18.03.2005 Our guest is Peter Svidler

The main chess news for today is Kasparov’s retirement. Where would you place him among the world champions?

Undoubtedly on the place of honour. A great man, even too great. He is on the first place according to my hierarchy.

How will chess world change after his retirement? Will the attraction of chess as a commercial sport change?

On the one hand it is undeniable that his name attracts new people and fresh blood, but on the other hand…We’ll see, only one and a half weeks have passed. When a great ego quits the stage – and one won’t argue that Garry Kimovich has never had any difficulties with understanding his position in the world – the situation changes profoundly, but it becomes easier for the rest to come to the agreement as they will no more need to settle the matters with the one who retired. One very weighty opinion less should be taken into consideration. It is impossible to understand all the consequences of any important event within the first one and a half weeks.

What do you think about the FIDE proposal concerning Kasparov’s retirement? Does it make sense to reconsider it or specify?

As for the FIDE proposal: to reconsider something that currently is just a proposition...This proposition can be replaced by another one. Nothing has been written at leas I haven’t heard about it. It’s interesting for me to watch all the happening from outside, but as far as I know, it is just an activity illusion of the FIDE. There is no date and place of the tournament and a real consent of any important participant. As it has been observed, it is ten to one that Kasparov would not agree, the same probability is of Kramnik’s consent, Anand’s and Leko’s participation is also doubtful.

What about you? In case these people don’t agree to take part, you are the next in the line.

According to January rating list even one denial is enough for me to be in this list. I’m a sideliner for now. But if at some time I receive an e-mail/a fax/ a letter with a question “Would you like to come thereat from this date till this to take part in god knows-which championship”, I will think about that. Furthermore, there are no reasons for me not to be interested in this issue. This can be considered after all just like another very strong tournament.

It is difficult to discuss the practicability of such trend of events, I have another question: FIDE suggested both to Kramnik and Kasparov to start on equal terms, to start from scratch once again, and now when Kasparov has retired the idea loses its meaning…

Again turning back to the printed: one great “ego” has gone, at least at this stage, but there still some left, that’s why carrying out of such a tournament is a matter of a simultaneous coincidence of the good will of a few people ready to make compromises and concessions. I can not speak for the others, but as for me I would be interested if this tournament took place. As for the people whose participation is more important than mine and such seem to be in majority at this tournament…you’d better ask them. I’m sure that currently their attitude is absolutely similar to mine. I don’t see a real suggestion on a table. There are mere discussions that the event of such kind could solve the backlog of structural problems and lead to the situation in which it will be possible to create something.

Which system of world championship do you consider to be the best one? Which benefits should the world champion enjoy?

There should be some…

Should he start playing from the final?

It depends on the structure of the cycle. There should be a cycle, but not the one that lasts for three or two years. It should be reduced to harmonious and not very “widely ramified” system. The cycle should be compact and ideally take place once a year. I’ve never supported a knock-out system, neither have I been among its haters who believe it to be the final and unalterable lottery which brings to the top god knows whom, with whom I absolutely disagree from this point of view. My objections are of a bit different kind and I spoke much about them.

Concerning the number of games in mini-matches, and the absence of an extra day for tiebrakes?

Yes, regarding the number of games and about the matter that it’s impossible to play a rapid game at the same day as a classical game and that if the world championship is carried out according to knock-out system, FIDE should take the responsibility of organization of several knock-outs a year. Because it is at least illogical when you play Swiss and round-robin tournaments all year round and then the most important, perhaps, in one’s life, tournament is conducted according to the system that you come across only once a year. If the regulations are thought out carefully, there won’t be any complaints about the knock-out tournaments, but the complaints of those who consider that knock-outs must not be conducted at all. Although after all any cycle turns into knock-out. This is not that terrible. Of course the way it was conducted is scandalous. I don’t think there is a point in discussing an ideal cycle for now. First, we need to set the priorities and work on the situation to make the cycle feasible, only having solved the mass of contradictions in chess it will make sense to discuss the form of the cycle.

Peter, when did you join the ACP?

Like all my comrades! During the European Cup, I guess.

What are you involved in? Do you vote?

I voted several times on the problems that seemed to be important.

Do you have any ideas in which direction the organization should develop?

To begin with it should settle the situation with the Masters as it has been promised; there were rumours that they want to calculate ratings. However I don’t know whether FIDE is ready to give this market and do we need another parallel rating. Thompson and Dvorkovich calculate their own rating lists. TWIC publishes them in every fourth issue. Thanks for attention. As for the general ideas, very many things depend on the period of FIDE’s current stupor and the time when the changes we are waiting for will occur.

We need to understand FIDE’s position as an organization. The questions are already arising. Since 2001 we have seen the world championship in Libya and a lot of press releases. Another organization might have done the same. The Olympiad? It was organized by the Spaniards, FIDE had the role of “aegis”. FIDE’s weakness as organization was obviously demonstrated during the incident with its vice president Azmaiparashvili when FIDE proved to be unable to protect him against the arbitrary action of a local security but for all that Zurab’s conduct during the Olympiad was not the ideal one, as for the final episode the truth was on his side…Something is to be done. It’s difficult to tell which role the ACP should play in these changes.

Does the ACP work effectively as a trade union? For instance the situation with notorious European championship…

We turn back to the previous question again. The ACP as a trade union is against FIDE and ECU in point of fact is FIDE’s satellite. The attempt to change the rules somehow in Istambul resulted in breakdown of talks, nothing has been changed in fact. The participants still had to stay at the hotel that overcharged them, etc. All the things the ACP has been struggling against are now back unchangeable. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. The only experience of contact with the people, who organize the European championship, I had, resulted in clear explanation that I’m not welcomed there… I remember promises on oath as far as I remember of almost Azmaiparashvili that during the General Assembly everything will be changed and organized properly in 2005. It is clear that nothing was changed. I’m not surprised though.

We certainly need to have a trade union, but we need to understand that people have to make living somehow. A grandmaster’s life is not so unclouded to decline time after time the invitation to take part in a good tournament. The trade union is at a disadvantage as no negotiations are carried on and once and again it has to announce the lockout. All the trade union is going to do is to repeat, that chess players should not be robbed so openly, it should be done quietly and the answer will follow: “ Whipper-snapper, who the hell are you?” or there won’t be any. As a young organization that has no financial support for the moment it can not tell the grand masters: “Don’t play, we will compensate this”. This is a no-win situation as any, even the most belligerent trade union hopes to get something from the negotiations, and there no negotiations at all.

Why is it impossible to organize a parallel competition with decent conditions under its own aegis?

There won’t be FIDE’s support. They will say that it has nothing to do with them and they can not provide the official status for it.

Remembering the way “Champions League” was founded, do you think that the following hypothetical script is possible: European federations decide to support this parallel organization and leave FIDE face to face with its problems?

This step is too serious and is outside the frameworks of the trade union activity.

Well, it’s rather a question about one of the possibilities to overcome a deadlock…

I don’t know, something needs to be done, of course. The situation is unacceptable, it’s obvious, but no one is able to do anything as FIDE doesn’t make a step forward.

Do you think that in present situation FIDE within the limits of its regulations is able to do anything positive? Is it possible to change the situation for better without a revolution?

It depends on what you consider to be the revolutionary changes…

Strengthening of the parallel organization, for example…

I think that change of leadership will be of benefit. This would have already happened if it had been any other company. I doubt whether this is possible according to the current regulations. I’ve never been engaged in this matter, but it seems quite impossible to dismiss these people…

Do you think the formula of FIDE rating should be corrected? Also, is it desirable to give Black certain privileges, considering both rating calculation and number of points in a tournament table? And what do you think about perhaps more gentle way of solving "colour discrimination" problem, which is used at the Aeroflot open?

 As for "Black tiebreak", I have already spoken it out with Bakh (the Aeroflot open organizer – M.S.), and I think it should not be the most important tiebreaking method.

Well, if it is used as the main tiebreaker, it will be basically of no use at all, as exactly equal Buchgolz is an extremely rare case?

No, I believe that it should be the second tiebreaker, with the individual encounter result being the most important one. However, I realize that it brings certain technical difficulties, when, for instance, there are four players tied for the first, and not all of them have played with each other. In general, I recognize that having 4 Whites or 5 Whites in a 9-round Swiss makes a big difference. And as for the rating formula, once again, I do not think that the present colour ignorance is its main problem.

And what do you think is more important?

I supported those who suggested incorporating blitz and rapid results into the official rating list. I think this is a correct approach. Rapid chess does not differ so much from regular chess to ignore it completely. And as for blitz, one should at least consider blitz games played at the world championship. The organizers of blitz marathons such as Dordrecht tournament, where people blitz for 24 hours straight, are not really interested in including the results of these events into the FIDE rating calculation. While talking of the world championship, there were certain players whose success was largely based on non-classical forms of chess, and I don't understand how it is possible not to reflect it anywhere in the rankings.

Do you mean Kasimdzhanov?

Well, not only him. I did not mean to produce such a badly covert kick into Rustam's direction, whose victory at the world championship in Libya is undisputable. But if it becomes a vital part of the chess world championship, why is it not included into the rating formula?.. Now about changing a number of points for wins and draws at the tournament table. I think that the risks of implementing such a decision are too great. I am talking of both applying football 3-1-0 system and awarding Black extra points for a win. Don't even go there! People who suggest it have simply watched Linares-2004 and got overexcited. Yes, that was not a very good tournament. However, I can't recall any complaints about Linares-2005 or Linares-2003, as well as about randomly picked Wijk aan Zee, in which the rate of decisive games is usually close to 50%. There will always be draws in games between two players of approximately even strength. But the point is to prevent short uneventful draws...

7 participants playing each other twice is not a good format anyhow. There is no point in maintaining it, too. If they expand the starting lineup, the problem will be resolved by itself. Wijk aan Zee is not much weaker than Linares, this year the average Elo of the Corus was 2720. The difference between formats is a key issue. When there are so few participants, like in Linares, they naturally have to play defensively. Because if you lose, you also allow your opponent making a great leap at the tournament table. Although Kasparov and Topalov showed that the one who dares gets his chance, even in such a format. So I think that talks about the end of the world as we know it are rather impulsive.

A player who does not compete, does not lose his rating – do you think this is a problem?

Well, it seems to me they conquered it, having thrown Judit off for three inactive periods between the publishing of new rating lists, while before they used to mark one as inactive only after three years' break.

She'll play a single game and her rating will return without a penalty.

Any other ideas? Should she start with 2400 after the break? There might be a problem with someone who did not play for 5 years. So should Gata Rustamovich Kamsky get some arbitrary number, like 2550? Hey, kid, you didn't play for long, alright? Only justified suggestions should be discussed. I think any penalty for inactivity must be ruled out completely as long as one's break does not exceed three years. Otherwise we risk punishing wrong people. You don't like that top players do not play much. OK, in addition to the Championship race, which is essentially the ACP Tour, create also a system similar to the ATP rating, when the players have to protect their points. However, in order to do that we need to have an established calendar and a wide choice of tournaments. And presently it is obvious that there are more chessplayers than invitations... Generally, this inactivity issue seems rather insignificant to me. Of course, it could also be discussed, and the discussion could certainly be quite lengthy, but it would be of little relevance, to be honest.

And how relevant is a problem of short draws?

This one is much more serious. Those opposing changes say that if two guys want to make a prearranged draw, they'll always find a move repetition. However, there was an experiment by Generation Chess, when they introduced a rule that banned draws below 50 moves, and players accepted it. There were some perpetual checks, but not demonstrative ones – they occurred in sharp positions. The spectators want to see how games end. I realize that we should not always follow the tastes of the Internet spectators, but it is unwise to ignore them completely, too. This is a matter of goodwill, and I don't think the players will object such a rule, although it would be very nice to ask them. Basically, if we rule out the possibility of a draw offer, the players will struggle as if their draw offer has been turned down. I do not expect a civil unrest. We could make this step to please the spectators even though they are not always just in their demands, not always polite, and often do not understand the effort required to play at the highest level and the level of pressure... Don't forget that the Internet spectators do not pay us directly. There were attempts to establish a paid broadcast, but they mostly proved unsuccessful, because the games always appeared at free servers at some point. So, loud complaints about players insulting spectators should become little bit quieter. A public has no pity for us, too. An average chess supporter basically does not need a reason to start offending virtually any chessplayer. But we have to do something with short draws. Listen to me, a man who made 8 draws out of 9 games in Poikovksy...

Were there were global reasons for such peacefulness, or was there always a special reason for each individual game?

When there are special reasons in each game, global reasons are likely to exist as well. I am ready to accept a due criticism. Probably I am not the worst of draw makers, but surely not the best one.

You did not beat the record of your namesake...

Well, my tournament was weaker than his.

What in your opinion could make chess more attractive?

Inasmuch as it is sad to accept, there is a public demand that our games should not end peacefully on the move 20! If this does not make chess more attractive, then at least will take away one of the basic reasons for complaints and lamentations. But the major problem will still remain. I think, only cricket match lasts longer than a classical chess game. And as I am well-aware of average chessplayer's opinion about cricket, I realize how one who doesn't play chess will react to the idea of watching a game of chess on TV. Although I am able to watch cricket for hours and believe that it is a highly dynamic and thrilling action (as well as chess relays on the ICC), I understand those who consider observing growing grass or drying paint a similarly attractive pastime. 

So, you chessplayers all should move to the 2-minute games to please the public?

Yes, and therefore we return to the Tkachiev's cult interview, which is as brilliant as everything Vlad does, but... as for lightning chess, as well as Fischer random, etc., I've always said: I am the first man in the line if you present it as an addition to existing chess. However, there is a problem with the organizers of such events – they cross the line way too easily. They don't say: here's an interesting idea, let's test it. They say: here's a brilliant idea, which will replace outdated, wearisome, stupid and boring classical chess. And I am definitely allergic when it comes to such an approach.  

And why do people watch it on the ICC and won’t watch it on TV?

Because there is no special chess TV channel. ICC is a server for those people who discovered it because they want to watch the tournament broadcasts. The point is to attract a wider audience than 30000 ICC members.

There is a fine line between the ICC broadcasts habitué and a person who knows about chess and could probably watch these games if he is encouraged...

Everything should be organized properly. One could indeed shorten a time control and attract the audience with lightning-quick hands, disheveled hair and uncontrolled shouts. There is also a different approach – organizing a professional live commentary, which would fascinate an amateur. Something is to be done. However, I do not have any exclusive success recipe and I am not sure that it actually exists. If the method of turning chess into attractive and easy-to-sell sport was be obvious, it would already be tested. I've mentioned a few initial approaches, but their effectiveness and viability are very difficult to evaluate.

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