Text: Vlad Tkachiev
Photo: Irina Stepaniuk
1. Vlad Tkachiev: What dream do you have left in chess after this victory?
Alexander Grischuk: It’s hard to say. I’ve never had any dream in chess. Well, except perhaps to become the Champion and achieve a certain level of domination over the rest of the chess world. Although of course that’s unrealistic.
2. The marathon round-robin system for holding the World Blitz Championship – to what extent is that appropriate?
No, but I often use things I’d be embarrassed to play in classical chess. In particular, I’ve constantly played 1.g3 on the first move, though not, it’s true, in this tournament. When the title of champion is at stake I can “expose” any idea whatsoever. Why should I hold something back if for me such tournaments are the ones that matter most. Sometimes I have more regrets revealing something important at the Tal Memorial than in a blitz championship.
4. Once, despite having the rank of ex-World Blitz Champion, you failed to get through the qualifying tournament yourself. Do you think it’s correct that on each occasion so many players are allowed to compete without qualifying?
It’s certainly wrong, although on this occasion that’s how I got in. I’ve played in qualifying twice – once I got through and the other time I didn’t. There should be far more places given to one big qualifying tournament after some major event, the way it was with the Aeroflot Open. If there are 16 participants playing in the final then you could give a direct pass to 6 players, or maybe 5. The Blitz World Champion, the Classical World Champion, the no. 1 rated player and then, perhaps, a couple more.
5. At what rating strength do you play blitz at the moment?
2830-2840. If they’d counted the Aeroflot Blitz tournament then that’s what my official blitz rating would already be.
6. The all-time blitz Top 10??
I can name five in the order they crossed my mind: Kasparov, Fischer, Tal, Karpov, Anand.
7. Among those you’ve met who has the fastest hand in off-line blitz?
Dominguez. When he became World Blitz Champion in Almaty, without an increment, I could give perpetual check in my game against him, and I had 20 seconds until the end while he had 10. We both started to blitz out moves but my flag fell while he still had 5 seconds left, so in that phase he’d taken 5 seconds to my 20.
8. Why is it that for so many years the most popular form of chess – blitz – has been pushed into the background?
Like it or not, the role of opening preparation is reduced in blitz. And who’s had the greatest influence in chess for many years now? The Champions. And the people most likely to become those are the ones with the best preparation. They have the illusion that it’s not worth wasting your preparation on blitz, although in the majority of cases the Classical World Champions would also win at rapid controls. Well, and usually these people make efforts to preserve the status quo. It’s actually simple enough to influence public opinion in chess, as all you need are a few interviews by a champion and an outstanding chess player, and then some articles by, let’s say, Mark Dvoretsky, which are scathing about rapid, never mind blitz. And that’s that. The operation is, you might say, complete!
V.T.: And don’t you have the desire to destroy them now?
A.G.: But why now? There have only ever been one or two truly influential chess players at any moment in time: Fischer – Karpov, Karpov – Kasparov. After that for a long time only Kasparov was like that. But in any case, there’s always one or two, and I’m not among them.
9. They didn’t give you a laurel wreath. What should the award ceremony for the World Blitz Champion look like?
They didn’t give me a laurel wreath / But they also didn’t take me away like a thief! [a loose translation of Grischuk’s rhymed couplet!]
I don’t know what sort of ceremony there should be, and incidentally it wasn’t bad at all. I’m not too bothered about awards, but I was pleasantly surprised that they played two verses of the national anthem and not one, as they usually do. And they also played it twice, the second time for Karjakin.
10. In what other critical situations do you stand out for your speed of thought?
In critical ones. But in any which aren’t critical – rare sluggishness!
11. One fine day will the title of World Blitz Champion become cooler than the classical title, and if so, when?
I hope it will, but I don’t know if it’ll happen, and I’ve even less idea when. Only if the situation in chess changes significantly. No sooner.
V.T.: And will you and I live to see it?
A.G.: No, it's unlikely you and I will.
12. When will you stop playing chess?
When I die.
360 seconds. Alexander Grischuk: “I hope…”