Gelfand on Levon Aronian

I took the liberty of cutting these unedited paragraphs from the coming book Positional Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand.

Levon Aronian is of course one of the greatest players of our time. However, in team events he is usually even stronger. Due not least to his spirit and leadership, the Armenian team managed to win the 2006, 2008 and 2012 Olympiads, the 2011 World Team Championship, as well as achieving a bronze in the 2007 European Team Championship and the 2004 Olympiad. Armenia also won bronze at the 1992 and 2002 Olympiads, but both times without Aronian on the team. But it was from 2006 where Aronian entered the elite and took over board 1 from Akopian that the team became the most successful team in the World. It would not be unfair to say that Aronian is the soul of the Armenian team.

I consider him to be the most creative player of our time, both over the board and in opening preparation. So far he has failed in the Candidates tournament, but I hope that Anand’s and my results in recent years will inspire him to keep on trying. He has so many qualities that I would not be surprised if he manages to become World Champion one day. I really feel that as long as one wants to work on chess and has the will to progress, there is a possibility to do so.

These days when you read older players complain about younger players that they only know how to push the space bar and have no culture, just think of Aronian. He has a great knowledge of music, literature, arts and culture in general. This is another reason why I would be happy if he kept on improving and reach the highest peak. What a World Champion he would be!

In a recent interview in New in Chess he said that whenever he plays me, he tries to impress me. It is friendly competition. We have warm personal relations and work on chess together. So, in every game we try to come with something new. If one player comes with a good novelty, it is great! This is one of the reasons why we have so many decisive games with each other. It is always an open game where both players want to win.

For those interested in which parts are spoken by Boris, and which are added by the ghost writer, I am only happy to comply.

Armenia also won bronze at the 1992 and 2002 Olympiads, but both times without Aronian on the team. But it was from 2006 where Aronian entered the elite and took over board 1 from Akopian that the team became the most successful team in the World.

This section was added by me after checking the history of the Armenian results online. I find this to be a secretarial function and not that of a co-writer. In the same way, I will do a later snippet on a pawn ending, which I (read Komodo) worked out. Again, watching the screen and being systematic is very useful, but it is not the inspired World class contribution people are looking for Boris to come with. The areas of approach, thinking, explanation, he does. Where it matters.

My greatest effort relating to this piece, is the question “Aronian said to New in Chess that whenever you play, he is trying to impress you,” sparking Boris to talk about their private relationship for two minutes. Also, he started off by saying that “we will probably talk about Levon at some other time”, but I got him to do it now. Because we never know if another time will occur.   

I really think that this will be a good book. It will easily be better than Boris’s last book; because I am prompting him to speak about things he takes for granted. I find at times this is also what is missing in Kasparov’s books. It is all seen from a level I can easily understand, but I am wondering about the 99.99% of chess players that are not grandmasters…

30 thoughts on “Gelfand on Levon Aronian”

  1. On a completely different topic, could you Jacob (or Nikos) please write a future post on how to keep on top of the ever expanding mass of opening theory. I have found a way to study openings and build my own repertoire, but I’m at a loss of how to maintain my openings and keep them up to date.

    Given a limited amount of time, would you subscribe to “chesspub”, any specific chess magazines or simply browse the “mega database” from time to time? Or am I on the wrong track here?

  2. Great passage- interesting and original views. Huge respect for Boris and especially his press conferences in the Anand match where he was dismissive of attempts to make chess more accessible to those who weren’t prepared to make an intellectual effort.

    Along with the next Tal instalment, this is the book I’m looking forward to most.

  3. Does anyone know when 1. we will get the PDF preview and 2. when the book will hit the printer and even actual publication?

  4. When one mentions GMs Gelfand and Aronian, the “GM” means much more than just “Grandmaster”. It also means “Gentleman”.

    Big Aronian fan here.

  5. The second sentence isn’t my favorite. The word “however” should be used to mark contrast.

    “Levon Aronian is of course one of the greatest players of our time. However, in team events he is usually even stronger.”

  6. It’s a beautiful excerpt – Gelfand is very gracious there. About the ghosted/edited passage: I would recommend putting that in a footnote instead. I appreciate your (Jacob’s) desire to give the rest of the Armenian team its due credit, and I agree that it’s worth adding those sentences. But they change the tone of the section and break its flow, and for that reason I think turning it into a footnote would improve the style.

  7. Footnotes are useful in academic works, but not in a chess book. I hope Aronian will get new motivation for the world title, perhaps hire Gelfand as a coach?

  8. @Jimmy
    Subscribing at chesspub is not a bad idea, but i find many times that the quality of the material coming from several sections to differ a lot, especially in the last couple of years. So, you have to take into consideration some price-for-money issues. CEWN is another candidate while quite similar is the “Master’s Bulletin” from, although if you are interested strictly in opening theory chesspub comes on top of those.

    If you are confident enough to work on your own and invest some personal time instead of money, then this is what ideas come now to my mind.

    The simplest idea of all is to download the TWICs and “Chess_Mix”s, merge them together and try by your own to find the new ideas played in the new games.

    If you have a Fritz software, you can have this database annotated overnight with “blunder check” setting the threshold parameter to +/- 0.15 or similar and study the results next day.

    If you are an experienced Chessbase user you can create “repertoire databases” and use the “theoretical weight” function to see what lines are more “hot” than others and so it can easier for you to expect more top games on these lines.

    If you are an experienced Aquarium user you can do no better than to read the following interview by my compatriot Corr Senior IM Kostas Oreopoulos (a regural visitor of this blog as well) here: and follow the procedure Kostas recommends.

    These are just tips of course. Some of them i use on my own, some i have seen others do and be OK with it. In general the more organised your repertoire files are the more time-saving will be the proccess of maintaining your repertoire and expanding it in the future.

    Hope all this was more helpful than confusing!

  9. Jacob, Thomas, paddyirish and gerando, we’re not talking about massive footnotes on every page filling in historical details or analytical comments, we’re talking about a single footnote. Calling such a book “unreadable” is really overwrought.

  10. I don’t think these additions need to be explained in a footnote. Editing is normal in the book business.

    Actually I’m quite happy that QC uses a very hands-on editing approach. Just look at the other chess publishers … most of them have room for improvement in this area.

    Jacob, if your contributions are several percent of the book, you could consider spending a small paragraph explicitly mentioning that you did some cleanup duties, background research and making things more understandable for amateur players. Or have Boris thank you for that in the foreword. 😉

  11. @Dennis M
    Are you a clairvoyant?
    How do you know how much of the content would need to be included in footnotes if QC followed your suggestion?
    I trust Jacob and the rest of the team to produce a classic book I am really looking forward to the finished product

  12. My contribution to this book is quite considerable. The book is written in a conversation and I have found quite a few of the ideas. But the final say, the tone and the direction of the book is set by Boris. I ask, he answers. I suggest, he evaluates. I write, he asks me to change things.

    Regarding the footnotes. I think they are even more disruptive for the flow. In academic work (I have a semiotic/linguistic background) where there is a lot of it, you ignore it. But I think most people will go to the footnotes immediately in a chess book where there might only be a few. I know I would.

    I am happy to debate things. I sincerely listen and at times change things. Grandmaster Preparation was written based on a suggestion here on the blog – and yes, that was the title suggested. If you cannot learn from your readers, you really are a special kind of idiot :-). But this does not mean I have to agree with all suggestions! Maybe brackets is the right way to deal with the section mention?!

  13. @ Rob: That’s a pretty silly comment. Unless the book consists of that passage over and over again, I believe the correct answer is: a minuscule fraction. My comment offered a clear rationale for the footnote: Jacob’s very reasonable insertion changed the flow and tone of the passage, which is an almost poetic tribute to Levon Aronian. It’s unlikely that the book is a series of odes to great players, and unlikelier still that Jacob is interjecting small qualifications in the middle of them. So even if QC followed my suggestion there’s no reason to think the book would end up looking like something out of an academic journal article or even one of John Nunn’s old edited works. To make the point explicit: I’m absolutely not saying that every contribution of Jacob’s should be placed into the footnotes. I’m not sure why my comment would be interpreted in that way, but I’m not suggesting that at all.

    @ Jacob: Brackets/parentheses might be an option. Another possibility is to convey the information about Armenia’s earlier results before the third sentence rather than after it.

  14. @Jacob Will this book be one of a series of books by Gelfand? Or is there the possibility this might happen depending on how well received this first one is? I for one would buy every book in such a series.

  15. I do not see any need for footnotes, brackets or something like that.
    It’s quite normal that different people are involved in a book. You’re never sure who exactly wrote which sentence or who wrote it, while the other modified it. There are books by Karpov where you cannot be sure he even read it. This is definitely not the case here.
    Not having seen it yet I’m quite sure it will be a Gelfand book, with the help of Jacob. That’s fine to me without brackets, footnotes or anything else of that kind.

  16. @ Thomas: Your first sentence is relevant to my point, but the next paragraph isn’t. I didn’t suggest a footnote, and Jacob didn’t suggest the possibility of brackets, so that readers could know who wrote what. My point had to do with maintaining the flow (both in terms of content and style) of an especially lyrical passage of Gelfand’s, nothing more and nothing less. I would have made exactly the same suggestion had it been Aagaard who wrote the longer passage and Gelfand who inserted the qualification, or if every sentence in the excerpt had been the product of a collaboration.

  17. I am of course very happy with the support and the belief in my qualities, but I have to say that I appreciate the input, the discussion and the thinking about what we are doing and how we can do it better even more. Thank you all.

  18. @James
    Are you looking for a scoop :-). We are doing one book now, then there is the Grand Prix and other tournaments. Boris has enough on his plate…

  19. The more I look at the inserted section, the less I like it to be honest. I don’t find it adds much and indeed breaks the flow of the text. I think it would be better if it was just left out.

    (The inserted section is not very well written either imho)

    I’m also not a big fan of footnotes or brackets and the like. It’s not a scientific work. If it’s not good enough for the main body text …

  20. @jimmy @Nikos

    A critical question in my opinion is: “Are you trying to keep your over the board repertoire updated and if yes what’s your rating OR are you trying to keep your Corr Chess repertoire updated?”

  21. @Nikos – Thanks a lot for your input. Now I got some ideas to start off with

    @Trandism – Strictly over the board so far. Rating approx 2000

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