16.10.2007 Three questions after Mexico

After the World Championship in Mexico City was over, we asked famous trainers and grandmasters of different generations to answer three questions:
1. Will you please comment on the results of the Mexican tournament?
2. What would you expect of the match Anand – Kramnik?
3. Would you say some words about development of chess in Russia and in the world?


Nikita Vitiugov, grandmaster

1. In my opinion, the results were quite predictable. Boris Gelfand's powerful play and striking result stands out against general background. The others performed in, say, mostly expected way as if having prearranged things. Anand was concentrated and motivated. Kramnik, though occupied the second place, did not struggle for the first place seriously. Leko again was somewhat self-stifled in struggling for the title. Svidler predictably was not too anxious for opponents' blood. Aronian and Morozevich alternated brilliant games with creative failures. Grischuk was hindered by frequent zeitnots. I repeat Gelfand was a very pleasant surprise.

2. I expect an interesting confrontation of the two outstanding chessplayers of the present, the confrontations of two schools, two approaches to chess. A sport constituent will be interesting also. Will Kramnik remain a 'match' world champion or Anand will add this title to his 'tournament' one? Though I consider the event to be simply an interesting match, not of the Universe scale.

3. To answer this seemingly main question for chess professionals at the present, I shall try to consider it in several aspects.

Have you ever heard Christiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal or Maria Sharapova being asked if they were professional sportsmen? Even a full ignoramus of a journalist would not ask such a foolish thing. But recently I came across an interview of a young chessplayer, a real candidate for the world title already, in which he says he has not chosen his future profession yet. In spite of the fact that it is obvious to everybody that he cannot prove himself so high in anything else already, that a round sum had been spent on his development and promotion. A striking fact, isn't it? (It is different when the same question is addressed, for instance, to young chessplayers of Russia, who surely have perspectives but there are so many obstacles on the way of their realization and so few helpers...) I can draw the only conclusion: chessplayers themselves do not believe playing chess a profession. Remember, by the way, an 'amateur status' of one of the participants in Mexico and overlapping of a heavy chessplayer's burden with another table game of another player. What do you want of community then?!

Chess is conservative almost indecently, especially nowadays. Remember, who was playing key roles in any sport in Russian national team ten years ago and who is doing the same now. And then apply it to chess. Only two or three new names have appeared on the top in the last ten years. All the same with commercial round robin tournaments. They changed into redistribution of sponsors' or patrons' means long since, and they are uninteresting and useless to anybody besides participants themselves. New names appear in them only due a residence of a player in a host country. But just in such tournaments some money exist, a noticeable part of chess professionals laying their illusory hopes on them. While this system remains so closed, you cannot expect any shift.

Remember also that a limited nature is intrinsic to chess. It is primordially understandable only for a specifically prepared audience, not merely clever or able. Chess is not democratic. There is an objective reality in it unlike other sports. Is this six- or seven-hour marathon a sport indeed? In what sport you can have a year time-out in training and then win a strong tournament? But it is quite possible in chess.

To add to this, chessplayers themselves make certain steps to self-destruction. You cannot expect new money-injections from sponsors when chess as a game is becoming simpler and less spectacular. Depth and growing fineness of chess is interesting only to a narrow group of experts, while public is worried by falling down of spectacularity and emotional attractiveness.

I think, real perspectives of chess as a sport depend on entering Olympic system and on rise of dynamism in the game itself and in everything around it: rating system, bringing in new names, tournament calendar. And as a game for amateurs chess surely will remain inexhaustible and will be interesting forever.


Artyom Timofeev, grandmaster

1. The participants made a great present to the chess community, played many tense and fine games. They fought to the end – it was a pleasure. The main result is: there is no change of generations, and the title will be in the hands of the recognized and merited for the next two years. It is good and bad simultaneously. Unpredictability, appearance of a chess hero like Topalov in 2005 would be useful for the chess world and would heat up public interest.

The championship showed tendencies in chess fashion for the present, but impenetrability of some openings (Petroff, Marshall) was a disappointment. Sometimes it seems that chess can be calculated. A painful feeling. Fortunately, this is not the case.

I summed up chess results in the article 'First of best' at e3e5.com.

2. Of course, it will be a great battle, a match of equal and worthy of respect opponents. Today they are the best world chessplayers, but what will be in a year? It is a big question. Everything is changing so fast, everything is moving... I am for a competition of the strongest eight!

3. It is a deep question requiring long thinking. Only several points connected with the last world championship:

1) Since the top three are Anand, Kramnik and Gelfand, I think there will be no 'speeding-up' of the play. The keepers of classical traditions will not allow it.

2) There will be attempts to make a product out of chess, to move it to the masses. India and China might help much in it. If the game extends all over the countries, the development may reach us too.

3) Chinese players are growing; there surely will be a boom in India after Vishy's victory. I think the two countries will seriously compete with 'the rest of the world'.

4) Everything will be as before as concerns openings. 'Leading' openings will appear which strongest players will employ. Classical chess and impenetrability will be of fashion.

5) There are more and more chessplayers but conditions are the same or even worse. I do not think an interest to the game will rise strongly in the world. It must be a systematic work for the future. Russia pays attention to young chessplayers (Bareev's school, grants, periodical camps), so it will stay No 1 chess power in sharp rivalry with other countries.


Evgeny Tomashevsky, grandmaster

1. I think Mexican tournament has justified expectations. There was everything: an appropriate outcome, many local surprises, long lasting intrigue let alone merely chess components: interesting novelties, ideas, plans etc. Percent of wins was decent, not damaging quality of games in most cases. Each participant may be proud of at least one or two tournament fragments. Nobody 'gave up rowing' and left with empty hands (in the sense of creativity, I mean).

Yet the championship left with some 'unrealized potential'. Only Anand and Gelfang, the tournament sensation (though it is strange to say so about the recognized chess giant), cannot complain of their conditions. Even Kramnik was lacking his usual stability, and reserves of the rest participants are obvious. Imagine what a 'corrida' would turn the championship, all the competitors being in their real battle conditions! However, it is a very rare case, of course.

There were too few wins with black, to my mind. This is one of the main mysteries of the championship: is this an objective tendency, or the grandmasters simply did not take risk to strive with black following Anand and Kramnik, the trendsetters? A very interesting question from the practical point of view...

2. It is easier to say what I do not expect of the match – the opposition of the two 'most stably great' acting players of the last ten years. Powerful novelties and fresh ideas? It would be ridiculous to not expect them. Intrigue and unpredictable struggling to the very last game? I do expect it. I expect as much self-dependent play as possible, though naïve it may sound. I expect 'human factor' manifestations: for what reasons the world best chessplayers will make mistakes or 'rise' especially ingenious ideas? I should like very much the absence of scandals, large attention of world mass media to the match on only chess occasions...

As for my prediction, I think Kramnik has higher chances, approximately 55:45. It is easy to explain: it is much simpler for the Russian to eliminate today's advantage of the Hindu in playing conditions than for the latter to compensate for the long absence of match experience. As concerns other components, it is difficult to give the upper hand to anybody.

3. It is the eternal question! You can argue yourself hoarse about this. Optimists' arguments are closer to me. Did many people know about existence of America before 1492? Or about the Botvinnik system before Mikhail Moiseevich himself? I see no reasons to be sure that the present turn of chess development is the last.

Well, let us even admit this is the case, and computers will soon (in historical scale) make final conclusions. It would be interesting to know what is the best choice after 1.е4 е5 2.Nf3 or does Black make a draw in the case of 2...Nf6, wouldn't it? In any case, I think the chess world will be very interesting in the nearest future! My personal belief is that not only the nearest...

In more practical aspects, to my mind, chess are developing more or less in most countries. It is very pleasant to see Russia among leaders here. Our Chess Federation turned into a serious and respected organization again in the recent years, and Russian chess community never lost its authority. Strong tournaments are being held regularly; special programs are being realized. There are problems, of course, but general development vector seems to be favourable.


To be continued


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