"I have a lot of blood in my brain"
Levon Aronjan explains why chess is war and not something for women
Interview by Christian Schwager, Markus Lotter
Mr Aronjan, since the beginnings of the game men have dominated chess. Why is that?
Women cannot play chess.
But that is no explanation. Wasn’t it your sister who taught you chess?
That is true, but women are generally much too emotional for chess. If they want to play really well they have to change their character and suppress their natural instincts. They have to take on male qualities. After all chess is a rough and hard game.
Are all chess players machos?
As a chess player one has to be able to control one’s feelings, one has to be as cold as a machine. We men do not let ourselves be, let us say, seduced by our emotions and feelings. But there is a paradox in chess.
The paradox is that the best chess players are the most emotional ones.
The logical conclusion is that you have to set free your feminine side in order to reach the top ranks in the game – just like yourself?
Perhaps a little. One must be very passionate and romantic if one wants to create a masterpiece that is to last for centuries. That is my personal approach, which some players do not understand and even smile at. But I don’t care. For me creating a masterpiece is more important than just to win.
To return to women: what is wrong with their logic? Is it not good enough for world class chess?
Yes, I know there is a myth that chess is a very logical game. But chess is full of spontaneous decisions and determination. With chess you cannot even practice logical thinking. Many people also believe that chess and mathematics are closely connected. But we chess players are not necessarily good at maths.
But surely you cannot reach the top completely without logical skills?
Chess becomes a logical game when you approach the endgame. In the middlegame it is a game of intuition, of creativity and passion. I sometime love logical chess, the geometry of certain games. But I am not a logically structured chess player.
As I said I am a romantic. I love literature, art and music. In art Titian is my favourite, in classical music I admire the pianist Svjatoslav Richter. He is full of fire, and I love this kind of fire. In jazz it is Coltrane, but also Keith Jarrett. I listen to this music before a game, it inspires me.
Can you draw conclusions from the way an opponent plays about his character?
Not really. A gentleman at the board can suddenly turn into a barbarian. Like Anand.
You mean the World Champion?
Yes, he is a metamorphic player. In a flash he can change into a completely different person, from an almost dogmatic player into a beast.
How would you characterise chess playing computers.
Chess programs are our enemies, they destroy the romance of chess. They take away the beauty of the game. Everything can be calculated. But we still have twenty years, at least.
But you cannot do without the computer in your preparations?
If you do not work with a computer you don’t have a chance. It has become much harder for everybody. It is really absurd.
What do you mean by absurd?
Sometimes you feel you are in a spy thriller. Not long ago it was important to have the best database of archive games. Then it became important to have GM games that were played the day before. Today we are trying to find games that were played minutes ago in some backyard somewhere in the world. Madness. All this frightens me. It is like war – who has the best weapons, the best missiles, and atomic bomb.
Are computers becoming more human?
They are becoming better, but not more human. Computers don’t have plans, they don’t have ideas, philosophy, aesthetic feelings. Unlike humans they don’t have an inkling of how rooks, knights and pawns should be moved around the board. You know, sometimes when I am playing my games I have the feeling that I am in a fairy tale, that I have been immersed into a world full of fantasy.
Where are your weaknesses?
My problem is that sometimes during a game I get too excited, then I begin to fly and make mistakes. Sometimes I have too much blood in my brain, so that I cannot think. I cannot see the simplest things, I am completely confused.
Is it like being in love?
Yes. Adrenaline shoots through your veins and it starts to boil.
In chess is it good to be happily or unhappily in love?
Hmm. Perhaps it is better for your game if you are in love. On the other hand when you are in love there is a danger that your passion is not enough for both, and that you are going to be disappointed with your game and at the same time disappoint your lady.
Are you speaking from experience?