Tal's 1987 TV interview, last part
What do you think about the qualifying system in our country? Do we need any changes, or it's all right already?
The words "all right", it seems to me, are now heard only in the song "It's all right, pretty marquise".
The international tournaments have become something like alpine skating rinks, where it's very easy to achieve the highest chess titles. So, as a result we have many chess players with the same title, but of a very different class.
There were some efforts against this phenomena. When I was still the editor of Riga Shakhmaty magazine, someone sent a very curious article to me, in which it was stated that there are too many grandmasters around. The article was titled, "Isn't it time to start shooting the grandmasters?"
Thankfully, such radical measures weren't implemented. But now there's really very many grandmasters, and I think there should be first-grade grandmasters, second-grade grandmasters and so on. The same thing can be probably said of international masters.
I think that the modern title system needs more slots. Yes, I think so.
The popularity of leading chess players in our country rivals that of leading artists and scientists. Why then our press doesn't ask our chess players of their opinions about problems of perestroika?
The problems of perestroika, of course, do exist, and they have much influence over chess. Yes, first Karpov and Kasparov, then Kasparov and Karpov are two great talents that support the reputation of Soviet chess. So it seems that it's all right...
But really, it's just an image of order and well-being. For instance, at the last Chess Olympics the Soviet national team fielded a dream line-up: Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Artur Yussupov, Rafael Vaganian and Andrei Sokolov, five strongest players in the whole world. But they needed a lot of effort and luck to get the gold medals that seemed to be theirs even before the start.
I remember the old times, when any Soviet player or team went abroad, and it was a cakewalk for medals, awards and prizes. And so, they stopped paying much notice to the chess: who cares which team the World Champion plays for? Botvinnik from Trud, Smyslov from Burevestnik, Petrosian from Spartak, Tal from Daugava? It's their internal deal, let them fend for themselves.
Then Robert Fischer appeared. Chess got from the last pages to headlines, because they weren't an internal problem anymore, they became an international problem. Fischer played brilliantly, simply brilliantly, and he overtook the Soviet players, we had to fight for the World Champion title again.
I don't know how could the 1976 match end, and Karpov doesn't know too: we can express any opinions now, it's impossible to check. But still, Fischer forfeited the title, and it returned to our country. It seemed to be all right again.
Then there were two World Championship against Korchnoi. The first match was very sharp, very nervous, very intensive, but Karpov still progressed, Korchnoi's age showed itself, and their last match was more like a formality. So, it's all right again, the Soviet players are the best in the world. So the chess received as much attention as they deserved in the Sportloto alphabet index: 47th or 48th place, I don't remember. We need chess literature? Of course we need chess literature. But there are athletics, basketball, volleyball, all sort of things ahead of chess. There's no paper left to print chess books.
That's one problem.
Another problem: sometimes, there were some voluntaristic decisions. Of course, you all know the phrase, "There's an opinion". And this magical phrase was the reason for many strange things.
For instance, we suddenly learned that you can play chess only until you turn 25 or 26. It's something like callisthenics, muscles lose their elasticity etc.
You see, a vast number of chess players, good chess players, masters who lived in backwater cities have lost all opportunities to train. They have lost opportunities to meet each other because there were no more tournaments organized for them.
The USSR Spartakiad was a great parade of country's strongest players, it was a great celebration, a forum where young players could face famous grandmasters: the latter gladly shared their experience, the former shared their youthful ardour...
Then the decision about the USSR Championships. Of course, they should have been chess holidays. And, of course, it would be great that all the strongest Soviet chess players would participate in the tournament if they had the opportunity.
I'll tell a story that happened to me.
That was two or three years ago. I called to Moscow and said to some Federation official, "I'd like to play in the championship." "Misha, are you serious?" "Well, it seems that I am." "Well, you know, only Beliavsky is going to play in the tournament, but he plays in all the tournaments!"
And finally I was persuaded that I shouldn't play and take someone other's place...
And two weeks later, I read an angry article by GM Suetin. Like, the USSR Championship must be like this, but it became that. And the article was directed on the most persistent "non-players" - Smyslov and Tal.
Of course, after that the public opinion obliged me to play in the next championship. But the next championship was a zonal tournament for the World Championship. And I was already qualified for the Interzonal.
So, in other words, if Tal plays in the tournament, if Smyslov plays, if someone other plays, only two or so candidates remain for three places.
And also we become a bit like "traffic controllers". We, willingly or unwillingly, light the green light for someone and close the way for someone else. There were many such cases, both in Soviet and foreign chess.
Many questions and answers were omitted, but it was already a big piece of work.