World Championship 2008: the commentators speak

8/28/2008 – Just 46 days to go until the start of the World Chess Championship in Bonn, Germany. The match between Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik will be covered by a battery of online commentators, including GM Yasser Seirawan in English, GMs Artur Yussupov, Dr Helmut Pfleger, Klaus Bischoff in German, GM Miguel Illescas in Spanish. Here are pre-match interviews with the experts.

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The following interviews were conducted by UEP, the organisers of the World Chess Championship.

Yasser Seirawan

Yasser Seirawan was born in Damascus, Syria, March 24, 1960, sharing a common birthday with Vassily Smyslov. In 1967 his family moved to the US where in 1972 he learned to play chess during the ‘Bobby Fischer Boom’. Yasser became a Grandmaster seven years later as a 19-year-old; won the World Junior Championship in 1979; four times US Champion and played for ten US Olympic Teams. He has authored fifteen books on chess.

What fascinates you personally about chess?

Being fully responsible for my own moves. I have no one to blame except myself. I consider the combination the heart of chess. They fill me with wonder and joy.

What do you consider to be your greatest success in chess?

Besides winning titles and tournaments it has been marvellous to play with many world champions including Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, Kasimdzhanov Kramnik, Anand and Topalov. I’ve won a few and lost a lot, but it is always nice to tickle the best players in the world.

What do you think: Why is chess so popular and is experiencing a persistent boom world-wide?

It is simply the most challenging mental game in the world. When we play we “experience the Mind”.

In your opinion, which was the most interesting game/duel in chess history?

There is nothing to compare, the duel between Kasparov and Karpov stands alone.

The match between Kramnik and Anand is not only one of the most outstanding duels in chess history, but also a contest between the two best players of our time. Who will, in your opinion, win, and why?

Both players are the outstanding professionals of today. I’ve been looking forwards to this match for many years. The match is to close to call. It will all come down to form and who is able to show his best qualities at that particular moment. I’m looking forwards to a very close competitive match.

What effect can this Championship have on the chess world in future?

Hopefully, it will showcase the very best that the sport of chess can offer and will prove to the world that a match is the only proper way of determining the title “World Chess Champion.”

As far as chess history is concerned, for whom is, in your opinion, this match of greater importance – Anand or Kramnik?

Definitely for Anand. He is the older player. If he manages to win, he will secure his position on the Pantheon of “the greatest.” We will have to speak his name along with that of the chess gods. Kramnik still has a sparkling future ahead of him, at least ten more years at the very top.


Helmut Pfleger

Dr. Helmut Pfleger, specialist in internal medicine and psychotherapy, is a German Grand Master, chess commentator and writer on chess subjects. During the Chess World Championship his comments on the games will be relayed live from the Bundeskunsthalle. He writes chess columns, among others in the weekly broadsheets ”Die Zeit“ and ”Welt am Sonntag“. Chess aficionados know him well from the many years of chess programmes on WDR (West German Broadcasting Station). According to Pfleger the WDR broadcasts “have, unfortunately, been put to sleep. A resurrection seems uncertain, but perhaps this world championship will do the trick“.

What fascinates you personally about chess?

Of the four generally listed aspects of chess – game, sport, art, science – the scientific aspect never aroused any enthusiasm in me, the other three all the more. During my active period “chess as a battle“: to hold one’s own and, if possible, come out on top, was particularly close to my heart – probably in the same way Emanuel Lasker saw the game. I am also intrigued that chess is almost 2,000 years old and probably comes from India, Anand’s homeland – a tremendously varied and lively country.

What do you consider to be your greatest success in chess?

Especially important to me are my 12.5 points out of 15 games (of which I played black ten times), by which I contributed considerably to the surprising bronze medal for the German team – all of us amateur players – at my first Chess Olympics in Tel Aviv in 1964.

What do you think: Why is chess so popular and is experiencing a persistent boom world-wide?

Chess is an ancient, at the same time a very versatile game (e.g. distinctly different pieces that originally corresponded to armies – pawns as the infantry, castles as war elephants, etc.), but the rules are comparatively simple. On the other hand, a standard game of 40 moves allegedly offers more possibilities than there are atoms in the universe, so that even the fastest computers will never be able to come even close to mastering the game. I suppose that aspects of depth psychology are also involved: similar to fairy tales king and queen represent father and mother, so that we may act out a family saga with sometimes oedipal implications – probably it is not a coincidence that many top players grew up without much paternal support. But I believe this boom is predominantly evident in Asia – and here mainly in India and China. In the West the upswing is no more than marginal.

In your opinion, which was the most interesting game/duel in chess history?

Not without reason the so-called “Match of the Century” Fischer vs. Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972, at the height of the Cold War, aroused most interest, the world-wide chess boom began only then. However, Karpov-Kortschnoi (1978), Karpov-Kasparov (1984) and Kasparov-Kramnik (2000) were also outstanding matches. As an individual game Kasparov-Topalov (Wijk aan Zee 1999), when Kasparov made many (correct!) sacrifices and forced the black king into his own camp – is my top favourite.

The match between Kramnik and Anand is not only one of the most outstanding duels in chess history, but also a contest between the two best players of our time. Who will, in your opinion, win, and why?

Any prediction seems to be impossible because both players have been almost unchallenged leaders of the chess world for many years, and despite their different styles of playing they are equally strong. The contest will most likely be decided by psychological factors, as well as by who will have the greater physical reserves in October.

What effect can this contest have on the chess world in future?

A victory by Anand would certainly contribute greatly towards a further boom in his homeland – possibly he would be given not just a house but a veritable palace as a present. On the other hand a victory by Kramnik would certainly have an effect on Russia, where the chess hegenomy as such does not exist anymore. However, most important is the abolition of the split within the chess community – I hope for ever – and that the Fide motto "Gens una sumus" (We are one people) may ring more true again.

I am also convinced that this contest will played in a “decent” manner, despite the high stakes and the inevitable rivalry, possibly even relative animosity during the match, because Anand as well as Kramnik have proven their decency and integrity over many years – qualities that were sadly absent in some past contests. This match will certainly result in positive effects for German chess, not least because both players have some roots in our country as well: Anand in Mainz, Kramnik in Dortmund. The venue: the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, is a fortunate choice, it already provided a perfect ambience for the match Kramnik vs. Fritz in 2006.

As far as chess history is concerned, for whom is, in your opinion, this match of greater importance – Anand or Kramnik?

Anand (39) and Kramnik (33) have been proving for many years that the “seniors” are definitely able to withstand the onslaught of the youngsters; at the same time they appear to confirm Botwinnik’s dictum that 30 plus is an ideal age for a chess player. Naturally, both are absolutely dedicated chess players, but it is well possible – even likely – that the loser will afterwards not enter the arena with the same absoluteness and vigour again.


Artur Yussupov

What fascinates you personally about chess?

Chess is simply a brilliant game where an inventive spirit often overcomes pure matter, where the weakest piece may, in the end, become the strongest figure. This is a fantasy-world, but it is also a reflection of the real world.

What do you consider to be your greatest success in chess?

I qualified three times for the semi-finals of the World Chess Championship.

What do you think: why is chess so popular and is experiencing a persistent boom world-wide?

Chess is a very democratic game, players with different qualities may succeed. Chess is very good for children: it trains concentration and patience and the players learn to make decisions and then to live with the consequences of these decisions. It is an intellectual sport, and you can still play well in old age.

In your opinion, which was the most interesting game/duel in chess history?

For me those were the world championship matches between Karpov and Kasparov.

The match between Kramnik and Anand is not only one of the most outstanding duels in chess history, but also a contest between the two best players of our time. Who will, in your opinion, win, and why?

As a commentator I must naturally observe neutrality. But I believe that the match will proceed on a completely equal footing and may be decided only in the tiebreak. For myself and the spectators I just wish for exciting games!

What effect can this contest have on the chess world in future?

A good contest will increase the popularity of the game even more and will have positive effects.

As far as chess history is concerned, for whom is, in your opinion, this match of greater importance – Anand or Kramnik?

Both players have achieved almost everything that is possible in chess, and both are in the best phase of their chess careers. Now they are competing for the crowning glory of their success up till now.


Klaus Bischoff

Klaus Bischoff has been a professional chess player for more than 25 years. He will be one of the commentators during the World Championship in Bonn.

What fascinates you personally about chess?

Chess is simply a wonderful game. Luring an opponent onto unknown territory, then outplaying him – that will never lose its fascination for me.

What do you consider to be your greatest success in chess?

Winning the Silver Medal with the German Team at the Chess Olympics in Istanbul in 2000 was a really great experience!

What do you think: Why is chess so popular and is experiencing a persistent boom world-wide?

Our good old chess is extremely well suited for the modern internet. Any enthusiast anywhere in the world may participate “live”.

In your opinion, which was the most interesting game/duel in chess history?

I think the world championship match in Baguio City in 1978 between Karpov and Kortschnoi was incredibly exciting. First Kortschnoi’s brilliant pursuit race, then Karpov’s cold-blooded counterattack, that was really quite something. This was the first world championship match where I was more or less able to understand the moves. At that time I was only 17 years old.

The match between Kramnik and Anand is not only one of the most outstanding duels in chess history, but also a contest between the two best players of our time. Who will, in your opinion, win, and why?

Naturally both are able to win the match. Otherwise no one would be interested in the outcome. I am looking forward to many fascinating games! If one of the contestants plays better and does not ”only“ launch well-aimed assaults at his opponent I shall be happy about his victory, from the bottom of my heart.

What effect can this Championship have on the chess world in future?

2008 is a great year for chess. The World Championship in Bonn and the Olympics in Dresden are wonderful opportunities for changing the image of chess in Germany in a positive way. Should this happen world-wide – all the better!

As far as chess history is concerned, for whom is, in your opinion, this match of greater importance – Anand or Kramnik?

For the winner.


Michael Adams

Why are you fascinated by chess personally?

I enjoy the competitive challenge and the deceptive complexity of the game.

What do you consider to be your greatest success in chess?

Hopefully it is still to come!

To your mind, why is chess so popular and increasingly prospering all over the world?

Chess has always been popular in a large number of countries and easier travel and possibilities to play and watch on the internet have opened it up to a much wider audience.

In your opinion, what was the most interesting game in the chess history?

Karpov-Kasparov, game 24 of the their 1985 match made a big impression on me at the time.

To your mind, who will be the winner in one of the most important duels in the chess history – in a competition between the two of the best chess players of present time – in the World Chess Championship Match Anand-Kramnik? Why do you think so?

I honestly can’t choose a winner. I think the match will be very close and might well be decided in tie-breaks.

To your thinking, what will be the influence of the Anand-Kramnik match to the chess world in future. What effects will it bring?

Vishy and Vlad are both gentlemen and great ambassadors for the game of chess and I am sure the match will attract a lot of positive publicity for chess.

In your opinion, for whom is the match more important – for Anand or for Kramnik? Why do you think so?

The match will be more important for the winner!


FoidosChess: The match Anand vs. Kramnik as close contact video experience

Chess Media Services is proud to announce that FoidosChess will be used for broadcasting the World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, starting October 14th in Bonn, Germany.

FoidosChess is a live chess broadcasting application, based on the new Mircosoft Silverlight technology, creating a revolutionary new way to present video over the internet.

FoidosChess will use five parallel video streams to present the World Championship match and commentaries by toplevel Grandmasters in German (Artur Yussupov, Dr Helmut Pfleger, Klaus Bischoff), English (Yasser Seirawan), Spanish (Miguel Illescas) and Russian. All commentators will welcome interesting guests during the games. Via chat the communication between commentator and user will be also possible.

The video stream will include close up of the players during the game as wells as live reports from the commentary hall and interviews with experts and celebrity guests.

FoidosChess is a chess tournament broadcasting platform that puts the user in control. The user decides what he wants to watch, where and how. The World Chess Championship 2008 will bring a totally new experience of chess via the internet. A demo of FoidosChess is available at www.foidoschess.tv.

Company information: Chess Media Services

Chess Media Services BV is a Netherlands based consortium of companies that love chess and understand the value and power of the game. Chess Media Services is a consortium of dynamic companies. UEP GmbH, (Germany), DGT BV (Netherlands), Share Dimension srl. (Romania), Noterik BV (Netherlands) all bringing their expertise and power behind FoidosChess.

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