Carolina Luján, Absolute International Teacher of Chess, Extreme Sports

  • By:karen-millen




In this edition of the Podcast something to say about RFI, we talked with Carolina Luján, an absolute international teacher and great female teacher, according to the International Chess Federation (FIDE).We speak of course of how realistic is the Gamito de Ladma series, which triumphs in Netflix, but not only.Luján also explains why chess is an extreme sport, comments on the impact of technology and analyzes the relationship between this game and politics: from the cold war to its own retreat from the chess World Cup in Tehran, where they wanted to force itPlay evening.He also tells us what is to be a woman in a discipline reserved for centuries to men and the reasons for exclusively feminine tournaments to continue.Do not miss it.

Carolina Luján, let's evacuate at once the inevitable question these days: What did the Great Chess teacher seem the Netflix series ‘Gambito de Lady’?

The truth is I really liked it.It seems to me that it is well achieved, especially for those who are chess players.When we see that there is a movie, series, book, whatever, obviously we are the first audience that is there attentive and this series surprised me because from the technical it is also very well done.As for the chess, I am tired of seeing carafales errors, such as the bad location of the pieces or the board or the gestures that a chess player makes and gives me anger: many times I say 'but it is not so difficult to consult a chess player, to a player '.Nor are we talking about having to be a great teacher, but someone who knows the basics, right?This series was very well done from that side, obviously understanding that it is a fiction and that there are some issues that adapt to be more entertaining, but the truth is that I liked it enough.

Even there are some famous moves or games that connoisseurs can recognize at some point in the series...

Yes, in fact there are several who have played among other great teachers, in similar situations of tournaments, including as definitions of the world championship, tournaments of that style that a little is what the series represents in some scenes.And that is also very good.You have to pay special attention because some plays are seen, it is not that the full games are seen, more at that time that the games lasted many hours, even days.But yes, it is very well oriented from that side too.

And what about psychological appearance?Because one sees lonely characters, a little eccentric, apart from society, a little as if they were nerds.Do you think that is well illustrated in the reality of the world of chess?

Yes, in that aspect it seems to me that the environment is also very well represented.There are several "characters", as we call them in the environment: you have a little the eccentric, the intellectual, the madman ... and that is not so in general, isn't it?That is, these characters are scarce.If one goes to a tournament or if you look at the top of the World Lead today of the Argentina's ranking, most do not respond to that stereotype.We are more linked to the athlete, the athlete.That was also because the times changed and the series is located in the 60 ’, 70’, which is clearly another time and combines things with these times, which makes it a bit timeless at times at times.

You just talked about the Athletic aspect of sport.Many times when one says that he practices chess and refers to a sport, they respond with a smile.Why is chess sport?

Well, it's a question that they have asked me many times.In fact, my environment discusses me that I do not do a sport when I talk about chess and the reality is that there are many arguments to believe that yes.The main one, I think, is that the International Olympic Committee recognizes it as a sport.But we can also observe that chess has rules, has everything that is the environment of a sport in terms of training, competition and values it transmits.In itself the game has the playful part, it has the entertainment and a bit of physical exercise.Well, yes, we are sitting, but the reality is that we are not sitting by moving fichitas, but we are making a huge energy expense.In fact, I practice handball and futsal.I also like sports and I finish clearly more destroyed when you play chess than when I practice any of these contact and speed sports.

How can it be physically in a more exhausting state and end up more tired when it comes to chess?

Well, I attribute it to mental wear, to the head, you are really molten.And it also has an impact on the body, that is, to be so many hours under a lot of tension.For many days we are talking perhaps on average of the 5 hours of play daily for a week or 9 days.The truth is that the waist, the back, the legs feel all that muscle tension that really exhausts you.Well, I get a lot of weight.For example, when I do not compete and also burn the shirts in the armpits, it gives me a little shame telling that, but it is true, it is a different perspiration, like what I can have when I do a physical sport in which I am running andThen, of course, my whole body hurts.

That is, if I bathe with cold I recover and if you tell me we get to come to eat something, I start.Now, if you tell me to make a plan after having played a tournament for so many hours or some very extensive game - I played 7 hours, for example - and no, the truth is that no, it does not give my head.I can't react or make any decision.A little to compare it, for those who do not play chess, it is like giving final exam and during all the days that lasts a thousand hours or having to make important decisions in your work and that has your head there 24 hours.You are thinking about that.It is difficult to reconcile the dream too and relax and be able to maintain a routine.As for food, it is important, how to make a physical complement also.That was what I went with the Atlético appearance.Today it is very necessary to be physically.

You just said that with respect to the Lady Gambit series, which is set in the 60s, chess has changed a lot, even in the rules.How did this happen?

Yes, more than the change of rules changed a lot in relation to the advancement of technology.Today chess is much faster, not only to play, but also to train.In my time, and I am talking about the 90s, nor did there be computers as there are now or analysis modules.And you had to wait for the books to arrive from Europe or Russia.We were waiting for months in Encyclopedia, an informant, the theory books.And today you enter any device and have them by hand.Moreover, you can see the live, live tournaments, with comments from teachers around the world, in all the languages that explain to you, variants that explain everything.That was inaccessible, even when I was a girl.Then it was very expedited.That is why today we also find teachers so young, that before it was a novelty.For example, I don't know, Judit Polgár, who was a great teacher, also very, very young.Today we begin to find many boys and girls who work at the high level being children still.I think that is the main factor.

And this caused chess to become more competitive ...

Carolina Luján, Maestra Internacional Absoluta de ajedrez, deporte extremo

Yes, it is much more competitive, in fact there is much more chess players in the world.Although the striking is still that women are few today and always.Then a little arises that question and more than the one that the protagonist of the series is a woman of why it is so strange to see that a woman triumphs precisely in an area of men or in which the men were always.That is something that we ask a lot and that it would be good to work so that it improves.

How did you realize that chess was more than a board game for you?

The truth is that I am not very aware of the moment.I started playing at 7 years and I have 35, so well, chess went from being a game, sport, a profession, my job, something that I love a lot.From what they tell me in my house, I liked playing from a very young age, I was asking for going to the club all the time and I like to compete.So at 8 years I was playing tournaments and I never stopped.While I had ups and downs in which I wanted to stop playing or I had some family or personal problems that have made me get a bit, which is normal: I've been playing chess for almost 30 years.But never, I never stopped competing.So difficult to imagine life without playing chess.

When did you realize that this was going to be your life?

I don't know exactly, but when I finished school there was a moment of break.I think it happens to the vast majority, where you may have to decide between studying a university career with some, in quotes, guarantee of being able to live on that, and that chess may not assure you.So that's how difficult that decision.And I decided to travel to Europe to play tournaments without school because I had always had to combine school, studies with chess and other activities.

I started playing and the truth that I ended up deciding to be chess player, beyond that I like it, I like studying, I like learning.I am a curious person, I'm always doing things.And I had several attempts to start a career, but those times was more difficult to complement a university career with the high performance in which I was six or seven months outside the country and it was always complex to be able.Today there are a lot of programs and opportunities so that athletes can study and do sports.

A question that has to do with living chess just: what does it mean to pretend to live chess when it is Latin American?

A little that all ask, all who practice high performance sport here.It is complex to live in Latin America and dedicate yourself to professional sport, so to speak, because in terms of obligations we are professionals, but in terms of benefits, no.We do not receive remuneration or facilities to be able to devote ourselves to full -time sport.That happens to anyone and the vast majority have to look.We have to go abroad to compete, where we can receive better club contracts to play leagues, where the tournaments awards are better, where the treatment is different.They respect and value your profession, and sometimes, at least in Argentina, it happens a lot, that they do not treat you in the same way and that even gives you anger.Inwardly you say: they invite me to play from other countries, I pay for expenses, they give me the best conditions and here in Argentina I have to go begging for those of the Federation to treat me well being the number one of the women's ranking and being among the50 best in the country.

What do you answer when you say that you are chess as occupation?

Some do not believe me (laughs).He puts him that I gather with friends and there are other friends and say, ‘And what are you doing’.I say "Chess game".And they answer me.‘Ah, and what do you do in addition to that?’.‘I dedicate myself to play chess’.'But how?'.It's how they can't process it.Even sometimes one listens to someone who tells you yes, I play the guitar or I am an artist.As there is some prejudice with some professions of which people think they are a vague, and the truth is that.To see, if one is dedicated with seriousness and responsibility and it really is your profession and you do it with commitment, you can live on anything, I think, obviously.Maybe today there are careers that can somehow ensure a better quality of life in the economical, but it is always relative.Sometimes we listen to people who have a lot of university degrees and yet they can't live on that.It is quite difficult, I think, for people, to live on something, and more live than you like.I as a lively chess of chess, although I would like to live only playing.Maybe not now, but I would have liked to dedicate myself only to play.And yet, since teenager I had to start teaching and courses and doing activities to earn money.And with that invest in my profession.Obviously, if I had more financial support, it would have been easier for me.

Chess can also be something serious.In 2017, boycote the chess World Cup, which was played in Tehran because players were forced to use the Islamic veil.What do you remember that debate at that time?

The word boycott sounds a bit strong.In fact, I think that if someone made a boycott was the International Federation when organizing the tournament in a city or in a country where cultural diversity was not respected.And I do not talk about policies or how as the country chooses to live, I am obviously not who.But I think it was a game room, cultural diversity, freedom of choice must be respected, and that was not guaranteed.In Tehran they forced us to use the hijab - the veil that covers the face, head and neck - and to comply with certain rules, laws of a theocracy, in which I do not believe.I am Argentina and I have another culture, other beliefs, and it did not seem fair to force me to act in a way in which I am not.And that's what happened in that World Cup.That is why I was one of the eight chess players that we decided not to participate, because they did not guarantee that our rights are respected, basically.And the eight, casually were: the last world champion, the United States champion, at that time it was the champion of America, the Russian champion ... We were not any eight.And they replaced us as if nothing.They did not answer us.They put any eight players.And the tournament became the same.In fact, then the Iran Federation did not pay the awards and the international had to pay them.I don't know if they suspended the Federation.There was a big conflict.

The truth is that it hurt me a lot because I had to give up my right won to play a World Cup.Already in that instance it is the final instance in which you are two years passing filters to reach a World Cup.The decision made by the International Federation for me was not successful.When I talk about respect for diversity, for example, the chess of chess participate about 200 countries, and in the game room you will find people with robes, with dresses, with costumes, with sportswear ... while you do not invas you the otherand respect that otherness, you can dress and be and do whatever you want.And it seems to me that this is the important thing in the game room.Then, the country, if one is going to do tour, well, yes, walk and adapt, because they are its rules and it is their way of going.But in the game room it seems to me that it did not correspond.

Chess, the sport of kings, has always been mixed with politics.During the Cold War it was the theater of a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.In fact, Garry Kasparov is today a political figure of the Russian opposition.How do you understand this strong relationship between politics and chess?

Well, I think everything is political.I am one of the people who think that way and that perhaps we have misunderstood the political word, which also has to do with what perhaps the experience of each.Chess is closely linked, from the symbolic, of what it represents and also from the actions it has.That is, to play chess you have to evaluate, you have to have to do strategies, to have tactics, you have to think, you have to speculate.You have to have intuition and above all make decisions.

That is why many chess players and many chess players who are dedicated to politics, sometimes after their career, sometimes simultaneously.The chess player's career is quite extensive.And yes, Kasparov was leading, being a candidate at the time in Russia, and then there were many other people who are dedicated to politics and are also chess players.I think they share many things those who do politics and those who play chess.

And what are the qualities of good chess player?For example, can you be a great chess player without being very intelligent?

Yes, of course.There are many types of intelligence.Chess may have some or need some capabilities that we have, but not all.You can be very good playing chess and bad playing something else, or doing other things.It is different.I believe that chess, or chess of high performance, beyond the intellectual or the most linked to cognitive abilities, also has this of the playful and the combative and the way of thinking that it has or that it should havea high performance athlete regarding the competitive.You can also know a lot, be a boc studying and reading everything, seeing every book and every new thing that comes out and learning everything, and when playing you cannot handle your emotions and overcome the pressure you.Your nerves exceed you, anxiety.There are thousands of things that go through you while you compete in a tournament or in a game.It is difficult to achieve that combination between knowledge and the management of emotions and the formation of character to play and dedicate yourself to high performance and succeed.

We start this talk talking about the Netflix Gamito de Lady.There are tournaments that are for men and women, and tournaments that are exclusively for women.What are the arguments for and against mixed tournaments and those that are by sex?Because even among chess champions there are contradictory opinions ...

Yes, it is a topic that always opens debate.That is a bit of my false argument that men and women can play equally.And when I speak of false argument I do not speak of different intellectual abilities or that man is stronger, then it is better.No, I do not mean that, but to have a lot to do with the cultural and the history of women in chess.It is a story that is known little.We even know very little about our history and it is not a coincidence.Let's see, chess is one of the oldest sports in the world, if it is not the oldest, it takes centuries of existence.And women began to appear in history from 1900 and little playing in the houses.There is much historical difference between an environment that was always for men and in which women began to appear more in a very short time in relation to the existence of chess.And that has to do, and it also has to do what that game space is like where the girls arrive to play.

I have counted many times that when I started playing chess I went to a library with my dad - obviously accompanied - and were all guys and there were no women or girls or girls.And those environments don't know if they are so attractive to girls.It was changing.Today there are clubs, there are schools.Chess is played everywhere and the atmosphere is much more receptive and more friendly, but it has always been hard and above all stay in that environment that constantly repels you, where if you do not adapt, you can not continue playing.I think it has a lot to do.And then it also has to do a bit with the numbers.If we do not reach 10% at the national and international level, it is easier or more likely that there is a number one man than a woman.What Judit Polgár did, for example, was something from another planet: he was among the 10 best in the world.That has won world champions, including in force, is something extraordinary, not usual.So it is like a quite extensive debate, and going promptly to the difference between the absolute branch, which is the mixed branch, and the female, female tournaments exist as a kind of positive discrimination as well as, and with the intention of more women to beginTo play chess, get involved and feel more comfortable, and from there they begin to compete in absolute tournaments.Policies also lack the participation of women.If we are few, they could try to encourage girls to participate and above all also treat their references, and show us, because Judith Polger existed and here in Argentina there is Claudia Amura, I could put myself as a reference, and that makes other girls canreflect on us and want to play and see 'Ah, look at Carolina, live from chess'.Was Judit Polgár: that is, you can be among the 10 best in the world.

The question is going to have seen among other champions the opposite opinion, according to which there are no real reasons today, when there are women's presidents, women who occupy places of first place in all areas of society, that chess is maintainedApart and there is no standardization, where men and women, that if a priori they have no differences in intellectuals and physical are not so important, they should compete together, even for the highest awards ...

Is that this exists.We can play absolute tournaments and compete in quotes on equal terms.And, if you want, play female tournaments, that's not in discussion.In fact, I have an absolute title.I am an absolute international teacher, who is a mixed, and I have been Argentine champion in children...

But you think that this space reserved for women should exist in parallel to promote a policy that goes against the determinisms that have so far prevented the progress of women ...

Of course, yes, I agree and I am in favor of existing, because I think they contribute and add.When we talk about women and men playing the same tournaments, we are talking about eliminating the female branch, if we say it clearly.Why eliminate?I think it is necessary.There are very few women, you have to look for a way that there is more and also send the few that are to play equally to absolute tournaments is a bit to send them to die too.That is, they have no chance the vast majority.In fact, I can say that I have some chances in Argentina, but worldwide, no, I'm very far.And if we go to the world ranking, which told you before, now there is only one woman among the first 100 and I think there are about 12 women among the 1.First 000.

And for you, the fact that there is only one woman in the ranking of the first 100 is obeying exclusively to a historical determinism?

Not exclusively, but I think it's the predominant factor.And I think he is closely linked to there are so few women.I think if we were 50 and 50%...I mean, in Argentina there are 8.000 federated.Well, if there were 4.000 women and 4.000 men, I think the chances and opportunities to be number one could be equal.Now, there are 7.000 men and 1.000 women, I think there are many more chances to dominate the ranking than us, if we pass it as raw numbers.So for me the focus is how we do so that women play chess and stay playing chess.Because we also see that, that in childhood there are many girls and boys who may start playing in equal amounts and at age 12 or 13 the girls are leaving and decreases much more when they end the school.Men continue and women do not.So why men and wipe no?I do not have the answer.I could mention issues that seem to me that they have to do with that, but I think that is where you have to focus, how to change that situation and how to get more women who play chess.

You talked a while about how technology had changed the way of playing chess and learning it.Now, what has changed in the spirit of chess since the machine can beat the best chess player?

It is a debate that is there, always latent, whether the machine surpasses man or not.There is still no perfect game: there is no machine that has resolved to chess.I think that when that moment comes, that we will probably arrive, we will worry there.But I think that if chess we continue playing between humans, it will continue to be infinite, so it will continue to be equally attractive, beyond that the machines can overcome us, which in fact already exceed the great mass of chess players.But if the best machine plays today a match with Magnus Carlsen [world number 1], I don't know who wins.I'm not so sure the machine wins.

A last question Carolina Luján: What would you advise someone who wants to approach or take a relative to chess?

Today they have the possibility to do it online.In fact, in these times of Pandemia, where there are few activities that we have at hand, I would recommend that they approach online practice.And as soon as they can, they approach a club or any space, because playing chess is really quite accessible: you need a board and another person to play.You can also play with the machine, but for me it is much more entertaining that it is among people because it also has a social and human issue, which is good and that one can communicate through chess and it seems to me that this is really good for people usually.And if they like to continue playing and if they are later interested.It is one of the most practiced sports worldwide, which makes it one of the most attractive sports.

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Carolina Luján, Absolute International Teacher of Chess, Extreme Sports
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