Peter Leko: 'I'm not the kind who takes unnecessary risks...'

by ChessBase
5/26/2009 – "I believe much more in the logic of our game, rather than gambling on your opponent's nerves." The top Hungarian player, who will take part in an eight-game rapid chess match against World Champion Vishy Anand next week, and then play in the Super-GM in Dortmund a month later, speaks about his career, his goals and the great love of his life. Interview.

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Peter Leko vs Anand
in Miskolc, Hungary

This spectacular event will take place in National Theater, 1 Déryné str, Miskolc, from June 2-7, 2009. The number one Hungarian grandmaster, Peter Leko, will play a duel of eight games against the Indian World Champion Viswanathan Anand. The games are at a rate of 25 minutes for all moves with a bonus of ten seconds per moves. In case of a 4-4 draw blitz games will decide the winner. At the end of each day of play there will be a press conference of 10-15 minutes with both players.

The games are on June 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th, starting at 16:30h and 18:00h on each of these days. They will be broadcast live on the official site and on

Interview with Peter Leko

How old are you and where do you live?

I am still only 29, even if it may seem that I am around for ages. I was born in Subotica, but we moved to Szeged, when I was 1 year old.

When did you start playing chess and who taught it to you?

I learned the rules from my father during summer holidays a few weeks before turning seven.

Peter Leko at the entrance of the chess school that bears his name

When did you decide to become a professional chess player?

My talent was discovered very early and then it was a natural process. Already when I was eleven it was clear that I have the goal to be a top professional player in the future. Of course it helped a lot when I became the youngest grandmaster in 1994, at the age of fourteen. After that it was more easy to continue on my chosen path.

Do you have a coach and how many hours do you practice chess per day?

I had many trainers during my carrier to whom I am all very thankful. Since this year besides my permanent coach Arshak Petrosian, with whom we have been working for eight years, I also started a serious professional work with German grandmaster Jan Gustafsson, who is helping me a lot in refreshing my opening repertoire. I cannot assess the daily number of hours, as it differs. During intensive training sessions it can well be ten or twelve hours a day. But once you play chess at the highest level, this game is in your mind all the time, it becomes a part of yourself.

Peter Leko's father-in-law, trainer and mentor: GM Arshak Petrosian

How would you describe your chess style?

In general I consider every top player to be universal. On the other hand each of us has his unique style, which depends most probably on the character of a player. I like to play in a “clean and clear” way, and I am definitely not the type of guy who takes unnecessary risks. I believe much more in the logic of our game rather than gambling on your opponent's nerves. My favourite victory is when it is not even clear where my opponent made a mistake. Unfortunately, such wins are extremely hard to achieve on the highest level nowdays.

What was your biggest success so far?

Peter Leko playing Vladimir Kramnik for the World Championship in 2004

Winning all the super tournaments such as Wijk aan Zee, Linares, the Tal Memorial and three times Dortmund are very special. However no doubt that my most important victory was at the 2002 Dortmund Candidates tournament which gave me the right to play for the World Champion title. The World Championship Match against Vladimir Kramnik was a very tough challenge. I got extremely close to winning the title, but at the end the match ended with a 7:7 score.

Do you still have a special goal as a chess player?

I have been a top ten player since ten years. Right now I have only one goal: to work very hard on my chess! I think that if I manage to make a step into the right direction then I will be able to define new goals for the future.

From 2nd to 12th July 2009 six of the world's strongest grandmasters are taking part in the Sparkassen Chess-Meeting – the 37th edition. Four top ten players of the current world ranking list are the favourites: former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, titelholder Peter Leko, the world's number three rated player Magnus Carlsen, top Russian hopeful and world number seven player Dmitry Jakovenko, France's top GM Etienne Bacrot, and the number one in the German ranking list Arkadij Naiditsch. Full details...

You are the player with the most participations in Dortmund. Do you have any special feelings playing here?

Of course. You can call Dortmund my second home. I was there many times not only on the occasion of the tournaments. I met my wife Sofy during the tournament in 1999. This was a great moment. Due to this victory I entered the top ten for the first time and met my big love at the same time. And you should not forget that my manager Carsten Hensel is from there. I have known him since 1991, and he was always a good friend already before we started the professional co-operation in 1998.

Peter Leko with his wife Sofi

How do you estimate your chances to qualify for the next World Championship cycle (through the FIDE Grand Prix or World-Cup)?

I think that I have decent chances just as some other players, but I am not trying to predict anything. To me right now it is more important to increase the level of my overall play. If I am able to improve, the success will come automatically.


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