Boris Gelfand: 'There are not enough places for everyone'

10/31/2007 – The oldest player – at 39 – in the World Championship in Mexico almost pulled off a surprise win, always staying within striking distance of the ultimate winner Vishy Anand – the second oldest player. In the end Boris Gelfand shared 2nd-3rd with Vladimir Kramnik. But he improved his "invitability" to top chess events further. What about the others? Interview with Boris Gelfand.

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Interview with Boris Gelfand

The following interview was conducted by the German chess site Schachlinks.com.

Schachlinks: Hello Mr Gelfand! First of all congratulations for your very successful performance during the World Chess Championship in Mexico City! Which primarily impressions do you have after this event?

Boris Gelfand: I think that the tournament in Mexico was very interesting. The chess world witnessed a lot of spectacular games. It was a good opportunity for me to show my best, and I think that I played well in most of the games.

How was the atmosphere on site? Did you use the occasion to take a look at into the “Valley of Anáhuac”? Some people think the Mexican organization may have been a little bit “chaotic” – how was your feeling about that?

Gelfand: In my opinion, the tournament was excellently organized and I want to thank Mr Jorge Saggiante , Mr. Paul German and all the team of organizers for providing us with best possible conditions. The atmosphere was friendly, despite the tense competition. There was not the slightest incident, and players often shared jokes before the round. I came to Mexico a week before the tournament started and had time to see this beautiful city.

The first round was the meeting of the later champion and the most dangerous hunter: Anand vs Gelfand! You played with the black pieces and reached a comfortable position after the opening, while using the Petroff Defence. The draw was a little bit surprising to experts – you had possibilities for more:


Anand-Gelfand, Round 1, Position after 22...Re1

Did you later regard the draw as a missed chance?

Gelfand: Actually I had a lapse of concentration, as I forgot about the possibility to take on f4. I saw this idea in some other line. Actually I had a chance only for one move, as it was a blunder by my opponent. Almost any other white move would lead to a just symbolic edge for Black.

How do I have to imagine the daily procedure for a protagonist during the three weeks of the World Championship? Who was your second? How did you prepare before the tournament?

Gelfand: I was assisted by Alexander Huzman and Pavel Eljanov. Both of them helped me a lot and I am thankful to them. We had an excellent atmosphere in my team. Pavel and Alexander were working a lot during the nights, analyzing different openings, which could happen the next day. Then I would wake up, have breakfast and then join the analysis. Before the tournament we prepared for three weeks in the mountains of Kazakhstan. Some of the ideas we worked out there were used in Mexico, for example in my white game against Aronian.

Did you believe at any time during the tournament that you could win the Championship?

Gelfand: During the tournament I was concentrated solely on my games and was not thinking at all about my chances. It is a very strong tournament and I had to ensure that I’d have maximum concentration in every game and leave aside all the thoughts which could distract me.

You reached the World Championship tournament through the long road of Candidate Matches, and in the end you finished 2nd/3rd with Vladimir Kramnik, one point ahead of place four! For the next cycle you are empty-handed, while other players have privileges. What are your intentions in the next cycle? Do you hope to make another big assault?

Gelfand: It is very important for me to have a proper World Championship cycle, and that’s why I did my best to use this opportunity, as it was first real cycle since 1995. I am very disappointed that FIDE decided to keep the tradition of a world championship match and abandoned tradition of a world championship cycle. I don’t think that it is less important tradition. But I am very glad that at least once in ten years the chess world has witnessed a real qualification, like it was decades ago, and I am sure that the chess public enjoyed watching chess, in different formats, like a knockout World Cup, Candidates Matches and World Championship tournaments. I also hope that everybody will enjoy the Anand-Kramnik match next year.

In a manner of speaking you are a living legend! In the 90s you had an excellent decade and were permanently in the top area of the world rankings. Your book “My best games” was published in the meantime, and now you have emerged again spectacularly in the World Championship 2007. In the world ranking you are now on place 11. In the last months Vassily Ivanchuk has been going from tournament win to tournament win, and is now on 2nd position in the world rankings. How do you interpret the constancy of the “old horses”? Is there more of this to be expected in the future?

Gelfand: I was part of a strong generation of players, and we had to face each other since our junior years. All three of us, Anand, Ivanchuk and myself, have been amongst the best players in the world since 1990, so we have a lot of experience. We played hundreds of games against the strongest opponents in the world, and this is extremely useful. But of course, you have to keep on working hard on chess, keep you motivation and health in order to compete with younger players.

You were the oldest player in the field and you didn’t disappoint – do you see difference between the “computer generation” and the delegates from the pre-computer era?

Gelfand: Of course, every age has its advantage, every player has his views and his style, and it makes chess tournaments more interesting. There are a lot of very talented young players nowadays, and it is very interesting to play them. The competition between different generations gives extra excitement to the public.

Are there any games from the World Championship you wish to highlight?

Gelfand: In Mexico I was pleased with all the games I won, and with my draw against Kramnik in the first half. It was an entertaining struggle, and I castled long on 33rd move! I wonder if anybody had castled later?

After your success in Mexico you will probably get more invitations to big tournaments. Do you have the feeling that the same players are playing too much in the same big events? How about the successful fighter of the old days, and the young matadors?

Gelfand: Of course in years 1998-2005 I only had a few invitations to top class events. But still my level of play didn’t drop, compared to earlier years. In a way it just gave me extra motivation to work hard. In 2006-2007 I played in quite a number of top events. There are a lot of strong players nowadays, of all the ages, and there are not enough places for everyone. That’s life, and organizers are free to decide whom they want to invite. However, I have to say that there are many more top events now than was the case five or six years ago.

Where will we hear about you next time?

Gelfand: I am going to take part in the Tal Memorial in Moscow in November and the Corus tournament in Wijk aan zee in January.

Many thanks for the interview and all the best for the future!

Boris Gelfand: Thank you!


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