Reports | November 21, 2010 17:36

The big Dvoretsky interview, part 1

The Dvoretsky interview, part 1Today we present the first part of our big interview with Mark Dvoretsky, which we conducted during the Tal Memorial based on questions from visitors of this site. We publish it in parts because, as it turned out, Mr Dvoretsky wanted to answer almost all questions!

On November 11th, 2010 we interviewed Mark Dvoretsky in the press room of the Tal Memorial, in the GUM department store in Moscow. We were sometimes interrupted by players, who, after they finished their game, showed it to the journalists. In total we spoke about two hours on the different subjects that were suggested by our readers.

Here's the first part, which is mainly about Mr Dvoretsky himself, and about books. In later parts we'll discuss other players, computers, the big subject of chess improvement and some miscellaneous topics. Please note that in the transcription we have taken the liberty to correct Mr Dvoretsky's English a bit here and there, but we tried to stick to his own words and sentences as much as possible.

The Dvoretsky interview, part 1

Who were your chess trainers in the past?
I had trainers just for three years, when I was a school boy. It was master Roshal, Alexander Roshal, who became a famous chess journalist later on, and grandmaster Vladimir Simagin, a very nice person and a very creative player. I am very grateful for both of them.

When was this?
I received training from them from 1964 to 1966. Then I finished school and started studying at the university and then it finished.

Do you remember a specific thing you learnt from them?
I believe it mainly wasn't a specific thing but mainly just the approach to chess. Fortunately for me Roshal was smart enough to understand that the opening is not the most important thing in chess; he was worried about general development. He also gave me a very important book which helped me to develop from First Category player to Master during one year which was My System of Nimzowitsch.

Do you think the dogmatic chess concepts introduced by Nimzowitsch are still worth studying or is it better not to expose your brain to them and solely concentrate on modern chess concepts?
It's not a dogmatic book but an explanation of some theoretical things which were arranged in some system. It always looks dogmatical and maybe in some sense it is dogmatical but it depends on the chess player. He doesn't need to take things like the absolute truth because there is no such thing. He can use it in a more reasonable way.

Have you read Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson and do you think his arguments, in general, are correct?
The Watson book is a very serious research; he worked very well and there are some interesting insights, but unfortunately his main, basic understanding of this problem is a little bit too straightforward. I cannot explain it accurately, there's no time now, but I can recommend to read one chapter from the first book in the series School of Chess Excellence about endgame preparation, the chapter about usefulness of abstract knowledge. It explains that we don't use chess ideas, chess rules, chess principles directly in the game. Watson is right of course that chess players calculate lines during the game and don't remember about any rules, that's true. So why would you study the rules? This chapter explains why we study the rules. Another great book is the one from 1956 by the strong Master Lipnitsky, Questions of Modern Chess Theory. The book was recently published in English by Quality Chess.

Questions of Modern Chess TheoryYes, we did a review on ChessVibes of this book.
It's a great book. There is one chapter about the essence of a concrete approach to chess. He also discusses why rules sometimes don't work, that all rules have exceptions, and what it means, an exception to a rule, and so on, about some fine rules, some more specific rules which are not so obvious as obvious rules, and so on. So I just recommend to read these chapters and maybe you will understand this problem better. My impression is that Watson unfortunately didn't read it and perhaps didn't think about it and his approach is too straightforward to such problems.

Was there a particular incident(s) that led you understand your love for training?
There was no particular incident. When I was a young player at the university I was involved in some kind of training work; to help the Junior team, to help this or that player, I gave some lecture at the Chess Faculty of the Institute of Physical Culture and so on. So, some random experience. And I saw at first that I liked it, I got pleasure from it, and secondly, I felt that it was successful. The lecture was successful and they asked me to continue the work, players with my work became very successful immediately, and so on. At some moment I got the feeling that I liked it more than playing and that I could be more successful with this. So it was not some specific episode.

Are there more examples, like Lipnitsky's book, of books that are very good but have not yet been translated into English yet?
Maybe it makes sense not to mention books, but authors, because it is essential for any chess player to read good authors. Some old books we mentioned, but there are of course a lot of very good modern books. The books of grandmaster John Nunn are basically very good. Great books, which I like a lot, about chess self improvement, were written by grandmaster Jonathan Rowson: Chess for Zebras and Seven Deadly Chess Sins. I liked them very much. They are very deep and very instructive. A good book was written by my friend grandmaster Aagaard and he collaborated with grandmaster Marin, he also writes very good books. There are some very good collections of exercises, for example the collection that was written by grandmaster Volokitin and his trainer Master Grabinsky, this is a very good collection of exercises, a very high level. Just recently I received a book from grandmaster Shaw from Scotland. I had no time to read it so I gave it to grandmaster Motylev, a student and friend. He told me just yesterday that he solved a lot of the exercises and he liked them very much, he believes that the book is of very high quality. I don't have my own opinion, but I believe him, perhaps it's true. So there are many really good books, and I recommend people to distuingish them from bad books and to read just good books, no other books.

Endgame ManualAre you planning to write a new endgame book any time soon?
Besides Endgame Manual actually there is another endgame book: Tragicomedies in the Endgame, which has already been published in Russian and in German. Very soon it will be published in English as well. But after that perhaps no other books will follow. This second book is about mistakes made by mainly big players. The book can be considered as an introduction to Endgame Manual, for who didn't read it yet, or maybe some additional practice, additional training in this area, if somebody already read Endgame Manual, as an addition to this book.

All your books are directed to relatively high-level players. Would you ever consider releasing a book teaching a player from scratch rather than assuming they are already quite good?
No, absolutely not, I will never do this. There's a very simple reason: I should speak and write about what I know well, the best. From the very beginning of my training work I prepared myself to work with either strong players or with very talented young players, to help to develop to a professional level. It's how I collected my exercises, my examples, my method of work, and so on. This is what I know, what I studied. So I prefer to write what I know well. I have not enough experience about another level, a weaker level, so what's the sense? By the way, the same criteria we can apply to some other question:

In your book Secrets of Chess Training you analysed many typical deficiencies in American chess players. What deficiencies do you see in other countries (such as Britain) chess players?
I visited America several times, many times. I worked with youngsters, with grandmasters, with amateurs, so I know, somehow, American players and I could say something about them. But I didn't work with English players absolutely, maybe with Matthew Sadler, and some Scottish players. So I have not enough knowledge, enough experience, so that I can judge about them.

I recently saw you also did a book with a composer.
Yes, Pervakov. Studies for the Practical Player.

So Pervakov is probably one of your current, favourite composers.
Absolutely, he's a great composer.

Can you mention a few composers you like, and maybe which perhaps could be very good to study for the practical player?
In this book which you mentioned there is a chapter devoted to the studies of one old composer. His name is Wotawa, from Austria. These are fantastic studies; extremely good for the creative thinking for the practical chess player, so I gave a solid collection of studies from this composer. There are some other great composers; I like the studies or grandmaster Réti for example, some other studies... many composers. Maybe we should speak about good studies instead of good composers. Maybe two names will be enough: Pervakov and Wotawa.

You might know that on ChessVibes we have a weekly endgame study selected by Yochanan Afek.
Ah, he's a great composer. By the way, Israeli composers are very strong; I also like Elkies' studies, Afek is a great study composer, and some others as well. Timman is by the way a very good composer, and Smyslov, especially the last years o his life he composed some great studies... So there are many good composers.

Which strong grandmasters have you worked with?
Right now nobody. Maybe some random sessions, some lessons, but nobody regularly. It happened somehow. It's very difficult to arrange regular work with a foreign player; we should contact each other frequently and it's quite expensive. In Russia there's another situation; in Russia chess in general is not well organized, so it happened that now I train practically nobody.

What is the starting level you would prefer to work with? From what rating level?
It's not exactly a matter of rating. In Russia it's, I don't know how to evaluate it by rating, but in Russia I started either with very young Candidate Masters, when they were let's say eleven years old boys, like Alexey Dreev or Alexander Riazantsev for example. If my student is older he should be stronger, because I would like to reach good results with him and so on. So either with a very talented young player, to help develop somebody's chess style, or sometimes to help some good grandmaster. But the most important condition is that he should really want to improve and he should be ready to make serious work. Of course I gave some random lessons, I gave some knowledge if somebody wanted to listen, but it's work for money, not for interest. But for interest both of us should aim at something serious.

Mark Dvoretsky and Ilya Odessky

Mark Dvoretsky (r.) following the Tal Memorial games on a TV screen in the press room, next to Russian journalist Ilya Odessky

Do you see any drawbacks in your method, or have you seen things in methods from other trainers that you actually like very much? That you would like to adopt? Or maybe even aspects that you have copied from other coaches?
When I developed my approach to training I was quite a well educated chess player. I read a lot of chess literature so I tried to use the best of what I read from other authors. I also watches the work of some people, maybe trainer Roshal, or Botvinnik, with whom I worked together, and so on. So I tried to use some of those features, but always some features. But what is more important is that actually I have no method. I don't believe that it can exist, some correct kind of method. Such methods cannot exist just because people are all very different. Trainers are different, with different levels of knowledge, different chess strengths, and the students are absolutely different, by personality, by level of play, and so on. So I don't see that there is some absolutely correct method which I can recommend, that you should do this, and that, and so on. What I do have is some important principles for a correct approach to chess; principles of work, principles of effective work in chess. But principles is not enough; I also need to have ways how to implement principles, so some good chess material, some of my own ideas about chess problems, chess aspects, some very good examples which will be impressive for my students, and so on. But I cannot say it's a method, it's a little bit different. So for this reason, OK my principles have been very successful during all my life. So many young students were usually so successful, that I don't have reasons to doubt them. Do I see any drawbacks? Well, if the principles are correct, what drawbacks can you... The only weakness of my problems is my person. Of course I cannot know everything in chess, so some topics, some problems I cannot teach, or I don't understand well.

Can you give an example?
I understand that I am not a specialist in openings so I avoid opening work. I am not a very good strategist, so I cannot perhaps explain well some strategical situation in chess, and so on. I understand my weakness and I of course I work in the areas where I'm stronger, as everybody does. It's ridiculous to demonstrate something which you don't understand yourself well. And of course there are some personal drawbacks. Drawbacks of nature, which sometimes do not allow me to do my work by the most effective way. So it's not about drawbacks of a method, of the approach, it's the drawbacks of myself, they exist of course, but what to do?

Can you remember your silliest mistake as an annotator?
No, I don't remember. Of course I don't have a reason to be ashamed, because it's absolutely natural that mistakes are unavoidable, especially because my first book was written without a computer, without the assistance of a computer. But still everybody pointed out the very high quality of the analysis; I worked seriously. Mistakes are still unavoidable and I discover them and I correct them for new editions of the book. What I notice is that the majority of the mistakes are made in some sidelines which are not so important. Because of course you concentrate on some main ideas very accurately and some additional lines you don't check. So the majority of mistakes were made in such a way. So I corrected them, and what's important is that it almost didn't change the logic of my text, all my explanation. So I corrected something but I practically almost didn't need to remove some example because they became wrong, and so on. Of course some mistakes were very primitive. Grandmaster Aagaard wrote in his article about Endgame Manual that he started to work with this book together with grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen and they failed to find any mistakes. Of course mistakes existed but at least they weren't so obvious mistakes. Actually one obvious mistake later on he pointed out; it's a very funny mistake, a position in some sideline about which I wrote that's stalemate and it's actually not stalemate; the king has one move. Of course the computer wouldn't allow this mistake. So OK it happens sometimes that everybody makes such stupid mistakes but what to do. I am not ashamed because it can happen with everybody. It's not that I want to hide something, to cheat with readers like some authors are doing, so OK it can happen.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

Solomon's picture

Thanks for another great report! I was very surprised to read that he does NOT consider himself to be a good strategist. That says a lot about his standards on quality chess! Looking forward to part 2.

CAL|Daniel's picture

Part 1? Does that mean its not too late to submit a question for part 2?

I have a very important question I'd like to ask him. :)

CAL|Daniel's picture

Well great interview, and if my question can still be asked please let me know! It is about concentration. How do you maintain your concentration and fight off distractions? Particularly in pretty easily winning games or games where you are firm in your evaluation of the position as better or equal. Beating up the age old adage of "the hardest thing to do is win a winning position."

Kaushik's picture

very well!! Great Job Chessvibes!! keep it comin :)

jmws's picture

Great!! Thanks. I feel that he has so much to tell.....

foo's picture

i am not kissing up. Seriously CV is the best chess site to date!! Its for all. Videos, interviews, reviews etc

JaNisamTesla's picture

Dvoretsky is a legendary coach. His endgame manual is a valuable book that I still refer to all the time. After each section, he has 'tragicomedies' featuring GMs losing in positions you just learned.

Brat_Boy and Crew's picture

Do you mean Elkies rather than Elkes for the Israeli composer?

Galler's picture

I'm awaiting with curiosity the rest of this disappointing interview.

Disappointing because it is still a mystery why a player of unknown strength has stopped playing chess and is since a long time considered a famous trainer. OK, I play some kind of advocate of the devil because I know Dvoretsky's books. But that fundamental question is barely touched.

A bit puzzled as well about Dvoretsky's comment on Nunn's books. I hope he was not referring to Nunn's books on endgames. I have read a detailed review of Nunn's endgames books by a serious endgame expert, providing detailed analytical evidence to his very critical opinion and indeed wondering if all the laudators of Nunn's books had actually simply read them...

anonymous coward's picture

Can you give a link to this review please?

Galler's picture

The link : http://france-echecs.com/index.php?mode=showComment&art=20100912124819352. The conclusion (by poster "erony" - John Nunn will no doubt guess who he is) is at the end of the thread. But one should read all of erony's posts, backed by concrete variations and examples, to realise that this is a remarkably objective review.

Brian Karen's picture

His biography is well known and has been explained numerous times. He was the highest rated IM in the world but decided to forgo a promising playing career to become a trainer. He realized that the talent necessary, work involved and rewards of a chess player are different than those of a trainer.

His qualifications as a trainer are impeccable. He trained 4 World Junior champions and most notably eventual world number 3 Arthur Yusupov.Kasparov, Anand, Rowson, and nearly all his distinguished students (with the exception of Waitzkin) speak highly of him. His books speak for themselves. So I do not understand why you are disappointed.

Im grateful for the interview and hope to see more in the future.

Joe Fiasco's picture

Indeed, Israel has some very fine composers.

Thank you ChessVibes for the wonderful interview and looking forward to the next part.

foo's picture

Look @ NAKA's behavior.. seriously ...its aweful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw5hGlBnb4w&feature=player_embedded

Mark D's picture

Buy my books then you will understand !

Guillaume's picture

Peter, there's something wrong with the title of this article suddenly. Right now it read “Mamedyarov beats Wang Hao, grabs lead in Moscow” when it should be about Dvoretsky's interview.

Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks. This is the second time this happens after I correct something through the Wordpress iPhone app; must be a bug.

noone's picture

So when will we see the second part?

silvakov's picture

if you look for "Dvoretsky" in http://ratings.fide.com you'll only find the trainer profile; his player profile is under the name "Dvoretzky" (with z instead of s). he played one rated game this year, and beat IM de Jong with white in the dutch team competition...

Max's picture

I have read three of Professor Dvoretsky's books. They're a bit advanced for me. Or, I guess, they take a bit of effort to read, one cannot lie in bed and read. The guy is a legend.

chandler's picture

Peter, if you've got everything ready, and just holding back to do it in parts, please don't be cruel, man.... publish the rest of the stuff as soon it's ready. thx.

reality check's picture

Deep question/answer session! Yes, must (re) read Watson, Nunn, Lipnitsky, Dvoretsky, and P.D. Ouspensky.
Sky's the limit but time works against me; guess I'll see you all at the 2012 World Championship match defending WC Anand vs GM .......

reality check's picture

Pulling Watson's "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" off the shelf now.
It is dusty and falling apart but thanks be to Dvoretsky many of the ideas still have life.
Why Gambit Publications Ltd chose to use such a cheap bookbinding for a first-class book beats me; no more paper backs!

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