My series of translations for www.crestbook.com continues today, with an interview of Alexei Shirov. Unfortunately, the interview is somewhat old, so it doesn’t cover such interesting topics as the recent Bilbao tournament or the outcome of the FIDE presidential race. (In 2009, when the interview was conducted, the presidential race was still in its most preliminary stages.) Still, I think you’ll find plenty of interesting things in the interview.
For readers who don’t know what Crestbook is, let me explain again that it is one of the premier Russian-language chess web sites, run by grandmaster Sergei Shipov and a small crew of volunteers. I started translating Shipov’s commentaries on the Topalov-Anand match earlier this year, because they were widely regarded as the best commentaries on the Internet but they were not available to English readers (or, to be more accurate, the available translations left something to be desired). Crestbook is trying to expand its English-language offerings, and to that end Colin McGourty and I have been translating some of the past “KC-conferences.” These are open press conferences on Crestbook’s KasparovChess forum (that is what “KC” stands for), where readers of the site submit questions for leading grandmasters to answer. I have previously translated the interview of Alexander Khalifman (a three-parter).
The Shirov interview has only one part, but it is plenty long and interesting! It starts out with a question on the aborted world championship match between Shirov and Kasparov in 1999. This is obviously a sensitive subject with Shirov, and he says at the beginning of the interview that he will answer only one question about it. However, he eventually ends up answering three! Here is some of what he says:
Shirov: The collapse of the Kasparov match was connected with the failure of the autonomous government of Andalusia to live up to its oral promises. The legal responsibility was borne by the president of the World Chess Council, Luis Rentero Suares, who had signed a contract with me specifying the conditions of both matchesâ€”my match with Kramnik and the match of the winner with Kasparov. At that time, he did not have the requisite guarantees from the Andalusian government, but that only became apparent later. It was against Rentero that I filed a lawsuit in municipal court, but because of the extreme financial risk I did not pursue it to a higher level. I described the role of Kasparov in this story in my book â€œFire on Board 2,â€ and I have no desire now to return to this theme and stir up bad memories. I can only say that if there had not been some manipulation of the information that prevented me from finding out in time what was actually happening in Spain, and later in California, then we probably would have been able to agree [on a match].
Later, another reader asks about the preceding match with Kramnik in 1998, in which Shirov qualified to face Kasparov (the match that never happened).
qaskvas: Alexei Dmitrievich, forgive me for the somewhat impudent question, but is it true that after the match in which you beat Kramnik in 1998, the loser received an honorarium but the winner did not?
Shirov: Yes, that is correct. The loser eventually received both of the appearance fees. However, I forgot that I have already closed this subject.
Another reader asks about opening preparation:
kit: Is it true that 90 percent of the preparation of a super-GM is on the openings?
Shirov: If you donâ€™t count physical training, then itâ€™s probably even more than that. Even endgame positions are analyzed nowadays exclusively for the purpose of reaching a correct assessment of the opening.
To me, that’s just plain scary!
Shirov occasionally displays a sly sense of humor …
Life gambit: Did you study the work of Paul Morphy at the beginning of your career?
Shirov: I did. I even remember when, in 1984. My chess development stopped for about a year.
and talks about norm inflation, a recurring topic in the KC-conferences …
E-not: Do you think that there is a problem of too many grandmasters in the world?
Shirov: There are fewer people, fortunately, who have deliberately bought norms than there were before, but the title has undoubtedly lost some of its former meaning.
E-not: Do you think that the current system for awarding the grandmaster title is just and accurate?
Shirov: I think that the norms need to be raised a little bit. At least to a performance rating of 2650 (currently it is 2600) and a personal rating of 2550 (instead of 2500). On the other hand, if it becomes harder to earn a norm, then fraudulent norms might start making a comeback, but at least the frauds will have to pay a higher price!
and finally, he tells us (a year ahead of time!) why he didn’t have such a great result in Bilbao.
Master X: The vast majority of chess competitions take place in the second half of the day. It seems to me that this places â€œowlsâ€ and â€œlarksâ€ on an unequal footing. What do you think? And are you a night owl or a morning lark?
Shirov: I am not a lark, but I do usually get up in time for breakfast. I can say that if the game begins after 16:00, as for example it does in Bilbao, I donâ€™t particularly like it, so your question is a very reasonable one. Probably I would prefer to play at 12:00, but that never happens anywhere.
For the rest of the interview, please visit Crestbook … and come back for more in the future!
Here is a link to all of the Crestbook interviews that have been translated into English so far.