Kateryna Lagno: I see some developments for women’s chess

It was not hard to predict the readiness of the chess world to roll out the red carpet for the new rising star: the Ukrainian prodigy, Kateryna Lagno.

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With her whirlwind progress through her childhood years, she convincingly made her first steps noticed when she claimed the WGM title at the age of only 12. Since 2008 she has been the Ukrainian team leader, helping her squad to gold in the Olympiad 2006, World Championship 2013 and European Championship 2013, making her not only one of the great contemporary talents but also an important pillar within her team.

Kateryna, you are a woman of many talents on and off the board and have played in many international tournaments around the world. The Grand Prix series is very unique, how important is it for you to participate in the series?

It is one of the strongest tournaments in the world and it is qualifies you to play in the Women’s World Championship match. Of course it is a very important cycle of tournaments and I am always happy to play. I qualified through my rating. It is a good opportunity to fight for the title. There is the other way to become the World Champion through the knockout system, however, I don’t do so well in this system, but I will try to do better for sure.

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The prize fund for this Grand Prix cycle has increased from the last cycle. Do you think this is a positive development for women’s chess right around world and do you see prize funds for women’s chess grow as the years go by?

We really do see some progress. The Grand Prix series is a really big important step because some years ago there was only one strong event for women in Krasnoturinsk and now there are some really big improvements. I hope the prize fund will be bigger, greater and will grow and grow. Here you mostly fight for first place and for the money. If you know you will not be first or second, you can already think of the prizes.

In terms of development of chess in Ukraine. Ukraine is another nation that is as strong as Russia. Please tell us about the chess scene for women in Ukraine and are there any programs for girls to improve or enter chess?

Unfortunately not, but what I can say is we don’t have any rising stars and it’s a pity. Our team has been the same for about 10 years now. For the moment it works and we have won the World Team Championship and the European Team Championship. Let’s take Russia for example, where they can take first place without having the Kosintseva sisters in the team. Our situation isn’t good right now and we don’t have a chess school. With the brilliancy of GM Anna Ushenina, she did this by her own work and as far as I know, as she wasn’t really helped by her federation. To compare this with Russia, there is no comparison.

At the age of 12 you achieved something most female chess player’s dream of achieving and that is the WGM title. When you started playing, did you ever think you would achieve this and then to go on and achieve the GM title?

You know, I achieved this when I was 12 and as a 12 year old you really don’t think about this kind of stuff, you just play chess. Now looking through the years, it is something, but I don’t think it is really a big achievement to get the WGM. To achieve the GM title is something else. I got a GM norm in an open tournament and then I got my two other norms in women’s event’s. I wanted to achieve it the other way meaning against men only.

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My next question is about FIDE elections. We know that Kirsan and Garry Kasparov are running to become President of FIDE this year. Have you seen anything in their programs that show the development of women’s chess and what they will do better to promote women’s chess?

I don’t really know a lot about this subject, but what I see is some developments for women’s chess and I don’t know who will win the election, but whoever wins I really hope they do not forget that women’s chess is really important. In terms of elections, I am staying away from this and I just hope that both candidates watch more of women’s chess. I would like to add that prize funds should be bigger during the World Championship, during the Women Grand Prix. I don’t say that it should be the same as men but it could be bigger and I would like it.

There is the one question that we have discussed briefly before and that is the zero tolerance rule. Could you share your thoughts on this topic and if there was to be a change to this rule, what would be the appropriate forfeit time?

I know that nobody likes it and I see no reason to have this. I think we should have at least 15 minutes as you are unsure what could happen. You could forget about the time, you could be stuck in getting to the venue; there could be many reasons why you cannot be there on time. It can be a really nervous situation before the game to be on time and to avoid all these problems you go the playing hall 20 minutes before the round and then you wait around. Fifteen minutes would be nice, but zero tolerance I do not like at all.

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Then there is the discussion of do we extend the time for the media to be allowed to take photographs say 30 minutes from the starting time?

I don’t see much of a difference. We always have the same faces and we will not show you something else. During time trouble there are different emotions and this is interesting to see the difference between time pressure and at the start of the game. Of course it distracts them, the players, and when you are in time trouble and you see something, or even if someone is looking at you, it can be distracting, but I can understand that you can see some nerves and it can be great for the public and for the media. For the players though, it is the opposite.

You have a son Kateryna. Do you want him to play chess and become a chess professional?

I would like my son to play chess and know the rules but to become a professional chess player, no. It is really, really hard. If you just take a look at the World rating list. We have around 50 people with a rating of 2700 or more. Just to achieve this high rating I think you should work really hard and having such a rating doesn’t mean you will win a dream life. You should be really good, have talent, you need to work hard and after all you still need support from your Federation with trainers.

We know that the situation between Russia and Ukraine is not the best. There was a report on www.chess-news.ru about Lviv Regional Chess Federation not welcoming Karpov, Karjakin and Gallimova to play chess in Ukraine because of their support for Crimea to be part of Russia. Do you think these comments of the LRCF could hurt the image of chess a little because of these players’ political views?

Firstly, I wish not to speak about the political situation and I don’t think there is no connection with chess at all. I do not support the decision of this subject and I think they are not right.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not training and participating in chess events?

First of all I am a mother and most of my time is spent with my son. I don’t see him as much as I would like to and let’s take this trip to Khanty-Mansiysk for example: It is very hard to leave your baby for almost 1 month and I feel a little guilty. When I am back home I like to spend as much time as I can with him. Besides that, I like to read, to check some sport news, hot subjects and what’s going on around the world and to watch movies.

Music is something that everyone loves, so what is your favourite type of music you like to listen to?

It really depends on my mood. I have one hobby and that is I like to sing. My family might not be so objective of me; however, they think I can sing well.

When you have the chance to sing/do karaoke, what songs do you like to sing?

Well, I like to sing Lara Fabian and songs of Alla Pugacheva, who is a big star in Russia/Soviet Union, Edith Piaf, a French singer and other nice French songs. There is a variety of western singers I also like and Madonna is one of my favourite.

When you have had a good tournament, you have made some money, how do you like to reward yourself?

I love shopping, but I also like to buy some presents for my son, family or friends. Nothing really special but maybe I should go somewhere and take some holidays as I haven’t had a holiday for such a long time. When you have a child, your life changes and you don’t have enough time.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us Kateryna and we wish you all the best for the remainder rounds of the tournament.

Thank you.

By Jamie Kenmure

One thought on “Kateryna Lagno: I see some developments for women’s chess

  1. Thanks for the interview! … I’m a follower of Kateryna’s games, and it’s very interesting to know a little more about her.
    Regards!

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