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Viktor Bologan and the Chebanenko Slav

Recently we found a book entitled The Chebanenko Slav according to Bologan. The author is Moldavia GM Viktor Bologan, who looks back on a two decade long career, which includes a 2003 Dortmund triumph ahead of Anand and Kramnik. That came, incidentally, after a ten-day training session with Garry Kasparov. Read all about it in this Bisik-Bisik session with Edwin Lam.

Bisik-Bisik with GM Victor Bologan By Edwin Lam Choong Wai

Bisik-Bisik is a word from the Malay Archipelago, and means the act of “whispering” from one person to another. In his interviews Edwin Lam seeks to “whisper” to all our readers out there the previously unknown other side of his interview partners.

Victor (Viorel) Bologan, rated 2687, is a well-known grandmaster from Moldovia. Born on December 14th, 1971 in Kishinev, Moldavia, Bologan has won amongst others the following top-rated events: Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess) tournament at the 2007 Chess Classic in Mainz (ahead of Kamsky, Ivanchuk, Volokitin and Navara); the 2005 Canadian Open Chess Championship; the 2005 6th Karpov Tournament (tied with Bacrot and ahead of Grischuk and Dreev); the 2003 Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund (ahead of Kramnik, Anand, Radjabov and Leko); the 2003 Aeroflot Open; and the 1997 New York Open Tournament (tied with Krasenkow).

Bologan recently penned a book entitled The Chebanenko Slav according to Bologan. Some of you may wonder what is the Chebanenko Slav about? It is a system in the Slav Defence with 4… a6 and was introduced into practice by various Moldavian masters in the 1970s. Today it is a favorite of many of the world’s super-GMs, amongst them Shirov, Dreev, Morozevich, Kamsky and Karjakin, just to name a few. The Chebanenko Slav was invented by the Kishinev Master, Vyacheslav Chebanenko (1942–1997).

Vyacheslav Chebanenko, or “the Doctor”, is a very well known theoretician and trainer, who counts amongst his students the likes of Bologan, Gavrikov, Komliakov, Rogozenko, Gavrikov and many others. As an openings’ theoretician, the Doctor’s moment of fame also include the opening bomb that was used on none other than the great Fischer in the first game of the 1971 Candidates Final. As Petrosian described later in the magazine 64, a letter had been written by Chebanenko and was addressed to the winner of the Petrosian-Korchnoi Candidates Semi-Final match. Chebanenko had worked out the details of the d5 variation that was later seen in the first game of the Fischer-Petrosian 1971 match… Alas, Fischer would have been the victim of Chebanenko’s innovation had Petrosian not failed to follow the analysis in the crucial moment…

Edwin Lam: At what age did you learn to play the game of chess?

GM Victor Bologan: I was seven years of age when my father taught me how to play chess.

Who was your chess hero? Karpov?

Yes, Karpov was one of them while Capablanca was the other one.

Can you share with us the name of your first-ever chess book?

It was the classic, Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953 by David Bronstein.

Was Chebanenko your first formal coach in the game?

No, that was Ion Solonar. I started to work with him when I was almost ten years old. I only started to work with Chebanenko when I was 15.

In your recent book, you recalled how the “Doctor” would dictate moves of opening ideas for his students, which included you, for analysis. Thus, can I say that the focus in your early chess training were mostly on openings?

While openings occupied a significant part of our preparation with Chebanenko, I must say that he also had a very good course of positional lessons, too.

How would you describe a typical chess training day with Chebanenko?

Normally I would come to his studio where he would first show me some of his new ideas. Then, we’d get down to analyzing these ideas – we would sometimes record the ideas that we were very sure of. This would normally take up about half of the day and very often the chess training day would include lunch or dinner, too.

When did you make your big breakthrough in tournament chess? 1985?

In my more than two decade long career as a player I went through several periods of breakthroughs in competitive chess, namely in the years 1991, 1997, 2000 and 2003.

Could you share with us a little bit more details on the specific competitive breakthroughs you made in those years?

In 1991, I played eight strong tournaments in a row, with GM norm possiblities. Out of eight possibilities I achieved four norms, and my rating went up to 2585 Elo. I rose to #52 in the world. In 1997 I jointly won the New York Open with Krasenkow with an 8/9 score. In the year 2000, I won or shared first place four tournaments in a row, which then brought me to a 2684 Elo rating. My world ranking rose to #19. In 2003, I won the Aeroflot Open and then I had a session with Garry Kasparov. I won Dortmund 2003 after that.

You worked with Garry Kasparov before you won Dortmund 2003? Was it because of the training with him?

The session was about ten days long and it definitely helped to improve my chess. We worked on openings and played blitz games.

You won in Dortmund ahead of none other than Kramnik and Anand. Would you consider that to be the highest point in your chess career?

Besides having won or shared the first place in another 40 international tournaments, Dortmund 2003 remains the biggest achievement in my career.

You are described as someone with great fighting spirit. Is your chess style reflective of this?

It does come from my character, and of course, I am kind of a maximalist while at the same time I had been taught to work hard since I was young. Specifically on chess style, I am a universal player with a slight deviation towards active play.

Could you name us your most memorable chess game ever?

I will stick to the game I had with Anand (round 3 of Dortmund 2003), which I won. After the game I was completely wet from sweating!

You will turn 37 this year. What are your goals as a chess player, for 2009?

I am scheduled to play in the following strong events in 2009: the Russian Team Championship, Poikovskii, Mainz and Khanty-Mansiisk. My goal is to do my best in every game!

In recent years, you have authored two books: a selection of your best games and an opening guide. Will you be releasing a third chess book anytime soon?

Yes, there will be a new opening book coming your way in a few months’ time and I hope the readers will like it.

Are you also involved in any form of chess coaching? If not, are there any future plans to do so, perhaps, to set up a Chebanenko school of chess in Kishinev?

Actually I am moving back to Kishinev in March this year. From time to time I will provide consultation to young Moldavian players.

You were al-Modhiaki’s second in the recent FIDE Grand Prix. Is this the first time you’ve worked as a second?

My first and longest experience working as a second was with Alexei Shirov in the years from 1992 to 1996.

The Kamsky-Topalov match is under way. Who do you think will win?

I think the chances are 50-50 for both sides.

How would you describe Kamsky’s chess playing style? And, what about Topalov’s?

I had described Kamsky’s style to be like that of a python in my article in New in Chess magazine last year. Topalov’s style is definitely more dynamic and sharper.

In your opinion, what would be one major area of weakness in Topalov’s arsenal?

I think the weak point for Topalov can be in psychological preparation. He is very strong, psychologically, but I believe Kamsky is even stronger.

You mentioned in your book that Kamsky have been one of the most innovative in the Chebanenko. Kamsky and Topalov had also engaged in an important theoretical battle not too long back. In your opinion, will the Chebanenko appear in the match?

I am pretty sure that both teams would have studied this opening very thoroughly before the match, and there is very big chance to see some good games and novelties in the Chebanenko Variation in the match.

Anand won the Chess Oscars in May 2008. Who is your top pick to win the upcoming Chess Oscars?

I think it should again be Anand.

Lastly, besides chess, what are your other interests in life?

I like sports, reading and nice company!


2009-02-18 21:52:15


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