Winning back the mammoth's tusks

12/1/2004 – Twenty years ago, to the day, he entered the hotel Rossija with a minus five score. Last week Garry Kasparov left it with plus five. In a candid interview with Sport Express the winner of the Russian Championship talks about his form, his play, Kramnik vs Leko, and the situation in world chess.

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Interview with Garry Kasparov

By Juri Vasiliev

The following interview appeared on the Russian sport portal Sport Express and was conducted by chess journalist Yuri Vasiliev. The full text in Russian language is available on this Sport Express page.

If something is left to be desired then it is to play a match
against Kramnik and to win the mammoth's tusks.

Immediately after Kasparov's final round game against Grischuk in the Moscow Super Final Yuri Vasiliev of Sport Express newspaper was hailed by Garry's mother, Klara Shagenova, who said: "Yuri, exactly twenty years ago, to the day, we entered this hotel, the Rossija. At that time Garry was playing Karpov and the score was minus five. Today, twenty years later, we leave the hotel Rossija with a plus five score in Garik's favour!"

During the closing ceremony one of the most valuable prizes, a chess set made from the mammoth ivory, was presented to Garry by non other than Karpov himself.


Kasparov receiving a mammoth ivory chess set from Russian sculptor Oleg Raikis


The white pieces are made of mammoth tusk, the black chessmen are stained mammoth tusk with stained box-tree

Oleg Raikis is a Russian sculptor, specializing in the fields of work with mammoth ivory, walrus, amber, hard wood. He has created a large number of artworks, including sculptures and chess sets, which belong to collections of famous people and collectors all over the world.

Oleg is famous not only to collectors of modern art, but also to collectors of antiques, since he is an expert restorer. He is a member of International Federation of Artists (UNESCO), Chess Collectors International and International Art Fund.


Summary of the Sport Express interview

The main points that Kasparov makes in his interview with Juri Vasiliev are as follows:

  • On his recent play: My play in recent tournaments has been disastrous. The last tournament I won was Linares 2002. After that there followed a number of fiascos, such as unimpressionable play in the Petrosian Memorial and disastrous play at the Club championship in Turkey. In that respect, the result of this tournaments stands out, as the tournament went on my opponents realized that they yet again must fear me.

  • His game against Motylev: I missed the win about six times. In the beginning I was slightly worse in that endgame but was able to convert it to a winning endgame. I had made several “only” moves to make the time control but when the choices became too plentiful, I began to create “wonders” (blunders).

  • The game against Grischuk: The game against my nearest rival was physiologically difficult to play, because it occurred after the mission was already accomplished.

  • On Morozevich: He offered me a draw, but I declined because his position was difficult. Morozevich always plays the opening in an unusual manner. In Biel, this unusual approach is good enough to score lots of points; not so in the Russian Championship.

  • Time controls: Our championship became one the last citadels of the classic time control. Now there is a lot of talk that this time control has gotten old. Yes FIDE time control is more dynamic, and is easier to play with, but look at the quality of games.

  • If Kramnik had chosen to participate: The tone and emphasis of the tournament would have been quite different, as people would naturally focus all their attention at our rivalry. But since my results have been good at this tournament. I don't believe that this would have been different with Kramnik’s participation. Kramnik’s usual tournaments results are plus 2, plus 3, and I am not even sure if Kramnik has fully recuperated.

  • On the Kramnik-Leko match: It was Kramnik who played the more interesting chess. But as it was hard for him to get through Leko's defence, the final score looks justified. I am used to the idea that everything has a just and logical conclusion. Leko played cynically towards the end of the match, trying to hold up the lead is against Kramnik. I have always said that Leko is a tough opponent for Kramnik, because while Kramnik plays chess, Leko is a tennis-player who stands on the back line and volleys; if he needs to volley the ball across the net five hundred times, he will do so five hundred times.

  • On reunification: I have begun to view the processes of chess life philosophically: maybe there will be a match, maybe there won’t. Whatever happens, happens. Yes, it would have been easier to reach an agreement with Leko. The fact that Kramnik retained his title by drawing Leko is good. If there is still something I want, it is to play another match with Kramnik, and to win it.

  • On his match against Kasimdzhanov: Four days ago I spoke with my manager, and nothing was clear still about this match. Maybe something has changed since then, I do not know. If the match is to take place in Dubai in January I need to arrange a training session in the country with a similar climate in December. But this is not easy on a short notice. Whether or not this match takes place, I hope that the working practices of FIDE will become history. You cannot ask people to stick to agreements when you do not keep your own schedule.

  • On future tournaments: I definitely plan to play at the Chess Olympiad in Turin in 2006.

  • On the Russian Chess Federation: My thanks go to the President of the Russian Chess Federation Alexander Zhukov, who's support made this event possible. We had a great championship. Many things tend to be forgotten, but the chess games remain, including the games of this tournament. The RCF is one of the strongest federations in the world and is protecting classical chess. I hope it will keep up this tradition in the future.

    Kasparov interview summary by Ilya Krasik


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