The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT - Mark Ru­bery

The weekly mag­a­zine called the ‘Rus­sian Reporter’ pub­lished an ar­ti­cle on ‘Chess Kings’ where some of the top Rus­sian play­ers were in­ter­viewed. What re­sulted was one of the bet­ter offerings to the main­stream pub­lic on the thoughts and opin­ions of a chess grand­mas­ter. The fol­low­ing are the mus­ings of Peter Svi­dler.

Open­ing fash­ion

The top 10-20 play­ers in the world are clearly split be­tween those who cre­ate elite fash­ion and those who fol­low it. Nat­u­rally, there are far more of the lat­ter. That be­came par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able when Kram­nik with Black started to play the Petroff – an open­ing which was pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered un­promis­ing. Soon those who’d never once played the Petroff could be counted on the fin­gers of one hand.

There are peo­ple who take on whole sys­tems, among whom you can un­doubt­edly num­ber Kram­nik and Moroze­vich. That’s very time­con­sum­ing work, how­ever, and not ev­ery­one’s ready to do it – it’s much sim­pler to start at a point up to which the masters have al­ready shown you ev­ery­thing.

Un­clear for the sake of ac­tual play

Par­tially due to lazi­ness and par­tially due to the fact that I re­ally like the ac­tual process of the game, or be­cause of the habit I picked up in my child­hood of end­ing my anal­y­sis with an eval­u­a­tion of “un­clear”, I fre­quently put off think­ing about the sit­u­a­tion on the board. I even had a short di­a­logue with Garry Ki­movich [Kas­parov] on that topic dur­ing a tour­na­ment we were play­ing to­gether. I got an ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing po­si­tion, sank into thought, came to some con­clu­sion, made a move and then left the stage to where Kas­parov was pac­ing. He looked at me with some kind of pity and said: “You re­alise nor­mal peo­ple only be­gin their anal­y­sis in such po­si­tions?!”

Cricket and other sports

I’m a pas­sion­ate fan. I fol­low, if per­haps not as ac­tively as be­fore, Zenit and Arse­nal. More­over, I sup­ported the English club long be­fore the cap­tain of the Rus­sian team moved there. I’m ca­pa­ble of watch­ing any kind of bil­liards on tele­vi­sion. In my life­time be­fore last I de­voted a lot of time to that sport and was able to do a thing or two, so I re­ally en­joy watch­ing true masters play.

My spe­cial pas­sion, how­ever, is for cricket, par­tic­u­larly when played by the Eng­land team. Nowa­days I prob­a­bly won’t watch a test match be­tween Zim­babwe and Bangladesh, though around five years ago I’d have watched it from be­gin­ning to end – I re­ally was ill. In 1999 I vis­ited Nigel Short for what was sup­posed to be a train­ing camp. That hap­pened to be when the Cricket World Cup was tak­ing place, and he said to me back then: “Enough chess, it’s time to try some­thing new”. Since then I haven’t been able to stop.

Rein­vent­ing the wheel

Re­cently I’ve very rarely man­aged to guess my op­po­nent’s in­ten­tions. With­out any stun­ning idea in re­sponse it’s eas­ier to play by re­call­ing your home anal­y­sis, but if you haven’t re­vised some lines for half a year you need to rein­vent it all again. The state when you sit and re­alise you’ve got it writ­ten down, but you don’t re­mem­ber what, is worse that if you were just play­ing with a clean slate. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the game you’re try­ing to vi­su­alise what that page looks like. It re­ally dis­tracts you and of­ten proves coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Cal­cu­lat­ing life

A ra­tio­nal ap­proach to life is one of the pro­fes­sion’s rou­tine per­ver­sions, when you imag­ine it’s pos­si­ble to cal­cu­late life it­self. It’s rarely fea­si­ble, how­ever, as the num­ber of vari­ables is huge. I once con­ducted some long and ex­tremely high qual­ity cal­cu­la­tion, which es­sen­tially worked out, but in­stead of the out­come be­ing pos­i­tive it turned out to be far from good.


The slow­ness of ge­nius is hard to bear, but the slow­ness of medi­ocrity is in­tol­er­a­ble. – Henry Thomas Buckle

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