Gelfand & Grischuk post-final interviews

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Gelfand & Grischuk after their final"I was worried I’d forgotten how to play chess." (Alexander Grischuk) "What else do you need? My son’s been born, I’m going to play a World Championship match, tomorrow I’m flying to the Champions League final… Although, to be completely happy, I still need Barça to win." (Boris Gelfand). Colin McGourty translated several fascinating interviews conducted after the Candidates Matches in Kazan.

Alexander Grischuk & Boris Gelfand at the closing ceremony in Kazan last week | Photo © FIDE, official website The last few days our co-editor Colin McGourty worked hard on new translations for his site Chess in Translation. We start with mentioning his translation of a fascinating interview with Alexander Grischuk done by Yuri Vasiliev of ChessPro.

After Wijk aan Zee I wasn’t in the best mood, of course. I then went on to play very badly at the Aeroflot Blitz, not even qualifying for the World Championship. There were five places on offer there, and I finished seventh. Overall, I was worried I’d forgotten how to play chess…


Well, I wasn’t that worried, and fortunately it turned out not to be true. At some point after that I started to work seriously, for two or three months. That bore fruit, and I was no longer as far behind my opponents in preparation as usual. In the final you might say I wasn’t even behind at all. In some games I was better prepared, and in some Gelfand was. I was still behind Aronian and Kramnik in preparation, but no longer quite as dramatically as is usually the case.

Some of your detractors accused you of “cowardice” on internet forums, saying that in every match you were only dreaming of getting to the tie-breaks… I think that’s nonsense. In any case, someone who’s trying to win a match does it any way he can. First of all, against Aronian all the games were fighting, while against Kramnik you could say that I did have the tactics you just mentioned. In fact, I simply didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go for a worse position with White just because I was playing White: well, a draw’s a draw, and it’s still all to play for.

Alexander Grischuk

In the end your tactics, however they were described by your spiteful critics, paid off. And in the final you met Gelfand, who you’d previously beaten in similar formats. What got in your way this time?

This time Boris’ wonderful play got in my way. He only made a single bad move over the course of six games. True, it was very bad – 22. Bxh8 in the 2nd game. He sacrificed a piece based on his analysis, but then didn’t continue playing a piece down. Anything could have happened there but more likely than not it’d have ended in perpetual check or a repetition of moves. Instead of that, he won back the exchange, but lost the initiative and got a difficult position. I thought I was very close to victory, but in fact it’s very hard to win there. My seconds looked at it with a computer but even then they couldn’t find a clear win. There were chances, but they didn’t manage to find a win. The last game, on the other hand, I simply consider to have been a masterpiece by him. He played brilliantly, so I’ve got no regrets in that regard.

The full interview in English, posted last Saturday, can be found here.

Yesterday Colin added a lengthy piece that forms a wonderful collection of quotes from Boris Gelfand, taken from different interviews and put together thematically. His sources were:

Here's a small selection:

What do you think – was your section of the draw easier than Grischuk’s?

Yes, probably.

So it turns out that Grischuk cleared a path for you?

Well, I don’t know who cleared a path for whom. We played the way it worked out. It wasn’t me who thought up the draw. According to the previous rules I was supposed to play a match against Aronian immediately. The winner of the World Cup and the winner of the Grand Prix. Then they started to change everything: to include people, to link things together… I didn’t get angry. If those are the rules – then ok, I’ll prepare according to those rules as well. (ChessPro)

Did you realise the magnitude of your victory?

I fully realised that the moment Grischuk resigned. I didn’t require any time. Over the years I’ve learned to control my emotions. If they were controlling me then I’d never have won in Kazan. In the last game, after all, I realised that I was winning. But I needed to calmly apply the finishing touches to the job. Volodya Kramnik had just such an overwhelming advantage against Grischuk in the semifinals. If he’d taken his chance he’d have been in the final. But Kramnik, it seems, was let down by nerves. (SovSport)

Boris Gelfand

Photos © FIDE, official website

Many people are talking at the moment about classical chess being close to ruin. That’s why you end up with blitz and tie-breaks. There’s a problem with classical chess. The problem of classical chess… Alexander Grischuk said there are too many draws, that everything’s simply been studied so much that it’s harder and harder to win, harder and harder to surprise someone or to get complex play. Alexander said that after his games against Kramnik, who he was unable to pose any problems to for a long time. Of course, that’s a little exaggerated. Yes, it’s becoming harder than before, but not to such a degree. And the final match between Alexander and me showed that. You can pose problems, and our games were conducted in a very tense struggle. I was on the verge of losing on three occasions. Alexander was applying pressure, and it was only in two games out of six that we didn’t manage to get a real struggle. That strikes me as a reasonable percentage.

And as for the winner sometimes being decided in games with a faster time control – that’s a problem with classical chess, but there’s no better option. Previously people would play until the first win – weeks, or months. But that’s not realistic anymore. Each tournament has its format, its dates, and rooms reserved in hotels. No-one’s going to book months in advance and then wait and see who plays. Everyone has plans, schedules and other tournaments. It’s a reasonable compromise. If you have six games at a classical time control and the opponents are evenly-matched, then it’s reasonable to decide the winner by playing a sensible number of games with a faster time control. Four games for deciding the strongest player is a reasonable number. At one time they’d play roulette to decide the winner, but you’ll agree it’s more logical to play blitz than roulette. Of course, it’s not an ideal formula, but it is a normal one. Nothing’s perfect in this world. (RIA)

And of course, taking our Dutch roots into account, we just have to include the following part about Holland '88 and Barcelona. The team brilliantly beat Manchester United 3-1 last Saturday in the Champions League final.

I know you’re a fan of Barcelona…

Gelfand's supporter's card | photo: Vasily Konov,

I really love football and played myself at an amateur level. When I first saw the Holland team at the European Championship in 1988 it seemed as though there were Gods on the pitch. What players they were – Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman! And in 1994 Barcelona made the same impression on me. Do you remember Stoichkov, that same Koeman, Romario? Since then it’s as if I’ve drunk a love potion.

Are you flying to London for the Champions League final?

Yes, my friends gave me tickets as a gift.

Have you got their scarf with you?

I’ll buy it there. You know, our whole family supports Barça now. My young daughter sings the club’s song along with me. She’s learned it by heart. I gave her a plastic water bottle with the team logo. In kindergarten her friends teased her about it, saying a girl shouldn’t be a football fan. She made fists at them and shouted: I supported, support and will support Barcelona! And then she sang the song. After that they left her alone.

I know you’re even part of the official fan club.

Yes, that was a present from my wife on my birthday. (SovSport)

The full article about Gelfand, posted yesterday, can be found here.
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