28 November 2012

Gelfand and His Colleagues

It's been a year since I last posted an interview -- Kramnik on Kramnik -- and looking through the material that has been published since then, the reason is obvious: there hasn't been much to choose from. Many of the best interviews first appeared on Whychess.com, but the site hasn't been as active in 2012 as it was last year. Earlier this month it was a pleasure to see 'Boris Gelfand: With Shining Eyes' by GM Vladislav Tkachiev, Part 1 and Part 2. Here are some excerpts where Anand's unsuccessful challenger discussed his colleagues.
KasparovQ: Do you study Kasparov's books? • A: Yes, of course I read Kasparov attentively. I even read more than I play through the games, because computer variations are not so interesting, even if they are beautiful. But the assessments, thoughts, etc. these are very interesting.

AnandQ: How did it seem to you when it was Anand who turned into a real chess superman? • A: When wasn't he? He was great in 1994-1996, and had another peak when he improved his openings, it was around 2005-2007, I think. Because it seems to me that the opening was always his Achilles Heel, he played every opening going.

Kasparov (again) • Q: Are you definitely sure you did the right thing in refusing help from Kasparov in your match against Anand? • A: Yes. • Q: And you definitely think his invitation was not quite correct? • A: Well, it is a question of your life priorities. I am used to being friendly with people, not enemies with them. Opposing someone is a political thing. It is clear that Kasparov had an absolutely bad attitude to me all his life, he just had some problems with Anand and wanted to help fight against him. I have not spoken to him since he left chess, and I saw him again for the first time only for about a minute and a half in the press centre at the Tal Memorial. He continued to be against me, and even after I won in Kazan, he had only negative things to say. In other words, it was a suggestion directed against Anand, and I even know why it was made. • Q: Why? • A: As far as I know, Anand refused to help support him and Karpov in the battle for the FIDE Presidency. That is, he thought that after he had helped Anand against Topalov, Anand would now support him. Now this is in the public domain, although I was aware of it even when he made his suggestion.

CarlsenQ: Some years ago, we were comparing Carlsen's play in simple positions to that of Karpov in his best years. • A: As far as Carlsen is concerned, he has certain exceptional qualities, which I think are just natural. For example, a feeling for the pieces, plus absolute determination and motivation. It seems to me that we now have a generation to whom ratings are important, and not just in chess. They watch highly-rated films, and read highly-rated books. This desire to pass Kasparov's rating record gives Carlsen motivation to play every game to the end, with maximum effort. • Q: And does he have other qualities, in a purely chess sense? • A: In a great number, and most of all, his strength in defence is incredible. All this, together with tremendous belief in himself, makes him similar to Karpov, but raised to a computer level.

CaruanaQ: And what about Caruana? • A: I played with him last at Wijk aan Zee, and it was after this that he made his big leap forward, so it is not easy for me to summarise him today. It seems to me that he also has incredible concentration. He is calculating variations the whole time, like a kind of computer, with a sort of enhanced processor. No, I really have no idea. He has great confidence, you can feel it. • Q: But this alone cannot explain his results. • A: I think now we have to wait, because I have often seen phenomena in the first year, but it is only in the second year that one finds out if it can last. Carlsen too has said that he beat Caruana without great problems at Biel last year, yet at Wijk aan Zee, he shared first place with him and he was already a totally different player. Of course, he also works enormously hard and has great motivation. But the question is still whether he will become a great player, or just an extremely strong one.

AronianQ: What about [Aronian]? • A: Well, he is the most striking player around, with the highest creative level, in terms both of openings and original ideas in the middlegame. Number one at the moment. So, frankly, it surprises me that the entire press is part of the Carlsen fan club, and not Aronian's. • Q: But it is typical that fan-clubs grow up around Western players. People are tired of the years of Soviet domination and the huge number of players coming from that school. • A: Yes, indeed, in the main it is the Western press, I agree. Hence the enormous reaction, when an English-speaking star emerges, everyone is hoping for this.

I was somewhat surprised to see Caruana included in the list of subjects. I know his recent results have been stellar, but hadn't realized that he was already viewed as a top title contender. He is not on the list of players for the Candidate tournament, March 2013 in London. From the 'Rules & regulations for the Candidates Tournament of the FIDE World Championship cycle 2011-2013':-

2. Qualification for the 2012 Candidates Tournament

The players who qualify for the Candidates Tournament are determined according to the following, in order of priority:

2.1 World Cup 2011 - The three (3) top winners of the World Cup 2011 qualify.

2.2 World Championship Match 2012 - The player who lost the 2012 World Championship Match qualifies.

2.3 Average FIDE Rating List of July 2011 & January 2012 - Three (3) players qualify to participate by rating (excluding the players who qualify from articles 2.1 and 2.2 above). [...]

2.6 One nominated player by the Organiser - A player, nominated by the organiser, with a rating of at least 2700 in the FIDE rating list of January 2012.

2.7 Replacements - Any replacements necessary will be fulfilled from the average rating list of July 2011 & January 2012.

[That is now '2013 Candidates Tournament'; what happened to paragraphs 2.4 & 2.5?]

In World Chess Championship 2013, Wikipedia lists the qualifiers according to the published criteria: Svidler, Grischuk, & Ivanchuk; Gelfand; Carlsen, Aronian, & Kramnik; Radjabov.

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