Person of day - 17 JUNE 2020
Peter Svidler was born on 17 June 1976 in St Petersburg, where he lives to this day. Peter began to play chess in 1983. His first successes came quickly- in 1991, he split 1-3 places - at the world U16 championship. In 1994, he became the world U18 champion and a grandmaster; he won his first Russian championship in that same year. He would go on to win seven more Russian championships (in 1995, 1997, 2003, 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2017), more than Mikhail Botvinnik.
Peter quickly became one of the strongest chess players in Russia, and then in the world. In 1997, he was one of the winners of a super tournament in Tilburg, where he memorably defeated Kasparov, before winning similar super tournaments in Dortmund in 1998 and Biel in 2000. The grandmaster has played for the Russian national team for many years, usually with great success: he won 5 gold and 2 silver medals and triumphed at team world and European championships.
“Everything is fine with the psychological condition of the team. Yes, we are probably the tournament’s favourites, but Olympiads are no longer dominated by single teams, no matter how strong. The tournament is very difficult and at least five teams are capable of challenging for first place. These are not Soviet times, where every failure to win was painful, since it challenged our entire worldview. Nowadays, the situation is totally different. But that does not override the fact that failure to win the Olympiad in the last five or six attempts is bad, very bad. However, it is important to understand that the situation that the Soviet Union and then the Russian team found itself in is long gone.” (P. Svidler)
Peter regularly played in different world championships. In the 2001 FIDE world championship, Svidler reached the semi-final. At the 2005 championship in St Louis, he came second, after Topalov. 2011 was a very successful year for Peter: he performed spectacularly at the Russian championship, winning the tournament with one round to go, he won the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, where he defeated his friend Alexander Grischuk, whom he also helped as second in candidates’ matches in Kazan in 2011, and he won the European Champions’ Cup with the St Petersburg Chess Federation.
Victory at the 2011 World Cup enabled Svidler to play in the candidates’ matches once again. At the 2013 tournament in London, Peter came third, after Carlsen and Kramnik. Towards the end of 2013, Peter became the champion of Russia for the sixth time.
“Magnus is a very capable young man with a strong psyche. All the qualities that are necessary to be a good chess player came together in one man. He plays chess very, very well, and I don’t think there is a secret behind this. It’s just that Carlsen is a remarkably gifted young man with the appropriate sporting instincts, who is ready to fight for victory in every match. He does not have that softness that is characteristic to most sportsmen. He does not have it at all, and, when combined with an enormous talent, that forms a killer combination.” (P. Svidler)
Peter Svidler continues to fight for the chess crown. At the 2014 candidates’ tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, he was the nominee of the host country, and he qualified for the next tournament through the rigorous World Cup. The Russian’s blows felled heavyweights such as Teimour Radjabov, Veselin Topalov, Wei Yi, Anish Giri and only in a dramatic final did Peter lose to Sergey Karjakin.
At another qualifying tournament (in Moscow in 2016), Svidler split 4thplace, but Peter played a huge role in the race for the first place when he defended quite unpleasant endgame against Fabiano Caruana in the penultimate round. Peter also won the 2015 European championship with the Russian team. Playing at the first board, Svidler finished the entire tournament undefeated and brought his team a valuable point in the match against Ukraine when he beat Vasily Ivanchuk. He confirmed his reputation as a team player in the Russian club championship in 2016: his team came first, overtaking super clubs from Siberia and Moscow.
During the last few years, Peter Svidler has combined performing and commenting at high-level tournaments- thankfully, the grandmaster’s English is as good as his Russian. Based on reviews and surveys, the seven-time Russian champion is consistently among the top 3 commentators.
Despite his impressive results, many analysts believe that Peter is capable of more, so great is his chess potential. Svider is a wonderful tactician who has defeated many of the world’s best chess players in spectacular games.
“I have always read a lot and continue to do so. A major part of my life used to be music, but that is no longer a major part of my day for several reasons. Snooker has also, alas, taken a back seat. When I was interested in it, I played regularly for long periods. I still watch high-level snooker and enjoy it immensely, but since I spend so little time at home, it would be unforgivable to play five or six hours a day every day, like in the old days. So I had to quit snooker- and it’s far less interesting to watch snooker than to play it. But cricket remains a central part of my life.” (P. Svidler)
The grandmaster is married and has twin sons.