Zakhar Efimenko: “Everything will be decided in the last round”

The key match of the 9th round between Ukraine and Azerbaijan looked like a draw. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov brilliantly defeated Vassily Ivanchuk, but Pavel Eljanov outplayed Rauf Mamedov to level the score. Ruslan Ponomariov drew with Teimour Radjabov, and a drawish ending arose on the 4th board in the game between Zakhar Efimenko and Eltaj Safarli...

Yesterday Zakhar Efimenko also had a drawn position, but forced his opponent, Vladimir Malakhov from Russia, to make a couple of mistakes, and won an all-important game that gave his team a draw against Russia-1. Today he performed above expectations again, squeezing the full point from Safarli.

Zakhar, we single out a hero of the round every day. However, you deserve such a title for two days in a row! How do you feel about it?

– Winning is always a pleasure. I worked a lot and earned my victories in a hard way. And I am really happy that my games decide important matches for my team.

– Your teammates must be absolutely ecstatic. Yesterday you gave them a draw against Russia, now you bring a victory over Azerbaijan...

– Don’t overestimate my deeds. This is just teamwork.

– But the game against Malakhov was a clear draw! And yet, you outplayed him on his territory – in the endgame!

– This was a matter of psychology. I think Malakhov felt too much pressure. A draw in the game could bring his team a victory in the key match! So he made a couple of mistakes, which I was able to use. Such things can happen in chess...

Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the captain of the Azerbaijan team, also said that Safarli had an easy draw today.

Eltaj just selected the wrong plan. He had to rush to my pawn with his king directly, and he selected a wrong path. This error proved fatal.

Vassily Ivanchuk lost his first game at the Olympiad today...

– He cannot win every game. And he had a very decent opponent. The game was very sharp and double-edged, but Vassily lost. However, it does not matter now, as we won the match and took two points! We are still in the lead...

– If Sergey Karjakin didn’t take Russian citizenship, you could have been out of the team...

– Maybe, but why would you think about it right now? I play, I win games, and I bring victories to my team. This is great for my country.

– Did your captain Vladimir Tukmakov help the team today?

– Of course I did, – Tukmakov joins the discussion. – They would have never won without my help! I gave many pieces of advice to Zakhar during the game.

– Usually the captain motivates us before the game, – smiles Efimenko. – I think his speech was effective as always today.

– You maintain one point lead over Russia-1. It feels Ukraine is unbeatable!

– I believe everything will be decided in the last round. You must not lose your focus at the Olympiad. One mistake can take the gold away. And not only gold...

– What can you say about your next opponent – France?

– They defeated Georgia today, which pretty much speaks for itself.