SERGEY SHIPOV AND ILYA SMIRIN - TWO VIEWS OF THE SAME PROBLEM (part one)

The second round of the Candidates tournament, to the delight of the Russian-language on-line audience, was commented on by Sergey Shipov and Ilya Smirin. They perfectly complement each other and their time together here was like a holiday for us all. Unfortunately, no holiday lasts forever. The comrades in the commentary booth did a report of the 14th and last round, drank a glass of champagne at the final banquet and parted, to meet again. When, where, in what circumstances will that happen? We will have to se. 

A week has passed since the end of the tournament, and it is time to reflect on the outcome there, and Sergey and Ilya have their own views to express. Despite being very busy, the grandmasters kindly agreed to do this. Of course, the questions were the same to both, but now they answered separately. So, first give the floor to Sergey Shipov:

How long have the two of you known each other?

Of course, we have known each other a long time, but only once we started the live cmommentary did we really speak seriously together, so the last two years.

Ilya is an experienced and still active player. He combines the playing skills of a player with the wisdom of a trainer. 

Do you work well together?

So far, so good, Providing there is enough space on the table.

Problems arise when the topic of conversation is very interesting and everyone has something to say. We each work on the microphones at the same time, rather than alternately. In general, we do not always manage to avoid speaking at the same time... I hope the audience can somehow put up with this. 

But during a long broadcast we always have the opportunity to take a breath, and pass the load to one's neighbor. Yes, and having different points of view on the position and on general questions of life creates a stereoscopic, multi-dimensional effect. It is by definition more interesting than a single monologue.

Weret there any funny episodes, which were not included in the live broadcast, for example, during a technical break?

During breaks and after the end of the broadcast we were usually bombarded by vulture-like spectators. They peppered us with questions, and shared with us their views of the positions.

In general, the breaks often turned out to be more difficult times for us than when we were on air ...

Did you have any direct communication with your colleagues on the English-language airwaves? 

The English-speaking commentators were like privileged aristocrats. They were onsite at the venue, the Central Telegraph, whereas we were based in a separate building a few kilometers from Tverskaya. Personally, I was never at the venue during play! So I did not see the players or feel the atmosphere of the tournament.

And, accordingly, our viewers were not able to combine the monitoring of the legends of chess with live communication in our commentary. They had to choose.

C'est La Vie! That's the organization.

Were there a lot of distractions, and did they interfere with your work? The match "Brunettes v Blondes" for example?

Sometimes the spectators were extremely active. They were like football fans,  so we were sometimes having trouble hearing. We just ahd to put up with it. At the end of the day, our job was to generate some emotions from the audience.

Men are never distracted by beautiful girls, but it happens vice versa. In the hall, there were loud voices - and I can imagine how difficult it was for the girls focus over the board with this background.

What did interfere with the commentary was the need to manually enter all the games on the computers. At this tournament, for the first time in recent years we did not get pgn-files of the games. It was a bit like going back to shaving with an axe ...

Without asking you to name names, I can not resist: was there anyone you particularly wanted to win the tournament? Or let me put the question as follows: if the winner were determined by an Audience Award, who would you bet on a match with Carlsen?

I'm rooting for our players, in the broadest sense of the word. And especially for the young, that is, for Karjakin and Giri. It's nice that one of ours won!

I think Karjakin has a real chance in the match with the champion. he is improving. Before the match, I am sure he will work hard, and prepare surprises. And the last match in Sochi showed that Carlsen is not perfect! He sometimes does not come to important competitions in good shape. So anything can happen in a single match.

In a relatively short period of time, we have had three Candidates tournament. What do they have in common and in what ways do they differ?

They have all generated great interest among chess fans, produced a lot of interesting games and great sporting intrigue right up to the last round.

The greatest impression was left, by London, of course. Three great pillars of the game fought for the victory: Aronian, Kramnik and and Carlsen. Ivanchuk also brought great colour to the event, beating all the leaders,  but also, most importantly, himself.

Against the backdrop of London,  Khanty-Mansiysk seemed bland. But over the years, I see the beauty in that tournament. The resurrection of Anand, whom everyone had written off, was something divine.

The current tournament has still to be assessed. The dust needs to settle and we need some time to reflect. 

How often do you correctly predict the outcome of the tournament?

It's always a gamble. Any forecast, even the most logically adjusted one, can be cruelly refuted by reality.

However, sometimes I do manage to correctly predict the outcome. Before this tournament, many criticized me for my assessment of Karjakin, whom I named as favourite. But Seryozha did not let me down.

The biggest surprise of the tournament?

There were a lot of them:

1. The initial lack of Russian language at the official site, and for a tournament in the center of Moscow!

2. The way the event was closed off to spectators. Even in a small place like Khanty-Mansiysk, more people were admitted tos ee the games, and completely free of charge. But in the center of a multimillion-dollar chess world to arrange a VIP-oasis ... This was ugly.

3. The fantastically nervous play of the participants, the abundance of errors.

But, I was thinking more of the surprises in the sporting results?

In this respect, in my opinion, there were not too many surprises. The leaders were the ones who were expected to be so, particularly Karjakin and Caruana. But the fact is that every expert named different favorites ...

OK, I was pleasantly surprised by the fighting spirit of Anand. He is still young in body and soul!

And the most "lucky", and "unlucky" players in the tournament?

Giri and Caruana were the unluckiest, in terms of points dropped. Based on the positions they got, they could have shared first place with a score of something like "+5".

And the luckiest was Topalov, whose positions could have left him on "-10". But he did much better than that, one might say with bitter irony. Veselin is a great player, a former world champion. But the old Topalov was not in Moscow.

Which round (of course, except the last one) was the most important in this competition, and why?

The question contains the correct answer. The most important was the last round, when direct competitors met each other. Well, the second most important ... perhaps we shoudl say the penultimate round in which Caruana did not win the mathematically won ending against Svidler, whilst Karjakin held by the skin of his teeth in the game against Aronian.

The best game of the tournament or the one that made the greatest impression?

I was waiting for you to add "apart, of course, from the game Karjakin- Caruana from the last round". (smiles). And if you are not excluding that game, then that must be the answer. I also liked the game Caruana- Nakamura. It was a very clean piece of work by the Italian.

The biggest theoretical novelty of the tournament?

Time will tell. Sometimes it seems that this or that novelty is really able to turn over all our ideas of opening variations. And then, after new analyzes and fresh tests, it turns out that it was only a small and insignificant amendment, if not just an easily refuted trick.

I liked all the duels in the English Opening. Against the backdrop of all our sufferings in the Berlin, it was fresh and interesting.

Only one player made a minus score - Veselin Topalov on -5. he shared the points between three GMs - Karyakin on +3, and Caruana and Anand on +1. It is clear that the Bulgarian ex-champion was out of shape, and this tournament is just an episode in his career, but I want to ask a question. How would the results have changed if Kramnik had played instead of Topalov?

Such a change would radically alter the course of the tournament. Last fall,  saw the real Kramnik, at 100%. He could win this tournament. And even a slightly below par Kramnik, who is not in the best shape, could not have been a total outsider like Topalov. Vladimir could beat any of the current winners of the tournament, and directly affect the outcome.

If only... I am afraid that this dream of a return of Kramnik's best time is lost forever. We will not see him, play a match against Carlsen. 

Do you think we have the optimal formula for determining the challenger in a title match? The event is very interesting, of course, but how can it be changed or improved?

A double round robin tournament is ideal as a spectacle and as a way to determine the winner. A tournament is much better than a match! In a match, you get dull days with a short draw. Matches sometimes also have one player clearly stronger than the other, and there is no intrigue from the start (I am alluding to the last two title matches). A tournament is interesting every day, there is always something to see and someone to cheer. A tournament offers different scenarios of struggle, there is more room for drama.

I have long advocated a match-tournament as way to conduct the world championship. Six players (including the current champion) in four cycles, that is the way it was conceived in 1948 (Fine later withdrew and then there were only five) and that is the best format. I would love to see ands commentate on such an event...

The 2016 Candidates'was marked by the participation of just three newcomers: Caruana, Nakamura and Giri. Who among young grandmasters has a chance to play in the next Candidates Tournament?

Giri and Caruana are definitely the future of world chess. They both have a chance to become world champion. Nakamura is also able for many years to stay on top. But his championship prospects are not so great.

As for other possibles, it will be young Chinese, and probably one Russian. I'll manage without naming names for the moment.

As soon as the winner's name was known, predictions began about the match for the crown. What new (besides the fact that it will be the youngest in the history of chess) do you think the match will offer?

I am afraid that the new match will be overshadowed by the political fuss and scandals. Big politics so quickly rushes into all areas of our lives that one cannot hide from it. A Russian in America, against the backdrop of the current difficult international environment - this is a tempting theme for the media.

But in sporting terms, I expect that Karjakin will push the champion hard. He will really test him, and maybe he will win. he has chances. 

A question pertaining to such specific activities as a chess commentator. Which of the GMs of the past could last for a few hours working live on air?  And looking into the future: who among today's young players have sufficient erudition and ability to "hold" the audience in suspense, etc...?

Seven hours live broadcasting is an inhumane load and violates all the norms of labor legislation! I do not wish to suggest such abuse of any of the older GMs. I would propose to invite well-known veterans to come on the live show just for a short time, maybe at most two hours. Each of them is able to tell a lot of interesting stories and to comment on the course of the struggle of today's players.

The interview used photographs by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kubliashvilifrom the website of the Russian Chess Federation  and also the Facebook page of Sergey Shipov.