What ever happened to Valeri Salov?
Not many talk about Valeri Salov these days. He has completely stopped playing competitive chess. And I think it is a great tragedy for modern chess-not just because Valeri Salov was , in my opinion, the strongest player in the world in the mid-90’s-but because he was pushed out of chess. He was a stronger player than both Kasparov and Karpov in the mid-90’s. In 1994 Valeri won, back to back, both Tilburg and the Najdorf Memorial. In the latter, a double round tournament , he defeated Karpov with both colours!
Valery Salov (born May 26, 1964 in Poland) is a Russian Grandmaster. Awarded the International Master title in 1984 and the Grandmaster title in 1986 he was World under 16 Champion in 1980and European Junior Champion in 1983-84. He finished 1st= with Alexander Beliavskyin the 1987 USSR Championship but lost the play-off match (+0, =2, -2) gaining the Silver Medal. At the 1988 USSR Championship he finished 3rd= with Artur Yusupov, behind Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov.
Salov qualified twice for the Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship. In 1988, he reached round of 16, but was defeated in his first match by Jan Timman (+0, =5, -1).
His best result was in the FIDE World Chess Championship 1996. He qualified for the Candidates, and won his first two matches against Alexander Khalifman and Jan Timman, to reach the final 4. He then lost at the semi-final stage to Gata Kamsky.
After 1988 , Valeri went from one success to another , and by the mid-90’s he already had a 2700-plus rating. His play seemed to be a combination of Fischer and Karpov. I remember watching him play in a team tournament in Barcelona in 1993: wearing a three-piece suit, playing a delicate knight ending, complete self-control and amazing concentration. I thought to myself ‘Now there is the next world champion!’
”I gradually stopped to get invitations after I expressed some harsh opinions against Garri Kasparov. It was always very hard to get invitations in the Europe, in anycase. If you do something wrong then “oxygen is cut-off”. And so I gradually stopped playing chess altogether.”
Some say that Valeri spoke too much and too freely and that he was too critical of those with power and influence in the chess world. That he made too many enemies. Valeri, however, tried to make positive changes in FIDE and he tried to organize his fellow players so that their rights would be protected. He was not interested primarily in his own interests, and he believed that the many problems with modern chess could only be tackled by democratizing the established chess hierarchy.
But , mostly I think Salov was punished because his competitors became jealous of his chess ability.
For the next few hours, Danailov (Topalov’s second) could be seen using the telephone in the Hotel lobby, calling as many organizers as he could, complaining about how boring and lifeless Salov’s style of play was! About how such a dry style kills chess as a spectator sport…