What is Magnus Carlsen's MBTI

Daniil Dubov: "Playing Magnus Carlsen in his kitchen is enormous fun"

Daniil Dubov's first interview as the world rapid chess champion. Conducted by Evgeny Surov from ChessNews.ru


Evgeny Surov: Daniil Dubov, world rapid chess champion, is standing beside me. By the way, these are your first steps in Saint-Petersburg as the champion. What are you feeling now, in this freezing weather?

Daniil Dubov: Yes, I'm feeling the cold. This means I'm alive, and all is well. But there's no feeling of sky having opened above me. It's a good feeling, of course, but ... It just happens that I don't like rapid chess. I'm afraid that I don't like it so much that this one victory wouldn't be enough.

Why don't you like rapid?

I don't know, this game is too difficult. Classical chess - I know I have to take it seriously, prepare well, I don't know, sleep well, eat well, and all that. Blitz - I have played a lot of blitz in my life, had enormous fun, and my experience tells me that in this game, many things depend on whether you got up from the right side of your bed in the morning. And you can't influence it much. I remember that in Qatar two years ago, I finished third in the blitz championship, and played very badly in the rapid section. Before the rapid, I adhered to a strict regimen, slept all night, prepared for games, ate well. I played very badly, got fed up with that, and in both free days before the blitz, me and Max Matlakov would go downtown, walk on the promenade, stay up until half three in the morning, enjoyed ourselves, woke up for breakfast at 9 am, and I played the best tournament of my life and finished third. So I know that it just doesn't work this way.

And rapid is a strange game. It has a kind of logic in it ... If your playing is emphatically idiotic, then your strategy will probably work, and you'll play bad. On the other hand, if you do everything normally, it doesn't guarantee you anything. That's strange. Not to give a damn about rapid at all? No, that sounds bad, that's a bad definition ... let's say treating rapid amateurishly. I'm treating blitz amateurishly. I know that there'll be a world blitz championship, I'll come, I'll play, and I'll have fun no matter what my score is. I really don't care. Of course, it's better to play well ... But still, I'm having enormous fun. I was just telling people that just playing Magnus in his kitchen was enormous fun. I don't want much from life, but I'm truly happy when I'm playing Magnus in the kitchen. So, you can't treat rapid chess completely amateurishly, and you don't want to be all serious about it too. And I can't seem to catch this rhythm.

OK, which extreme were you closer to this time - "idiotic" or "all serious"?

Well, I already said that "idiotic" was a bad definition, but "amateurish" - that's certain. Thankfully, my friends and my girlfriend supported me. But, just so you know: I knew that I was playing Carlsen this morning. My entire preparation consisted of sleeping for six hours and deciding on the first move. That's all. I haven't opened any games, any files, anything. I played the whole tournament this way: whatever happens, happens. So, in terms of those two extremes, my approach was very lazy.

You said before that you haven't got much sleep in the first two nights. Why? What happened?

The reasons were pleasant.

But not for public ears?

Yes. I certainly wasn't crying in my pillow these nights.

You have just made a strong statement [to the journalists] about Saudi Arabia.

Yes, I think that it's important.

So, I have several questions. Tell me, do you have to be a world champion to voice such concerns?

I think you have to. I think we have too few people who can just come out and speak honestly. And my problem is always ... I was never afraid to speak out, but you always feel a bit idiotic if you speak without a reason. I think it's stupid. Perhaps it's just my upbringing. I just quietly decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. I have explained to all my friends why I didn't go. I thought that it was disgraceful. But nobody asked me any questions. And I'm not as self-assured as some people who speak out in their Facebook when nobody asks them to. Going out and writing on the wall isn't my style. So, to say something, you need someone to ask you something, and in my case, to be asked something, you need to play well somewhere. So, nobody asked me about Saudi Arabia, and I never spoke about it. Now I have an opportunity, and I'm speaking.

I know that all ... okay, not all, I don't know about you personally ... but many journalists don't like Boris Abramovich Gelfand, because he rarely gives big interviews. On the other hand, I like his approach: to have something to say you need to stay silent for a while. And if you, like some of our big hopes, play a world championship match and then start writing on every wall, when nobody asks you to, then all your interviews are more or less similar, and nobody needs that. To have something to say, sometimes you have to spend some time alone to think.

It's the same with rock stars. We have, say, Zemfira: I don't like her music too much, but I respect her as a person. She gives a lot of performances, she's very popular, but she gives only one big interview a year, at most. And it's always interesting.

You know what's the difference? Zemfira says a lot in her songs. Chess players can't really do the same thing, can they?

You know, it's a controversial topic. I had much discussion with people about that. You know, there's someone ... I think you understand whom we're talking about - [Sergey] Karjakin really did a lot to popularize chess in Russia. I think we both aren't his biggest fans, but you have to give credit where it's due. First of all, our personal relationship is normal, he offered his condolences at the tournament, all that. On a personal level, he's a normal guy. But I think our ideas of chess promotion and development are different. You know, you can talk a lot and play millions of draws, and you can play beautifully and say nothing. Not that I'm bragging or anything, but I don't have a lot of draws. I think that my games are more or less interesting. It's comforting to think that in any country in the world, say, some young Peruvian second-category kids would download chess24, look through the games and say, "This guy's games are very spirited". I think that if your playing is interesting, and your games are pleasant to watch, it popularizes chess too.

Answering your questions - chess isn't just a job to me. Yes, there are people who come to tournaments and just ply their trade. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just different approaches. But for me - no, for me chess is self-expression. By the way, that's why I can't play in places with bad conditions. For instance, Satka[the venue of Russian Chess Championship superfinal this year - Sp.]: I've understood from the start how would this end.

By the way - let's compare the creative potential of players who played well in the St. Petersburg superfinal and those who played well in Satka. I don't want to offend anyone, but it's clear that the conditions were just too hard for me or Ian Nepomniachtchi. I don't want to belittle Dima Andreikin's success - he deservedly won both the Superfinals - or the results of Mitya Yakovenko. It's not about them, it's more about us. For people who play relatively more creative chess, it's hard to play in bad conditions, when you just aren't in the mood.

Another important question. You called the Saudi Arabia tournament "disgraceful". Several Ukrainian players haven't come to this tournament - they probably think that holding a tournament in Russia is disgraceful too. How should FIDE approach this problem? Where should they hold tournaments, so that nobody would consider it disgraceful? Where do you draw your personal line of what is unacceptable?

I understand your question, I've discussed this topic at length. I don't see any contradictions. Concerning the question of Crimea - I fully support Ukraine in this regard. But there's no contradiction, because for me, chess is just more important than politics. You know, you can talk anything about military aggression or whatnot, but, no matter how you look at it, Russia is a country with huge chess traditions, they always were and always will be. Holding the tournament in Russia is good for chess. You know, there's a certain image of chess. You can say all you want about Russia ...

Russia as a state.

Yes. Of course, I love my country, but of course, there have been fewer reasons to be proud in the recent years. That's true. But still I think that the image of chess isn't damaged by holding tournaments in Russia. Most chess world champions were from Russia. There's a lot of tournaments in Russia, many strong Russian players ... All in all, Russia is a good place for chess. And history - well, it changes. We're currently living in this turbulent period, but for history, it's nothing. Two hundred years will pass, there'll be a shameful episode with Crimea, and that's all. But this will pass, and chess traditions will remain. So I have no problem with that.

And Saudi Arabia - you know, that's a country that hosted around zero sporting events before. This is a country where ... To be fair, there were some positive changes, but you know, they chopped off people's arms in publics. This is a country where women, at the very least, can't wear what they want or go where they want. It's different. For me, it looked like chess as a whole has sold out. We were offered huge money. It's obvious that if, say, St. Petersburg offered the same prize fund as Saudi Arabia, no people would ever choose Saudi Arabia. So, we were basically selling out. And I can't say the same thing about St. Petersburg. It's obvious that, for instance, Nakamura came here not because he needed the money, but because he had nothing against playing in Russia. So, it's all normal.

Concerning the "disgraceful" part of the Saudi Arabia tournament ... You know, I, sadly, have a habit of hyperbolizing, but I think I was pretty clear this time. I was baffled by the people who didn't need money all that much. That players rated 2650-2680 went there - I can understand them on a personal level. Huge money; it was probably the biggest jackpot in chess history, and financially, you just can't afford to miss such a lucrative event, even if you think that there's nothing more good in that. But the people who obviously had no pressing need for money and still went - that's what's strange.

I can at least understand Magnus' position: I discussed it with him, asked him openly. I have to give credit to him - in private, he's a very open, straightforward man with integrity. As far as I understood him (I hope he wouldn't resent me if I say anything wrong), the very name "world championship" is important to him. He just couldn't stand the thought that he would miss a world championship. He doesn't care where it is - he will play because that's the way he is. He can't miss a chance to win a world championship. And I understand him. If there was a world championship in Satka, he would've gone to Satka too.

To continue this line of thought, in the long term, the world champion's title can be monetized too. And we return to the financial theme again ...

Well, some people do monetize it, yes ...

But this is more a question to Magnus.

I have zero complaints about Magnus from the chess development point of view. I think he's doing very much. He's doing very much for chess, without forgetting about himself. But still, I think his main priority is chess. I talked to him personally, and I really like him as a person. And I rarely say good things about anyone.

You talked about him because, as we learned today, you worked with him before his match against Caruana?

Yes. But it's all connected: I become one of his seconds because we connected on a personal level. I think I told this story in an interview before. When there was a World Cup in Tbilisi, we barely knew each other. We played one rapid game, one blitz game, and never talked before. He got eliminated very early - lost to Bu Xiangzhi in the second or third round, and I defeated Vladislav Artemiev - with a great stroke of luck. Still, on the tie-break day, we were both free. Magnus was having a lunch. I was just so blindly optimistic, I just thought that he loved chess. I came up to him ... Can you imagine - a world champion, very ambitious, who just got eliminated. And I came up to him and said, "If you have recovered from your loss, can we play some blitz?" Yes, I just said that to a stranger, a world champion surrounded by his entourage. And he told me, "Yes, sure". And half an hour later, we were playing. I liked that a lot. It's so cool that a world champion is ready to play blitz in his kitchen. Of course he doesn't resent the fact that he's paid millions, but if he wasn't paid, I think he would've still played, I have no doubht. And I think he liked that I just approached him like that, we played a bit, and I think we were satisfied with each other. Of course, a lot of time passed between that episode and me actually joining his team. But I'm sure that without that story, I would've never worked with him. I wouldn't have received the offer.

I'm afraid you'll get cold. It's kind of awkward.

No, no, I feel fine.

I've got a feeling that you have indeed kept silence for a lot of time, and now you've got a lot to say. Perhaps you want to share any more things I don't know about?

No. You know that story - I don't know how truthful it is, Sosonko described it. [Semyon] Furman met his wife that way: they were together at ... in modern Russia, we would've saidtusovka [informal party], but there was no such term in the Soviet Union ...

Earlier, we would've said "at a ball".

This wasn't a ball, but wasn't atusovka too, something in between. All in all, he attracted her attention because he never spoke. She finally asked him, "Why are you always silent?", And he answered, "Just ask questions." So, I'm not the kind of person who would just go out and write something in Facebook. The only thing I can say is what I'm going to do next. For some reason, I've had a dream of my whole life, we laughed with friends about that a lot. Some chess players dream to win a world championship, and my dream ... well, it does assume I win, but the goal was different - I wanted to write on my page in social networksTHE CROWN GOES TO VYKHINO [a Moscow district - Sp.] in huge letters. I think it's hilarious. And this motivated me a lot.

Is "The crown goes back to Russia" different?

Well, "going back to Russia" is ... Russia is huge, but Vykhino ... I just know that there's a lot of people who would be happy. I grew up there, I still remember the times where kids played in the streets instead of tablet computers. I know that the guys will be happy. It's just funny: someone brings the crown to Russia, and someone brings it to Vykhino. I think that's a good joke.

Say, what if tomorrow, or after tomorrow, or after the New Year, your phone rings, and the Russian Chess Federation president says, "We have arranged for you to visit Kremlin and meet the president ..."

A very difficult question, I'll be thinking hard. To be honest, I don't know. On a personal level, I would have refused. But there is a problem: I understand that it would be better for chess if chess players met the president. So, the ideal option would be to go, but still stay true to my convictions. I don't know, the very fact of going to Kremlin for me ... Well, an invitation is an invitation - in our country, we're trying to say that we have a democracy. You don't like Putin, maybe I don't like him too, but if the majority elects him ... And, on a personal level, we understand that Putin is indeed supported by the majority, and if we really respect democracy, we have to live with that. So, we have to respect the choice of our nation. If Putin does invite me - I don't know, I'd probably have to go.

I would disagree, but then we'd really freeze.

It's a big topic in itself. And you probably won't have a hard time changing my opinion, because our political positions seem to be more or less the same.

Concerning the Russian Chess Federation president - I can say that he did already call me and asked to give as many interviews as I can, rightfully pointing out that this would be good for the image of chess. So now, despite your reputation in the RCF, I can give an interview even to you. You see how great everything turns out!


Well, I was joking, of course, I would've talked to you anyway, but still, it's funny - nobody can pick on me now. I was asked to give more interview, and I'm giving them.

I just had to ask that question. We were all shocked by what happened to your grandfather - he died in mysterious circumstances. Can you tell me what really happened?

I wish I could, but, to be honest, I just don't know. When I was heading to St. Petersburg, it was all unclear. Now, my parents are working on this. They said there would be a memorial service ...

Yes, [on December 29th].

Yes. And I just don't know ... You have to ask my father. I have nothing to hide, at the moment of my departure, it was unclear what really happened. We knew that he left his apartment at night, and was found in the morning. What was he doing in the street for hours ... I don't know, really. I think it's only a matter of time - it wouldn't be too hard to know exactly. When I was departing, we had just a day to know what we could. We couldn't know everything.

Are you staying for the blitz tournament? Were you thinking about going to the memorial service?

No, I was already in Moscow ... It's clear that it's not totally rational ... Traditionally, memorial services are held several days after the death, and it was clear that if I'm going to St. Petersburg, I'll miss the service. I'm grateful to my parents for their support. When I asked if maybe I shouldn't go, my father told me, "Go and don't even think about it." This is very important; I'm rarely saying that, but my parents have really given me a lot of great support. I can't even imagine what's happening at home now ...