Interviews Jul 6, 2018 | 5:05 PMby Colin McGourty

Svidler: “I don’t see myself quitting commentary”

Peter Svidler finished joint second with Vassily Ivanchuk, Boris Gelfand and Georg Meier at the Gideon Japhet Cup in Jerusalem, and was the only player to beat the winner, Ian Nepomniachtchi. Shortly after that win he talked to Emil Sutovsky, with a wide-ranging discussion touching on commentary with Jan Gustafsson, the influence of computers, who’ll win Carlsen-Caruana, the FIFA World Cup and the 2038 Olympiad… and much more! You can watch the video below, and we’ve also transcribed some of the highlights.

Svidler against the backdrop of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook

The Gideon Japhet Memorial in Jerusalem is over, and in a way not much changed since our last report after four rounds. Arkadij Naiditsch won one more game, smoothly for a change, and drew his last two to finish on 6/7, half a point ahead of Mariya Muzychuk and four Israeli players.

Arkadij Naiditsch receives a cup from organiser Gilad Japhet | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook

Ian Nepomniachtchi also went on to win the Cup after scoring the only win on the final day, though before that things were shaken up. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi also got a cup for winning the Cup! | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook

On Day 3 Boris Gelfand beat Svidler in both games, then on the penultimate day mayhem was let loose. Georg Meier beat the previously unbeaten Anna Muzychuk 2:0, Vassily Ivanchuk got his first wins to beat Gelfand 2:0, and Svidler came close to beating the leader Nepomniachtchi 2:0 as well. In the end he had to be satisfied with one win, after Nepo puzzlingly repeated the line that had got Peter into so much trouble against Anna on the first day. 

A group photo after what seems to be a very friendly event | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook

The final standings looked as follows (click on any result to replay the game with computer analysis):

It’s time to get to that interview, though, which took place shortly after Svidler had beaten the tournament leader:

Peter also talked about books, music, the Russian Olympiad team and more, but we've transcribed some of the highlights below. The first topic began with Emil Sutovsky asking the notorious job interview question on where Peter sees himself in ten years:


On chess commentary

Peter Svidler: I don’t see myself quitting commentary. I think this is something that people seem to enjoy watching… and I enjoy doing it, and that’s a reasonably good combination, when something you like doing actually seems to be enjoyable as a product.

Emil Sutovsky: You seem to visibly enjoy it when you’re joined by Jan Gustafsson as a co-commentator…

Yes, a large part of why I take commentary seriously and why I do it is because of my collaboration with Jan, because once again I like chess, and I like talking about chess, but the more or less absolute freedom we have to go on rants, to discuss random stuff that just pops into our heads, to do all kinds of silly things would be a lot harder to do in a more constrained environment. The environment we have at chess24 allows us to express ourselves in ways that we enjoy. I’ve done commentary in other setups, and I’ve done commentary with other people, and I’ve also enjoyed it, because as I said, chess is a subject that still interests me, but in particular with Gusti I feel like this is a setup I would ideally like. I believe we still provide decent chess content – it’s not without merit when we actually make ourselves talk about chess – but the freedom to discuss whatever is very much part of why I do a lot of it. I do pretty much as much of it as I can. We tend to cover these days more or less everything high level that I’m not playing in - at least this is the attempt. We sometimes cannot do it for schedule reasons, but whenever we can we do it.

As a warm-up for Biel the tournament was mixed for Svidler, but he was the only player to win a mini-match against the winner, on the way to finishing 2nd | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook

On the influence of computers

The biggest thing is the phasing out of evaluating a position as “with initiative”, or “with an attack”. That’s been more or less completely phased out, because by this point when you do that it just means you’re lazy! Also very much in connection with this, the reason why this is is that the machine has very, very strongly demonstrated just how many positions which 20 years ago I would just stop looking at saying, “I will give mate here”, the machine just holds without blinking an eye. Once you bang your head against this wall for the 105th time you realise that you just cannot leave it there, because there will be an answer. Whenever the position is concrete enough and tactical enough basically either one side wins or it’s a draw. Unless it’s so complicated and so unlikely that you will ever see this position that maybe you can say, ok, this will never happen and this is why I’m stopping it here, but if you actually have an expectation of getting this on the board at any point in your career you have to continue, because you have to know the answer.

The defensive scope that the machine demonstrated to all of us is obviously the biggest change from when I was starting to what it is now - sadly we’ve all come to expect that you need to really, really sin against your position to be in a lot of trouble! You really need to do something horrendous to be in significant trouble.


On who’ll win the 2038 Olympiad

I think India… an interesting answer would be Iran, but I think they will become a force, they will start fighting for podium finishes and things like that, but to actually win the Olympiad I don’t know if 20 years is enough. But India, for sure. This generation, and I suspect the generation after it will be very similar considering the human resources they have, will be a very interesting team once they mature a little bit. All these kids who are 12, 13, 14 now, they’re not ready yet, but they will be in three, four years... The current power houses I don’t expect to disappear, but India is the obvious team that should join the conversation.


On who’ll win the FIFA World Cup

France or Brazil, I guess… It would be very cool if it came home, but I don’t think it’s coming home!

Coming home to England not Russia, of course! | photo: Gideon Japhet Memorial/Jeruchess Facebook 

On who'll win the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match

I think Magnus starts as a favourite, but I think it will be a very interesting match. I don’t expect it to be a walkover by any means.

And it’s not going to be the catenaccio which we saw in Karjakin-Carlsen?

No, it’s going to be very different, I think, because I think Fabi will actively try to win games. Sergey obviously won a game when the opportunity presented itself, but still his strategy obviously was a containing one. It’s unlikely that Fabi goes for the same. He might end up losing hugely if it goes horribly at the beginning, but I think it will be much more interesting to watch, and I also think it will be quite close.

Vassily Ivanchuk also felt the match should be fun:


It will be a very interesting fight, and I hope very interesting play too, because Caruana looks very well-prepared in the opening, so it will be not so easy for Carlsen to win this match.

That interview was much briefer, but you can also watch it below:

Peter Svidler will next be in action on July 22nd, when he starts the 10-round Accentus GM Tournament of the Biel Chess Festival. His five opponents are pretty serious: Magnus Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, David Navara and Nico Georgiadis. 

See also:


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