His biography will be more interesting than some novels. Having learnt to play chess at 10, by the age of 12 he and his parents took the decision to go professional – and he set off to seek his fortune in Europe. He studied with one coach, then another, then a third, changing cities and countries and stunning everyone with his ability to work hard and his thirst for chess knowledge. He absorbed it all like a sponge. And he played, and played, and played… Most adults wouldn’t have withstood such a crazy tempo of life, but this guy thought nothing of it! “A lot of hard work…” Interview of Fabiano Caruana – from the heart.
And therefore few were surprised when he shot up by winning dozens of opens and children’s and team championships to appear before us as a “2700-player”, one afraid of no-one and ready to write a new page in chess history…
Caruana is a typical nihilist who wants to change the world. Will be manage? If Fabiano continues in the same spirit it can’t be ruled out that in a year or two we’ll be singing his praises and not those of Carlsen or Aronian. For now, however – let’s get acquainted.
Evgeny Atarov: Fabiano, do you remember the day you were introduced to chess and… do you regret at all today that you devoted yourself to this game?
Fabiano Caruana: I learned to play quite late, when I’d just finished primary school. At the time I was about 10 years old… It happened completely by accident. My mobile phone turned out to have chess on it, and I was curious what kind of a game it was – so I learned the rules. At first it was just a distraction, but I got so gripped by it that only two years later, when I was 12, I started my professional chess career.
Е.А.: A professional career at age 12?! Surely you’re exaggerating?
F.C.: No, by age 12 I was already working constantly and I began travelling to tournaments, so I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. It all happened quickly for me.
Е.А.: What else were you keen on in those years?
F.C.: As far as I recall I always did a lot of sport. Above all, that was squash, and also tennis. But that was all many, many years ago…
Е.А.: What was it that so attracted you to chess and made you choose it?
F.C.: It’s a very complex game. You can spend twenty years in a row studying it, but all the time you keep finding weaknesses in your play and constantly improving. I like to grow and learn new things… The more you learn the more you want to learn!
And if you take a close look at the strongest players it’s evident that among them are both players over 40 and very young guys… You can quickly achieve success in chess, but from some point onwards it becomes difficult to grow.
Е.А.: It used to be thought that chess teaches patience and you need to grow gradually!
F.C.: The appearance of computers has dramatically altered the situation. Now you can make progress quite quickly: on account of talent and constant study. But, after rising to a certain level, it becomes very, very hard to become stronger.
Е.А.: Do you feel the need to play and study constantly?
F.C.: Above all – to play! I can say that I get great pleasure from the feeling of rivalry. Training now involves a huge amount of work with computers, where you have to be the creative one. The machine is good at refuting, but you need to create yourself. What I like most is the process of playing, as my opponent and I are on a level playing field: he thinks up something, I think up something…
Е.А.: What goal do you set yourself when you sit down at the board: do you want to get pleasure from playing or to win a game and get a point on the score table?!
F.C.: For me chess is a struggle. Above all, I want to win. Of course I like it when I manage to create something special on the board: a beautiful idea or something it’ll be possible to look back on with pleasure…
Е.А.: In the USSR chess was considered a game that combined art, science and sport. And each of those areas had its adherents. Where do you fit into that?
F.C.: It’s hard for me to give a clear answer. Probably all of them together… Sometimes I have the urge to play creatively, I’m bursting with the desire to sacrifice something and attack. From time to time I think of myself as an investigator, particularly when I encounter something I don’t yet know. Then I sit down at the computer at home and analyse… But, of course, in most cases I’m a sportsman. The public demands results and wants to see you make the best move in any position. After all, it’s the sporting results that determine where you are in this world… I’m not hung up about the sporting side of our profession, but it has a serious influence on decision-making.
Е.А.: I haven’t followed chess life for a few years, but frankly I was amazed when I unexpectedly discovered an Italian chess player in the Top 100 list, and then higher and higher. I know Italians well – footballers, racing drivers, skiers and cyclists. But how has a chess player appeared and broken into the Top 10 in your absolutely non-chess country?
F.C.: I don’t have an answer. That’s probably also because I wasn’t born in Italy and I’m still only learning about my historical homeland. It should be noted, however, that there’s a real cult of sport in Italy, with many strong athletes in various sports.
Of course every boy in the country dreams of becoming a footballer. What about chess? I don’t even know… Perhaps it’s a turning point? Some kind of anomaly.
Е.А.: Before you there was a phenomenon in modern chess – Anand, who also grew into an outstanding player in a country without a serious chess tradition… What was it about you that made you decide to become a professional chess player at the age of 12?
F.C.: As I said before, at first I simply played for fun, but then I started to get better and better at it, and I thought: why not? I quickly became the best in my age group, and then I soon had more and more success.
Е.А.: What did your family think about your passion for chess?
F.C.: My parents would always have supported me whatever I did. For them the main thing was that their children were happy, and it wasn’t so important what exactly they did. They treated it normally when I said I wanted to be a chess player.
Е.А.: Do you have a big family?
F.C.: I’ve got a brother and sister, and they’re much older than me. My sister is 40, while my brother is even older. Each of them has their family, children…
Е.А.: Do any of them play chess?
F.C.: Only my father and brother, and just a little.
Е.А.: Have you ever played them?
F.C.: A couple of times, when I was still little. They weren’t desperately keen, and neither was I.
Е.А.: Nevertheless, many consider your father to be obsessed with his son’s career…
F.C.: I think that’s an exaggeration. My father really has done a lot for me and my development as a chess player, but I wouldn’t call him obsessed.
Е.А.: But isn’t travelling overseas for your career – first to Spain and then to Hungary – obsessive? You won’t find many such parents…
F.C.: My parents really wanted to help me fulfil my potential, and I’m grateful to them.
Е.А.: And what was your first step when you decided to become a chess professional?
F.C.: We realised that in order to succeed it was necessary to study a lot. At that point I didn’t fully understand what I needed. At first I tried to work on my own: using books and journals, and I spent many hours a day at the board.
I think that was a very important stage and I acquired the habit of working. Then I started to study with Bruce Pandolfini and Miron Sher – that was still in the States. Then I had a whole series of coaches, and I picked something up from each of them…
In the last two years I’ve been working closely and constantly with Vladimir Chuchelov. I’m very glad that I managed to persuade him to work with me and I hope we’ll work together for a long time to come. He’s a wonderful coach who knows a lot and is capable of inspiring you.
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