Kramnik on the Tal Memorial, health and his match against Anand

8/24/2008 – In a rare interview Vladimir Kramnik, who is playing in the Tal Memorial in Moscow, sat down to a cup of coffee and a video interview with Europe Echecs reporter GM Robert Fontaine. The former world champion was very forthcoming about his performance in Moscow, his health problems (now solved!) and his chances and strategy for the match against Anand in October this year. Video and transcript.

Interview with Vladimir Kramnik

By GM Robert Fontaine for Europe Echecs

GM Robert Fontaine: Vladmir, at the moment you are playing okay, you are fifty percent – are you satisfied with the beginning of the tournament?

Vladimir Kramnik: No, of course I should not have lost this game against Morozevich. Basically I just lost it in one move. I played an inaccurate move Be6 and after Ra3 I could resign completely, there is no defence. It is a very unpleasant way to lose, basically making just one inaccuracy. But otherwise my level is quite allright, I played a decent game against Shirov, and today agains Ponomariov quite a good quality game. So from this point of view I don't have any complaints. Of course I would like to have a few more points than I have. I mean fifty percent is not really the score I wanted to make. But for me the main goal here really is just to warm up, to show a decent level of chess and, of course, my main objective is to be in the best possible shape for the match. So for me this is more of a training. But still of course always you want to show good results.

Is it difficult for you, because of course you cannot show your preparations, your openings for the match, so you have to choose, let us say, not your real openings...

Yes, sometimes. But it is nor really about this, it is about that fact that sometimes it would be too simple if you don't show anything. That also gives a lot of information to your opponent. Then he knows that what you played you will for sure not play in the match. That is why you need to mix. Some things I have to show, some things I don't show. So I am trying to confuse as much as possible my opponent. And this is a bit difficult. Before each game I start to think if he plays this should I play this or should I play that, or even during the game I start to think maybe I should play this or maybe I shouldn't play it. It is a little bit confusing I would say. It is easier to play when you don't have such an event in front of you. But still, chess is chess, you have to play well, and if you play well you will show good results, even with this small difficulty.

You did not have such a good result in Dortmund, and now you have to show something...

No, not really. I know that now I am definitely not playing 100 percent of the strength of my abilities, so I don't make a goal for myself to show good results here, to feel confident. I am confident. I know that I will play better in the match, that is for sure. So the result is not really a problem. Of course a score of minus one would be a bit unpleasant, but it is not the most important thing.

What about your health in general?

A couple of years ago I had serious problems, but now it is quite alright. I made a serious treatment and was not playing chess for like five months, in 2006, and since that time I must admit that it is perfectly allright. I feel well – physically I don't have any problems. After such a long period when I was having a lot of different back pains and some inflamations in my joints, for a couple of years, which was really a difficult period. But now it is much better.

Usually we say for chess it is good to make training. Do you swim, do you make training...?

It is a bit strange, because basically I like running, but I cannot do it, because of my back, and the doctors told me I shouldn't do it because I can damage my back. Unfortunately I like it and would do it with pleasure. I absolutely hate swimming, but according to the doctors that is what I should do, it is the best for my back. So that is why I am swimming all the time, even though I hate it. Every time I go to the swimming pool it is a big effort. I swim about 1½ to two kilometers a day. In order to keep yourself fit you have to do sports, but unfortunately many things that I like, like tennis for instance, my doctors recommend me to avoid. So I have to swim. The problem is that it is pretty boring, very monotonous, so I am trying to solve studies while I am swimming, just to keep my mind busy. You cannot read while you swim, so I take a book, look at a couple of studies and try to solve them while I am swimming. It is a bit more difficult, I must say, than having a board in front of you.

We can speak something about your match with Vishy. It will be in Germany, which is maybe an advantage for you because you have all your connections with your manager there...

Okay, but also Anand has a kind of manager, Hans-Walter Schmitt, who is also in Germany. I know that he likes the country and he make quite often training sessions in Germany. So I don't think it is an advantage to any of us. I think it is just an advantage for chess – that it will be organised at such a high level, with sponsors like this: Evonik, and now Gazprom, with the patronage of Peer Steinbrück, who is the finance minister of Germany – at such a high level it is just very good for chess. But I don't think it gives any of us any advantage.

You know your score against Vishy, since you have been playing together? Is it positive?

Yes, in classical chess I have plus two against him, in maybe forty or fifty games. So the advantage is narrow, not big. In rapid chess he is of course in the lead.

We know that you are very strong in match play, maybe better than in tournaments. Do you think that maybe Anand has the same quality?

Whatever you play, matches or tournaments, it is important just to play well, to be a strong chess player. So far Anand has been doing better in tournaments than in matches, but anyway he is such a strong player that you have to be very careful. He is really a difficult opponent to meet and to beat. But for me I am really sincere that right now I prefer to play with Anand than with anyone else, because I believe that he is really the best player now, the best possible opponent. And I would like to play against the strongest possible opponent. So far I played three world championship matches, and I always played with very, very difficult opponents: first Kasparov, then it was Leko at his best, a very difficult opponent in a match, and then Topalov also at his best. Now I have Anand, probably also at his best in his career. This I like very much because I like a really challenge. And this is a big challenge, to beat a player like Anand at his best. I have already achieved quite a lot of things in chess. You always need some additional challenge to motivate you. And this is a big enough challenge to get really motivated, and I am.

In such a match the level is very close. What is the difference: preparation, physical shape...?

It is difficult to say. You never know how the match will go. It is very difficult to predict because you shouldn't forget that playing a world championship match is not like playing a traing game or some rapid chess tournament in Monaco. It is a big tension. And also you never know how you and how your body system will react. You can try to prepare, you can try to be in the best possible physical or psychological shape, but who knows what will happen. Any kind of blunder can happen, some very unexpected and unpleasant loss, and then you never know how you will manage to stand it. Of course I have some general idea what I am going to do, the fields where I can outplay my opponent. But it is only very, very general. Basically the main task is to be in the best possible shape for the match and just to play well and to use all your chances – and to see game by game how it will develop. It is really difficult.

I am not like Botvinnik – before his match with Bronstein he made a list of what results he should make in each game: first game draw, second game he wins, third game draw, fourth game draw, fifth game he wins... And finally according to his plan he was something like plus seven by the end of the match. Not bad at all, quite a lot of confidence. But seriously speaking you never really know how it will go. I repeat: you have to be simply absolutely ready for any turn of events. This is very important.

I remember in 2000 when you were playing against Kasparov you found with your seconds Joel (Lautier) and Evgeny Bareev this Berlin Defence, which became very famous. Do you think that nowaday with computer and everything else it is possible to find some line or some opening to totally surprise your opponent?

Definitely, it is still possible.

Okay, imagine you are world champion again – what would you do after that?

Okay, I don't like to answer this question. First of all I should not do anything special. The world champion has to play chess, mainly. I think in general the situation in the world of chess lately has improved quite seriously. We have a lot of events, and I am really very happy for chess. In the last half year it is basically one big event after another, which is very good for chess. I don't know why it happened – there are different opinions about this, some say because Kasparov left (laughs), some have different theories... I really don't know why, but it is really improving and I am very happy about it. I think that basically now things are going in the right direction, we simply have not to disturb them, you know. We shouldn't make scandals like Topalov – just play chess, behave normally like a gentleman, try to attract big sponsors like we managed to do now, and I think that things will just go well.

But let's meet at the beginning of November and I will anwser your question in greater detail. I really hope that I will manage to win this match. I am confident, I think I have my chances, and I am looking forward to it.

Thank you for this interview.

Europe Echecs Interview

Kramnik interview part one

Kramnik interview part two

These reports are provided by Europe, which is doing extensive coverage of the Tal Memorial Tournament.

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