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Genna Sosonko: the chess board and emotions is what unites us Print E-mail
Monday, 13 November 2006

The former trainer of Mikhail Tal, the well-known Dutch Grandmaster Genna Sosonko comments on the tournament games in the hall for the spectators. The remarkable chess author kindly assented to share his impressions of the Tal Memorial with the visitors of our site. The interview took place before the sixth round.

Genna Sosonko
The atmosphere at the tournament is quite homely. The club I wrote about, as it was, say, 15 years ago, has changed a lot. I mean – not only the outward appearance, renovation, etc., but also the atmosphere. It’s nice just to be here and, it seems, to play here as well.

As for the level of the tournament itself, we have this all-stars field thanks to the organizers. I mean – not only the search for sponsors which in itself is far from simple. It is also necessary to bring together players who constitute the elite of the world chess, with the exception maybe of two or three names. And all the participants are not just working off, but are trying to put something of their soul into each game. Without it there wouldn’t be such an atmosphere and such a tournament. I am glad that the tournament promises to become traditional.

A few worlds about my work here. Together with Sergei Dolmatov, we are commenting on the games for the public. However, communicating with the tournament guests does not involve commentaries alone. People would like to hear the latest news, to find out something about Mikhail Nekhemyevich, a wonderful player and person. Yesterday, for example, Mark Dvoretsky shared with us his recollections of Tal, how they played each other and analyzed together.

Mark Izrailevich, who, however paradoxically it may sound there days, is at the time a Honored trainer of both Russia and Georgia, had shown to the public some interesting fragments of Misha’s games.

As for the public, well, it is the same everywhere – in Wijk an Zee, in Israel, where I have recently commented on the games of the World Blitz Championship, and in Moscow. You can see that the people would like not only to here about the game, but also to play. So, regardless the chess level, the element of competitiveness is emerging. They would like to stop just watching and sit at the board. Their skill may be very different: a master or even a grandmaster may drop in, but sometimes you can hear: “What will be if you put the Dame next to the Tower”. I have now sufficient experience and has become as patient as an angel – regrettably I lacked it before. So now I answer even such questions. A couple of days ago, when Aronian overlooked a one-mover to lose his Queen, I said: “Look, outstanding grandmasters, who have gathered here, can also become nervous, take something too close to heart, miss a simple blow. This is what unites us all – the chess board and human emotions.” Needless to say, there are fewer spectators than during the soviet chess era. The reason is very simple – life itself has changed a lot. I can recollect how at the opening ceremony of the Kasparov – Karpov rematch in London the tournament director had led to me Margaret Thatcher. The first lady asked me why chess was so popular in the Soviet Union and I remembered Alekhine’s reply to this question – “what else have they got to do?” – which Mrs. Thatcher obviously liked. But today many in Russia have” something to do” – the world has opened up for them. This is one explanation. The other one, of course, is the Internet. Instead of coming to the club, say, from Butovo, one can get all the games from internet, even with commentaries, at home.

Here a Soviet-time joke comes to my mind. It is about a Georgian who returned to Tbilisi (you see, the interview is becoming more and more engaged politically) from Moscow. They ask him whether he has been to the Mausoleum. He says – no, I had given ten roubles to the guard, he took him out and carried it back.

This way of communication – thank God, the site is operating – also has the right to exist. Everyone chooses for himself just how he would like to be acquainted with the creations of outstanding grandmasters.

It is the second time that I have called them out-standing. I am sure that on seeing this epithet the participants of the tournament won’t get a swelled head. Today, they are indeed the best grandmasters in the world. Each of them plays for a win in his own way. Some spectators complain about too many draws. However, in order that Misha-style attacks with sacrifices on e6, f5, etc. could succeed, gross blunders have to be made by the opponents or such risks should be taken that are hardly permissible at this level. Here everything is well-matched, the field is very even, and there is hardly anyone to pounce upon. So if there is a claim to be made, it should be not to the grandmasters, but to the game itself, which, apart from emotions, is a finite mathematical problem. After a while it will become clear whether White’s initial advantage is enough to win. Intuitively, it seems to me that it is not – Black holds the position with the best play. Chess has been explored very deeply, especially the opening phase. Today, as compared with our time, preparation is much more complicated, including a daily search for all important information. What if a useful game has already been played in the Russia Cup? Everything should be checked – and more than once.
Here is a fresh example. Breakfast is served in our hotel till half past eleven. I get up early and never encounter the participants at breakfast. But once I dot up later than usual. Some players started to appear at a quarter to eleven, though far from all. The majority still sleeps so that, I believe, to get up about one p. m., get a snack, and go to the game. Of old there were players whom we call owls, but still they did not stay up so long, or if they did, it was in a bar or over a game of cards. Some asked: “Look, what does Ivkov play to 1. d4? Have you got the latest Informant? I need to look up that game”. And that was that. Neither Tal nor Korchnoi, whom I used to accompany to tournaments, had any special records or notebooks with them.

The chess players, who have gathered together here, are very interesting. Yesterday, Ponomariov, whose exceptional endgame technique I would like to mention, pressed Svidler very hard.

Aronian is a brilliant player with his own vision of the position. In the fifth round, Leko had a highly interesting game with Aronian. As Arshak (Petrosian) told me, Peter let slip a win in one move and even in the final position he had a big advantage.

Carlsen, - he is not yet sixteen years old, but he is a fantastic professional, I hold him in a very high esteem, and have no doubts that a bright future lies ahead of him. By the way, he is quite versatile, a huge reader, speaks several languages, etc. I am not sure that in Russia there is a player to compare with him. Maybe he makes some impulsive mistakes, but I remember how he played Bareev – only compliments!

Sasha Grischuk has so far been lagging behind. The reason, methinks, is that Caissa is a goddess not only jealous, but also revengeful, she hates to have rivals. There is nothing bad that in your life other (non-chess) interests appear, but you’ll have to pay for that. For some reason unknown to me, Sasha is not playing in the tournament that is to start in three weeks – the Russian Championship Superfinal. I cannot offer him advice, but it seems to me that he is doing the wrong thing. Of course, he is 23 years old, a very young man. On the other hand, Mikhail Nekhemyevich became World Champion at this age, and, compared to his time, the age when one leaves active playing has become younger. Nowadays, a chess player who is 40 years of age is a veteran, to be compared to a football player at 30 or a tennis play at 28.

The senior of the tournament is Boris Gelfand, Alexei Shirov next to him in age. (I remember very well how the fifteen-year-old Alexei sat beside me here, in this club when I came to Moscow with Piket). They can still play very good chess, but today, when we preliminarily sum up, they have won only one game between them and lost two. Now young players start playing from a very early age and the exhaustion comes sooner to them, accordingly. Therefore, this is what I would like to say to everyone who thinks that after this tournament there will be the next, then another and yet another one. There will be no tomorrow! You should win now and only now. In the sixth round which is to start in a quarter of an hour.

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