Alexander Morozevich

Winner of the Biel Grandmaster tournament 2004:

ęI am able to play even betterĽ

(Interview by Olivier Breisacher)

Alexander Morozevich celebrated his 27th birthday on the eve of his first game in the Biel Grandmaster tournament. Ten days later, he enjoyed a stunning win in this Category 18 event,. Winner in both 2003 and in 2004, the Muscovite becomes the first player to defend his title successfully: 8 points out of 10 in 2003 (category 16), 7,5 points out of 10 this year, 11 wins, 9 draws and no defeat: in all, a truly impressive achievement.

Between his two visits to Biel 2003 and 2004, his record has also been quite incredible: sharing 1st place (with Svidler) in the Russian championship, winning a gold medal with Russia at the European team championship, assisting Tomsk to victory in the Russian team championships, and taking overall first in the Monaco Amber event (rapid and blind games).

The manner of his more than convincing performance, and not least his original style and flair for improvisation were among the highlights of the 37th Biel International Chess Festival. Entries were up by 5% over last year and the event was held in the newly renovated Congress Hall which now boasts extremely welcome air conditioning.

The new website, designed by a professional firm from Geneva (New Access) was also a great success. In the course of the Festival, 110,000 different people visited Moreover there was an astonishing average of 1,3 million hits daily. The 38th Festival is already confirmed and will be held from July 23th till August 5th.

Alexander Morozevich, you told us last year on our website: ďto be number 4 or number 23 doesnít make any difference to me.Ē Curiously, you came back this year as FIDE number 4...

Thatís true. Before coming to Biel again, I reminded myself of this quote and thatís also why I had to come again to defend my title. I didnít change my opinion at all on this point. I still donít give any kind of importance to my ranking. Even to be number 3, 2 or 1 wouldnít make be happier.

In that case, what are your goals in chess?

Iím always trying to improve myself, to play better chess, and to be more satisfied with the quality of my games. Also to win as many tournaments as possible.

You still donít play so many tournaments...

In 2004, I had to retired from Wijk aan Zee for health reasons. The other two tournaments where I played were in Monaco (rapid and blind games) and Dagomys (Russian Team Championship). That was great and I shared the 1 st place with Kramnik in Monaco and I won the 1 st board.

In the very ancient history of the Biel international Chess Festival, you became the first player to win the grandmaster tournament for two years in a row...

Maybe a monument should be built at the Biel Central Square! If you donít want me to win for a third time in a row, maybe should you think about inviting one of the Top-3 ranked players!

How did you spend your stay in Biel?

It was quiet for me. I really like this city. Aside from playing, I was walking around the lake, reading some books and also preparing to some extent for my games. I really do appreciate the fact that in Biel we play on the stage, but in the same room as all the participants from the Open. Itís not at all noisy and you get the feeling that the people who follow your games understand something of what you play.

It would be difficult for you not to be satisfied with your performance in Biel...

It depends how you consider this question. Statistically, I managed 7,5 points out of 10 (+5), more than I expected before the tournament. At that time, I thought that + 2 should be enough to achieve first place. I knew that I didnít arrive in Biel in my best shape, and after drawing four times in a row (between rounds 3 and 6), during which I wasnít able to exploit advantageous positions against Ponomariov and McShane I began to wonder if that was my real level. But then I was quite lucky to win three times in a row. So, yes, I am quite happy with the final result.

A battle was expected between yourself and Ponomariov, but somehow it never took place.

At the beginning, I also expected a fight for the first place between Ponomariov and myself. But then, it became clear that he was not on his best form. When the draw was done on the eve of the tournament, I saw that I should play against him in the last round. I imagined it could be a decisive game for the first place. But Ponomariov couldnít recover from his blunder in Round 5, against McShane. He suffered very much from this and then, the battle was over. Indeed, I imagined Ponomariov to be the best prepared of the six grandmasters in Biel. He had played virtually nothing before coming to Biel.

Last year, you won easily the tournament category 16. Same in 2004 for category 18. Any explanation?

Next to Ponomariov, Bacrot and McShane were also out of shape. Maybe Etienne had some other things on his mind and I was not surprised that we didnít see him at his best level. But I didnít expect a Ė 1 result. As for Luke, he was quite optimistic in his first two games of the tournament, but without any success. Luke had a big advantage against me in Round 1, but he lost the game. This was, by the way, my most difficult game of the tournament.

And which was your most brilliant game?

None of them were brillant. There was always some imprecisions. My capacity for calculation was far from its best - I even made some blunders. To be honest, if I would be asked to analyse one of my games for a magazine, I should need some time to decide which. In my best form and well prepared, I would have produced better chess.

Why didnít you arrive in Biel in your best shape?

For personal reasons which I donít want to detail.

And what about your preparation?
I really didnít make that much preparation. Thatís maybe why I like to play so much, to fight at the chessboard. I play each game to win it. This is how I consider chess competition. If it entertains the public, thatís fine. But I like taking risks, I appreciate being creative and winning games on the chessboard, not only through home preparation.

What about the World Championship that was held in Libya one month ago?

You cannot call this a World Championship. Itís just a strong international competition. It was very understandable that most of the top players decided not to go there.

But your name was also on the list of the participants for some time...

I initially put my name down, hoping that some things could changed, some conditions improved, some problems solved. As much in the political as in the sporting arena. If at least 1% positive change had been made, I could have considered taking part in it. But, as is well know, nothing happened. The politics of FIDE represents a real problem. But I am tired of all these plots. I am a chess player, not a politician.

Are you member of the newly created Association of Chess Professionals (ACP)?

No. Why should I be? The ACP is good at talking, but not at taking action. We couldnít see any positive result during the negociations for the World Championship in Libya. The ACP doesnít need just chess players, they need managers and lawyers to get a chance to play a serious role.

But it will take some time...

I will be member if and when I see any concrete result.

Anyway, Rustam Kasimdzhanov is the new FIDE world champion. What could happen now?

The most important question is the following one: when and where will his match with Kasparov take place? Rustam needs a lot of time to prepare in order to have a chance. But I heard it could be organised already around next January. If so its too early, he will be slaughtered like a chicken.

Any opinion about the forthcoming Kramnik-Leko match?

Both of them seem well prepared. The quality of chess should be quite interesting. I will follow this with interest. No specific preference. Or, maybe, Kramnik, because he is Russian.

You seem very pessimistic about the future of the chess?

I donít believe in a real reunifcation. Itís fake. Too many players or people only take their own interests into account. They make money and thatís all. Well, if there will be a unique World Champion after the matches Kramnik-Leko and Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov and among the winners, it could be seen as real progress.But look at the current situation. Kasparov almost stopped playing chess. Kramnik, Leko or others play less now. A world champion has to play, not just to use his title.

Biel, 30th July 2004