It's a matter of seconds

9/17/2004 – Actually around 700,000, before the Dannemann world chess championship between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko starts on September 25th. But we are talking about the seconds who look after the players and whose identities have now been revealed. Kramnik and Leko have given short interviews to get us in the mood.

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The World Chess Championship Seconds

In a press release from September 17, 2004, one week before it is due to start, the organisers of the Classical World Chess Championship at Centro Dannemann, Brissago, Switzerland, between title holder Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Peter Leko (Hungary) have revealed the seconds of the two participants. The seconds are chess coaches with whom the players have been working to prepare for the match, and who will be present in Brissago to give them every possible support during the world championship.

Kramnik's seconds

  • Grandmaster Evgeny Bareev (Russia), born 21 November 1966
  • Grandmaster Miguel Illescas (Spain) born 13 December 1965
  • Grandmaster Peter Svidler (Russia) born 17 June 1976

Leko's seconds

  • Grandmaster Vladimir Akopian (Armenia) born 17 December 1971
  • Grandmaster Arshak Petrosian (Armenia) born 16 December 1953
  • Grandmaster Vladislav Tkachiev (Russia) born 9 November 1973

Let's take a look at these seconds.

Evgeny Bareev was part of the Kramnik team that defeated Kasparov at the end of 2000 in London. In a memorable interview (ChessBase Magazine 82) he said the following – in his typical tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecatory style:

Question: Tell me what was it like, why did you become [Kramnik's] second?

Bareev: I'm a material guy. I thought Kramnik will win this match and I'll get much money. That was my main motivation.

Q: How did you help him, what was your role in the team?

Bareev: Huge. I tried to defend this Berlin Defence. I suffered. Because I tried to find any possible positive ideas in this disgusting variation. That is deep suffering. I stopped sleeping at all, the last week.

Q: How did Vladimir win the match?

Bareev: He was extremely lucky, because everything worked for him. I don't mean variations, every detail worked for him. I think this is the only point in which Kasparov was right, when he described the match and the result of the match, and said that he had been unlucky. But let me keep it a secret, because Vlady may be playing another match, and I don't want to help anybody.

Q: Will you be there the next time?

Bareev: I hope not. After the match for the next two, three months I was completely exhausted, emotionally, physically. If I'm dying of hunger then I'll come to Vlady and say "Vlady, give me this job." But if I'm not, then I'll go to the organisers and tell them to allow me to spend a day next to Julian Hodgeson commenting the match, Anand-Kramnik or Kramnik-Kasparov.


Miguel Illescas: Spain's top GM for many years, until Paco Vallejo came along. Miguel has seconded Kramnik and the IBM computer Deep Blue, both against Garry Kasparov.


Peter Svidler: He won the Russian Championship a number of times before he was in long pants. Apart from numerous regular tournaments he also won the ACP Inaugural Tournament on Playchess.com. Extremely well-read, very smooth and sophisticated, loves cricket. Hope we get to spend time with him in Brissago.

Vladimir Akopian: In the first round of the Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament this January he beat none other than Vladimir Kramnik with a spectacular rook sacrifice. Which may be the reason why Peter Leko has taken him on ("Okay, Vladimir, now show us exactly how it is done!").

The 32-year-old Armenian is best known for having won many junior titles and for finishing second to Khalifman in the 1999 FIDE world championship in Las Vegas.


Arshak Petrosian (left in the picture) is part of the Leko clan, since Peter married his daughter Sophia (right). A very humorous, animated narrator with whom we would go for dinner anytime. How about after game two in Brissago, Arshak?

Vladislav Tkachiev: He hails from the Republic of Kazakhstan and lives in Cannes, France. His Elo rating is 2634, which makes him a member of the elite group of Super-Grandmasters. He is known as a flamboyant personality, popular amongst his colleagues, with a large following of female admirers.

His ChessBase Magazine interview was at least as memorable as that of Bareev. Also someone we should go out to dinner with.


Interviews with the Finalists

These interviews were conducted by Pierre Barthélémy of the newspaper Le Monde, Paris. We reproduce both interviews here with the kind permission of Mr Barthélémy and Le Monde.

Vladimir Kramnik

How are you organizing your preparation for the match, and is it different from the 2000 preparation?

Kramnik: Rather similar in comparison with my match against Kasparov. Of course you are always ready to optimise and to adjust a bit.

How important are the computer chess programs in the preparation and during a match?

Kramnik: On the one hand it is very important to use the computer in your team for getting a certain basic level in your preparation. On the other hand it is not good to use it all the time. In a way you have to become independent from it so as not to affect your own play. Let me put it like this: my trainers are working with the computer permanently – I do not.

In 2000, you told me that your victory against Garry Kasparov was psychological; how do you prepare psychologically for this new opponent?

Kramnik: I do not think I defeated Kasparov just because of psychological resilience. The psyche is of course an important part as in every sport especially in a World Chess Championship match. But your general understanding of chess, your preparation, your physical fitness, your mental energy, your strategic and tactical abilities are very important as well. It is complex: You have to be strong in every field to become World Champion.

Can you define your style and point out the differences between your style and Peter Leko's?

Kramnik: Our styles are a bit different because we are different personalities. But at the same time we are both universal players. In modern chess you need to adjust your play to the situation even if this is not in accordance with your style or your preferences. There is a famous saying: “It is not important whether one plays a strategic or tactical style. Nowadays it is just important to play a winning style.”

This match is supposed to be the first step towards a unification match; do you think this reunification match will occur some day and do you include this prospect in your preparation?

Kramnik: This match in the Centro Dannemann is not a step, this match is for the World Chess Championship title in accordance with the classical bloodline starting in 1886 with Wilhelm Steinitz. It is the main chess event of the year. Meanwhile the chess community is more and more aware that a possible unification will not depend on the Classical World Chess Champion alone. But please let me stop here. I have to defend my title first of all. If I am successful I will start to analyse the entire situation.

Peter Leko

This is your first classical match for the world championship title; so how are you organizing your preparation?

Leko: I have still not finished my preparation but I am almost there. I hope I will achieve the optimum. This event is the highlight of my career irrespective of all my achievements in the past. I have been preparing specifically for about six months. For more or less two months we have been working intensively and I have done all I could. I will be ready in Brissago.

How important are the computer chess programs in the preparation and during a match?

Leko: You can analyse certain positions with the computer and you are able to develop them. In addition the machine is increasingly useful for simplifying your training. Nowadays you need this because your opponent is using the same technique. But all this should not be over-estimated. A computer is just an instrument – nothing more. You have to control the technique and not the other way round. On the highest level you still need to develop your own ideas and you should never forget to be creative. Human decisions, by creating moments of surprise, are still the most important factor in a World Chess Championship fight.

How do you prepare physically and psychologically?

Leko: I am mentally and physically strong anyway. These are important traits of my character and my nature and I do not need any special preparation in these fields. It is part of my philosophy that body and soul should be in a certain balance. I do not think that I will lose this balance during the match. Of course, at the moment I am exercising physically just to get relaxed and as a compensation for the very demanding chess training.

Could you define your style and point out the differences between your style and Vladimir Kramnik’s?

Leko: There are certainly some similarities between Kramnik and me because we are universal chess players. I think we both have a classical, positional understanding of chess and we are always looking for creativity. In my opinion Kramnik is the player with the deepest understanding of the game in the world, but like every human being: he has weaknesses as well. It is clear that he is a strong, a very strong champion but I think I will get my chances because of my own strong points.

This match is supposed to be the first step towards a unification match; do you think this unification match will occur some day and do you include this prospect in your preparation?

Leko: You know, I am challenging Kramnik, the man who defeated Kasparov convincingly and one of the strongest players ever. I need to concentrate fully on this. Anything else would not be very professional. Fortunately I have not been really involved in chess politics up to now. In general I am positive concerning a unification but I am only ready to think about that after the World Championship.

Contacts and further information:

Rolf Behovits
Press Officer World Chess Championship
CENTRO DANNEMANN
Via Ruggero Leoncavallo
CH-6614 Brissago
rbehovits@chessgate.de

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