After Peter Svidler won the 2011 Russian Championship he gave a long interview to Vladimir Barsky for the Russian Chess Federation website. Barsky had been with Svidler at the World Team Championship in Ningbo, China, so had witnessed the dramatic change of fortune between the two events first-hand.
They began their conversation by talking about the aftermath of Ningbo, where the Russian team had failed to win a medal:
Peter, how did you manage to recover so quickly after China?
I don’t need to convince you of all people that the sky fell down on us in China – it was a localised end of the world, a localised hell. Nothing fundamental had changed for the better in life in the next 10 days. I managed to spend some time with my loved ones, get my head straight and get out of that nose dive I was in. I didn’t consider myself a favourite at all; I’ve never tended to consider myself a favourite, never mind now… I’d had some conversations with people who said they felt I was going to play well. That’s nice, of course, but it wasn’t something I had any confidence in. However, it turns out they were right.
Before the Superfinal you looked fresh and rested. I can still remember very well how our whole team looked after Ningbo…
I managed to spend a certain interval of time as I imagine a perfect four days would go. It almost perfectly coincided with the picture I’d got in my head of how I’d like to have spent them. In actual fact, before and after that interval there were two very different people.
What goals did you set yourself for the Superfinal?
Well, what goals? Usually people ask me before the Superfinal: “Peter, what would you like to achieve?” Coming to the Superfinal and not wanting to win it would be absurd. But this time I simply wanted to play better than in China. I didn’t want to play the kind of chess I’d periodically played in Ningbo. That championship turned out uneven: I played a couple of very decent games, and a couple that made me want to go away and pretend I wasn’t there; please, don’t come near me! Here my main goal was to escape from that condition and play at least approximately at the level I’m capable of. And to a large degree that worked out for me. Of course, it would have been better without the last game, as that spoiled the overall good impression from the tournament, but nevertheless – it was a very good result.
In the very first round Kramnik flung himself at you with the black pieces. How surprised were you by his mood?
He’d already played that way before, and I think he simply considered Black’s position to be very good.
In the previous game he didn’t give up a bishop, though.
He encountered f4, so he had to react like that. And moreover, that was a blitz game, and it seems he was left with the impression that Black’s position was wonderful, that it was possible and necessary to aim for it. Did I expect him to throw himself at me like that? I consciously went for that position as White in order to get a complex strategic position where we’d play chess. I thought that was where my chance lay. I don’t want to say that I considered myself the favourite in a complex, confusing battle: it’s clear that Volodya doesn’t have any problems understanding where he needs to put his pieces. But I wanted a complex, unconventional position in which he’d be thinking, because the match in Kazan was one long illustration of what happens to people who get involved in theoretical discussions with him. That was something I absolutely didn’t want.
Did I expect I’d have a won position after 15 moves? Certainly not! It ended up being a strange game: we reached a position in which play was only getting started, and then 4 moves later it was essentially over. My slightly shaking hands made it seem as though Black had drawing chances, but the real fight was over very quickly. Of course, it was easier to play after that win. In almost every game there were interesting moments. For example, against Karjakin I found an idea that wasn’t self-evident – b4 and Nb3. A strange pawn sacrifice, after which the picture had completely altered. And against Grischuk I was also applying pressure with Black. Then there was that streak of three wins. Of course, I got pretty lucky over that stretch, but it was chess luck. I posed certain problems; on another day, perhaps, they’d have solved them better, but on that day it all went the way I wanted.
Have you ever had to play such an extremely short format before?
Yes, I’ve played single round-robin tournaments with 8 players. In Dortmund I shared first place with… probably with Kramnik – who else could you share first place with in Dortmund? That was 2006, it seems. It’s an interesting format – not so bad. Of course, now I’ll be the number 1 fan of such a format as I’ve got no cause to complain. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with a tournament with 12 players either. In Russia you can always find 12 good chess players. The problem a smaller country would have is that a tournament with 8 people could be Category 19, while with 12 it would be Category 16, but we can easily find 12 people. But they tried it this way, and it was very upbeat and lively; there were key encounters in each round. The format has every right to exist.
It seems you’ve already won the Russian Championship by every possible system?
Yes. 1994 and 1995 (Swiss tournaments), 1997 (knockout), 1998 (Swiss [Vladimir Barsky notes Svidler was second on tiebreakers]), 2003 (Swiss), 2008 (a round robin with 12 players), and this one.
Which victory was dearest to you, the most memorable?
Probably the first and the last. Well, the first for obvious reasons, and this one – because in the last few years… I can’t say I haven’t demonstrated anything good at all, but a success like this one that you can point your finger at and say – look at that! – there haven’t been any of those. The victory in Gibraltar was good, there was a mass of good chess players and I scored quite a lot of points, but nevertheless it was an open tournament. Therefore this was a very important victory and I’m very glad about it.
You played a very interesting, fighting game against Grischuk. You’ve worked closely which each other and recently you were together at the Candidates Matches. What’s it like to play someone you know that well?
Sanya [a short form of Alexander in Russian] and I haven’t simply worked together a lot – we’ve got a very good relationship. He’s an extremely interesting chess player and one who’s very interesting to play against. Therefore if it was possible to find something to play that we hadn’t looked at together… The main problem was that there were some regions of opening theory which it would be uncomfortable for him to play against me, or me against him, as we’d built up a certain baggage of common analysis. As for simply playing against Sanya – it’s interesting and a pleasure because you’ve got a strong and unconventional chess player sitting opposite you.
If you’re talking about the goals I set myself before the tournament then I wanted to stretch myself as much as possible, to play every game at some sort of limit. From that point of view any game against Grischuk is interesting for me as I rate him very, very highly as a chess player. When I’m in a normal condition and not getting beaten around in every game then I relish the chance to play against strong players.
How interesting did the tournament end up being from the point of view of opening theory?
I’m not sure we’ve significantly advanced opening theory, although there probably were some interesting and important games. In terms of overall entertainment, however, it turned out to be a wonderful tournament!
Due to the 40-move rule?
That as well. I think that’s one way in which the short format was definitely a good thing, as you could allow yourself to play every game. You knew that unless you fell ill you should be able to last the distance. Therefore you don’t have to think – today I’m playing Black against Kramnik, then Morozevich, then Grischuk, and after that there are still 6 games to go! And at some point it’s necessary to try and organise an extra rest day as otherwise you’ll be on your last legs. Here that problem didn’t exist. For a Category 19 tournament the number of decisive games was absolutely awesome. If you include today’s round – above 50%! When you’ve got this number of chess players all of approximately the same class the games usually end in draws. I think it was a never-ending feast for the spectators.
The tournament should undoubtedly be included in the chess federation’s success stories. People I wouldn’t have expected told me they’d watched the tournament broadcast. It’s absolutely clear that broadcasting chess in this manner will interest and attract people who otherwise would never in their life have opened up a chess website. If you’ve got the resources then that’s precisely how chess should be covered. There’s a huge class of people who would very soon tire of simply watching the pieces on a screen, but who would watch, let’s say, “Chess TV”. You’ve got a non-stop live broadcast in which you’re told about what’s happening on the board, you can see what the people look like, how they sit, and you’ve also got two commentators who help you to understand what’s going on. And that’s a way of attracting people who otherwise have a look in the evening to see how the round went, and that would exhaust their interest in the tournament. Or else they’d read a final report after the tournament was over.
We’re not pioneers; as far as I know the same was done at the US Championship. It’s obvious that in the near future that’s the main resource for attracting attention for chess. Because in the internet age, and taking into account what a brilliant spectacle our sport is, it’ll be a little difficult to drive millions of people into playing halls. I think the Gelfand – Anand match in Moscow will fill a hall, but not the KPC [Kremlin Palace of Congresses]. We won’t fill the KPC, even if we really wanted to. You need to reach people who won’t go to a stadium and show them a high-quality picture with some commentary, and then on one of the days perhaps they’ll come and have a look in the hall, and tell their friends. That was what was done well, and it’s precisely in that direction that we should be working.
How was the organisation overall, the living conditions?
Of course, having finished first I can hardly complain about anything connected with the tournament. I really love playing in this club and I feel very comfortable here. We all lived in the “Arbat” hotel. It’s got a series of drawbacks which everyone knows about, but it’s got one advantage that cancels out all the rest. I wouldn’t want to travel to a round in traffic jams or on the metro, while from this quiet hotel in the centre it’s 10 minutes’ walk to the club. Yes, it would be good if the internet was better. Yes, for someone 1.9 metres tall it would be nice if your legs fitted on the bed. But it’s all there is! From the point of view of holding chess tournaments in the club the “Arbat” hotel has a natural monopoly.
We’ll see you next at the World Cup?
Yes, the circus is travelling to Khanty. And then the circus will travel to the European Club Cup. This autumn the circus won’t be standing still, the whole tent will be packed up and transported from one venue to another. The European Club Cup, then, perhaps, there’ll be some sort of event with our Armenian brothers, then the European Team Championship; I don’t know if I’ll be taking part in that after how I played in China. Frankly, I won’t really be able to catch my breath until December. Given my love of the Russian winter I really welcome the fact that the World Cup’s taking place in August-September. The leaves will be yellow… The Olympiad was the first time I arrived in Khanty and it wasn’t winter and I thought: wow, it’s simply great here! The people were always very friendly, but the absence of sun and “-25”… But when that’s not an issue I’m simply a great fan of that city!
Thank you, Peter, and good luck in your upcoming tournaments!
Perhaps the highlight of the Russian Championship (although it helped to know Russian!) was watching Peter Svidler demonstrate his games afterwards for the audience that gathered in the press centre. He explained five of his seven games, and if you count Alexander Morozevich’s demonstration of beating Svidler in the final round all but one of his games were covered:
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Kramnik (Rd 1)
- Svidler demonstrates his draw against Grischuk (Rd 3)
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Galkin (Rd 4)
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Timofeev (Rd 5)
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Nepomniachtchi (Rd 6)
- Morozevich demonstrates his win against Svidler (Rd 7)
Peter Svidler talked about his commenting on the games in another interview with Elena Klimetz for Chess-News:
I can tell you a semi-anecdote about that. Yesterday we were leaving the club: my wife, Sasha Grischuk and me – and we were buttonholed by a chess fan. He asked me about something and then he waited until Olga and I had gone about five meters – but nevertheless, it was perfectly audible, although perhaps he thought it wouldn’t be – he caught up with Sanya and said: “Tell me, Alexander, is Peter also such a joker in life as he is at the press conferences?” That absolutely wonderful word ‘joker’ [the actual Russian word is the odd-sounding ‘balagur’], which I’d never heard used about me before.
But yes, you could say I’m an artist of the conversational genre. But it’s always a little awkward for me… In particular, there was a press conference, I think actually with Sasha, when we were sitting there together and over the course of the whole conference he said about five words, while I said all the rest. That’s probably not very good, but when I start to talk I can’t stop.
But do you really enjoy it? Because observing you it seems as though it’s not only the spectators who’re enjoying themselves.
Generally yes. I love chess and I love talking about chess. And then you have to add in the fact that if I’ve been invited to speak then it very likely means I’ve won a game. And at such moments I’m generally in an extremely blissful mood. Life strikes me as something entirely tolerable and even, perhaps, pleasant in places. So why not talk about what went on?
In the viewer below you can play through all seven of Svidler’s games from the Russian Championship:
Game viewer by Chess Tempo
46 responses to “Svidler: “The circus is travelling to Khanty””
For the lack of a special thread on Svidler’s World Cup 2011 performance, I will comment here. His press conference after the second win over Kamsky (it is still replayable on the official site) is a treasure. The presence of a Russian-to-English interpreter is hilarious. At one point Svidler answers in English a question posed in Russian and the poor interpreter translates it into Russian.
My personal award goes to Svidler’s phrase “I always tend to think I am lucky if I win”. Quite different than what I got used to on this side of Atlantic :(
Yep, the press conferences have probably been the best part of the whole event for me! There was a great moment with Ivanchuk when he talked about being an exchange up, or rather having “an extra quality” in Russian. The interpreter translated it into English as “an extra quality”, Ivanchuk explained it was “an exchange up”… and then she repeated “extra quality”! Ivanchuk corrected her again and finally she conceded defeat :) It’s also funny to see what happens whenever any of the players gives any chess variations…
Yep, Svidler’s great – he should definitely receive an OBE or something similar as an honorary Englishman (perhaps together with David Navara for that other English trait of apologising for no reason!).
The interpreter often gets away with confusing “successful” and “lucky”, but Peter Heine Nielsen was a bit surprised to be asked if the tournament had gone “luckily” for him? :) “Come again!?”
New favourite: http://chess.ugrasport.com/?p=2855
Ivanchuk: “There is such a proverb saying that there is no need to shut the stable door when the horse is stolen. So, is it worth blowing before the fight is started?” (and the last phrase is the overall title of the article!)
To be fair, elsewhere on the official website it’s translated literally and sensibly (during the press conference itself it was just ignored – perhaps also sensibly!):
“There is a saying: «Don’t swing your fists after the fight». So why should I swing my fists before the fight?”
The idiom can be translated into English by various phrases like the one about “locking the barn door after the horse has bolted”, or “it’s no good being wise after the event”. Personally I’m surprised the translator resisted the urge to make Ivanchuk say something completely nonsensical:
e.g. “There’s a saying: “It’s no use locking the barn door after the horse has bolted”. So why should I lock the barn door before the horse has bolted?” :)
Mainly for mishanp: Have you heard the Polish saying “Przyslowia sa madroscia narodow, ktore innej madrosci nie maja.”? (“Folk proverbs are the wisdom of nations that lack other wisdom.”)
colin, that was too awesome to just be a comment…..
Although it’s funny at times it’s also really painful. In the press conferences today what the players said in Russian was just completely changed – sentences left out, chess variations and moves confused.
Just an example:
Ivanchuk in Russian about the first tiebreak game. “The first game turned out very difficult. My opponent got an advantage and I had to fight for a draw. Luckily I managed to create a fortress and then I didn’t mess anything up in the ending with rook v. bishop without any pawns.”
Translated as: “The tiebreak games were very tough. The first game one of the toughest games and you know I lost an advantage and I was fighting for a draw with one bishop against rook and pawn.”.
Another annoying thing is that there’s a Russian word which can mean either simply “beat” or “outplayed”, but the interpreter always starts the press conference by saying e.g. Sasha Grischuk “outplayed” David Navara – which isn’t very polite when both players are sitting there.
yes… thankfully i grasped those points even without knowing russian.
that lady sucks.
are the players under contractual obligation for the conference? if not, i would have expected them to correct major mistakes (like chucky tried for the “exxchange”… or maybe he decided after that that there’s no point talking to the lady)
till day before yesteday, one camera’s angle was such that you could see board, players and clock times. since yesterday that camera’s now focused only on board and clock; the players are not visible. Great pity, as it was fun watching gashimov-pono when gash thought he blundered in the end.. one could really feel for poor gashi.
can someone (you :)) tell the organisers to change the camera angle back?
Svidler’s face during the lady’s translation spoke volumes…. expecting some fun stuff from you (can’t believe she said “difficult” for “rhetorical”….)
To be honest, she wasn’t that bad, but it just beggars belief that she feels she has to interrupt and translate when of course Svidler’s more than happy to do it himself and it’s 100 times better for chess fans to hear him speak instead (plus he sometimes makes additional comments, jokes etc. when he speaks in English). Shipov said today that the only thing keeping all the other chess commentators and journalists in a job was that Peter Svidler’s still a chess player :)
On the camera angle – I think that was probably at the request of the commentators who want to be able to see the board well enough to follow what’s happening!
another issue with the camera angle is that the Chessbase analysis board hides almost a quarter of the real board. hope the commentators revert…
colin, i’ve been reading whychess for many days now; I must say that you bring a distinctive, much-needed, new flavor to english chess-news reporting.
(It’s particularly marked by including snippets from other interviews/articles into a cohesive news report for one incident, the latest e.g. is Tkachiev’s quote in the semifinal report.)
Keep up the good work…. must say whychess is helping me get over the death of this site now….
Thanks! First mistranslation by the interpreter – Grischuk was introduced something like “You’re not only a great chess player but a lucky one” – the interpreter left out the “only”…
Now she left out Grischuk’s comment “typical Judit”! (about playing an incorrect sacrifice and winning 3 moves later).
And Grischuk had to explain the Russian “kulminatsia” is “culmination” in English :) The full phrase was “I consider today the culmination of my career” (in case that was missed during the laughter!).
They can’t get Svidler as a interpreter, but perhaps mishanp? is there any way you can find out who is the lady? Don’t ask why but I am just a little curious :P
whatever we think of the lady, i do think it’s abnormal (if not downright impolite) that the player and questioner always get up and leave before she’s finished translating the concluding remarks.
i was wondering about the lucky part…. thanks for pointing out the “only”
All these players (not sure about pono) have very good english; why do we need the lady at all?
Agreed it wasn’t very polite not to wait until she’d finished. She’s Kermen Goryaeva. ChessBase mentioned her back in 2007 as practically running the FIDE office in Elista: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3928 And they note here she was also hired by UEP: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5958
There’s also another translator – see the last photo from the World Cup website here: http://chess.ugrasport.com/?p=3303
I guess they could do without an interpreter now – e.g. the way they did at the Candidates Matches – but other than Svidler I suspect the players would shorten what they said in English. I’d be no good interpreting as my spoken Russian’s not so great, though I could certainly tidy up the official website :)
fantastic report on semi tiebreak (photo with 3 secs on Grischuk!!).
one small wrinkle… maybe u shudve mentioned (even though other news sites have) that if not for Bc1, white would be mated.
Chess as sport: I’ve always thought, like many others, that chess is a sport since it’s quite demanding and competitive…. but now I see why it’s not really a sport…
A sport (in my new definition of the word) has to be something that has to be seen to be enjoyed/appreciated.
A chess game can simply written on a piece of paper to adequately enjoy it – in this sense it stands alongside art and science, but definitely not sport. (I’ve not read this point elsewhere, so sorry if it’s banal, and i’m only poorly read.)
Video coverage (like in the world cup) goes some way in making it look like a sport…. but based on above definition, I’m satisified that it can never make it to the level of other sports.
this leads to some ideas for publicity as a sport:
Team championships have a better sporting feel; we can have better commentary, many games at the same time to comment on etc…
Also, FIDE should leverage such coverage as in the world cup to pubilicise the game…. we have clear figures for how many people visited from around the world; I’m sure corporates, if they become aware, would pay money for a logo on the background or, god forbid, advertisements!!
and i’m writing this crap here, because this is where you’ve not denied me permission to crap -:) (yet)
mishanp is too humble :)
anyway for non-Russian speakers who don’t know any better, one interpreter is as good as any. An accurate text transcript of the press conference, that would be more useful.
I’m not sure if there are many Anglophiles like Svidler among the players, but some like Navara have been very helpful to respond in both languages, which is commendable
Thanks, chandler – I added the bit about mate. It’s odd, actually, as I’d noticed that before writing it but didn’t make it explicit (or indeed mention it at all!). I got a bit carried away with the screen grabs – I assumed the other sites would have included them so I wasn’t planning to, but it turns out the English video feed was down at the time.
On sport: Aronian agrees with you in the WhyChess interview I should be translating just now (not quite on the reason, but that chess isn’t a sport!). I think all the rational discussion on making chess appealing to sponsors is a bit pointless unless the organisation in charge is genuinely looking for sponsors… which there’s never been much evidence for.
prusswan – Navara’s fascinating as Russian’s also a foreign language for him… he tends to mix it a little with Czech.
grischuk needs to wear high raise jeans atleast for this final….
The finals day 1 report was the best so far…. you’re still improving, which is great!
“series of moves that were like the convulsions of a dying animal”.. cool literary touch…. (but don’t overdo it as you improve)
and a correct prediction at the end as well.
looks like you’re gonna be a hardcore chess journalist; yea!!!
Thanks – though to be honest the plan is to try and write less! I don’t really have time for “proper” reports while putting up other news and doing translation and so on.
There’s a great caption in today’s ChessBase report: “Kema taking notes in order to provide exact translations.” :) She really did translate “solid and boring” (describing 6.a4) as “best” today when Grischuk was talking after the game. I wonder if the note-taking is actually the problem (it distracts her from what’s actually said), though interpreting is a very hard job…
i’ve seen interpreters before, and this one is the worst by far, so far….
i’ve seen interpreters in other sports; and even spiritual discourses (english-russian, telugu-english) interpreted on the fly being done smoothly.
she’s just not comfy enough with either english or russian, or is simply dumber than usual.
I’d thought Grischuk’s sprinter analogy was a good one…. but there’s a flaw: when he’s down to seconds and his opponent has an hour (for 20 moves), it ain’t like a sprint; Grischuk has to wait for 15 minutes or more at times when the opponent’s thinking. (And he can’t move, go to the loo, even take a walk for over an hour!!).
I think it’s like a sprint only if the opponent has maybe 15 minutes when he’s down to seconds (for 20 moves to go).
So… his time trouble’s still a mystery; an adrenaline rush based concentration can’t last over an hour.
the lady who did pono-chucky conf seemed better….. was she?
awaiting you translation of svidler’s analysis in press conf.
aronian’s golden treasury…..
abrupt end though; kinda like when you’re eating delicious ice-cream in the dark and your spoon comes out empty suddenly. not nice, you know…
” I think at some point I’ll managed to achieve that.”
Thanks for the Aronian typo – agreed it was an abrupt end, but a nice final phrase :)
I actually missed the Ponomariov-Ivanchuk press conference, so can’t really comment on it. A couple of days ago I went to a literary event that was interpreted between Polish and English and it made me more inclined to be sympathetic towards the chess interpreters! Although the literary interpreter was much better, a lot was still missed – the making notes and speaking model doesn’t seem a great one, but I guess simultaneous interpretation is more difficult technically, and also has its drawbacks…
this is plain ridiculous. you’d said a few days ago (somehwere around here) that you’ll have some more articles. Nothing yet…. me angry. :)
Should i stop checking here daily? Do let us know if you’re starting to forget this site, so that we can start forgetting it too.
Oddly that was comment no. 1000 here (not counting spam!).
I know, I know… the problem is it’s hard to do chess translations and news as a job and then to do more of it in your free time as a hobby! Though I do have still have plans… Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I’m going on holiday for a couple of weeks next Thurday, though hopefully while still doing news at WhyChess. I can’t really promise to also do anything here.
You’re probably not keen on any of them… but you’d see anything new from Chess in Translation at Twitter, Facebook or using the RSS feed. Actually, I just thought – here’s an option that should be fine. Click on this link and submit your e-mail and you’ll get an automatic e-mail on the same day as I post anything: Subscribe to Chess in Translation by Email
did you do the grischuk one on whychess?? nice job!
If you mean the Khanty-Mansiysk analysis, then yes – great stuff, isnt it!
that’s some incredible reporting you’re doing for the ETCC… best quality reports I’ve seen in quite some time.
hope your stuff gets recognised… any idea on how many hits? is your stuff getting good readership?
Did u forget Grischuk part 2 (on world cup)?
No, it hasn’t appeared in Russian yet – I’m not sure super-GMs are the most reliable people when it comes to meeting deadlines… and in this case I guess there isn’t even a deadline!
Thanks for the comment on the ETCC & sorry for not replying sooner – my neglect of CiT is reaching ridiculous levels! Those reports nearly killed me i.e. trying to scan and cover all the games with no rest days. The Tal Memorial with 5 games a day should be easier, but now there’s going to be far too much good material available in Russian. Probably I’ll just have to do my best to ignore most of it…
yea!!! your report was mentioned in the TWIC headline of tal rd1. time for a toast!!
“though he spent a while savouring the novel experience of having a better position at the Tal Memorial”
Classic journalism !!
you did grischuk 2 !! yea! (had given up hopes)
Me too :) I’d submitted the translation almost two weeks ago… thought it had got lost somewhere! Just in case anyone’s reading this and wondering what on earth we’re talking about: http://www.whychess.org/node/3275
Kramnik on Tsesh…. sigh! what can one say…. it moved me to tears.
probably your most significant translation so far.
hey buddy u ok? no updates on whychess as well…
Yep, everything’s fine! I’ve stopped working for WhyChess for the moment as the whole site’s come to a halt – maybe permanently, but hopefully not.
Anyway, I should have more time to post some things here, though just now I’m working non-stop on the translation of a chess book (the deadline’s already passed, which is less than ideal!).
Just when whychess has become my daily landing point….the plug is being pulled?
This sucks !
So what do we do…..oh well will be checking CIT now i guess…..