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‘It's much easier to work at chess when a real adversary sits opposite!’ - Viorel Bologan

GM Viorel Bologan

Interview by GM Mikhail Golubev


GM Viorel Bologan was born in Kishinev on 14 December 1971. He began playing chess at the age of 7 and reached the level of  candidate   master in 1984. Ion Solonar was his first coach. Later Viorel studied chess under the guidance of Vyacheslav Chebanenko, Zigurds Lanka and Mark Dvoretsky.

Viorel Bologan commenced his professional chess career in 1991 when he fulfilled the GM norm four times during the year and took  seventh place in the last USSR championship. In 1993 he graduated from the Moscow Physical Culture and Sports Institute. In May 1996 he received a PhD, successfully defending the thesis entitled, Structure of special preparation of high-level chess players,  at the Chair of Chess of the Russian Academy of Physical Culture.

During the 1990s Viorel Bologan achieved victories in about twenty international tournaments, including the New York Open 1997. Bologan is the permanent leader of Moldova chess team. In 2001 he entered the world top twenty chess players' list and won the 14th category tournament in Pamplona, 15th category tournament in Poikovsky and the 16th category event in Shanghai.

In August 2002 Bologan won the Ordix-Open organized within the frame of the Chess Classic Festival. Final standings: 1. V.Bologan (2631) 9.5; 2-5. P.Svidler (2690), R.Vaganian (2664), E.Agrest (2599) and I.Glek (2590) 9.0 (altogether 494 participants took part in the event.)

Mikhail Golubev (MG): Viorel, first let me extend our congratulations to you.  What does a tournament winner feel like having out distanced 493 other players?

Viorel Bologan (VB): Frankly, my first feeling was "is it me who did it?!". You see, I was rather close to success in Fischer chess, however, lately I have suffered from a "last game loss syndrome".

MG: Was it hard for you to win?

VB: It was not a simple task even from a physical viewpoint. Twenty two rapid chess games in four days – that's really hard.

MG: How do the organisers manage to invite so many strong players to play in the Ordix-open every year? Ordinarily, you cannot find the chess players with  ratings much higher than 2600 in such tournaments.

VB: There is a small trick here: first, this is rapid chess which always attracts grandmasters as they don't risk much. Second, the organisers guarantee high ELO chess players to cover travel expenses and accommodation in a five-star hotel.

MG: Why does the Chess Classical Festival not conduct competitions using the classical time control, which usually means something like 2hrs/40 moves.

VB: The Festival's organiser said that   next year, in the big match we will probably see games where the classical time control will be used.

MG: Being the winner of an open tournament, are you entitled to participate next year in any match of the champions or something like that?

VB: Nobody promised anything to the winner either before the tournament or after it. It might be that Petr Svidler, as the winner of the Fischer-Random tournament, may play a random chess match with Leko.

MG: What impressions do you have of the Fischer-Random tournament (960-chess)? Has such play any perspective?

VB: On the whole, my apprehension is positive. I'll say more: such chess extends the horizons for a chess player. At the same time it is very important for us all to preserve and defend the classic chess and exclude a possibility of reducing its importance for the world. Fischer-Random chess has a future but its promotion needs such outstanding personalities like

Schmitt ("Chess Classic" organiser – M.G.).

MG: Coming back to common chess, how did it happen that you  as a child, got interested in this domain of human activity?

VB: My father taught me to play. Then I liked the taste of victory.

MG: You used to study chess from really good coaches. Regrettably, Chebanenko was famous in the USSR for a long time only as the man who sent Petrosian a letter containing a novelty that the latter used afterwards against Fischer. Please, tell us how you started  your work with Vyacheslav Andreevich.

VB: Everything was rather prosaic. It started in the now distant December of 1986 after the Lazo Memorial. Chebanenko accepted me as one of his pupils without any conditions and communicated to me everything he could.

MG: Chebanenko was one of those few coaches who created his own school. Everybody can look through the games of leading Moldova chess players and see that all of them were brought up actually on the same openings. In Odessa there was Kotlerman who prepared more professionals alone than the whole generation of coaches who replaced him. There's also the eminent Kart, who worked in Lviv. And, certainly, Dvoretsky, who is, probably, the most famous coach in the world. I could mention several other names as well. How can you describe  the secret that coaches have? What do great coaches have in common?

VB:  We should include also Vladimir Yurievich Yurkov.  I believe, such coaches possess, above all, the knowledge of the play. This may sound trivial, but it is just this knowledge that they impart to their pupils.

MG: What is the situation with the Chebanenko's Memorial? I recollect that a good tournament where Morozevich participated was organized in 1997, however, no more tournaments followed

VB: This tournament took place in 1998.  Unfortunately, all efforts to maintain the tradition turned out to be futile.

MG: It is high time now to recollect your own work as a coach. If I'm not mistaken, your début was your work with Alexei Shirov?

VB: It is hardly possible to call coaching what was in fact co-operation between two players of roughly the same age. I just seconded Alexei at several tournaments and he played very successfully there.

MG: This year you became responsible for Ruslan Ponomariov, the world champion. How do you work together?

VB: Though in this particular case the age gap is greater, we still remain chess
partners, rather than coach and student. Perhaps only our work in Linares and, to some extent, in Mainz, was different - there I seconded him.

MG: What is your impression of the Ponomariov–Anand match?

After the first day one could hardly predict that the Indian would win. What did actually happen there?

VB: On the first playing day Ruslan could decide the battle. But he lost a
half-point in the first game. Next day an utterly unsuccessful opening was
chosen in the fourth game and, consequentially, the match was decided in the last game where the Indian's experience had told itself.

MG: Still, the openings of the major part of the games turned out to be successful for Ruslan. Speaking generally – was it the fruit of your joint work with Ruslan?

VB: Let's put it this way:  there is not so much merit of mine in the gained points by Ruslan.

MG: Tell us please, who works with Anand now? Are there any grounds to believe that he is the strongest rapid chess player in the world?

VB: In addition to his wife, another Indian – Sasikiran – was noticed during the match. Apart of that, he probably works with Ubilava as before. As regards rapid chess, I think it is high time to organise a world championship and I consider Anand to be one of the major experts in it.

MG: It seems that chess has become, in a sense, a team effort. Interestingly, what level can a chess player  reach nowadays, let us say, the player of genius, if he does not exchange fresh ideas with his colleagues?

VB: This situation has existed always – even ancient china had a saying about ideas. I don't agree, though, with the team effort definition – it's just much easier to work at chess when a real adversary sits opposite.

MG: The chess world has discussed certain issues that can hardly be avoided. I'm talking about the open letter of GMs. You are one of the chess players whose participation was removed for more than a year as a result of the Prague agreements. Certainly, you have good grounds for believing that your interests suffered. Still, do you consider that there existed a better option? Were there any guarantees before Prague that the FIDE championship could be held with a usual prize fund?

VB: Bank guarantees might not be, but I cannot recollect an instance when Ilyumzhinov failed to keep his word. In Prague I tried to influence the decision through Yasser and it seemed that he and Kramnik advocated the idea of general selection at the contemporary cycle. It seems that the agreement in principle was negotiated even before the Prague meeting and nobody wanted to change anything at the meeting itself. Now, we, the rest players of the top hundred, are at a loss.

MG: One more topic – the recent case of GM Sveshnikov versus Chess Assistant. Aren't you worried with the idea of a copyright for the chess game texts?

VB: Everything that is associated with reasonable laws should not worry a law abiding citizen. If such copyright is adopted, the chess world will necessarily find the means to make the chess games available to everybody.

MG: Some fifty years ago White played 1.e2-e4 and Black answered, say, 1...d7-d6, afterwards it was creative activity and no theory at all. Then, the era of the children of the Informator (our generation) advanced, now we have the computer generation (Ponomariov, Grishchuk, Radjabov generation). It would be very  interesting to know what you forecast. Where are we headed?

VB: The trend is towards increasing the significance of memory in

MG: Could you tell us whether the leading world chess players read chess books, let us say, the Informator? What is your perception?

VB:All of them read.

MG: I'll try to depart a bit from a chess topic. What could you be if not a chess player?

VB: A diplomat or, at least, a journalist.

MG:  Grandmasters are unlikely to stay at one place for long. Are there any places in the world where you would like to visit?

VB: The Grand Canyon in the USA and the Andes. I would like to be more familiar with the Peruvian culture.

MG: If it is possible, tell me, please, what languages do you speak  fluently: Romanian, Russian, Spanish, English, what else?

VB: You may add French.

MG: In conclusion: can you share some brief information about your family? I've no doubt that plenty  female admirers of your talent will read this interview.

VB: I am married. My daughter Katya is two and a half months old. I love both dearly!

MG: Your admirers cannot but join my congratulations! In conclusion, please tell us what tournaments you will play in the nearest future so that we may wish you and Ruslan every luck.

VB: Ruslan will play against the Russian team and I shall play at the European Clubs Cup.

MG: Much success to you in the Cup and many thanks for the interview!

(The Russian team match against the Rest of the World will take place from 8 to 11 September in Moscow. The European Club Cup will be in the same month in Greece – M.G.).

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted