Photo from tatar-inform.ru
Born 24 June 1968 in Minsk
Grandmaster, winner of the 2009 World Cup and of the 2011 Candidates’ Matches
Rating on 1 January 2012: 2739 (peak rating = 2762)
Early years. Boris entered the world on 24 June 1968 in Minsk, born into a family of engineers. His parents – Abram and Nella – had difficult backgrounds: they were both born not long before the Great Patriotic War, were both evacuated, and after the war they returned home to Minsk. The family was constantly moving from one construction site to another in Belorussia, Lithuania and Russia… The parents were accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle, and their sun picked this up from them.
The Gelfands were a typical intellectual family in the then USSR: chess was as much an integral part of their culture as the cinema, the theatre or books. It is therefore not surprising that when Boris was four years old his father bought his son his first book about chess: Journey to the Chess Kingdom, by Averbakh and Beilin.
“I decided that we would look at one diagram per day,” Abram recalled. “That way we’d be able to get through the book in a year!” The pair of them worked on chess every day, and the son became increasingly immersed in the world of the 64 squares. During the week Boris could not wait for his father to come home so that they could start a new lesson… And within a few months he had already started to work on his chess independently. “At first I had thought that Boris would lose interest in chess, but I soon discovered that he had already got to the end of our book and was trying to re-enact some of Grandmasters’ games!”
Gelfand’s first trainer was the well-known teacher Eduard Zelkind. Boris was not yet seven when he joined his group. At first Zelkind did not want to take the lad, but he got the measure of his chess talent when Boris pointed out the winning move in Bronstein’s famous game against a computer. It became clear to Zelkind that Gelfand had not only memorised the moves but could also feel what was happening on the chess board…
Boris studied with Zelkind for five years. The boy proved himself as a player in the combination style, but also made substantial progress in studying endings and game technique. In 1979 Tamara Goleva, a talented teacher and strong player, took Boris under her wing. She became a second mother to him and was very fond of him. “We never worried about Boris when he set off for another tournament with Tamara,” Abram recalled at the time. And their work together was undoubtedly beneficial. Then Albert Kapengut appeared in Gelfand’s life.
The favourite pupil of Boleslavsky, a strong player, theoretician and method trainer, he gave Boris systematic knowledge about chess, taught him to work on it independently and instilled in him the habit of generating new ideas. In the apt phrase of Razuvaev, Gelfand became “Boleslavsky’s chess grandson”. Their creative collaboration began in 1980 and continued for nearly 12 years… Gelfand was given access to the trainer’s huge library and was able to ask Kapengut any question about chess.
Another formative stage in Boris’s chess was his participation in 1980-1983 in sessions of the “Petrosian School” – Gelfand went to three two-week sessions, where he not only attended lectures by teachers but also spent time with the former world champion himself. “That was something special! To have the opportunity to spend time with a great player, just like that,” Boris recalled with delight. “I remember Petrosian saying to me that I shouldn’t make a single move without having an idea: ‘Even when you’re playing blitz, always think!’ That idea played an enormous role in the subsequent development of my way of playing…”
First successes. The fact that in 1979 the USSR championships took place in Minsk also played an important role in Gelfand’s development. It was won by the 54-year-old Geller – Efim Petrovich beat the young Yusupov and Kasparov in a fierce contest. The 11-year-old Gelfand was the most attentive spectator in the room: he did not miss a single game and got the autographs of all 18 participants, as well as that of Flohr, the head judge. On seeing the boy’s obsession, Kapengut’s wife said: “Soon people will be asking for your autograph too!”
The next few years were fairly successful for Gelfand. He proved himself to be one of the strongest young chess players in the USSR, winning prizes in many individual and team tournaments. Then in 1983 came his breakthrough.
In that year Gelfand, like Kasparov five years earlier, “wangled” his way into the Sokolsky Memorial in Minsk – and caused another sensation! Boris finished the tournament ahead of two Grandmasters without losing a single game, and immediately fulfilled the requirements to be a master, although bureaucratic delays meant he did not become one until 1985.
In the same year, 1983, the 15-year-old Gelfand played in the Belorussian adult championship for the first time. He won it in both 1984 and 1985!
In 1985 Gelfand played in the USSR Junior Championship for the first time. In a fierce battle for first place he came in ahead of another rising star – Vassily Ivanchuk – by half a point. Two years later in Arnhem he outperformed him in the European Under-21 Championship, after going through a tough selection before it. Vassily managed to beat him in a head-to-head meeting, but this did not trouble Boris: he won the other 11 games, and when his hold on first place was no longer threatened he “gifted” his opponents one draw. It was an unconditional victory.
A year later, in 1988, in Arnhem again, Gelfand repeated his achievement and became twice (joint) Champion of Europe. Before this he shared first place in the USSR Junior Championship and the Under-20 World Championship in Adelaide. Boris also played brilliantly in the first league, earning his place in the USSR adult championship.
Take-off. By 1989 the whole chess world had started talking about Gelfand! Successes came one after another, and his rating rose rapidly… Boris was still not 20 when after adding 66 points at once he rapidly broke into the top 10 with a rating of 2673! He then consolidated these figures with more brilliant successes.
Thus Gelfand made it onto the winners’ podium at the USSR championship at his first attempt – he shared third place in Odessa (the champion was Rafael Vaganian). This success won him a place in the USSR national team – and together with this young and ambitious team he was victorious in the European championship. A year later he was playing for the USSR team at the Olympiad in Novi Sad. In his career to date Gelfand has played in nine Tournaments of Nations, heading first the Belorussian team and then Israel.
But the main event for Boris in 1989 was the grand GMA Candidates Tournament in Palma de Mallorca. One hundred and fifty Grandmasters started: it was probably the most impressive Swiss-system tournament in the history of chess. And it had a single winner! Gelfand won six of the first seven games. His victims included Dlugi, Adams and King… His final result – 7.5 out of 9 – was reminiscent of his triumphant junior victories, which had left not the slightest doubt about his superiority.
Such a brilliant success simply could not go unnoticed, and at the end of the tournament Gelfand received an invitation to two super-tournaments, in Tilburg and Linares.
In the first tournament, in Linares in 1990, the novice had to play Kasparov himself. And Boris passed the test of his first meeting with the world champion. A very fierce struggle to the last move held the spectators in huge tension – and despite the fact that this game ended in a draw it was acknowledged as the best in the tournament.
After this “warm-up”, Kasparov and Gelfand both won four games in a row, virtually removing any question about who would be contending for first place… In 1989 another Linares debutant, Ivanchuk, had also started the tournament with a game against Garry – he won it, and then the whole tournament. Alas, Gelfand did not manage to repeat Vassily’s feat – he finished half a point behind Kasparov, despite his six victories!
Having passed this “exam” brilliantly, Gelfand was numbered among the world’s leading players. And after he – together with Ivanchuk! – shared victory in the inter-zonal in Manila, people began talking about the Belorussian as a possible challenger for the chess throne.
Unfortunately, Gelfand’s first “move” for the crown came to an abrupt halt at the quarter-final stage. As it had, incidentally, for Anand with Ivanchuk. After a difficult victory over Predrag Nikolic – 4:4 in normal time and 1.5:0.5 in the rapid playoff – Boris lost to Nigel Short 3:5. But in this cycle no one could stop the British player, and Nigel got as far as Kasparov!
Gelfand did not intend to make a tragedy out of this defeat, the first in his rapidly developing career. Boris gave his opponent his due for his exceptional pressure in the white game and his ability to attune himself to victory – and got ready for another assault on Olympus in two years’ time. He was just 22.
But it turned out that after losing his match against Short, Boris had an indirect hand – Karpov, Timman and Kasparov also “connived” in this – in splitting the world of chess. In 1993 Garry and Nigel played a match for the crown outside FIDE’s jurisdiction, and the chess world entered an era of dual power. This situation could not have made Gelfand happy. For him, the world of chess had always seemed like a pyramid, at the top of which should be the world champion, and his main aim was to get to the top.
But in 1993, when FIDE and the PCA began to run two cycles in parallel, there were suddenly two of these peaks. And Boris was just about the only one who did not try to “kill two birds with one stone”. He decided to concentrate on the FIDE line.
Challenger 1. However, before celebrating success in an inter-zonal tournament for a second time in 1993, Gelfand achieved a lot. In 1991 he won brilliantly in Belgrade, and in 1992 he shared second place with Kasparov in Reggio Emilia, won at Wijk aan Zee, and won the Alekhine Memorial towards the end of the year… This success in Moscow was one of the most brilliant triumphal pages in the Grandmaster’s career.
This was one of the tournaments in which Gelfand succeeded in literally everything, and his brilliant creative game reached its apogee! Boris won three brilliant victories over Karpov, Anand and Salov, and only an “unnecessary” defeat by Shirov denied him an “outright” victory. Various publications got so carried away in their delight at Gelfand’s play that they named him the direct heir of Alekhine.
However, not much can compare with an outright first place at the inter-zonal in Biel in 1993. Before Boris, Bronstein had managed to win two inter-zonals – at Saltsjobaden in 1948 and Gothenburg in 1955 – but no one had won two in a row. Gelfand confidently scored “+5”, and the key game in his overall success was the one against Anand, whom he defeated in the eighth round (as he had also done, incidentally, three years earlier, at the inter-zonal in Manila). Having become the challenger, Gelfand did not go to the PCA candidates tournament in Groningen.
The fact that Gelfand’s approach to this cycle was totally serious was shown by the result of his very first match with the “twice challenger” Adams. Boris was superior to him in all aspects of the game and did not give Michael a single chance, winning 5:3. After failing to win in Linares (eleventh place) and a victorious Dos Hermanas he went away for more than two months to prepare for a contest against the 19-year-old Kramnik.
To this day Boris considers this match victory – 4.5:3.5 – one of his most important. Despite his youth, Vladimir was already among the five leading players in the world, and there was no doubt that more successes awaited him.
Together with his assistants Alexander Huzman, Mark Kogan and Valery Atlas, Gelfand succeeded in discovering the shortcomings in his opponent’s play – and in hitting the key areas of his opening analyses. The situation was “complicated” by the fact that Boris and Vladimir were good friends and had worked together on their chess more than once.
The match as a whole was dictated by Gelfand. He put on pressure with white, and Kramnik found himself with effectively no opening – and was forced to shift the emphasis of the battle to the middlegame. Vladimir did take the lead after winning a victory in the fascinating third game, but the score was immediately levelled in the fourth. Then after a series of draws Gelfand finished off his opponent by winning the final, eighth, game of the match – 4.5:3.5.
Gelfand finished 1994 with a victory in the rapid knockout tournament in Cap d’Agde, in the final of which he beat his opponent in the candidates’ match, Anatoly Karpov, 4:2!
At that moment his victory in the FIDE cycle seemed entirely realistic. Anatoly, true, had a score of 3:1 in non-draw matches with Boris, having beaten him with both white and black, but… “that was before” – and Gelfand set off for Sanghi Nagar not only confident of victory but also with a clear idea of how he could achieve it.
At the start Karpov was having serious problems: having saved himself in the first game, he could do nothing in the second and fell apart in the third. But… feeling that the match wasn’t going in the right direction, the FIDE champion mobilised all his inner reserves and managed to regain control. In his trademark subtle style he got the better of Gelfand in the fourth and sixth games and, after changing his opening, confidently secured a draw with black in the fifth.
The key game of the match was the seventh. Here Boris, who had missed several chances as play progressed, opted for the “wrong” endgame! He traded knights instead of taking the bishop and securing an easy draw. Anatoly converted his advantage into a victory in exemplary style. This defeat really took the wind out of Gelfand’s sails. The battle was over – 3:6.
This contest, or rather the chance that Boris lost in it, would “reverberate” in his life for a long time to come. At that time, at 27 he was at the height of his creative force and opportunities… After the match in Sanghi Nagar it was said that Gelfand had been in a hurry to lay out all his trump cards in front of Karpov, and that Karpov, with his huge match experience, had known exactly how to adapt to him. Boris was not flexible enough.
One of the elite. Fortunately the collapse of the challenger’s hopes did not obstruct Gelfand’s further career. In the same year, 1995, Boris found himself among the winners in Dos Hermanas and Biel, and in Belgrade he shared 1st-2nd place with Kramnik, with “+5” each!
In the next two years a cornucopia of invitations to major tournaments came the Belorussian’s way, and he probably overestimated his physical capacity. But what could he do? The world championship cycle had collapsed, and all that was left was “simply playing”…
And Gelfand, a player who approached his every game, almost his every move, with trepidation, was suddenly forced to play every third day. In the next two years he played an inconceivable 183 “classical” games, not to mention rapid chess and blitz chess. Boris travelled all over the world without a breathing-space… Wijk aan Zee, Amsterdam, Dos Hermanas, Madrid, Novgorod, Dortmund, Vienna, Yerevan, Tilburg and Groningen, plus appearances in leagues in 1996. Linares, Dos Hermanas, Novgorod, Dortmund, Biel, Polanica-Zdroj, Belgrade and again Groningen, and the first FIDE knockout world championship in 1997. Anyone would “break” under such an exhausting schedule of appearances.
It goes without saying that Gelfand simply had no time to think about high places – he had to get ready for the next game! It is surprising that he managed to maintain his rating, staying on the edge of the top 10. When asked about unimportant results at that time he would simply throw up his hands: “I simply don’t have the energy, because I’m playing too much…” His emotional tiredness led to a loss of technique and to frequent errors in games that were not going badly. He was caught in a vicious circle.
Before this, Boris had more than once declined invitations to tournaments, wishing to focus on preparing for candidates’ matches. After FIDE gave them up, deciding to determine the champion in a knockout tournament, he had nothing to save his strength for. And he did not have any. But Gelfand got ready for his first knockout in Groningen.
Boris had some very difficult contests – all three went to a tie-break: Lautier, Tkachev and Dreev. But in the quarter-final he was up against Anand. After a rapid draw in the first game, there was no threat to Boris in the second, but his nervous tension had an effect. While in a good position he blundered away an exchange; he tried to give up a piece for two pawns but did not hold out for long. Anand went through to the semi-final against Adams. The Indian took “revenge” for two defeats in the inter-zonals, each of which had been almost fatal for him. And Gelfand was again two steps away from the throne…
A new life. On his return home Gelfand decided to start a “new life”. He had been nurturing plans to move to Israel for a long time… But he did this only in 1998, when he moved to Rishon LeZion - a small town to the south of Tel Aviv.
Brussels – Boris shared his free time approximately evenly between this city and Minsk – thus did not become his home. But Rishon LeZion – a small town to the south of Tel Aviv – did, and immediately became a centre of chess activities.
Having changed his “chess citizenship”, Gelfand faded into the background for a while: the organisers of big tournaments stopped noticing him. As a result Boris began to sit at the chessboard much less frequently.
But his rare appearances were more “fruitful”. A win in Polanica-Zdroj with a one point lead over Shirov in 1998, and another at the first super-tournament in Tel Aviv and Malmo in 1999. And then in the FIDE knockout world championship in Las Vegas Boris lost “by tradition” to the future world champion Alexander Khalifman in the qualifying round for the last 32…
In April 1999 Gelfand, who was never shy about expressing his opinion, spoke for the first time on matters other than chess. In a column in the large-circulation German paper Die Welt the Israeli Grandmaster went against public opinion and expressed sharp condemnation of the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia.
“For us chess players, these towns – Bugojno, Niksic, Banja Luka, Pula and Belgrade – are not simply points on a map. They are the places where our good friends and real supporters of chess live!” Boris wrote. For nowhere in Europe took as much interest in chess as the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Gelfand was not trying to throw down a challenge to anyone; he simply regarded it as his duty to express his position.
These bold and frank statements by Gelfand, who had taken an active stance against the bombing of Yugoslavia, were taken at face value by the public.
At the end of 2000 people began to talk about Gelfand’s “return” to the chess Olympus… Boris got as far as the semi-final of the World Cup in Shenyang, losing only to Anand, and that in the blitz chess. And for a second time he won the Rubinstein Memorial brilliantly.
Things did not work out for him in the knockout championship in New Delhi, it is true: he only got through two rounds, losing to the future finalist Alexei Shirov 1.5:2.5… But a year later in Moscow he “made amends” and got as far as the quarter-final. Gelfand managed to overcome Cabrera, Dominguez, Delchev and Azmaiparashvili. He was halted only by Svidler.
Boris lost to him in a protracted blitz series and once again spoke out on the subject of the imbalance between the significance of the championship title and the actual knockout format. His statements were quickly taken up by the press, and by other players too, as a result of which FIDE soon abandoned the knockout in favour of the classical world championship cycle format with a match for the crown. Meanwhile the knockout tournament received, to general satisfaction, the status of the World Cup, one of the candidates’ stages in the world championship…
In 2002 Gelfand made an attempt to get selected for a world championship match with Kramnik. But the candidates’ tournament in Dortmund did not work out for Boris – he could not get through from his group into the play-off, losing to Topalov and Shirov.
There was another reason for Gelfand’s failure, apart from chess problems – three explosions by suicide bombers that occurred literally one block from his house in Rishon LeZion on the very eve of the tournament. This threw Boris into disarray. Not even an invitation from Boris Postovsky, the legendary captain of the Burevestnik sports society and the Russian national team in the 1990s, to join his team could help revive his fighting spirit.
But if Gelfand had only himself to blame for the failure of his 2002 campaign, the fact that he did not get into the 2004 world championship was due only to FIDE, which chose Libya as the venue for the tournament. It is well known that citizens of Israel are forbidden to travel to this country. Two dozen players at that time fell foul of this, which caused a storm of indignation in the world of chess. “A shameful act, in the opinion of many chess players, spectators and organisers,” said Boris, speaking frankly in interviews… “One can only imagine where we’ll end up if the situation in the world of chess remains this stable in the years to come!” And indeed, the chess world had seen nothing like this since 1976, when the USSR and company boycotted the Olympiad in Haifa.
Challenger 2. In 2002-2006 Gelfand experienced successful performances alternating with not very successful ones, brilliant bursts of creativity with periods of creative drought. With his rating and track record he was always a welcome guest in second-rank tournaments. But the only tournament with the prefix “super” that remained on his credit side was Amber, although time after time Boris achieved nothing special in it: neither in the rapid games nor in the blindfold games – he invariably finished in the lower half of the table.
“Between 1998 and 2006 I played in perhaps five or six ‘classical’ super-tournaments, and that’s in eight years!” said a perplexed Gelfand. “My rating was always between number six and 16. Nowadays a player with that kind of rating would play more tournaments in two years than I did during that whole period! A conspiracy? An objective situation in the world…”
In 2005 Gelfand took part in the first World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. He got as far as the quarter-final, where he was beaten 4:2 by Grischuk (it is interesting that several years before this, when the 17-year-old Grischuk was a semi-finalist in the FIDE knockout in New Delhi, Boris did a few training sessions with him at the request of his trainer Anatoly Bykhovsky). But despite being knocked out of the World Cup, Gelfand was included in the 16 candidates who were due to compete for four places in the 2007 round robin world championship a year later in Elista. The prospect of once again having to fight for the champion’s title was more than a serious irritant for Gelfand.
And he confidently earned the right to travel to Mexico City. First he beat Rustam Kasimdzhanov: six draws in normal time and total superiority for Gelfand in the tie-break – 2.5:0.5. Then Kamsky was defeated too: Boris needed only five main games to beat Gata, and he won two with black – 3.5:1.5…
Three months later the 39-year-old Gelfand was… the “main discovery” of the world championship in Mexico! Boris was incredibly prepared in the opening. He played Petrov’s Defence as black and the Catalan opening as white; it was simply some kind of Kramnik personified. But the main thing was that he was full of energy, with a big stock of new ideas. He had not displayed such force and desire to play for victory in every game in tournaments for several years.
However, in the first round with black against Anand he did not have enough of this attitude, otherwise Gelfand would have taken the pawn that Vishy left vulnerable, and… who knows how the whole tournament would have turned out? But the Indian held his ground, finishing the first round with five points out of seven. Boris had half a point less – two “white” victories over Aronian and Morozevich; and with all his main opponents Boris secured confident draws with black.
Unfortunately the “fairy tale” ended in the ninth round, in a game with Grischuk. The latter, who had finished the first round with a 50% result, was beaten outright in the second, with only a single victory. And that was against Gelfand… After that, Vishy could not be caught, even despite the fact that Boris achieved a determined victory over Aronian. Gelfand could not even get an outright second place, because of Kramnik, who rolled on to the finish.
Nevertheless, the experts unanimously noted that at nearly 40 years of age Gelfand had literally found his “second wind”. However, Boris was only displaying it in competitions connected with the fight for the title of world champion. In “ordinary” round robin tournaments he lacked stability, and he played in them with variable success.
On the one hand there were blatant failures in Wijk aan Zee and Sochi in 2008, and some very average results in Nalchik and Biel in 2009. And on the other hand there were brilliant results in Bazna and Jermuk, and steady and confident play in the Tal memorials.
Breakthrough. Even a brilliant victory in the 2009 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk did not change this “picture of the world”. Gelfand was able to move through this tournament, which lasted three weeks, in top gear! On the way to the final he got past Obodchuk, Amonatov, Polgar, Vachier-Lagrave, Yakovenko and Karyakin. Half the matches went to a tie-break, and Boris effectively did not have a single day off. And a titanic struggle with Ponomarev still awaited Gelfand in the final. The main games ended in draws, and then the “fireworks” started. Twice Boris was just one step away from victory, and twice Ruslan fought back in the last game. But… Gelfand still finished 7:5!
It would have been most unfair if victory had slipped from his grasp – the Israeli Grandmaster had invested all his strength in this tournament, and even a bit more… His young seconds were “dying” under the pressure, but their boss turned out every day as if for his last fight, as if it were nothing special, and he could not get enough of it, just kept playing and playing. As Alexander Huzman, who had served as his second for 20 years, put it: “After all, none of the elite players loves chess as Boris does…”
Even Gelfand himself, turning over his past successes in his mind, could not decide which of them had been the most impressive. Two victories in the inter-zonals, Mexico in 2007, Belgrade in 1995, Moscow in 1992… “I’m not about to put my victory in Khanty-Mansiysk on a par with my previous achievements. It was something special!”
After his victory in the World Cup Boris was again invited to Linares, after a 13-year interval. In addition, Gelfand played in tournaments in Astrakhan and Bazna, and then performed brilliantly for the team of “veterans” in a cross-generation match in Amsterdam.
But the main challenge for Boris in 2011 was the candidates’ matches! This time he did not go to the match tournament but straight to a duel for the crown with Vishy Anand…
Before the battle started in Kazan, there was a lot of talk about the mismatch between the importance of this event and its format: the matches were too short, and they were to be played one after another, and there was too much rapid and blitz chess. Even Magnus Carlsen, who was number one in the world ratings, had declined to take part, believing that it was impossible to decide who was strongest in this way.
The majority of matches turned into a real lottery, with the main events happening at the flag fall. Gelfand took a philosophical view of the format: in the words of the poem, “We don’t choose our times, we just live and die”! We have no choice – we have to play…
His first opponent was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and the key game in their match was the third. Here his opponent attacked fiercely, but Boris put up an effective defence. When the smoke of battle cleared it turned out that the Baku player had an extra rook, and the Israeli had six potential queens. The other three games ended in draws – 2.5:1.5.
In the next match against Gata Kamsky all the main events came in the tie-break. Here too Gelfand could have resolved all issues in his own favour in the main time – again with black in the third game – but in the zeitnot he wrongly retreated his queen. A draw.
The result of this match seemed to trouble Boris: he eased off his attack in the fourth game and played uncertainly in the rapid chess. But if Gata “excused” him in the first game, in the third Gelfand, playing white, was left without a piece by the sixteenth move! He had just one slim chance left to save the match – to win the last game, playing black.
As this game proceeded, Kamsky had more than one chance to put the outcome of the match beyond doubt, but he hesitated and retreated, while… it was not obvious that Gelfand would win. In the blitz chess there was no contest – Boris won both games and secured himself a place in the final.
Awaiting him there was Alexander Grischuk, who had seen off his two most dangerous opponents – Aronian and Kramnik – before this in tie-breaks. In Kazan the Muscovite played without white, securing quick draws, and was ready to withstand a siege with black. He was very close to losing, but his brilliant playing qualities enabled him to “hold the balance”.
The final match also followed the same scenario. It seemed it would be impossible to avoid a tie-break after five drawn games, but Gelfand managed to go all out in the sixth, which was really “the game of his life”. It seemed as though white had gained nothing in the opening and black was already beginning active operations against its “weak king”, when suddenly it became clear that… it simply had no moves! Grischuk perished quickly in a futile search for a counterplay.
Gelfand won the match 3.5:2.5 and won the right to a match for the crown!
“I’ve always had great respect for the title of world champion,” said Boris after his victory. “So when the cycle effectively collapsed in the mid-1990s, I found it emotionally more difficult to train and to prepare properly for tournaments… I lacked the motivation. As soon as the normal cycle was resumed, my results immediately improved! In 2007 in Mexico I shared second place with Kramnik, then I won in Khanty-Mansiysk in the World Cup, and now I’ve won the candidates’ cycle too!”