Preparing, conducting and writing out long and readable interviews is a craft that seems to be slowly disappearing with the passing of time. Afterall, everything has to be done faster and faster these days. And the influence of social media is huge. Fortunately, there are still the necessary exceptions: several newspapers post full-page interviews (or even longer, but usually in the weekend editions), so for enthusiasts like myself, there is still the possibility to enjoy long, written interviews. Still, I have a certain fear that such long stories are going to disappear. Or re-turn only in book form, for the target audience that loves them.
Partly for this reason, it is gratifying that Gert Devreese has published his best and most beau-tiful chess interviews in book form! I hope that young people will also enjoy this, because the dynamic between a trained interviewer and an interesting interviewee is shown to its best advantage in the written word. Gert interviewed virtually all the top chess players for both his newspaper De Standaard and for the Dutch magazine Schaakmagazine.
The latter magazine is also an interface between Gert and myself. When I was still making interviews myself, with the same drive that Gert still has, I was once in Leon, Spain for Schakend Nederland (the predecessor of Schaakmagazine) for the Ad-vanced Chess Duel Kasparov–Topalov. I preferred to make my stories as long as possible – just as Gert still does. It was June 1998. The two players were allowed to use a computer as an aid, which was an interesting experiment at the time, because the computer was not yet as strong as it is now.
The final score was 3-3 and Gert and I met in the press room. We talked about chess players, chess in general and the influence of the computer. But we also talked about sports and especially about soccer, because soccer was a common in-terest of ours, as it soon became clear. So an appointment was made to watch the Belgium-the Netherlands match somewhere together. This match was scheduled during that period when we were in sunny Leon.
The match ended 0-0. We had several beers in the meantime and talked again about our profession. It was a pleasant evening.
A year later I became the tournament director at Wijk aan Zee, which I still am to-day. I then consciously chose to give up all my chess journalism work and opted definitively for the organizational side – a choice I have never regretted, although I did continue to do interviews with footballers for a long time. These were usually long stories too, because that interest remained.
By a special kind of coincidence, Gert took over my role as interviewer for the KNSB chess magazine after I stopped there. Precisely for that reason it was so nice that we had already met in Leon in 1998. And fortunately he did that job with an enor-mous passion, so chess lovers from Belgium and the Netherlands have been able to enjoy his stories for about twenty years now.
I like the fact that a publisher has now been found to compile his best stories. The biggest names pass by: Kasparov, Karpov, Timman, Carlsen, Polgar, Kortchnoi, Anand, Caruana, Giri, Hou Yifan... This is just a sample, all portrayed at a time when they were in the spotlight in one way or another.
The power of a good interviewer is that he prepares well. And that is what Gert does. Moreover, he is also conscientious in the elaboration of his stories. He checks facts and calls or emails the interviewee if something is not clear to him or needs explanation.
I hope the reader enjoys reading this book.
Amsterdam, December 2021.
Jeroen van den Berg