Interview with Mikhail Antipov

Mikhail Antipov is a Russian grandmaster, born in 1997. In 2015 he became the world junior champion. In November 2019 his rating is 2558 (highest rating 2626 in July 2018).

Among his accomplishments are:

  • Second place in the world championship under 10 year old in 2007,
  • Third place in the Russian championship under 10,
  • Fourth place in the European championship under 10 in 2007,
  • Fifth place in the world championship under 12 in 2009,
  • Fifth place in European championship under 14,
  • Grandmaster at the age of 16 in 2013, then the youngest grandmaster in Russia,
  • World junior champion in 2015.
  • Third place with team Molodezhka in the European club competiton in 2018
  • Plays on second board of Selfoss Chess club in the Icelandic team championship 2019/2020

Mikhail, tell me when did you learn how to play chess and who taught you? Do any other family members play chess?

In the kindergarten I saw a chess set and I got interested and asked my father to teach me how to play. My father then taught me how to play. My father played chess when he was young.

How did you train at early age?

I started to go the Botvinnik chess school when I was six.  I think, I went to lectures two times per week. I also got individual lessons and homework (some puzzles to solve). Sometimes we played chess games without clock. I played a lot with my father also. I started to work with my current coach, Sergei Dolmotov [World junior champion in 1978], when I was ten. I just had individual lesson from the age of ten.  Dolmotov never works with groups. I think, I met Dolmotov about three times per week from age 10 to 18. Each lesson was from 2-4 hours. Dolmatov is also the coach of Alina Kashlinskaya [2486 elo, the women european champion of 2019] and Grigory Oparin [2657elo].

What was your first big achievement in chess?

Second place in in open tournament in Bosnia in 2012 when I was 14 year old [with the same number of points as the winner]. I started badly in the tournament but then I won 6 out of 7 games against opponents that were all rated above 2550 [Mikhail had a performance of 2706 elo points in the tournament].

You became the world champion of under 20 in 2015. Was this an unexpected victory and did you get a lot of attention because of it?

I think i was rated number 8 and I didn’t expect to win. My performance in the previous junior world championship was not very good so my goal for this one was just to try to play well.

Did you have an assistant in the youth world championship?

No, but sometimes my coach, Dolmatov, went with me to tournaments. For example, he went with me several time to Czech republic.

Does the Russian chess federation pay for your coach to go with you to tournaments?

No, our club paid for him. My chess club has some sponsors.

Kaspersky Lab started sponsoring you in 2011. Is it common that private companies sponsor young russian chess players?

No, it is very uncommon. They paid for coaches and trips to tournaments.

You recently played with SSON in the Icelandic team competition? How did the Icelandic team competition compare to other leagues that you have played in?

I have played in the Turkish, the Russian and in the Spanish league. The chess conditions were good Iceland and much better than in some other tournaments that I have played in. In the Spanish league the playing hall looked good but it is hard for me to play when the heat is 40°C and there is no air condition.

Before you came to Iceland, did you know or had you heard about of any icelandic players?

I played against Kjartansson many years ago. I knew of Hjartarson and Olafsson but I had not studied their games very much.  My coach, Sergei Dolmatov, told me that Iceland had a very strong team in the 1980s and told me about Icelandic chess players in the 1980s.

You coach, Sergei Dolmatov, has played few times in Iceland, both in internatational tournaments in Reykjavik and also in an international tournament in Akureyri in 1988. Did he encourage you to go and play in Iceland? Did he tell you anything about Iceland?

I didn’t discuss that with him before hand. But after I told him that I was going to play in Iceland, he said it was a nice place.  I have also heard other people say that.

What is the most memorable game that you have played?

I have a lot of memorable games. One memorable game is a game that I played in the 8th round in the junior championship in 2015. I liked the mate combination.

Mikhail Antipov – Jorden Van Foreest. White to move. Mate in three.

What is your best tournament results?

My best tournament performance were in Natanya International open in 2019 [Performance 2716, Mikhail won the tournament] in the junior world championship in 2015 [performance 2724 elo, Mikhail won], the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2018, [performance 2715 elo] and in an International tournament in Bosnia in 2012 [performance 2706, Mikhail has also very good performance in some rapid chess tournaments].

Do you have a favorite chess player?

Bobby Fischer is my favorite chess player. He was very creative chess player. I analyzed many of his games many years ago with my coach and individually.

How do you train nowadays?

I usually analyze games and go over some positions. I use computer programs to work on improving my openings. I also play chess on the internet. I play online and then I analyze my games. I started to play blitz games online when I was about 10.

What interest do you have besides chess?

I like to watch Russian films and play video games. I read a lot when I was younger but less today. Sometimes I try new things to get some new experience. Two months ago, for example, I took lessons in axe throwing. I am also learning Spanish for fun these days, because I have visited Spain many times and I like the country. But most of my time I spend in chess or something related to chess.

Why did you decide to participate in the tournament in Selfoss?

It is a very good and strong round robin tournament. I have only played in one round robin tournament in my life and it was a very nice experience. I think it is much more interesting to play in round robin tournaments. Sometimes you can get unlucky in Swiss tournaments. For example, it possible that you get black more often against stronger opponents and white against lower rated opponents. In round robin tournaments, normally the player that plays best will win. This will not happen all the time in Swiss tournaments.

Bobby Fischer’s grave is near Selfoss and there is a museum about him in Selfoss. Have you analyzed his games?

I have analysed his games many years ago with my coach.

You went to University for 2,5 years but now you are a professional chess player. Was it a difficult decision to go to a university instead of becoming professional chess player? Was it a difficult decision to stop or postpone your studies and become a professional chess player?

This is a very hard question. When I came to university it was a new and an exciting experience for me.  I think I will go back later to a university later but a different one. I think I might also choose other subject.

What do you think are the biggest challenges of being a professional chess player?

You need to work hard and always try to get better. You always need to work on improvements otherwise others will get better than you.