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Friday, January 7, 2011

Glimpses into the life of a chess grandmaster by Peter Svidler

Chess news and chess trivia blog (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Find more great photos of GM Peter Svidler at

Hello Everybody,

As part of the Crestbook KC-Conference Project, a grandmaster answers questions from readers - in Russian at Crestbook and in English at You can read all the questions (Part 1 & 2) at these sites but the Part 2 was just published and here is an excerpt of some very nice answers. Enjoy!

  • ChemaAnton: Hello, Peter! Which engine do you use for analysis? (if it’s not a secret). Тактик: Which chess programs do you prefer – which engines do you use?
I’ve put together quite a large collection – although I’ve also seen much more complete menageries than mine. At the moment the ones I use most are Houdini, Fire and Rybka.

  • Tim Cutler: When you are walking down the street calculating variations in your head, do you see a three-dimensional chess board or a two-dimensional computer screen?
I hope that question will not result in my never being able to calculate ever again, as happened with the centipede which was asked which leg it moves after the 27th left one :) 3D, I think.

  • gambiteer: Hello, Peter! I’m 14 years old and my level is about 1900 Elo. I’m very interested in the Budapest Gambit and I’ve been playing it for a long time. It’s well-known that you often played it in your childhood, and I’d like to know your opinion on it (how much did it help you in your chess development, is it correct, to what level is it possible to play it, and what would you play against it yourself?).
I don’t think Black fully equalises in the Budapest, but it’s playable, or at least I only abandoned it after already having become an international master. For me the final straw was a game with Kramnik, where he played 4. e3 Nxe5 5. Nh3 and I realised that even against such an unassuming approach Black couldn’t fully resolve his opening problems. It’s hard to judge how much it helped my chess development – in my youth I played a lot of unassuming/half-correct openings, mainly in order to study less theory, and I suspect that such an approach didn’t work in my favour later on.

  • Роман Ефимов: Perhaps it’s not worth wasting a lot of time on the opening and it’s better to play according to “common sense”, sidestepping at move 7-8 in order to get little-studied positions and create at the board? [...] After all, it’s not through openings that you become World Champion (even in the 2000s).
It strikes me that you have a poor idea of the amount of work that Morozevich did at home in order to “get little-studied positions and create at the board”. As I already said above, it’s currently extremely difficult to avoid theory and not end up with an absolutely equal position as White (or a very bad position as Black), and for that you need to do about the same amount of work as you do studying “tabiyas” after the 20th move. It’s another matter that it’s much more interesting to look at fresh and untried positions.

You don’t become a World Champion through openings, of course, but with poor openings you won’t become one at all.
  • Shlavik: You’re a good blitz player. Does that ability help you to take decisions quickly in time trouble in real life, and have you had such situations? After all, sometimes life provides much less time for considering and taking decisions, and the consequences are much more serious, than in blitz.
More likely the opposite – chess conditions you to try and calculate the consequences of this or that decision, and it’s very difficult to get away from that habit in real life. But life, in contrast to chess, is a game of incomplete information, and such calculations often do more harm than good.
  • Блаженный поэт: What’s your attitude to music as a whole, and what does it mean for you? Do you play any instrument(s)? What, in your view, do music and chess have in common?
My mother graduated from the Conservatory and is an Honoured Teacher of Russia, so that I grew up with music and that was precisely the main reason for my blunt refusal to study it. It’s very hard to listen to “Little sun, little sun, look in the window” [Editor’s note: Russian folk song for children] five times a week from the adjoining room and for it not to harden your soul. Of late I’ve listened to music less than in my youth, but even now having my favourite album in my earphones is a preferred means of recharging my batteries and getting over the blues. As for the link between music and chess, I don’t see any direct link but, it seems to me, a truly beautiful game is almost music.

From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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  • At January 7, 2011 at 10:41 AM , Anonymous Alexis Cochran, New Zealand said...

    I love Svidler's approach towards life and chess. Very Interesting. I liked his games at the Russian Superfinal though too bad he didn't win the title.

  • At January 8, 2011 at 8:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One of these was my question. It's a super project.


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