`I have to improve a lot'

BAKU, the capital of Azerbaijan, is famous for producing two top class chess players. One is the World No. 1 Garry Kasparov (who subsequently settled in Moscow) and the second is Teimour Radjabov, the teenager who is making waves.


BAKU, the capital of Azerbaijan, is famous for producing two top class chess players. One is the World No. 1 Garry Kasparov (who subsequently settled in Moscow) and the second is Teimour Radjabov, the teenager who is making waves.

"I think I need to analyse my games, study and understand a lot. I have to make progress in the openings. I know I have a few problems there," says Teimour Radjabov. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

Having had a hot and roaring year facing the best players of the world, Radjabov is looking forward to rest and do some introspection about his openings and self-study of his play to move forward in the game.

Strong juniors of the modern generation do not play world junior championships. They vie for the world senior championship and rankings instead.

Also they become professionals very early and do not go to school or college. In that line came Gata Kamsky, Vladmir Kramnik, Peter Leko and now Teimour Radjabov is following suit. A decade or two back, the world champions were those who won the world junior in their youth like Karpov, Kasparov and Anand.

At 14, Radjabov became a Grandmaster making one of his norms at the Corus Grandmaster Group `B' at Wijk aan Zee in 2001. His father asked this writer if India's Pendyala Harikrishna would agree to a draw so that both will make Grandmaster norms. The draw was agreed and soon he became a Grandmaster. Radjabov used that as a stepping stone to return to the Wijk aan Zee tournament and play in the Grandmaster Group `A' this year.

Radjabov playing against Vladimir Kramnik in the Sparkassen Chess Meeting at Dortmund. Radjabov is of the opinion that there would be a lot of drawn encounters in the world championship match between Kramnik and Leko, to be played later this year. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

At 15, Radjabov already played on the top board for his country Azerbaijan at the Bled Chess Olympiad in October-November 2002. He was also part of the Rest of the World team that upset Russia in September 2002.

At 16, he played and defeated Kasparov at the grandest of all super events — Linares. Radjabov has played all the three top tournaments this year and is the youngest to get that opportunity. At 17, he wants to correct the flaws and emerge as the best to be a part of the elite group. The trend is with him and his eagerness and attacking play should help him reach the desired destination.

At Dortmund, he scored over Viswanathan Anand with a noteworthy queen sacrifice. A 50 per cent is what he scored but he would be gaining Elo since the tournament average rating was about 47 Elo more than his 2648. Once he scored 1.5-0.5 against Anand, he spoke to The Sportstar in an exclusive chat.

Question: This year you played in all three super category tournaments — at Wijk aan Zee, Linares and Dortmund. What progress have you made?

Answer: First of all I gained a lot of experience playing all these big players. I also noticed that I had a lot of problems because I did not have enough time to analyse my games. Now I think I need to analyse my games, study and understand a lot. I played in many other tournaments besides what you had named. For the high level I think I need and also gain a lot of experience. I have to study my problems — where, what and why they are — and try to make amends. I also know that I have to make progress in the openings. I know I have a few problems there.

As in Linares you had problems with the French defence.

Yes, in Linares they shot me at my French defence. I attack like a maniac. They start to attack. Leko, Kramnik and even Kasparov started to attack and it became a problem. So I decided to play the Sicilian defence. I did not have time to prepare strongly and conceptually. I have always played tournaments in quick succession. So I do not have time to analyse the games and improve my openings. That is why I have been losing some points. But okay I will improve for sure.

At Linares you were given the best game prize (for beating Kasparov). Honestly, do you think it was the best or do you agree with Garry's view (Kasparov thought it was not the best game, grabbed the mike and made a scene at the closing ceremony)?

My view was that the game was very interesting. I don't want to comment more on that. To judge the best game is for the organisers, journalists or experts. It was a very hard game. I liked it a lot. To take a piece, it was very dangerous for white as well. In Linares we all played many boring games because everyone was playing very strong. The level of play there is very high. So, there are not so many good games. My game was a tactical one. So I think I won it, to be honest.

Which was your best game in Dortmund? Are you satisfied with your overall 5/10 score?

In this game at Dortmund, Radjabov scored over Viswanathan Anand with a noteworthy queen sacrifice. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

Of course I could have got better than the 50 per cent score. I could do it only by studying before the tournament. I had no time. Okay, I had five weeks. But I had to relax. I played in seven strong tournaments in a row. I have to play the openings and work very hard. Players such as Anand or Leko are not playing category 15 and 16 like me. They are at home preparing. Their level is very high. They must play with 2700 or something like that. They are sitting and preparing a lot. When you come, you have exhausted your ideas. They see your ideas and try to catch you in the opening. So it is very hard to play. I should look at this point a lot.

Whom are you working with and are you using computers a lot in Baku?

I am working alone. Everyone knows this. I should now think about that. I am using computers like any other normal chess player. Otherwise I can't survive in this field.

Are you staying all the time in Baku or playing in league games?

I have not played league games so far. Now this season I will play for NAD Chess Club (French league).

You said at the opening press conference at Dortmund that when you go into a tournament you want to win the first prize. What is your ambition? To become the World Champion?

Of course, yes. But before the tournament at Dortmund I understood I was not ready for the first place. But still I normally say that since I want to win. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. Of course everyone's goal is to win normally and not to lose any game.

Look at Karmnik, he is winning one game and making many draws. People say that is bad. But he does not care. He is playing for the result. If I was in Kramnik's place, let's say, I would not like to play as Tal in modern chess but I want to play for the public and want to change my plans sometimes.

Do you like the six-player double round robin tournaments or the 14-player format they have in Wijk aan Zee where you face different styles but only once?

I like the six-player two-times round robin.

What progress have you made in the last one year?

Let's say, from Bled, I lost 10 points in rating!

Does rating really matter?

If you take chess as a sport, then the points and results matter. At Wijk aan Zee I gained about 14 points. I think only Judit Polgar gained more than me. From that time I am sure I made a big progress. But always I am playing against the elite players and it is very hard. When I say elite players here I mean Anand, Leko and Kramnik. Players rated above 2650 are compared to them or they form the second string. Bologan is a very strong player. It is not surprising for me that he had such a result at Dortmund because they wanted to attack him. Leko wanted to win at all costs.

I think my results will improve very soon because I hope to work a lot. So far I have not had the time to work. I see a lot of my problems in my style of play. Like sometimes I am too optimistic. I am overestimating my position. I won against Anand with a queen sacrifice. Then I wanted to win against Naiditch with a piece sacrifice. Sometimes I am carried away and not stable. This I will try to improve and would soon be okay.

Having your parents with you all the time, does it give you a good feeling psychologically?

Yes. For me it is much better. My mother says nice things and my father acts as a coach sometimes. Because he asks me `why you played this and that.' For me, good emotions during a tournament is very important.

Now Azerbaijan has a superstar in you and there are young players such as Mamedyarov. So, is chess making good progress in your country? Also it is well known that Garry came from Baku.

It always started like this. It started from the world championships and juniors from under-10. We played in all categories. Myself and Gashimov played together in many of them. Mamedyarov came later but now he is second in the Azerbaijan rating list. Okay, we are improving. In the Olympiad we won against Ukraine 2.5-1.5. You know, Ukraine (with Ponomariov, Ivankchuk etc) is the world team champion. I think our country is improving.

Do you get sponsorships or Government support? Are you some kind of a national hero?

Now it is getting better since I am getting good results. So the financial side is okay now. There are a lot of articles in the newspapers. Even when there is no chess, a few articles appear in the newspapers.

What events are lined up for you in the coming months?

In October I will play the European Team Championship at Plodviv in Bulgaria. At the end of the year I am playing in Benidorm (Spain). I think Anand, Karpov, Polgar are also playing there. Now actually I don't want to play a lot. I need to prepare. I need to study.

Morozevich says he has quit playing professional chess. Will this have an impact on the chess world?

I don't believe this theory. I can say I am not playing professional chess and then come and beat everyone. Then you say I played like an amateur. Imagine Garry beats everyone and declares `now I am playing only amateur chess'. Morozevich is a very professional player. I know him and his style. He prepares a lot and very strongly. He won in Biel with this fascinating result (8/10). He is gaining about 20-25 points. This is not true. I don't believe such things.

What are your predictions on the Kasparov v Ponomariov (from Sept. 19) and the Kramnik v Leko matches?

Kasparov versus Ponomariov will depend on Kasparov's form. If he thinks he will beat him easily and then makes chess politics, then I don't know what will happen in the match. If he prepares a lot like I think he will, his chances of winning will be 65-75 percent.

Karmnik versus Leko, I do not know. May be there will be a lot of draws. They both have a strong feeling of fear. When they feel they are losing, they try to make a draw.

I think they are typical match players. Their match will be very strategical. It will be like Kasparov v Karmnik (London, 2000 which Kramnik won). If you play like Tal, Kramnik will take everything and stop your attack and win. I think there will be many draws and still a lot of struggle.

When will the reunification take place?

I hope it will happen quickly and there will be one world champion soon. We all need one undisputed world champion. In this system we will get one undisputed world champion.

After that we will have a normal cycle and everything should be normal. Two title matches means crisis in chess.