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    « A Thought On The Nielsen Interview | Main | Update on the Blogger »
    Saturday
    Apr272013

    A Short Interview With Peter Heine Nielsen

    Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Jaideep Unudurti, who not only offers comments here on a regular basis, but is sometimes a featured part of the blog posts themselves. (You might remember his recent adventure playing blitz with Viswanathan Anand, for example.) This is true of this post as well, as we have here an interview with Peter Heine Nielsen, to appear in the May issue of Man's Magazine. Nielsen is a strong Danish grandmaster who worked for many years as one of Anand's seconds, but who recently helped Magnus Carlsen in the Candidates' tournament. Here, with thanks to Jaideep, is the interview (or at least parts of it - I'm not sure if there will be more when it's officially released):

    This is the first WC you'll be sitting out after a long time, will you miss the excitement?

    I would expect so! but the main difference will more be social actually. We are used to spending really a lot of time together in the team, and thats somehow a more drastic change.

    You've seen Carlsen from his formative years, in broad terms how would you characterize him as a chess player?

    He is an extremely strong practical player. in London he used all the chances he got, and that was the main difference to his competitors.  He is 22, and still not fully developed, so hard to attribute him a specific style yet.

    Where do you see the battleground, what type of positions would Magnus like to see on the board, and vice versa, for Anand?

    I actually think both players are so all-round, that what they really care about is the quality of their position. Maybe Magnus prefers longer technical games, and Vishy more dynamic positions, but they would both happily take a position in their opponents so-called terrain, if their position is objectively better.

    Magnus has his own distinctive low-on-theory approach, is this the wave of the future?

    It seems indeed that the days of big novelties are over, and that fits Magnus style well. If this is the future? Well maybe this match will tell!

    Kasparov has stated his interest in assisting Carlsen. Will this be a key factor or has too much water flowed under the bridge? 

    I really think the main battlefield by far will be the actual play, and that preparations, advisers etc. is secondary. Kasparov and Carlsen has worked together on several occasions, with both ups and downs. Kasparov's match experience might actually only be matched by Vishy's, and of course Magnus could greatly benefit from such advice. On the other hand one often has to find ones own individual approach to such a challenge as a WC-match. I think the chess-world can look forward to a very interesting match indeed!

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    Reader Comments (4)

    I am a chess enthusiast. The following is some stuff I have written on my Facebook wall. I want a wider readership for it. Also, I want better informed people than me to read it comment on it.

    [DM: As the post you're commenting on is now very old, it's unlikely that many people will see it.
    I respect the amount of time you put into this, but please remember that the comments section is just that: a comments section. It isn't a forum for readers to create their own blogs. Thank you.]

    Team Anand (Part One)

    Everybody who seriously follows chess knows who were Anand’s seconds for the past half a decade or so, starting from before the Anand – Kramnik WCC match in 2008: GM Peter Heine Nielsen, GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly had assisted Vishy Anand during his last three WCC title defenses.

    It is also well known that GM Peter Heine Nielsen and GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov are now not helping Anand in his preparations for the title defense against Carlsen.

    According to the latest news published in the Times of India, Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Radosław Wojtaszek continue as seconds while Sandipan Chanda joins the team.

    Therefore, Radosław Wojtaszek, the Polsih grandmaster, is the one known Grand Master who comprised the core of the team of seconds to world chess champion Viswanathan Anand in his successful title defence matches against Kramnik in 2008, Veselin Topalov in 2010 and Boris Gelfand in 2012, who still continues to be in the team.

    Peter Heine Nielsen, the Danish chess Coach, had been Anand's main 'Second' for a long time. Nielsen was the architect who designed the paradigm that has been so successful for Anand. Nielsen has a tremendous capacity for work. When other team members worked on a particular line, or somebody like Kramnik or Kasparov or Carlsen or Giri offered to help or contribute something to Anand’s preparation, it was Nielsen who assimilated all that into the body of work that Anand’s database consists of. In other words, Nielsen wove all the bright, little ideas and the flashes of brilliance of many chess masters into a grand paradigm and made it work for Anand. Now that Nielsen is not heading team Anand, there must be another team leader or architect for Anand’s work. There would be a paradigm shift in Anand’s approach.

    Peter Heine Nielsen had helped Carlsen in the Candidates Tournament with the latter's preparation. Although, Anand seems to be cool about Nielsen helping Carlsen, I don't understand how that can be justified: after all, the Candidates Tournament was being played to determine a challenger to Anand in whose camp Neilsen was for a long time. Neilsen should have asked Anand’s permission for helping Carlsen which Anand should have denied. According to Anand, Nielsen would neither be helping Anand nor Carlsen in the forthcoming match between them. However, I feel that this development is a blessing in disguise for Anand. Even otherwise, it was time Anand had changed his team of seconds; Anand has not been playing his best chess in the last two years: he has hit a plateau. It would be interesting to see who would be Anand’s choice for a replacement for Nielsen as his main ‘second’.

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov the Uzbekistani chess Grandmaster, best known for winning the FIDE World Chess Championship 2004, was the other mainstay of Viswanathan Anand's team of seconds. Kasimdzhanov in particular had been a huge help with Anand's work in the Semi-Slav, some of the fruit of which was seen in Anand's great win over Aronian from Wijk aan Zee earlier this year and in his two wins with the black pieces in his 2008 match with Vladimir Kramnik. Kasimdzhanov has decided to bow out as well. Therefore, Anand has to find a replacement for Kasimdzhanov as well, with somebody who is as brilliant.

    Coming back to Radosław Wojtaszek, I do not think that he would make it to the position of the chief architect of Anand’s preparation so soon. But, obviously, only Anand is the best judge of what somebody’s capacity is, who should be in his team and in which capacity.

    Apart from the architect and the super brilliant, a World Champion’s team also needs members who are workhorses, not complicated personalities and who can be good team members. In this context it must be said that, young players who are brilliant and hardworking, but, who do not charge the earth as remuneration, are also required for the World Championship team. Radosław Wojtaszek, is probably one such player, young, bright, hardworking and willing to be in the World Champion’s team for the learning experience, so that he can improve himself.

    When Wojtaszek started cooperating with Vishy he hadn’t even reached 2600 ELO rating, and he was far outside the Top 100. After three matches working with Anand, Wojtaszek had reached no. 30 in the world. (The main drawback of being a second is the limited time he has to play in tournaments himself. On the other hand, it’s above all, a chance to work with the world’s best player and his team, and that experience is priceless, which is, perhaps, most evident in Radoslaw Wojtaszek’s case).

    Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Sandipan Chanda also, probably, belong to the same category as Wojtaszek.

    But, we will not get a clear picture of what Anand’s preparation would be like unless we know who his main second is and who else are there in the Anand’s team, which information we would never know until the Chennai WCC starts or even until after the WCC is over.

    September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSreenivas Lakkineni

    The following is my take on Team Anand:

    Team Anand (Part 2)

    Achieving supremacy in any competitive field including sports in today’s world is possible only when a player or a team is supported by a strong organization or a mighty entity like a State.

    [DM: Bobby Fischer is an exception, but it's true that without a good deal of help it's quite difficult to succeed in this way.]

    Virtuoso efforts by a super talented individual player cannot, any longer, help him ascend to the pinnacle of his field unless that individual is groomed and supported by a powerful system.

    Let us now look at the people, other than the Grand Masters, who helped Vishy Anand to make it to the top of the chess world. But, more importantly, let us discuss the forces which helped Anand to come to the fore.

    We already know that the Grand Masters who assisted Anand during the last three championship defences were GM Peter Heine Nielsen, GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek and GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly.

    But, who were the other people who helped Anand directly or indirectly?

    We come across names like Hans-Walter Schmitt, Eric van Reem, Christian Bossert etc., who were involved, directly with Team Anand in his previous title defences. Also, Frederic Friedel of ChessBase had been a powerful, behind-the-scenes supporter.

    But, the above mentioned people are only ordinary individuals who became powerful in the chess world because of certain developments on the world stage which were much bigger than chess.

    The mighty Soviet Union produced hundreds of chess Grand Masters and the most talented among them climbed to the very top rung of the chess ladder and towered over the other players. Karpov and Kasparov were the prime examples of this phenomenon.

    But, the 1980s witnessed two major developments which resulted in the weakening of the Soviet Chess hegemony: i.) The collapse of the Soviet Union and hence the collapse of the Soviet chess system and ii.) The mind-boggling strides made in computer chess.

    The computer chess databases and software development happened in Mainland Europe, especially in Germany and hence, Germany became a major chess centre. ChessBase founded by Frederic Friedel had become a major influence in computer enabled chess.

    Frederic Alois Friedel, in the early 1980s, did a feature on computer chess and artificial intelligence, making friends with many top chess players in the process. In 1985 he met Garry Kasparov and soon after that co-founded the chess database company ChessBase. Frederic has been in close contact with many of the world's top chess players, including Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik and also Carlsen etc. The building of ChessBase which maintains and makes available to players massive databases, had permitted analysis that had not been possible prior to computing.

    Incidentally, Anand had a major role in the development of ChessBase and their chess program Fritz, from the time he was a teenager. Anand had always been very close to Frederic Friedel. In the past, the matches between the computer program Fritz and Anand functioned as a crowd puller and attracted a big sponsor, Siemens. Anand made Fritz popular.

    The dawn of computer enabled chess saw the development of many competing software which need to be marketed. And, not only that, the theatre of chess had shifted from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. After the end of the Kasparov era, the already strong Western European chess system needed its own champion.

    Anand who had been stagnating due to the politics of Kasporov, Karpov etc., and who had been unfairly prevented from becoming the World Champion, was the natural candidate for the Western Chess powers to claim supremacy in the chess world, because, they did not have their own super talented player who could translate all their great work into performances on the chess board, as it were. Anand’s genius ensured that he made the best use of that opportunity.

    Now, look at the other team members of Vishy Anand who helped him in the last few title defenses and you would understand that the analysis I have made above is spot on: The people who assisted Vishy Anand in Sofia World Championship in 2010, other than the four Grand Masters were: Hans-Walter Schmitt, Eric van Reem, Christian Bossert, Mark Lefler.

    In Moscow basically the same team assisted Anand except that the last two people mentioned, viz., Christian Bossert, Mark Lefler were not there in Moscow.

    Hans Walter Schmitt was a decent chess player himself (highest FIDE rating 2130). He is the organizer of the Mainz Chess Classic and the head of important chess coaching centres in the city of Mainz in Germany called the Chess Tigers Training Center and Chess Tigers University.

    Mainz is the capital of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. The city is located on the west bank of the river Rhine. Mainz is only about 50 km away from Frankfurt: Mainz can easily be reached from Frankfurt International Airport in 25 minutes by commuter railway. Anand must have used this city a lot as a transitory base for his chess activities.

    Eric van Reem is a Dutch chess and computer chess journalist and chess organizer. Eric is member of the Chess Tigers Team promoted by Hans-Walter Schmitt, and was involved in press relations and tournament direction of the Chess Classic Mainz etc. He is a press officer of the Mainz Chess Classic. He is based in Germany and is also a chief officer in German Lufthansa and looked after Team Anand’s travel arrangements. He was also a member of Team Anand and the hero of the World Championship in Sofia, when he arranged a 40-hour transportation for Vishy when an Icelandic volcano paralyzed most of Europe.

    As a chess journalist, Eric wrote for ChessBase. Eric is always in Mainz at the tournament and is well informed about computer chess. Eric is active on the computer chess sites and is up to date with latest playchess theory.

    But, Eric van Reem may not be the top computer chess expert in the world. I read a discussion in a chess forum (and that discussion dated back to 2010 Sofia World Championship Match) in which comparisons were made between Eric van Reem who was with Team Anand and another computer chess programmer called Jiri Dufek. Jiri Dufek, who was chief bookmaker for Rybka program and who was with Topalov in Sofia. (Rybka, was created by International Master Vasik Rajlich). Eric van Reem most likely did not have access to the latest Rybka hardware/software, as Jiri had. Some people were of the opinion that Jiri Dufek was the better chess programmer of the two.

    However, to a question from Frederic Friedel of ChessBase as to who was the computer person in Sofia, Anand answered that all the team members were experts in computer usage and were heavily computer dependent. But, according to Anand, GM Peter Heine Nielsen did a bit more than the others and his screen looked like a dashboard or a pilot’s cockpit. Therefore, it can be surmised that Anand, probably, does not give as much importance to computer chess experts as players like Topalov or Carlsen or Nakamura.

    Christian Bossert, is a FIDE Master and the Chairman of the Baden-Baden Chess Centre. He is also an A-Trainer in Baden-Baden Chess Centre. Baden-Baden Chess Centre has a long history of in chess: it has been associated with prestigious tournaments featuring such prominent players as World Champions Alekhine, Kasparov, Karpov and Anand. The Grenka Chess Classic is conducted here.

    Apart from the conducting of the tournaments, the Baden-Baden Chess Academy's work has focussed on training and supporting both young talents and top players with an interdisciplinary scientific approach. Seminars with world-class trainers and players are conducted there.

    The German Olympic Sports Confederation designated the Baden-Baden Chess Centre as the only national training base for chess in Germany.

    OSC Baden-Baden is the most successful team in Chess Bundesliga. (The term Chess Bundesliga refers to the premier league of team chess in Germany.) Chess Bundesliga is the strongest and longest running league of its kind, attracting many top grandmasters from Europe and beyond.

    OSC Baden-Baden team’s impressive squad of sixteen players was topped by eight players averaging a hefty Elo rating of 2709: at one time their team comprised of Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Peter Svidler, Alexei Shirov, Pentala Harikrishna, etc. The remaining squad members included top quality GMs like Peter Heine Nielsen.

    Now, we can easily see the connection between Anand and Nielsen. When Anand wanted to make his assault on the World Championship – starting from Mexico 2007, he had naturally chosen Nielsen who was his Baden-Baden teammate and someone who belonged to the Western European chess system. Carlsen at that time was very young and the best player that the West had for challenging the Eastern European (The Soviet School) chess hegemony had to be Anand and not Carlsen. Therefore, the West went full steam to support Anand at that time.

    Baden-Baden is a spa town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. It is located in the northern foothills of the Black Forest, on the banks of the Oos River in close proximity to France and Switzerland. Baden-Baden is famous for its natural springs and castles built in the medieval times. My guess is that Anand has his training base in Baden-Baden. The reason Anand made his base in Spain earlier was not entirely chess related, but because of his mentors Mauricio Perea and his wife Nieves whom Anand considered as his European parents. The Pareas formed Anand’s earliest support base in Europe. But, Anand has realized soon that it was Germany which offered the real facilities for training and everything else.

    Lastly, let us discuss Mark Lefler and do away with that topic: Mark Lefler is an American computer games and chess programmer and author of the computer chess program Now. Mark graduated in Engineering Science and Mechanics and was a researcher and was based in Sofia in 2010. He extended local help to Team Anand in Sofia, and he was probably recruited only for that purpose and therefore, it is unlikely that we are going to find Mark Lefler in Anand’s team in Chennai.

    Now, my theory is that, Anand is no longer the best player that the Western European chess powers have; their best player now is Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is also very marketable and acceptable to the West because, he is their own boy. Carlsen has been able to stir-up a lot of enthusiasm among spectators and brought them to the tournaments. Carlsen is also able to attract big sponsorships.

    [DM: "European chess powers"? We're not talking about real money in chess, so while you're probably right that Carlsen would be more desirable to some European organizers, given his youth and his growing but still very mild fame in the western world, it really doesn't amount to a hill of beans in any sense that's relevant to Anand's match preparation. What counts is the chess players on his team and how well Anand can do, period. I assume Anand will have the computer firepower he needs, as even Topalov, who was almost abandoned by the "European chess powers", had access to his country's super-computer.]

    In an interview Hans-Walter Schmitt the organizer of the Mainz Chess Classic said that for them, as organizers, it would be easier, if they would have a walking advertisement like Magnus Carlsen.

    On the other hand Anand has become less attractive because of his declining form in tournament play. For the West, Anand is the past, whereas, Carlsen is the present of chess. Hans-Walter Schmitt had said that, it was surprising that Anand who made Fritz popular and attracted a big sponsor, Siemens in the past, was never offered a highly remunerated match by ChessBase. So, that proves that the West is not very enthusiastic about Anand anymore.

    Of course, the Western chess powers would not drop Anand like a hot potato, but, they would not extend out and out support to him, the way they supported him in his match against Topalov, either. After all, Anand had been their best friend for a long time. And also the people in question are people of moral integrity. So, they would maintain neutrality and let the best man among the two (Anand and Carlsen) to win. Nevertheless, they are mostly banking on a Carlsen victory in Chennai. This also, perhaps, explains the behavior of Nielsen and Kasimdzhanov (who is based in Germany): they both withdrew from Team Anand.

    Another disturbing fact is that, if the chess powers so want, they could invest big money and can bring down even the greatest player also: IBM invested millions in developing Deep Blue with the express purpose of defeating Kasparov and they succeeded in their task.

    If the really big finance interests in the West are in favor of a Carlsen win then, perhaps, Anand has to find people other than those who supported him in the last decade or so. May be he has to depend on the East European/Ex-Soviet school of Grand Masters and computer chess programmers to help him. After all, if some people or organizations have their interest in seeing Carlsen win, then, their competitors would want to support Anand to further their own interests.

    September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSreenivas Lakkineni

    I like Mr. Jaideep Unudurti's writings and wanted to give some feedback to him. I wanted to interact with him. I have a feeling that Jaideep Unudurti lives in the same city that I live in: Hyderabad. That is all the more the reason why I want to tell him what I think about his writings.

    ...

    [DM: SNIP! Don't be sarcastic, just say what you have to say as long as it's (1) responsibly related to the subject of the post, (2) is respectful, and (3) is reasonably concise. If you can do that, you're in like Flynn; if you can't, then you might want to look elsewhere to post.]

    September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSreenivas Lakkineni

    O.K. [Snip. When you have something you want to say to me, please use the contact box as you originally did. If you have a comment about this post (not about this comment to your comment about my comments to your comments about posting!), write that.]

    September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSreenivas Lakkineni

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