27 December 2017

Peter Svidler: Trying my best not to get bored

Eight-time Russian Champion answers Vladimir Barsky’s questions

– Peter, my congratulations on your victory! How did you feel playing in your native city?

– St.Petersburg has long since been missing major chess events, and I was aware that home play would come for me as a challenge rather than vice versa. On the other hand, home field is a good thing. I am not as selfish as to focus only on how it is going to affect me. St.Petersburg undoubtedly needs big tournaments and their long absence is nothing to be proud of at all.

I did my best in the way of fighting, but it all boiled down to a miracle. It might sound somewhat strange if the tournament winner starts off by admitting that another person should have won but for what had happened in round 10... The major part of my game against Fedoseev saw me as a spectator observing the game at close range. A draw would have enabled me to go on contesting for the shared second, leaving the gold out of my reach for others to claim. I definitely needed to try seize on a presented opportunity and, aware of new horizons that opened up for me all of a sudden, I managed to readjust to new realities.

Vladimir Fedoseev - Peter Svidler

I have had many such games in my life, when after clawing for a draw for a long time, the tide would suddenly turn to favor me; however, my mind would be so deeply entrenched in the old thinking that I used to make draws as if on autopilot. With hindsight, you start regretting: “The final picture was pretty promising already!” (laughing). When such instances would repeat in my career,  I would feel frustrated about standing worse all the way through the game and then agreeing to a draw when the opponent would do things that he was not obliged to do. With 30 seconds on my clock against Fedoseev, I succeeded in convincing myself to go on fighting.

– Was it correct of him to offer a draw while down a pawn?

– Vladimir was unlikely aware at that moment that his position was problematic already. It looked as though a pawn is reclaimed soon after massive trades. I bear Volodya’s proposal no ill thinking whatsoever. I went on not because I stood significantly better, but because the tournament standings obliged me to persist. My mindset was: the game would rather finish in a draw after massive liquidations of chess wood, and we would call it a day. However, I felt obliged to double check.

Given this opportunity, I went on to do whatever depended on me. Despite this, there occurred one in a million event to allow my participation in the home stretch race. In general, my championship performance was decent, but both Volodya Fedoseev and Danya Dubov demonstrated more interesting and spectacular chess, whereas Nikita Vitiugov’s performance was most consistent. How come I ended up victorious in the first place?

– It seems like there is no avoiding at least one bad game per tournament, and you made up your mind to have it in the very beginning, right?

– Well, how can I put it better? When a tournament really goes your way, you have no misfires like that. Thus, back in 2011 I took the Russian Championship with one round to go, and in 2013 I started off so powerfully that my performance was uniform throughout. My usual success recipe does not include things like round two. I managed to bounce back somehow.

While Daniil played very good chess against me, I do like the way he performs now. With so many ideas under his belt, he fears nothing, which is a key component for any young player - a sort of athletic fearlessness. He is absolutely free of any second thoughts about what he does and if it is likely to fail him.

After all, what happened in your game against Daniil? This is not my first day in this business, and, what gnawed at me most after the game, was realizing pretty early in the game that it was not one of my days. In principle, I understand what and how  you are supposed do. I did have opportunities to wrap up the fight and minimize the damage. However, my career is now in such a phase that it no longer works for me without having to motivate myself, artificially at times. when I challenge such players as Daniil -- creative, interesting, not trying to stifle your play -- it additionally prompts me into avoiding any boredom on the chess board. At that particular moment, however, I had better resign myself to doing something boring instead! This is because that day he was two heads above me in whatever had to do with avoiding boredom!

It goes without saying that I was very fortunate to have had that game with Sergey Volkov in round three. It was exactly what I needed to recharge myself psychologically as fast as possible. It happens when you unearth an idea like the one I did against Sergey...It's not even that I won the game immediately after going down, but that I pulled off a beautiful counterintuitive piece sacrifice on short notice, and intuitively in many ways - I did not try to calculate it till the very end. I just saw that it looked beautiful and decided to let it be as it may. And it did restore me considerably because having to relive a game like that against Daniil gives you really awful feelings. 

Then I chalked up a good hard-work victory over Evgeny Romanov...

– Prior to that I had had a combative draw against Ernesto Inarkiev...

– In that game I also spotted a piece sacrifice idea by move 10. I could later win it back, but convinced myself otherwise as running counter to the initial sacrifice idea. 

– Would it be a draw If you were to take the piece back? 

– Had I believed a draw to be absolutely trouble free, I would have probably reclaimed the missing material.  Honestly speaking, I am not absolutely sure about it. Even my victory over Sergey only landed me into a fifty percent score, whereas others sported a truckload of wins by the moment; therefore, I did not rate myself as a race participant, but just as a player solving some intrinsic dilemma. The main of them is trying my best not to get bored. Boredom tends to affect my performance negatively. I was extremely happy to have found ways to create this chaos.

Moreover. When Ernesto and I were interviewed after the game, we claimed as one that the engine is likely to refute the idea, which looks tempting in a practical game nonetheless. In truth, however, it turned out that until I started carrying sheer nonsense with a minute on my clock, the game was of quite decent quality. While not without errors, it was of quite decent quality. In fact, the solutions I evaluated as good were such in reality. The engine suggests other things, of course, but does not feel like criticizing my moves harshly. It was yet another positive aspect. This is so because when having such complicated a game and then hearing an unbiased critic telling you that the game was not a failure content-wise, it surely boosts your confidence.

– Was your game versus Evgeny Romanov of a good quality?

– i got nothing out of the opening, but when he gave me something to hook up to, I committed no inaccuracies afterwards, I believe. That was a pretty decent game indeed.

It was followed by a tournament period when I did my best but...At some point I stood worse against Alexander Riazantsev, and definitely worse against Sanan Sjugirov. I attempted to paint something meaningful on the chess board, but people did it even better. I was granted slight amnesties - to a greater degree by Sanan than Alexander. In between was an encounter against Evgeny Tomashevsky, which I cannot put down as one of my big achievements. They regard me as a historically decent Ruy Lopez player, but there came a moment when I started misplacing my pieces. It is invariably distressing, because I've read many books on this topic and usually know what plans should be carried out in similar structures. This time, however, I mishandled my pieces, and it was a draw in the end. 

It was not that bad in terms of content, though: a person was clearly seen creating something on the board In general, however, it was only +1 with two rounds to go ... Playing Black against Fedoseev was of utmost importance, the game which I channeled into the most combative setup that I know, but ... There was an interval of two moves, when an absolutely unrestrained desire to play for victory in any position failed Volodya to a certain extent; alternatively, I had a good position as well, but for a very short stretch only. The way it happened I tried to equalize for the entire game, and when I finally did it, he was out of luck that it was move 35 rather than 41. If it were move 41, he could have caught his breath and offer a draw. It being move 35, he followed up by making more active moves by inertia than he should have. The new realities had him putting up a decent fight for a lengthy period, but a second’s madness resulted in my winning the game in the end.

Other than that, I have little to complain about what was happening in the final tournament day. I seem to have performed well during all three games (including the tie-break games - Vladimir Barsky) I had a very decent game against Vladimir Malakhov. You cannot squeeze a lot out of the Four Knights Defence. Scrambling a victory over such a classy and orthodox player as Vladimir with almost nothing to capitalize upon is always a pleasant experience. You never know with Vladimir how next game is going to turn out!

Peter Svidler - Vladimir Malakhov

Both Nikita and I were extremely exhausted when it came to the tie-break. Game two virtually does not count since I won game one In game one I was equalizing and equalizing and a moment came  when I’d equalized to such a degree that I could go on fighting for more!  Well, Nikita was the last one to blunder.

Prior to the start of tie-break games. Nikita Vitiugov, Peter Svidler, Maxim Matlakov and Alexander Riazantsev

– Did number 8 come as a strong incentive during the Сhampionship?

– It was a motivator indeed. Not that I was determined to shine in the record books, but rather because I wanted to win the tournament. It is these tournaments that I have been historically successful at. However, the recent years have given me no grounds for such feelings as I scored  fifty percent twice and minus one on one occasion. These tournaments affording me one of the chances to win something during the year has always been lurking in the back of my mind. All that belongs to psychology to a significant degree. There are certain tournaments that I have never won in my life. When playing in those events, I have no feelings that I know how to win them. It does stand in my way. It is the opposite with the Russian Championship. Even when it does not really come my way, I can draw from a lengthy history of participating in these tournaments. It gives me reasons to reassert myself: I have been here before, I know I can make it!

– This Superfinal is very different from its previous editions, right? It looks like a very lively event! 

– It has been a very combative competition indeed! The tone was set by youngsters; but for their efforts it would have been otherwise. Nikita and I scored seven points put together, which is quite a number for this tight an event. Nevertheless, our tournament pace was very pragmatic. The youngsters, however, tend to rock the house big time! And, looking at them, the old horse starts to flare nostrils as well.

Daniil Dubov, Nikita Vitiugov and Peter Svidler

– How does it feel  like playing withing the premises of a museum?

– it is a pleasant experience. "Mind you, woman, that besides a trough and stove you have a school as well!” And the woman was mindful of it for the entire tournament! (laughing). Generally speaking, some tables were better situated than others. Beside certain tables the walls display such content that you rather feel like reading than playing chess. The game against Evgeny Tomashevsky had me seated in the proximity of the letter written by Grand Duchess Elena Serbskaya, dedicated to what she and her family experienced during the Winter Palace storming. Extremely interesting historical documents are on the display there. The opposite wall hangs absolutely fantastic texts about personal life of workers and peasant women. "I'm not going to marry my sweet friend in church, but will go to the red commissar instead ..." There are lots of interesting things to enrich your wealth of knowledge!

– Was it  of a distractive nature?

– Somewhat. However, it was distractive in a good sense; it is better like this than vice versa.

I keep repeating same things not because I feel obliged to do so, but because I do think this way. I enjoy the Chess In Museums program. Museums differ - some of them are better suited to serve as chess venues, others not so, but the idea of staying away from lifeless halls with walls of the overboiled cabbage color in favor of those filled with own spirit is terribly appealing to me. It left me extremely happy!


Pictures by Vladimir Barsky