Women's World Champion Kosteniuk on Endgames, Blitz and Coming to Dallas
By Jennifer Shahade/Alexandra Kosteniuk   
December 2, 2009
American youngsters will again have a chance to meet the Women's World Champion, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk at the National K-12 Championships in Dallas, Texas (Dec.11-13). Kosteniuk will be conducting a simultaneous exhibition at 10 AM on Friday, December 11.  Registration for a very limited number of open spots will begin at 9 AM on Thursday, December 10 onsite (only) at Chess Control. To psyche readers up for this great opportunity, CLO talked to Kosteniuk about her recent trip to the World Blitz Championship in Moscow, where she defeated players such as Magnus Carlsen, Judit Polgar and Vishy Anand.

Carlsen and Kosteniuk in the World Blitz Championship, Photo courtesy chesspics.com

Diaryhomepage.jpgThis is a particularly exciting week for Alexandra as her new book, Diary of a Chess Queen, just hit the shelves. You can preorder it with a free autograph on chessqueen.com. It's also available at the USCF store. At the National K-12 Championships, Kosteniuk will be giving a book signing on December 11, Friday at 4 PM. She'll also be signing copies of her new DVD, "My Best Games."

Before we get to the Q+A, we have a treat: Kosteniuk's instructive annotations of an endgame win over Judit Polgar, which shows that studying endgames can be just as valuable as poring over databases.

Kosteniuk, Alexandra - Polgar, Judit

Annotations by Kosteniuk

In the first game of my mini-blitz-match with Judit I lost in an even knight endgame. In the second game we once again reached a knight endgame. That morning, my database crashed and I wasn't able to prepare any openings. So, I spent my preparation hours reading the recent chess review magazine "64" in which there was an article by GM Mikhail Kobalia about the recent Women's World Team championship in China. In this article Mikhail talks about a pawn endgame that arose in the game between Maria Muzychuk and Ju Wenjun.

The game continued 52.g4 hxg4 53.h5 f5 54.h6 f4+ 55.Kf2 Kf6 56.b4 axb4 57.axb4 Kg6 58.c5 bxc5 59.bxc5 dxc5 60.d6 1–0


Kosteniuk and Polgar face off in the World Blitz Championship, Photo courtesy chesspics.com


The position in that game after 51...g5, curiously enough resembles the idea that helped me to win this game against Judit Polgar.

62.Nf5+ Kxc4??
Black should have played  62...Ke4
63.g4 !!
That's what we call "pattern recognition".
Despite the unpleasant surprise Judit chooses the most stubborn way to defend.
64.gxh5 Ne6 65.h6 Nf8 66.hxg5 fxg5 67.Kf3 Kd3 68.Kg4 Ke2 69.Kxg5?!
Wins, but much easier was 69.f3 Nh7 70.Ng3+ winning the g pawn without giving away the f pawn. 
69...Kxf2 70.Kf6?
According to the table base, here White wins in 32 moves after Kg4 or Nd6. All other moves (except Nd4 or Ne3) lead to a draw. [70.Nd6; 70.Kg4]
70...e4 ?

The only move that saves the game here is 70...Kf3! 71.Kxe5 Nh7!, which is again, the only move.
The immediate 71.Nd4 was also possible, but I needed to gain some extra time.
71...Nh7 72.Kg6 Nf8+ 73.Kg7 Ne6+ 74.Kf6 Nf8
Here I had 10 seconds left on my clock but I managed to find the winning continuation.
75.Nd4 ! 75...e3 76.Kg7 Ne6+
If 76...e2 Black also loses after 77.Nxe2 Ne6+ 78.Kf6 Nf8 79.Nd4.
77.Nxe6 e2
78.Nf4! 1–0

 Click here to watch the full game on video.

Interview with Alexandra Kosteniuk

CLO: How many of the players from the World Blitz Championship had you faced before?
Alexandra Kosteniuk (AK): I had already faced a few of those players in regular competition (Mamedyarov, Karjakin, Carlsen, Tkachiev, and Grischuk). In rapid and blitz I had played quite a few of those players, including all the Russians except Kramnik and Svidler, in strong blitz tournaments in Russia.

CLO: What were your thoughts going to face such a strong field?
AK:I knew what to expect: extremely high level chess!

CLO: Was there any player you were particularly enthusiastic to play against?
AK: I was very excited about the prospect of playing the World Champion Vishy Anand, as well as the top rated woman in the world Judit Polgar, who has done so much to show the world that women can play no worse than men. I am so grateful to her for that. Judit usually does not play with women, and so I never had a chance before to play her, and was looking forward to playing her very much.

Anand and Kosteniuk chatting,  Photo courtesy chesspics.com

CLO: Are there any wins that stood out for you as particularly memorable?  
AK: It's clearly my three wins in a row against Vishy Anand, Judith Polgar, and Levon Aronian, in rounds 26-27-28 on day two.




I was in absolute top blitz form at that moment. Actually all the second day was great for me, I scored 7/14 against opponents rated 2725, which makes it a performance of 2725, more than 200 ELO points above my classical ELO rating of 2516 FIDE.

CLO: On the last day, you had a much tougher time. What was the reason?
AK: On the third day of the championship I was running out of steam, I had already played 28 games in the last 2 days against 2700+ players, and 17 more in a strong training blitz tournament the day before the championship started. I only managed that 3rd day to beat Tkachiev (ELO 2642) and draw Jakovenko (2736). But overall I can only be extremely happy of the Blitz world championship, playing 42 games against players over 200 ELO points above me, and winning 10 games and 5 draws is amazing and constitutes several big upsets. I'm lucky to have all games in video and will prepare commented versions both for my YouTube "ChessQueen" channel and for a new Chess Blitz DVD (soon on sale on at chessqueen.com ), in which I will include both games that I won and drew and lost. Many games are very entertaining and at the same time instructive. There was a fight going on from beginning to end in practically all my games.

Ruslan Ponomariov faces Alexandra Kosteniuk, Photo courtesy chesspics.com

CLO:  Do you think that blitz is good training for tournaments? 
AK: I would say that it's the opposite, classical tournaments are good training for blitz. I had just come home from the European Team Championship in Novi Sad (Serbia) with two gold medals, one for my team and one individual on the first board, so my level of confidence was at a high. Also, just before the blitz championship, I had an intensive training session with Grandmaster Alexander Chernin, and also played several 10-games blitz matches with GM Julio Becerra who lives also in Miami, and that turned out to be perfect.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, here pictured in her Miami home alongside a "Straight Up" Chess board
CLO: What would you suggest to our young players for general training?
AK: I would say that results are a direct result of how much you train. Before the world championship I won in Nalchik last year, I had trained intensively six months, both on chess and on my physical form. Another thing I noticed is that if you haven't played in awhile, after you train a lot and get back into shape, don't expect your first tournament to be the best one ever, usually the first tournament is not so good, but the next one is much better. So my advice would be to start training hard both on chess and on sports, then play a training classical tournament, then your important classical tournament. And if all goes well after that, you'll be ready to play the blitz tournament of your life!

CLO: As an exceptional blitz player, do you have any tips for contenders in the K-12 if they encounter time pressure?
AK: Blitz chess is not the same as Classical chess, it is quite different. I would strongly advise any player to do anything he or she can to avoid time pressure. It's a fact that people make mistakes in time pressure. So be disciplined and play a little faster than your opponent. If you have more time than your opponent and you are nearing the time pressure zone, it's a significant advantage if you have more time. But if you do end up in time pressure, keep your senses, calculate fast, and verify it's not a blunder before playing. And if you're an exceptional blitz player, that's great, play all the blitz tournaments you can, especially those in which most of your opponents are stronger than you :-).

CLO: The clothing company Zimaletto sponsors you and I can't help but ask, what is the best outfit to play blitz in?
AK: It's clear everybody would like to play chess in jeans and sneakers, to be as comfortable as possible. But I think that at least in professional tournaments, where spectators are looking up to their heroes, Grandmasters have an obligation to be well dressed. I always try to be dressed in clothes that combine both qualities of comfort and style. I am lucky to have found the brand "Zimaletto" who created a line of clothes, black and white, precisely as I asked for. I wore those clothes during the world blitz chess championship and I'm very happy of how it turned out. You can have a look at photos of the event on chesspics.

Find out more about the National K-12 Championships in Dallas, Texas (Dec.11-13)
. There are only a handful of spots left in Kosteniuk's December 11 simul: Registration for a very limited number of spots will begin at 12 Noon on Thursday, December 10 onsite (only) at Chess Control.

Follow Alexandra Kosteniuk on kosteniuk.com, twitter ,youtube, facebook and chessblog.com. Alexandra just had a superb result at the ACP Rapid Cup, scoring 10/11 for a  performance of 2746.