'I will not play chess all my life'

1/18/2006 – Alexander Morozevich is considered one of the most talented and original players since Mikhail Tal. But the current number eleven in the world is having second thoughts about the game. "Chess is not my calling, but only a temporary occupation, one of the methods to develop my intellect," he says, in this revealing Moscow News interview.

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A lone wolf on the black and white squares

Alexander Morozevich doesn’t consider chess to be his calling

By Eli Shvidler

Addendum: On January 29 2006, ten days after this translation had appeared on our pages, Alexander Morozevich wrote to us: "I just arrived in Moscow and was, no less than many people, surprised about the interview in Moscow News. The journalist E. Shvidler, for unknown reasons, used only 25% of our original material. I was not able to recognize my own words. As these creation of Mr Shvilder may offend a number of very respectable people, and indeed chess itself, Iwould like you to publish my dissaproval of it and apologies to the whole chess community for such a ridiculous material."

One of Russia's leading grandmasters Alexander Morozevich is often compared to Mikhail Tal. At the very least many professionals and fans of this ancient game are convinced that there hasn’t been a more talented and original player since Tal. Grandmaster colleagues say: “He is truly unique”, “Kasparov himself might be envious of his thought development and direction.”

Exaggerations? Perhaps, but we are doubtlessly talking about a specially talented and an extraordinary chess player. Morozevich is extraordinary even in everyday life. At the recent Russian Superfinal he showed up more than an hour late for his game against Yakovenko – he had simply overslept. Morozevich forfeited the game, and it was exactly this one point that he was missing in the race against the eventual tournament winner Rublevsky. 28-year old Morozevich shared his opinions on the current state of affairs in chess with Moscow News.

How do you personally feel about the admiration of your talent?

The concept of “talent” is formed under completely abstract criteria, having nothing in common with reality. But the reality is such that I don’t understand chess as a whole. But then again no one understands chess in its entirety. Perhaps talent is something else, in chess it is conditionality.

How would you define the concept of “chess”?

A sport, a struggle for results and a fight for prizes. I think that the discussion about “chess is science or chess is art” is already inappropriate. The purpose of modern chess is to reach a result.

And it is ungrateful in terms of time consumption and energy…

When you are fascinated by the game and achieve certain success it is too late to change anything. However, it is clear that in chess the expenditure of energy is absolutely disproportionate to the reward or to material compensation. The relationship between expenditure and earning is absolutely unbalanced.

Is the game promising, does it have a future?

Chess has no image. It is necessary to regretfully admit that chess is not an Olympic sport, and will not see TV prime time, just as one cannot see one's own ears. Nor will it see major sponsorship. Also the abundance of draws scares people away. Football (soccer) yes, it’s a show. The main thing is one doesn’t have to understand it, it is sufficient to simply experience the emotional output. But it’s another thing entirely to try to sort out what is going on the chessboard…

Who is the strongest player in the world right now? Perhaps it is still Kasparov, despite having recently left the stage?

There is no such a thing as the “stronger player”. No one understands chess as it is, there is simply a will to reach the highest possible result. Actually, Kasparov doesn’t understand anything in chess. And personally I don’t care what he is occupied with, he only exists on tournament score sheets. His other endeavors do not interest me.

Do you have friends?

I would say acquaintances, not necessarily colleagues from the sphere of chess. If you like, you can call me “the lone wolf”.

However, you are rightfully considered a terrific team player. Specifically, it was because of you that Russia was able to literally pull out the world champion title, having defeated China in a decisive last round match in Israel. After your game in the final round your opponent, after losing, burst into tears. What did you feel at that moment?

The responsibility lay on all of us, that’s why the achievement must be divided equally. It was a must-win situation and I guess we were able to mentally prepare for it.

How do you see your future in chess?

At 25, I have understood that chess is not my calling, but only a temporary occupation, one of the methods to develop my intellect. I don’t know what I will take up in the future, but I know for sure that I will not play chess all my life. My education qualifies me to teach Physical Education in schools, but this too, somehow, doesn’t appeal to me.

It sounds like a requiem…

No, I am not expressing emotions, just establishing facts. I will try to continue to earn money by the means of chess, to support the material component of life. I will not burn bridges, nor will I throw chess out of the window. This will not happen, but there will be a change of priorities.

Translation Ilya Krasik



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