Interview with Semyon Lomasov

The international master Semyon Lomasov (elo 2553) from Russia is the youngest participant at in the youth or junior world champion group at the Icey skyr festival at Hotel Selfoss 2019. He was born in the year 2002 and became the world champion of kids under 14 years old in 2016. Among his accomplishments are:

  • Winner, at the age of seven, of the Moscow championship under 10 year old in 2009,
  • Fourth place in world championship under 8 year old in 2010,
  • Russian champion in blitz under 10 in 2012,
  • European champion in rapid chess under 10 year old in 2012,
  • Second place in the European championship of under 12 year old in 2014,
  • Russian champion of under 14 year olds in 2016,
  • World champion of under 14 year olds in 2016,
  • Played on first board in the chess olympiad in 2017 for the olympic champion Russia,
  • Winner of the Moscow open in 2018,
  • Russian champion of under 21 year old in 2018,
  • Third place with team Molodezhka in the European club competition in 2018.
  • Plays on third board for chess club of Selfoss (SSON) in the the Icelandic team championship 2019/2020.

Semyon has two grandmaster norms. One from Moscow open in 2017 (performance  of 2623) and one from the world junior championship in 2017 (performance of 2630).

Semyon [Símjön, written with Icelandic letters], tell me when did you learn how to play chess and who taught you? Do any other family members play chess?

My father taught me how to play chess at the age of 4  (or 4 ½ maybe). My brother who is one year older than me also played chess. We used to play a lot until he turned 8, then he stopped  and put his energy in other sports.

At the age of six I started to train seriously at Moscow Youth (Yunost moskvy) chess school which is in the Petrosian club in Moscow. I trained three times per week for 2 hours and then on Sunday we had competition. On Sunday we played one game, where each player had one hour.

Your coach has said in interviews that he recognize your talents at the age of six? Do you know how he did that?

Yes, my coach has told that story several times. He had showed us an opening trap in the Budapest gambit, when I was six. Soon after that I managed to win one of the other kids with the Budapest gambit. He was impressed that I remember the moves.

The final position in a game played by Semyon Lomasov when he was six. Position after 8 moves

How did you train at early age?

During training our coach often went over the games of the the old champions, Lasker, Alekhine, Capablanca, for example. I think we only went over the games of the chess champions before World War II, during my first years of training. The ideas of those champions are very clear and they were so much stronger than their opponents that they usually managed to beat their opponents. I think, my coach didn’t show me any games of Karpov and Kasparov, until I had a rating of at least 2000 elo.

At the end of the training sessions we often played chess but normally without chess clocks. If we used  chess clocks we had 10 minutes per person. We never played blitz games.

In the beginning the coach also emphasized the importance of proper behavior while playing chess: shake hands before the game and always show the opponent respect, don’t use the chess pieces to hit the chess clock, use one finger to press the chess clock etc.

What was your first big achievement in chess?

Winning the Moscow championship for children under 10, was my first big victory. I don’t think I have ever been as happy with any tournament result. I was only seven years old and it was an unexpected victory.

You became the world champion of under 14 in 2016. Was this an unexpected victory and did you get a lot of attention because of it? 

I was the fifth highest rated player and I did not expect to win. I was interviewed by one local newspaper in Moscow after the victory but I don’t think I got much attention because of the title. The title brought me satisfaction and pleasure, but I didn’t get any invitation to a tournament because of the title, until I was invited to the tournament in Selfoss.

Did you have an assistant in the youth world championship?

Yes, my coach has gone with me to almost all tournaments since I was 9 or 10 and until recently.

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

No, the Russian chess federation pays for hardly anything for young players. Young players in Russia don’t get good support from the federation. This is a problem. This is part of the reason why we are losing the chess battle to India and maybe Iran. Andrey Esipenko [born in 2002 and is also a member of Selfoss Chess club] is now the youngest grandmaster in Russia. He is very talented. Volodar Murzin [elo 2429] born in 2006 is also very talented. But we don’t have as many young talented players as we used to and as India, for example, has today. In India there are 6 grandmasters born in 2002 or later.

 What other junior or world championships have you participated in?

I think, I have participated in most youth world championships since I was 8. I didn’t participate in one youth championship in Brazil and one in South Africa. My parents didn’t allow me to go to those tournaments. In 2017 and 2018, I participated in the junior (under 20) championships. These are strong tournaments and it is possible to get a GM norm in these 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 actually only played in the Icelandic league and in the Russian league. The playing hall [Rimarskóli]  and the organization is much better in Iceland than in Russia but the players in the Russian league are stronger. And for some reason the atmosphere seemed very friendly in the Icelandic league. I felt more pressure and tension in the Russian league.

I noticed that you analyzed your games with your opponents in the Icelandic league. Is that something you often do in tournament?

If my opponent wants to, I always analyse the game with him. It is very interesting to go over the game with your opponent, I think.

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

I knew of [Jóhann] Hjartarson and [Friðrik] Olafsson, of course. I looked at a game played by [Helgi Ass] Gretarsson few years ago, when I was looking at a specific line in an opening and I remembered his name. I played against one Icelandic player, [Dagur] Ragnarsson, in 2016 and I also played him in the Icelandic league last October.

In the Russian league you played on the team Molodezhka. It is not a regular club, is it?

No, it is not. Daniil Yuffa [22 year old russian chess player with a rating of 2578] formed a team called „Friends of Ivan Bukavshin“, to honor the memory of his friend, a strong chess player, who died in 2016 at the age of 20. This team played in the Russian league. Then the captain of that team, Daniil Yuffa, formed the team Molodezhka that replaced the aformentioned team in the Russian league. Molodezhka means „the youth team“ and it consists of chess players that are friends of Daniil Yuffa and with each other. The team Molodezhka was fifth in the Russian league this year and will participate in the European club championship in November.

What is the most memorable game that you have played? Who is the strongest player that you have beat or  drawn against?

The 8th game in the Moscow open 2018 was very memorable. I beat Tamir Nabaty [elo 2658] in that game. But the last game in the European championship for under 14, which I drew, was more memorable. If I would have won the game, then I would have become the European champion under 14 year old. After five hours of playing, I had a completely won position in a rook endgame but then I stalemated the opponent. Instead of winning the tournament, I became fifth. I was devastated. I could hardly think of anything else for two weeks and for a long time the stalemate was the last thing I thought about before falling asleep at night.

The strongest player that I have beat is Tamir Nabaty (elo 2658)and the strongest player that I have  drawn against is Alexander Grischuk (elo 2769).

Do you have a favorite chess player?

No,  I find something interesting in all playing styles.

To get a grandmaster title one needs to get three GM norms. You have already two GM norms. Have you been close to getting the third norm ?

Yes, I think so. In an Isle of Man tournament in 2018, I had a rating performance of 2599. [to get a GM norm a performance of 2600 is needed]. In the last round I needed to get paired against an opponent with at least 2308 elo points. Out of 60 players that had the same score as me in the tournament before the last round or half a point less, only one player had less than 2308 elo points. I got paired against him. I was very disappointed. In the Moscow open in 2018, I had a performance of 2765 elo points against opponents with the average rating above 2400 but I was unlucky with the pairings, because I only got paired against two grandmasters [A player can only get a grandmaster norm in a tournament, if he plays against three grandmasters]. In the European championship in 2019, I was also very close to getting a norm, after the 9th ,10th and 11th game.

How do you train nowadays?

I study openings on my own and then I discuss it with my coach. I also analyze my games and find situation that are problematic for me. Then my coach finds position and games that help me train in those areas. When I had around 2400 [elo], I spent a lot of time studying the games of Karpov since I needed to improve my play in certain postions where Karpov was very strong.

I don’t meet my coach every week nowadays. But normally, I start meeting him three weeks before tournaments. I mostly analyze games with my coach but sometimes I go over games with my teammates in team Molodezhka.

What interests do you have besides chess?

I have many interests both in sports and scientific things and in my studies. I play football at an amateur level. I used to play table tennis in a club. I also like playing volleyball.

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

The tournament is very strong and I am interested in visting Iceland again.

Do you like round robin tournaments more than open tournaments?

I just like tournaments with strong players.

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

I have analyzed many games played by Bobby Fischer with my coach and I own his book, „My sixty memorable games.“

You recently started studying economics at one of the best univerities in Russia National Research University Higher School of Economics. Was it a difficult decision to go to a university instead of being professional chess player? Did you consider seriously becoming professional chess player and delay going to a university?

Yes, it was very difficult. I wasn’t sure about the decision until right before I enter the university. Today, I can make some money playing chess and I have certain status in chess. Also, by playing chess professionally now, I would be more independent financially now.

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

I think, it is a hard work. And if you start playing professsionally, it can be hard to stop even if financial opportunities or your interest decrease. If you don‘t get an education, it is hard to do something else later in life.