Conversations with a Grandmaster: Titas Stremavicius on Chess, Preparation, and Dreams
Coach Q: Welcome to the 1000 GM player profiles! I'm your guide, expert Coach Q, and I'm here with Grandmaster Titas Stremavicius. Welcome to the show, Titas. How are you feeling today?
Titas: Yeah, I'm feeling great. I'm happy to be here, and thanks for having me.
Coach Q: Great! Thanks for coming on the show. We really appreciate that. We're talking to you today because you're going to fly to America to play in the 1000 GM Hollywood Masters tournament here in Los Angeles. Have you ever been to Los Angeles before?
Titas: No, I don't think so. I have not walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame or anything yet.
Coach Q: Oh, so you haven't even explored Hollywood. That's exciting! So why are you coming all the way to the West Coast to play this event?
Titas: Well, I've been keeping in touch with International Master Josiah Stearman, one of the main organizers, and we are on good terms. He told me that there were going to be some events in the upcoming fall, and I contacted him asking if there were going to be any tournaments soon. He said there was going to be a tournament, and I was probably one of the first people to sign up for the event. So, my relationship with Josiah is the driving force for me coming to Los Angeles to play.
Coach Q: Ah, that's great! It's always nice when you have a good connection with the organizers. How did you get to know Josiah? Was it through the tournament circuit?
Titas: Yes, we played a couple of tournaments together, and he even managed to win against me a few times. But there were no hard feelings between us, so we started chatting during events, and that's how our relationship grew.
Coach Q: That's wonderful to hear. So, you're currently located in Lithuania, right?
Titas: Yes, I've been in the US before, for about five years, especially when I was at UT Dallas, the only chess team there. But now, my immigration status is a bit complicated, so I'm in Europe.
Coach Q: Oh, I see. You went to college in the US at UT Dallas, and you were on the chess team there. By the way, we recently had a great conversation with Grandmaster Ivan Skitko from Moldova.
Titas: Oh, yes! Ivan Skitko, that's right. He came after me and even consulted with me before deciding to come to UT Dallas. It's a great opportunity for him.
Coach Q: Absolutely! Scholarships can be crucial for educational opportunities. How important was receiving a chess scholarship for your career?
Titas: Career-wise, it may not be as crucial, but it was vital for my education. It allowed me to experience living in the US for about five to six years, and I enjoyed that time. Unfortunately, my immigration situation made it a bit complicated to stay, but I had a great experience at UT Dallas.
Coach Q: I'm glad to hear that. So, you're going to be a norm provider in the 1000 GM Hollywood Masters tournament. What are your expectations for the event?
Titas: It's hard to predict. Usually, the rating favorites are the safe bets to do well in the tournament, but in chess, anything can happen. Some players can overperform and surprise everyone, which is the beauty of sports. I expect the rating favorites to do well, but everyone in the top 20 has a legitimate chance to finish in the top five.
Coach Q: That's a fair assessment. Your current rating is around 2515, which puts you in the upper quarter of the bracket. There will be some young players seeking Norms who will want to beat you. How do you approach playing against them, especially if you don't know them well?
Titas: I actually know a decent amount of the younger players, as I've been in the chess scene for some years now. I enjoy playing against younger players because I often feel like the favorite due to my experience. They might be more motivated and working harder, but having the experience factor on my side gives me confidence. I don't stress too much about their low ratings because you have to play whoever you're paired against. My approach is to get out of the opening quickly and then take them into a long grind.
Coach Q: That sounds like a solid approach. In a super Swiss tournament like this, where you might not get your pairings far ahead of time, do you prepare for specific opponents between rounds?
Titas: There won't be much time to prepare, maybe around 30 minutes between rounds. So, I'll spend a bit of that time looking over my opponents' games just to have some basic knowledge. But in such a fast-paced event, it's not possible to do in-depth preparation between rounds.
Coach Q: That's understandable. The tournament conditions are essential. So, Titas, you mentioned that you're currently playing a tournament in Romania. How is that going so far?
Titas: Yeah, it's going pretty well. It's a strong field with many strong Grandmasters, so it's a good warm-up event before the big tournament in Los Angeles. The competition is tough, but I'm trying my best to maintain focus and play my best chess.
Coach Q: That sounds great. A strong field in Romania will definitely help you sharpen your skills before the Hollywood Masters. Now, let's talk about your preparations for the Hollywood tournament. How do you usually approach preparing for a big event like this?
Titas: Well, for this particular event, I'm not doing anything drastically different. I'm mainly focusing on my openings and reviewing my games from previous tournaments to identify areas where I can improve. I've been playing a lot of tournaments recently, so I also want to take a little break to recharge before heading to Los Angeles.
Coach Q: Taking a break and recharging is essential, especially after a series of back-to-back tournaments. Jet lag can be a concern when flying across time zones. How do you plan to deal with it, considering you'll have to adjust quickly for the Hollywood tournament?
Titas: Yeah, that's one of my biggest concerns at the moment. Since the Romania tournament ends shortly before I have to fly to Los Angeles, I won't have much time to adjust my sleeping schedule. So, I'll try to sleep during my flights and get some rest before the games start. During the games, I'll try my best to focus and maintain a clear mind, even with the jet lag.
Coach Q: That sounds like a plan. It's always challenging to deal with jet lag, but I'm sure you'll find a way to manage it effectively. Now, shifting gears a bit, let's talk about your journey in competitive chess. You mentioned starting at a young age and quickly becoming one of the top players in your age group nationally. Can you tell us more about your early experiences in competitive chess?
Titas: Sure! I started playing chess at a young age, and I showed some natural talent for the game. I started participating in local and national championships and quickly found success, finishing in the top positions in my age group. However, at the European level, I didn't achieve as much success, but I continued to work hard and improve my skills.
Coach Q: That's impressive. Success at the national level at such a young age is a testament to your dedication and talent. Did you have any early mentors or coaches who played a significant role in your development as a chess player?
Titas: I didn't have many coaches during my early years. The chess scene in Lithuania was a bit limited, and I didn't have access to top-level coaching. It was only later in my chess journey, around my university years, that I started working with a coach, Donatas, who played a crucial role in helping me improve my game and work on my openings.
Coach Q: Having a dedicated coach can make a big difference in a player's development. It's great to hear that you found a coach who had a positive impact on your game. Now, let's talk about your journey to becoming a Grandmaster. You mentioned achieving your International Master (IM) title at the age of 17 and then becoming a Grandmaster (GM) at 20 or 21. What was that journey like, and were there any specific victories or milestones that stood out?
Titas: Becoming an IM at 17 was a significant achievement for me, and it gave me the confidence to aim for the GM title. I worked hard on my game and participated in many strong tournaments to gain experience and earn the required norms. I remember losing a critical game in a tournament, and that defeat motivated me to work even harder and improve my openings. Eventually, I started earning GM norms and finally achieved the title at around 20 or 21.
Coach Q: That's a great example of turning a setback into motivation for improvement. It shows your determination and resilience as a player. Now that you're a GM, how has your approach to chess changed, if at all?
Titas: Becoming a GM was a significant milestone for me, but it didn't change my approach to chess drastically. I still have the same passion and love for the game, and I continue to work hard to improve my skills. Of course, as a GM, there are higher expectations and tougher competition, but I try not to let it affect my mindset. Chess remains a game I enjoy playing, and I approach each tournament with a focus on doing my best.
Coach Q: That's a great perspective. It's essential to maintain the love for the game despite the higher stakes and expectations. Now, as a GM, you have a wealth of experience to share with aspiring young players. What advice would you give to young chess players who are aiming to become Grandmasters themselves?
Titas: My advice to young players is to be dedicated to the game and work hard on their chess skills. Play in as many tournaments as possible to gain experience and learn from your games, especially the losses. Having a good coach or mentor can be incredibly valuable in helping you improve your game. And most importantly, enjoy the process and have fun with chess. It's a game that offers endless possibilities for learning and growth.
Coach Q: That's excellent advice, Titas. Enjoying the process is crucial, especially for young players who are just starting their journey in chess. Now, as we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience or any final thoughts?
Titas: I'd like to thank everyone for their support and for following my chess journey. Chess has been an incredible part of my life, and I'm grateful for the opportunities it has given me. To all the young players out there, keep pushing forward, and never stop learning. The chess world is full of excitement and challenges, and I hope to see many of you reach your dreams and goals in the game.
Coach Q: Thank you, Titas, for sharing your insights and experiences with us. It's been a pleasure talking to you, and we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming tournaments, especially the 1000 GM Hollywood Masters in Los Angeles. We'll be cheering for you, and we look forward to seeing your great chess in action.
Titas: Thank you so much for having me, Coach Q. It's been a pleasure talking with you as well. I'll do my best in the tournaments, and I hope to make my supporters proud. Let's have a great time in Los Angeles!
Coach Q: Absolutely! We're excited about the tournament and wish you all the success. Safe travels, and we'll be eagerly following your progress. Take care, Titas!
Titas: You too, Coach Q! See you in Los Angeles! Goodbye!