The Gideon Japhet Cup recently ended in Jerusalem with Ian
Nepomniachtchi finishing a point ahead of the chasing pack, but it’s continued
to provide interesting material. At least one of the photos of Boris Gelfand
and Vassily Ivanchuk on a later trip to the Dead Sea deserves to go viral,
while both Nepo and Gelfand also gave long interviews to Emil Sutovsky. Ian
considers Magnus somewhat overrated as a match player, while Boris compares the
Carlsen-Caruana match to Karpov-Kasparov and reveals how a young Fabiano once
surprised him with his devotion to chess.

We already published Emil’s
interviews with Peter Svidler and Vassily Ivanchuk
, and now it’s the turn
of other heroes, starting with Ian Nepomniachtchi:

The Russian grandmaster felt he’d ridden his luck in
Jerusalem, but the talent of the world no. 15 has never been in doubt.
Alongside Peter Svidler he’s one of the very few top grandmasters who can boast
a plus score against the World Champion (in fact it’s an incredible 4 wins, 0
losses, and though two of those wins were when they were both very young the
latest was in London last year). That personal experience is perhaps one reason
why Nepo is less in awe of Magnus than some of his colleagues. Here are some of
the highlights of the interview:  

On Carlsen-Caruana

Nepomniachtchi: I think Magnus is slightly overestimated as a match player,
because actually he has played only three matches, and two of them were matches
against Vishy, and somehow I believe that at the moment they played the match
Vishy had become more or less a comfortable opponent for Magnus. I think he
started to score a lot against Vishy in 2012, 2011 and this was really a favourable
opponent for him. Once he played another guy, Karjakin, it was an extremely
close match, and in fact I believe Sergey was really close to winning the match
if he managed to find some tactics – in Game 10, to make a draw by force.

It would be basically one game to go, because he would
surely make a draw with White, and ok, it would be another situation that he
should score 1/1, not 1.5/2 or 2/3. A different situation.

I don’t see why Magnus should seem unbeatable, and now I
think Magnus is not going to have any advantage in the opening and probably
it’s not his strongest part of his play. If you compare his preparation in the
match against Karjakin I don’t remember that he proved to us that he has found
some brilliant novelties. He played the Trompowsky in Game 1, which was kind of
funny, probably with the Trump election – it’s the only reason to play the

He never seemed like an unbeatable player, and especially
for Fabiano, who normally wins at least one game per year against Magnus

On the influence of computers

Until some moment I wasn’t sure how a computer performs so
well. You go for some creative attack and it looks like it should be winning
for sure, but somehow the computer, with a couple of precise moves, defends any
position, and then ok, I spotted that it’s obvious from geometry. I believe
there is a lot of geometry in chess, and even if optically your pieces are very
far from your king and you cannot protect from a direct mate, then you start to
analyse with a computer and you see that probably the b2-square and the
a1-square, or f6, it’s all the same, it protects g7. I’m trying to explain in a
very simple way, but geometry can be not only in queen moves or bishop moves
but also some pawn structures and so on. I think this is the key, that there is
a lot more for us to learn in chess and maybe if we do this via some kind of
mathematic point of view, then we can follow what the computer can show us.

On a human crossing 2900

Nepomniachtchi: It’s like a Guinness record, it’s a milestone, but I believe
there will be no real difference between 2800s and 2900s. Ratings normally show
your current condition. Some players like Magnus, they can keep a relatively
good condition throughout the year. The worst moments for him he plays like
2650 or something, so he’s not playing like a total patzer, because if you see
some games of some other top players like…

Sutovsky: …like yourself?

Like me. Everybody can experience some bad days, and somehow
people usually fall to the very bottom – somehow you make a mistake and you
simply don’t want to play, you’re not trying to find the best defence, but on
the contrary some top players – especially Magnus – even if he makes some bad move
or a couple of mistakes, normally he’s trying to [avoid] the worst result and
he keeps trying to find the best moves in any position. So that’s why in the
end his rating is not changing that drastically.

What’s your own

I don’t really care about rating that much, but in case it
will be the only option to qualify for the Candidates then ok, then it’s
another ambition. To tell the truth, I believe that the only goal for a chess
player who plays professionally and who feels himself capable of it is to
qualify for the World Championship match. To be a realist first you should
qualify for the Candidates, you should manage your tasks well, and it should be
step-by-step. You cannot qualify for the match without winning the Candidates –
ok, we have some examples in history, but you should be a very wise man to play
the World Championship match without qualifying from the Candidates!

Boris Gelfand recently turned 50, but is working on chess as
hard as ever. Nowadays he’s also writing books, though, with volume three of
what he sees as a six-part series expected to be published later this year or
early next year. As Boris puts it, “I think it’s my moral obligation to pass on
knowledge”. Other details in the interview include his World Cup summary, “No
Dutch, no fun!” and an explanation of how he approaches table tennis as
methodically as chess, with one difference – “I don’t train the serve in
table tennis!” He has enough of that from chess and just wants, “to get a game”.
If you watch to the end you’ll also get to see Boris’ young son Avner, who speaks
Russian and cheerfully talks about how he likes reading and writing but isn’t
interested in chess at all!

Here are some of the other highlights from the interview:

On the influence of computers

Gelfand: I think the most important thing one learns from computers
is defensive possibilities. Even a dangerous looking position can be defended,
as chess is a very concrete game. But also it reveals that there are many
possibilities which are hidden. We witnessed now, for example, that some
opening lines which we played for many years maybe are refuted, but much more
are discovered with the help of computers. Normally there’s not just one way to
play, but many ways.

On Carlsen-Caruana

When I played Anand it was different because it’s two
players of the same style, more or less, and Carlsen-Caruana is a match of
players of totally different styles, so we can expect a very interesting match.
Carlsen’s very much a practical player – it’s like Karpov/Kasparov, more or
less, while Caruana is a very deep player who puts a big [emphasis] on opening
preparation and also is looking for the best move, very often, so I believe it
could be a very, very interesting match, and the one who would produce his
strong points better will prevail, I believe.

I can tell you a story. When Caruana was very, very young
once he came to my house and I was amazed that ok, we were working with him a
bit and then in the middle of the night or something he was looking for me as
he found an improvement on some idea! I was amazed how motivated he is.

Sutovsky: I think his approach
is a bit kind of an old, good school, classical chess school and Magnus, in my
opinion, is a bit like a “player”, “Karpov-style”.

Yes, definitely Karpov-style. Caruana, of course, is a
scientific attitude. In the last few years he became more pragmatic, probably
it helped him, but still, at the core he is loyal to his attitude from
childhood. He was brought up by very good trainers, let’s say the Soviet
School. First he worked with Sher, I think, then Zlotnik, then with Chernin,
then Avrukh, he had a training session with Beliavsky, with Razuvaev, with all
the best, he got everything possible and I think he learned a lot.

The way you sound
it’s like if not necessarily you would support Caruana in this match, but you
would be happy if his style prevails.

No, I believe in the style more, but ok, I’m totally neutral
in this and, as a chess fan, I would be happy to watch and enjoy all the games
– hopefully 12 games played, hopefully tiebreaks!

See also: