(ending; beginning is here)

The 2020 Candidates Tournament, when the competitions in the world have already started to be canceled, began in Yekaterinburg on March 15, 2020. I think it was a political decision of the Russian authorities, which was implemented by the new FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. And this despite the fact that Teimour Rajabov refused to participate in the competition. He was replaced by the Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who, in my opinion, was the most unlucky in Jerusalem. But the coronavirus quickly spread around the world, including Russia. After the end of the 1st round, the same Dvorkovich announced that the competition was terminated, but it would certainly be played out, and the participants urgently headed home. The question arose about Rajabov, how to compensate him for the fact that he quite rightly refused to participate. There were various proposals. How do you feel about the new leadership of FIDE and the voluntaristic decision to start the Candidates Tournament in mid-March?

– Maxime was unlucky not only in Jerusalem, but also in the qualifiers for the last two Candidates Tournaments. I am very glad that he eventually got there and performed well in the first round.

As for the tournament itself, it’s not so easy to answer. I confess that I also thought for a long time that the tournament should be held. Firstly, it was not clear how the situation would have developed in autumn or winter, and I didn’t want to wait more than a year, because young talents were growing up. In addition, Yekaterinburg was still a relatively safe place in March. Only a couple of days before the start, I began to realize that the tournament is long, and a lot can change over the time. The fact that they will close the borders a few days later, I did not expect. In hindsight, I can say that the tournament shouldn’t have been started, but it was not at all clear in advance.

It is clear that it was stupid to let so many people attend the opening, and FIDE chose the only suitable moment to suspend the tournament.

As for Teimour Rajabov, I think that a ticket to the next Candidates Tournament would be adequate compensation for him.

I believe that with the change of the leadership in FIDE, something has improved. Another thing is that with a different result of the elections, something would probably have been improved a little too – it was just the time for changes.

To what extent things have improved in FIDE is another question. The new leadership is working hard, making some progress, and some of the decisions are dissatisfying. I don’t like either the fact that chess is strongly connected with politics in general and with Russian politics in particular.

The pandemic has hit everyone, but chess has gone online, and now we do not have time to follow the huge number of tournaments. You recently reached the final of the Mr Dodgy Invitational tournament, where you lost to Anish Giri, and Daniil Dubov even won in the final of the 2nd super tournament, organized by Magnus Carlsen, against Hikaru Nakamura, who, in his turn, beat Magnus in the semifinals. What is your opinion about what is happening now, when you can play and earn good money without leaving your home? The organizers do not bear many of the usual expenses, especially when it comes to inviting elite chess players. Can you explain how the tournament and prize fund is being formed now?

– Everyone can play on the web, but only a few can make good money. Since mid-March, I have been working a little less than in the past, and I earn a lot less. It is clear that there is a lot of money to be made in Magnus Carlsen tournaments, and in most tournaments, many grandmasters compete for several prizes. I was glad to receive an invitation to the Mr Dodgy Invitational tournament, I even managed to win 500 euros there, but you still can’t call it big money. In the leagues, I received from 250 to 650 euros per game, and almost regardless of the result.

Which time control used in current tournaments do you prefer? What is your opinion about that a number of tournaments have started using different scoring systems, depending on whether these are the first games or the last ones? If for a victory at the beginning you get one point, then in the final games as many as three…

– I like to play classical chess, rapid chess, and blitz. The latter should not be taken so seriously, there much depends on the instant form. I consider classical to be the highest genre, but the difference between genres is decreasing.

I don’t really support innovations about scoring. In one recent tournament, it turned out that if the points were equal according to the local scoring system, the player who scored fewer points according to the normal system automatically won. Yes, we are talking about the same tournament.

Your universal rating, taking into account performances in all competitions (classic, rapid, blitz), established by the Grand Chess Tour and the Kasparov Foundation, as of June 1, 2020 was 2714 points, this is 30th place…

– I’m not very familiar with the universal rating system. Perhaps its time has just come, since the official ratings (divided into classics, rapid and blitz) do not work very well with a small number of games played.

You first crossed the 2700 mark in 2008. But it seems that you never had any special ambitions in the struggle for the highest titles. If you take the current top five-ten, what are your results against them?

– You’re right, I never had any special ambitions. It’s a bit like mountain climbing. Living at the very top is not so easy, there are additional loads. More journalists want to interview you, more people will call and ask if you want to coach them, more people will criticize you for nothing. (It is clear that there is always something to criticize for, I speak about it from my own experience.) Ten years ago I could strain to get into the top ten, but there was never a strong desire. Excessive attention from the outside was more of an additional burden for me. Sometimes it was difficult to deal with it, even if I did not hit the top ten.

Besides, I never learned how to prepare for elite tournaments. This requires systematic work on the opening and more, you need to play with black reliably. From time to time I got into the elite due to the fact that I managed to complicate the game and gain a lot of points in various leagues against decent, but far-from-elite opponents. I have a bad score with most elite players, although there are pleasant exceptions.

How did you perceive the coronavirus situation, what can you say in general about what is happening in the Czech Republic at the beginning of the pandemic and now? How was the quarantine in the country?

On a walk with a self-made chess mask

– The introduction of quarantine in mid-March was a shock for me, because the borders were closed within 24 hours. Somewhere at the initiative of the Czech Republic, somewhere at the request of neighboring countries. In fact, at first, information was mixed with disinformation, for a long time it was not clear how great the danger was. It was only by mid-March that it became clear that this was not just a variant of the flu, but a more dangerous disease (experts understood this earlier).

So the quarantine time passed. I looked for errors in chess books that were being prepared for publication. (The photo is indicative, but the reality is quite real.)

Coronavirus, get out of here! On the board, the initial position of the so-called Czech system (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6) is White’s time. I have alcohol in my left hand, and I’m pointing “out” with my right hand. In Czech, it turns out to be a play of words, since there is one expression for “get out of here” (not very pretty) and “walk” (on the board).

Fortunately, the Czech government took necessary measures in time to avoid the worst. In general, I have sceptical attitude towards this government, but they have succeeded perfectly in the fight against COVID-19. It was very useful that the renowned epidemiologist and vaccinologist Roman Primula was the deputy minister of health. By the way, he is a strong chess player, a FIDE master.

Some of the measures taken by the Czech government were problematic. Employees often bought masks from suspicious companies, publicly thanked P.R.C. for selling them masks, and did not thank Taiwan for sending free of charge masks. It is clear that at first we had to buy masks from China, and without them it would have been much worse, but Czech manufacturers of quality sanitary hygiene products have received only modest support to this day. Several close employees of the Czech President violated the hygiene standards enforced in the Czech Republic. One of them returned from China, and did not comply with quarantine.

On a walk

But in general, fortunately, in the Czech Republic it turned out not so bad, it could be much worse.

Tell us about your hobbies, passions. Literature, films, music?

– I don’t watch films that much. I read with pleasure, although chess magazines are the most of what I read. I am interested in sociology, although I have forgotten a lot over the past decade. I read Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, and much more, but I still don’t consider myself as a big reader. And there is not always enough time.

I love melodic and not very loud music. I like different genres. If I even had any exquisite taste, then it disappeared over the time.

And about politics…

– I have always watched over politics, but I myself have not shown much activity. I am a devoted democrat, I am close to the concept of an open society by Karl Raimund Popper. (It’s funny that my full namesake showed some activity in this area in the Czech Republic.) I also like the concept of civil society, but I don’t have enough time to do it. I strongly dislike the Kremlin policy. It seems that the Russian authorities wanted no one to remain indifferent to them, and they succeeded in that. It’s a pity, because I have many friends in Russia. At the same time, I cannot say that I fully agree with the foreign policy of, say, the Czech Republic, the European Union, the United States or Israel, but you can’t agree on everything. I like something more, something less… The European Union is far from ideal, but still I am very glad that the Czech Republic is in the EU.

I recently played for a Hungarian team in an internet tournament. Friends invited me, and friendship is more important to me than politics.

What is your daily routine at competitions (in pre-coronavirus time) and in everyday life. Tell us about your life, your favorite dishes.

– I prepare a lot at tournaments, but at home I read more chess magazines. I live in a single family house on the outskirts of Prague. I love fish, vegetables, fruits, bread and their various fancy combinations, as well as spicy chocolate.

Which cities or places you’ve visited are close to you?

– I don’t know, for me the environment and the company are more important. For example, I felt good with the Novy Bor team at almost all European Cups, regardless of the place.

You are always elegantly dressed. Wouldn’t you like to come to tournaments in looser clothes? I reviewed all the pictures of the 2015 European Championship in Jerusalem, as well as a number of your games, and decided to show most of them.

European Championship in Jerusalem (February 24 – March 8, 2015) On the left is the game of the 3rd round, won against Alexander Shimanov, after which David won 3 out of 3. On the right during the game in the 4th round with the future winner of the championship Evgeny Najer, which ended in a draw on the 28th move.

Before the games of the 6th and 7th rounds

During the tour of Jerusalem on the eve of the last tour

Final round 11. Ivan Cheparinov from Bulgaria plays the black. The game ended in a draw on move 44.

Rewarding ceremony. David Navara (2nd place) congratulates Mateusz Bartel, who beat Ian Nepomniachtchi and became 3rd. Evgeny Najer from Moscow is in the center. Pictures by Yoav Nis

– I only dress elegantly when there is a decent chance that I will be photographed. In everyday life, I prefer to dress informally.

Probably, the lack of conflict, gentleness of character hinders you when playing at the highest level. Have you tried to somehow break yourself?

– What for? I have more or less everything in order with this in terms of chess, I play combat chess. It seems to me that in the past two years I have become a little tougher, although this is not always a good thing. For example, if I showed a brilliant result in some league and received a rather modest fee, then this is a perfectly suitable reason to say goodbye.

Year 2018. I meet Sergei Movsesyan, my good friend (photo by Anežka Kruzikova). I played the most tournament games with him; in addition, we have provided a number of tandem simuls. One of them took place in Prague in 2016, and then we played an exhibition match on 12 boards at the same time!

– I try to be pleasant, although it doesn’t always work out. I also have my own troubles, life is not always so simple.

What are the most memorable games or episodes from them?

– It’s hard to say, because in the last decade I have played a thousand classical games!

Then remember, please, how Korchnoi reacted to his loss to you in the aforementioned short match. Have you played with him again?

– Grandmaster Korchnoi first left, and when I showed the game to the audience, he came back, offering a strengthening. I proposed a retaliatory move saying that the position was unclear. And he replied: “Only for you!”. I was okay with that. The position, by the way, was indeed in dynamic equilibrium, which is what I meant by the word “unclear”. Perhaps this assessment to the eminent grandmaster seemed somewhat evasive. I played five games with Viktor Lvovich, winning three with two draws. It’s true that his best years were already behind him.

In chess, you like creativity, but at the same time you have to memorize a lot and then painfully remember it at the board, having a limited time. How is your chess memory, do you think you have a chess talent? You also once said that a particularly important quality for a chess player, that is not always talked about, is intelligence in the broad sense of the word. And that even among elite chess players there are few intelligent people.

The game of the 9th round (March 5, 2015) ended with the victory of David in the European Championship in Jerusalem. On the eve of Ian Nepomniachtchi winning and taking the 1st place. Photo by Yoav Nis

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Bb2 Nd7 8.Qb3 e6 9.c4 b6 10.a4 Bb7 11.a5 f6 12.Bd3 Bd6 13. Qc2 f5 14.Ng5 Nf8 15.f4 h6 16.Nf3 Ng6 17.h4 0-0-0 18.axb6 axb6 19.Bxf5 Nxf4 20.Be4 Bxe4 21.Qxe4 Nd3 + 22.Ke2 Nxb2 23.Rhb1 Rhe8 24.Rxb2 Qb7 25.Qb1 Bc7 26.Rba2 Bb8 27.Ra8 Rd6 28.R1a7 Qxa7 29.Rxa7 Bxa7 30.Ne5 Red8 31.d3 Rf8 32.g4 Bb8 33.Qh1 h5 34.gxh5 Rf5 35.Ng6 Rf7 36.Qe4 Rf6 37. Ne7 + Kc7 38.Qh7 Rf7 39.Ng6 e5 40.Nxe5 Re7 41.Ng6 Red7 42.Nf4 Kb7 43.Qf5 Bc7 44.e4 b5 45.Nd5 bxc4 46.dxc4 Rd8 47.e5 Re8 48.Nxc7 Kxc7 49.Qf7 + Kd 50.Qxe8 + Kxe8 51.exd6 Kd7 52.Kf3 Kxd6 53.Ke4 1–0

David Navara was the first player to qualify for the December 2019 semi-final in the Jerusalem Grand Prix after a clean 37-move victory over Dmitry Yakovenko. Photo by Niki Riga from here

David Navara in Jerusalem, December 2019. Photo by Niki Riga

– In every work there are more and less attractive elements. It so happened that over the time, even studying openings began to interest me, although I would prefer to create them myself.

I could hardly play a blindfold simul, I hardly remember positions (as well as one great ex-world champion), but I am able to restore a game played in turn, and in fact I remember a lot of things, although not always exactly. I definitely have a talent, but not for blindfold simuls!

Do you think there is a problem of “cheating” in online tournaments?

– Of course there is. And how serious it is, I cannot say, because in my life I have played only five tournaments on the Internet, and everything went well there. Due to the threat of cheating, it is hardly possible to organize tournaments with long control or open tournaments with really big prizes. We need security measures, programs like ZOOM, cameras, judges. However, playing live in this sense is safer, because on occasion, you can check players with a metal detector.

Surely you could change the federation and represent another country and earn more. The pandemic most likely cleared up this issue. And if it hadn’t happened?..

Czech teams at the training camp back in 2012 (photo by Kateřina Němcová)

GM Jansa with Fiona Steil-Antoni and me. (Jansa also worked as a coach in Luxembourg for about 20 years, so Fiona is also his student!)

– I’m not going to change the federation, I have good relations with my superiors. After all, I became a strong grandmaster in the Czech Republic, I received money from the federation for training. There were no other offers, but I am happy with where I am and I love to play for my country. I do not exclude that under some circumstances I could have moved, but for me this is not a question of money.

A little about women in chess. As already noted, in 2010 you lost the match to Judit Polgar, and in 2013 you played 2:2 with the then world champion Hou Yifan. What can you say about those matches, and other meetings with women chess players?

– I played very poorly against Judit Polgar and deservedly lost. And then I lost to Hou Yifan in a tie-break, and after that I lost to her more than once. In general, my results with women are normal. In Gibraltar, I played eight games with women chess players with ratings 2400-2500 for several years and scored 7.5 points.

What is chess for you, what is 35 years for a chess player nowadays, how long are you going to play actively?

– I am going to play for a long time, because I love chess and I am tolerant to defeats. Another thing is that over the time there are more of them…

I think that many people have read the interview with interest and got to know an unusual chess player of our time. What would you like to say to the readers of the site?

Wishes (I added a couple of words to create some ambiguity): “I wish you strong health, many good ideas, and joy (not only) at the chessboard. David Navara. June 26, 2020”

Original in Russian 06/25/2020. English translation by belisrael

GM David Navara was interviewed by Aaron Shustin (Petach-Tikva, Israel)

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GameDev. Very informative. What brave and bold moves. Brilliant !!

manmeet nimbarkSir you are doing great work. Salute to you


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Published on 08/15/2020 14:15