After working on the Najdorf it was only natural to round up the whole repertoire for Black against 1 e4 with the coverage of “everything else.” Now that job is done.
While I did intend the Anti-Sicilians to be suited for the Najdorf player, some of them can be used by other Sicilian players. In fact, if you play 2…d6 then the course is 100% suitable, while in the case of 2…e6 (except for Scheveningen players, who fall into the 100% suitability) or 2…Nc6 then only part of it is and this is basically all White’s 2nd move alternatives (the Morra Gambit, Closed Sicilian, the Grand Prix, the Alapin to name the more important ones).
The main difficulty in creating the repertoire were the move orders. The Najdorf players are particularly susceptible to these. I guess that’s the price to pay for playing one of the most popular Sicilians!
To illustrate my point, after 2 Nc3 the Najdorf player is already at a crossroad. If he wants to preserve the option to transpose to a Najdorf (but this option depends only on White!) he must play 2..d6 or 2…a6. The former is the traditional Najdorf move, but it is exactly here that White has come up with a plethora of interesting and testing options. Necessity is the mother of all invention and the necessity here being a desperate need for something to play against the Najdorf!
Everybody suffers when having to meet the Najdorf, even the World Champion. And it was him who came up with one of the more original ideas – after 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 d6 he came up with 3 d4 cd 4 Qd4 Nc6 5 Qd2, followed by b3, Bb2 and 0-0-0. This line is still very much alive with no clear consensus of what Black’s best variation against it is.
Other tricky lines for Black are the Grand Prix Attack (currently with Bb5 instead of Bc4), the transposition to a Dragon via the Grand Prix (1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 d6 3 f4 Nc6 4 Nf3 g6 5 d4), the move-orders with Nc3, Nge2, g3 and then d4 when Black plays …g6, thus transposing to a Fianchetto Dragon and a few more.
Mind you, all of them are perfectly fine for Black from a theoretical perspective, which is only natural. However, when thinking about constructing a repetoire and wanting to make it easier for the students by eliminating tricky move-orders, too much theory and open Sicilians they may not be too happy with, then the choice is limited.
All of the above explains why I chose 2..Nc6 as the move to play against 2 Nc3. I was “helped” by the World Champion as in the past period he demonstrated quite a few ideas in the line 3 Nf3 e5. This further led me to create a repertoire that completely prevents a transposition to an open Sicilian, which should come as a sort of relief.
Everything else in the course was much easier to cover. The main theoretical alternative to the open Sicilian is the Moscow Variation (3 Bb5+) and here while all three Black moves are perfectly viable, I went for 3…Bd7, as the easiest one to play.
As usual with Chessable, the course comes with a free video where I give an overview of the whole repertoire in the duration of 1 hour. The total course has almost 10 hours of video. That also includes the chapter on Model Games where I analyse games that are important for the understanding of the material.
Generally I’m quite happy with the work I did on the Anti-Sicilians. It also helped me refresh my own repertoire and take a closer look at some lines that I have neglected for years (a good example is the Morra Gambit, where I came up with a very exciting idea for Black!). I like analysing openings and I like to explore them, so this type of work is something I always look forward to! I can only hope that it helps the others as it had helped me.
A few months ago I was contacted with GM Avetik Grigoryan, who was curious about me after discovering my blog. We chatted for a while and came to the idea of an interview. I thought it would be interesting for the wider public to know how a very strong Grandmaster who is not part of the elite conducts his coaching sessions, how his career went and similar questions I was personally interested in. Below is the interview and I hope you like it! (All images are courtesy of Avetik Grigoryan.)
To start with, I’d like to know why you stopped enjoying playing chess back in 2012 and how that happened? Was it a continuous process that led to saturation or an abrupt realisation? After all, you were 23 years old at the time with a rating over 2600 and to stop enjoying chess that early sounds strange!
Yep, it was
one of the toughest decisions that I’ve made in my life. I worked so hard to
get on that level and then I decided to stop.
didn’t stop enjoying chess. Even until now, I love it very much.
stopped enjoying playing in tournaments, home preparation, where it becomes
important whose computer is stronger, who can remember more lines.
I started to
enjoy the competition not as much as I used to and helping others started to
give me more joy.
we should try to live appropriate to our values’ hierarchy, which gives us
It was then
when I started to work with some talented guys, and I felt that their success
gave me so much joy. See them growing, reaching their goals, and having success
gave me real pleasure.
decided to switch to a professional coach career as I enjoyed it very much. I
have so much info in my head and deeply analyzed material in my computer, which
I could share with more talented students than me, who can achieve in chess
more than I did.
mind I regret playing 16 years of professional chess and then stopping it.
These are not lost years, as many may think. Chess gave me so much knowledge
that I use in my life, and without it, I would not be here where I am now.
mentioned that you started to practice Kung Fu and changed your lifestyle after
stopping professional chess. Can you describe this in more detail, how did your
new lifestyle look like?
When I was
playing professional chess, I used to work from early morning until late night.
There was big pressure on me. To wake up very early and work till late night,
six days a week was not easy.
stopped, I felt so much peace. I started to appreciate each day of my life
more: fruits became tastier than before, the smell of flowers became better. I
had time to read books, spend time with people I love.
sunny day I just took a pen and wrote down what kind of person I should become
and what kind of steps I should take.
One of the
things in my list was to be strong physically and mentally. And I thought what
can be better than Kung-Fu 😊 In Armenia we have a very good Kung
I started to practice it seriously, and there were even days when I had three training. The first one started at 5 am!
balancing my working time with the students and my personal time very
You told me
that you enjoy coaching. Can you describe your own coaching that led you to
become a 2600-player?
Well, I was
very lazy until 13 years passed from my life.
thing happened in my life which changed everything.
interesting, I can tell the story.
Yes, of course.
was a late-night, with our family we were in a taxi, coming home.
driver was very sleepy, and he was driving very badly.
father asked him why he was driving when he was so tired, and the driver’s
words changed my life. He said he had to. He had a family, and he should take
care of his family. Every day he woke up at 7am and drove till 1am.
remember I got goosebumps. That was the moment when I realized that I didn’t
want to have such life, and for not having such life, I needed to work very
hard now. I realized that if now I did things that were easy to do, I would
have a hard life in the future, and if I did things that were hard to do now,
later, I would have an easy life.
that, I started to work on chess very seriously. I analyzed all the books of
classics, starting from Capablanca.
in my database, I have around 1000 games, which I’ve analyzed and saved.
worked with coaches, studied in the chess academy of Armenia. Then I started to
work with GM Zaven Andriasian. There
were weeks when he came to my place, we practiced all day and started again in
fast, both of us became GMs, Zaven even became the World Junior Champion at 17!
the way, I advise everyone to have sparring partners, a friend with whom you
can work on chess.
it’s best when your styles are different.
our case, Zaven was a very sharp player, and I was positional.
you don’t notice how you “absorb” the strong skills from your friend and give
yours to him.
in my career, I had a few good coaches, but two of them have an irreplaceable
impact on my chess career. GM Chibukhyan Artur, who believed in me and my goal
from IM to become a GM in 1 year, and then GM Akopian Vladimir, who helped me
to get from 2500 to 2600 level. These are the people that I’ll never forget
what they’ve done for me.
Mark Dvoretsky said that coaches should also play from
time to time in order not to lose the “taste” for the game. When you play
nowadays, how do you approach the tournaments? Do you dedicate time to prepare
beforehand, are you ambitious to win them? Do you update your opening
repertoire with the latest games?
Yeah, I absolutely agree.
I play a lot of training games
with my students.
We often play certain openings
or certain kinds of positions, where the student is weak.
Recently I also participated
in St. Louis Fall Classic tournament after not having pressed the chess clock
for three years!
The reason I participated was
to show my students on my own example, what our mindset can do! Right Mindset!
That right mood and the inner energy can do magic.
About updating the opening
repertoire, I check all the latest games, not for my opening repertoire but for
As most of them are high-level
players, and everybody plays different openings, working with them
automatically makes my knowledge in the openings deeper.
In St. Louis, a fascinating
I had a novelty in one of my
favorite lines – English opening with four knights and with 5.e4 line, which
recently Carlsen and other top Grandmasters also started to play. In that line,
I had a novelty, which I found around ten years ago, but never had the luck to
play it. Then when I stopped playing professionally, I showed it to my
students. Unfortunately, they also didn’t have a chance to play it.
A few months ago, in St. Louis tournament GM Petrosian Manuel bumped to that novelty, which we had so long time ago.
You coached the national team of Thailand. How does
coaching a national team differ from coaching individuals? Did you devise any
It was a
very interesting and unforgettable experience.
as a coach, you face different challenges. Now your task is not only to help
them to grow their chess skills or strengthen their weak points in the game but
to create a real team where everyone helps each other, where they become
brothers no matter what happened between them before.
Unforgettable – because we spiritually became connected very much, and even now, I am in touch with most of them.
You have also been Director at Yerevan Arabkir
Children and Youth Chess School. Armenia is well-known for its chess program
and exceptional chess players. What does the training program for children
consist of that it develops such marvellous players?
Yep, I wanted to do something
good for my country. When I accepted the offer, I invited a few other
Grandmasters and professional coaches to work together and create a chess
school about which I had always dreamt when I was a kid.
Well, we have chess in school
as a subject, and we have professional chess schools in each of the districts
Chess is very popular in
Armenia since we have World Champion Tigran Petrosian, Levon Aronian, and we
won a few Olympiads and the team world championship. Many parents want to see
their children reach such success.
I believe the main reason of
Armenian players’ success is character. During the whole history, Armenians
fought, and the fighting spirit is in our blood. We do not give up and continue
the fight after blunders, bad games, or tournaments.
You have helped many amateurs and chess lovers to
improve. While I understand that each individual case is different, can you
still single out the one most important thing that must be done in order to
I give lots of attention to
There should be a very strong
ANSWER to the question “WHY”?
Why do you want to get the
2000 level? Why you want to become a GM.
If the answer is strong, very
strong, nothing will stop you. You’ll find motivation when it’s tough; you’ll
find resources instead of excuses; you will set up plans on how to improve and
start the action. That strong energy will open many doors.
I know many people who want to
become grandmasters, but at the same time, they spend countless hours in social
platforms scrolling FB, and I know people who have the same dream but are very
goal-oriented. They work with coaches, work with chess books, and when they are
online, most of the time, they learn in some chess educational websites, read
some chess articles or solve chess puzzles.
That is the difference that
makes the difference.
I believe desire, a burning desire, is the 1st essential “ingredient.” I have even written an article in our blog in the series “How to become a Grandmaster or achieve any goal”.
When you decided to open your website www.chessmood.com you wanted
to make something different, to offer online instruction with theoretical,
practical and interactive parts. How is that different from individual
one-on-one lessons? What are the benefits you are offering?
of our students say that the educational system of ChessMood is just a dream.
understand them very well.
in my life, I learned lots of different stuff, and when I learned them from the
Internet, my biggest challenge was this: I watched the course – the theoretical
part, but then I didn’t know how to put the knowledge in practice or to whom
give my questions.
consists of all that three parts!
1. Theoretical part- courses. All of them are created by our Grandmasters, and behind each 1-hour material there are countless hours of hard work.
think that very high-quality courses are what differs us from the market, but
in real, the next two parts are very unique in the chess world and has a big
impact on our students’ successes:
2. Practical part – Streams and webinars based on the courses!
the streams, we play and comment on the games, playing ONLY the openings we
teach in our courses.
this way, students not only memorize the lines, see how to punish the opponent,
when he makes a wrong move in the opening, but also see the middlegame part,
typical plans, and ideas of that opening in practice.
can ask all their questions during streams, webinars, and also during the 3rd
the students can give all their questions and get answers right from
Grandmasters instead of searching the answer in random places. This is what
students can’t find anywhere else.
Also, in the forum, our students help each other too, many have become sparring partners and friends in life.
There are 6 Armenian Grandmasters that are part of the Chessmood team – yourself, Melkumyan, Gabuzyan, Andriasian, Ter-Sahakyan and Hovhannisyan. How does the team work? Does everybody have a special area of expertise, are the tasks divided equally or perhaps the student asks for a particular coach?
Most of the material we create together. Everyone is an expert in some particular opening, so we share the knowledge and files with each other, analyze them in more depth, using cloud engines.
As all our Grandmasters are
active players, the responsibility of sorting all the material, preparing
files, finding and commenting model games, and then record videos I took on
Recently, GM Gabuzyan plays
not much, and he also started to record videos.
Well, I am absolutely open to
working with other Grandmasters as well, who can keep our quality standards.
Many have tried, but it’s
tough. I’ll ask to re-record the video if the explanation of the particular
line or the idea is not very clear.
I understand, of course, that
it’s harder work than they used to do for recording videos for other websites,
and I am ready to reward more for that work.
But anyway, it’s very tough
for anyone to keep that quality standard that we initially put with our
Do you also provide coaching services to professionals
(IMs, GMs)? Have you been approached by them and what can you offer to these
😊 Well, now most of my private students are IMs and GMs, and only a few
are not titled.
As I only work with students whose goals I believe, it becomes so enjoyable to work with talented and goal-oriented hard workers, to see their progress and eventually together celebrate all their successes.
are 3 essential steps that I do with each student.
What’s the goal?
is very important to have the right Big Goal, divide it into parts, and start
to reach them step-by-step. If in this 1st step, something is wrong with
motivation or mindset, we fix it first.
Identifying the weaknesses of the student.
other words, finding out the “illness” even small ones, all of them!
Make a plan and start the action.
healing them with action, putting big effort.
have a very big database in my computer, which I collected during my 20+ years
of being in chess. Not just openings, but also collections of calculations,
positional and attacking chess, defense, endgames… All the topics in chess.
believe a good coach is like a doctor. The patient comes and has some problems,
you find out the issue, and you begin to heal him with some therapies and, in a
few cases with medicine.
student has very different weak points in chess and how precise is the coach’s
therapy or medicine, as better.
is also important to mention that each student has his language, and for the
coach, it’s a must to find the right approach of teaching.
How does your usual day look like? How much time do
you dedicate to coaching each day?
may look very crazy, but almost every day with my wife we wake up at 6.30 am
and work till late evening.
part of the day goes on working with students and preparation for the lessons
and the other part goes on developing ChessMood and on much work with ChessMood
team which is now becoming bigger and bigger.
can you manage to do so much?
There are three secrets.
1. I wake up early
2. I believe in my goal with 100%
3. My magic girl who covers my back and together we chase our dreams one by one.
What is your personal goal as a coach and where do you
see yourself in the next 5 years?
believe that in the next five years, all the chess educational platforms,
which, instead of providing value put effort on selling with nice marketing
words, will go down under the water (:D), and the best ones will become
partners, sharing amazing value with the chess world.
personal goal in ChessMood is to help as many chess lovers as possible to
achieve their goals, to unlock their full potential.
In 2019, our students raised their ratings on average by 70 points!
This gives me full satisfaction in life and happiness.
In the next five years, I also am going to publish a few books which I think will make a big impact on many chess players’ careers.
I’ll also start to travel in the world, and meet our community members in real life, make camps, and have a good time together.
We had already such experience this year in the USA when I was playing in St. Louis. Imagine, what does it mean for the coach, when your (his) students from different states fly to meet you.