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GM Yaroslav Zhrebukh Interview and Game Review – (age 18 FIDE 2580)

Yaroslav Zherebukh - Chess Picture

Yaroslav Zherebukh - Earned his GM title at age 15!

Yaroslav Zhrebukh (FIDE 2780) is a 17 year old Grandmaster from the Ukraine who earned the GM title when he was only 15 years old! He is in the top 10 highest rated U18 players in the world and shows tons of potential to become a top 2700+ super GM within the next few years with many convincing wins against many super GMs such as Pavel Elijanov and David Navara. We hope to see more of this talented young man in coming years.

Zhrebukh wins Capelle la Grande 2010 and his chess career takes off

The game we chose to cover  is from the Cappelle la Grande 2010, which was the first tournament that really brought him into the spotlight. At only 16 years old he won in first place in the tournament against over 82 GMs and 61 IMs. His convincing win at the tournament against many tougher opponents secured him a spot in the world’s top 10 Under 18 chess players.
Grzegorz Gajewski won the same tournament in 2011 who we also interviewed last month

GM Yaroslav Zhrebukh vs GM Anton Kovalyov – Watch the video


Zhrebukh's opponent - GM Kovalyov (Age 18 - #1 for Argentina)

Zhrebukh's opponent - GM Kovalyov (#1 for ARG)

Zhrebuk particularly enjoyed this game he played at the 2010 Capelle la Grande against Anton Kovalyov (another young up and coming chess prodigy, who’s only 18 years old and the highest rated player in Argentina) and asked us to cover it, you can see his own commentary of this game here. The game features some fantastically creative play between 2 young chess prodigies but I don’t want to give too much away. Here is what Zhrebukh had to say about the game

This victory began my series of three consecutive wins against strong opponents, what finally allowed me to win the tournament! Fortune really favoured me. My opponent in the sixth round was a seventeen-year-old boy who also was as ambitious guy as me:) Trying to prove that I’m not worse than my coevals, I did all my best and the game happened to be very nice. Hope you will enjoy it too.
Rest of Zhrebukh’s kibitzing commentary available here.

The interview with Yaroslav Zhrebukh – (done in July 2011)

When did you learn chess and who taught you?

I learnt chess at 4 – my father taught me.

When did you begin playing tournaments and how did you do?

I began playing in tournaments at age 7 and my results were bad till I was 8. After that, my progress was very fast.

When did you begin making legitimate progress in your game and How?

Probably from 9 years old, I studied games of old masters like Siegbert Tarrasch and improved calculation with simple tactical themes.

Can you recall a specific turning point? (a game, event, working with a chess coach, etc..)

Working with Vladimir Grabinsky since the end of 2003 has helped me very much. He is a well-known chess coach and has taught around 10 GMs.

What are your top book recommendations for beginner to intermediate players? (

I don’t know what to say to English-speaking people because my first books were in Ukrainian and Russian. But if you can find a book “64 урока” (in English “64 lessons”) – believe me, your progress will be fast.

What are your top book recommendations for advanced players? (2200+)

Andrey Volokitin and Vladimir Grabinsky “Perfect your chess” and Jacob Aagard “Practical chess defence”

How did you become a GM? (What tournaments, did you have a chess coach, etc..)

It was a long journey composed of many tournaments and REGULAR (important thing!) trainings. If you want to make real progress you must play in strong tournaments, which are a bit stronger than one’s current level. For example, if you’re an FM – you have to play mostly with IM’s and if you’re IM – you have to play mostly with GM’s. And also with a coach – personal or not – your progress is faster.

I achieved my GM norms in two strong open tournaments in Russia – “Moscow Open” and “Voronezh Open” each time with a score of 5.5/9 with average rating of opponents around 2540-2550; and in a round-robin grandmaster tournament in Ukraine with score 7.5/11 without losses. Vladimir Grabinsky helped me in my efforts.

What was your exact study regimen when you were working towards GM?

I studied openings and worked hard on my calculation – at least 2 hours a day, openings took 3-4 hours a day. Three times a week I had group training sessions with my chess coach together with other IM’s and GM’s. Each training was around 2 hours.

What is your study routine now? (how is it different?)

Now I’m not working with a coach, I have some sparrings with other Grandmasters. I study openings and rarely work on my calculation skills. Also I became interested in some specific strategy methods, and I started learning old games again like many years ago.

What is next in your chess career?

I want to reach TOP 100 and try to achieve this goal in the nearest future.

Do you have any charity causes that you would like to promote?

Not yet. But if I become some well-known person, not only in the chess-world, I will promote chess, first in my city and next in my country.

Nature or Nurture: Do you think top chess players are born with a natural ability/gift or do they become so talented through hard work and the right environment?

Approximately 70% gift + 30% hard work = top player. That’s what I think about all top players. Without one of those important components it’s impossible to become a top player.

How do you feel about cheating in chess? (specific deterrents/punishments?)

Cheaters must be disqualified for a long period like 3-5 years. In that case nobody will cheat.

Who is your favorite player and why?

My favourite player is Akiba Rubinstein because of his perfect technique and very rich understanding of chess.

How to be a Grandmaster Series

People always want to know how Grandmaster’s achieved the extraordinary feat of becoming a GrandMaster. I noticed most Grandmaster interview’s focus more on recent and upcoming tournament’s and do not focus on how they became a GrandMaster. While most people assume that becoming a GrandMaster is simply a formula of natural talent and hard work, we’ve discovered there is more to the secret formula. Our interview series hopes to unlock these “GrandMaster secrets” so we can learn to not only work harder, but smarter as well. Our GrandMaster Interview series includes both audio and video interviews on our YouTube as well as text interviews with corresponding games on our site. We hope you enjoy these grandmaster interviews. Comments are appreciated and if you have questions you’d like to ask future grandmasters, let us know.

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