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by Mark Glukhovsky (

A Mystery Even to Himself, Morozevich Discusses His Results and Goals
Interview after Astana 2001

I managed to talk to Alexander Morozevich right after the Category XX chess tournament was over in Astana. In spite of the fact that it had not been a happy competition for Alexander, he immediately agreed to share his experiences.

Almost all of the participants in the Astana tournament flew back to Moscow on the same plane. Breaking into Alexanderís after-dinner rest-hour, I settled myself down in the neighboring seat with a dictaphone in my hands.

(Editor’s note: In the following article, comments by KC interviewer Mark Glukhovsky are in italics and those of Alexander Morozevich are in regular type.)

Alexander, you scored one point during the first half of this tournament and 3.5 points during the second half. Arenít you ever tired by the end of the tournament?

Of course I am. No systematic pattern can be seen here. At previous supertournaments it was my weaker play at the final stage that kept me from ranking high. At this tournament my play during the first stage was so weak that I had nothing to lose during the second half. You know, I believe I am not so weak as to score no points at all.

How would you account for such fluctuations in your form? It is not merely the result but also the quality of your play during the first and second tournament stages that is different.

I cannot account for these fluctuations, because I myself havenít dissected them yet. But the fluctuations of my form are obvious, there is no denying it.

At this tournament you have continued to set your original records. Your dislike of draws, your great results when you play with Black Ė all of this is not quite typical of a Grandmaster of your rank. Donít you ever want to take a break with a quick draw?

I wanted to rapidly draw the game with Vladimir Kramnik in the fifth round, and everyone saw what came of that. After that incident I realized that I shouldnít try that again and that I should simply play my best. As far as my records are concerned, I believe they are, rather, anti-records. I am afraid I have set no real records yet.

Well, in a way, 6.5 points out of 8, scored with Black Ė this looks like a record.

This looks like a record, but it is not a record. 7.5 points out of 8 would have been much better. Really, before I played Kasparov in the 8th round, I had played 14 decisive games in a row. The majority of those games were played against strong Grandmasters, and this surely sets one thinking of my, so to speak, morbid attitude towards draws. I consider this point thought-provoking, and I myself should think it over. I donít believe that anti-records are the only result left for me in chess. I still set some sound goals of winning a game, creating something beautiful, or fighting for prizes.

Letís talk about this a bit later. Now, will you please explain why it is easier to make the transition out of the opening into the middle game with Black?

It is generally difficult to finish the opening. And youíve got a wrong idea. It often happens that I score points as Black during the opening. But when it comes to playing with White, I usually finish the opening but score no points. I have no idea why this happens. In Wijk aan Zee I outplayed Vladimir Kramnik with Black. This is doubtless a good achievement, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the opening Ė my position was quite bad. At the same tournament I lost to Ivanchuk with White, having obtained a pressing position. And this is something I am going to examine too.

What tournaments do you derive the biggest pleasure from?

From the tournaments I win.

Well, I actually meant the format of competition.

I find it difficult to answer this question, because I have never won either knock-out tournaments or round-robin events with two rounds.

Could you say a few words about your impressions about the tournament? What were your best and worst games? What were your opponentsí most interesting games?

My worst games were self-evident. In the fourth and fifth rounds my play left much to be desired. As far as the final round is concerned, neither Boris Gelfand nor I could understand how I didnít lose this game. It seems that I did my best to do so.
The games that I won took a certain effort Ė except the game I played in the first round, probably. If I didnít make too many mistakes, my opponents rescued me just in the nick of time, thus providing me with some points.

My best game was my duel with Kasparov during the first half of the tournament. The game was fascinating till time-trouble arrived, and then I spoiled everything.

As to other participants... Sure enough, the Kasparov-Kramnik game was quite important from the theoretical, psychological, professional, and any other possible point of view. This was extremely interesting.

Kramnikís play and Sadvakasovís looked good. Darmenís performance was not at all bad, but his inexperience and nervousness had a negative influence on him. He was often unable to put two and two together. Thus he failed to differentiate between those whom he should draw the game with and those whom he should continue fighting against. He mixed everything up.

I think that next year Darmen will pose a much more dangerous threat.

Are you going to come to Astana next year?

I will do my best to make the organizers accept this idea. Though my performance was not brilliant this time, almost half the games I played at this tournament were decisive. The tournament per se was splendid, everything was superbly organized.

Incidently, the city itself made a very favorable impression on me. I had no idea where I was going before I came to that modern and beautiful capital.

Now let’s talk about your chess life in general. Are you satisfied with the number of games you play? Have you got enough chess in your life?

To a considerable extent it is I who decide how many games I play. I play around 50 Ė 60 games a year Ė I consider this many to be optimal. Itís another pair of shoes that I am extremely dissatisfied with the number of defeats I suffer. You see, even top ten chess players might envy the number of my wins, but the number of my lost games is disappointing.

Who of the chess elite is the most undesirable opponent for you?

My most undesirable opponent is certainly Jan Timman. I simply canít play him. I donít know why. Playing him, I have scored 1.5 points out of 6, and judging by my positions I might have scored nil. So my score is ď-3Ē, and this is thanks to a stroke of luck. I have scored the same in my games against Kasparov, though, according to the positions, my score should be around 2.5 (or perhaps 3) out of 6. Playing Kasparov, I donít generally feel any overwhelming superiority on his side, though his play is doubtless stronger. As to Kramnik, my score is 2 points out of 4, and with Anand itís 1 out of 2. When it comes to playing Timman, it all boils down to whether or not I will draw the game with White. Jan loses to all of the top chess players, but he takes his revenge when playing me. I just donít know whatís to be done. I only hope that he wonít take part in the Astana tournament next year.