13.10.2007 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?


Mark Dvoretsky, Honoured Trainer of the USSR

1. As they say, 'the strongest won'. Won assuredly, due to 'clear advantage'. I can note especially that in the end when draws would give him comfortable leadership, Anand continued playing normal chess: he entered the sharpest struggle with black against Kramnik and Grischuk, refused repeating of moves in a double-edged position against Morozevich.

However, what does it mean, 'the strongest'? Anand was indisputably the best in Mexico as in many earlier competitions too. In other cases someone else was the strongest. So it will be later on: sport is sport, forces correlation is changing constantly, and future results are unpredictable. You can only estimate probabilities each time.

Attempts of some journalists and many habitants of guestbooks to determine the strongest player on the whole and to demand that exactly him was bearing the world title are absurd and ridiculous ('don't make an idol...'). A world champion is 'simply' a winner of a next official world championship. This is the case in any sport, and one should not look for something else in chess. Great champions appear sometimes who demonstrate their superiority for several years but it does change the main point. Even the great champion can lose sometimes including world championships, and it is not unusual or unacceptable.

2. No expectations for the following reasons:

1) I think the match must not take place. The champion's right for a return match gives him fantastic and mostly undeserved privileges over other leading grandmasters. This unjust rule had been cancelled after Botvinnik – Petrosian 1963 match and must not have been revived again. The grounds for new talks on the 'sacred right' of champions and for reviving revenges are only obsolete traditions and pretensions (understandable from psychological point of view but no more grounded) of the latest world champions and supporting forces.

Moreover, I also consider evidently unjust the champion's 'right', instead of participating in the next world championship, to play a match with its winner. There is no such right in any popular sport except for professional boxing. Ilymzhinov's knockout championships seemed to put an end to this 'right' (with a drawback yet – the champion must not begin from the first rounds alongside a hundred of grandmasters). Alas, worst tradidtions are reviving again.

Long matches were good in the past when there were few extra-class chessplayers and few tournaments. Matches were one of the popular forms of competition then, and it was natural to determine the strongest player in a duel.

It is an anachronism now. Each competition form is specific: for instance, winners of opens often face big difficulties in round robins and vice versa. This is much more true for matches. So, why we should reveal the world strongest player using a format fully ousted from chess competition calendars?

Moreover, a struggle in a long match is accompanied by a number of specific ugly features: many months of preparations for an opening duel, which is the essence of many matches; due to numerous assistant brigades a competition of great chessplayers becomes that of teams to a large degree; influence of politics; almost unavoidable scandals and so on. And because of extremely high nervous tension and predominance of opening preparation makes chess content not higher but even lower as a rule than in tournaments.

2) I admit that the match will not take place. FIDE repeatedly made absurd decisions in the recent years, permanently changing world championship rules, sometimes in the course of a given cycle. Some projected matches were broken down, why this one must be an exception?

High chess officials' actions, the so-called 'Prague Agreement' in particular, infringed rights of many leading grandmasters including Anand, who was always supporting FIDE, playing in accordance with official regulations and avoiding conflicts. But even his patience may exhaust, he has a moral right not to obey unfair rules. I do not know whether the participants of the last world championship signed contracts, and if they did, what was written in them. But even if a contract exists, it is hardly follows from it that Anand must give handicap to his opponent by defending his title in a competition being held in Russia or organized by men with business or friendship ties with Kramnik. Anand, as well as Ponomariov, has a right to put forward his own claims, though more cleverly and consistently, and to insist them to be fulfilled. They will be hardly accepted as the opposite side got used to dictate conditions. So, here is a ground for ruining the match.

I should not be too surprised even if Anand's position will be as follows: 'I have reached my purpose, I have become the world strongest player once more time (once in a KO, now in a round robin). I must not prove anything to anybody and I am not going to do it. The World Champion title is like Tolkien's Great Ring: I saw its influence on my predecessors and I do not want this to happen to me. Take your title back, play your games, but I shall simply play chess to my pleasure...' Who then will be considered as a true champion by public opinion, especially if Anand will further demonstrate as high sporting and creative level as in Mexico?

3. Perspectives of chess for nearest years are rather gloomy, to my mind. First of all, due to weak and corrupted FIDE, unable with its current staff to solve serious problems of chess, to attract new worshippers and sponsors.

I respect Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, believe him to be an uncommon man. Nevertheless, I completely agree with Evgeny Sveshnikov who wrote once: 'Ilyumzhinov is a good sponsor but a bad president'. A first-class leader selects first-class assistants, while a second-class manager has third-class subordinates; it is a known truth. We can evaluate Ilyumzhinov as a president by those men who rules FIDE for many years, whom he stubbornly rejects to clear the organization of and permanently shuts his eyes on their unseemly deeds.

Another important sign of FIDE bad state is its lack of democracy. Leading officials consider the organization as their own property: nearly all decisions in recent years are made behind the scenes without wide and open discussions with respected chessplayers and specialists or even national federations. As the result we have what we have and no hopes for better future.


Alexander Nikitin, Honoured Trainer of the USSR

1. I was pleasantly surprised by sharp struggle in many games. I even spent several night hours watching games on-line.

As for the result, Vishy Anand's victory is absolutely regular. He is now the strongest chessplayer in every aspect (except for Kasparov, of course). And the World Champion title is the deserved reward for his love, devotion to our wise game and diligence in which some next generation grandmasters lack.

It seems to me that Vladimir Kramnik shows good trend in his style and he begins to remind former Kramnik of ten years ago. It was a pleasure to watch his play in Mexico.

In general, elder, more experienced grandmasters filliped their younger competitors. For all that, the first three had the opportunity of associating with the great predecessors once, and the fact tells on their chess long-living.

I was grieved by Alexander Grischuk's result as I took some part in his progress in chess once. I think he is paying for his faithlessness to Caissa. Caissa loves and supports her devotees, not those who merely 'respects' her, an she is indifferent to 'gamblers'. Talented as he is, he could easily be in plus, but he got what he deserved in reality...

2. I think it will be a very interesting match between the only real candidates for the title of the strongest chessplayer on our planet.

3. As a game for millions amateurs, as a mean for education, chess will still last for indefinitely long time, and computer programs will only help.

As for chess as a professional sport, the situation seems disturbing to me. Troubled times in FIDE are continuing. The evidence, to my mind, is the projected by its leadership absurd match, which a future winner of the World Cup would have to play under humiliating conditions. A number of chessplayers made their way into grandmasters' rows is over a thousand, but not all of them know, for instance, how to draw an endgame R vs R + pawn. However, many of them demand fees to be able to keep their families. Hunting after earnings, grandmasters forgot corporate solidarity at all and are fully disunited.

My only hope is that the new World Champion will be active in public life and will use his authority and fascination to rise image of chess to a level which will attract public attention (and sponsors, of course) again to our game once called 'king's game' and will make us to forget as a bad dream all the around-chess events of recent years.


Boris Postovsky, Honoured Trainer of Russia

1. Anand's victory in Mexico was predicted by majority of experts. I expected a sharper struggle for the title itself (between Kramnik and Anand). But it has not happened. I think, Vladimir was ready for the struggle, but the failure in the game against Grischuk put him beside himself. Anand sensed it and got additional strength.

In general, I expected more even and tight struggle, however, the first three surpassed the others significantly for various reasons.

Gelfand's excellent play was unexpected for many people (but not for me!) As Boris Gulko told me by phone, everything might have turned out different if in the first round, instead of offering a draw to Anand, Gelfand would have captured a pawn and would most probably have won.

I must note, there were too many mistakes for such level of a competition. I believe regulations being one of the reasons: eight (!) games in the first nine days. I appeared in the tournament hall before the end of the 8th round and saw Morozevich and Grischuk with black and fully exhausted faces.

Mexicans organized everything brilliantly, invested much money but squeezed time schedule too much. Most probably, it is not their fault... I am sure neither Botvinnik nor Kasparov would ever agree with such regulations. All the more that 20-million Mexico City is not a resort at all, with serious problems for chessplayers to restore themselves. In other words, grandmasters must blame themselves for the situation.

I think Anand deserved his victory. He was not only well trained but was better in struggle, winning better positions and defending worse ones persistently. I think also, his motivation was higher than that of Kramnik. Vladimir relied on his last chance, win with white, but failed. Moreover, Anand fixed a draw in a bit better position, which tells of his practicality and self-control.

Curiously, only the medalists scored above 50%, Kramnik having won two games in the last three rounds. Gelfand showed interesting and sapid play, though he was lacking in power. 

I think the other participants are not happy with their play and results.

Aronian was ill and his preparation in openings was not of necessary level. Grischuk got in time troubles permanently. Morozevich played unevenly, with tactical blunders and drawbacks in preparation. Svidler grieved me also, not confirming his high class. Leko scored 50% but aspired for more, of course. Probably, the failures will try to take revenge in the World Cup.

2. It will be a fantastic match (12 games, I guess). I estimate the side's chances as nearly equal. A year left (the match will be held in Germany in September and October 2008), much will depend on thorough preparation.

3. Perspectives are rather good in general. It is important that FIDE would carry out its decisions without changing them. In other words, we need stability.

As concerns Russia, while A.Zukov and A.Dvorkovich are at the head of our chess federation, everything will be all right provided executives will work conscientiously.


Alexander Panchenko, grandmaster

1. I consider the results of the Mexican championship regular.

Anand played easily and won absolutely deserved. Kramnik played suitably. Russians Grischuk, Morozevich and Svidler could have played better.

On the whole, quality of games in modern super tournaments decreases, to my mind. A number of mistakes was very high for the level. It can be explained by enormous ambitions of the participants, by high nervous tension and weariness of many hours of computer preparations. By the end of a round human brain flounders and mistakes appear. Working day of a high-class grandmaster including preparation, playing time and analysis exceeds 10 hours of intense work.

Anand and Kramnik stand the tension because they play efficiently. They need not win every game; they do not look for the absolutely best move in each position but simply make very good moves.

2. The match will be very interesting. I expect a contest comparable with Capablanca – Alekhine match by its struggle. There will be no short draws.

The opponents are equal, and I hesitate to prefer anybody. I sympathize with Kramnik.

3. I think chess will be tougher. Probably time control will be reduced, youth will press hard.

Sport component of chess will prevail over creative one. Physical conditions and endurance will step to the forefront. A number of interesting games will be decreasing though I hope creativity cannot be fully eliminated.


To be continued

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