'Ours is a very strong side'

ARVIND AARON

FIVE-TIME gold medal winner Peter Svidler of Russia said, "The challenge from Hungary was very much there but we proved we were capable of winning it for the sixth time." Svidler had been a member of the gold medal winning Russian team at Moscow 1994, Yerevan 1996, Elista 1998 and Istanbul 2000. Born on June 17, 1976, Svidler is a Grandmaster from St. Petersburg. Those who are in the world top 10 are referred to as belonging in the elite group in chess and although things haven't been going too well for him on the chessboard, he is an enthusiastic player. He plays for Baden OS in the German league in the same team as Viswanathan Anand.

ARVIND AARON

His game is more stabilised after his marriage. He has played in the prestigious Linares tournaments and beaten the best players including Kasparov. He is a big cricket fan and his handle in the ICC (Internet Chess Club) for the last five years is "Tendulkar"!

A few minutes after his team's 2-2 draw against Yugoslavia, which ensured the title, Svidler spoke about his country's success in an exclusive chat in the open overlooking the lovely Bled lake. He also aired his views on the two new features of this Olympiad - the new time control and the drug testing.

Question: It is the sixth straight title for Russia. Is winning the Olympiad becoming easy?

Answer: Well, it is never like that. But this was one of the easier Olympiads. We had it easy once in a while. I have played five times in the Russian team. It has always happened like this. The easy one followed the very hard one. This is the first time we had relatively two easy triumphs in a row. Even in Istanbul two draws in the final two rounds were enough. It is still not easy. It is a very hard tournament. We are a very strong side obviously. May be we make it look easy but it is certainly not as easy as it appears. For a team like ours, you have to understand that anything else but the first place will be taken as a huge disappointment. So there is a lot of pressure to deliver the goods.

How close was Hungary's challenge? Did the 1.5-2.5 defeat against it rattle your team?

There is a different perspective. If you say that after the defeat our team led Hungary by just one point, then that was close. There was also the possibility that they might beat somebody 4-0 and overtake us. But by the look of things they were more concerned fighting for the second place than aiming for the top prize (laughs). For us it was always the thought of the second-placed team beating somebody by a big margin and overtaking us. But they never really seemed to aim for this somehow. I mean it was rather close. Judging by the position in our match against Hungary after two hours, we could have won it 3-1. But we only managed to lose the match. Why? Mainly because of me. Also the fact that Kasparov didn't win from a better position against Leko. Grischuk didn't win his better position (against Judit Polgar). I was almost winning but I lost the game. After this it became very close. There was only half a point difference between Hungary and us. But finally we proved we were capable of winning it.

You had one change in your team. Garry (Kasparov) replacing Sakaev from your Istanbul team. Did that make such a big difference?

Of course Garry makes a huge difference. When Garry is playing on board one you feel that much better. Also, Garry was very much a team member this year. This of course improved the situation a lot. Usually he maintains some distance and shows up only for team meetings but you don't see him much outside of that. This time, we were really a six-man team. That was of course a nice thing to have him. Also, obviously he was in great form. When you have someone scoring plus six (7.5/9) on the first board it helps a lot.

Did you guys have your training or motivational bonus and things like that?

We don't need any additional bonus. We come here to win. There was training a week before the Olympiad. But nobody was there, we were all playing Bundesliga (German league). Only the girls (Russian women's team) were there. I was present for only one day. I managed to forget my crutches there. I was supposed to be on crutches here and I forgot them there. So, I am forced to walk! (Svidler had a fall while playing football the day before the Russia versus Rest of the World match in September).

Did the drug testing unnerve any of your team members?

There is something going on and I don't know how it exactly ended. I don't think any of us signed anything. So I don't think they are going to test us. But the idea is silly. Why? We are not going to be part of Olympic Games in the near future. The new IOC chief does not seem to be intent on promoting any new sport and he announced that too. Samaranch (the previous IOC chief) was exploring the idea of introducing chess. The new guy said even established events, such as pool, which were in the waiting list for a long time, would not be there. He said until 2010 there will be no new sports in the Olympic Games. So, what's this about? I thought this is about being part of the Olympic family. So, I really don't see a point. Also, apart from drinking coffee nobody is taking anything. It is counter-productive. What you will achieve by this is basically you will have people off coffee. In return you will get huge resentment from players. That is the only achievement you are likely to get. I really don't see why.

Your comments on the new time control. Did it make any difference at the top?

We are kind of used to it already. We played a few tournaments with this control. I like seven hours (the old time control, followed at Istanbul 2000), I don't mind seven hours...

Does it (new control) affect the result?

It does not have a huge bearing on the result. The quality of a long tournament like this one varies anyway. A lot of players make blunders. You see strange games at the Olympiad and you see them at every tournament. I don't think this time control really lowers the quality seriously. You can talk about seven hours being more objective. This time control is not that bad.

How important was this Olympiad to Russia since you guys did not win against the Rest of the World in Moscow?

It was important to win. We lost the World Team Championship to the Ukrainians in 2001. And we lost the match against the Rest of the World. It is nice to win convincingly here. It is a good feeling at the end.

How did you like this Olympiad in comparison to the other ones you have played? How did you like Bled as the venue?

Bled is fantastic. With my walking restricted, I did not move around the lake like other people. It is too long for me (6 km). The venue is fantastic, the scenery is one of the nicest I have seen in my life. The playing hall was small but larger than in Istanbul. The ceilings were higher. So there was some air to breathe which is the most important thing. In Istanbul and in Elista (1998 Olympiad) it was so crowded that people fainted. Azmai (GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili from Georgia), the tough looking guy, fainted in Elista. The Olympiad is a very difficult tournament to organise. You have to seat 2000 people somewhere. Obviously improvements can be made. I think it was organised well. The press centre is the best I have seen in years. I am impressed. I liked it here.