The following interview was given in July this year for the chess.com site. The author is the free lance journalist Per Morten.

What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?

It’s hard to mention only one. I love the movies of Pedro Almodovar and Guy Ritchie.

What kind of food and drink do you prefer?

Any food as long it is combined well with the drinks. I love to experiment and try new things, especially if there is a native who can advise me about what to choose.

What is your favorite book?

"One hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez

What music are you currently grooving to?

Rock, hard rock, but I can enjoy almost anything. The music I love are classical rock bands like Rainbow and Marillion (my favourite) but also Deep Purple, Def Leppard, Beatles, Pink Floyd, ACDC, whatever you can think of from the golden age of rock.

Tell me a chess secret?

I would keep it if I knew it.

What is your best chess memory?

Winning the individual Bulgarian title in 2009.

Which do you think is worse, failing or never trying?

Definitely the latter. I guess that the main reason for that is that you keep on coming back thinking over and over what would have happened if you don´t try, while if you fail, you have the consolation that you have at least tried.

What chess player have you ever wanted to be and why?

I always wanted to be Tal for his sparkling combinational genius, Petrosian for his untouchable style and Larsen for his immense creativity and self-confidence. Lasker ranks as well, for his fighting spirit and wisdom.

What do you do to get better at chess?

I work a lot or at least I used to when I had fewer students. There is no big secret; it is the usual stuff - analyses, solving chess combinations and studies, reading magazines, books, following the flow of the information on the internet.

How old were you when you began to play chess?

Six- six and a half years old. My father taught me and then brought me to the chess club when I was seven. My brother also played and we had these long family tournaments almost every night; the loser had to gather the chess pieces.

Do you have a family?

I have a wife, a son and am waiting for another one.

Is the Internet a big part of your life?

Of course. This interview is conducted on the internet…It is an amazing thing, to connect the people all over the world that easily.

What was your childhood like?

Happy, with a lot of play. We did not have computers and were enjoying the simple things in life - playing all sorts of children's games. I remember that it was a big thing when we bought a T.V. set…

What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art?

Why do we need to separate the two?

How much time do you devote to chess?

This is my profession so I try to devote as much time as I can. The more, the better. True, most of it is no longer dedicated to my development as a better player.

What is your inner being?

A thinker and sometimes a believer.

Who is your inspiration?

Bob Marley, Johnnie Walker? Those who keep on walking and never give up inspire me. The inventors are also inspiring.

What is your greatest fear?

That I might not find the sense.

Do you prefer blitz, otb tournaments or correspondence style chess?

Otb. I enjoy the tournament atmosphere, hanging around with people, analyzing, socializing.

Who is your most difficult opponent?


Describe a perfect day.

The one where you have a choice what to do and the one in which the people that you love are around you. The day in which you can share your happiness with them. Any day can be perfect.

What is the best game you ever played?

One of my good games was chosen best game at the Metropolitan International in L.A. 2011. However, I cannot choose the best one for myself.

Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?

"Zurich International Tournament, 1953" by David Bronstein. Also the selected games of almost all the world champions and their contenders.

If you could choose to live one day of any time in the history of mankind, which time would that be and why?

Today is a good day!

Do you have any favorite hobbies?

I love reading books and watching movies. It brings me a lot of pleasure to go out in nature, too. For example Mountain hiking.

What is your most treasured possession?

Last year my laptop was stolen. I thought for a while that this was a big loss until I realized that the things that I grieve for are the chess files that I have lost. Objects cannot be treasured possessions for me.

Are you a superstitious person?

In some comical way, yes. I used to have lucky pens. They were supposed to be used when I play, but what I would usually do is change pens until I find “the lucky one” and hide it in the wardrobe.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in chess?

To be organized, systematic and adaptive, and to trust myself.

What does your future hold as a chess player?

Right now I am not sure. I thought that I can combine coaching and chess journalism with playing. However, it gets harder and harder.

How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?

Show him my best game?

Do you have any thoughts on how chess.com can get even better?

We can make it a better place if we follow Pooh’s wisdom: “If you do not have anything good to say, better say nothing.” The content of the site is great, it's a rich source of information. It is only up to us to become better and behave politely with others.


The Color of the Olympiad

The offer to train the Papua New Guinea (PNG) team came as a surprise some months ago. This would be a completely new experience for me and I naturally did not want to miss the Olympiad. I have send my email to the members of the team and told them to write me whenever they have questions concerning their preparation. They did not, and I understood they would not once that I saw them in Istanbul.
All my teammates were colourful characters. A successful businessman, famous journalist, former teacher and member of the secretary of the commission for developing countries were united in the chess squad. They were also very experienced players with number of Olympiads but very busy with their own business.
“Our goal is to play some good games, and if you can help Craig win his first game that would be an enourmous achievement”, told me Shaun Press, our reserve player at the start of the event. Craig Skehan was playing his sixth Olympiad and the statistics showed that he holds the record for the most number of games without a win in the Olympiad. This is a record that stretches back to 1986 and extends over 6 Olympiads. In that time he played 59 games (defaults not counting) for a record of 10 draws and 49 losses. He also started poorly here, as well as the whole team.

“Do not worry, we usually start winning our matches at around eight-ninth round…”fellows tried to cheer me up. Still, the first win came in round four against the team of Burundi. A sad fact is that the African country had only two players as the remaining part of the team had problems with the viza. Some other countries have suffered similar problems. For instance the Bermuda’s second and third boards were stuck at the airport for more than a day and even missed the first round. The chaos of the opening round combined with (supposedly) language barrier caused a default of the Sierra Leone’s team at the start of the Olympiad. They just could not make it through the entry doors in time and lost due the “Zero Tolerance Rule”. This team was also having a shortage of a player till the end of the tournament.
Other teams tend to appear a bit late for the event. The Angola team is a bright example. People do not know what the reason is for that and they speculate between financial reasons (save of costs) of pure practicism- the Angolans avoided two strong teams in the first two rounds and started immediately with two wins in round three and four. The latter is a tricky tactic as the developing teams have special categories and also compete for special prices. Whatever the reason is though, FIDE should take this into consideration as in no other sport a team has the right to compete once that the tournament is in progress.
My teammate Rupert Jones told me a lot of the developing countries in chess. He used to live, work and compete for Botswana. Together with South Africa this country remains one of the best progressing countries in the continent. A good sign for their progress is that their national teams are now trained by two GMs- I. Glek and T. Abergel respectively.
It appears that more than the halves of the FIDE member countries are still developing. The things that FIDE do in this area are correct. They provided the countries free training during the Olympiad and will pay for the airfares for the next two. More than a million American dollars are offered by the hosts from Norway and Azerbaijan and this money is well spent for support of the countries in need.
Additional things that will help are training seminars for chess instructors, arbiters and organizers in each country which will provide an effective process of overall chess improvement. The sooner these countries become independent of FIDE, the better.
We also won in round five and good a good deal of optimism. Later on I discovered that the night blitz games are helping the team not only from social but from practical view too. Towards the end of the tournament the top board Stuart Fancy felt more confident and produced a streak of winning games. And when a leader is playing well the team is always good, too! We scored eight valuable points, which was a big success. And, in the last round the miracle had happened- Craig won his first game! His sixtieth Olympiad game was the lucky one, the one in which his distant passed pawns managed to stretch the opponent’s bishop and award him with the cherished win!

“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Pierre de Coubertin
For some of the player in Istanbul this was right. But still, you need to see the desire and the flame in the eyes of those players heading for the games!