Mark Taimanov: "Chess is Rapidly Gaining Popularity Thanks to Ilyumzhinov"

The Patriarch of St. Petersburg chess became 90 years old on 7th of February. However, even in such a respectable age the grandmaster does not live in the past but the present. On the eve of his jubilee Mark Taimanov spoke with the columnist of ‘St. Petersburg Gazette’.

- Mark Evgenyevich, what place in your life does chess take today?Do you play in veteran competitions?
- No, I explicably stopped playing actively. However, of course, I did not stop loving chess.

- Maybe you are playing in the Internet or against the computer programs?

- No, it all is ersatz, surrogate games. Chess is primarily a contest of personalities. You can stop walking and start travel just by car. However, we are people and it’s natural for us to walk on feet, breathe air and to look at the sun. So it is with chess.
Generally, a computer because of it being filled with information and calculating capabilities deprived chess of one of the most important positive aspects. It took upon itself the analytical problems and the scientific research. Therefore chess have become noticeably poorer.
- In May 2014 your chess school was opened on the Petrogradsraya Storona.What can you tell us about this project today?
- I do not teach in it but take part in its life. I owe it to the city. Children from 5 to 12 years old are studying there. It is not necessary to raise champions; what is more important is to attract children to chess, to develop their abilities. Chess helps to reveal the different sides of talent.
- A special place in your biography takes the match with Robert Fischer.Now the chess world is dominated by Magnus Carlsen.Can you compare him with the great American?
- They are on unequal levels neither in achievements nor in creativity. From a practical point of view, Carlsen is a strong chess player. But judging by their calibres they have disparate personalities. There were very few chess geniuses in the history and Fisher is one of them. Carlsen is not.
- However, there is one thing they have in common: the pressure on the opponent.
- Fisher really could inhibit its partner. But he did it owing to his almost error-free game. No player can be absolutely perfect in the choice of the next move. That applies to Fisher as well but he did not do rough, fatal mistakes and that’s why he sometimes seemed to be invulnerable.
- Do you have favourite players in modern chess?
- Even in the computerized era there are players with exceptional strength and talent who have the creative imagination. I consider Levon Aronian as a bright player. I like chess games of Alexei Shirov, Veselin Topalov. Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand are very interesting chess players. However, the games of the same Carlsen are of purely technical interest to me.
- The Soviet chess school was the strongest in the world.Today, Russia also holds the leading positions.However, why have we ceased to produce chess stars?
- I would have looked at it from a different point of view. The Soviet chess school has benefited the entire international chess. We have educated so many players. Chess has dramatically increased in popularity. And this is the great merit of the current FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
When he joined FIDE 20 years ago there were approximately 90 member countries and there are about two hundred now! This results in the fact that Vietnam scored as many points as Russia at one of the Chess Olympiads. It was impossible to imagine in my days. At the same time, our chess school has not lost credibility; it retains the respect of the world.