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Chess Classic

Naiditsch wants to „up the tempo“
Germany´s number one plays Chess960 U-20 world championship match in Mainz

26.07.2006 - Arkadij Naiditsch and the German Chess Federation (DSB): there is no love lost between them. After spending more than ten years in Germany, Naiditsch, born in Riga, Latvia finally played his first Chess Olympiad in Turin for his new country this year. The number 46 on the world rating list proved in Turin that he is able to play with the big guys, by showing some good games. The 20-year old wants to show his best chess again in the tournament in Dortmund (July 29 to August 6), which he was able to win last year. After that tournament, Germany´s number one will play the in Chess Classic Mainz (August 15 to 20) in various events. Hartmut Metz, talked to Arkadij Naiditsch, who became grandmaster at age 15. (translation by Eric van Reem)

Arkadij Naiditsch

Q: Arkadij Naiditsch, what was it like for you to play the top board for Germany in Turin during the Chess Olympiad?

Naiditsch: We certainly did not play very well in Turin. We were seeded 14th and in the end we landed on the 15th place. I think we missed some chances to score more points to reach the top ten. I think I played pretty well in Turin. Before my second loss I had an ELO performance of 2780, in the end my performance was just over 2700.

Q: Your score was even excellent on the top board with a score of 6/10. You drew against former world champions Anand and Kazimdzhanov, and you only lost two games, against world champion Kramnik and against 15-year old Magnus Carlsen from Norway, who once again won against you.

Naiditsch: In the game against Carlsen, I had an off-day. In Wijk aan Zee, earlier this year, I lost a dramatic game, although I was an exchange up. And in Sarajevo I had similar problems: in the first encounter I had a completely winning position, but finally I let him escape with a draw.

Q: Is the extraordinary tactical strength of the young Mozart of Chess the reason for your problems against him in these games?

Naiditsch: You know, everybody has opponents that he likes to play against. Obviously, I have difficulties with Carlsen, but on the other hand, I love to play against Sergey Karjakin. I have scored an incredibly 5.5/6 against him, which is not a normal score. He just does not show his best chess in his games against me. He does not play poorly, he just makes a few unlucky decisions, I guess.

Q: So you have an equal score against these two young stars. Let’s return to the performance of the German team in Turin. I get the impression that you are still disappointed about the shared 11th place.

Naiditsch: Of course I am, I had hoped that we would get into the top ten with our team.

Q: Why didn’t you manage to achieve a better score, what was the reason for not reaching that goal?

Naiditsch: We simply do not have enough professional players in our team. The other players in our team did not score really well. For that reason it is almost impossible to get to the absolute top. On the other hand, one must understand the fact that the players in our team must work hard to earn a good salary.

Q: Although you have been living in Dortmund for ten years, it took a very long time before you started playing for Germany. Why did it take so long? There have been some problems with the German Chess Federation, I heard.

Naiditsch: First of all one needs a German passport, to be able to play for Germany. I received that document rather late, I had to wait eight years, which was a bit unfortunate. The German Chess Federation should have done more to speed up my naturalization, but unfortunately they did not contribute much in that respect.

Q: That can be done much quicker in other sports.

Naiditsch: You are right, in other sports it seems to be not such a big problem to speed up the process.

Q: Anyway, that problem seems to be resolved. Are you looking forward to play in the German team in the near future and what are the goals you want to achieve?

Naiditsch: I am looking forward to playing in the next Chess Olympiad in Dresden 2008! I hope that a few young players manage to join our team, so that we will have a fair chance to achieve a good result. It makes no sense to send a team to Dresden that hardly has a chance to play for a win, and just plays for the Olympic spirit.

Arkadij Naiditsch (links) gegen Levon Aronian (rechts)

Q: The outlook for the German team would be much better if Levon Aronian would play for Germany. For a short period of time, he was registered with the German Chess Federation. Anything could have happened if he had played for Germany, in a team with you – but Aronian won the gold medal with his native country Armenia.

Naiditsch: With him we would have played a completely different tournament and we would have scored a much better result. Levon is a good guy and he definitely wanted to play for Germany. I think a lot of things went wrong.

Q: Aronian was attacked during the Olymiad by Daniel Gormally. Shouldn´t he has attacked you instead? You were the one that accompanied Arianne Caoili to the Bermuda party, didn´t you?

Arienne Caoili

Naiditsch (smiles): Yes, I was a bit surprised as well, because I did not only go to the party with Arianne, but I was with her during the whole tournament. There was no need for Gormally to attack Levon at all. He behaved like a drunken football hooligan in a football stadium. He could have attacked anyone that evening, but poor Levon was the victim in the end. Gormally made a good decision not to attack me, though – I have been practicing karate during the last five years.

Q: For chess-loving Germany one question is still interesting: does our best player have a love affair with this beautiful Australian girl?

Naiditsch: We often met during various chess world championships in the past ten years. We already met in Bad Wiessee, when I was thirteen and she was twelve. We like each other and there is a certain mutual sympathy, of course.

Q: Didn´t Arianne Caoili wanted to come to Germany to start studying?

Naiditsch: Yes, in Frankfurt – but she has a lot of plans.

Q: Let’s get back to the chessboard. During the Chess Classic Mainz you will play against Pentala Harikrishna on 15th and 16th August in the Chess960-Junior-World Championship. Are you optimistic about your chances in this eight-game match?

Pentala Harikrishna

Naiditsch: Last year I did not play very well during the Chess Classic. This year I want to perform better and I want to “up the tempo”. I have never played Harikrishna in a tournament game. Although he is just a few places ahead of me on the word rating list as number 25, I do not consider myself an outsider. I think the chances are about even. He has improved enormously in the last years.

Q: Is playing Chess960 good for you, or are you a player who likes to get a slight advantage out of the opening?

Naiditsch: I think I have an advantage in a chess game without using opening theory. Nowadays, a modern chess player has to spend lots of time preparing openings, finding something new and, let’s not forget, he has to recall it all over the board. That is very difficult! In a Chess960 game you just sit down and play. I like Chess960 a lot, although I think it is a completely different kind of chess. It has nothing to do with poker in the casino, but to me Chess960 is a different game.

Q: In one the other matches, Vlastimil Hort and Lajos Portisch play for the senior Chess960 World Championship, Elisabeth Pähtz from Erfurt will play against Alexandra Kosteniuk from Russia in the women´s section. What do you expect from those Clerical Medical Chess960 world championship matches?

Naiditsch: I think that Portisch will win the match against Hort, who is not very active anymore, whereas Portisch still plays tournaments. If you look at the ELO rating in the other match, it is obvious that Kosteniuk is clearly better than Pähtz. But in Chess960 she may have not such an advantage against Elizabeth.

Q: After the matches you will play the FiNet Open (17-18 August) and the Ordix Open (19-20 August). Last year you played pretty well in the Ordix!

Naiditsch: I had a very good start, with a 6/6 score. But then I lost a very important game against Aronian in round seven, although I was a piece up. Because of the strength of the other players it is difficult to even get amongst the top ten in Mainz! My goal is to be in the top ten again this year. But because so many strong players will come to Mainz, it will be a tough tournament.

Q: 19-year old Radjabov will play eight games in the GrenkeLeasing Rapid-World Championship against Viswanathan Anand from August 17 to 20. As the German number one, you were also on the shortlist to play against Anand. Do you think that you would have a chance against him?

Naiditsch: To play against a living rapid chess legend is something very special for every player. It would have been a very special experience. I have asked Vishy a while ago in Corsica if he had ever lost a rapid chess match. After a short think he answered: „I am not sure“. It was very surprising to see that he lost the final in Corsica against Vadim Milov. He is the best rapid chess player in the world by far, it is almost impossible to beat him.

Q: Is there still a big gap between you and Anand or other top ten players?

Naiditsch: I think that I played pretty well last year and that my chess has improved. I did not play very well in Sarajevo and in the Russian team championships, though. I try to do my best to break the 2700-Elo barrier and I do train a lot to reach that goal. When I reach that point, which I think should be possible by the end of this year, I have to get invitations to top tournaments and try to get a sponsor, to be able to get a personal trainer to improve even further.

Q: Just before the Chess Classic Mainz, the Dortmunder Schachtage are taking place. Last year you won the event ahead of such fabulous players like Vladimir Kramnik, Vesselin Topalov, Peter Leko and Michael Adams. Do you think that you can repeat that sensational victory this year?

Naiditsch (smiles): I will certainly not be the clear favourite this year, since I have to play four games with the black pieces, and only three with white. I still believe that I can play a good tournament. I do play in Dortmund, my hometown, where I really love to play. I can learn a lot in these kinds of events. I am very happy that I have been given the opportunity to play in these tournaments.

Q: Kramnik seems to have recovered from his health problems. In the Olympiad he showed some good games, including the game against you. Is the six times Dortmund winner the clear favourite this year again?

Naiditsch: Let’s not forget that Aronian is also playing in Dortmund, he is very strong and is able to win every tournament that he is playing in. But in Dortmund everybody can beat everybody else. Kramnik has good chances, but I think Aronian’s chances to win Dortmund are at least as good.

Hartmut Metz

Q: Finally, let’s look at the next Bundesliga season. You will play for the TSV Bindlach team with Grandmasters like Navara, Baklan, Bischoff, Bezold and Baramidze. What do you expect from this team?

Naiditsch: We have a very good team, as far as I can see, and we also a very good management team with Klaus&Klaus, Klaus Steffan and Klaus Mühlnikel. I like to play for this club. The team spirit is good and therefore I hope that we will be able to reach a place amongst the top three.

Hartmut Metz

Published by Gerhard Kenk

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