Interview with Elena Skovitina at the European Championship in Turkey (part one)


From the encyclopedia: Elena Skovitina (nee. Miskova; b. August 19, 1986, Bendery, Moldavian SSR) is a Moldovan draughts player. Grandmaster since 2005; three-time world champion (2005, 2006, 2015) and two-time European champion (2004, 2008) in Russian draughts, world champion in the blitz game of Brazilian (2007) and Russian (2009, 2015) draughts, multiple champion of Moldova.

We were very glad to meet again. With the magnificent, wise, elegant and charming Elena Skovitina. We recorded a video interview, but as if charmed, it began to be recorded again with interference. This time, the hotel staff showed genuine interest in us, not noticing our camera. Therefore, we present you a text version of our meeting.

Vsevolod: Good evening, Elena! I am glad to meet you

Elena: Hello, Vsevolod! I’m very glad to see you too.

Vsevolod: The last time we met in Bulgaria was 1.5 years ago. What has changed in your life during these 1.5 years?

Elena: Nothing has changed dramatically. There are still some goals that I am interested in: draughts as a sport, family as a family. And you always have to make a choice, asking yourself the question – what is more important now? But I like to play draughts! I’m having fun. They say that not so many people love draughts as much as I do. Maybe they flatter, I don’t know. [Smiles] 

Vsevolod: It’s nice to hear when a person confesses his love to our common favorite cause. Draughts. And, of course, I was again pleased to watch you play in the men’s tournament, where 22 of the best grandmasters gathered. It is noted that this is the strongest tournament since 2015. High competition! And in this competition, in my opinion, you took a high 7th place

Did you manage to win any of the top male grandmasters?

Elena:  Unfortunately, no. I only played with three, I drew. I was close to winning, but so were my rivals. A series of mistakes, and I had to look for options on my own. This is a big problem right now. Everyone switched to ” hardware” , everyone uses a computer. Independent search for a solution – it atrophies. In my opinion, this is a serious problem for the future of draughts.

Vsevolod: How long have you been working with “hardware” yourself, if you work with it, of course?

Elena: I don’t work with “iron” in such quantity as probably other athletes. I build my workouts differently. There are positions that need to be known, and recognition is already being built on them – what it (this position) will come down to.

And as if the game is built around knowledge, and not knowledge around the game! “if you know what I mean.” That is, I believe that if you have a certain amount of knowledge, it doesn’t matter how you will know the theory! If you find out the position, it will help you. But this is my personal opinion, it is subjective. I know that many people are just engaged in “cramming”, it helps someone. Of course, we will not be able to cope without knowledge of theory, but the ability to analyze at the board is now a priority.

As we discussed today, “draughts starts 4 by 4”. If you don’t know how to play a 4-on-4 position, you can’t count the position – then it’s not draughts anymore!

Vsevolod:  From your words, it turns out that this medicine is against those who sit all the time behind the “iron”, play the Gambler and, in principle, do not study theories or positions (small), which are the most difficult on a small board?

Elena:  Well, no, of course not. There is always a complex work: first you need to learn how to count, then you need to learn how to solve combinations. Well, who as. It usually goes hand in hand. Then you learn the positions, then the sketches. There are a lot of very… often you are faced with the fact that you do not have enough strength, endurance, knowledge resources to realize something. Everyone is here together.

I watched Mikhalchenko play today. Nothing seems to be supernatural, but he tried to “push” in all possible ways, even in a draw endgame. Yes, maybe he didn’t use all the opportunities, but in such situations you understand that you have to fight to the end, let your opponent spend resources. Maybe you’ll hook it somewhere and make a result.

Vsevolod: For a long time I have not been able to find an answer to this question: what is the difference between a grandmaster and a master? And what is there in a grandmaster that is not in a master?

Elena: Probably in the depths. He (the grandmaster) thinks deeper.

Vsevolod: How to learn this?

Elena: Don’t give up. Very often people give up… And half a step remains before victory.

Vsevolod:   And again returning to the stereotypical question of male and female draughts. Playing in such a strong men’s grandmaster tournament, how does this tournament differ from the rest, from the women’s?

Elena: I was lucky that there were not very difficult draws after all. And so we just played draughts. I didn’t have to go into deep defense or look for the only ways to escape. And to play draughts, let’s say, simple positions, then here… whoever has stronger nerves wins, or who counts better. I can say again that I was lucky in this.

And watching, for example, the game, how S. Belosheev played with N. Struchkov, there is a very heavy endgame. We met him at competitions, at the Moldovan Men’s Championship. Also in the principled party, and…. failed, failed (players). That is, knowledge has tremendous power here! If you don’t have the knowledge (how to play such positions), then you can be very smart (10 thousand times), but if you don’t know, then you won’t figure it out at the board! Unfortunately… This is true.

Vsevolod: Is the men’s tournament tougher, more cynical?

Elena: Well…he’s more cynical, but… how should I put it, he is usually cynical in his assessment, in his relationships, but not in relation to parties. It’s a completely different story there. But this is my personal opinion. The guys are playing well. They know that if you trample, you can get hit on the forehead. Therefore, many are cautious. They cannot be blamed for this

Vsevolod:  Do you have the “scalps” of male grandmasters? Maybe over the past year and a half, you have added someone to your collection? 

ElenaUnfortunately, I didn’t play at the N. Gringruz Memorial, it didn’t work out; but I played quite successfully with many grandmasters. I played in this tournament with M. Goryunov, with Yu. Korolev, with N. Struchkov and drew with them. There were victories earlier over I. Dosca, M. Norel, maybe over someone else. And, and once, back in 2009, Nikolai Abatsiev proposed his own system of drawing lots. And he invited the young talents to play this table. I came up and asked permission to play. And I played in that tournament and I happened to get over with Sergey Belosheev. He didn’t expect my pressure. The position was unfamiliar and I won the first game. However, he managed to fight back. So it’s a draw.

Vsevolod: What role is assigned to psychological training? And how do you tune in to the game?

Elena: Well… these are just such armor-piercing questions…. Psychological support and confidence are the cornerstone… Someone meditates, someone reads prayers. In my opinion, half of the tournament reads prayers. Someone needs peace or quiet. Everyone has their own. There are no universal solutions. We need to look for what makes you calm, confident. Therefore…

Vsevolod: Very often in sports it is considered that if an athlete has won the Olympics or he is just a strong athlete, then this is necessarily a strong character. In the same way, we sometimes put stamps on actors: if an actor plays an alcoholic, then he definitely drinks in life. Do you agree with such a stereotype that a strong draughts player is always a strong personality in life.

Elena:  Well, maybe she’s a strong personality in life. But you have to understand where to show it. That is, men are characterized by dominance and they also tend to dominate in relationships. And for women, such a thing will not “ride”. You can’t be with a strong character and put everyone in the family in a corner. I think this is wrong. As if our society is still patriarchal. And you have to put up with it. And plus – it’s right when everyone knows their role. Personally, my opinion is: do not take on more than you can carry! At some point you will break down and only you will be to blame!

Therefore, you know, a woman’s strength is not in her strength, a woman’s strength is in her weakness. Somewhere to step aside and say: “And then, dear, you yourself!”. Or trust. This is also a manifestation of some kind of strength and common sense. It’s one thing when the situation is stalemate and you understand that you need to “roll up your sleeves” and work. Another thing is when you realize that you can’t do this job, only your beloved husband, father, or another person can do it. And it is necessary to step aside in time. It’s a whole art. People spend their whole lives on this.

Vsevolod: Then, where do draughts for a strong grandmaster end and the family begins? Where to draw this fine line?

Elena: To be honest, the first years of family life for me were a family tragedy. Because you don’t fully understand what to do with the child, how to find mutual understanding with your husband. For me, the beginning of family life was emotionally costly. But it probably saves love. And our family was saved by love. Because if there is no love, no attachment, then there is no point in building a relationship. I always want to get up and leave if it’s not there. There’s nothing holding you back. I repeat – but if there is love, then you will not notice the edge; it will just be your life.

[To be continued…

Telegram_logo Icons8