after all, this region became a springboard for me in my chess career. And it is quite difficult to demand anything else from the authorities.
– Is there no question of moving to the European part of the country now? Surely, in Moscow, and, say, in the Krasnodar Territory, Moscow Region or some other areas, they would like the Russian champion and one of the best chess players in the world to represent their region. There are no such offers?
– No. Apparently, everyone understands that now everything is fine with me and it’s difficult to lure me with anything (with a smile). You have to take it when you are not yet a world champion and there is time to educate. But I still have a younger sister, if anything (laughs).
– Previously, in an interview with our agency, you called Oksana your mascot. Have any other talismans appeared during this time?
– In general, I am not a superstitious person, and, for example, a black cat crossing the road or number 13 will not be a problem for me. But Oksana is an active girl, sometimes she can scold me and praise me. And if you put us next to each other, it will be unclear who is older. Although we have a 12-year age difference (laughs).
“I want to relax and enjoy the victory”
– Why are you up to Still haven’t decided whether you will play in the upcoming Russian Championship Superfinal? After all, this is also an opportunity to perform successfully and earn a good cash prize?
– I haven’t decided yet, I think there’s still time. Just a couple of days ago I didn’t want to play at all, but now I’m already in doubt. Because the World Cup was a very difficult tournament. I won it, but I’m tired, I want to rest, rejoice at the victory, and prepare for the next competition. I already agreed to play in Grand Swiss in October. There are not so few tournaments, but now I’m really thinking about participating in the Superfinal of the Russian Championship. Chances are fifty-fifty.
– Are you not focusing on Judit Polgar, who achieved almost everything in women's chess, and then began to play only with men (the Hungarian was in the top 10 of the FIDE men's ranking – ed.)?
– I wouldn’t say that she achieved everything, she somehow jumped over sharply. At the age of 12, she and her two sisters won the World Chess Olympiad, and then abruptly left women's chess. Probably not for her. When you start watching someone, you are, as a rule, no longer so young. And when I, at 12-13, began to look closely at who I could imitate to some extent, it was closer to (Chinese world champion) Hou Yifan.
Between our successes, by the way, there are seven years difference. The fact that she won at 14 years old, I won at 21. So far we are going about this: she won the same tournament, but then it was called the World Championship, at 16 years old, and I now win the World Cup at 24. But I have one year took away by the pandemic, so maybe I still have time (with a smile).