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Grandmaster Profile: Ruslan Ponomariov

Today we would like to introduce to you Grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov from the Ukraine. I first met Ruslan about 5 years ago, when he was only 11. He struck me as a very serious boy, with a burning desire to learn more about chess. I thought that this guy would become really strong very soon. Yet, I was still surprised when just 3 years later he became the youngest GM in the World. Since then he lost that "title" to Chinese GM Bu, but instead made his mark in the top chess events: he played in Elista in 1996 for the Ukraine and competed in the FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas last year. Recently he shared a victory in the Faeroes Islands Open with an incredible 71/2 points out of 9 and 2823 rating performance. His co-winner was another young star — GM Alexander Grischuk from Moscow. When the event in Torshavn was over, I interviewed both winners and here I would like to present my interview with Ruslan, conducted on the 14th of October. This interview was original published in Chess Today.

Alexander Baburin

What are your impressions of the tournament?

I had a good result and was happy with my play, apart from one game which I played badly - against Grischuk.

What are you nearest plans? I heard that your rating is rising and perhaps you can add even more points soon. So, what's your next tournament?

I will play in the Olympiad and then in the World Championship in India.

How do you evaluate the chances of the Ukrainian team in Istanbul?

We have a good mixture of young and experienced players on the team and will be fighting for the medals.

What do you think of the present situation in chess?

I wish we would have one strong organisation, with which all leading players would co-operate. That could attract sponsors and make chess more professional.

This is a rather idealistic view, but what would you do right now to improve the image of chess, should you have the power?

I would have shortened the time control and arranged live translation of games over the Net, explaining them to the general public. Ideally chess should be on TV too.

So, it sounds that you are not too interested in finding the absolute chess 'truth' - like finding the best move in the Gruenfeld Defence... :-)

Right now I am interested in the sporting aspect of chess. When players grow old, they may get more interested in searching for "chess truth".

At what age do chess players become old, in your opinion?

I think that after 30 your results go down - you must show your best before.

The current trend confirms this - players become Grandmasters very young now. So, do you think that soon we may have an 11-year old GM?

Maybe, particularly as the title gets devalued. We may need a special title. Right now Kasparov is a GM and I am a GM! This is not the same...:-) 

Maybe right now this is not the same, but you are too critical of yourself! Who is the World Champion in chess now?

Kasparov, though he is losing to Kramnik now. Khalifman is the FIDE World champion.

Do you think that it’s fair that Kasparov did not defend his title for 5 years?

This is not fair and we need a system, which would allow people to challenge the champion. The rating system must be changed too - if somebody does not play for a long time (like Kamsky a few years ago), then he must lose rating points.

Who is your all-time favourite player?

Alekhine - he was most creative!

Whom do you like among modern players?

It's hard to tell - sometimes you can't say where their creativity begins and computer analysis ends!

Some people say that your style resembles that of Karpov. Do you agree?

Both Karpov and I make lots of technical mistakes, letting our opponents to escape - maybe this is why people say that our styles are similar! :-) 

Do you think that there is a difference between chess elite and other GMs?

Of course there is a difference — elite GMs are tougher and harder to beat.

Do your parents support your interest in chess?


Do you believe that chess could be a good profession?

I hope it will become a good profession -it would be a great pity otherwise.

Do you use computers and the Internet?

Yes, though I got connected to the Net only a few months ago.

Do you play chess online?

So far I played only 5 games on the ICC.

What are your favourite chess sites? (Kasparov Chess) and (Shahcom).

Is chess still as popular in the Ukraine, as it used to be?

There are far more prestigious professions now, but chess is popular.

What will you do after the World Championships?

I will play a match (8 games) against Victor Korchnoi in Donetsk, beginning in early January.

Who is sponsoring the match?

My sponsors - company Danko.

Ruslan, thank you very much for the interview and good luck in Istanbul!

As you may know, in Istanbul the Ukraine finished 3rd. Ponomariov won a gold medal on board 2 with a 2785 rating performance. His current rating is about 2680, so it will be interesting how Ruslan will do in New Delhi. Ponomariov has his own Web site:

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted