Pavel Eljanov: “I thought I could do something different for a change”

Without Pavel Eljanov the Ukraine had a quite a run in Batumi at the European Team Championships. After two wins in round seven and eight, one of them against Germany, it looked as if the Ukrainians went for gold even without the former number six in the world among them.

Pavel Eljanov followed their effort from Bavaria where he participated in the Open International Bavarian Championship. During the ninth and last round of the European Championship we met him for a chat. It wasn’t yet to be foreseen that his boys would stumble against Croatia in the last round and win “only” the silver medals.

Pavel Eljanov used to be the world’s number six. He’s not happy with his recent play: “I can do much better.” An so he did in the Open International Bavarian Championship where he finished shared first with a 2716 performance. (Photo: Thomas Müller/Tegernseer Tal Tourismus)

The German national team was unbeaten for 18 matches, then came the Ukraine. For us it was a bit of a damper yesterday.


Looks like my compatriots are unstoppable. At least they are the favorites now. But it is not over yet. I was particularly impressed by Vladimir Onischuk who is playing for the national team for the first time. He lacks experience and preparation, but he compensates for it fantastically. His inventiveness, great. In addition, the strong nerves! He is the discovery of the tournament.

How can Ukraine afford not to have someone like you in the team?

Some strong players are missing, I’m not the only one: Kryvoruchko, Korobov, Ponomariov … Each of us has a full calendar and decided to sit out this time for individual reasons. I’m not unhappy with being here instead, a wonderful place to play chess.

Tournament director Sebastian Siebrecht already invited you in 2018.

I had other obligations unfortunately. “Maybe next time,” I told him. This year I mainly coached and trained others. I helped the Muzychuk sisters in the Candidates Tournament for example…

Anna (links) and Maria Muzychuk both played the recent Candidates Tournament. Here they’re interwied after facing each other in the first round.. (Photo: FIDE)

…you’ve been working with them for quite some time.

When Maria played the World Championship match against Hou Yifan in 2016 I was at her side, there is a connection between us. In general, I’ve never worked as much as a coach as this year. Maybe that’s why I started to look for a nice tournament to play? It felt like I had not played enough. A few weeks ago I asked Sebastian if he was still interested.

Is there a plan of yours to be more coach, less player?

I was dissatisfied with my results over the board lately, that may haven driven me towards coaching. The European Championship this year for example was one of the worst tournaments of my life. So I thought I could do something different for a change. But there is no plan to become a coach now. I can play much stronger than lately and will try to get back to where I was.

Wijk an Zee 2017, Pavel Eljanov facing the World Champion. He’ll play there again in 2020, in the very strong B tournament, though. There Eljanov will play some 2700+ guys as well as Germany’s rising star Vincent Keymer. (Photo: Tata Steel Chess)

You were number six in the world, you entered the 2015 World Cup semi-finals and played elite tournaments on a regular basis.

I wouldn’t say “regularly”. I played a few elite tournaments. But you need a coach and a team behind you in order to keep up with the gifted adversaries at this level. A lack of total focus and outside support makes it difficult, that’s a handicap. And playing handicap against the world’s best does not work in the long run.

Here you’re shared first after seven games. Satisfied?

Eljanov-Sandipan, OIBM 2019

Well, yes. Yesterday I played a nice game, nice for the spectators as well. My opponent had two queens but could not do anything: he was about to be mated. That win wasn’t your typical everyday game. Apart from the chess I like it here as well. I go hiking every day, the nature is wonderful, the place very nice. It reminds me a of Austria where I helped Boris Gelfand to prepare for his 2012 World Championship Match against Visvanthan Anand.

What’s next?

I’ll go home first of all. In the beginning of 2020 I will play Wijk an Zee, in the B tournament, possibly the strongest B tournament ever. Nominally, I’ll probably be number five there.

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