Friday, December 4, 2009
Interview with Ilya Krasik (!!)
EV: Thanks for doing this interview! Let’s talk a little about the USCL. Which 5 USCL players do you most admire and why?
IK: Well that’s a tough question of course, since everyone knows how arrogant and conceited I am :)...If I say-- you, people will know I am lying so...better to pick someone from my team...Ok my favorite player is Anya Corke…. why because she is on my team and she is cuter than the rest of my teammates.
EV: You have to name 5! 4 more!
IK: 5? Wow, you are serious.
EV: It's a tough interview.
IK: I should have known...ok fine, I won’t mention any more teammates, otherwise they will accuse of me of bias...again.
IK: 2. Nakamura--because he thinks he knows hockey and his games are so short, you can get things done!
3. Todd Andrews because when he loses, his neck becomes red...just imagine a bull at the rodeo...
4. Friedel, because he only plays well for opposing teams and pandas are cute, aren’t they?!
5th hmmm… the last one will be Shankland. Do you know why Liz??
EV: No, why?
IK: Because next year he will be in Boston and I have to kiss his arse hoping he will join our elite team.
EV: I’m sure he will be flattered.
IK: Yes: I met him in 06 in Vegas; he was just a lousy expert. I told him you will be good one day; I could see it then.
EV: Ok, next question: who is your arch enemy and why?
IK: While there are tons of people who are as good or much better than me at chess in the USCL; in blogging I have no equals. No arch enemies, only arch friends :)
EV: But you don’t have a blog.
IK: And yet, I still manage.
I think I am at least 2700 Fide in blogging.
EV: Ok, let me ask about some of your internet posts. You are known for your confrontational approach to online communication. Personally, I know that I am not always serious when I kibitz on ICC or leave a comment on someone's blog. Often, I'm just trying to get a laugh or start a funny conversation. To what extent, if any, are you joking around, or playing a character, in your comments?
IK: haha. I think a lot of people will be disappointed when I say that of course I am playing a role. But some things I may say from the bottom of my heart; you cannot take me completely seriously unless you just checked out from a mental institution.
EV: Can you give some specific examples of ridiculous / silly behavior that was really a joke?
IK: Well, the whole issue on the NJ blog this year for example was a clear joke that I used a bit of poetry to illustrate but Mr. Clean (Joel Benjamin) gets all upset and lectures me how he was the one joking and how I just don’t get "it". Joel needs to read some Ivan Krylov Fables, he has Gulko and Kapengut on his team, maybe they can fill him in... I am good at getting under people's skin because they cannot tell if I am serious or not, plus they are so irritated they couldn’t care less.
EV: Would you say that one way to tell when you are joking around is if other people get upset, that’s a good sign that you were?
IK: Perhaps, but I should add that when people get upset at me, I definitely get what I want. When people say hateful remarks behind my back, it’s great because I think love and hate are related emotions-- if your ex-girlfriend hates you--it means she still has feeling for you... anything beats apathy imo.
EV: Yes, it’s tough to keep yourself amused on a daily basis, and the USCL definitely helps. If you could make 1 rule change in the USCL, what would it be?
IK: Just one, can I make 10?? I would lower the GM cap to 2500…
EV: Would you also lower the average rating, so as only to affect the super high rated players, or would you want the effect that overall the ratings were higher?
IK: No keep it at 2400. Greg is a genius for picking this number, and I really mean it. Also we need more money: big financial trouble this year. Maybe teams need a crash course on HOW to approach sponsors. You know, it was painful this year when Jorge is telling me we cannot put our best lineups the last few weeks because he's got no money left and a team like Tennessee is able to find money for 2 GMs...and all to no avail I should add.
EV: That’s not a rule change
IK: I don’t care! Just do it GREG. People got a big lip wanna make money like Michael Jordan… You can’t ask GMs to play for free.
EV: Who does?
IK: Last year Esserman was upset he made 5 times less than Vigorito. It didn’t make sense since he wasn’t much lower rated, but that’s the structure that we used.
I believe I don’t even get 10$ per game
EV: Most 4th boards don’t? I never got paid.
IK: Is this my interview or yours?
EV: Sorry. Anyway, more rule changes?
IK: How about no draws at all? No draws in regular season: if there is it goes immediately to a 4 vs. 4 blitz match tiebreak.
EV: But it’ll run so late. People have to work?
IK: Who cares? It’s fun, Greg loves to see blood spilled, so do I. If you think your work is more important than USCL, quit work.
EV: That doesn’t make sense.
IK: There is a great Russian expression: if Vodka hinders your work, quit work!!
EV: Do you drink a lot of vodka?
IK: I cut down a lot since when I was much younger. In high school, I could drink a lot and did. Now it’s not the same anymore and I prefer Cognac anyways. In 10th, 11th grade I remember how we used to drive downtown and find bums on the streets and ask them to get us booze for some tip. Also, some people were known to steal alcohol from liquor stores. This was happening because of these ridiculous laws. In my opinion the drinking age should be 18, not 21. In any other civilized country the drinking age is 16 or 18 and anyways it isn’t enforced. How come one can go to Iraq at 18 and die for your country and still you cannot have a sip?!
EV: How old are you? Where did you grow up? What was it like coming to US?
I am 29, came here when I was 12. We had quite a story leaving USSR, because a few days before our flight, that August coup happened, in 91 when the communists tried one desperate attempt to stay in power, they isolated Gorbachev at his Dacha in Crimean Foros (now Ukraine) and claimed he was unable to continue due to health issues.
If I may diverge a bit, it’s amusing but half a year earlier in winter of 1990-91 I was in Switzerland on a trip with my school (which was quite unprecedented for USSR), before I left, my dad told me if "something" happens, I should stay there-- without explaining what he meant. I thought he was out of his mind, until in Switzerland another kid told me his parents told him the exact same thing.
Well now, half a year later this "something"--the Coup was happening only 4 days before our departure date. Our relatives here already thought they would never see us, however planes were still flying on schedule. However, when we went to the airport to fly out, my dad and his wife were told they could fly but that the kids’ visas weren’t correct, which was a load of BS, meanwhile in plain view we saw people bribe their way onto a plane. It was a crazy, emotional night, I had said goodbye to my mom, who was staying behind, we had already sold our apartment and all other things, so it was very unclear what was going to happen. Eventually, we were able to make the next flight, 4 days later, after an apology from the airport officials who blamed the corruption.
US met us with Rodney King aftermath --Riots in LA, which scared the crap out of the older generation of my family and also some apparently "confused" individual kept trying to climb through a window in our first floor Boston apartment at nighttime, on regular basis.
We lived in a very nice, wealthy place: Newton, Mass, one of the richest towns in MA, perhaps in the country. But we didn’t own anything, just my dad wanted me to go to a good school like all other "good" Russian-Jewish teens.
I was offered full scholarship to go to a very good private school just for chess. I was already pretty strong back then, I told them to go far away...
EV: Any good high school stories?
IK: Lots of stories, how they almost expelled me for breaking into my OWN car...because some dumb cheerleader chicks said I was breaking into someone's car...haha I locked the keys in and I went to an autobody teacher and asked him for that slim thing that looks like a hangar to open the door, and these girls were driving by and they thought a crime was happening... stupid suburban paranoia.
My housemaster was so happy when he summoned me into his office. We had quite a history I should add. He told me get my stuff and I knew it was serious...he thought he had finally nailed me but instead I just sat there laughing at him and another housemaster.
Also I got attacked by this huge guy who was a power forward on my school’s basketball team because I had stood up for this little idiot Russian kid. Well, this was in the cafeteria in front of all of people and he just landed a very big punch to the side of my head, which is a very dangerous area. This guy was like 6’ 4,” 6’ 5” and big too...after I landed a punch and threw a can of coke in his face we got separated and he accused me of starting it, a line my house master adopted.
All I said is please look at me and look at him. There were some suspensions etc but most things I simply don’t want to talk about...there are things I don’t want to be online for obvious reasons.
EV: How many fights have you been in, total, in your life?
IK: Many, I lost count but none in a long time
EV: More than 20?
IK: In school we would go to a neighboring town and fight the Russian kids there.
IK: Their girlfriends went to our school and we did not like them at all.
EV: But why would you that make you want to fight them?
IK: and my friend insulted one of the girls and her bf... and I guess those guys, they watched too many Russian gangsta movies, thought they were gangstas...so they say either you pay us for moral damages or we fight. They actually came to our town looking for us, we made ourselves very easy to find, since we didn’t mind getting physical with them either. We choose the latter naturally, even though were out numbered...
EV: How much money did they want?
IK: haha I don’t remember. It’s a Russian criminal concept they must have seen or heard in a movie, at 16 it was very funny to hear it. All I remember is that we had 3 or 4 fights and it was behind a movie theatre. And some guy who worked there came out once, he must have seen them fight there daily ...and said “no worries, keep fighting guys; I won’t tell anyone…”
I was driving by their recently and sadly this movie theater has gone out of business...very sad. Pats owner Robert Kraft was often seen there and now it’s just an empty building.
EV: What’s the worst you were injured, and how many people total were involved?
IK: 7 vs. 9. Once 13 vs. 3. That time my 3 friends just got massacred.
EV: Who do you think will win the USCL final and why?
IK: I think NY is a clear favorite to win, but I hope they do not. I will be rooting for Miami because my favorite move is Scar Face, and Tony was Cuban as are the Miami sharks. So I hope Miami will bury these cockroaches!"
EV: Who wins Becerra- Kacheishvili, and what’s the opening?
IK: If Becerra mimics Tony, my money is on him, he is a beast anyway.
I know Scarface by heart, almost as good as GM Ivanov knows Pushkin's Evgeniy Onegin.
EV: The whole thing by heart? How many times have you seen it?
IK: At least 20 times
EV: Predict the openings and results on each board?
IK: So perhaps a Caro Kann on 1, some Sicilian I guess on 2 and 3 and on board 4 … are the two guys I just played, both games I should have won....yeah Norowitz plays pretty effeminate as white.
Norowitz has a weird style, I was told he is very patient which I guess is true, but against me everyone plays f..ked up. I don’t know why. Miami will win on 1, NY wins on 2, draw on 3 and win on 4 for NY.
EV : Let’s talk a little more about Boston. The Boston Blitz is one of the original members of USCL; how was the Boston Blitz formed, organized in 05?
IK: I believe the story is Greg contacted the Boylston Chess Club about having a team there. Luckily for all us the folks there told Greg to piss off…They didn’t have a separate internet connection and I think they weren’t interested in general, I am saying "luckily" because the place is a dungeon, its in the basement and there are no windows down there.
Then Greg knocked on the door of Metrowest Chess Club, and found Matt Phelps. Matt is a visionary, he knows a good thing when he sees it. I found out about it completely by accident. First year we played in this club and then we moved to the Astrophysics center where Matt works, and he does a great job setting up our connection. We are very spoiled because we play from the best location, get treated to donuts, pizza, beer and wine the only thing they ask us to do is-WIN.
EV: Tell us about the team this year. Team chemistry? Any good team stories? Who would you vote MVP? Who would you kick off the team? Who would you recruit for next year?
IK: Team chemistry was an old time low for various reasons. Williams would come in every week and protest loudly why he isn’t on the team. I guess him and Esserman made a pact that if Williams doesn’t play, neither will Marc. Jorge and Marc both tried to explain how his rating doesn’t work etc...but it wasn’t convincing him I could tell...
EV: But that didn’t happen? Marc played without him?
EV: Did you feel Chris was being reasonable?
IK: Well, I just thought this whole thing was funny, it’s almost like an orchestrated skit. Chrissy is an awesome kid btw.
Before I left for Russia and Turkey this summer I read on Chessbase about Anya Corke, that she will be near Boston attending college, so I told Matt and Jorge to find her and to bring her on the team, since we have the new female rules. I think she is a good role model for young girls, she is not only good in chess but quite erudite in general.
Team MVP: to me it’s clear it’s Eugene Perelshteyn. Genya played more this year than before and played very well.
Whom to kick out, haha. You really want ME to get kicked out for saying stuff don’t you:) ?
EV: You can decline to answer any question. I wanted to provide a range for you to exercise your 2700 level blogging skills.
IK: Ok I don’t want to kick anyone out...There was some joking around that Jorge is fired, since we didn’t make the finals, you see how high we have set the bar.
EV: What makes the Blitz different from other teams?
IK: The Blitz is the craziest combination of individuals, we all know each other for many years and we don’t like to change our team or to bring new faces, we go with the proven formula every year.
EV: Except for Anya, Andrew, and Finney
IK: Well, those are cosmetic changes. I think the Blitz are less nerdy than most teams. We are like tank, we just keep rolling.
EV: Can you tell us the way you prepare for USCL matches and playoff matches in particular? What was the rationale for your lineup vs. NY, why wasn't Marc Esserman playing?
IK: ok. I usually use Jorge to prepare and bounce ideas off of him, Esserman helped me prepare once this year because he joked "he wanted to ruin this kid’s life" but my opponent sidestepped the prep and beat me quite easily, my only loss btw this season.
For the finals, I looked at some stuff myself, Jorge told me to avoid the Buda and the Pest because I guess he doesn’t know anything about ....he called me the night before to ask me how I am preparing, and I was in the woods drinking beers and listening to my friends play guitar...he was amused at my preparation. But I believe 90% of it is mental anyhow.
As far as the NY playoff match the lineup was dictated by availability. Esserman did not play because he refused to play Matt Herman.
IK: Apparently, he didn’t want to play his friend. But Herman didn’t mind, it seems like, since he didn’t remove himself from board 3 duties. I thought this whole thing is ridiculous, as Marc is our biggest asset on board 3.
I mean friends compete vs. one another all the time in sports even brothers, but here you don’t even see the guy, he is in NY; you are here....Of course its a psychological issue and I guess he psyched himself out...in the end it all didn’t matter because Vadim the dream took care of Herman in typical Vadim style, in the endgame. During the game, Esserman was running around yelling "take him down...ground and pound"
EV: Really? Those exact words?
IK: Yep. Exact.
EV: OK, new topic. What do you think about women’s chess, particularly the recent debate about women’s titles?
IK: I think we need more women in chess and I am not saying that just because I love women in general but because I think it is crucial for making guy chess players more mainstream and normal. I think we need women titles because without them, they will not be able to realize themselves, with a few exceptions. I read funny stuff, I think even maybe on your blog, that women aren’t as good as men because they have to bear children or prepare for such things...what ungodly nonsense.
EV: I doubt I would write that.
IK: Women are weaker in chess simply because they are less competitive. They don’t have such cut throat instincts as men, and also they are weaker physiologically, which actually matters a lot in chess.
Let me just state for the record that I highly dislike all feminists and all forms of feminism because what they seek to prove is not that woman should or can be equal to me but then woman do not need men. This type of behavior is highly destructive for societies in general.
EV: I disagree with your definition/understanding of feminism
IK: and it leads to the destruction of family as we know it, there is a direct correlation between the feminist movement which took root in Western societies and the highest divorce rate in these same societies. Also, many women become lesbian in college not because they are that way biologically but because they convince themselves that all guys are bad. I don’t care if you disagree.
EV: Oh, but I agree! (at least with the first bit) Feminism made it financially and socially possible for women to leave unhappy marriages. But maybe that's not so unequivocally destructive?
IK: Why does woman empowerment have to come at the cost of male dispowerment?
EV: Well, realpolitik, cmon. Power is finite.
IK: That’s not true. Next question! We don’t have that much time.
EV: What do you think is Greg Shahade's greatest strength as a commissioner and what is his greatest weakness?
IK: His greatest strength is that he created a league from a fan’s point of view, the chess is exciting and brutal. His weakness is that he doesn’t listen to me; I told him a million ideas.
EV: Tell us your best one
IK: There were so many geez….I told him to award money to both losers and winners for GOTW for example.
EV: OK, last question: tell me a chess story from when you were young.
IK: I remember when I first started taking chess lessons back in 88, in the Soviet Union. I was going to the Pioneers House in Leningrad and when I was picking up my coat ready to go home, this old Babushka asks me what club I am attending. So I say chess. She says, “Oh son, you want to be just like Anatoly Karpov.” I said “What? I want to be like Kasparov, not Karpov!” So she started flailing her arms and yelling that Kasparov is a nobody and that I'll see that Karpov will defeat him soon. You know, as an eight year old, I thought “Karpov, Kasparov, Krasik” would have a nice ring to it...
I can tell you a very recent story, it’s quite hilarious. This was at a recent local tournament, and this one guy rated above 2400 was playing another who is rated above 2500, in the meantime I was playing GM Alex Ivanov. Well, this 2400+ character has a knack for walking and talking to players during his game, and I was one of many whom he talked to...Eventually his opponent, probably after he began to lose the threat got very pissed off and accused him of getting help from me. He also approached me and told me that I should stop helping him...I asked him angrily if he is out of his f...ing mind, and he says ,I heard you tell him Rg1, g4...LOL. Of course, perhaps I should have been flattered that he thought I was simuling both him and Ivanov but strangely I wasn’t at all. In fact, I was so hurt that he would think this, I could hardly concentrate on my game, which I was winning btw, I just kept staring at him angrily. He later retracted and apologized to me.
EV: But this isn’t funny, to be accused of cheating is awful...
IK: In retrospect, it is very funny.
photos by Tony Cortizas