Ljubomir Ljubojevic: 'Carlsen Couldn't Have Appeared Without Fischer'

Время публикации: 14.03.2015 21:57 | Последнее обновление: 02.11.2020 10:49

The interview took place on February 18th, 2015, during the Zurich Chess Challenge

E.SUROV: This is Chess-News. Lujbomir Ljubojevic, a renowned grandmaster, is here with me. Hello!


E.SUROV: It's already several days I've been observing you here in Zurich. You are very enthusiastic about chess. You've been commenting vigorously on what has been happening in the tournament. After so many years, chess doesn't make you bored yet, does it?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: No, it doesn't. Not at all! You have much more energy if you don't play a lot. Of course, if I played non-stop as earlier it would be difficult. Now, I watch chess events closely just some week in a month. I remember that my results weren't as good as I expected when I was playing a lot. That's because chess requires inspiration; you have to play each game with enthusiasm, power, and in a good mood. When you're tired you are not too motivated, you just play mechanically, and it is no good.

E.SUROV: Nevertheless, you've played some rapid and blitz in August, taking 7 points out of 9, as one of our readers points out.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: That's correct. It was the Spanish Championship.

E.SUROV: So, you still play competitive chess, don't you?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes, I do play blitz and rapid. Regrettably, I lost in the last, 9th round of the blitz, which prevented me from becoming first. I lost to the same player in the 8th round of the rapid, being in the lead. But it doesn't matter - I was just happy to play. Of course, I wanted more, but, you know, now I have to meet each new day of my life with joy, from my point of view.

E.SUROV: As I see you, if anyone can be called an old man that's not you.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yeah, right (smiles). You are judging by your own body and mind, you don't know what kind of problems I might have.

E.SUROV: You live in Spain, don't you?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes, I do. Six months a year, maybe. My family is living there, my wife. But I also like to come back to Serbia, to my home city of Belgrade. Well, nevermind. You know, I've been keeping an eye on chess because it keeps developing, with computers and all the new stuff like that. So, it's just interesting to me to observe what's going on in the chess world. If we talk about the very top level, all the conditions the top players require are the same: excellent preparation, robust health, good mood.

E.SUROV: But the opening preparation wasn't as enormously important in the past, was it?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Why not? Of course it was! The one who studied openings more did have advantage over others. He who had more helpers, more chess bulletins with the freshest games... For example, Korchnoi used to spend 6 to 7 hours every day for openings. Today, with chess engines, you don't have to spend so much time, but, on the other hand, you have to check more thoroughly. It's a bit different, I think - modern young players pay more attention to what computer says, than to their own brains.

E.SUROV: Is it good or bad, or what?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: I don't think it's good. They are going to depend on machine's suggestions, which will restrict their natural ability. There were, are, and will be players whose natural chess talent is brilliant. There are many such players now - for example, Karjakin. But I'm afraid that many of them devote too much time to working with computers. As a result, they believe the machine more than their own intuition. But it's intuition what demonstrates one's talent best. Not only it is needed to find best moves, but also to feel your opponent, to make a move most unpleasant for him.

E.SUROV: Who has the best intuition among modern players?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Probably it's Carlsen. His strength isn't only about pure chess talent, and he knows that. It's also about posing so diffucult problems to his opponents that they often lack time to solve them. Maybe he doesn't excel his rivals in chess talent, but anyway... I know that he also works with computers a lot, but, apart from that, he takes advantage of pure psychology. Just take a look at his games vs Anand who was prepared wonderfully, which, by the way, we can also here in Zurich. But the problems posed by Carlsen were so difficult! This is the human factor, this is the right way to play chess. Computers are good assistance, we can gain a lot from using them, but they are dangerous at the same time. One should know when and how to switch engines on.

E.SUROV: Who had the best chess intuition among your generation?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Karpov, for sure. He was the most intuitive player, colossal in this respect. He would feel every detail! Even if a mosquito would fly near the opponent, he would consider that. He was a great 'feeler'. [...] Of course, Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal were also very gifted in this respect, but they were older, I'm talking about my peers.


E.SUROV: At some point, you were among the very top players. What has prevented you from becoming the World Champion, or at least from qualifying for the WC match?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: I always lacked the ambitions. I have been just enjoying chess, treating is as fun. You know, I used to play a lot, one tournament after another. Then, in some interzonal tournament, I was unable to concentrate and get a good score. But, you know, it's not the end of the world if you aren't the World Champion. They are very special people, cut out to become champions. I was just enjoying my life and my career, it was fun. I didn't have my mind set on world championship.

E.SUROV: You've been enjoying life!

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes. And chess is just a facet of life.


E.SUROV: A question from our readership: 'What is the key feature of chess talent?'

L.LJUBOJEVIC: It's intuition, I've already said that. For chess, intuition is everything. Let me explain how computers kill intuition. Let's say, you are a young promising chess player, you win many games. At some point, your intuition suggests a certain move, but the machine disagrees, saying that your move is wrong and you have to play another one. As a result, you trust yourself no more, because the computer says this move should be played and that one shouldn't. But the machine isn't always right! I've carried out an experiment several times, trying to think without any computers, just using my intuition, what I would have played here or there. Once, after doing so, I launched a strong engine on a new, powerful computer, and it showed my move even lower than on the 4th line! It was the 5th line. Then, after 40 hours of the computer analysis, it became its first choise. 40 hours - can you imagine that!?

E.SUROV: If we spend 40 hours for each move...

L.LJUBOJEVIC: But the young players who want to find best solutions or prepare some analysis very quickly, in a minite or two - they kill their intuition! A computer overwhelms them, forces on them some moves that don't comply with their intuition, and a young player gradually loses his natural gift. It's a big pity!

E.SUROV: Another question from our followers: 'What is your most memorable game?'

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Since I've played many games, it's hard to say. But I like my game vs Karpov played in Amsterdam in 1988. Why? Because I managed to outplay Karpov in his own style - he got tied up and could do nothing. But it's just one of the games I remember best. [...] For a long time, Karpov was an uncomfortable opponent for me. For example, I lost to him twice in the Montreal tournament of Stars in 1979, despite having excellent positions. [...]

E.SUROV: Ernesto Inarkiev has recently said in the interview that he doesn't believe in luck in chess because it's more or less a logical game. According to him, if someone blunders a piece it means only that the opponent forced him to do so.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Everything has influence upon everything. It's about psychology. In Linares 1991, I had an extra rook against Kasparov, but I lost. Maybe I wouldn't lost such a position to anyone else. It was like this: before move 40,  I had already repeated the position, so I had just to make my 40th move. But I thought: why should I repeat for the second time? Then I blundered and lost the game! Had I just repeated it twice, I would have enough time, an extra rook and a simple win. What was that? It was psychology, pure psychology. Pure magic, as you say. [...] In chess, there've been many stories like that.


E.SUROV: Our reader asks you: 'Who will be the next World Champion?'

L.LJUBOJEVIC: I think Carlsen will stay on the top for a long time. I don't see anyone else... I used to think that Caruana would be the match, but he has been playing so much. It harms his chess: he plays almost non-stop. In my opinion, he's a very ambitious young man who has been misusing his resource. As a result, he gets exhausted, is short of energy. One can observe this even here in Zurich: he lost to Nakamura and failed to win against Anand, although the positions were promising. He struggles, it's not like things go easy for him.

E.SUROV: But it's difficult for a young man to decline the invitations when offered good starting fee, isn't it?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: It depends on your plans. If one has ambitions to become the World Champion, one has to consult a second or a coach and make up a plan - what tournaments to play and what to reject. That's what I think. Regrettably, I have never had anything like this; I've never had neither a coach nor a second. I was just improvising. But today, as far as I can see, everyone has a coach, or a manager, or some other people who help. This makes difference. If you live only for the sake of money, you probably shouldn't play chess, since, chess isn't so rich compared to other kinds of sport, as we all know. Chess is not about money, it's about creativeness and success. That's why I regret when I see young people spoiling their champion's ambitions by wrong playing schedules.


E.SUROV: Do you think that chess is becoming more popular all over the world?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: No, I don't think so, because the world is in big economic crisis. It's not only in Russia, Serbia, or Spain - it's everywhere. This means that many traditional tournament are going to fade.

E.SUROV: But there is a real lot of tournaments now. They go non-stop.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: This is a coincidence. For example, this tournament in Zurich has been announced six months ago, while Baden-Baden - two months ago. That's sad, and the chess calendar has to be revised. Those organizers who have announced their event earlier, they should have the upperhand, in my opinion. Regrettably, Carlsen isn't playing here in Zurich - maybe that's because he has played in Baden-Baden? And this is disappointing for the organizers, because they invest their money, invite everyone from the top, but aren't able to get Carlsen. That's how I see it. As far as I remember, there were much more spectators here in Zurich last year just because Carlsen was playing. The tournament lost the main trump.

E.SUROV: So much depends on Carlsen's presence now, right?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Right. People want to see the miraculious man who is so young, wins everything, and advertises fashionable things. Besides, his play is really superb. It seems to me that there were no players in history whose play was so mature in such a young age. His play combines the best qualities of a human and a computer; he has found a perfect equilibrium between them.

E.SUROV: Is this your key recipe - to combine computer precision with human intuition?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Exactly. Carlsen takes advantage of computers to find correct moves, but there isn't much theory in his games. In the match vs Anand, he lost a game as soon as he tried a long theoretical line. When he plays in an unexpected, unforced manner, he wins. It was Anand who was making errors, despite being a great chess player himself. This makes everyone wonder: how is this possible? What kind of magic Carlsen possesses to make his opponents err? It was the same about Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov...

E.SUROV: You knew Fischer, didn't you?


E.SUROV: Could you please tell us more about it? How close was your friendship?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: It wasn't too close - we've met only a few times, but he left a fantastic impression on me. He lived a very modest life, and he loved those who were sincere to him. Throughout his life, he was playing chess, he fought his opponents to the end, but he would be friendly to them after the games. He was in sympathy with other chess players and the whole chess world; he would never say: 'I'm the only one!'. That's why he agreed to play the return match vs Spassky. Well, he was in dire straits that time and he needed money badly - that's also true. At the same time, he had a psychological issue: he was afraid of himself, didn't trust himself, didn't believe in his own creativity. He always demanded privileges for himself exactly for this reason. That's why so many people think he was whimsical, but this is not true... Of course, he enjoyed good meals and good wine, he was fond of women and had many female friends, but his biggest love was chess.

E.SUROV: You say that he was in sympathy with the other players, but he was lonely, wasn't he? He was nearly a hermit. Maybe I'm wrong?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: There is an Argentinian grandmaster, Miguel Quinteros. When Fischer was playing the return match vs Spassky in Belgrade, Quinteros was also present in Belgrade as a friend of Fischer. He stayed in Belgrade with his girlfriend for more than 2 months, and Fischer paid all his expenses - the hotel, food, and so on. The overall sum was $327000! Quinteros wasn't his second or like that, but Fischer just paid for his stay. I don't know of any other world chess champion who would do anything like this. In fact, I don't know anyone who would say: 'He's my good friend, I will pay $327000 for his hotel', and the friend would stay in a hotel for 3 months, drinking wine and having a lot of fun. This says something about Fischer, doesn't it?

E.SUROV: It's a very interesting story. It does say something, of course.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: And that's what I'm talking about. I know this story for sure.
Let me tell what has happened in Reykjavik. Fischer lost the second game of the match by default, he broke the TV cameras in the playing hall and demanded that the TV crew had to leave, or he would stop playing. The broadcast rights belonged to producer Chester Fox; when Fischer won the match after all, Fox claimed the damage and won the case. That meant Fischer had to pay $2000000. It was a big trial, Fischer had his own lawyers, but Chester Fox had better lawyers, and he won it. So, Fischer had to pay those two millions, while his prize was $128000 only, which meant he just went bankrupt. After that, he entered that sect. It provided him the room and food, and he began to live in Los Angeles as a sect member. The sect was pro-nationalistic, while Fischer himself was a Jew. Fox was also a Jew, but he won the case. After Fischer lost the trial, he started to think everyone was against him.

E.SUROV: Did his mania develop exactly after this story?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes, it did. It was nearly paranoia. 'How come?!', he repeated. He was just getting $5 a week from some sect, he had nothing else. The great Fischer became a beggar! Nevertheless, he remained very hospitable to any chess player who would visit him in Los Angeles. I remember Gligoric came to him, and Fischer went to a shop, bought some musical record for $4 and gave it to his guest as a present. That's what Fischer was like!

E.SUROV: Generous.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes. Five dollars a week! - and the would spend all the money for the others anyway. He lived a very modest life, he didn't smoke... Then, in 1992, he got invited toYugoslavia by the banker Jezdimir Vasiljevic to play the match against Spassky. It's clear that he was short of money and needed it badly. But Yugoslavia was under sanctions because of the civil war, and the USA officials sent him a letter, forbidding him to go there and play. And then, he just spit on the document and went to Yugoslavia, and that made him persona non grata in the United States. He couldn't return home, since he got huge prize money, over $3000000, and they wanted to exact enormous taxes from him. He became the enemy of his country. It's very sad... Of course, he developed paranoia as a result. This is understandable.

E.SUROV: Can we call Bobby Fischer a tragic figure?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: I think so - a very tragic figure. And he did so many great things for the chess world! Fischer has done a great service for the prosperity of chess in the West. Had he not defeated Spassky, the title would have stayed in the USSR, and maybe chess would have never be fine in the West at all.

E.SUROV: Might it be that Carlsen couldn't have appeared without Fischer?

L.LJUBOJEVIC: I'm sure you are right. Carlsen says he would like to be like Fischer, and that's not accidental. I also remember Henrique Mecking of Brazil trying to imitate Fischer. Mecking always thought of himself as of South American Fischer.

E.SUROV: 'Do you remember any stories when an absolutely unknown player demonstrated brilliant chess against a supergrandmaster?', the next question goes.

L.LJUBOJEVIC: Yes, of course. For example, the well-known Torre - Lasker game. Even speaking about Fischer, I remember Zagreb 1970. He won the tournament losing a single game - with White against Kovacevic in the French Defence. After the game, however, he was in good spirits, he even laughed. 'What happened, Bobby?', people asked him. He said: 'During the dinner, I drank two glasses of red wine, thinking that my opponent is unknown and I'll be White. Then I went to the game, but he played better than a world champion! So, I deserved it.'


E.SUROV: Thank you very much for the interview!

(Translated from Russian by Andrey Deviatkin)


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