To begin our conversations about chess, I think we could not choose a better speaker than a chess expert, publicist and erudite, Adrian Mikhalchishin, the Ukrainian grandmaster with a Slovenian passport, the Chairman of FIDE Trainer’s Commission. Adrian is just old enough to connect us and take us back to the time of past greats such as world champions Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal and the young Anatoly Karpov and Gari Kasparov, but he’s also young enough to familiarize us with the contemporaries and the current champion Magnus Carlsen as well as other top chess players of the younger generation.
Ivan Mandekic: What is your main preoccupation currently?
Adrian Mikhalchishin: My job as a trainer in Turkey is currently my biggest concern. I run the women’s and junior national teams. Here in Croatia in the European Championship I have two young participants of which one is the double European Champion Ali Marandi Cemil Can. Furthermore I’m intensively working on writing chess books which I have written about 16 so far, and my latest book “Championships of the Soviet Union – the Golden Leagues from 73 to 91” has received many awards of which can point out the award from FIDE. Currently I am preparing some new releases. I have a lot of official obligations in the FIDE Trainer’s Commission, I hold a lot of seminars, write the materials for the trainers etc. There is always a lack of materials for trainers so our coaches are obligated to write some interesting articles about middlegames and endgames. In today’s era of personal computers, the topics and issues of openings are very easily available so the coaches have no major problems with that topic.
I.M.: I’m also a long-time chess trainer with the FIDE Trainer license, I have a number of students who have achieved outstanding results at the national, European and world level. I am the advocate of the classical chess school, Russian in particular, but it took me a long time to realize that perhaps the learning should start from the endgame?
A:M.: Yes, that is the correct strategy. Among the first to realize this was Jose raul Capablanca. Later, some other top chess players went in that same direction, but this way of learning, and this strategy is not easy and mostly relies on the “feeling” of the trainer, because unfortunately we do not have a lot of material that would systematically offered this kind of learning.
I:M.: Which chess players of the past do you value the most and would recommend to study?
A.M.: I have known many chess players of the past even as far as Euwe’s time. They were really great in their best chess periods. Much can be learned from Botvinnik and his famous books “Analytical and Critical Work”. For example Beljavski and my friend Josif Dorfman have at one time worked intensively with Petrossian who is known for his cautious and prophylactic positional game. But while working with him, they noticed that he has developed a very offensive style and that his tactical gift is even better than, for example, Kasparov. He was showing this gift in free and blitz games, whereas in classical chess he favored a strict defensive style, because from a position of defense he noticed all tactical and offensive threats that often remained unnoticed even by his opponents. Because of this, he played a more passive style of chess.
I.M.: Also, it seems to me, from the greats from the past, a logical and so to speak “correct” chess was played by Akiba Rubinstein.
A.M.: Rubinstein was very interesting and I would say he developed a special system of play. In fact every great chess player has his very own system of play. It is interesting, for example, that the book “My system” by Aron Nimzowitsch is highly valued and was also very popular in Russia. I think that it has a lot of misconceptions and that young players don’t have a whole lot to learn from it, other than some topics about lines and center and some other elements. The problem is that Rubinstein didn’t write a lot. In fact he was the king of exchange. From him one can learn how to, through exchange, get to a better endgame and pawn structure. Rubinstein really was king in this segment, but again, the problem is that he didn’t write a lot about it. I really don’t understand why at one point they favored Nimzowitsch’s learnings. Finally, I know for a fact that neither Karpov nor Kasparov have studied the book much. Certainly one of the best books from which to learn is the book “Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953” by David Bronstein, which on a scale from one to ten, deserves a ten.
I.M.: You already mentioned work with a personal computer, but we also talked a lot about the importance of studying the classics in chess history, how to find a proper balance between the two?
A:M.: Work with a computer is important, but one should know how to use it. This problem is mostly felt by the younger generation, and the problem lies in the fact that the chess publications aren’t covering work with computers in a proper way. In the opinion of respected trainers Dvoretsky, Dorfman, and even me, the level of chess play of today’s young top players is much lower than the level of play from the years 1980 to 1995, when Karpov and Kasparov played in full form. Look at the last tournaments played by the World Champion Carlsen and you will notice that Karpov and Kasparov never played at such a low level, which is a result of “holes” in the knowledge and a lack of familiarity with the classical chess school. The problem also lies with working on openings with a computer. After 10 minutes of work, the head shuts off, and then the moves are made only by hand, and the eyes are focused on the position evaluation, which is usually not good when it comes to strategic positions. In contrast to this deficiency in chess computer programs, the tactical positions are assessed flawlessly on the computer. So I recommend studying chess classics as much as possible, experienced and high-quality trainers and wooden chess sets, because when you look at the position on the screen, and then at the same position on a wooden chess set, it is an entirely different position.