Conversation with World Champion Xie Jun
By Valery Salov
Q: Jun, first of all, sincere congratulations with your qualification for the semifinals in a very convincing way. Let me also express my profound admiration for your character. You are probably the only World Champion in recent times, and perhaps in the whole history of chess, who displayed a thoroughly sportive attitude towards the title by having entered this competition, extremely tough for the title-holder, without complaining, whining, asking for privileges of any kind or filing lawsuits. Thank you very much for being so nice and showing an example to the others.
A: I just like playing chess, I was the world champion for some time, then I have lost the title, regained it, perhaps can win it again in the future. All this doesn't mean too much to me, I just enjoy the game.
Q: You have also considered the possibility of participating in the men's championship, it might have become an entirely new challenge for you?
A: Yes, unfortunately the two tournaments coincided in time and I could not play a simul. For me it was a great opportunity, but you see, in China chess is rapidly developing nowadays, it becomes more and more popular, we get a lot of support from the State and this is all because we have some good results. It's a lot of responsibility for us.
Q: I understand: it has to be continued and you are a clear favourite in the women's championship despite all the hazards of the knockout system.
A: I just have to play, it doesn't really matter if I win it or not. Unlike Zsuzsa who claims to be a champion without playing, adducing pregnancy as the reason for her inactivity.
Q: You mean…?
A: This is what I've heard of her - that she is pregnant again.
Q: I see… What's your opinion about her lawsuit against FIDE?
A: I don't know, different people have different minds. She thought she had a right to be world champion or whatever. But I think she has a right to play. That would be fair to all chess players.
Q: As I understand, the prize fund was set in accordance with the FIDE regulations, but there was no sponsor for a bigger prize fund that she wanted to have?
A: China was ready to provide half of the prize fund. If she could find another half in Hungary or United States, I wouldn't mind. I could play in Hungary, America or even Africa. It doesn't matter to me. I just really wanted to play with her, but she only objected to everything. If you're doing all this kind of things all the time, it is impossible to get sponsors. They are not stupid to pay money for nothing. OK. She would like to play for 1 million. I don't mind to play for 1 million, 2 millions, but who will pay the money?
Q: So, this was her demand - to have the minimum prize fund of 1 million US dollars?
A: Well, I saw some papers addressed to FIDE stating that she could find a sponsor for this match to provide a prize fund between US$ 0,5 and 2 million. I would have been very happy if she could do that, but I cannot just wait, the chess world cannot just wait as well.
Q: I also think it is quite absurd that when a player becomes a champion he thinks he should remain a world champion forever. It's quite a typical case.
A: It's all too bad. It's not good for chess. I also could ask for some advantages. You remember what had happened in Groningen.
Q: This is why I would like to repeat that your attitude is really admirable.
A: I like chess, but somehow, I don't consider myself as a professional. I didn't expect to get something in return from chess.
Q: Do you pursue any other career apart from chess?
A: I am still doing my studies for the Doctor's degree.
Q: In what field?
A: In psychology. I got my Bachelor degree in 1996 and I also got my Master degree in the mid of this year. From time to time I play chess apart from my studies. You can see that I didn't play too much of late.
Q: For my part, I also consider that if Zsuzsa didn't want to play, it's her right, but she shouldn't claim to be the world champion.
A: I have my right to sue her actually, how can she call herself a world champion when I am official title holder?
Q: But look at the situation with the men's world champion title. Kramnik is claiming to be the fourteenth WC while he has no legitimacy even as a candidate. He was already eliminated by Shirov.
A: But at least he is playing, Zsuzsa doesn't play at all. Maybe she can beat Judith, who knows. So what?
Q: They can actually organise all kind of things. What was reaction of the Chinese press to the match in London? Were they covering it as a world chess championship or not?
A: In fact, no Chinese was involved, so they didn't seem to care at all.
Q: But now there is considerable general interest in chess in China. They had organised the World Cup in Shenyang, the same city is bidding to host Chess Olympiad 2004. It's obvious that Chinese are going to continue developing chess in the country. How did it happen that the Chinese women already dominate completely in chess: you have won the last two Olympiads in a very convincing way, you possess the World Champion's title. It's an incredible domination, I would say. While the men…
A: Compared to men, the women's level is still quite low. It's not so easy to reach the top in the men's competition. I think the same happens in other sports in Chin
A: the women's results are comparatively higher.
Q: And you have the same support from the state: both men and women? I had an impression that in Georgia, for example, women's chess had much more support.
A: Yes we get equal amount of support for men and women.
Q: So what do you expect from the men's chess in China? Will they dominate the international chess scene the same way as women do now?
A: We have a lot of very talented boys. The youngest GM is from China. And every year they play better and better. We have more than 2 million people playing chess in China. It's natural that there are plenty of talents when so many people are interested. Slowly we are building something.
Q: What's your opinion of Indian chess?
A: Actually, I think they have very bright future.
Q: Don't you think that soon China and India will completely dominate the chess world?
A: It's possible but I think that the Indians are more religious, they are too kind sometimes to compete at a high professional level.
Q: Still Anand is there, at the very top. Recently he was proclaimed a sportsman of millennium in India. Not a chess player of millennium, but a sportsman.
A: As far as I know India is not good at sports. It has only obtained 1 Olympic bronze medal in Sydney.
Q: Yes you are right: in women's weight lifting. So women here also perform better than men do.
A: Anyway, I am really impressed by the young Indian boys I saw at the Olympiad in Istanbul. And they got a lot of support here. In China we cannot afford a trainer like you [Laughs].
Q: What are the relations between the Chinese players, do you get on well?
A: You wouldn't say we are close friends, but in general we are friends. There is always a spirit of competition present, but we are really working like one team during Olympiads.
Q: One question about politics. What do you think about the attempts of the western journalists to represent China sometimes as if it were a sort of rogue state, non-democratic?
A: Actually, I don't think they should do that. Just like when I say that different people have different minds. Different countries have different rules, they have their own systems. China is such a big country.
Q: But actually you see that Western Europe and the United States themselves are totalitarian countries, because they don't allow any kind of freedoms. No freedom of expression, nothing. The press is completely controlled. So I don't think they should talk in these terms. They have no moral right to do it.
A: OK. In China we have only one party. It's a communist party.
Q: In the United States they also have only one party, but with two different names. So what's the difference? Do you think it will be possible for the West to do to China the same it did to Russi
A: to disintegrate the country, to throw it into misery and to plunder it?
A: I think that the Russians didn't feel the danger. They wanted freedom, all those kind of things, but…
Q: …and we have become an example for China, a warning?
A: They really believed that these people were going to improve the life of simple people.
Q: Yes, we were very naive. We believed that the West would bring democracy to the country, that it was all about freedom, about improving the well being of people, changing the society to the better, but, of course, they had pursued completely different objectives.
A: In China we have very wise government. They listen, but they do in their own way. OK. In China we might not have that much of freedom as in other countries, but this is a different civilisation.
Q: I don't think that there's less freedom in China than in the US. It's just different society. For instance, I came to know India better these days. It's a multilingual country and I am just very much afraid that something similar may happen to this Union as well. If disintegrated it would become a real disaster to its peoples.
A: In China it's absolutely different. It's much more centralised and we are aware that we need a strong central power to take care of our people.
Q: Thanks for the interview. I wish the best of luck to your country and to you personally.