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Interview mit GM Boris Gelfand

freechess: Dear Mr. Gelfand, you were born 1968 in Minsk. But today you are a citizen of Israel and live there. For how long have you been living in Israel and what did you cause to change your place of abode?

Boris Gelfand: I had moved to Israel in 1998 and I am happy about it. I had an idea to do it earlier, but had to postpone this decision due to very intense chess schedule. I feel much more at home in Israel, rather than in Belarus. Especially if you see what kind of political situation there is now in Belarus.

freechess: You learned to play chess in the one-time Soviet Union. There surely the fondations of your success were laid by continuous and conscientious support of the Soviet chess schools. In which way was this education the decisive factor for your manner of play? Who were the signing persons in the path to the grand master title in 1989?

gelfand2_1.jpgBoris Gelfand: I think that from early years of my career I understood (or rather was brought up in that way) that chess is a serious thing and it has to be studied accordingly. That was also attitude of people around me. On the contrary, unfortunately chess is seen as a coffee-house game by Israeli society. That's main reason why most of the promising players in Israel decided to quit chess in favour of obtaining "serious professions".
I was lucky enough to work with great trainers. My first trainer was Eduard Zelkind. He developed my interest for the game and gave a good basis for future development. When I was 11, he moved to USA and national master Tamara Golovey helped me in following years and accompanied me for a number of junior events. And then I was priveleged to be trained by famous theoretician Albert Kapengut, with whom I worked for 12 years and who helped me to learn how to work on your mistakes, how to learn openings, how to analyse adjorned games etc.
I also want to mention 2 other events, which gave me a big push. In 1979 the Soviet Union championship was held in my city of Minsk. And I was present at almost all the rounds. To be able to watch games of such great players like Tal, Geller, young Kasparov, Yussupow and others in live was unique and I didn't miss this chance. And between 1980-1983 I was couple of time at Petrosian school. An ex World champion spent a lot of time with us. He told stories, played blitz, showed his games and it was a great moment for me and other kids.
freechess: In times of your youth you often dueled with Wassily Ivantschuk and snaped up this or that title. Have you been friens? What is your contemporary relationship?

Boris Gelfand: It's true. Since 1985 Wassili and I were competing in number of events. I think that this kind of rivalry helped both of us to progress. We always had big respect for each other and never had a conflict beetween us. Nowadays we play together for Polonia GSM club from Warsaw in European cup. We are on good personal terms.

freechess: The 90s were definitely a very successful decade for you. You wan among other things in Moscow 1992, Dos Hermanas 1994, Belgrad 1995, Vienna 1996 and in Polanica Zdrój 1998. In present times the resulst are not that good. Where would you fix an age limit for a player´s career´s apex?

Boris Gelfand: It's natural that younger players are growing up quickly. They have a lot of energy and motivation and it's not easy to compete with them. However, I think that players of my generation are doing fine. Vishy Anand, Wassili Ivanchuk, Evgenij Bareev, myself and others are still belonging to the best players of the World and winning a lot of events. Since December I had won 4 top class events. And and example of Victor Kortchnoi gives me a lot of motivation and inspiration.

You have repeatedly been participant in Kanditatenturniere, but you have also been competitor in K.O.-Weltmeisterschaften. This is where you showed considerable results: You eliminated among others Michael Adams in 1994 and the world champion (2000) Wladmir Kramnik. Nigel Short and Anatoli Karpow are terminal station at these matches.

In the since 1997 holded K.O.-Modus (FIDE) Anand, Chalifman or Shirov gave you the K.O. You have always been a competitor on a high level, but what in your opinion has been missing for becoming a direct world- championship challenger?

Boris Gelfand: Both of my losses to Nigel Short and Anatoly Karpov were very painful ones. Looking back, I can notice mistakes which had been done both during preparation and during the course of the match. I believe that I had chances in both matches, but failed to exploit them. Also you cannot win such a match against an even opponent without some luck and it was not on my side both times. Concerning K.O. championship, I always did ok, but never managed to go to the final. However, I never considered these events as important as World championship cycles, which I played before.

freechess: Concerning your view on chess you are considered as an idealist. For years you have been opining the merits of classical chess in aspect of the game-time and world chamionship cycle. Amongst others you were not alowed to take part as an israeli player in the FIDE-WM 2004 in Tripolis and you complained rightly. Do you think, that FIDE is to be able to do to stabilize and to reform her reputation? And was the just now finished WCC in San Luis a step in the right direction?

Boris Gelfand: I seriously doubt that current FIDE leaders are capable of restoring a proper World championship. Of course, they succeeded in San Luis, but I am afraid that they can lose any interest of keeping on if they'll be reelected for another 4 years during the next fide congress in June. I don't know if it is better to have a final match or 8 players double round robin tournament as the final stage. But I am sure that classical time control, fair system of qualification and consistency in orgaizing the cycle are the cornerstones of successful World championship.

freechess: ... and what do you think sportsmenlikely about the worlds- championship in San Luis ?

Boris Gelfand:I think the event was a success. Number of fascinating games were played, a lot of theoretical discoveries, big fighting spirit of the players. The only thing missing was fight for the 1st place, as Veselin Topalov left other competitors without a chance by him impressive perfomance. Well done!


freechess: In 2003 you overcame Judit Polgar 2003 in a speed chess match with 2:6. How do you estimate the results of the world-best woman in the world- championship?

Boris Gelfand: I think that Judit played much below her level in San Luis. She showed great chess earlier this year in Wijk aan Zee and Sofia and I expected her to keep on in Argentina. Only herself and her team may know what went wrong this time.

freechess: What do you think about the effort of the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), which looks after a for chess useful world championship-cycle?

Boris Gelfand: ACP had made some useful proposals. However, FIDE show little respect for other opinions, than their own one's.
freechess: In 2000 you sent an open letter to Mister Kasparow, wherein you explained your part for the world-champion fight Kasparov - Kramnik: .
Which reproachs preceded and how did Mr. Kasparov react?

Boris Gelfand: In my letter I had explained all the circumstances of the incident. I think, Mr.Kasparov understood that I was right, as later on we kept good relations, based on mutual (I believe!) respect.
freechess: You wrote numerous features and articles for instance for "New In Chess". Lately I had the pleasure to review your autobiograpfic game collection "My best games". The book´s title sounds nearly like a kind of farewell to the "big chess stage"- is that right?

Boris Gelfand: No, I still keep ambitions in chess. However, I felt that I already played a lot of interesting games and that chess lovers would be happy to read my annotations. Or maybe I was inspired by one of my favorite writers W.Somerset Maugham. He wrote all his best books after his biografical work "Summing Up".
freechess: Will we read some more from you in the next future?
Boris Gelfand: For the next couple of years I want to concentrate on practical chess. But of course I'll keep on annotating my best games for the magazines.

freechess: You are considered as a supporter and expert der Grünfeld-Indian Defence. Which players impressed you most and why?

Boris Gelfand: I am playing Gruenfeld defence only by White The line, I normally chose 8.Rb1 is a young one and was developed by efforts of Aleksander Khalifman, Konstantn Sakaev, Aleksander Chernin and yours truly.

freechess: Thanks for your time and interview and we wish you all the best in the future.

(C) Frank Große, 2005