the Official Magazine of the Catalan Chess Federation "El Butlletí d'Escacs"
Hello Mr. Seirawan, welcome to Barcelona. Could you please, describe to us your preparation process for the Magistral Casino Tournament? What chess analyzing program do you use?
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to have been in sunny Barcelona as I live in Amsterdam where it was windy and chilly when I left.
I use three programs Rybka, Fritz 12 and Houdini. I like Houdini best.
The majority of the players in Barcelona were unknown for me. My preparations were mostly to review their most recent games (last two/three years) and to get a feel for their style of play. What types of positions they excell in and to see if they have favorite openings that I like to play as well.
Whom were you expecting to be the most difficult opponent? Are you happy with your play here? Which was the best and the worst game and why?
Again as I wasn’t familiar with the players. Before the start I thought that Smirin was the clear favorite.
Overall, I’m satisfied with my play. It was consistent.
My game with Smirin was my worst for sure as I made a howler (a bad blunder) when I missed his Nf4-d5 stroke, which wins on the spot.
My best game was versus Peralta. We played a main line Pirc and I played a very powerful strategic idea Nc3-b5, which my computer doesn’t find but gives me a long-term advantage of the two Bishops. I kept a grip on the position and played very well throughout. Really, Fernando was never given a chance to get into the game.
|Yasser analyzing his game with Peralta|
You told me on the first day you had been to Barcelona before. Tell me more about that, please. Did you plan any sightseeing now? Has Barcelona changed much?
I played in Barcelona for the first time in 1989 during one of the GMA World Cup events. It was extremely well organized and I had wonderful memories of Barcelona. That event was much longer with several free days. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do any sight seeing during the Magistral event as there were no free days. I did however enjoy my walks along the beach boulevard to and from the hotel to the casino. If possible, Barcelona has become more beautiful than I remembered.
Back to your extensive bio… you were born in Damascus. Do you still keep roots, family connection, there? What are your childhood memories?
Yes, I have an ‘extensive’ family of Seirawan’s living in Damascus. This comes from my father’s side of the family. Unfortunately, when I was nine years old my mother and father divorced and I lived with my mother, so much of my knowledge of my Syrian side has been ‘lost.’ Through my father I’m kept informed of what is happening there.
The family left Syria when I was four years old. I have only two memories of Syria which I wrote in detail in my book, “Chess Duels.” Those memories were of pain and pleasure. An interesting twinning.
Your career has been tremendously successful in all aspects. Apart from winning a lot of prestigious tournaments and having been the ninth highest rated player in the world, you succeeded in chess writing, publishing, organizing, founding, as a commentator. And I´m already lost. Do you ever sleep? And, what is your primary occupation?
I’ve always enjoyed being busy and like working on projects. These days I mostly do reading and writing and fewer projects. I do some financial investing advising others but I’d say my primary occupation today is as a writer.
How good are you at S-Chess? (Tell us more about that).
S-Chess or (Seirawan Chess) is a joint effort between Bruce Harper, a friend and strong chess master from Vancouver, BC, Canada and I. It happened by accident, I was visiting Bruce and while we were in his kitchen preparing something to eat I was lamenting about the state of chess. Specifically, the awesome advances taking place in opening theory. Nowadays it is rather common to see elite players playing a theoretical line that is twenty moves deep and even longer. In a recent game, Jakovenko made a novelty – h2-h3 – around the 34th move as White against Gelfand. My goodness! What is that? I complained to Bruce that the “creativity” possible in a game between two elite players was being inexorably reduced, because of theoretical advances.
I also complained to him that as Black, against a well prepared opponent, it was becoming increasingly hard to ‘create play’ where the second player had a chance for victory.
While complaining I also noted my admiration for what Capablanca had called, “Capablanca Chess.” He had created two additional pieces, what he called a “Marshall” and a “Chancellor.” These two pieces had the power of a Rook and Knight in one case and the power of a Bishop and a Knight in the other. Capablanca created a 10 x 10 board, which I don’t like. I much prefer the 8 x 8 board. Trinity College in Dublin suggested a 10 x 8 board which Capablanca accepted. Otherwise, the armies are simply too far apart. “Capablanca Chess” never really caught on – you don’t see to many 10 x 8 chessboards do you? Yet I loved the movements of “Capa’s pieces.”
Bruce and I started to think how to place Capa’s pieces on an 8 x 8 board? From the starting chess position should we ‘push’ the a2-pawn to a3 and tuck one of the new pieces on the a2-square? And do the same for the h-pawn? Well one look and you see what an artificial construction that becomes.
So we began to think that the starting position for chess is just fine – perfect in fact. Capa’s pieces would have to remain “off” the board at the start of the game and be “introduced” into play as pieces come off the back rank and are “developed.” As we understand from chess, it is very natural that all the pieces start from the back rank, protected by a pawn in front and then come into play. In no time, we realized that was a perfect introduction for the new pieces. A player would have eight opportunities to bring the two new pieces into play. There would be no ‘symmetry’ of play as one player need not copy the opponent. Each game would be unique. We immediately became enthusiastic about our new find.
The next thing we did was to rename Capa’s pieces. I mean think about it. What exactly are a Marshall and a Chancellor? When I try to create an image in my mind of these two titles, I think about men. Specifically, in the case of a “Marshall” a military general and as for a Chancellor, a politician wearing a huge necklace of office. Reducing these images into a chess piece, is simply confusing. So we had to rename the pieces and create easily identifiable images.
Once you start along these lines, and recalling the history of chess, you immediately start to think of an elephant. Chess ought to have an elephant! Since, Bruce and I thought that the piece with the powers of Rook and Knight would be stronger than Bishop and Knight, we called it an Elephant.
The second piece a Bishop and Knight becomes more tricky. What is it? What should it become? What image should we create? Thanks to the power of the Bishop, in one sense, it can ‘fly’ across the board. This conjured up the image of a ‘raptor’ or an eagle if you like. The image of a bird, is of course, universal and some birds are fantastic predators. I liked the image of an ‘eagle’ but eagles are mostly scavengers, preying on the dead or dying. So we settled for a Hawk.
Then we began to play the new game and discovered that it was really great. Seriously, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Virtually no draws as well. Theoretically, the new game could feature nine Hawks or nine Elephants as pawns could promote to any piece – accept the King.
The great thing about the new game is that nothing in chess has to change. Same board, same armies, just the addition at the start of four new pieces, two for each side.
Bruce and I commissioned the making of ‘kits’ for the new game and away we went. Today, we have been a bit blocked as we need to make the new game available for play on the Internet. Once we manage that I’m confident the game will explode in popularity.
Lastly, what to name the new game? Clearly, it is a derivative of “Capablanca Chess” but both Bruce and I felt uncomfortable about using or dare I say abusing his cherished name. I liked “Sharp Chess”. The first word being a mixture of our last names “Seirawan” and “Harper.” We wanted to copyright the name but discovered the “Sharp Stores” chain of retail outlets had already claimed “Sharp Chess.” As Bruce and I expanded our name search we discovered that all kinds of names for chess games had been made. For example, “Animal Chess” was taken by Disney, and so on. We were stuck.
Even worse, we discovered that practically nothing ‘appropriate’ for our efforts existed at all. In order to avoid becoming a target of a lawsuit we called our joint effort “Seirawan Chess” which we’ve reduced to calling “S-Chess” for now. We want to have a future ‘name the game’ contest when it becomes more popular. Too, I’m uncomfortable with “Seirawan Chess” for the simple reason it overlooks the contribution of Bruce altogether.
I’m very good at S-Chess. I’ve played with many Grandmasters and do extremely well.
|Yasser at post - mortem, GM Illescas and IM Ana Matnadze and GM Iván Salgado kibitzing|
Tell us about your family.
I’m married to a Dutch lady, Yvette Nagel, who is a FIDE FM. We live in Amsterdam where Yvette works for the city and Mayor’s office. We don’t have children but we have brothers and sisters who do. Our parents are all alive and in good health so we travel often visiting our relations wherever they may be.
To be continued...