Interview with Valentin Iotov

Right after they finished their game, tournament winner Valentin Iotov, Floris van Assendelft and your reporter (Merijn van Delft) had a nice conversation about the course of the tournament and chess in general.

Valentin is 21 years old (soon turning 22) and born in Pleven, Bulgaria. After he finished school he became a professional chessplayer. "Yes, that's what I do. At some stage after my active career as a player I want to become a chess trainer." This is the third time Iotov participated in the Young Masters. The first two times he didn't manage to win it, but now he did. "Previous editions of the tournament were a bit stronger, and also, this time I just had enough luck."

Iotov started the tournament well with a win against Gil Popilski. A key game was the one against Robin van Kampen in the second round. "9...f6 was inspired on my game against Berbatov (Kyustendil 2010). Actually if I play 17...a6 18.Bd3 (18.Ba4 b5) Bxd3 19.Qxd3 f5, Black is perfectly fine. Then I underestimated 19.Nce4 and 21.Nc5 I just missed. After 29.Rxf3 White may still be a bit better, but in time trouble he lost control."

He kept winning in round three against Christov Kleijn. "I missed so many things in this game. For example I mistakenly thought 18.bxc3! gives Black too much counterplay. And 27.e4 would have been much better. The pawn ending actually should be a draw if he starts with 31...Kd7. Usually calculation is my strength, that's why I'm a bit disappointed with the quality of my games here. But it's already better than in my previous tournaments like the Dutch Open in Dieren, haha."

In the fourth round David Miedema refused a draw offer in a completely equal position and quickly went astray. While leading the tournament with 4 out of 4 Iotov played it very safe against Yaroslav Zherebukh and quickly drew. "Double rounds is possible (although I prefer single rounds), but the time between the games was not enough. There was hardly any time to recover a bit and focus on the next game."

In the sixth round he surprised his opponent Martyn Kravtsiv with 1.e4. "Working alone on chess is not so easy, but since a few months I'm working together with my colleagues in Bulgaria and now I get a lot of work done. I learn new openings and often work ten hours a day on them." When he got a clear advantage in the endgame, Valentin spoiled that to a draw. "Maybe I wasn't patient enough. Technical play is not what I enjoy most in chess." That obviously brought the conversation on the recent Anand-Topalov World Championship match. Topalov's Dutch seconds Erwin L'Ami and Jan Smeets have said in interviews that Topalov basically won the theoretical battle in the opening. "That may be so, but still Topalov didn't really get the postions he likes best. So I think Anand played it very clever. He is the more complete player. By the way Magnus Carlsen is most extreme example, he is ready to play any position and manages to beat absolute world class opposition from slightly worse positions, amazing."

In the seventh round against Thibaut Maenhout, Valentin took a calculated risk by playing the 9...h5 line in the Taimanov. This nicely paid off since his opponent blundered six moves later. In the last two rounds Iotov played quick draws to secure tournament victory. Asked about poker he says "Just write that I hate poker. My friends claim you can easily win a lot of money with it, but I think in reality things are not so easy as many people like to think. I simply like chess." Valentin Iotov is the deserved winner of the Twente University Young Masters 2010 and definitely likes to come back next year!