Kramnik: ‘I know for sure that Kasparov admires me’

11/25/2003 – Three years ago beat Garry Kasparov, since then the chess world has been waiting for his first title defence. In an interview with a German newspaper Vladimir Kramnik talks about his match against challenger Peter Leko ("I could have had a $2 million match against Kasparov at any time, but it is a question of principle and not money") and his role in the world of chess. Remarkable stuff.

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Almost exactly three years ago Vladimir Kramnik took the World Championship title from Garry Kasparov. However he has not quite managed to step out from the shadow of his former teacher and training partner. It is Kasparov who continues to dominate the rankings and play lucrative exhibition matches all over the world. All the while Kramnik remains in the background, waiting for his long-overdue title match against Peter Leko.

In a remarkable interview with German chess journalist Stefan Löffler for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) the classical chess world champion spoke his mind.

On man vs machine, and whether humans still stand a chance against computer like the one Kasparov was playing in New York.

Kramnik: With good preparation and pragmatic play computers can still be beaten. If a computer were to play secretly in a tournament like Linares the special preparation would be taken away and a program like Deep Fritz would finish in one of the top positions.

Whether he still feels like a world champion three years after he beat Kasparov in London?

Kramnik: It's been a long time and I don't think about it much. I don't revel in memories before I go to sleep at night. I have other plans for my life. I'm still the world champion, but I'm looking forwards.

On Kasparov being the number one player since 1985 and winning ten top tournaments in a row.

Kramnik: You can win a hundred tournaments, but the world champion is the one who wins the world championship.

On his own contribution to the game

Kramnik: My influence is usually underestimated. Look at what people are playing these days: Sicilian Sveshnikov, Petroff, the Berlin Defence. Others are playing the openings that were developed by me. I am being copied these days, and so is my defensive playing style. Very few players play like Kasparov in the '90s. The grandmasters consider my style more efficient. It's all about deeper understanding. The more we analyse with computers, the more we believe in defence. I was the first to display this clearly, particularly in my games against Kasparov. You can't play the same way today as people did ten years ago. I admire Kasparov's imaginative attacking victories from the '80s and '90s, but when you check them with a computer, in every other game the machine accepts the sacrifice, defends, and wins. This kind of attack on the edge of a bluff just doesn't work anymore. We are under the influence of computers and we are defending much more precisely. Kasparov himself has adapted his style. He even admits that he now plays like I do.

On Kasparov’s book “My Great Predecessors” in which Kramnik’s play is compared to the stock market boom and he himself is labelled the epitome of pragmatism.

Kramnik: Nonsense. I have always searched for the truth in chess. If he wrote this book in ten years he would praise my play. I know for sure that he admires me. In the past he often called me the greatest player of my generation. He doesn't say that anymore, because he wants to spread a different picture. He is doing this not for the good of chess, or for his own good.

On the arrangements for his match against Peter Leko.


Chess journalist Stefan Löffler
Kramnik: Until the end of June this year I had no say in these matters, because all rights were held by the Einstein company. I could only give them my contacts. If I had been involved in the business side of things earlier, the match might already have taken place. Einstein lacked professionalism. My match against Peter Leko is a true world championship match. Leko is the official challenger who beat everybody else. He meets the defender of the title. I could have had a $2 million match against Kasparov at any time, but it is a question of principle and not money.

Stefan Löffler: “At the Dortmund tournament in August, you and Peter Leko mostly just bored the public.”

Kramnik: If you want fun games, look for them in an open tournament. I would rather watch a soccer game between France and Italy that ends 0:0 than a second division game that ends 7:6. It's all about the quality of play, and true chess lovers think exactly the same way. I can guarantee that our match will produce very good chess.

Full text of the interview by Stefan Löffler in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German)


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