An interview with German Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson, by Alexander J. Klemm
GM Jan Gustafsson won the Bangkok Chess Club Open in 2011. This time he finished with a strong seven points out of nine games, reaching shared 3rd to 5th place. After the tournament he gave an interview, talking about his performance, the website chess24.com, and Vishy Anand’s chances against Magnus Carlsen in the upcoming world championship rematch.
AJK: Congratulations for your achievement. How do you feel now the tournament is over?
JG: Well, I’m tired and [smiling] I blame it on Kai, the tournament director, for starting the last round at 9 am. That’s a tough one for me. I think the jetlag goes away but still I could never manage to fall asleep before 4 am, which is also self-imposed but it’s just hard to change the rhythm. I wish the tournament wasn’t over just yet. I always enjoy coming to Thailand, and I’m not so desperate to go back to work in Germany.
AJK: What was your best game and is there a game with which you were not so satisfied?
JG: That’s hard to tell. I won five games but all against weaker players, and against the four strong players I got unexciting draws. I was unhappy with myself for making too early draws both against GM Marat Dzhumaev and GM John Paul Gomez. If I want to win the tournament I have to try to win these games. Well, I won some games, but those were more business as usual and nothing to brag about.
AJK: What do you think about the overall strength of the competition this year?
JG: I hope it doesn’t get too strong because I also want to have a chance to compete here. The great thing about this tournament is that you see a lot of returning players. This is my fourth year in a row and there are a lot of familiar faces. It’s a strong open. The special situation is that there are 80 or 90 percent foreigners while in most other opens I’ve played there are 80 to 90 percent locals. So it’s interesting for me because I don’t get to play against people from countries such as India or Australia all that often.
AJK: What are your impressions of the playing venue and the overall tournament organization?
JG: I’ve been playing here for four years now – if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t return. The Dusit Thani Hotel is a fantastic venue both here and in Pattaya, and the tournament is very well organized. Kai knows my complaints about double rounds, having the tournament during Songkran, and starting the last game at 9 am, but those are minor complaints. I think it’s a fantastic tournament and recommend it to anybody.
AJK: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any tournaments or chess projects lined up?
JG: I’m a fulltime employee. I have twenty days of holidays per year and have just taken ten of those, so there won’t be much further travelling for me this year. I work in a company that has a chess project called chess24.com, which we launched just a couple of months ago. I’ll be working on this project providing a lot of content. Now I’m going back to Hamburg to do a live commentary on this super-tournament in Baku. It has a very sad cause: Vugar Gashimov, a very talented grandmaster and beloved guy, died this year at age 27, so they’re having this tournament in his honor. [The Vugar Gashimov Memorial was held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, 20-30 April 2014, and won by GM Magnus Carlsen.] GM Peter Svidler is going to join me. That should be fun.
And other than that, as boring as it sounds, I’m going back to the office and work. I won’t be playing that much chess. But maybe you could start a second Thailand Open. Then I’d have a good reason to use the remainder of my holidays.
AJK: Please tell me more about chess24.com. How did it start, what is your involvement, and what are the future plans?
JG: It’s quite an ambitious project. I’ve been working for them for two years now. I believe the plans started a bit earlier even. The goal is to create an all-in-one chess platform that offers learning techniques, coaching opportunities for players of all levels, and a zone where you can play games. Then we also have some fancy tools for following tournaments live. That is the part I really enjoy, following and doing live commentaries on big events. That’s pretty much it. I’m quite happy with the site. It’s a serious project with a lot of people working on it. The great thing is that we’re live now and no longer in the planning stage.
AJK: Who are the other people involved in it?
JG: The people you might now are all chess players from around the world. ‘Paco’ Vallejo, the tournament winner, has been working with us. He’s been providing content in Spanish. Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler have also been contributing material. We’re trying to do something high-class, ambitious, and hopefully entertaining in English, German and Spanish.
AJK: Since you have just mentioned Anand. Many people were surprised that he won the candidates …
JG: … everyone was surprised!
AJK: What do you think about his chances?
JG: It’s hard to say. He was basically written off after losing that match against Magnus Carlsen. Actually, ‘written off’ is probably too strong. But many people didn’t believe he could come back so strongly and win the candidates. His chances will be better than last time because first of all by winning the candidates he proved to himself and everyone that he still has it in him to win such a tournament. He will have a lot more confidence, and he has the experience of having played against Magnus. But then again, Magnus isn’t the world number one and dominator for nothing. Against him everybody is an underdog. I think Vishy will have a better chance and we’ll get to see a better match, but I still consider him the outsider against Carlsen.
AJK: Final question. Are you planning to return to Thailand next year?
JG: Yes of course I am. I’m very worried though because Kai looks tired and he’s always teasing he will quit – but I’m always planning to return.