Interview with Vladimir Kramnik (Part 2)
The following interview with World Champion Vladimir Kramnik was conducted
during the Miskolc
rapid chess match against Peter Leko in April this year. We bring you the
entire interview in multiple segments, with a fairly comprehensive transcription
of each. The video is available in two different compressions, both with optimal
sound. Depending on your Internet connection you can use either of the links
given below the screen captures.
On Topalov's exclusion from Mexico and the rematch option
Frederic Friedel: Due to Elista Topalov is
not playing in this world championship. Is it not – unfortunate?
Vladimir Kramnik: It is strange, but I really don’t
know whose decision it was. We were talking about it before the match, and I
said that it would be normal if the loser of the match would play in Mexico.
But FIDE – I don’t know why, I don’t know who – made
this decision. I was not fully satisfied with it, I don’t know the position
of Topalov on it, before the match – now of course it is clear. It would
be more logical…
So you’re telling me that if it were left to you you would allow
Topalov to play?
Definitely before the match, before the agreement was made. Now it is already
in the contract. It’s a rule, it’s an agreement.
It is in the contract which we signed for the world championship match.
So if you had lost that match you would not be playing in Mexico?
No, no, definitely not.
And you would have accepted this?
Yes, of course, because it is a contract. Once I sign something I sign. I was
not supporting this idea, but they said this is our decision, it is final and
you have to accept it. I said okay, fine, I accept it. So of course I would
not be complaining now. If I had lost I would not be playing in Mexico. I would
wait one year. A decision is a decision, I signed – finito.
Now you are preparing very seriously for Mexico, to try to win this tournament.
If you lose it you get a rematch. You find that fair?
First of all I would like to say that – and this is a very important
point: it is not a rematch. A rematch is the match of a world champion who lost
his last match. Who lost his title in a match and wants a revenge. I won the
last world championship match. Since FIDE now wants to move back to the match
system I do not consider, if I don’t win a tournament, that I am playing
a rematch for the world championship. It is a different situation than in the
past. The rest I explained already in my previous answer.
So it is not unfair because Mexico is a tournament. But you do consider
it to be the world championship?
It is called the world championship, so I do consider it to be that. For me
personally I held this position, long before I was world champion: for me the
world championship match – the title won in a match against the strongest
opponent – had much more value than a tournament. But this is my personal
opinion. There is nothing wrong with the Mexican tournament, and I really consider
it a very serious event, and a world championship. But for me personally the
title which I won against Kasparov and then defended two more times, is incredibly
valuable. The next match which I will play, if I manage to keep my title or
if I play to gain a title, for me – again I don’t want to insult
anyone – for me it would be much more valuable than winning a tournament.
But this is my personal view. And as far as the tournament is called a world
championship it is a world championship. So I will take it much more seriously
than any other event this year.
If you lose the tournament in Mexico, until the time you play the rematch,
will you call yourself world champion?
No, no, of course not.
If Anand wins it, you would you would accept that he is world champion?
Of course. A rule is a rule. You might like one system or another system, but
once a rule is established we have to respect certain laws. Again I would repeat
that I think that a title which is won in a match to me is more valuable than
the title which is won in tournament, but still it’s a title and of course
if I don’t win Mexico I cannot call myself world champion. That is clear.
On the ideal format for a world championship
From what you say I get the very subtle feeling that you prefer matches
to tournaments, for the world championship title. Why?
The world championship system is not about your personal feelings, actually.
First of all there is no perfect system, one that is generally better than others,
as you can see in many other sports. Football has one world championship system,
ice hockey another, tennis completely different, golf totally different, and
they are all doing very well. This means that there is no one unique system
which is good. I think that for each sport you have to choose the right system
at the right moment.
If I would be FIDE president, or in charge of Global Chess, I can really see
that the world championship match brings an incredible amount of media attention,
of sponsors, of attraction of amateurs. I received a lot of emails winning the
unified title. I can guarantee that 90 percent of amateurs prefer the match
system, they prefer the world championship match to a tournament. We are not
playing for ourselves, we are playing for the public. The sponsors want a match,
the public want a match – as the final stage of the world championship
– so why should we go against everybody? Why try to establish some other
system – knockout, tournament, whatever? It is simply not profitable.
Of course it is a question for FIDE, not for me, to decide. I just give my opinion.
If you were FIDE president you would say matches…
Yes, definitely. At the moment at least. Maybe in ten or twenty years the situation
will change. If in ten years a majority of people would say we want to see a
tournament then maybe it would be a good idea to change. But for the moment
I can assure you: make any poll, the biggest majority of people want to see
a world championship match. After all it is a very long tradition – more
than a hundred years of tradition – and is very deep in people’s
minds. Very deep. You can advertise a knockout system as the world championship,
as much as you want. But you need many, many years for people really to get
the feeling that the winner of a knockout tournament is the world champion.
They simply don’t accept it.
I think that FIDE after all these experiments simply understood that it doesn’t
work. Right or wrong is not for us to judge. It is just a reality. In order
to develop well we need to face reality, and the reality is that there is always
a decent sponsorship for the world championship match, there is always a lot
of media and public interest for the world championship match, and the winner
of the match is considered by everybody as the real, only world champion. This
is the value which as the FIDE president you should use. This is a value for
chess. Why should we lose it? Why change a system that works perfectly.
How many games, what time controls?
I understand: FIDE President Kramnik today would say matches. How many
I don’t know, it depends…
You have some experience in this matter.
To me, you know, I can play twelve or fourteen or sixteen games. Actually I
played three matches of 16, 14 and 12 games. I’m happy with all of them,
as a chess player. But I am not talking to you as a chess player but as a person
who wants to promote chess, who wants to do the best for chess. As many chess
players as you have , as many opinions you will hear. Somebody may be very fit
and he will want 24 games. Someone who gets tired quickly will want eight games.
This is the situation, this is the reality. I don’t even want to say what
I prefer as a chess player. I prefer what is the best for sponsors and for FIDE.
Of course it shouldn’t be too short, because then the value of the event
would be much lower. It is also clear, I think, that it cannot be too long either.
It cannot be 24 games any more, in modern times this is simply not possible.
So somewhere between twelve and sixteen, something like this is okay. As a chess
player and a sponsor I would accept this.
I like classical time controls. Again it is about the value of chess. It is
something which is very stable, which people are used to and which allow chess
players to produce high-level chess…
Well, definitely in top-level tournament we should use classical time controls.
I also think we should make more rapid chess tournaments – one hour, 25
minutes, whatever. It is good for the popularisation of the game. It could be
a system like in tennis. There are four grand slam events with five sets, and
all other tournaments are three sets. Something like this is quite logical:
top tournaments classical chess, opens up to the organisers, FIDE time controls
if they want. But world championships and super-tournaments I think should be
played by classical time controls. Because these players can deliver value,
they can deliver deep chess games. Why take that away from them and from chess
amateurs. That is my view of it. Actually I play with different time controls,
and as a chess player don’t have problems to play with any time controls.
But talking as a businessman I think we should keep classical chess.
© ChessBase GmbH, Hamburg, 2007
Coming next: Kramnik on the match in Elista;
on the accusations of cheating; on the fateful fifth game; on his relationship
to the Topalov team, on the future format of chess. Stay tuned...