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Leading Chess Players Speak about the World Championship Match

On the threshold of the World Chess Championship Match, 64 Chess Review carried out a survey of the world’s leading chess players. The experts were asked two questions:

1. What do you expect of the forthcoming Anand–Gelfand match?

2. The match will take place in the Tretyakov Gallery. Andrei Filatov, the sponsor of the match, believes that bringing chess and art together can open a new page in chess history. What do you think of this idea?

Anand Gelfand official logo of WCC 2012

Peter Svidler, Grandmaster, holder of the World Cup, chess champion of Russia

1. I’m expecting that both Grandmasters will produce the play they are capable of. Then we’ll get an excellent match, interesting for both the spectators and the specialists.

2. As for a new page, I don’t know – for this Filatov will need to find like-minded people: one match in the Tretyakov Gallery isn’t enough. But it would be great if these like-minded people emerged! I like this initiative very much: this approach to chess should be welcomed and supported.

Vladimir Kramnik, former World Champion

1. Since world championship matches were reduced to 12 games, they have become more tactical than strategic. The match strategy doesn’t play the role it once did; I can tell this because I played matches of 16, 14 and 12 games. In a 16-game match not a lot depends on one specific contest. And when we started to have just 12 games the result of each specific contest was much more important. Imagine if football were cut to 60 or even 45 minutes – clearly a lot would change. I would therefore advocate in future for an increase in the number of games to at least 14.

It’s very difficult to predict the result of a short match. Someone catches someone out with a gimmick and wins – and that’s it, the shape of the game changes dramatically. So we’ll be looking at what actually happens, at each goal that’s scored. In 12 games the score dominates: the adjustment for the first successful game is too great.

Despite all this it is logical to assume that Anand will play well. He played well against me, in any case, and Boris Gelfand and I are conceptually close in our understanding of chess. I won’t say everything I’m thinking about the forthcoming match – I don’t want to influence either contestant’s preparations – but in any event it would be reasonable to expect sharp tactics from Anand. However, I would not rule out the possibility of him choosing another approach. As a professional, I’m very interested in how the players approach the match.

2. Andrei Filatov’s concept looks very logical: the majority of our supporters are in the world of culture. In one sense art, music, chess and science are all related spheres. Whichever fan you look at, they’re either a Doctor of Science or a musician. The fact that none of these areas has much money is another matter: it’s not golf or show business. Perhaps we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any one sphere: we need to popularise our game through all available channels, for various social strata. In any case it’s obvious that holding the match in a major global-level museum is a big plus for chess. It’s harder for me to judge what the museum will get from it: that’s more a question for the art experts.

My match against Anand took place in Bonn, in a big exhibition centre. There are always lots of exhibitions there, with lots of interested and cultured people. That’s a great audience for chess! And it’s not a matter of cheap popularisation, like playing in a casino or a club. When the game is played in the Tretyakov or, for example, the Louvre, chess acquires a completely different status. So I’m totally in favour!

Anatoly Karpov, former World Champion

1. I’ve known both these Grandmasters for many years. They are close in age, and it seems to me that the difference in their strength in chess was more marked in the past. We have to bear in mind that Gelfand still has ambitions and the desire to scale new heights and become the world champion, while Anand possibly no longer has the sharpness with which he approached his first match and his title. Of course, he wants to maintain the status quo, but does he have the nerves? It seems to me that he is nervously more worn-out than Gelfand. World championship matches are a matter of nerves, and the question of motivation can prove to be more important than the purely chess element. Also, as far as I can tell, Gelfand is still less attached to the computer than Anand. This could be a source of both minuses and pluses.

2. The idea of playing in a museum is very interesting. I remember playing in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam myself in 1976. It was a strong international tournament, and I got a lot of pleasure from going to look at a picture between moves, something I did over two weeks. I played fast in those days!

Of course, it’s not a tournament ahead of us, but a world championship match – quite a different matter for the contestants, and they’re not likely to have the opportunity for distractions. But for the spectators there are more opportunities. I think the idea is very good, and chess lovers should like it.

Garry Kasparov, former World Champion

1. The uniqueness of the forthcoming match, as I see it, is in the fact that for the first time in the modern World Chess Championships history the match between the legitimate world champion and a legitimate candidate won’t be a fight for the title of the strongest chess player of the world.

2. One can only welcome bringing chess and art together.

Yuri Averbakh, the oldest Grandmaster in the world

1. It’s a long time since Moscow saw world championship matches, and it has missed them. I think the most important point is that Moscow chess lovers will be pleased to watch a contest at such a high level. The capital does host some strong tournaments – the Aeroflot Open, the Mikhail Tal Memorial – but they come a long way behind the world chess championships in terms of importance. It will be interesting to see how Anand performs as champion and Gelfand as a player who has defeated some very strong opponents in the candidates matches. I’m expecting some fascinating games and a close contest. These matches always move chess forward, create a vogue and attract new fans.

2. Holding the match in the Tretyakov Gallery is an excellent idea which I like very much. As we know, back in 1935 the fine arts museum hosted the Second Moscow International Tournament. This decision benefited chess. My personal experience confirms this. I recall one day playing in Italy, in a fifteenth-century castle. This made an indelible impression not only on the spectators but also on the tournament contestants!

Viktor Korchnoi, Grandmaster and repeated challenger for the world championship

1. I’m expecting that both players will make excellent use of computer opportunities and will be able to write new pages in chess theory. I recall that quite recently Anand used Lasker’s Defence to beat Topalov – it was simply colossal! However, I’m expecting surprises not just from Anand but also from Gelfand.

2. I’ve never taken part in tournaments or matches held in a museum, but I would note an undoubted plus of such a location – the quiet, which is so necessary for chess players’ creativity. But will chess move into museum galleries? I doubt it. Rather, one might regard it as a “feature” that the sponsor used to attract more attention to the match. Chess is currently having difficulties in terms of live spectators. In the past, thousands of people would come to watch chess matches in person, but now most of them prefer to watch games on the Internet.

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