John Nunn: "It's quite exhausting!"

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Today I went to the NH Chess Tournament. About two hours after the last round had started, I arrived at the playing hall, but then three games had already ended in a draw, among them Nunn-Stellwagen. I took the opportunity to ask John Nunn for a short interview. Nunn, one of my chess heroes, is not an active player anymore but this week he is, and in Amsterdam.

What did you think about this tournament? "I think the tournament is an interesting idea, to match up the ?¢‚ǨÀúexperienced players', as they call them, against the young players. I think the only problem is that the young players these days are very strong and it's not so easy to find older players, or say players over fifty, who are still actively playing."

Indeed, you for example quit chess about three years ago? "Yeah. The last time I really played was in the Bundesliga season 2002-3. So that was about three years ago. My last tournament was six years ago so it's actually quite a long time now since I played."

What's the reason you're not playing anymore? "Lack of time really. I'm really more a businessman nowadays, I have a family...?Ǭ†All of this means there's not much time for playing. In order to really play well you have to work quite a lot and play regularly and there just wasn't enough time to do that anymore."

You spend your time at publishing books now. "Yes. It's a reasonable company [Gambit Publications Ltd - red.] now. There are five people now that work for the company, pretty much fulltime, and I am one of those. We're publishing about twenty books a year in English and about eight books a year in German."

You're also known for your career besides chess, as a scientist. "Yeah but I don't do that anymore. I'm more or less fulltime working for the publishing company."

Will you be writing a new opening book? Because you used to be the expert in this field. "No, I'm not writing any more opening books." (Laughs.)

Why not? "Well, I think it's just?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ the world has changed. Most people have computer databases and they very often prefer to use that rather than an opening book. And also, you know, these chess programs have become very strong now and it's just made the whole thing?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ I think it's difficult to write a good openings book and I think you're often duplicating material that's already found in databases. But I'm not saying there's no place for openings books, particularly ones that explain the ideas behind openings."

This is not the time anymore for books like The Complete Pirc. "No, I think this type of book, this kind of encyclopedic book, there's just no point anymore. The type of opening book that I used to specialize in... I think time for that is gone now."

John Nunn, with Dani?ɬ´l Stellwagen?Ǭ†on the left, watching?Ǭ†Yusupov-Smeets on the monitor.

Back to the tournament. You're probably a bit disappointed about the result. "Well, slightly. I had two targets, which was to get four points and to win a game. I won a game and I got half a point less than my target. My expected score according to my (old!) rating was five points but I think if you haven't played a tournament for six years you can't really expect to do that. So I kind of thought that four points was a reasonable target and I got three and a half, so I guess I'm a tidy bit disappointed but yeah, I think it was not unexpected."

But would you like playing again? "I found it quite tough actually." (Laughs.) "Yeah, I found it quite difficult, quite exhausting!"

So if you're invited next year you would have to think twice. "Of course I'd think about it."

Because your playing style is still attractive so they might give you a call. "Okay, but the problem is that I make too many mistakes now. I played quite a few good games up to a point. Against Wang Hao I played a nice positional queen sacrifice but at a certain moment I just blundered. You know, it's kind of frustrating, in the old days I wouldn't have made this blunder. It's difficult to stop it. Obviously if I would be playing more regularly but I don't have the time to play lots."

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.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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