What is your earliest memory of playing chess?
I don’t remember this but my father told me that nobody taught me to play chess. Whenever he played chess with friends I’d watch intently and one day (when I was about 4 years old) I startled him by challenging him to a game. ‘But you even don’t know rules!’ he said. He was even more taken aback when I showed him I knew a few tactics.
What is your most memorable game?
Against Rusudan Goletiani in 1999. Oh, it was fantastic! It was the last round of Interzonal in Georgia and I had to win to qualify for the World Championship. I was certain that I would win but ran short of time. When we reached the time control at move 40 I realised that the position was completely drawn. I couldn’t believe it but then a miracle happened (as they usually do in my life).
Her last move was 58…Be1-d2. I played 59 Kc5 (the last chance!). And now something unbelievable happened! Maybe thinking that any move would draw, she played 59…Bc3?? (instead of, for example, 59…Be1 or Be3+). Now White is winning. Can you see how?
What was your worst defeat?
All defeats are so painful that I try to banish them from my mind.
Which living player do you most admire?
How do you relax?
I try to live a life of relaxation. I relax in everything I do.
What/who is your favourite band/music/composer?
I like classical music. My favorites are Prokofiev, Beethoven, Bach, Rachmaninov, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. An hour before every game I listen to Russian rock music.
What is your favourite record?
What do you consider to be your greatest weakness as a chess player?
Openings and lack of common sense.
What is your greatest strength?
Unusual ideas and an ability to defend lost positions.
What is your most unappealing habit?
In chess? I am trying to overcome my superstitious attachment to ‘lucky’ pens.
Which book would you take to a desert island?
The Old Testament.
Against which player do you have the worst results?
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I have made many mistakes in my life but regret none of them!
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
What has been your biggest disappointment?
I’ve had some but prefer to forget them.
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t have anything. Anything I can lose at any moment.
What was your most embarrassing moment at the chess board?
During the Russian Women’s Championship one of my opponents reached a lost position and developed a persistent nervous cough. I complained to the arbiter and he spoke to her about it but it had no effect. Even now I don’t know what to do in such foolish situations.
Which single thing would most improve the global chess scene?
FIDE employing professional PR managers.
Who is the most irritating opponent you have faced?
Only players who intentionally try to irritate me.
Who is the most courteous person you have played?
What are your passions?
Meditation, sex, tasty food and chess.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Every . . . 2-3 months I get ‘the most important lesson in my life’. It’s so cool!!!
See WhyChess for more on Maria’s life as chess player and actress.