Viktor Korchnoi: "There Is an Opinion That Chess Is a Logical Game"

Monday, 30.04.2012 19:51

Our conversation with the legendary grandmaster happened in Zurich not long before the start of the sixth and deciding game of the friendly match Kramnik – Aronian.

E.SUROV: Victor Lvovich, how did it happen that you settled in Switzerland? Initially, you asked for political asylum in Holland.

V.KORCHNOI: I was given asylum in Holland. I only got indefinite leave to remain, which is considerably different to political asylum. I moved to Switzerland thanks to Petra, who sorted out the documents.

E.SUROV: So, was it your wife’s initiative to move to Switzerland?

V.KORCHNOI: Yes.

E.SUROV: And how did you like this country?

V.KORCHNOI: A person moving to the West can’t be very choosy: I will move there because of this and that. Rather, circumstances dictate that. There was already an interest towards chess in Switzerland. Werner Hug became the World Junior Champion in 1971 by beating Vaganian in the deciding game. I can’t say there was a chess boom because of my arrival to Switzerland. It wasn’t like that. They gladly welcomed me and, for a long time, I was the strongest chess player in the country without a question.

E.SUROV: Nevertheless, they didn’t give you a citizenship for quite a long time: about fifteen years.

V.KORCHNOI: That’s true. It wasn’t because of the chess players who were trying to stop it. It’s not easy to settle in Switzerland for an average person. Of course, there are people with lots of money who get over these obstacles. But in general, it’s not easy.

E.SUROV: You are still the leader of the Swiss team. How do you manage to boost your team mates up for a game, most of whom are weaker than you?

V.KORCHNOI: I already don’t play on the first board for the Swiss Olympiad team; Pelletier plays on the first one. How do I boost them up… I’m not very good at that. I recently allowed myself to lose a game to Vasiukov in the European Senior Team Championship. He hadn’t won a single game against me for 59 years and then suddenly won. I can’t call it shame. Shame or no shame, it’s a pity that he won…

E.SUROV: Do you have a fundamental dispute with Evgeni Andreyevich?

V.KORCHNOI: No… We are in a slightly different class with regards to our views on life and… How can I say… There are people who consider chess players to be very clever. That’s not quite correct.

E.SUROV: I was told that at the Championship you very much supported the St.Petersburg Seniors team apart from your own team. Is that true?

V.KORCHNOI: I supported the Russian Women’s team; I hoped that it would finish above the Men’s team. It didn’t happen. With regards to the team from St.Petersburg, Karasev played very well in it. I saw one of his games and started supporting him. I know Faibisovich for many years. I even know a story that he, it seems, learnt the Dutch language, because his friend Sosonko moved to Holland. Here you go. I can’t say more than that.

E.SUROV: We see your wife with you all the time; she solves crosswords when you play. Do you like to solve crosswords?

V.KORCHNOI: I don’t do that; I have enough chess problems as it is. Since my wife doesn’t participate much in chess problems, she solves crosswords.

E.SUROV: Do you follow the chess theory at the moment?

V.KORCHNOI: I try. However, for example, recently we changed where we live. We stayed in the same town (Wohlen), but, basically, moved from one building to another. And, because of the move, I lost some of my notes, books and some clothes; I lost many things. So I can say this, now I have less opportunity to study theory than in the house where I lived for thirty and a bit years. Besides, I don’t count myself as a professional any more.

E.SUROV: I think professionalism is decided by an attitude to one’s occupation. That’s why it’s regrettable that you don’t count yourself in this category.

V.KORCHNOI: It’s possible.

E.SUROV: Moreover, I admit, I was again impressed when following your encounters against Oleg Skvortsov, the sponsor of the match Kramnik – Aronian. Even in friendly games you didn’t allow yourself a single move that would have been contrary to your understanding of the game.

V.KORCHNOI: I said to Oleg after one of the games, “there is an opinion that chess is a logical game”. Weak chess players are different because they make a move and think, “I’ll see what happens next”. Chess is about making a move based on earlier plans and at the same time imagining the future connected to that move.

E.SUROV: What can you say about the match Kramnik – Aronian? Did you follow the developments?

V.KORCHNOI: I’m on good terms with both players and I recognise the immense talents of both. Kramnik is somewhat closer to me according to his age and the profile of his talent. Aronian is also a huge talent. But it so happens that I would have liked for Kramnik to win. That didn’t happen.

E.SUROV: What is your opinion on how the World Champion should be decided these days?

V.KORCHNOI: I think he is decided correctly now: a Candidates Tournament is followed by a match between the winner and the World Champion.

E.SUROV: There is an opinion that the system isn’t quite fair, because the world’s strongest chess player is Magnus Carlsen, who wins all the tournaments.

V.KORCHNOI: I find that quite surprising… Not so long ago I wrote in one of my books that there were three chess players in history who could (or can) read thoughts of their opponents: Tal, Mecking and Carlsen. That’s what, I think, explains the Norwegian phenomenon. He reads thoughts. Some wouldn’t agree with that. I suppose, Kasparov wouldn’t agree with that, so what… Kasparov has his own strengths. But for goodness’ sake, how could he, after all his matches against Karpov, support him in the FIDE President elections? What sort of unprincipled person do you have to be? I would never understand that.

E.SUROV: So, were you on the side of Ilyumzhinov in that episode?

V.KORCHNOI: What does Ilyumzhinov have to do with that?.. Whatever happens, I’m against Karpov!

E.SUROV: Looking from outside, it seemed that your relationship with him has become civilized in the last fifteen years.

V.KORCHNOI: We can be diplomatic when a situation calls for it. But… It’s not even possible to talk to him! After the shameful match in Meran, where all ethical norms were completely violated, I said that I wouldn’t play against Karpov again.

E.SUROV: Nevertheless, you played against him many times since then.

Korchnoi replied with a long silence, during which an indescribable by words grimace didn't leave his face. E.S.


  


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