Alexander Belyavsky: "To go down in history as world champion, you need to win a match"

Время публикации: 28.04.2015 13:18 | Последнее обновление: 28.04.2015 15:29

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E.SUROV: We are in Shamkir, with me is the famous grandmaster, and coach, who needs no special introduction, Alexander Belyavsky. Hello!

A.BELYAVSKY: Good afternoon!

E.SUROV: Here in this tournament, you are helping to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. How did you start working with Maxime? And are you happy so far with this cooperation?

A.BELYAVSKY: We have worked together for several years, in several different places. I helped him in many recent tournaments, both attending events, and on the internet. This tournament I'm certainly not happy, it is not his best tournament, things went wrong at the outset.

E.SUROV: How many students do you have?

A.BELYAVSKY: I think that the word "student" is generally wrong in this case, because it is a question of the strongest players in the world. Both with Maxime and other chess players, I started working with them when they were already known. And my aid is reduced to the function of a second, and not a coach - that is, to assist in the preparation for games in tournaments or to develop their opening repertoire. 

E.SUROV: Let us then formulate this: how many are there who resort to your help?

A.BELYAVSKY: This number of people is changing - with some I work, then we stop. But Maxime has continued to work with me for quite some time. I also from time to time help two very young players from the United States - Kayden Troff and Sam Sevian, and from time to time I help Anna Muzychuk. That is all at the moment.

As for the last women's World Championship, it so happened that when the Muzychuk sisters were preparing for the tournament, I was ready to help. I was expecting that we were talking about Anna aiming for the title of world champion, but it turned out that Mariya won.

E.SUROV: Was that not expected?

A.BELYAVSKY: What to say? The fact is that the event itself is a slight lottery, because most of the time it is difficult to win in two games, so in many cases the fate of the competition is decided in rapid or even blitz. 

E.SUROV: I still have not met a single person among the grandmasters, journalists and so on, who thinks that the champion should be determined in a knock-out tournament, as now occurs with women. And how do you look at it?

A.BELYAVSKY: Firstly, the situation is not quite the same. In women's chess, one year the World Cup knock-out is held, and the following year there is a standard world championship match - that is, between the two strongest players, who passed all stages of selection. In particular, this year there will be just such a match between Hou Yifan and Mariya Muzychuk. And I think that, of course, in order to go down in history as the world champion, you have to win a match.

E.SUROV: Anna Ushenina will remain in history?

A.BELYAVSKY: In history, she will still remain. But when we talk about the real champions, there is a difference between, say, the world champions Kasparov and Karpov and - even with all due respect to very good chess players - Kasimdzhanov or Khalifman. These are different world champions.

E.SUROV: Who is stronger at the moment: Anna or Mariya Muzychuk?

A.BELYAVSKY: Well, if you take the rating, which is the summary of all the successes, then today Anna is stronger. But Mariya is younger, she is growing rapidly, and - who knows? - Maybe, after the match with Hou, it will turn out that she is stronger.

E.SUROV: And you are actively using the computer?

A.BELYAVSKY: Absolutely. Now in general, no preparation is possible without the aid of the computer. Both the database, which enables the second to gather material so quickly, and the engine, which allows you to speed up the analysis of numerous positions.

E.SUROV: I will clarify my question. Right now, coaches are divided into two categories. As a rule, the older trainers, however much they use the computer, tend to operate by schemes, saying stuff like "Look at this game between Botvinnik - Taimanov 1960", for example. And then there are younger coaches, who barely know these names, and are certainly not oriented on the plans and ideas shown, for example, in Botvinnik's games. Which category are you in?

A.BELYAVSKY: I knew Botvinnik, we became friends from the moment we met and remained so until his death. So I know how it was in the days of Botvinnik. And indeed, when we discussed, for example, any opening system, Botvinnik would say to me: "Look at Capablanca's game in 1927 at such-and-such a tournament." This was true. Because at that time there were no computers, and the strongest chess players learned the right plan in a position by learning from each other. And now the situation has changed dramatically, now any engine is stronger than the world champion. The computer can help find a good line, and then the task of the coach is to explain things in words, in clear human language. Of course, there are positions where it is useless to explain, because the position is purely tactical in nature - punch, kick, kick. 

E.SUROV: But those "human words" for example, you probably take more from the knowledge of the pre-computer era?

A.BELYAVSKY: Absolutely. But the fact is that if, as you say, completely reject the computer and rely solely on the knowledge that was when there was no computer – well, I want to say that this time is gone forever.

E.SUROV: And it makes you sad?

A.BELYAVSKY: No, because I have already adapted to the new situation.

E.SUROV: You generally adapt?

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes, I adapt to new situations.

E.SUROV: Does the opening play less of a role in women's chess less than men's? 

A.BELYAVSKY: No, it is not less. Now the leading female chess players are approaching the men's level chess and achieving good results in Opens, meeting with men. Therefore, the value of the opening in women's chess is not less than in the men's.

E.SUROV: What do you feel when you watch women's chess and your ward is playing? I mean that on the board, almost anything can happen, as was the case in some of Maryia's games. She had completely lost positions at times. How do you react at such times? At Maxime's level, these violent swings of fortune do not happen.

A.BELYAVSKY: Such swings certainly don't, but there are differences too. What to say about Mariya in this tournament? Her critical moment, of course, was the match with Koneru, who out-rated her and has much more experience. And everything was decided in the third day, as I said - on the day of the rapid chess and blitz. And at the moment when Koneru was completely winning, her nerves went. And it so happened that Mariya got to the final. 

E.SUROV: And how do you react? Here she has a lost position - and you're what? You throw a chair across the room?..

A.BELYAVSKY: I did not throw a chair. I turned off the computer and went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back, she had won.

E.SUROV: Do you think Mariya has more chances in the match than Anna Ushenina?

A.BELYAVSKY: I hope so. In principle, she needs to do a great deal of work in six months, work that would normally take two years. But if she does it ...

E.SUROV: And it is possible in principle?

A.BELYAVSKY: With the lift that comes from winning the title of world champion, and with certain help, I think it's possible.

E.SUROV: What do you think, if the match will be held in Ukraine, will that help or hinder Mariya?

A.BELYAVSKY: I do not believe that the match will take place in Ukraine, I think it will, as always, be in China. But it seems to me that the place does not matter, what is important is the extent to which Mary will be prepared for this match.

E.SUROV: And you are now living in Ukraine?

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes, I live in Ukraine, and have never lived for long in Slovenia. My wife continues to work, as a doctor in the ambulance service, and she could not get such a job in Slovenia, because of the language and certain examinations. She loves her work and is not going to give it up, despite her age.

E.SUROV: And you, as far as I know, are in some way involved in the Lviv chess federation?

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes, I am a member of the Presidium of the Federation. This is, in general, public work, so when I'm not busy with some trips, I come to the meetings of the Federation, which are now held more or less regularly.

E.SUROV: I just saw your name among those who about a year ago initiated an appeal to Karpov about the political situation. Or not to Karpov, I forgot ...

A.BELYAVSKY: This was a reference to other regional federations of Ukraine. And it involved several Russian players - Karpov, Karyakin and I do not remember who else ...

E.SUROV: Apparently, Galliamova, because these three names figured.

A.BELYAVSKY: So, they were the first to actively intervene in the policy issues in the question of annexation of the Crimea, and on this occasion was a statement of the Lviv Chess Federation that we condemn such actions.

E.SUROV: Since then, has anything changed?

A.BELYAVSKY: It was our appeal to other chess federations of Ukraine, and I'm not exactly sure what decisions were made, say, in Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk or elsewhere. I have not followed the subsequent events.

E.SUROV: Do you think, that chess players, or let's take a broader view, all athletes, should somehow express their own civil position? Or should sports people stick to sport?

A.BELYAVSKY: I think that everyone should have their own position on civil and political matters. But just because we are always interested in the opinion of sportsmen, I do not think that makes chess players professionals in policy issues. In this sense, a personal opinion carries no great social weight. Except in cases where chess players become politicians or public figures, such as Garry Kasparov.

E.SUROV: Or Karpov, who is also a lawmaker or at least participates in making laws.

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes he is, and he is also quite a respected banker in the financial world. So when it comes to, say, Magnus Carlsen, who all his life has never been involved in anything but chess, I think his opinion on this or that issue of politics or the economy is not so interesting for the general public. But Karpov or Kasparov's opinion, I think is much more interesting.

E.SUROV: Who else from modern grandmasters can have the same weight as Karpov and Kasparov? Or is there anyone? Whose opinion would you listen to?

A.BELYAVSKY: As a matter of fact, I don't listen to anyone else's opinion, because I have my own point of view, including on issues of politics and economics. Furthermore, when it comes to Kasparov and Karpov, in this case we are talking only about Russian policy. I do not know other famous players who have changed their profession, such that they have become significant figures in social life, politics or economics. Perhaps, Karpov and Kasparov are the most famous names.

E.SUROV: Then can I ask you: what is it, your point of view?

A.BELYAVSKY: I will tell you, if are you really going to print it.

E.SUROV: Providing it does not contradict the laws of the Russian Federation, is not foul language, and so on.

A.BELYAVSKY: It will not be in the mainstream, but, of course, it does not contradict any laws.

I believe that what is happening now in the relations between Russia and Ukraine, or, say, between Russian and foreign creditors, is the consequences of the situation in 2008, as a result of which a number of countries were on the brink of default. These countries have become insolvent. In particular, now we see Venezuela, which is in an absolutely critical financial situation, Greece, and others. So, what is happening in the former Soviet Union - it echoes the crisis of 2008, which resulted in the most powerful economy in the former Soviet Union - Russia - just like so many others, facing a crisis of non-payment. This is due to the fact that 52% of the budget of the Russian Federation is replenished by taxes on energy sales. As a result, falling energy prices, which was predicted before the annexation of the Crimea, has significantly influenced the whole economic the situation in Russia, because on the basis of these cash-flows - an English expression - which came from the sale of oil and gas, Russian state and private companies borrowed huge amounts. These loans at some point exceeded 700 billion dollars, and are now somewhat less, but still more than $600 billion. And their ability to service these debts fell significantly with the fall in energy prices - also other raw materials, such as, for example, coal, iron ore, all things that Russia is selling quite actively, particularly in China ... So I think things such as the seizure of the Crimea, are all tied up with this. My belief, which many do not agree with, is that the annexation of the Crimea was prompted by the discovery which took place in 2012, when oil and gas deposits on the shelf of the Black Sea - in particular in Romanian coastal waters which is the same geographical area as the coastal waters of Crimea - proved much bigger than considered before. This region in terms of oil and gas has become much more attractive than it was before 2012.

Now we take another question. If, say, a Russian payments crisis occurs, that is, they need to find almost 700 billion dollars, if we look at potential revenues from oil and gas production on the shelf of Crimea, then, according to some estimates, this could be as much as one trillion dollars. That is my opinion: ultimately the decision was taken on the grounds that it would help to get Russia out of its debt situation. As I've already said, my opinion isn't shared by many, but I'm not going to change it, since I've been studying a bit of economics for the last 10 years, not only chess.

The second problem, which concerns Russia, and Ukraine, is related to the first - the crisis of non-payment. Because the capitalism that emerged in Russia and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is in a form that exists as a successful model only in one country in the world - I mean South Korea. There are several financial and industrial groups who control more than 80% of the economy. This occurs on the territory of the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. We call these oligarchs. So when one gets the sort of capitalism that emerged in the territory of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, it, from my point of view, inevitably leads to economic crisis. Because this form of capitalism leads to the fact that the financial industrial groups are monopolists in their field, and the Anti-monopoly Committee does not work the way it should. It should always ensure that no one has an exclusive ability to dictate prices. [...]

E.SUROV: First, if I now had no voice recorder in hand, I would be taking notes. You are almost like a professor lecturing, quite interesting. This, of course, is amazing. You have linked almost all problems in the world to the economic point of view.

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes, I try to deal with all of the problems that arise in the world ...

E.SUROV: You even called Karpov a banker!

A.BELYAVSKY: Yes, because it is so. Anatoly headed the Peace Foundation, which was a collection of several state-owned banks. And he has never left this position. There has been a certain change in the structure, but he remained on the board. I also know the opinion of many people, including Western, that he is quite a talented banker.

E.SUROV: And how all these questions of morality are linked to politicians?

A.BELYAVSKY: Of course, questions of ethics and morality exist because society cannot live without morality. But the fact is that a lot of problems, if they are not seen from an economic point of view, ultimately end with accusations of stupidity bouncing to and fro. So I try to see the problem as primarily economic.

E.SUROV: Thank you. I could ask more, but let's return to chess ... Besides the fact that you train your players, you also play periodically in different tournaments?

A.BELYAVSKY: I did much less so recently. If you just see how many games a year I play ...

E.SUROV: You play a lot more than any other at your age! 

A.BELYAVSKY: I would say that I play one competition per year - the European Championship - and sometimes several tournaments - one or two - just at the time of the European Championship, so as not to be completely rusty.

E.SUROV: Why do you play the European Championship?

A.BELYAVSKY: Just to keep my hand in. This is a competition that still requires putting in some fairly decent effort. And even to engage in coaching work, it is necessary not to lose touch with the real game. Because if you lose touch with the real game, nowadays, you simply become an appendage of the computer. You must not just think in terms of whether an opening is any good, but whether it is suitable for human beings or not. There are some great lines, which are not for humans. 

E.SUROV: How do you do you get the energy? All these classes with students, preparations for all these games, etc.

A.BELYAVSKY: Yeah, I do not even know. I just do in life what I enjoy, and I have enough energy for this.

E.SUROV: Now a question I already asked Kramnik, and one which in general interests people. Will Carlsen be around for a long time? And how big now is the gap between him and his closest rival, and when it will be reduced?

A.BELYAVSKY: I do not think that between him and the nearest rival there is as big a gap as it may seem. In particular, in St. Louis, where I also attended and helped Maxime, Fabiano Caruana showed results that are the envy even of Carlsen. If I am not mistaken, he scored 7.5 out of 11?

E.SUROV: No, he scored seven wins and three draws, in my opinion.

A.BELYAVSKY: Anyway, in almost all the games, he had a chance to win, so theoretically, he could have scored 100% in the tournament, which included Carlsen and all the others that are comparable in strength with him. So I cannot say that Carlsen has a huge advantage over everyone else. All are young, all can do what Caruana did. And I do not think that the next match for Carlsen will be as easy. I think the critical age in men's chess is 42-43 years – that is just the age when Kasparov stopped playing chess. This happened, in my opinion, because he realized that it is very difficult to remain number one, and he did not want to be number two.

E.SUROV: But in recent years, hasn't this age reduced?

A.BELYAVSKY: No, I think that this age is still the key one for the likes of Anand, Gelfand, and Ivanchuk. But after them, there is nobody else of this generation.

E.SUROV: Well, thank you! And continued success! We will follow your pupils' achievements.

A.BELYAVSKY: Thank you!


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