I met Marius for the first time back in 1990. It was my first selection into the lineup of “Portelanul Alba-Iulia”, the team I just joined after University and he was playing for at the time. We were playing in the second division of the Romanian National Team Chess Championship. He was the top junior at the time and had the fun assignment of scoring as many points as possible to help us win our matches; together with FM Dorin Serdean (another promising young local player at the time) the three of us became the excitement of the team. We got the nickname of “basketball players” firstly because of being tall and secondly for our quickly developed chemistry and knack to score 3-0 (three pointers) for our team most often than not. We employed most of the times the latest tricks Marius learned during his junior national team training camps; thank you again for those Marius! Our greatest accomplishment was promoting with our team to the first division for the first time ever in its history. We had a great in person relationship until my move to Vancouver, BC, Canada, a relationship we kept strong over the years despite the geographical distance between us. He was kind to send me a copy of his latest book, as well as to agree to this interview. Hope you will enjoy it!
Marius would like to start with a clarification of one of my points made in the previous article presenting his third book:
“My initiation book is used in about (20-30)% of schools and chess clubs, while the one on tactics is used in over 90% of them. There definitely are situations when the local teachers use their own materials.”
Please tell us a few things about yourself
I fell in love with chess when I was 10 years old. Apart from a few games played against my father and sister, I never played chess before attending the chess courses of Mihail Breaz, a national master who was the soul of chess activities in Alba Iulia, a beautiful city in the hearth of Transylvania. It was in Alba Iulia where the delegates of the National Assembly of the Romanians from Transylvania signed the Union of Transylvania with the Romanian Kingdom on December 1st, 1918. From the very first chess lesson, which I joined accidentally, I felt a special attraction for this wonderful game, most likely influenced by the very enjoyable atmosphere created by my first chess teacher. As a junior, my best results were national U20 champion titles in 1992 ahead of Andrei Istratescu and 1993 ahead of Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, the best Romanian chess players after the golden age of GM Florin Gheorghiu and GM Mihai Suba. In 1992 I finished 8th in the European Junior Championship in Sas van Gent (Netherlands).
My passion for chess continued over decades, even though, at a certain moment, I decided to put my favourite game behind and build a professional career as an electrical engineer. Since 1999 I work as an engineer in the national company of electricity and chess has become a secondary activity for me. Instead of playing regularly in chess tournaments, I teach young players from my city and surroundings, write chess materials and organize chess events. For a couple of years, I also played correspondence chess. Over the board I continue to play rapid chess tournaments whenever I get an opportunity and do so with quite good results. In 2014 I won Romanian Rapid Chess Championship and finished 4th in 2015. Last year I didn’t play because I got involved in politics as well and the tournament was organized during the electoral campaign.
What made you choose the path of teaching chess to the younger generations?
When I was around 16 year old, I started to teach chess because I got a desire to share the beauty of the game with other people. At the beginning I taught my fellow friends who loved the game, then I had a group of young students followed by more and more students. They were mainly juniors who already knew how to play chess and wished to improve their skills. In time I developed my method of training, therefore I decided to write my own manuals. This step was very important in my development as trainer, because writing a book helps you find the best ways to communicate with the students. I organized my courses better and the results improved. In 2015 could I no longer resist to the pressure of many friends from Alba Iulia, parents of young children, and I accepted to start teaching a few groups for young children. Now I have around 100 chess students between 4 and 10 years, additionally to the more experienced students whom I offer guidance to.
Who are your most successful students?
My most successful student is IM Mihnea Costachi, bronze medallist at the World Youth Chess Championship U14 in 2014 and multiple European champion in rapid chess, blitz and solving problems. At 17 years old, he is an IM rated 2430 and is permanently improving. Last week he played very well in Graz Open, drawing against GM Markus Ragger (rated 2703, #41 rank in the World) and defeating GM Mustafa Ilmaz (rated 2621). In 2015 following my recommendation Mihnea started to work with GM Szabo Gergely (who also coached the Canadian youth team in 2016). I became his second coach and support him in improving his play mainly in the endgames.
Another student of mine, Tudor-Vlad Sfarlog, was multiple national champion and silver medallist in European Youth Rapid Chess Championship. I am also very proud of many students who reached a National Master or FIDE Master level and later focused on other activities and performed excelently. One of them, the chess historian CM Olimpiu Urcan, is certainly well known to the chess public.
Your third book is now available for the public. Is there a connection between them? What drove you into this labor of love?
All my books are for beginners. “A Guide to Learn Chess” covers the rules of the games, the elementary mates and a few other basic aspects: the value of the pieces, identifying the opponent’s threats and logical thinking in chess. My second book, “A Guide of Chess for Students” is mainly focused on basic of tactics, 26 lessons out of 36 covering this subject. There are also 5 lessons on basic chess principles in opening, middlegame and endgame and 5 lessons on elementary pawn and rook endings. This second book is likely the most popular Romanian book of this century, being used probably in all Romanian chess clubs, in many clubs from Moldavia and some other chess clubs from Canada, Portugal and Brazil. There is no English edition of this book yet, as publishers prefer marketable books written by famous GMs, often for commercial purposes only. But this is not a problem for me, as long as I have thousands of Romanian chess players and coaches who enjoy my books.
My 3rd book, “100 Tests of Chess. Basic Tactics” has been written at the request of dozens of Romanian chess coaches, because they needed more tactical puzzles as support for their lessons on basic tactics. Actually this is the first book from a series of three books on tactics. This one is focused on tactical procedures used to gain material advantages. My next book on tactics will be dedicated to various types of mating patterns and attacks against the King. The final book of this series will pass to the next level, including more complicated combinations and techniques of calculating variations.
What players is this book receommended for? In my opinion it is optimal for players rated 1200-1600, but players 1600+ may also use it and find it helpful. They can try to solve the puzzles faster than normally, something that is usually called a blitz-solving contest. This type of training is useful at any level, even GMs sometimes use this method of preparation! For players rated under 1200 some puzzles may be rather difficult, so I suggest they use this book with tests only after they assimilated the basic tacticals first. The Romanian players could easily use this book together with my second book “A Guide of Chess for Students”.
Do you have any advices for the aspiring chess enthusiast and/ or club player?
I have no magical advice for them. In my humble opinion there is no path to success in chess except the continuous, hard work. My best student Mihnea Costachi studies chess around 2 hours daily ever since he was 5 years old. During the holidays he studies 4-5 hours daily. It is very important to study useful books for their level. Working with a good chess coach who may recommend the best books to study is certainly an advantage; however a chess player who aspires to improve his knowledge must understand from the beginning that his role is most important. The coach’s role must be to offer him guidance and good advices, but the hard work must always be done by the player. Don’t expect a coach to fill you up with all chess knowledge and never pay for 1 hour of chess training if you are not prepared to study alone about 9 hours for each hour of paid chess training.
What is your favourite puzzle or chess combination
It is of course one of mine! I met GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu many times in junior competitions and all our games ended in draws after big complications, even though we are close friends. The scenario was almost the same: Nisipeanu launched all-in attacks, while I defended very well and survived, sometimes with a little help from goddess Fortuna. Our last game was played in different conditions. We met in Romanian Team Championship in 2005, when Nisipeanu was already a top player in the World, rated 2670, while my rating was 2426 and I was rarely playing chess tournaments, being focused on my professional career as electrical engineer. Nisipeanu was in great form in 2005, winning the European title in Warsaw a month after our game. It was rather clear for me that I needed a miracle to survive one more time against my old friend. Hope you enjoy the game!
Valer Eugen Demian