Gulishan Nahbayeva: «I cannot imagine my life without chess»

In recent years, Kazakhstan national women’s chess team, the average age of which is hardly older than 20, demonstrates all of its opportunities and regularly gets into the top-7 in major competitions. In this way, at the World Team Championship in 2013 in Astana our girls came seventh, and at the World Chess Olympiad in 2014 in Tromso, Norway, as well as in the World Cup 2015 in Chengdu, China, they took the sixth place.

The “Litera” reporter had an interview with one of the prominent representatives of the new wave of Kazakhstan chess, Guliskhan Narbaeva, and learned about the special team spirit that helps our team stand against the strong opponents, how hard it is to play for the national team on the first board at the world tournaments, and whether it is possible to earn good money by playing chess.

— Guliskhan, for a start could you please tell us briefly about your first steps in chess…

— I have been playing this game since the age of six, and it was my mom who promoted a love of it. She is a strong chess player, candidate master of sports, and plays it up to date. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances my mother could not get to the chess tops, but her children — me, my sister and brother she brought to the chess club from an early age. She wanted very much, that someone of the three of us played at a top level. So it happened. I was guided from my childhood, then I had a great interest in chess, which grew over time into a professional passion.

— At what age did you first played in the major competitions?

— I think my career really started in 2006 when I was 14 years old. At that time at the women’s national championship I share the second and the third place. The tournament was attended almost by all of our famous masters as Flyura Khasanova, Maria Sergeeva and other strong players. I managed to do well among such strong players, and I felt that I want to develop and keep growing as a chess player. Soon afterwards I became the champion of Asia at the age of 16, and from that moment I was involved in the games for the national team. However later I had a one year break in my professional career because of entering into the College, but upon returning to the game, I won the title of champion of the continent again, but this time in the category up to 18 years. I have been playing for our national team at the World Chess Olympiads since 2008.

— What do you think contributed to the recent advanced results of Kazakhstan national team?

Three years ago at the Olympiad in Istanbul, we got the 12th place among 125 participants that was a very serious success for our young team. At that time we seriously prepared to the tournament and before the last round, I remember, we ranked in the top five. It was something incredible for the world of chess, everyone thought we were cheaters (in chess this term means the use is prohibited computer technologies — Ed.), and they said that we should be definitely controlled (smiles). Well, with my friends we then realized that everything is in our hands and we can decently compete with the leading teams. We established a good microclimate in the team and all of us tried to understand and support each other. In the World Team Championship 2013 in Astana, we were the seventh, but last year on the Norwegian Olympics we moved on one step upwards, gaining equal number of points with the players from Georgia and Armenia. We managed to finish at the sixth place at the April World Championship this year which was held in China. I hope that our team, headed by our coach Pavel Kotsur, will keep on progressing and will be able to show even better results.

— With whom from your team mates do you have the closest relations? Do you some other common interests besides chess?

— The team as a single system, which can operate only through joint efforts. All the girls are well aware that there should be no hard feelings or misunderstandings. We are all friendly, and it is one of the most important factors of our success. And in everyday life I keep in touch with Madina Davletbayeva, we both trained at the same specialist Gregory B. Kim. I think that we complement one another, we have common interests besides chess, and the battles over the chessboard do not affect our relationship.

— I wonder how the team is arranged on the boards? For several years you have been playing regularly for the national team on the first board, but in the Chengdu Championship you played at the third, showing the best result among our participants – in five out of eight scores…

— This is rather difficult question, and here we have complete trust our coach. Pavel Mikhailovich talks to us individually, and then analyzing opinions makes the decision. For example, in Chengdu, I asked to play on the third board myself, where I managed to become the fourth among 10 participants. But in any case, the important thing is the team result. All the girls made their best. Gulmira Dauletova playing on the fourth board also scored five points and achieved the norm of Woman Grand Master. Dinara Saduakassova on the second board had a few really good parties at the end of the tournament. I should say that it was really difficult for Zhansaya Abdumalik who debuted in the national team on the first board. I really understand her condition. Zhansaya competed with many prominent representatives of the World women’s chess, skilled and mature masters. Those who play on the first board always experience grate psychological pressure. It doesn’t even matter what position you get, everybody want to come over you at any cost and to prove their superiority. It is hard, of course, but after all you get vast experience.

— Tell me, who do you consider to be the strongest chess players of the world among men and women? For example, whose games did you study on?

For me, the greatest chess personality was and still remains Garry Kasparov. I think that he is one of the best analysts of all time. Among women – certainly Judith Polgar. Her style of play is much different from the others. All female chess players want to be like Judith, but I think that her talent and intuition is a gift from above.

Nowadays during preparation for the competition many men use special chess programs. Do women often use such practice?

— I think that men by their nature are more prone to deep and rigorous analysis of different positions on the board. Yes, they often use chess programs, carefully study all the gaming options on the computer. Women in this respect, are probably more ordinary. Sometimes, we apply to them for advise, ask for the ready analysis of any positions. Men are more peculiar to logic, while women are sometimes dominated by emotions, feelings that strongly interferes in the game. Over time I came to the conclusion that in chess you need to be able to control emotions, take the victories and defeats easier.

— Which game do you think is the best in your career?

— I remember the game against reigning world champion from China Hou Yifan at the Olympiad in Istanbul. I managed to tie the score, and this result brought our team a draw, although everyone thought that we will be defeated. I got much experience from this event; I realized that all can compete on equal terms. Among the last games I can point out the winning at the Olympics in Tromso against Marie Sebag, a French grandmaster among men and one of the elite chess players in the world. I am happy than in the contest with her I managed to find the path to success and helped our team to win.

— Is it possible to make good money playing chess at a professional level?

— As far as I know, only about 20-30 of men and 10-15 women holding the highest positions in FIDE World Ranking, may have a decent and steady income on account of chess. Everyone else needs support. Someone have sponsors, someone get help from local sports organizations, the others are supported by family. In general, chess is not a profitable sport.

—Are you fond of other sports? What are your interested in besides chess?

I guess I’m not such an avid fan, and most of all I like figure-skating, tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, beautiful and attractive types of sports. It is very interesting to watch the performance of the representatives of such sports, how they put their soul into the art. I try to go to the swimming pool more often, and previously I got the first-class degree in swimming. Also I read a lot, mostly fiction. Recently I got married, so now I’m a family person. But I will never give up playing chess; I cannot imagine my life without them.

Author: Oleg Kanapin