Friday, June 24, 2016

Tournament Preparation with US Women's Champion Nazi Paikidze

A Conversation with the Champ

IM Nazi Paikidze
It is my pleasure to interview the 2016 US Women's Chess Champion - IM and WGM Nazi Paikidze. During this interview we get to know Nazi personally and then discuss her 2016 US Championship victory and tournament preparation in general. Enjoy!

Getting to Know Her

Question: When you are not studying or playing chess, what do you like to do - e.g. do you have any hobbies or interests outside of chess?

Answer: When I am not busy with chess, I like to workout at the gym, I try to lead a healthy life style and daily fitness is a big part of it. I also enjoy cooking, reading, and spending time with my family. 

Queston: If you were not playing chess (professionally), what would you want to do? 
Answer: My second career choice would be fashion designer. 

Question: Very interesting! Do you see a connection with chess? Perhaps within the aesthetic aspects of chess and fashion? 

Answer: Fashion is my other passion. I don't see any connection between chess and fashion, for me they are two completely different things. 

Early Development in Chess

Question: When did you first start playing chess and how did you learn?

Answer: My father taught me how to play chess when I was only 5 years old. I really enjoyed the game and wanted to learn more. Luckily, chess was a part of curriculum at my elementary school in Tbilisi, Georgia. That's how the journey began...

Question: Where there any obstacles you faced when becoming a master and how did you overcome them?

Answer: Actually, becoming a master was relatively easy for me. Thanks to my parents, who were very supportive of my career. I always had great coaches to train with, and I was able to travel around the world playing strong international tournaments. 

Question: Growing up, did you have any favorite players that you admired or whose games you enjoyed studying?

A: I have a lot of favorite players, but growing up my two absolute favorites were: Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. They influenced my opening choices: Najdorf and Caro-Kann.

Question: Fischer was one of mine as well - what was it about their style or their games that you like?

A: I loved Fischer's aggressive style and Karpov's positional play. I think the two had very different styles and I tried to learn from both. 

Question: When I was researching for the interview, I found an article that mentioned that she had worked with a trainer for several years, but the information was incorrect. I then asked her about her coaches in general.
Answer: I had several coaches over the years, the last one I worked with was a Russian GM - Vladimir Belov. He helped me reach my peak FIDE rating - 2455. However, I have not had a coach since I moved to the states (2012). 

Question: Did they each teach you something different about chess? Help us understand the value of having coaches and how each coach can bring about different aspects of your play.

Answer: It's always good to see things from different perspectives; that is why I enjoyed learning from different coaches. Some of them helped me learn openings, some helped me improve my understanding of middle games, and with some I trained endgames. 

The 2016 US Championship

Nazi won the 2016 US Women's Championship with a score of 8.5/11, winning the championship in the final round with a victory over 7-time US Women's Champion GM Irina Krush. Congratulations!

Question: You came in second in the 2015 championship. Where there any particular changes you made in your preparation or training between 2015 and 2016?

Answer: The big change was my in self-confidence. In 2015, when I was playing the championship for the first time, I was very nervous, and did not believe I could finish on top. After the result, I became confident that I am able to fight for the first. That's what I did in 2016 and it paid off.

Question: Do you have a favorite game from the tournament? 

Answer: My favorite game is the last game vs Irina Krush. I have made a video of it with my analysis on

Below is the decisive game from the US Women's Championship. I have chosen to present it without annotations and I encourage you to check out her video on

Tournament Preparation in General

Question: What advice would you give to amateur players to prepare for their tournaments? 

Answer: My recipe for a tournament preparation is: 

  • Do a lot of tactics/puzzles (as many as 100 a day), 
  • Repeat openings, and 
  • Play practice games (blitz or rapid). 
(Bryan: I formatted Nazi's response into a bulleted list for clarity)

Question: In your tournament preparation, you mention practice games - do you play with other training partners or against the computer (or both)?

Answer: I play blitz online mostly, but I also ask some friends of mine to play training games with me. I am lucky to have many strong chess player friends.

Question: In your practice games, do you focus on specific openings you are preparing?

Answer: Not necessarily, I just try to practice playing so I am in shape for the tournament. 

Question: Besides chess preparation, do you do any mental or physical training before your tournaments?

Answer: I train physically every day. I believe it is extremely important to be in a good physical shape to have all the energy last for the whole tournament. I also like to read Sports Psychology books for mental training.

Question: Do you feel pressure or nervousness before an important round or in general during tournaments and how do you deal with it?

Answer: Absolutely. Nervousness and anxieties are part of the tournament. When I feel nervous, I know it is a good sign. It means I care. To deal with it, I try to prepare better for my upcoming games.

Question: Between the rounds of the tournament, do you analyze chess or rest (or a little of both)?

Answer: I try to rest and prepare for the next game. I don't analyze my games until the tournament is over. 

Future Goals or Projects

Question: Do you have any chess (or non-chess) goals or projects you would like to share with our readers?

A: Right now I am enjoying teaching chess. Soon I will start my preparation for the upcoming Olympiad where I will be representing USA Women's Team. It is going to be my first time playing Olympiad, and I am very excited and I will try my best to bring points to the team. 

Question: Do you have a website or social media where readers can contact or follow you?

Answer: Yes, I have a website: and readers are welcome to follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @NaziPaiki


Thank you, Nazi, for your insightful answers! I appreciate your time and participation. You are a rising star in chess and I look forward to following your future chess exploits.

Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed our conversion today. What other questions about tournament preparation do you have? Do you have any routines or training regimens you practice when preparing for a tournament? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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