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Alexander Shashin

Chess is on a phisycs's border.
Part 1

Today I've made my mind to talk with A.A.Shashin, sports master of the USSR, trainer at the Anichkov Palace (St.Petersburg), author of physics-like model of chess. Alexander Alexandrovich has revealed its principal ideas in an easily understood form. But every thing is to be in order.

Alexander Alexandrovich, what is chess for you? What place had it in your life before and what's it now? How did You come in chess?

- I got familiarized with a chess, when I was eight years old, and they did not produce a duly impression upon me. They became one of those games which I played, that's I played chess alongside with checkers, hide-and seek, etc. And at the age of 10 when the match Botvinnik - Smyslov took place one of the match game was got was got in my sight with annotations. There the commentator tore the game of its players to shreds. I understood afterwards that it was one of the weakest in their match, they simply exchanged incredible mistakes. But I decided then that I played a little worse then Botvinnik, but not worse than Smyslov. Therefore I decided to play chess seriously to be a champion of the world naturally! They play badly and one can "beat" them. There appeared ambition which brought in total to successes in junior competitions inside the city of Leningrad, and in the All-Union field. I became the champion of the USSR among juniors in 1961, was the second one the year before. The same year I headed Leningrad junior team in the All-Union Spartakiade (Sport festival). It was a very big competition and a great test for me. I was three-times champion of Leningrad among the juniors. - The reason why great achievements didn't take place was we who were born in the war years were in a very small number generally, and among chess players in particular. The strongest of them are V.Tseshkovsky, R.Dzhindzhihashvili, G.Sosonko, R.Fisher and V.Gort are among western chessplayers. However, their statistical number was noticeably less than those born before or after the war. Nevertheless the afflictions which fell to their lot were great. Statistics shows, that geniuses of type A.Karpov, or G.Kasparov are born one time in twelve years. It is clear now that my chess life began at 10 years, and has not finished yet as aspects of importance alone have changed in its duration. I put local purposes, and they were achieved. But once having played in All-Union selection tournament (a semi-final of the USSR) of 1974. I have seen that young man who just won Master rank, but are 10 years younger than me, understand chess not worse than me, and calculate variations more quickly and effectively. Being a physicist by profession and a man who can; I believe, think soundly, I understood, that my childhood's dream to be a champion of the world, alas, was unsound. It brought me to a thought that I should stop playing chess actively. And when A.V.Cherepkov, on outstanding trainer and a fine man invite me kindly to take his place as a trainer in the Palace of Pioneers, I agreed after long hesitation (three weeks). Just after this, I entered, the trio in the city championship and played in a semi-final of the championship of the USSR again, but all this were already rearguard actions: A year after a semi-final of Soviet championship (1980) I stopped playing chess in serious tournaments, and nearly 25 years I have already been professionally busy with the trainer's work.

- Alexander, tell about yourself, what's education did You get?..

- I graduated from physical and chemical faculty of the Leningrad Technological Institute named after "LenSoviet ", my speciality was "Radiation chemistry". After being distributed in branch of science, I worked here as a lecturer at the Chair of Physics, was working 3,5 years there, become a junior research worker, have been studying for a years and half in post-graduate course, and stopped it. Thus, I came to work at the Leningrad Palace of Young Pioneers named after A.A.Zhdanov on October 1, 1979. Hardly had I been working for a year and half when all of a sudden I was given the most difficult section of work then. I was offered to be a senior trainer of the Leningrad junior chess players' team at the Soviet children and youth Spartakiade (festival), (Sports Games). It was a past of responsibility, I would say, for 'kamikaze'. The Leningrad team took the second place at the previous Spartakiade (Sports Games). Such nice youths as V.Salov, V.Epishin, A.Khalifman, A.Temkin two-times champion of the city played then and also two very strong girls I.Vilner (more known under the name of I.Judasina) and N.Sitnikova (N.Sirotkina now). They all by their age did not suit already for participating in the spartakiade of 'mine'. A team fell to my lot which had no master candidate for two years and a half before its beginning. I had to overcome some obstacles and pressure at the Sports Committee... I was put a task to take a place in the trio and I "fought" for the fifth-eighth place. We took the eighth place. As trainer I began displaying myself after the spartakiade alone (it was in 1984). The results did not delay to tell. My pupils participated successfully in the European Championship 1992. They are M.Zvereva and A.Eliseev. A 'banal' team championship of the city among the strongest chess children collectives took place in 1996. Our Anichkov Palace team had five my pupils out of the six boards. In total, we became the strongest; however, we could not go to the Championship of Russia in the absence of financing.

- I know beside the trainer's work You tried to promote yourself as author of chess text-books and articles...

- I understood soon that, I am at the height of my training career successes, I perceived the power of my chess struggle method and the trainer's potential and began more and more switching onto literary activities. It was expressed in writing down two books "Active Methods of Chess Struggle" and "555", and of order ten articles in the magazine "Chess Petersburg", etc.

- What chessplayer's creative work influenced You the most? What are You chess authorities?

- When I was a student of the second course, I was acquainted with the games of J.R.Capablanca. I am infinitely grateful to A.C.Livshitz...

- Excuse me, I haven't understood...

- At that time I was a student, lived in a small way as many then. And August Semyonovich observed it. He decided to present a book with all Capablanca's games to me. But he did it finely, knowing that I'm a proud man he sold it to me for a symbolic price. He became that same 'good Samaritan' for me, feeling that just the creative work of the Cuban champion is most near to my chess ideal! I have been "swallowing" the most of these 570 games for two days and nights. It was one of the strongest impressions in my life. I consider the Capablanca's style in chess near to the absolute. Many great chessplayers such as A.Alekhine, M.Botvinnik, A.Karpov uttered enthusiastic words about his style. It is known to everyone.

- As to the level of genius he may be compared with P.Morthy.

- Yes, he may... A famous chessplayer G.Maroczi was a great admirer of his creative work and published a selection of his games... When a Petersburg's publisher S.Solovyev, not without my prompting by the way, decided one time to gather and publish with commentaries all officially known chess games of Capablanca, of course, I become his principal helper and commented more than 100 games of the Cuban maestro. To the point, the second edition of two-volume book of Capablanca's games has been published of late.

- - Is Your best game a victory, over V.Korchnoi in the championship of Leningrad of year 1973? Tell us in more detail of it.

- I came to play the game after a hard meeting at the work which continued several hours. To be sure, I was free of work for the time of city Championship, but this day was an exception. Remember, I sat at a chessboard with not quite a clear head, but I conducted the game with inspiration. The state of stress, or tiredness, strange as it may see, often contributed to my success, to say the truth, a short one. So, for example, my highest result in blitz-tournaments for the prize of "Evening Leningrad" came to that day when I 'guessed' to deliver a two-hour lecture and to give a simultaneous game exhibition before the tournament. V.Korchnoi having got 50 percent of points divided the 8-9-th places, by the way, with me. But if it was simply 'non-success' for me, it was simply a fiasco for Korchnoi. During the tournament Victor L'vovich was simply not healthy. When I reminded him of this not so long ago, he said he forgot. (What characterizes Korchnoi as a fighter. He does not justify his failure, seeks no reasons even objective).

- After this game Your roads with Korchnoi crossed?!

- Yes, in three years after this game, I know for sure that Victor L'vovich does not forget such defeats, he begins to respect you unlike some other Grandmasters, I decided to offer him my assistance... Moreover, everyone turned away from him, he was victimized. I succeeded in contacting him through two familiar intermediaries. He came out at once to find me and we stipulated all details of our cooperation and secluded ourselves at 'a house of rest' for two weeks somewhere under Zelenogorsk. These were chess preparations where I 'pumped' the openings information for the good of outstanding Grandmaster.

- Well, than he was not a non-chess-performer abroad, was it?

- But he was a dissident, it was just 1976. After ending the chess preparations he offered me to continue cooperation... Afterwards Korchnoi flew to Amsterdam, and I a week later to Kiev, the student team championship. And suddenly at six in the morning there rushes in our room master Yefim Stolyar in his light sports costume, we lived in a student hostel them, and cries aloud: "Korchnoi has left!!!"

- A minute, please and why was it so early and what did Yefim Stolyar do there?

- The young generation does not know that in those far off times "The Voice of America" began its broadcasting at six in the morning and Ye.S.Stolyar was a captain of the Leningrad team "Burevestnik" (a storm petrel) at the University teams festival. There took place a current round in the evening, I was in the limelight. And it was not causal: I was still the only one who shortly before this event has been passing 10 hours a day during two weeks of our chess training preparations. For example, M.Dvoretsky announced that when we arrived in Leningrad I would be met by men in civvies and carried for a big talk. And not only he who had such an opinion.

- Is it possible that the action of Korchnoi could really have such consequences for You?

- Of course, the persecution of Korchnoi was very serious at those times. There was a letter signed by more than thirty Grandmasters, and a crashing article in the "Soviet Sports" newspaper. There was also an official excuse of Korchnoi, etc. At that moment when similar events still took place I continued to cooperate with him. Therefore opinion of many people that there could arise questions to me from the KGB (Committee of State Security) was not without any grounds. However, there was nothing of the kind.

To be continue...

Part 2

A.Shashin - V.Kortchnoi, Leningrad, 1973

На верхupdate 09-04-2007