Monthly Archives: Aug 2021

Tribute to Sveshnikov

In the beginning I had problems with the Sveshnikov.

A few of my junior competitors used the variation extensively and after several painful losses I discovered the cure: 3.Bb5 instead of 3.d4 and I was never getting mated again! Many years later Anand discovered the same when Gelfand used the Sveshnikov Sicilian against him in the World Championship match in 2012. In fact not playing the Sveshnikov won the match for Anand.

I saw the man in many tournaments over the years, but I never spoke to him. I maintained respectable distance and just observed how he played and how he analysed. And of course, I read everything he wrote and said in interviews.

In 2011 I played the European Team Championship in Porto Carras. There I got to face Evgeny Sveshnikov with Black.

I remember that in the preparation process I decided that I didn’t want to play my usual Sicilian because I didn’t want to face his Alapin. In spite of my excellent results against the Alapin I thought it’s probably not the wisest choice to play it against someone who has played and analysed it all his life and was likely the world’s best expert on it.

I decided to play 1…e5 because his choices of the Scotch and the Italian seemed easier to deal with. I remember I was expecting the Scotch, but he played the Italian instead.

After the game we had a very pleasant post-mortem, the results of which you can see in the comments to the game above. Evgeny was friendly and I was honoured to analyse with such a legend.

Only two years later I met Evegeny and his son, Vladimir, in Bratto, Italy. The Bratto tournament turned out to be a successful one for me (I finished 2nd in the end) and not in the least because of the following game facing Vladimir Sveshnikov.

I already knew that I was facing the Sveshnikov opening lab. Both father and son paid extremely high attention to the opening preparation and I knew that I had to find a way to surprise them, just like I did with Evgeny in Porto Carras.

This time I decided to play the Sicilian. The reason for my decision was that I had already prepared a line that I had never played before, a line that at that time was becoming popular. I knew that they would have something against it, but I was hoping on the element of surprise.

We didn’t analyse the game after it finished, but I could sense that Sveshnikov Senior was looking at me with certain respect. After all, I managed to outfox them in their strongest point, opening preparation. And on top of that, I won the game with Black in mere 23 moves!

After Bratto I occassionally saw Evgeny at tournaments, always cordially saluting him. I continued to follow his ideas, books and interviews. I admire independent thinkers who openly say what they think and Evgeny was one of them.

It was a big shock to read that he passed away today. He always seemed so full of energy and I had the feeling he would live until 100 with that amount of life force. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Evgeny Sveshnikov was one of the rare legends I got to meet, play and analyse with. I am grateful for the opportunity and I only wish I had more of them.

Rest in Peace Evgeny Sveshnikov.


Back At The Board

It was a busy summer that eventually saw me travel again and sit at the board in an OTB tournament.

I write this just as the Second Spanish Division ended in Linares. I always love coming to Linares. The first time I came to play here was in 2002. I distinctly remember that tournament because the open where I played was held alongside the main event. The organisers even had the good sense to start the games of the open half an hour later than the ones from the supertournament, so that players from the open could come and watch Kasparov and co. first and then go and play their games.

I did that every single day. My tournament didn’t go so well, but I loved being in the main hall watching the great players. I remember how Kasparov won the decisive game for tournament victory against Ponomariov and being shocked at the what seemed over-the-top exuberant joy of his mother. His second Dokhoian didn’t show any emotion, as usual.

The Spanish Federation was and is one of the most active ones in these pandemic times. This year they continued with organisation of youth championships en masse and the Segunda Division was no exception, with 48 teams participating. They have their health rules and they follow them, which seems to work as, knock on wood, no cases have emerged.

The only thing I disliked was playing with a mask on, I would have preferred a plexiglass divider, like in Germany last year, but I didn’t have a say in the matter.

These events are always great fun. My team wasn’t a strong one, so we had no ambition except to enjoy the games and the time spent together. We managed to do that, though the result at the end was disappointing.

My own play was OK-ish. After the hybrid event in May, which wasn’t exactly OTB, this was my first event since last year’s Bundesliga in March. It didn’t feel strange to play after such a long break, but I could feel that things were not going smoothly. I will write more about this feeling in one of my next newsletters (to which you can subscribe using the yellow box on the right).

Generally speaking I played normally, but I missed a few wins and I also dodged one loss. I didn’t lose any games, drawing 3 and winning 2.

Here is a nice technical effort against a FM.

Who knows when my next OTB event will be, but at least I got to play chess again.