Times have changed and now that’s not an achievement. Chess isn’t such a complicated game - if a person is more or less predisposed to it, has desire and persistence, then
five to six years of study is perfectly sufficient. Nowadays it’s no surprise if a kid becomes a grandmaster at 12-13 years old. Partly that’s because of the devaluation of the title itself – there are too many of us. Plus, access to information has become open. In those years when I was growing up there was nothing apart from Soviet books. Notebooks were kept, and then in secret passed from coach to coach, and a lot of that didn’t withstand the test of time. Finding opponents to play against was also tough. I remember in ‘95 there was a tournament in Yalta. We played the first round, then suddenly the organiser gathered the participants and said: “That’s all, guys! Sorry, but there’s no money”.
At a meeting of the participants it was decided to continue the tournament in a rapid format, with expensive souvenirs as the prizes. I managed to catch hold of Vassily Ivanchuk and used every means I could to lure him into playing blitz. Naturally he looked at me without enthusiasm: he was third in the world, while back then I’d only made it to the bottom of the Top 100. For third place in the rapid tournament they awarded me a case of wine. In order to get Vassily’s attention I generously put my whole case up for grabs. Back then such a chance to play was unique. Now you have the internet at your disposal and you can find the most varied players, even the elite, and play games against them. A huge stream of information is available: databases, books, annotated games, magazines, articles. From the point of view of knowledge chess has become more accessible, and thanks to that, young players should develop faster.