31.05.2005 "Master makers". Evgeny Vladimirov

Could one restate for chess a well-known football maxim: 'If you win, you are a good player, if you lose, you have a bad coach'?

I’ve never seen any other situation! Though, everything depends on a chessplayer. However, this situation is so typical… It’s normal – this is the easiest way to explain a failure.

To what extent is a trainer responsible for the result?

I’ve never thought about this. A trainer is responsible for the result, but percentage calculation is no concern of mine.

When answering our questions Andrei Lukin noticed that the higher the level of a player is the more he wants to shift the blame to trainer’s shoulders. What do you think about it?

Quite an interesting thought, perhaps, there is something in what he says. Speaking from experience I can tell you that strong chessplayers understand everything themselves, and if a trainer suggests something stupid, they won’t do this or pay any attention. And when we talk about weaker players, we usually mean juniors. No authorities exist for them – it’s absolutely clear that the universe is just born and these “codgers” don’t understand anything. Which is also normal.

Which qualities should a chess trainer possess?

Composure, diligence and patience are above all. He should certainly show a system approach. Besides, I think that a trainer’s potential is very limited if he is not a very strong player himself. He can deal only with the players of a certain level, as soon as they start matching him, he should step out. Maybe there are other qualities I did not mention.

Is it important for a trainer to maintain a shape by playing in tournaments?

It’s useful to play. Sooner or later you will start driveling if you lose a contact with reality. One needs to play from time to time. This is individual for every trainer, but it’s worth finding time for playing 2-3 times a year even if a trainer is swamped with work.

Is it necessary to keep a distance between a trainer and a student? Is it better to have friendly relationships maybe?

People are different and different approaches work out. It depends on a person’s nature, all bread is not baked in one oven.

Do you think there is a certain age limit of starting to play seriously when one won’t achieve a serious success?

There is no doubt that there is such limit. But it is different for each chessplayer. There are examples of people who achieved the most important successes in their lives after 50, however, this is not a typical situation. As for modern chess – (laughs) sometimes I introduce a statement: modern chess with modern time control should not be recommended for people of 30 years old and more and should be positively forbidden for people of 40 years old and more, on the medical and humanitarian grounds.

However there were people who played very strongly when they were even older. Botvinnik, for example, managed to do this thanks to systematic approach, will-power, maybe combination of these two or some other qualities. I don’t know whether Korchnoi made progress after 60, but he certainly did after 40, and as like as not after 50.

Is it possible to make a grandmaster of 35-40-year-old first-category chessplayer?

Perhaps, it’s possible. However, if a person was trying to get over the first-category all his life and he didn’t manage to do it before he is 35, he would hardly manage to do it afterwards. But, basically, the situation is not that hopeless. Moreover, ratings and titles inflation is so impetuous and a grandmaster is far from being the hub of the universe. And the difference between a grandmaster and a first-category player is not that considerable for today.

Do you think that the present abundance of grandmasters is caused only by inflation? The great majority of them indeed defeat the grandmasters of the previous generation or, at least, they dig in heels. May be the point is in the rapid rising of the average level of play?

This reason really exists, but the part of level rising in inflation is insignificant. If people defeat others, it does not mean that they achieved a grandmaster’s level, it rather means that the difficulty of gaining the title approached their level. There is nothing to discuss here. Inflation is so evident and there are so many players who have the title…

Should we struggle against this process?

I don’t think we should struggle against this. What does a grandmaster’s title mean? It was a public opinion before. However you call it – grandmaster, maestro, whomever you like – this is a product of the public opinion. It’s much more difficult to shape a public opinion now, because there are more chessplayers and the public opinion is replaced by the opinion of the professionals. Even the late Geller said that there are first-category grandmasters, second category grandmasters etc…

It’s very difficult to struggle. Polugayevsky suggested introducing a new title “supergrandmaster” about thirty years ago. Thus this problem can be eliminated for the time being. It’s a usual thing to get rid of inflation by denomination, it’s possible to try this way. It’s quite likely that the titles are ready to be denominated.

Once I was in the non-chess company with a fellow chessplayer. We were asked: What is the meaning of international master’s title? What does it correspond with in ordinary life? And my friend, without thinking twice answered that if one played regularly and he had not become IM, he could be considered as a shill. It was told 15 years ago, today the situation is even worse...

Statements like “having looked through a few games of this player I realized that he is very talented” can be frequently found in the press. What are the criteria for a player’s high potential acknowledgement?

It’s much easier to notice a talent than to formulate... One player is talented in one aspect, another in a different one. There can be found some outstanding talents – Kasparov was running over with ideas, it was impossible to take no notice of him. But there are very quiet guys who do not hit the eye, though by the level of their games they are quite top-bracket players. I do not presume to introduce the criteria, this is difficult for me. The talent is usually discovered by intuition, in hit and miss fashion. And, I should mention, I’m rarely wrong. I have to be able to see the potential of a chessplayer, acting as a trainer, and mistakes percentage is not very high. Of course, I pay a special attention to my own mistakes. It’s vexing when a chess player whom you consider to be promising does not make any progress, but inverse situation is worse – you thought he is no good for anything and suddenly he shows a brilliant play. In such a situation I need to find out in which things I was wrong. And if I guessed right – what’s to be added?

Could you tell about your present pupil Parimarjan Negi?

Parimarjan Negi is 12 years old. He is one of the strongest chess players of his age in the world, he took the third place in U12 world championship last year. He is quite talented player, good in positions with the initiative, good at attacking the king. The general understanding is still to be improved. But the main thing is that the boy is devoted to chess. Actually, the latter is typical for Indians. It’s impossible to forecast his professional future. I hope he will become a good chessplayer in the nearest future.

How much attention do you pay to the openings when working with students?

Even Capablanca derived the sequence – you need to study ending first, then middlegame and then opening. But it changes with time. Young chess players often take part in professional tournaments, which is impossible without a minimal opening knowledge – it’s possible to perish before you start the game. Opening is an important thing, though I try to follow Capablanca’s precepts, but with an amendment – a minimal opening knowledge should be given from the very beginning and should be developed throughout the qualification scale. However, Capablanca’s recommendation stands in force for young chessplayers.

At what age, in your opinion, does the individuality of a chessplayer appear, and his style shape?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because even if a style of a young chessplayer seems to be set, different psychological and growing-up factors will certainly influence the style. From the point of view of psychology abstract thinking forms at 11-12 years old. Perhaps, this fact can explain something in chess. Mentality stabilizes later, but forming of abstract thinking of those who play chess happens even a bit earlier, due to the game atmosphere in which they grow up…

Questions were asked by Misha Savinov.

This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals

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