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 Interview with IM Denis Salinnikov

  (Held by Bryan Castro and originally posted at his website which is about chess of course *g*)

  I had the privelege of interviewing International Master Denis Salinnikov on August 22, 2001.      IM  Salinnikov is a professional chess teacher and player, and I had the chance to ask him about several topics including his chess development and his recommendations for training and study for the beginner. Also, I had a chance to ask him about his methods on teaching.

My questions will be in bold, while IM Salinnikov's responses are not. Comments in italics were added after the interview.

First, give us your "vital statistics."
I'm 23 years old (born 05/12/78), live in the city Krasnoyarsk (in the Eastern part of Russia - Siberia). I'm a professional chess player and teacher.

Tell me about your chess development. You mentioned that you started when you were young. Can you describe your training when you were younger and how it changed as you got older?
I started chess study at 10 in youth chess club. I worked with 3 trainers till age 16. From 16 to nowadays I'm teaching myself.

Were there many children who trained with you?
Yes, many. I played in children's tournaments in Russia and was champion of my state. I was the strongest player in my club, so they were studying when they played me. When I was 13, I gave simuls.

Where the children selected by their talent?
We have several groups. For all children, for beginners, and a special group for the strongest--for those who were really interested in serious chess.

You know, many children play in school, but when they finish school, they stop it.

So chess is popular in Russia?
Not so popular like 20 years ago, but still popular, sure.

In the USA, there are not as many children who play, but it is growing.
I think in USA a lot of older people play chess.

Yes, children are more into video games here.
In Russia they can't do this...because of work, hard life, etc. In Russia many people can't afford hobby. Also our tournaments mostly for master level players...or at least for experts.

It is much different here. There are tournaments where an amateur such as myself can win much money.
I really like this situation...people of every level has interest in play and win.

When did you earn your IM title?
I reached 5 IM norms in 1997-1998, but I obtained title in 1999.

Obtaining these norms are not easy!
Of course, if you play in Swiss 9 round tournament against 6 GMs and 2 IMs (Average ELo 2524) it's not easy :)

What were some of your best tournament results?
I won 3 tournaments of FIDE categories 1-5 (strongest - Category 5 (Average Elo 2351)) and I shared 3rd place in Cup of Russia in Tomsk in 1998.

Can you tell me about your chessplaying style? And also how has this developed from when you were a younger player. I played through a few of your games that I found in my database, and to a mere amateur like myself, you seem to have an aggressive style. Please correct me if I am wrong.
One of my first chess books was "120 selected games of Chigorin." He was great combination player. I think my style is as an aggressive combinational player.

So Chigorin inspired you. What other players have inspired you?
Well, Karpov's book was very impressive. His "Selected Games," an older edition from 1978. I've read books of practically every great chess player, but these two books are my favorite.

But Karpov's style is very different from Chigorin's?
Karpov's style is a very big secret. :) He is a great tactical player.

People always think of him as only a positional player, but I think to be such a great player, one must have great tactical ability as well.

Since this web site is geared towards beginning and intermediate players (myself included), what are your recommendations for training we can do to improve?
Well, best method - play slow games and analyse them. Also solve tactical positions and study positional play.

A very solid and balanced method of improving...

How does this training (for beginners) differ from what you and other strong players do in your training?
Nitsche said, "Before you learn to fly, try to walk first." :)

Are there any particular books that beginners and intermediates should read?
I do not know U.S. books (only Russian), but I suppose books on selected games of the World Champions would be great.

You offer chess teaching services. Can you tell me a little about your teaching style and methods?
My method includes three parts:
1) Games with post-mortem analysis.
2) Openings - I try to explain the main ideas. Where you should put this piece...Why you must exchange that piece, etc. I believe that when you know WHAT to do, you can find out HOW to do it. Once I worked over Sicilian Defense with my GM friend. We worked only with a board (no database, no PC) for about 2 hours, and understood much more than we can understand after 10 hours in database.
3) Endgame - I like to give a base of endgames. Maybe 7-10 positions in pawns endgames, about 10 posiitons in bishops, etc. I can see many times: people going into a pawn endgame without a pawn...they don't know that 90% of pawn endgames will lost without a pawn. At same time, in rook endgames you can survive 1-2 pawns down, if your rook and king are active. When I was 12-13 years old, I solved about 1000 pawn endgames, and about 400 rook endgames.

So you teach students knowledge of basic positions so they can evaluate whether to go into certain endgames?
Yes. I think if my student will avoid exchanging rooks in endgames when he doesn't have a pawn, my work is good.

This type of knowledge is what beginning and intermediate players need! You explain the basic ideas and plans behind their games, openings, and endgames.

So where do you teach?
I teach on ICC, and soon on USCL.

The Internet Chess Club (ICC) is a commercial internet chess server. U.S. Chess Live (USCL) is the internet chess server for the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and is available for free to members of the USCF.

So besides chess, what else do you do? Do you have any other hobbies?
I like sports, nature, travelling, and girls. :) Also music and movies.

I like those too (especially girls:-). With your chess tournament play, where do you get to travel?
I played in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (former USSR republics). I also once played in Hungary. I'd like to play in Spain this winter in Linares and Ubeda. Also maybe in France next February.

You should play in the U.S. sometime!
I would like to. I have some plans about it in the next year.

Great! I hope to see you if you do. This has been very enjoyable. Thank you!

IM Salinnikov can be reached by e-mail:
If you are a member of ICC, you can leave him a message there as well. His handle on ICC is Salinnikov.

More information on IM Salinnikov