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Peter Leko: I was in control Print E-mail
Friday, 24 November 2006

Peter Leko was named the winner of the Tal Memorial according to the tiebreak. It seems to be a fair decision – not only his Berger is better than such of the other two co-winners, but also the ‘Aeroflot-tiebreak’, which is the number of Blacks vs. Whites, favors the Hungarian grandmaster. Meeting our correspondent, Peter was really happy to switch to English after giving a number of interviews to the Russian media in Russian.

Peter Leko is an exemplary man

When I first heard of this tournament, I immediately agreed to play. First of all, I think this is a very good timing. Autumn is generally quite empty, albeit this year it was special because of the match between Kramnik and Topalov, and of course, I was following it very closely. I was quite happy to play in Moscow. This is not my first visit to Moscow. I played here in 1994 at the Olympiad, and took part in the Petrosian match. I think it is very nice to have a supertournament in Moscow, and I hope it will be more frequent than once in 40 years. After all, Moscow is one of the strongest chess-playing cities in the world. I think it shouldn’t be such a big problem for such a metropolis to support a world-class tournament. Overall, the tournament was quite successful in my opinion.

Are you satisfied with the way it was organized – the playing hall, the hotel, etc.?

Everything is fine. We have no complaints at all. Even the weather was fine, despite a couple of days of snowing, so I survived even with my summer shoes.

What were the key games for your performance in this tournament?

I think this “plus two” is quite a good result. If you also realize that both other players who got “plus two” had five Whites, while I had only four Whites, and five not so easy Black games… This is already a disadvantage. But still, my only problem was my first White game against Grischuk! Very strange! He made a novelty that I knew, and I was the one who was better prepared. When he suddenly realized that he ran into my preparation, he was in shock, and made the only move that was not losing immediately. I knew that the computer gives “+-”, but when I started looking deeper, I was surprised to discover that the things are more complicated. However, as I still had a feeling that I must play for a win, I underestimated the danger. Only one move later I understood and offered a draw, but it was already too late. He also understood everything and tortured me for hours, and after all it was just a miracle that I escaped. But you know, I wasn’t outplayed or something – such things just happen.

After that I think I was in control in every game. The game against Gelfand gave me a big satisfaction, because it was a very good game played in a very good style. I beat him in his own field, as he is one of the biggest specialists in this line of the Slav. This was a very good feeling. And then I had a very good game against Aronian. I handled it very well, but I was still under the spell of the Gelfand game, tried to keep everything under control, calculated too much, which was clearly not very practical. Aronian is known to be very tricky, and somehow he managed to escape. Then there was a game against Morozevich, a big fight, where he made a serious mistake at one point, but my position was of course pleasant. I always had the pressure, and once he offered me a chance, I used it.

The victory over Gelfand was a perfect example of positional chess

This brought me to “plus two” with two more Black games to play. I equalized against Carlsen, but at the key moment he rejected repeating the moves, and ended up in a very bad position. I think I played really well, but after the time control I blew the advantage in one move. I missed the chance, and the game ended in a draw.

On the next day Mamedyarov played a very solid Spanish setup. Not the Breyer, unfortunately…

Yes, what about the Breyer?

This was a very unlucky moment. I knew that line’s refutation since 1999. If I played him in the beginning, this would be a free point…

What can you say about the other two co-winners of the Memorial?

I think that Ponomariov was quite impressive. He started very well, which gave him confidence, but he also played very good. And Aronian’s play is always a bit tricky. His games are never so clean, but to achieve good results he has to be outstanding in some other aspects. He is a very good fighter, a very good calculator, and a tricky player! I think this “plus two” from his play was the maximum. He won a completely drawn position against Carlsen, but overall I can’t say he did not deserve his result. He was fighting in every game.

Grischuk made a very good impression on me. He was fantastically prepared in general. People told me that he is not studying chess so seriously anymore, but he was prepared fantastically in every line and also played very energetically. However, two unlucky losses in the beginning could not be compensated, and he ended up at 50 per cent. Gelfand had a good tournament, Morozevich and Svidler cannot be satisfied. We all know they are excellent players, but somehow it did not work out for them well.

The family will be happy

What happens to Morozevich in tournaments of such level in your opinion?

It is kind of a tradition. Maybe his style and opening preparation are not the best against the category 20. However, thanks to the same style and preparation he is very effective against slightly weaker lineup, so it is all compensated. But he is of course unique and very original player.

Talking about styles: Leko and Ponomariov, two out of three winners of the Tal Memorial, are considered positionally sound and solid players. Does it means that this style prevails in modern chess?

No, I would not think so. True, we are mostly strategic players, but to be best in chess one has to be universal. Because of this mess of preparation you cannot just play brilliant. We know that Morozevich is very original, but he did not produce any original games here, because the opponents were depriving him of the chance to play original. He doesn’t get the opportunity. Also my Rc8 move against Aronian was made absolutely without preparation, and I think this was the move absolutely in the spirit of Tal. If I won the game, I think I would win the best game prize, but even having drawn the game, I still feel very happy about this Rc8 concept. If I not repeated the moves, but continued correctly, this would lead to a pawn-up endgame, which is once again my style (laughs)!

Peter Leko holds the main prize

What will be your next tournament?

I am not playing in Wijk ann Zee, as I need rest. This year I did not have rest at all, I was just working and playing. Now I’ll relax a bit, then prepare for Linares, then it is Monaco and supposed matches… I would just like to add that in general I believe that the correct way of fighting for the classical title is matches. I don’t think this 8-player tournament is the best solution. Of course, it is up to FIDE to reconsider their system, but I firmly believe that the fate of the title should be determined in a face-to-face contest. This shows romantic side of chess. Even people remote from chess are following such matches, because they are long, exciting, and the conflict between two best players is very easy to understand.

However, I don’t think FIDE can change the regulations for the current cycle – what do you think?
I don’t know the practical way of how it should be implemented, but it should definitely be the direction.

Questions – Misha Savinov
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