Interview with John Nunn

by ChessBase
8/30/2006 – He didn't do so well as part of the "Experience" team at the NH Chess tournament in Amsterdam. But then again, at 51 John Nunn is no longer really an active chess grandmaster. Instead he is engaged in running a successful publishing company. And is retiring from competitive chess – sort of. John's views.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


What did you think about this tournament?

I think the tournament is an interesting idea, to match up the ‘experienced players’, as they call them, against the young players. I think the only problem is that the young players these days are very strong and it’s not so easy to find older players, or say players over fifty, who are still actively playing!

Indeed, you for example quit chess about three years ago?

Yeah. The last time I really played was in the Bundesliga season 2002-3. So that was about three years ago. My last tournament was six years ago so it’s actually quite a long time now since I played.

What’s the reason you’re not playing anymore?

Lack of time really. I’m really more a businessman nowadays, I have a family… All of this means there’s not much time for playing. In order to really play well you have to work quite a lot and play regularly and there just wasn’t enough time to do that anymore.

John Nunn watching a game with Daniël Stellwagen on the monitor

You spend your time at publishing books now.

Yes. It’s a reasonable company [Gambit Publications Ltd] now. There are five people now that work for the company, pretty much fulltime, and I am one of those. We’re publishing about twenty books a year in English and about eight books a year in German.

You’re also known for your career besides chess, as a scientist.

Yeah but I don’t do that anymore. I’m more or less fulltime working for the publishing company.

Will you be writing a new opening book? Because you used to be the expert in this field.

No, I’m not writing any more opening books. (Laughs.)

Why not?

Well, I think it’s just… the world has changed. Most people have computer databases and they very often prefer to use that rather than an opening book. And also, you know, these chess programs have become very strong now. I think it’s difficult to write a good openings book. I think you’re often duplicating material that’s already found in databases. But I’m not saying there’s no place for openings books, particularly ones that explain the ideas behind openings.

This is not the time anymore for books like The Complete Pirc.

No, I think this type of book, this kind of encyclopedic book, there’s just no point anymore. The type of opening book that I used to specialize in… I think time for that is gone now.

Back to the tournament. You’re probably a bit disappointed about the result.

Well, slightly. I had two targets, which was to get four points and to win a game. I won a game and I got half a point less than my target. My expected score according to my (old!) rating was five points but I think if you haven’t played a tournament for six years you can’t really expect to do that. So I kind of thought that four points was a reasonable target and I got three and a half, so I guess I’m a tiny bit disappointed but yeah, I think it was not unexpected.

But would you like to start playing again?

I found it quite tough actually. (Laughs.) Yeah, I found it quite difficult, quite exhausting!

So if you’re invited next year you would have to think twice.

Of course I’d think about it.

Because your playing style is still attractive, so they might give you a call.

Okay, but the problem is that I make too many mistakes now. I played quite a few good games up to a point. Against Wang Hao I played a nice positional queen sacrifice but at a certain moment I just blundered. You know, it’s kind of frustrating. In the old days I wouldn’t have made this blunder. It’s difficult to stop it. Obviously if I would be playing more regularly but I don’t have the time to play a lot.


Peter Doggers' chess blog was launched in February this year. After just seven months it now has around five hundred unique visitors each day. The site offers a wide range of subjects: news, stories, analysis and even articles with streaming video. The highlight so far was the Olympiad 2006 coverage. The author has a rating of 2232. He achieved an IM norm in Amsterdam, 2004, beating then almost GM Daniël Stellwagen in an attractive last round game. The journalist/editor writes his blog in Dutch, and is not planning an English version soon. "But who knows," he says.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register