It wouldn't surprise me if Gukesh, Pragg, Arjun, and Nihal all win the World Championship.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Gukesh, Pragg, Arjun, and Nihal all win the World Championship.

Gelfand knows when he sees a top-level player because he has played against some of the best chess players of all time. He talks about India’s world-class players, his game, the chess boom, and his best authors. this chat

What strikes me most is how much respect the Indian players have for their teachers. Even though they are already very good players, they have a lot of respect for their teachers.

I like Gukesh’s careful calculations and the way he thinks deeply. I like how Pragg feels about the game and how he understands it without thinking about it. I like how creative Arjun is and how skilled and able to grind Nihal is.

In 2012, Boris Gelfand challenged Viswanathan Anand for the World Chess Championship. For decades, he was one of the best players in the world. He won the World Cup in 2009 and was once ranked third in the world. He was a member of the chess family in the Soviet Union that ruled the game for a long time before he moved to Israel.

He still plays in tournaments, but these days he spends more time teaching. He has worked with many Indian players, including the young guys who are taking the world by storm. Recently, Gelfand was in Kolkata to lead a training camp for India’s best athletes. He took some time to talk to The Hindu. Taken from:

How is it to work with some of the most talented young people in the world? You’ve had a great time with D. Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi, and Nihal Sarin.

What strikes me most is how much respect the Indian players have for their teachers. But even though they are already very good players, they really respect their teachers, which I think is nice. In other words, they are not only good, but also nice people. I stay in touch with all the trainers who have helped me.

What do you find most amazing about each of the “fab four” of Indian chess?

It’s important to remember that we can’t make broad statements because the players in question are so talented. They all want to get better, which is what brings them together. Among the things that make their game interesting, I like how deeply Gukesh calculates and thinks. I like how Pragg feels about the game and how he understands it without thinking about it. I like how creative Arjun is and how skilled and able to grind Nihal is.

Do you think that two Indian players could play for the World title at some point in the future?

So, it wouldn’t surprise me if they all won the World Cup. They could win 10 World Championships in the next 20 years. So why not? Their game is going the way it should. India will be the best chess player in the world in just a few years.

You’re also on the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) team.

The WACA is a great idea, especially since Anand is a part of it. Indian chess is getting better at the school.

How do you remember your match for the World Championship with Anand in Moscow? That was most likely your best chance to win the World Cup. After 12 traditional games, the score was tied at 6-6, but you lost the game that broke the tie.

I thought the World Championship was a great chance. I was thrilled when I won the Candidates, which was a qualifying event. To play in the Candidates, I had to win the World Cup first. I was really looking forward to the World Championship. I wanted to do my best, and I think I did. It was a fair game. I believe I played well enough to tie, but not enough to win. It cost me because I was too — how to say — set in my ways about my opening choices. Anand was probably surprised by the gaps, but he found a way to solve the problem.

It was played in Mexico City with eight players and was a round-robin style. Before that, you came in third place at the World Championship in 2007. You came in third, after Anand and Kramnik.

It was likely for me. I was after him all the time (Anand). But maybe I wasn’t tough enough, because it took me a long time to get invited to the best events. In five years, I played in maybe two of the best events. Unlike the others, I didn’t have much experience, so I wasn’t tough or sure of myself.

Chess is likely the only sport that did better during the lockdown caused by Covid. A lot more people are doing it now.

I think that the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit has also helped make the game more famous. It made a huge number of people very interested in chess. It got harder to find chess sets back in Israel. People from all walks of life can play chess thanks in large part to the Queen’s Gambit. My friend is one of the best chess event planners in Europe. He told me that one series did more to promote chess than all the work he did for 40 years.

You are from the same age as Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Alexei Shirov, and Vassily Ivanchuk, all of whom are very good at what they do.

Of course. When people tell me these days that this guy is very skilled, I say, “Come on.” I played when Karpov, Kasparov, Ivanchuk, Anand, and Kramnik were alive. It’s hard to make me happy. Ivanchuk came in second place when I won the junior title in the Soviet Union. He is truly talented, without a doubt one of the best I have ever seen. I wish he put together a book of his best games with notes on how he won. It will be a wonderful present for chess players. I might ask him to write, but his country, Ukraine, is at war right now.

How do you remember playing chess in the Soviet Union?

People did get awards every once in a while. There were training camps where they gave us money every day. The Iron Curtain kept us from going to Europe. My first trip to Europe was when I was 19. I was 17 years old the first time I played a player from another country. A.B. Meetei was the player from India, and I played him on the second board. My city, Minsk, played against an Indian team that was visiting the Soviet Union on a tour. By far, the best Indian player on that team was Pravin Thipsay. Then we had a blitz event, which I won all of.

Besides chess, what else do you like?

I enjoy sports. I enjoy reading.

Who are your best authors?

One of my favourite short story writers is Anton Chekhov. Another two are Somerset Maugham and Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Not only do I like Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov, but I also like Mikhail Bulgakov.

In Russia, there were some great writers, such as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Not so much Dostoyevsky, but a lot Tolstoy. I read Anna Karenina again not long ago.

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