Rauf Mammadov: “Our loss to India was surprising”

A member of the Azerbaijan men’s first Rauf Mammadov talks to the press service of the Baku Chess Olympiad.

– We are now into the sixth round of the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku. How would you assess the team’s performance in the first five rounds?

– It would be easier to answer this question if you asked me about the first four rounds only (laughs). Our match against India in the fifth round didn’t go too well. Having won the first four matches, we could not cope with India in the fifth.

– Was this defeat unexpected?

– Yes, it was a surprise for us. We certainly did not expect to lose 3:1. We have to say though that the Indian team is doing very well in this tournament. It shows an unbelievable level of preparation. Even in the absence of Vishy Anand the young Indian players are proving a very strong side. No-one had expected them to play so well before the tournament. Harikrishna played incredibly well against Shahriyar Mammadyarov.

– But in the earlier stages of the game Shahriyar had a slight edge.

– Indeed, Shahriyar was slightly better, but Harikrishna played excellently and won the game.

– It is believed that Shahriyar should not have accepted the exchange sacrifice, as this eventually played a role in the defeat.

– Shahriyar understood that it might get increasingly difficult to find the right moves. He probably thought he had no choice, as his position was quite unpleasant. Only some computer move was necessary. It was too difficult to see it with a human eye.

– Mammadyarov lost to Harikrishna in Shamkir too this year, but went on to become the winner of that tournament. Can anything like that happen again?

– I hope it will be a lucky loss, so to speak. We all want the same result to be achieved again.

– You mentioned India’s performance, but what other teams have surprised you in a positive sense in the first five rounds?

– Ukraine certainly deserves to be mentioned. They are producing a very good impression having already defeated Russia and China. If they win today, their chances of winning a medal will significantly increase.

– Some thought that there would be changes to the line-up after the loss to India, but your team plays with the same guys…

– There was a rest day after the match with India, which is probably why no changes have been made. Besides, Eltaj Safarli has not played with white pieces yet. The decisions are made by the captain, and I respect that.

– Do you think it is good that the defeat happened right before the rest day?

– I do. In Tromso, we lost to China in the seventh round. The following day, we unexpectedly tied the match against Romania. So I believe that losing right before the rest day is better than at a later stage in the tournament.

– Does the fact that the Olympiad is held in Baku put any additional pressure on you?

– I can say for myself that there is no pressure at all. On the contrary, it provides good motivation. This is my seventh Olympiad. I have always wanted an Olympiad to be held in Azerbaijan. When playing on home soil, we receive incredible support. I am happy to play at home. Besides, the level of the Olympiad is very high. Teams stay in the best hotels. I have not seen anything like that elsewhere.

– Did you join the Bermuda Party on 6 September?

– No I did not. I chose not to, but I hear that it was an interesting event.

– How did you spend the rest day?

– I took it easy at the hotel and chatted with some friends. It was fun.