Interview with Vladimir Kramnik (Part 3)
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 comprehensive transcription of
each. The video is available in two different compressions, both with optimal
sound and very little image quality. Depending on your Internet connection you
can use either of the links given below the screen captures.
On cheating and what to do about it
Frederic Friedel: You have agreed to talk about
cheating in chess. Did you cheat in Elista?
Vladimir Kramnik: No, I never cheated in my life. Not only
in chess, but especially in chess I never played any pre-arranged tournaments
You have never agreed to a quick draw…?
It happened, but that is all. That is part of chess, a part of chess culture,
and happens from time to time. But very rarely. Most of the quick draws which
I made just happened. But it is not common. I can’t remember the last
time I made a short draw without really playing. But I definitely did not participate
in winning or losing games, buying games or selling games, and of course no
cheating during a game. That is quite obvious.
But if you are talking about the cheating problem first of all I would like
to start by saying we shouldn’t become too hysterical about it. I don’t
like the trend. The situation is developing a bit strangely, because a lot of
mass media people are talking about it now, but nobody is doing anything. This
I find strange. I would prefer not to talk too much, because everything has
been said, everything is clear. It is absolutely obvious that theoretically
nowadays it is becoming easier and easier to do this, in all tournaments where
you do not have anti-computer controls. There is nothing else to add to it.
So now we have to get to the practical point, to try to find a solution, what
to do about it. How to make anti-computer controls. I am not a specialist, and
don’t know much about the subject. I guess you should ask people from
absolutely different areas – maybe an “informatician” [computer
expert], maybe even someone from secret services. They may be useful to tell
us what can be the possibilities. And then to just establish, like in other
sports, where you have anti-doping, to do the same in chess, because it is necessary.
Unfortunately there are not just a lot of conversations about it, which are
damaging chess, and the names of some players. But it is also objectively happening.
You know the story at the Philadelphia Open, the story in India, when somebody
was caught. The situation is becoming a bit frightening already. I don’t
see what the problem is to start taking serious measures…
Of course there are many different ways, but let’s say the most basic
things: I would say with mobile phones I don’t see any difference between
a mobile phone which is switched off or which is switched on. You can go somewhere
and switch it on and you can get certain hints. They should be banned completely.
All kind of electronic devices. All. Maybe even watches. Then definitely to
check players with metal detectors before the game. I think this is okay. I
already went through this in my match with Kasparov, with Leko, with Topalov.
It is not a problem. It takes one minute and I don’t have any problem
with it. And I don’t think any player would have a problem.
One thing which I like, which is what will happen in Dortmund, is that they
will delay the Internet transmission by fifteen minutes. So it will be actually
live for people, but just with a fifteen-minute delay. Let’s say if the
game starts at two for them the game will start at two fifteen. Then it would
go live. This fifteen minute – or maybe even half an hour – delay
of each move makes it impossible to transmit moves [to accomplices working with
computers]. At least it is something.
It is also important to avoid any contact between chess players and the audience.
This is also not so difficult. There are many ways. You can put up a glass screen,
like in Elista, or you can make a special lighting, so there is full light on
the scene and there is no light in the spectators’ area. The spectators
see the players but the players do not see the spectators. This is the goal.
I think it is not so difficult to do. I believe it should become the official
standard. Like the Champions’ League in football. If you don’t have
a standard stadium with plastic chairs, with a standard field, you simply are
not allowed to stage the match. This should happen in chess. If you don’t
have these standards, which should be not too difficult – and I can assure
you, the metal detector, no eye contact, no mobile phone, this is not difficult,
and it is not very costly – this should simply be the standard for each
tournament. To be honest I don’t see a big problem to do it.
I am not generally happy with the world of chess which is passive in this matter.
I was talking with many different organisers of tournaments, and I was also
talking to FIDE. I am trying to convince all of them that please, let’s
start doing it. Believe me, we will have to do it anyway, if not now then in
one year or two years. So better now, before it is too late, before this problem
becomes massive, not only the problem of cheating but the problem of accusing
others, of half of the players in a tournament accusing the other half, who
let us say have scored more points, of cheating. This would be a dramatic situation
for chess. So I believe we really need to start doing it. And it is very easy.
So let’s stop talking, let’s start to really take steps. I am happy
that the next super-tournament which will take place in Dortmund has already
started. I believe that it can still be improved, and there can be more measures.
But as far as I know there will be this delay of the Internet transmission and
there will be a search of the players [with metal detectors] before the games.
And of course no mobile phones are allowed. This is already something. Actually
in Dortmund eye contact is very difficult between players [and the audience],
because we play on a stage, but still maybe a little more can be done. I hope
that very soon this will become the real standard. I really hope that other
organisers will understand the importance of it for chess, and that they will
also follow this movement.
Editorial note: We spent some very productive
hours in Miskolc discussing the above and other possible measures that must
be taken to combat the problem of cheating in chess. We travel to Elista on
Thursday with a catalog of recommendations to FIDE, who have invited us to
present them during the finals of the Candidates Matches to a special commission
that has been founded to deal with the problem. We will keep you briefed on
the results of our meetings.
On the cheating accusations in Elista
Frederic Friedel: You were accused of cheating
in Elista, by your opponent. In fact they found cables
in your bathroom. Can you tell me about that?
Vladimir Kramnik: There are many lies, unfortunately, in the
statements of Danailov, and unfortunately in interviews of Topalov. First of
all there was no “my bathroom” or “Topalov’s bathroom”.
We were changing every game. So something like “Kramnik’s bathroom”
simply doesn’t exist. The white player one day had one rest room, and
the next day he was playing black, so he was moving to another rest room. So
we were changing, we were switching rest rooms all the time.
Wait a minute, this is very relevant. They found cables in a
I don’t know in which bathroom they found the cables, or whether they
found them at all. I really don’t know anything about it. It was quite
interesting because I spoke with the main arbiter of the event, later in Monaco,
with Geurt Gijssen, and he said he did not know anything about this.
Nothing at all about the cables, about the whole story around the cables. This
is rather strange. If they found these cables why did they not inform at least
the arbiter. I did not hear anything about this [at the time], I had no idea.
Cables behind the ceiling of one of the players' bathrooms
So for starters I have exactly the same right to accuse Topalov of cheating
as he is accusing me, because we were both using this bathroom. I don’t
know whether it was found in one bathroom or both…
Okay, in one. So we were both using it – if we are talking about four
games we were two times each in this bathroom. So it is fifty-fifty –
if you think that someone was cheating then it is fifty-fifty, precisely, the
chances whether it was me or him. It was all rather ridiculous, when you know
the circumstances. First of all we were fully checked – my room, and also
the room of Topalov…
We were checked by a local police guy, plus arbiter, plus this guy from the
Bulgarian secret service, who was in Topalov’s team.
So there was a Bulgarian also checking?
Yes, he was also there during my checking, he was checking my room plus my
bathroom, before the game. Everything was checked with a very, very sensitive
metal detector. Even the buttons on my jacket were signalling, so they were
doing more checks of my buttons. I had to take off my shoes. It was really much
tougher than at any airport. But again, about this cable, even if it was found
– for which I still don’t have any proof –, but let’s
pretend that it is not a lie, even if it is true we must not forget that we
played in a government building, a building of the Government of Kalmykia. All
ministers plus and including Ilyumzhinov, the offices of all ministers are there.
So I understand how many cables are in this building. It is not some apartment
or some kind of bathroom. It is full of cables, I don’t know, Internet,
computer, TV, whatever. I don’t find anything shocking that there are
cables there. But secondly what I want to understand in all this story –
and I would like Mr Danailov to explain – how it was possible to make
use of this cable.
The hand in this picture is holding two cables, the lighter one being a
UTP-5 data cable
First of all as far as I understand it was hidden behind the ceiling. It means
that I – or Topalov – would have to use a special device to make
a hole in the ceiling, before each move, to take it out. Then if you don’t
have a computer with you it has no meaning. How can you use it? You need to
bring a computer somehow. Absolutely unclear how. Another very interesting question
is if you have a computer with you why do you need a cable? But that is another
story. So you need to make a hole in the ceiling, then bring a computer, connect
this cable to a computer, to switch it on, to make some operations, to disconnect,
to close the hole, and all of this in half a minute. And to repeat this operation
before almost each move. This is such a nonsense.
I know Danailov, and I don’t have a very high opinion on his ethical
code, but I know that he is not a stupid person. He is an intelligent person.
I think he understands very well that it is absolutely unrealistic, that it
has no logic, absolutely no logic. From all this I actually drew the conclusion
that it was simply a very rude, very unethical, prepared attack against me,
in order first to make a big problem during the match, which was not going very
well for Topalov, and then to put a lot of dirt and blame on me, after the match,
probably in order to save some sponsors in Bulgaria, to keep his name high.
But I think that first of all such matters are highly unethical, and I still
hope that the FIDE ethics commission – I think they are now considering
the case of the interview of Topalov and the statements of Danailov –
I hope they will take a stand on it. Because it is really a complete shame.
I have never ever faced such kind of dirty things, in all my chess career.
It is just a very unpleasant story for me, because I still have to answer,
from time to time, some questions from journalists. It is not pleasant, but
what can I do. I know that most chess players would never do this, would never
allow themselves such dirty things, as they were doing with accusations and
dirty PR. But I am not responsible for other people. This is one of the reasons
why I made my stand very clear: I don’t want to know these people any
more, I don’t want to have anything in common with them. If I have to
play a tournament with them I will play a game, of course, definitely. But I
am not speaking to them, they are absolutely out of my world, because to go
down so low for money or power or the world championship title is absolutely
unacceptable. I will never accept it. They are for me just persona non grata.
© ChessBase GmbH, Hamburg, 2007
Coming next: In our final section Vladimir Kramnik
speaks about the traumatic events surrounding the fateful fifth game, which
he defaulted. "I made this mistake and they achieved what they wanted to
achieve," he says, "but their actions were driving me crazy."