Mark Glukovsky, editor of 64, the Russian equivalent of New in Chess, responded in a controversial but compulsively readable style to the questions of Crestbook readers.
At the time this interview spurred a heated debate at Crestbook, mainly because Glukhovsky was asked about internet chess sites and described the one he was answering questions for as “amateur”. He explained in an additional statement that he only meant in the sense that the contributors weren’t paid, but then he spoilt the diplomacy by saying it would be better not to publish at all than to publish some of the material on Crestbook (he seemed to miss the rapid response context in which it was published). In hindsight the questions about the Russian Chess Federation, and his role as editor of the official website, have taken on added significance, but here I’m including the material I originally translated at the Daily Dirt.
Carlsen and the Media
In general the appearance of a powerful Western player at top three level is an opportunity for world chess. The interest in him is enormous. And if he actually becomes world champion… On the other hand, Carlsen isn’t a straightforward figure and in some small ways he was similar to Fischer. He wasn’t particularly interested in communicating with people who couldn’t distinguish the English attack from the Chelyabinsk variation. I personally witnessed a remarkable scene in Foros in 2008, when he had his first major win – comfortably claiming first place with +5 in a very strong category 19 tournament. Following in the wake of this rising star were two gloomy members of a Norwegian TV crew, certainly not being lavished with attention – and Magnus’ father just gestured helplessly – what can I do? It was amusing when a team came from the New York Times, the world’s leading newspaper, you might say, in order to produce a photo report on him. They had cool equipment and lots of time, money, self-esteem and a will to work. It was incredible to hear their foul language after they were only given something like five minutes to film. And two or three one-word answers to their questions. Of course he’s changed for the better in this sense – as you can see from the very interesting interviews he gave to such well-known publications as Time and Spiegel. Our magazine has never had a problem with him – he’s often given interviews, and he regularly sends games. Now he has solid sponsors and even wears a shirt with his sponsor’s logo. No doubt his parents (and life as well) have convinced him that you can’t avoid communicating with the media if you want to be at the very top*. But does he?
* literally “on the crest” (of the wave)
What top chess players have in common
Firstly, a strong will. Almost all the top chess players have continually overcome others from childhood onwards, over the course of a whole career – can you imagine what that means? Very few can get by on pure genius, like Svidler. The majority, like Ponomariov, have a hypertrophied will in comparison to ordinary people. The weak-willed don’t become top chess players.
Secondly – egocentrism. As the reasons for victories as well as defeats are always sought in themselves, in their own brain, in their own body, a top player is continually listening in to his internal condition. How he slept, how he ate, how he went out, how he went to the toilet and so on. Such attention to your own person inevitably affects other people.
Third – caste. In general these people can only be understood by a very small percentage of the population, and they get accustomed to that situation from childhood on. It’s probably the same situation that astronomers, nuclear physicists, structural linguists and others dealing with very complex things find themselves in. As the circle is truly narrow top players are always cooking in their own juices, rumours are widespread, there’s gossip and so on. Everyone knows everything about everyone else, or at the very least, they can guess.
Fourth – a sense of humour. At times odd, but present in almost all of them. It seems a sense of humour is a side product of continually developing your brain.
Fifth and finally – zest. Many either passionately follow some sport or play it themselves – cards, football, tennis, dominoes and so on.
Anand or Topalov?
Originally posted here:
I don’t have the slightest idea. I rate the talent of both of them very highly and think the match should be extremely interesting. The vast majority of the professionals I’ve come to discuss the topic with consider that the question should be put differently – not who’ll win, but will Vishy survive? There are genuinely few who believe it’s going to be played fairly. That surprised me, but I’ve got no basis to doubt people who’ve been in this business a long time and understand it a lot better than I do. Nobody, of course, thinks that Topalov will get computer assistance. But they’re all sure that if the match is going badly for Topalov they’ll try to disturb Anand in any way possible. What will Vishy eat? Maybe he’ll have an upset stomach? Where will he sleep? Mightn’t the maid turn on a vacuum cleaner in the room next door at 7 am? Or maybe unknown drunkards will make a racket outside his window to 3 am? Will there be hot water from the tap? And so on… You can treat all that as paranoia, of course… But Danailov has such a lousy reputation that no dirty trick would surprise them.
A couple more comments that seemed worth inserting in the context of Mig’s blog:
I rate Mig extremely highly and consider him the best chess journalist currently around (perhaps only Ilya Odessky is at the same level). His writing is wonderful – interesting, witty and it demonstrates a knowledge and love of chess.
For the following comment it’s worth pointing out that Glukhovsky is writing as a representative of the only significant print-based chess journal in Russia – and defending himself against criticism of his comments about internet resources:
Each day thousands of people surf the chess web looking for something of interest. And that time is taken away, as a rule, not from other sites but from work, wives, children, cinema, sex, sport, reading books, walking in the fresh air and so on, and so on. That’s why, by the way, I wholeheartedly hate your internet.