Being dedicated to the 50 years anniversary finishing of the Great Tournament. Zurich, 1953
Mark Evgenievich, You are as usual full of strength and energy...
- Thank God! Not to put it off by too much praise...
What makes You lead an active way of life?
- In the first turn, of course, it is professional inertia and love for chess and music. It was very difficult for me to part with them. It may be said in a certain respect my creative work life is now more active than it was in the younger years. As M. Rostropovich said: "We were messengers in the past", we were sent to tournaments, or to concerts. And now we ourselves can take our destiny into our own hands. One can well understand that the pension which I was given by the state in old age does not correspond in any way to my merits or my requirements. Therefore as the professional I play in the tournaments in which I can score success.
- And that pension which was given to You by K. Ilyumzhinov, do You continue getting it?
The blessing of destiny! It is a decisive factor which makes up my prosperity. This is my foundation. I want to seize an opportunity and to thank our FIDE President for his attention to the senior chessplayers. I am not the only one who gets such pension from the FIDE. V.V.Smyslov, A.A.Liliental, N.T.Gaprindashvili get it, probably there are others as well.
- But it is enough to speak of the material. Over several months thirty (30) years will pass from memorial pretender's tournament in Neuhaus - Zurich. There were D.I. Bronstein's revelations in No.10/2001 of "64 - Chess Review", then V.V.Smyslov's response followed in No.12. And finally in his book (co-authored by S.Voronkov) Bronstein writes more confidently about the collusion of some chessplayers in that tournament, having brought for greater conclusive proof "two witness testimonies" of A.Suetin and B.Spassky. What can You relate about that? Do You consider that the result of that tournament might be otherwise?
- Most of all, I would like to say that notwithstanding I played much in different tournaments, the Zurich one was the greatest in my biography. All fifteen (15) participants were then full of creative aspirations, will-power and love for chess. This tournament was the brightest event of the chess XX-th century. I think that D.Bronstein created a remarkable literary monument for it, having written one of the best books about tournaments in general. This is one of my most favorite books, and I'm glad that my friend D.Bronstein succeeded in creating such a chess masterpiece. From a viewpoint of that how much objective is the evaluation of events which took place around this tournament one may believe D.Bronstein in full. I can confirm it only with my personal perceptions. At that memorable and tragic evening when he lost his game to E.Geller, having been involved in the cobweb of peculiar conspiracy, I entered his apartment at the hotel and saw him in such condition in which I had no occasion to see him before or after. David was sobbing, out of himself, perhaps he drank a bottle of cognac and was completely in the blues - he understands how he was deceived cruelly and perfidiously. Fortunately this episode which came to light many years later did not darken that remarkable competition. I'm sure that V.Smyslov was not in the know of this stratagem plot. Moreover, he played so well that he was not in need of such too unethical support. His victory makes no doubts even after so many years.
M.E., You admit that Soviet officials tried to prevent American, S.Reshevsky from winning this tournament?
- I have finished a book of late wherein in the chapter about Bronstein I relate sports struggle for championship in that selective pretender's tournament to play a match for champion title. I think that our leadership had a task: a Russian chessplayer should win in this tournament. Three main rivals S.Reshevsky, D.Bronshtein and P.Keres could hamper this. It was likely that these candidates did not seem suitable to the leadership on various reasons. But I'm convinced (I repeat) that the result of the tournament was quite natural. It was a period of the heyday of Smyslov's creative activities.
Who seconded You in Zurich?
My friend and remarkable chessplayer Salo Flohr was my second, he assisted me in the time of Interzonal tournament in Stockholm as well.
One time You had complicated relations with M.M.Botwinnik. Could You relate in more detail about the XX-th championship in the USSR since conducting of which had passed already also 50 years. There You beat Botwinnik at personal meeting, and then You yielded him in the match. And speaking generally, what was it the final of the USSR championship as a tournament?
- I didn't have complicated relations with M.Botwinnik, it was only one distressing episode which did not in general darken them. I consider myself a grateful and devoted pupil of Mikhail Botwinnik and couple my achievements with that assistance which he rendered me during a number of years at the very outset of my chess career. The Teacher was very attentive to me. The episode which you mentioned was coupled with our meeting at the XX-th championship of the USSR. My first game with the Teacher was very important for me. I can frankly say now that I had no aggressive intentions, and I was quite satisfied with honorary draw outcome. During the game somewhere after the 20-th move I offered a draw. Botwinnik reacted somewhat unexpectedly. He said that according to tournament rules a draw agreement before the 30-th move could not be made without the referee's permission. I made a very strong move after which Botwinnik was plunged in deep thought. How astonished I was, when after some time I came up to the chessboard and Mikhail Moiseevich told me that he does not object against the draw. To recognize the truth, it was a disappointment for me. The Teacher for me was a model of principle deed and symbol of nobility: And then in accordance with the position of Botwinnik I said: "Well, I address the chief referee:" I came up to I.S.Bondarevsky who, to say to the point, was not a great admirer of Botwinnik. When he saw that the position of white was in danger it gave him great pleasure to say that he is objecting to making peace. And then having relied upon the chief referee's decision I said to Mikhail Moiseevich that we should continue the game. Further on I succeeded in winning it. The same evening Botwinnik rang up Flohr who was my second at that tournament. He expressed his displeasure that I did not accept the draw. Salo Flor was an objective man and Botwinnik's great friend. He said: "Misha, You know I'm in the course of the story. I believe that Markusha was absolutely right... You have declined his proposal and You have no grounds to be offended upon Taimanov." Botwinnik had a stern character. He tried to keep his true or chance offenders at a certain distance, assigning in this case"punish-ment time". For example, I shall not shake hands or speak with this person for two months, with that one for half a year, and with another forever: The verdict over me endured not so long. At once after I last the match for title of the champion of the USSR what happened after two months, good relations were restored in full. Moreover, when I had to play with R.Fischer I addressed my Teacher for assistance in training, and he gave me a number of advices with all kindness and professional generosity which I published afterwards. It was a dossier for Fischer, and also a number of recommendations. They are all well-known. I can say only that "Food was, (as they say), not for the horse". But M.Botwinnik did utmost to help me to prepare myself...
Did You relations with, Botwinnik, not yet restored, affect somewhat the course of the match for a title of the champion of the country?
In no degree, it was a very correct match, and passed in very interesting struggle. I can say that I had no luck in this match. I lost it in stubborn struggle with score of 2,5:3,5. In two games we with my friend, remarkable analyst, Salo Flohr made such mistakes that Salo could not excuse himself and explain how it could take place. It was the first game which had to be finished a draw in the adjourned position. And in the third game wherein. I had a completely won position, we over looked the second move in finish playing and the game finished a draw.
You played more than all others in Soviet championships. What atmosphere reigned at these tournaments?
Really, I played more than everybody else in the Soviet championship finals, 23 times. And this record can be already written down in Guiness record book. Nobody will succeed in exceeding it, in so far as such a country like the USSR is no more: We lived in a closed state. Exits abroad were little in number. Therefore the main event of the year in chess life of the USSR and in the world on the whole (really the best chessplayers of the planet lived in our country) became the final of championship of the country, - an enormous creative and sports event. Not so long ago I together with English colleague B.Cafferty completed writing a book about all championships of the Soviet Union, beginning from 1920 when A.Alekhine won for the first and finishing in 1991 when A.Minasyan became a winner. Mr. Cafferty took for himself historical part of description and I did creative one. These tournaments represented the deserving height of a pyramid of selective competitions. They began from quarter-finals, and then there were semi-finals... Their significance cannot be overestimated. There reigned friendly atmosphere. Of course, competition was strong, ambitious hopes seized many men, but it were true chess holidays and also important examinations which presented opportunities to improve in chess. The championships formed Soviet chess school. In its turn it determined the chess life for many decades.
Mark Evgenievich, returning to the events in time of the tournament in Zurich, tell us please were You given any proposals, set aims at this or that result on the part of chess officials who watched over Soviet chess participants?
- No, the only thing is that there was a taboo respecting...
- No, I didn't know then anything about it. I could only be guessing. Therefore there could not be any speaking of the divulging. There was nothing to divulge! There was a taboo towards victories over V.Smyslov. But then we were experienced enough already in that sense, when there was a taboo for victories over A.Kotov. Although, then we were young and rather quick-tempered. Geller, and Awerbach, and Petrosian, and myself were full of resolve to prove our power, but nevertheless the figure of Kotov was untouchable!
- Were it concrete directions on the part of the leader of delegation in Stockholm, respecting A.Kotov?
- Probably yes, I don't remember point blank now. But generally speaking I don't consider it a moral concession. A draw affects those only who agree upon it, and it helps the rivals. There is nothing unsportive in it. Partners agreeing upon drawing limit their achievements. Agreed draws can be explained by considerations, not sportive only, but friendly as well.
-How could You comment Prague agreements and the subsequent events? Do You consider that G.Kasparov and FIDE have got much more of them than young chessplayers contesting high chess titles and ranks?
-The Prague summit is an event which may accommodate the chess world within the framework of just sports order. It existed decades and has justified itself completely. Alas, Harry Kimovich was a destroyer of this system, but to his honour he pitied it. The situation was aggravated, particularly after his match with V.Kramnik. Eventuality of this contest is evident. A.Shirov had to play, then it was offered to V.Anand, but Kasparov "put forward" V.Kramnik. He is a remarkable chessplayer. But I don't consider this match as a match for world championship. For me, traditionally educated FIDE is the only legitimate organization conducting world championships, what is now restored, fixed and consolidated officially. V.Kramnik achieved then an enormous success, out playing Kasparov himself. But he had not to be named after this the fourteenth champion of the world, as at that time A.Khalifman was the champion of the world. Of course, A.Khalifman won a less significant competition than the match with G.Kasparov. However, he won on those conditions which were offered to him and all other strongest chessplayers. And as my wife justly joked, V.Kramnik could be named only "the 14-a champion of the world". If there appears now possibility to restore the regularity of awarding a rank within the framework of the FIDE do it already considering the existing titles, then, of course, I would consider this the greatest merit of the FIDE President K.N.Ilyumzhinov who made very many efforts for this and he is on the way to success. I'm still an optimist in nature. I hope that series of matches will take place and by the end of the year we'll learn the name of the only and one champion of the world. What concerns inescapable losses: it is impossible to satisfy demands and interests of all pretenders. One must do honour to Ja.Seiravan who started this "battle for justice" and achieved significant successes. To my view, in abounding chess titles G.K.Kasparov possesses lawfully the most main title, - title of the strongest chessplayer of the world. He has merited rivals, and no equals. His chess play is a symbol of the XX-th and even the XXI-st century not only in the sportive, but also in creative sense.
- It has become a mode now to revise historical and even chess events there have been issued already V.Korchnoy'is reminiscences about pretenders' tournament in Curacao 1962. Other revelations are waiting for us surely. Is it all needed? Doesn't it lead to the loss of significance of those events, on the results and games of which more than one generation of chessplayers have been educated already?
- I don't worry about authority of the Soviet chess school and our chess history. There was nothing in it what could defame it. Separate episodes, details which come afloat only enrich our knowledge of the events having taken place; reveal a circle of problems which have arisen before chessplayers. They have been in these episodes "victims of the system", and it could not influence the image and authority of Russian and Soviet chess school. Every chessplayer for sure could recollect something. Here is, for example, D.Bronstejn decided that it could make easier his soul, and I think he is right. It depreciated V.Smyslov's achievements in no way. At the same time it is a dramatic that to the history of the tournament. The same thing is with V.Korchnoy. Of course, all chessplayers are people. Not only "roses" but "thorns" also happen in their mutual relations. One shouldn't be afraid of remembering them.
- Nevertheless, it is not quite objective to write off all events at the cost of the state regime. How do You think?
- Speaking of the system one mustn't smear everything with black without proof. It is the system itself that made a cult of chess in our country. It made possible for young talented chessplayers to develop their gift in full measure. As "a son of this system" I can feel gratitude for those conditions which were made when I studied at the Palace of Pioneers under such a pedagogue like M.Botwinnik, and at the musical conservatory under professor S.Savshinsky. Our chessplayers had many grounds to thank this system for attention to their needs. Due to it chess acquired such authority not only in our country, but in the world as well. Not all is so simple...
- M.E., do You drive a car as before?
- To tell you the truth, it much more comfortable than to walk on foot.
- What a car have You now?
- It is Opel-Astra, it has gone already for six years... I have to visit auto repair stations more often.
- M.E., You're well-known in our city and beyond its boundaries. With whom of well- known people - non-chessplayers do You keep relations?
- It is very pleasant for me that I keep good relations with many outstanding people. My intercourse with them permits me to brighten my not so young years already. I have much what to remember. I've finished writing a memoirs book of late wherein I relate meetings with many great personates of the XX-th century. W.Churchill and Che Guevara, D.Shostakovich and E.Gilels, without speaking also of my colleagues. I was lucky enough with parents and teachers.
- Do You believe in fate, in Your predestination?
- Everyone is a smith of his own happiness. I've got something in many things due to cares of my parents and pedagogues. May be, fate of mine to gratify me with capacity for work and love for my art. I recollect my professor's words: "Love music and it will reciprocate your feelings". I often tell my pupils: "Love chess and it will be faithful to you all life through-out!" Here is the philosophy I succeeded in getting definite achievements.
- Well, great thanks to You and at this optimistical note we'll finish our conversation. Successes to You, health and new creative achievements!