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Interview with Marc Tastet, asked Leonid Shifman, photo © 1997 By Harri Levanen

1. Please a few words about yourself, your occupation, hobbies, family?

    I was born in November 1962 in the South of France and have been leaving in Paris since late 1983.

    I'm bachelor but I'll marry Frederique (whom some of you might have met in Athens or in France) on July 18th 1998.

    I teach Mathematics to students (about 19-20 year old) who want to become engineer.

    My main hobby (apart from Othello and other games) is music. I have been playing the oboe and the piano for more than 25 years now. I play the oboe in a symphony orchestra. We perform about 10 concerts a year in Paris. I'm very keen on attending classic music concerts or operas performances. Paris is a very good place for that.

2. When and why have you come to Othello? Your Othello player career?

    I started playing Othello seriously when I arrived in Paris. I had wanted to try to play a game seriously before but I had no opportunity. I think I chose Othello rather than chess because I find it more funny to try to have interesting ideas about a new game rather than to spend time learning what people have played in the past century.

    I had known the game for a few years but had no idea of a correct strategy when I played my first tournament in January 1984. However, I scored half of the points and was encouraged to continue: the average playing level in tournaments was then much lower. Now a newcomer playing in a tournament with no more knowledge than the ones I had would lose every game.

    My best result, of course, was winning the World Championships in 1992. I also won 4 times the European Grand Prix (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997). I started this series by becoming French champion in 1991. (All in all, I have a collection of about 40 Othello trophies at home).

3. Analysis of openings sometimes reaches beyond 30 empty intruding the zone where the perfect endgame can be computed. We even have the definition of perfect game. Do you think it might lead to the fading of Othello at least as a sport discipline?

    I think it might lead to the fading of COMPUTER Othello but not HUMAN Othello. In some games between top programs, they play in their opening book until they compute the endgame, so that the programs actually never "think". I believe that the interesting thing in writing a good program is finding a good evaluation function so I don't see the point in playing such games. For humans, it's different because we cannot play perfect endgame for sure. Even if I know I have played a winning opening, I might lose the game (it happened to me before).

    Also, it's not because computers can calculate endgames faster than us that we should stop playing Othello. Everybody knows that cars go faster than humans running but we still have many races between humans.

4. Have you any secrets of preparation for tournaments and matchs? Can you let the cat out of the bag: what about kiwi  :-} ?

    I like to listen to opera arias before tournaments (mainly by Puccini). When I want to think seriously, I need not to be hungry but not to have eaten too much. Eating kiwifruits between rounds prevents me to get hungry even if I didn't eat too much at lunch (not to fall asleep in the afternoon). Other players eat cereals or concentrated milk or chocolate or take some medicine.

5. In the interview with Graham Brightwell, published in the previous issue, Graham said "Othello is not my life, and I don't want it to be.". Benyamin Shifman in his profile section on VOG wrote: "I like Othello more than my life...". What is your opinion? And a little wider : how the Man (adult!) combines with the Game?

    As I wrote before, I have other hobbies than Othello. Othello is not my life. I hope to live until 100 years (at least) and I doubt I'll still play Othello at that time... I understand Benyamin but unfortunately, I'm older than he is.

6. What color do you prefer to play and why?

    My opinion at the moment is that Othello is a very fair game. I would bet the perfect play score is 33-31 or 32-32 or 31-33. So I don't care playing Black or White as long as I play each one about the same number of times. I think every player should play Black and White about the same number of times in a tournament just in case I'm wrong about the fairness of the game or just in case some players like much more one color than the other.

7. What was your best game ever? Please give us at least brief comments if possible.

    Difficult to say. Maybe the one I had the deepest thought about was the second game of the final of the World Championship 1992. I remember thinking a lot before move 45 and counting the sequence we finally played until the end of the game.

8. I am quite sure that there is a question that I haven't asked but the answer would be very interesting to our readers. Could you please ask yourself such a question?

    You might have asked whether I would like to play a match vs. Logistello like the one Murakami played. The answer is yes. Actually I even challenged Logistello about that but got no positive answer so far...

    Also I would like to say hello to the very many Othello players I know throughout the world.

    It rests only to say to Marc "thank you" and to remind that the World Championship in this year will be held in Barcelona - the same place, where Marc became the world champion in 1992! Repeat, Marc!

And if you have else questions please send e-mail.