Interview with Vladimir Kramnik
By Mig Greengard in Bahrain
This interview is part of the ChessBase
Magazine 91 CD, which contains a giant multimedia
report on the Man vs Machine event in Bahrain. Immediately after the end
of the match Mig Greengard spoke to Vladimir Kramnik. The interview lasts
almost three quarters of an hour and is given as an AVI file with still pictures
(to save bandwidth) on the ChessBase Magazine 91 CD. Here we bring you excerpts.
Mig: So what is it like being a millionaire? It's big change
for a kid from the small town of Tuapse!
Kramnik: I don't think that status is very important. You don't create
it, it just happens. I became world champion not because I wanted to, but because
I was just doing my job. It was not the goal, to be world champion. The goal
was to improve at chess.
Did the result match your expectations? What did you think the score would
It was clear to me that the match was going to be very tough and equal. When
I had a few days to see this new program I could see it was a really big improvement
over the old one. I didn't know who was the favorite, nobody knew. Maybe people
were making me the favorite because they wanted me to be.
Are you happy with the quality of the games?
I showed a good level of chess, especially in the first half of the match.
But even in the games I lost I cannot say that I played badly. I made one mistake
in each of those games, but only one, and that was enough.
What did you think of Fritz's play?
There were not so many games where it played strangely. In many games it was
simply like playing a strong human Grandmaster, it was absolutely normal, absolutely
In game five Fritz played very well, better than any human. It seemed almost
equal, but it managed to keeping putting on this pressure all the time, it kept
finding these very precise moves, not giving me a chance to get away. I played
that game really well, and I shouldn't have blundered, but the position was
not so pleasant anyway. I must admit is simply played very well.
What sort of preparation did you do for this match? Did you work on specific
In my preparation I tried to play this kind of anti-computer strategy, in some
rapid training games. I could see clearly that it's not working anymore. The
positional technique of this program is so much higher than years ago. It pushes
pawns, builds the center, and begins activity on the flank. You cannot play
like this anymore against computers. So many things I looked at in my preparations
simply didn't work. I was shocked to see the level of positional improvement
they had made.
I didn't play training games, just positions. Maybe 20 moves so see how the
computer played certain things, if it's doing well or not. It was very general
checking. I can say that most of the openings we saw in this match I didn't
prepare at all. It was a normal fight, I decided to play normal chess, not anti-computer
At the halfway point your second, Christopher Lutz, was critical of the
Fritz team's preparation. What are your thoughts?
The Fritz team made mistakes but they learned from their mistakes. They didn't
know what to expect and they wanted to start in a very solid way, but maybe
this wasn't the right strategy.
What conclusions did you come to before and during the match about how you
I realized that it's possible to beat the computer in some types of endgames.
It's hard to explain in words, but in very strategic endgames it's possible
to outplay them. I managed it in the beginning, but then they realized it too
and they switched. And they were very successful in the second half of the match,
they had some good teamwork. I had serious problems in the second half, I wasn't
getting the openings I wanted. But I expected this, I didn't expect to get eight
Listen to an
Is playing against computers good for your regular chess? How is it different?
Playing computers can have a positive influence. My tactical feelings are very
high after this match. You really see every little thing. I was managing a level
of concentration that I could never manage before. Because you know that if
you lose concentration for just one moment, it's over. One mistake and it's
For instance in game six, after Nxf7, I'm sure against most humans this would
work very well. I couldn't say it was a mistake, but I realized afterwards that
against a computer there is no way to save the game after that. You don't even
realize it, but the game is already over! You are still playing, but the game
Vladimir Kramnik discussing the match with friends
When I get back to human chess it will take some time to get used to it, it'
s quite different. But it shouldn't take too long. And I know very well what
I learned here.
They have their good days, I have my good days. I just so happened that I had
my good days at the beginning of the match. But I never thought it would be
7-1 or something like that. If you play your best you can win one, maybe two
games. Maybe if you are playing great and have all the luck, one more, but not
more than that.
What do you say about that incredible sixth game, in which you sacrificed
a piece but went on to lose against perfect defense? And then some analysis
showed that you could have drawn against Fritz in the final position where you
Objectively I think the final position of game six is losing, so I cannot say
that I resigned in a drawn position. Maybe a computer won't find a way to win
because it doesn't understand this fortress, but I cannot say I objectively
missed a draw. But it was strange, because something happened that normally
does not happen. It was a new experience.
Listen to an
But to take on f7, to sacrifice a knight, well I thought, "let's have
some fun, I'm in the lead." I'm pretty sure that at least this game six
was very interesting for the public and it will be discussed for a long time
so in this sense it leads to popularization of chess and this is nice. Maybe
it was too much of a hard way to popularize chess for me, but what can you do?!
Games two and three I think I played very well, there were several good moments
and some very good chess played in the match. As for the last two games, I really
didn't have much of a chance to do anything. The ChessBase team chose a very
safe strategy in the final games. I couldn't even get a chance.
Would you really have played the super-sharp Botvinnik against Fritz in
I took a very deep breath in game eight, thinking about playing the Botvinnik
against a computer. It was a moment quite similar to Nxf7 in game six, a certain
challenge. But I figured, let's go and I closed my eyes and played Bg5 and prayed.
Listen to an
I must say they prepared incredibly well. I don't know if it was luck or really
very clever preparation, but they managed to use a very strange move order to
get me into a position I hadn't seen before. It's very solid for black and they
managed to get me into this position.
It's a good position for white, and I would be very happy to have this position
against any human. But against a computer, it doesn't care about your activity.
It's a pity that I couldn't try a bit more, but it just happened like this.
In the second half they were better in preparation. I wasn't getting the positions
You are one of the few people on the planet who knows what it is like to
be 2800. Is Fritz really 2800?
You can say Fritz is 2800, but you cannot measure it by numbers really. It's
very strong, it's very very strong. But it depends on many things, especially
the opening. In some positions, if it gets its positions you can make a draw
or you can lose, two choices; you can never win. In some positions its 3000.
Maybe you can suffer and make a draw. 10 Kasparovs and 20 Anands wouldn't help
you in these positions.
So on the average you can say 2800 or a bit more, but it matters what you get.
If you get a position like what I had in game five then no human can fight it.
But if you get what I had in game two then you have a chance. It very much depends
on the opening stage.
Now that it's over how do you feel about the result?
I don't know how to assess the result. I cannot say I'm extremely happy with
the result because I was leading 3-1. But I cannot say I am unhappy because
after the match I know how difficult it was.
Would it be different to play against a new program that is completely unknown
To create a strong chess program is like to create a strong human chessplayer.
You need experience, it takes time. You need to lose games to learn how to improve.
It's not realistic to expect a new program to suddenly arise, one that is as
strong as Fritz.
The full 43-minute interview by Mig Greengard is provided as a on the CBM
91 CD (Kramnik-Interview.avi).
ChessBase Magazine 91 costs € 19.95 (around US$19).
You can order it in the ChessBase