Interview with Grandmaster Peter Svidler
Grandmaster Peter Svidler (born June 17th 1976 in Leningrad).
Reached the semifinals in the FIDE World Championship 2001, no. 2 in the FIDE World Championship 2005 and no. 5 in the FIDE World Championship in 2007.
Five time Russian champion (1994, 1995, 1997, 2003. 2008).
Svidler became Grandmaster in 1994.
Svidler won the first edition of the Chess960 Open (Fischer Random) held in Mainz, Germany. At the 2003 Mainz Chess Classic he became Chess960 World Champion by beating Peter Leko in a match. He successfully defended his title twice, defeating Levon Aronian in 2004 and Zoltan Almasi in 2005, before losing it to Aronian in 2006.
Do you consider yourself as a child of the Soviet Chess School?
I did not see much of the Soviet Union. I am more a perestroika child than anything else. But the tradition goes on and is definitely a beneficiary of the tradition in many ways. So yes.
Many of the best Western players at that time meant there was no Soviet Chess School, claiming there was different kind of styles (Tal and Korchnoi for instance)?
Well of course there are different styles. It is not a school where they teach you a uniform style or uniform skills. It was a system which helped and nursed talents. Obviously you get people who are gifted in very different ways and trying to make them all into one uniform player would be a mistake. And they did not. But there was a system of coaches and support and also very importantly for many years – not really anymore – chess was a very prestigious thing in the Soviet Union. That meant that parents would try their children in chess much more than in the West, which meant that much fewer talents got lost for the simple reason they simply never knew about the game.
The major reason we were doing so well for so many years, was that people thought it was a good idea for all children to get to try out playing chess, so children who had a gift for it were not lost in the cracks. That is my understanding of the chess school and not a particular style or system of play.
Is chess still prestigious in Russia?
Certainly more than in the West but not as much as in the former days of the Soviet Union. Well, people still know how to play. And they still play but it has not so prominent a place in people’s imagination and daily life as before.
You are born in Leningrad or Skt. Petersburg – what do you prefer?
It does not matter.
Do you see a difference between players for Skt. Petersburg and Moscow?
No, not really. People are different in general. There is no geographical reason for it. There were people in Skt. Petersburg who were sharp and attacking players and players who were working strictly positional. Pretty much the same as everywhere else. Obviously there is a great rivalry between the two cities. The tradition has dwindled a bit. There is a match between Moscow and Skt. Petersburg every year on 40 boards. A big occasion. Now it has become a three days festival of drinking and fun. People go there to see people they have not seen for a while. Chess has become less important but for many years it was serious business.
Your next attempt to become World Champion? And your opinion of the situation right now?
I am not giving it that much though. I mean, my chance was in the FIDE Grand Prix system. I played rather badly there and I never was in the running for qualifying. Right now I am a spectator. I am an interested spectator but I only a spectator. About my personal chances I am not quite sure when the next cycle will start. Maybe somebody knows and then people will pay close attention. For now I am basically trying to play better, trying to improve and trying to work on my chess. I am, however, very interested in the idea of a cycle and the idea of fighting for the title. For a while we are all going to be spectators apart from the eight to ten people who will actually be participating in the fight for the World Championship title.
And the election for FIDE president – Ilyumzhinov or Karpov?
It does concern every chess player. I am not as ecstatic about the Karpov Presidency as many others are. Some people are really happy he is running but I do not count myself in that camp. But obviously there are things in FIDE which need to be changed.