Interview with Monika Socko

After a long and grueling fight, Monika Socko drew her game against former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, concluding the Poland-Russia women’s match in a 2-2 tie. Anastasia Karlovich didn’t miss the chance to discuss the game, as well as other topics, with the top Polish female player of the last decades in the Expo Center.

-          Monika, first of all tell us a few words about your game and the match.

Okay! After the opening I was quite happy, because I had a very nice position; Alexandra probably missed something. I think her move 11.Ne4 is a new move; previously people exchanged on d5, which is a position I had in my preparation. So I was happy that she probably forgot the theory, or did not find it satisfactory and wanted to change something. Eventually I got a very nice endgame; perhaps I wasn’t better, but my position was pleasant: she had a very weak pawn on c5, another one on a2…

-          So then you decided to torture her a little bit, and then you played on until the end of the round!

Yes, eventually I won a pawn and reached a rook endgame with four pawns against three. I believed that I would have some chances, but I probably should have followed a different plan, with …g5 instead of …h5, but okay… Playing Black against Alexandra Kosteniuk, I am quite happy to have made a draw.

-          Did you have a chance to look at the other boards and see how the match was developing?

Yes, of course, I was following all the other games. The best game of the match, in my opionion, was played on board 3 by my teammate Karina Szczepkowska, who won a very nice game. She surprised her opponent, because for the first time in her life she decided to play the Gruenfeld Defence, and her opponent Alexandra Goryachkina spent over twenty minutes on the very first moves, she didn’t know what to play… She chose the system with 5.Qb3, for which Karina was prepared, and they eventually reached an endgame where Karina was playing for two results (win or draw), as she had the two bishops and very good pieces – Goryachkina’s pieces were stuck on the first rank (knight on d1, bishop on c1, rook on a1). Karina could have made a draw by perpetual check, but she decided to play on and won a really nice game!

-          Your description of this game, and also the fact that you were aware of her preparation, means that not only you follow all the games of your teammates closely, but also their preparation! Do you prepare all together, share your opening knowledge with each other?

Yes, exactly! We have very good team spirit, we are not only teammates but friends and we all try to help each other.

-          That’s really nice. As for the match, I suppose a 2-2 draw with Russia is a good result, but what were your expectations before the match? And what is the history of your matches against them? I am sure the two teams have met each other many times in the past…

This is correct, we have played many matches against them and unfortunately we have never beaten them. You should believe me, we really wanted to beat them today! Of course, the draw is not a bad result, but I hope that in the future, someday, we will be able to do it and beat Russia.

-          Ah, so this is a goal, one of your goals in this Olympiad! What are you fighting for in this tournament, what are your aims?

Of course a medal would be a dream result, but we are aware that teams like Russia, China, Georgia, Ukraine are really strong, so a place in the top 6 will be okay for us. But of course we will try our best, and maybe we will be able to win a medal – we are ambitious!

-          How many Olympiads have you taken part in, and what is your opinion on this one?

This is my eleventh Olympiad. I like this one and I especially like Baku very much! I’ve played here before, a strong closed tournament a few years ago…

-          Ah yes, I remember this tournament! You played very well and won the tournament!

Yes I did! It probably was my best result ever; I beat such strong players as Katerina Lagno, Antoaneta Stefanova, Pia Cramling… It was really nice to win that tournament. I like Baku and I think now it is even better than before; besides, everything is great here: the hotel, accommodation…

-          You are enjoying your time here, right? Apart from the games, an Olympiad is a great opportunity to see your friends, explore the city… Is this also the case here?

Yes yes, we managed to see some places on the free day. We also met a very nice Azerbaijani girl who speaks a little Polish. We toured the old city and learned about its history, which is very interesting. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to swim! (laughs)

-          Aha, OK! (laughs) But the weather is so good here!

Yes, but unfortunately there are no beaches here, so we have to go someplace else, maybe 30 Km from here, so maybe in the next tournament, our next visit to Baku!

-          We couldn’t help but notice that the Polish Chess Federation has found a very good sponsor for your team! Tell us about it.

We like that we have team suits, outfits… But especially we have good team spirit, not only the women’s  team but also the men’s. We are all friends with each other, and if we have any problems then the Grandmasters help us!

-          I especially noticed the t-shirt you were wearing, with your name on it and signatures from your supporters! Were you happy to see it?

Also the orange outfit! We like them all very much and are very thankful that our federation managed to arrange it.

-          Okay! Thank you so much for this interview, and good luck to your team in the remaining rounds!