Woman Grandmaster Camilla Baginskaite from Sioux Falls in the United States has won the World Girls Under 20 championship, the US Women's championship, made top 16 in World Women's Championship and played in seven Chess Olympiads. She is also a chess trainer and mother of two children, and to make things complete she is married to a chess Grandmaster...
Name: Camilla Baginskaite
Date of birth: Is it necessary? April 24, 1967
Fide rating: 2283
How are you?
I live in USA, so I'm supposed to say "Fine, thank you! How about you?"
What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?
That's the kind of question my 14 year old son tortures me with... The problem is, I had a big "movie love" period in my 20's, but when I try to watch the favorites now... He doesn't understand it, of course :) The reason why I am reluctant to mention movies is, I was fond of somewhat sentimental stuff, such as Shawshank Redemption, which today still looks like a good movie, just more standard than I thought before ( Alex sometimes says such movies have "Oscar" signature that turns him off somewhat - and me, too ). The Truman Show is a newer example that comes to mind. I've had some trouble finding a really good movie lately...sorry!
And your favorite tv-series?
Sorry, we're going through an experiment now - how long will the family last without TV. But I admit cheating - there are a couple of Russian TV shows I watch online :)
What kind of food and drink do you prefer?
Italian, Japanese and...water :) We don't have many exotic options where I live!
What is your favorite book?
Again, it changes all the time! Right now, my husband got me into one of the new Russian authors, Kholm van Zaichik.What he writes is hard to describe... a mix of detective, science fiction and moral utopia...and, surprisingly, it's quite funny, too! My husband is from Russia ( St. Petersburg ), and I can speak the language fluently - so I read books in three languages (my mother tongue is Lithuanian) Also, I do like books from different countries - I just wish the libraries in US had more of them. It's quite a chance my latest favorite was a book in Russian.
What music are you currently grooving to?
Old fashioned jazz. I am pretty much an omnivore here! In jazz, I have to admit it can be as old-fashioned as Gershwin hits... I've heard a good CD lately, sung by Patti Austin.
"...girls play chess worse than guys...
because they are just too practical!"
What could be done to get more girls play chess? Why is this game so male dominated?
There are many reasons why girls play chess worse than guys. It's hard to say if they can reach the same level "en masse" ( although many will agree the gap shouldn't be that big ). I'd like to give one that is often overlooked. The idea comes from the short stories of Jaroslaw Hasek. He had one about a very successful thief and art collector who used to dress up as an old woman - when he was asked why, he said people would never suspect a woman in passionate collecting without a good reason behind it, because they are just too practical! I think something similar happens with chess. Only truly impractical guys can spend so much time on the activity that doesn't pay much... you do have to be a bit crazy about chess! Now, if the girls could be convinced that it is more useful that socializing with friends at the mall... I think serious attempts to popularize chess with girls should be looking into ways to make it more "mainstream" - or, in other words, socially acceptable. Maybe if more colleges would be willing to give chess scholarships, that would be a good step forward. Or, if somebody could prove that a big group of kids raised their grades after starting the chess club... that would appeal to moms. In short, something practical.
Tell me a chess secret?
Please don't take it too seriously! :) And also - it can take more time than pretty much any other occupation I know ( yes, it can even rival computer games! )
What is your best chess memory?
You may be surprised, but my best memories don't necessarily come from biggest career achievements. I remember my first chess Olympiad in Philippines...it was special in many ways. That was the first year my home country, Lithuania, could participate. Also, the last Olympiad I took part in, this time for US team, in Russia. We were fighting for the fifth place, and everybody wanted it so much...the tension was unbelievable. I've never worked on chess so much as the day before that game! Needless to say, the game was far from perfect. But in both cases, it was the excitement that counted.
What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?
I had a bout of Rubinstein-mania in my teens... it was absolutely fascinating then how he could win positions with only a slight advantage. Later, my coach gave me a hand-made compilation of all published Fischer's games (and it was no easy job to collect them in the former Soviet Union!)
Are you self taught in chess or did you get lessons from a master?
I had several coaches, usually at master level. They all contributed to my development.
Is chess your full time occupation?
No. I teach scholastic chess clubs, online students, and have a part time job as an interpreter. In the last years, I seldom play over the board - the family takes too much time.
Was religion a part of growing up?
Not really, but I had little choice in that matter.
If you were to live 100 years in the future, what do you think the game of chess would look like?
I would be scared to live that long if I still had to play!
What do you think is the chess of the future?
If you mean tournaments, I think the show element will become even more important...but, of course, it can be achieved in many ways.
"God forbid!!! Are you trying to make some
sort of human/computer hybrid???!!!"
What do you think are the primary ingredients in a chessplayer?
He/she has to be a bit crazy to spend so much time on the modern chess preparation :) Hopefully, in a good way!
Do you have an idea of some kind of “ideal chess style”?
God forbid!!! Are you trying to make some sort of human/computer hybrid???!!!
How old were you when you began to play chess?
Around eight - I don't recall exactly.
What do you do nowadays to get better at chess? How do you train?
I try to find several students, so I am forced at least to do some work for them :)
Do you have a family?
Yes, my husband Alex Yermolinsky is a GM, and we have 2 kids - Ed, 14, and Greta, 9.
Is the Internet a big part of your life?
If you mean Facebook, then obviously no. It always fascinates me, though, how people don't mind all the school crushes finding you years later :) I do follow the news and e-mail - for my generation, that's quite decent!
What was your childhood like?
Quiet. I was a very bookish child.
What is your favorite chess game? Why?
Right now, I am reading Kasparov's My Great Predecessors; please ask this a few years later!
What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art?
When I prepare for the game, it's more like a problem - artistic elements are better appreciated afterwards...
How much time do you devote to chess?
There is never enough time for chess. That's one reason why women still don't play as well as men. Of course, they also have a tougher time justifying it :)
"There is never enough time for chess"
What is your inner being?
What is the best advice your parents gave you?
Probably the best one came from my mother, and like many good things, it's simple. She told me never to marry a stupid guy - I could bear many things, but not that. That's how I ended up with a chess player husband! :)
What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the chess world?
It would be nice to have back the time when chess fans could name several latest world champions easily... if possible :)
Do you think one is born a chess player or can a great player be made by hard practice?
Both. It's hard to persuade somebody to practice chess if he or she doesn't fall in love with it.
How do you deal with the mental stress and nervous strain of playing chess?
I try to approach it as a concrete problem to solve.
Who is your inspiration?
I don't have a hero.
What is your greatest fear?
To have lots of good ideas that come to nothing.
If you could give a beginner in chess only one piece of advice, what would it be?
You know, chess reminds me a bit of drawing. Many people think you need to have talent for it. This is wrong - like all things, it can be learned. You just have to keep trying.
Do you prefer blitz, otb tournaments or correspondence style chess?
A hard question. I like blitz, probably because I am pretty bad at it and keep hoping to get better against all odds :) I've played just a few online correspondence games, although this may be my next favorite. OTB has been the most serious effort so far.
Who is your most difficult opponent?
Time - both in life and on the chess clock
Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?
One of my coaches, Mikhail Shereshevsky, had me study the full manuscript of his book about practical endgame play. At 800+ pages, it was bound to be influential! And, by the way, it is a good book, too :)
If you could choose to live one day of any time in the history of mankind, which time would that be and why?
Can it be an alternative history? Now that would give a great choice! I´m mainly thinking about the Van Zaichik book series mentioned above. He indeed has a case of alternative history, where Russia created a super-big state together with China and several other countries, with a complete mix of cultures. It is quite totalitarian, but at the same time it follows super-idealistic moral standards - and manages to succeed. Just the way people are polite to each other.... I'm not alone wishing to live there for a while! Plus, the author does like to have some good natured fun with contemporary habits - and how strange they look, for example, from a Confucian point of view.
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
Books, coffee, movies - in that order.
Are you a superstitious person?
"If you want to survive, get rid of
stuff that's not important!"
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in chess?
If you want to survive, get rid of stuff that's not important!
What does your future hold as a chess player?
I think most good players take it one step at a time.
How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?
I would ask him to describe himself first.
Do you think the future belongs to rapid chess and blitz?
The evidence so far seems to point this way... Nakamura's book on 1 minute chess being the proof. I guess it is time to read it!
Would you be interested in playing a "death-match"?
To tell you the truth, I'd rather not... when I was saying I'm not good at blitz it was not a joke (well, not entirely). I'd rather play an online game - at least, there it seems I am able to perform at my rating level
Do you have any thoughts on how chess.com can get even better?
I liked your idea to create study plans for different rating groups. It would be great if you could build on that concept - for example, create a "portfolio" of strategy elements for each level. Right now, their coverage is somewhat uneven.