February 4, 2011

Interview with the winner of the C-Group!

Daniele Vocaturo

If Daniele was shared 3rd last year in Wijk aan Zee, when the tournament was called "Corus", this year in Tata Steel Chess Tournament, he finished alone on the 1st position, half a point ahead of the 2nd place, with a convincing score: 9 points out of 13!
Success didn't come overnight for Daniele. It is the result of hard work carried over the years, with the combined efforts of Yuri Garett (his manager) and Mihail Marin (his trainer). Ups and downs, happy and sad moments, a tremendous work and love for the game, determination, hopes and illusions, they are all present in Daniele's career. What we can see, is only the top of the iceberg, the beautiful result of his struggles, culminating in his attacking style and tendency for seeking complications.

But nobody really knows how many efforts and sacrifices he had to make, to reach his goals. Under his cap, under an apparent calm and control over the situation, Daniele is living a whole world of emotions and feelings.
Italian blood is flowing through his veins, maybe another reason for his spectacular chess style. Of course we shouldn't be guided by stereotypes, but I cannot overlook the sincerity, honesty, openness and frankness that Daniele proved during our conversations. Italian culture is not cold, clinical, mummified; it is a living culture, it is the fruit of emotional interaction of its inhabitants, influences which I could easily depict while waiting in the press room next to his trainer and manager. Later on, Daniele would have walked in, with one point in his pocket, or not, but no matter how the result looked like, one thing was clear: he simply loves this game!
A strong character, warm, friendly, generous and a "beast" on the board, Daniele cannot afford to be carried away by emotions. And with his team always there for him, the road to success is now wide open.

Have you ever thought before that you will win the C-Group?
I must admit that unfortunately, when it comes to tournaments, I tend to be quite pessimistic. If I would have been on my own, I would have never aspired to reach that goal! Fortunately, next to me were my manager Yuri Garrett and my trainer Mihail Marin… They taught me that what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve! It is clear that they have played a really important role for my achievement, I therefore use this opportunity to thank them once again.

Daniele after his game, with his manager Yuri Garett (middle)
and his trainer Mihail Marin (left).

The last round in Wijk aan Zee was a very tense one. Did you think during the game that your chances for winning the group have been ruined? 
Yes, at some point during the game I understood that I've done a mistake and I was already thinking that life is sometimes so unfair… I think that this game reveals an important aspect of the chess game: just a tiny little moment can make a big difference - between a winner and a disappointing tournament. Luck, however,  has come into my hands in the very last moment and, because of it, I am here now to give this interview!

Focused? Worried? He is surely trying
to find the best move!
Picture: Fred Lucas

Daniele, why are you always wearing a cap when playing a game?!
Well, it is not a matter of superstition... But, if I think about it, the last time I remember I did not use the cap was when I lost against you:p Maybe I should start believing it! (ed. Daniele is speaking about the 2nd round from Bratto, august 2010; I should be fair and say that I was a bit lucky:)

To be honest, the first time I wore a cap during a game, it happened when I didn't sleep the night before and I was not looking in top shape:) But then I realized that it was very useful because my vision was limited only to the board and because of that I could concentrate better. I lost that game but, as you can guess, it was because of different reasons!
In Wijk aan Zee it has been very useful as well, because the public is very often looking at you as if you are an alien (or maybe it's just my impression!)... I'm quite shy in these things, that's why I believe it was also a good "protection" against this.

Pictures taken only from Wijk!
I could count 6 different caps:)

You are back home in Italy: did the people noticed your great result? Are you being invited for tv stations, radio shows? 
Unfortunately, chess is not very popular in Italy. Lately, things are improving, but it's still far from what all the italian chess players hope.
However, in the region where I live, almost everyone knows about my passion for chess. I am often stopped in the middle of the street by different people, anxious to tell me some interesting story from the tournament I've just played. I hope that this success will draw more attention towards chess and that our efforts will be perceived as a strong motivation for the growth of chess movement in our country. I should also say that mass media is not yet running to ask me questions… but I have a big trust in the work of my manager, he is always able to move in the right direction, even in difficult circumstances.

Playing against Judit Polgar, in Rocca di Papa, 17 Oct 2010.
Another successful event organized by Caissa Italia and Yuri Garett.

You have Caruana as the strongest italian player, are you working with him as well or just with Mihail Marin?
Occasionally I try to work with other Grandmasters, but my full time coach and my point of reference is the Grandmaster Mihail Marin. I feel good with him, not only as a trainer, but also as a person.
I have never worked with Caruana, although we have a good contact. And I would like to point out that during team competitions, Fabiano was very kind and he often shared important information with us.
I also believe that the lack of sharing among the best players in the country (which I have noticed in other places like Romania, Holland, etc.) is directly connected to our italian culture, visible on different levels as well, not only in chess.

Fabiano and Daniele in Olympiad, 2010.

Are you getting help from the italian chess federation or do you have a sponsor?
I don't have  a sponsor to help me financially with my career. So, I re-use what I earn with my chess performances. The federation is trying to do something by giving me an annual scholarship of 5000 € which covers some of my expenses.
For the moment I'm concentrating more on improving my potential rather than seeking profit from chess, but it is clear that in the long run, the plan will be revised.

What is your ambition for the future and which tournaments are you going to play next?
It is not that easy to answer this question right now! I'll have to sit at a table with my team to find new targets and the best strategies in our attempt to achieve them. Surely Wijk aan Zee - B will be very important for me.
In a few days I'm going to play the strong tournament Aeroflot, where I only hope to save my skin and that the momentary euphoria will not conditionate  in a negative way my games!

Are you still studying?
After high school I decided to take a year off to play chess. I graduated with good marks, but it was obvious that my passion was chess. Over the past two years I made some good progress, which motivated me to continue the project.
I have many friends who have to face many barriers in their hope to find a decent job, despite their studies at the University, and in Italy we only hear about the brain drain ... This gave me a big push in taking my decision and I am sure everyone would love to have a job where their work is in fact their passion.

Are you the only child of your parents? Why chess?!
I have two sisters and one of them also played chess with great results! Unfortunately she stopped playing, which is a pity because I believe she was talented for chess.
I've always been in love of the game and of the atmosphere in tournaments... When I started to grow up and be able to travel and visit great places, the game fascinated me even more. The passion for chess was growing and already dreams of becoming a professional chess player one day, started to appear.

So, do you want to make a living out of chess or you want to perform in other domains as well?
I still have a long life ahead and it's possibile that many surprises are out there, reserved for me. But for the moment I am very happy and I wouldn't like to change that!

Have you ever thought to stop playing chess?
There were a few moments when I thought to stop playing chess, but the most significant one dates back to 3 years ago, when my results were really distastrous. It became so painful to go to my board and recover  from the many defeats I was suffering, it was a tremendous effort of mental energy.
I also have to be honest in saying that during this time, I liked too much to go to parties and I was not very concentrated on my tournaments.
Now everything falls into it's right place. I met my manager Yuri Garrett, who introduced me to Marin and made me realize that sometimes having a little bit less fun, can be a wise decision:)

Mihail protecting his pupil from paparazzi:)

Do you still remember the moment when you decided to take chess more seriously?
Almost by magic in the next tournament, after the total disaster I was just speaking about, I made my first grandmaster norm and that's the moment when the idea of becoming a professional began to take shape even more.

Which results are you most proud of?
Certainly the Tata Steel Chess tournament from Wijk aan Zee of this year. The tradition, the feelings and the emotions that I felt there are something that I have hardly encountered elsewhere.

Winner of the C-Group in Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 2011.
We will see him in 2012, playing in the B-Group!

Do you remember a funny or embarassing moment from your chess career that you can share with us?
I have plenty of such moments :) The last one happened just a week ago... I was playing against the Dutch player De Jong and amazingly, I managed to make a blunder after just 3 moves! The result was that after less than 10 moves I was completely lost and with my king running around the board ... At that moment I saw that several big players of the A and B tournament were getting close to my board, trying to read on my scoresheet what I have done! I felt completely embarrassed and I wanted to hide myself under my cap!

Picture: Fred Lucas.

Which places you enjoyed most from your travels?
Without any doubt Argentina, which I visited during my last Junior World Championship under 20.
I experienced a completely different mentality and lifestyle than the european one. I felt in love with this nation and I hope to have soon the opportunity of going there again!

How would you describe your chess style?
Extremely aggressive, maybe a bit too much! Like in the last round of this tournament, where I complicated a position in which there was absolutely no need to do it! Luckily, my coach is giving me the positional basics, which obviously I have always missed.

Underneath you can see one of Daniele's games, which I personally find very beautiful and illustrating for his style. I suppose that his opponent, Hillarp Persson Tiger, also liked very much their game because he allowed Daniele to give mate on the board, to crown his entire chess concept!


  1. This was some interview, Alina! it is not so easy to have Daniele Vocaturo talk to a journalist...

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