Sunday, March 31, 2013

Peter Svidler, the Russian grandmaster who loves cricket

After he had drawn his game at the Candidates tournament on Good Friday, Peter Svidler came into the commentary room to be interviewed.

He was introduced as the Russian grandmaster who loves cricket. Sure enough, when talk turned to how a disappointing loss might affect a player in the next round, Svidler used a cricket analogy - playing one ball at a time. He also admitted that he is not very good at this himself.

You can read more about Svidler's passion for cricket in a Standpoint interview he gave to Dominic Lawson in 2011:
Having been introduced to the game in 1999 by his friend Nigel Short, Svidler immediately became consumed by a passion for this most un-Russian pursuit. In fact, when I called him, he was in St Petersburg glued to a Eurosport satellite transmission of a one-day cricket match, and hugely frustrated that the Russian commentator was ignorant of the law governing stumping. During the recent Ashes series, he said, he had got little sleep because he was up all night watching the broadcasts live from Australia.
Two years ago Peter mystified the rest of the chess world by playing in a modest event in Gibraltar, most popular with English chess amateurs keen for a bit of sun and games on the southernmost tip of Europe. He explained to me that he agreed only because the Australian organiser of the tournament had promised to bowl to him in a cricket net on the Rock if he played: there exists on YouTube a video of Svidler batting in said net, demonstrating some very passable square cuts and straight drives. 
In fact he is unusually well co-ordinated, physically, for a chess player. Among his other passions is snooker, and he played the game semi-professionally for a number of years (or as he put it to me, "I played a lot, and for money").
Svidler is likeable, with superb English and a self-deprecating sense of humour. And I don't suppose any of the old Soviet grandmasters wore an earring.

He has won the Russian championship a remarkable six times, but admits to having no great appetite for studying the game.

The Stakhanovite tradition of the Soviet school of chess is upheld these days by Vladimir Kramnik, who may go into tomorrow's final round as the tournament leader (though his challenger Magnus Carlsen has winning chances in a game that is still going on after six and a half hours). Perhaps there is a moral there.


Frank Little said...

[Svidler] is unusually well co-ordinated, physically, for a chess player
Another exception was Paul Keres, who I understand was good at tennis.

Anonymous said...

Bit cross batted?