Short interview with Chess Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov #AfricaChess

The Africa Chess News Whatsapp group recently had a short Question and Answer session with Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov.  Before the Q and A session we shared the interview GM Sokolov had with Chessbase for the players to know more about the grandmaster. Here is that interview –

Before we get into the transcript, here is Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov’s most famous game. His victory against World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.

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Below is the transcript:

Intro to the group: A very big welcome to Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov.

GM Sokolov was born on the 13th of June 1968 in Bosnia (formerly Yugoslavia). Awarded the GM title in 1987 and Yugoslav Champion in 1988 he was 1st= at Portoroz 1987, 1st= in Belgrade and 1st= in Saltsjöbaden. He also played on the Yugoslav Olympiad team in 1988. He now represents the Netherlands in Olympiads and various other team championships.

He is the winner of international tournaments in Biel, Hastings, Sarajevo, Selfoss, Reykjavik, Hoogeveen, Lost Boys Amsterdam, Staunton Memorial London…In 2009 he shared first place in the European Chess Championship. More recently in 2012, he won the World Open in Philadelphia, Politikin Cup and the Admiral Niels Cup.

He has been ranked as high as number 12 in the world, and has spent many years in the top 20.

GM Sokolov’s dynamic attacking style has brought him wins against 5 World Champions: G.Kasparov, V.Kramnik, V.Anand, V.Topalov and V.Smyslov, all-in classical time control games.

GM Sokolov is a prolific author who has published several chess books. These include Winning Chess Middlegames and Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess.

Grandmaster Sokolov: Thanks. Pleasure to be here

Question: Grandmaster you’ve had a very long chess career. In your opinion who is best world champion we’ve had?

Answer: Kasparov

Question: What makes Kasparov at his best better than Fischer at his best?

Answer:   Kasparov was ahead of his time (just like Fischer equally was). However Kasparov kept dominating 15+ more years, taking on totally new generation of players and staying ahead of them. Fischer immediately retired avoiding the the risk of meeting the “new wave “. That’s the biggest difference to me

Question: GM its incontestable that the African continent is quite behind from the chess cycles. In your own opinion what can we do to change the status quo?⁠⁠⁠⁠

Answer: With African chess you will need international chess community-based help in two different ways
A) better tournaments on the continent, as you are stuck playing each other
B) coaching & learning material (as by western economies books are mostly expensive for African GDP standards                        

Sadly international chess community thinks of you only when they need votes. This will need to change.

Back to big tournaments being scarce. No really good way to prepare.

Number of tournaments on the continent need to increase.


Which one is the best classical opening in white?

Answer: I believe in classical rules Centre, development, initiative.                       

So d4 or e4 systems and straight play!                        

I am not believer in Nf3, e3 systems.

Question: Why don’t GMs nowadays play c5!! instead its always e4, e5.

Answer: Many top players play …c5. …e5 can be very interesting…noone forces black to play Berlin?

Question: Who do you think would have won in 1975…Fischer vs Karpov?

Answer: 1975- Fischer

Question:  What’ kind of material should one have in order to be strong because we all study chess but get stuck at 2300?

Answer: On books …I strongly recommend e-book as is much easier to take with you, play over, consult engine etc. And e-books are also cheaper.

Question: Which books do you best recommend for middle game improvements?

Answer: Next to my middlegame books – I am now finishing my ‘chess middlegame strategies vol 2’. I would recommend Gelfand “dynamic decisions. Excellent book, as Gelfand was very honest and good at explaining the shortcomings even at the very top level

Coming Alexey Kuzmin book “Together with Morozevich ” is excellent. Suba “Positional Chess Sacrifices ” is another good book.

Question: So we have to woo in more potential sponsors who should ensure that tournaments here match those outside from having a much bigger prize bag than what we are offering? And what is you take on these training workshops where we invite GMs for maybe two or three days? Can they be efficacy in short?

Answer: You need a limited number of foreign GMs to participate and some of them having a few days work shops before the event. Good planning is needed as Africa is big continent.

I do not have knowledge on sponsors desire to support chess in Africa, but through the continental federation (working with fide) and Kasparov Chess Fouundation I am sure something can be achieved. Perhaps the two sides bridging “election ” difference and benefit chess.

Question: How do you prepare for a strong opponent mentally and before the game?

Answer: One the golden rules (I have) is ….once game starts there are no regrets …. – just decisions! Do your best and do not look back!

Thinking about the result normally does not help…thinking more about it will negative influence creativity.

Good physical shape is important!

Question: Do you still have goals you would like to achieve in chess…if so which ones.

Answer: Yes, I have made a career switch ? and am now more focused on books writing and teaching. I have achieved my top goals as a player.

I did not achieve the goal I had (to come to the World championships match) ….but have achieved many other chess goals.

Question:  What is the best way to get hold of you GM?

Answer: Getting a hold of me… – I am ok to stay in this group and will fix with Douglas to do this again!

Question: Hello GM, How can I improve my classic chess, I am a more of a Blitz person than classic games. From Swaziland

Answer:  Try to pre-decide on your opening lines!!

So you will not waste the time in the early phase.

Direct prepared lines (if you have a good memory) will help! As in blitz your opponents will not feel comfortable facing it

Closing remarks

Grandmaster: Thank you all! I promise will fix with Douglas to do this again soon! Was a pleasure!

From the group:  Thank you very much for your time GM.







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