Person of day - 5 MARCH 2024
Anatoly Vaisser is one of the few chess players to be a candidate of sciences. The future grandmaster made his start in the scientific field.
“I was born on 5th March in Alma-Ata and there I spent my childhood and school years, other than the three years when I lived in Semipalatinsk. After school, I enrolled at Novosibirsk University, from where I graduated cum laude. Then there was graduate school in Tomsk and a candidate’s dissertation on “The problems of the difficulty and steadiness of probabilistic algorithms”. As far as I know, there aren’t too many grandmaster-candidates in the world, perhaps about ten people. The opening phrase of my synopsis- “accident is no longer viewed an only an obstacle…”- was the target of friends’ jokes, which often substituted the first world for “accidental contacts”.
I regarded chess as merely a game for a long time, they were somewhere on the side. I played little at university and I had to abandon them completely for three years at graduate school. I graduated and saw that those I beat in juniors’ tournaments were now champions. This made me reconsider and when I was Lev Psakhis’ second during his victorious Soviet championships in 1980 and 1981 and I saw all the strongest grandmasters from proximity, I realised that they were not so frightening. And I decided to work a little. In 1982, I became the champion of Russia, in 1983 I received my first point towards grandmaster for splitting 1st place with Sveshnikov in a tournament in Sochi and in 1985 in Havana, I won the tournament, my second point and the title.” (A. Vaisser)
Despite becoming a master of sport in 1968, Vaisser did not really start his career until the 1980s and that was largely the achievement of Vera Tikhomirova- a kind patron of Russian chess. As a member of the RSFSR, Anatoly won the Spartakiad of the Soviet Union. In 1987, he split 2nd-3rd places with Vishy Anand at a large tournament in Delhi. As a member of Novosibirsk’s team “Vector”, he distinguished himself at the Soviet championship and made it to the quarter-finals of the European Cup.
Later on, he won two European champions’ cups with team “Lyon”.
“In 1990, I was invited to play and train in France. I originally went for six months, then for one year and I assimilated and stayed. I tried everything in chess: book-writing, articles, training, managing and playing. I achieved my main success in rapid chess. In 1993, I won a tournament in Oviedo that was attended by half of the world’s strongest chess players. It is also nice to remember the 2:0 victory against Anand at the Parisian Grand Prix Inter in 1994. In 1996, I got my second citizenship and the right to play in French championships and one year later, I became the national champion.” (A. Vaisser)
He played for France at two chess Olympiads, in 1998 and 2002. Later on, aside from his job as trainer, he worked with stock market algorithm and organized a match between Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Zhukov, in which the famous politician, who played at the level of a strong candidate for sports master, had the chance to ask for a computer’s advice several times.
During his retirement, he won four (!) seniors’ world championships. He is the author of a book about his friend- Mikhail Muhin, a talented chess player who died young and he wrote a theoretical work Beating the King’s Indian and Benoni.
The Parisian resident has played several times against world champion Mikhail Tal, with whom he had a score of 2:1, Boris Spassky, where one draw is recorded, Anatoly Karpov, to whom he trails 0,5:1,5, Garry Kasparov, who leads 1:0 and Vishy Anand, whom Vaisser leads 3:1.
“One of my most memorable matches was in 1981 at the Soviet team championship, in a match between Russia and Azerbaijan. I played against Kasparov. There is an amusing story connected with this. I played white; as it turned out afterwards, with a draw I tied with Kasparov for 1st place. I was asked before the match whether I would play for the draw. I replied: “No! Why would I? I will just play. I want to enjoy my game against the legendary chess player.” That was how I formulated my aim- to enjoy myself and to play for chess, not for victory. Things turned out wonderfully: I spotted a novel opportunity and was poised to win after 17 moves. Meanwhile, I was playing with ease, which directly contrasted with his unquenchable intensity…
The truth came out after the match. Garry told me that a beautiful woman who played for one of the teams, who was admired by half the tournament, including him, decided to play a joke on him. She heard how I spoke of my intention to win and told him before the tournament that I promised to defeat him in public. Kasparov’s feelings are understandable: he was already one of the world’s strongest chess players and here some master, about whom no one heard anything for several years, was making these bold statements!
And so, in this serene situation, where I had 90 minutes left in an amazing position, and he had 10, I made an unforgivable mistake: I decided that it was over. It seemed that the match would win by itself. The Black had no knights, the white pawn was advancing on f6, then the queen on h6…but one must never underestimate great players. Kasparov came up with a genius defence and after two unprecise moves, there was no mate and an endgame that was favourable for Black stood on the board. After 40 moves, the match was postponed and I gave it up without playing it on. Despite the defeat, it is special to me. For Kasparov, that match was also memorable- later, he included it in textbooks. According to him, in those years, he usually only had to use 70% of his strength during games, but there he had to use the full 100%!” (A. Vaisser)