Gelfand On His Trainer: “In A Way He Never Showed Me Anything”

Gelfand On His Trainer: “In A Way He Never Showed Me Anything”

| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

In a recent interview for US Chess, Boris Gelfand shared some memories about training with Albert Kapengut. Below you'll find some quotes, and the full interview embedded.

At the invitation of Long Island Chess Mates, which runs the Summer Chess Academy for Talented Youth and other intensive chess preparation classes, Boris Gelfand gave a master class in New York on Sunday, August 9th.

A brief interview with Gelfand was conducted by David Kerans, who shared his material with In the interview Gelfand speaks about the years he trained with Albert Kapengut, and about his new series of books.

Gelfand starts by telling that his trainers developed his passion for chess. “They showed me the beauty of the game.”

“Especially with Albert [Kapengut], we started training in 1980. I think I was very lucky because in a way he never showed me anything. He forced me to ask questions. He never agreed to meet me if I didn't have questions. So he developed an attitude that he can assist you, but you should make all the effort yourself.

“We trained with him in the 1980s. Those were different times, there were no computers, no databases. He clearly taught me a lot of lessons for my attitude to data. We could sort the data available, from magazines, from bulletins, from Chess Informants... We sorted them so incredibly well so that we were ages ahead in time of any other rival. It taught me how to deal with information, which is very accessible now but still requires a lot of mastery to deal with well.

“We always worked one on one, later on we sometimes had training sessions together with Ilya Smirin, but mostly it was one on one. I came to his apartment and we worked. He had this incredible library and he gave me all these books and bulletins to study at home, so he very much encouraged homework.

“He was a pupil of Isaac Boleslavsky, and it also had a big impact that he was the pupil of a great trainer and great player himself, so I had some generations of experience in training. I was very privileged.”

Kerans asked Gelfand about the technique of calculating variations, mentions Alexander Kotov's Think Like A Grandmaster, a book that is now somewhat controversial because e.g. Valery Beim and Vladimir Kramnik have stated that they don't think in “branches of trees” at all.

“My search for moves is also chaotic. Albert underlined that in each position you should try to think out of the box, you should try to find original ideas; you shouldn't go by stereotype or repeat the games which were played before. [These games] are a basis for your study [but] you should always look for the possibility to improve, or find another idea.

“The basic of my training was the analysing of my own game. We went deeply into each of the games, especially the ones I lost [so that] you never repeat the same mistake twice.

“We talked a lot about art, history, literature, so independent thinking was very much developed. (...) The idea that everything has to be questioned and discussed rather than believed also was developed.”

Kerans and Gelfand also briefly discussed Gelfand's new series of books. The first one, Positional Decision-Making in Chess, was published recently, and reviewed very positively on our site by GM David Smerdon. Gelfand shared some great news: there will be more. “It's only the firsts book. Some more are coming.”

Thanks to David Kerans for sharing this. The interview was posted earlier on the US Chess Federation's website, where Kerans also gave a link to a lengthy interview with Gelfand and to my own interview with Boris right after his match with Vishy Anand (Part 1, Part 2).

And, while we're at it, there's also the documentary Album 61 about Gelfand. The title comes from the 61 photo albums about his career, collected by Gelfand's father. The documentary, set around the 2012 match, was directed by Halil Efrat of Israel.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

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