Attending the Beautiful Minds Krulich Cup in Munich I felt it was a nice opportunity to spontaneously do a first interview for beyond-chess.com. My attention was drawn to the youngest participant, Dorsa Derakhshani from Iran. Read about her ambitious goals for the future, what she says about chess in Iran and why she felt amazed when talking to world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana!

I. About herself…

Dorsa, please introduce yourself to our readers!

My name is Dorsa Derakhshani and I’m an 18 year old international master and woman grandmaster from Tehran, Iran. I currently live in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona? How did you get there?

Well, I got an interesting offer to play for a local club called Montcada. That’s why I moved there in summer this year right after I finished school. I’m happy I’ve got this possibility and it’s been quite exciting so far. There are many tournaments around and also I’m much closer to leagues. For example, my team won Switzerland Bundesliga last year and I scored 3/3 in my games, but it was really unpleasant to travel for about 10 hours before each game! Being in Barcelona gives me better chances to improve my chess.

Bueno pues, hablas espanol entonces?
No, I don’t speak Spanish yet but I’m about to start with a language course soon!

You are the world’s second highest rated woman (Elo 2370) U18 and won the Asian Championships three times in a row. What comes next?

My results still aren’t stable enough though. For example, I really admire the Muzychuk sisters who perform with an amazing consistency in a range of about 2500 to 2550 in almost any tournament! I want to push hard in the next year to see where I get. I want to break the 2500 elo barrier first, the goal is to get into top 5 female.

II. On chess in Iran…

I noticed Iranian women’s chess is on the verge to get into the top. How can you explain this? Who is your coach?

I used to work with GM Elshan Moradiabadi before he moved to the US. Federation used to bring coaches for a long period of time and that way coaches had the opportunity to get to know the players’ style and get their weaknesses fixed. I remember we had Lituanian grandmaster Aloyzas Kveinys until early 2012 but then didn’t get any more long term coaches by the federation. I mean, federation does bring coaches before important events for about 2 weeks or tops a month. But I do not think it is such a useful thing. A month is not enough for the coach to understand and fix the player’s problems. They really leave the team on its own! I agree with some sort of camp before the tournament but I also think if they want good results, there should be coaches available for long periods of time.

I’m surprised to hear that! Isn’t there any systematic training system for the best players? What about Sarasadat Khademalsharieh another Iranian prodigy?

No, not really. Some players in the team work a bit together but that doesn’t count as support from federation. Rarely, Iranian players are from families with good economic backgrounds so they normally can’t really afford to work with private coaches. I mean, usually these top players played only the events the federation would send them so if they played 4 open tournaments a year, that was huge for them! Also, we hardly have female players at all! Sure the top 5-6 look ok, but the players after them are not so promising and/or they don’t get the needed support. As an example, not very long ago I saw a very talented girl, Motahare Asadi, who didn’t get the needed support and finally her nice results stopped as she didn’t get any support and opportunities for training and tournaments.

And what about the hosting of women top events such as a Fide Grand Prix in 2016 or even the World Championships planned in Tehran in 2017?

Ok, let me give you the overall picture: You may know we had a revolution in Iran in 1979. As a result, chess was forbidden for more than a decade since it was regarded as a sort of gambling. In this period, chess was still secretly played in backyards but obviously there was no systematic approach for training or tournaments. This explains why chess culture generally still lacks behind in Iran compared to other countries.
Now certain things seem to change due to the new president of the Iranian Chess Federation Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh who is also engaged in the Asian Chess Federation. He is responsible for the hosting activities going on right now. However, although I obviously welcome every event taking place in Iran I hope they won’t forget their players and improve the financial support for better conditions.

We’ve all read about the highly controversial debate on the player’s obligation to wear a hijab in the upcoming world women’s championship in the beginning of 2017 in Tehran, Iran. Others complained about the prohibition to stay in the same closed room with another sexed person beyond marriage. What is your opinion?

I don’t think it’s a practical issue by any means. In fact, I was once wore a formal sort of hijab (we have different ones depending on the occasion) that was seriously disturbing me as it was bound too strong. On the other hand, in Iran people know and accept that foreigners are neither familiar (nor particularly willing) to wear a hijab so it’s ok to just use a scarf and cover your hair in some way. As for the second aspect mentioned, you can just leave the door open a tiny bit and everything is fine. I’m definitely not conservative in this issue but I think we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. Those who really oppose these measures for political reasons are free to stay away. This really doesn’t help anybody and would truly be a pity for the event itself!

III. On her journalistic activities

Besides being a very successful player you are an officially licensed Fide journalist. How did you get into that field?

Well, I love to be involved with chess as much as possible! So when I’m not playing myself- or as hobby- I like to interview players or write articles about the tournament. I am a licensed FIDE journalist, Also I did the FIDE training classes in Baku and got my FIDE trainer title.

Actually how I got to start with journalism is quite funny! I remember I was in Poland for the Najdorf memorial 2015 and I saw Igor Kovalenko crossing 2700 and having an amazing tournament, I wrote to Alejandro Ramirez (for chessbase.com) and asked if they would be interested in an interview done by me with Igor! I got “yes”, I did a little search about him and did my very first interview! I remember after this interview I went from around 2200 to 2365 in a few months! So I kinda think I also learnt from him!

2015 I did some articles and interviews for chessbase.com but I currently write for chess24.com. I also did some video series for chess24 which should be published soon!

Which players have you interviewed so far?

Well, besides Kovalenko I interviewed Rapport, Caruana, Short, Korobov, Sachdev, Sutovsky, Artemiev, Alekseenko and Sutovsky.

What was the funniest moment in those interviews? Which player do you find most interesting and why?

The moment when Igor Kovalenko said “cemetery champion” and when Nigel Short jokes.

The full detailed interview with Emil Sutovsky was also superb but my top one is still the interview with Fabiano Caruana. He was so ordered and keen aside from being honest and he answered all questions!

Quite impressive, indeed!
Dorsa, thank you so much and good luck on your way to the top!

Thank you!