Korchnoi on Carlsen, Karjakin and Caruana

During the recent veterans’ tournament in Suzdal, Russia, 80-year-old Victor Korchnoi talked to Vladimir Barsky and Alexander Bykhovsky (see the photo above). The legendary player, never one to shy away from expressing his opinions in forceful terms, talked about the young generation and expressed the view that Magnus Carlsen achieves his success due to “hypnotic abilities”.  

In the interview at ChessPro he says:

I don’t see that Carlsen has the chess ability and I can’t understand at all how he achieves such incredible success. I can guess why, but it’s got no direct relation to chess.

In the new edition of my "Selected Games" I’ve added some things. For example, a game which I won in the 1974 match against Mecking. The key game of the whole match was the seventh. I could have lost it and then Mecking might have won the match. I’d been utterly outplayed! Nevertheless, I managed to adjourn the game in an endgame a pawn down. He’s a serious player and had won two interzonal tournaments, and I was a pawn down; in general, I’d already written myself off… And what happened? I won that adjourned game! A pawn down, in the endgame! And I started to ask myself: how’s such a thing possible?

I began my discussion of the game: “In the chess world there are a few people with absolutely incredible hypnotic abilities. I consider Henrique Mecking to be among a group of three people who’ve achieved success in chess in that manner. Those are Mikhail Tal, Magnus Carlsen and Henrique Mecking”.

I wrote that, and who objected? Kasparov didn’t agree, but that’s his business! I’ve got my own outlook on life and chess. The man forced his opponent to play as he wanted at the board. Then he goes home where there’s no opponent; and as a result he loses a drawn position. It’s not chess but something totally different! That’s how I see it.

I also talked about it with Ivanchuk. I looked at a game and couldn’t work out how a grandmaster can play the move queen d1-d2 against Giri in the Grunfeld Defence [in Round 3 of the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, 2011]. It was such an ugly move; a grandmaster couldn’t play like that! It’s somehow abnormal.

Here Carlsen played the novelty 11.Qd2?! and went on to lose in 22 moves

I mentioned that to Ivanchuk, but he replied: “Well, that’s one game”. But I think I could come up with lots of such games. It’s something strange, something to do with the psyche, because such play has nothing to do with pure chess. That’s why I take such a view of Magnus Carlsen.

You think he has an effect on his opponents?

Probably. I also told Ivanchuk: “I envy two people, you and Kasparov. I envy you in a good sense: because you managed to introduce so much beauty into chess. And I don’t envy Magnus Carlsen in that good sense: a man who doesn’t work on chess but still achieves huge success, beating everyone he wants with one hand tied behind his back!” Ivanchuk replied that he can see Magnus Carlsen’s thoughts at work, that it’s no accident that he comes up with such strange moves. In general, our opinions differed. Despite that I’ve still got the impression that Ivanchuk didn’t understand my idea that I envy him in a good sense, while I envy Magnus Carlsen in a bad sense! (laughs) That’s what I wanted to say, and you can write that! [...]

But after all Carlsen is now at the very top. He’s first on the rating list.

It’s amazing! I can’t accept that’s correct.

But despite that he declined to compete in the Candidates Matches.

Yes, I wanted to talk about that. And here’s what else. Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen recently shared first place in a tournament in Romania, and a photo was published on the cover of a chess magazine: a happy Karjakin, and Carlsen smiling through gritted teeth. I’d like to say to Karjakin: of course, it’s very nice to be photographed with the world’s top chess player, but you shouldn’t forget that you, Karjakin, want to become World Champion, and that’s why you moved to Moscow. But Magnus Carlsen – he essentially stands for an amateur rather than a professional approach. He’s an amateur and he’s nailing the professionals! So Magnus Carlsen is against you! Against you personally as a challenger for the world title. Don’t forget about that, Karjakin, when you’re photographed with him! That’s all I wanted to say.

Karjakin and Carlsen after their second game in Bazna 2011. Photo: ChessVibes

You recently beat Caruana…

The way things went with Caruana is as follows: I’d lost a few games to him before that, and in one of them I lost on time in a better position. There was no increment as a bonus after each move. At the board I saw that he also had problems with time, and that he got nervous. I didn’t factor that in as I should have done and after the game I told him that he’d never play chess! It must be noted that by that moment he was already playing chess! But it looked as though he wouldn’t play chess because he got too nervous during games. I didn’t take into account the fact that he was in time trouble and he wasn’t used to being in time trouble. In short, I’m not going to apologise, as he remembered my words and repeated them to other people!

He complained about you, yes?

Complained is too strong a word. Though nevertheless, he complained! (laughs)

Full text at ChessPro (in Russian)


amateurs don't train with kasparov

Obviously Carlsen works on chess quite a lot. He trained with people like Kasparov and Wesley So and has training camps on a regular base. Maybe it's not Korchnois way but he clearly is a pro.