Ponomariov: 'I can beat Kasparov'

6/29/2003 – FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov has given another interview, this time to the Russian sports magazine Sport Express. In it he repeats his dissatisfaction with the way FIDE has handled the organisation of his September match against Garry Kasparov and sets his demands for reimbursement for financial losses at $150,000. Here's an English transcription of the interview.

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The interview with Ponomariov was conducted by the Russian journalist Yury Vassiliev, who sent the questions to the FIDE world champion by email. Ponomariov answered them in a reply mail. Vassiliev points out that he somehow had an impression that not all questions were answered by Ponomariov alone.

There are three key points in the interview: Ponomariov still demands $150,000 from FIDE (and not $100,000 offered by FIDE to him and Kasparov). He also insists on the semifinal status in the unification cycle of his match with Kasparov, which contradicts the resolution of the FIDE Council in Bucharest. Finally, he wants both himself and Kasparov to start the next cycle from the quarter-final stage.

The interview was translated by Andrei Granik.

Question: I've been told that the official date and location of your match with Kasparov will be announced in late June – early July. It appears that the presidents of the Ukraine and FIDE Leonid Kuchma and Kirsan Ilumzhinov have agreed in principle that the match will take place in Yalta, and that the first moves of game 1 will be made by the two leaders of the Russian and Ukrainian states.

Ponomariov: I still don't know about the date of the official announcement regarding my match. I still have not seen a satisfactory draft of my contract with FIDE either, and I don't know Kasparov's opinion concerning this contract. Thus I think it's premature on my part to talk about that.

Question: How do you feel about the match taking place on your territory, in the Ukraine, in Yalta?

Ponomariov: I was preparing for Buenos Aires, and I find it very sad that the match was cancelled. At the same time, if the president of my country has agreed that the match will take place in Yalta, obviously I won't object. The climate of Yalta suits me.

Question: Do you think that in Yalta you will have more supporters than Kasparov, which might give you a psychological advantage?

Ponomariov: I don't agree. I think Kasparov has at least as many supporters in Yalta as I do. Besides, unlike soccer, in chess there is no need for the 12th player. Yalta does not give me any psychological advantage.

Question: Who would benefit more from the change in the timetable of the match, you or your experienced opponent?

Ponomariov: I think that this change is equally detrimental to both of us.

Question: Recently you have said that you reached the peak of your form in the middle of June and felt that you could beat Kasparov. Are you really so confident?

Ponomariov: I have great respect for Kasparov and his chess talent. But if I did not think I could beat him, there would be no point of playing him. I did indeed reached my peak by the middle of June.

Question: And what about your shape in September? Will you be able to progress even further?

Ponomariov: I can't really tell, but will be preparing for the match.

Question: Now let me touch upon your recent notorious press-conference. Do you still insist upon financial reimbursement from FIDE for canceling your match in Argentina, or maybe your position has changed?

Ponomariov: I don't find anything notorious about the press conference organized by the newspaper "Ves Sport". My demand of financial reimbursement is both lawful and just. The possibility of such reimbursement is even mentioned in paragraph 6.2 of the unsatisfactory draft of the contract for the match, given to me by FIDE and rejected by me. And in a letter written by Mr. Omuku, in which FIDE replies to my financial claims, it promises to reimburse me and Kasparov to the amount of $100,000. However, I estimate the financial damage caused by the cancelation of the match in Buenos Aires to be $150,000. I still insist upon full reimbursement and that the sum be paid immediately, and not by August 15th, as promised by FIDE.

Question: Will you continue to insist that your match with Kasparov have the status of the semi-final of the unification cycle, and not the final for the FIDE World championship, as was decided by the FIDE Presidential Council in Bucharest? And don't you fear that such demands can create unsurmountable obstacles to organizing the match in Yalta?

Ponomariov: All questions regarding the signing of the contract for the match should be solved through mutual consensus. I strongly dislike it when FIDE tries to dictate its position to me. I hope FIDE will change its ways, and then we will be able to reach the contract by way of mutual concessions. In legal matters I fully rely on the experienced Ukrainian lawyers.

Question: Why have you come up with an additional demand to FIDE: that both participants of your match with Kasparov start the next cycle from the quarter-final stage?

Ponomariov: This has been mentioned in the general principles of the unification process formulated by Yasser Sierawan. I think this requirement is just. Such was the idea of the Prague agreement, one paragraph of which declared that I should play Kasparov with this provision. Otherwise I don't see any sense in my match with Kasparov.

Question: Do you plan to play anywhere before your match in Yalta?

Ponomariov: I don't know yet as the new date for the match seriously interfered with my schedule.

Question: Will the youngest GM in the world Sergey Karjakin remain your training camp for the period of your preparation for the match? And what can you say about his progress and his performance in Leon?

Ponomariov: My coaching team must now be formed from scratch, taking into account playing schedules of those who had been there before. I don't know about Karjakin's plans. I think that he is making progress. He played well in Leon, but did not have enough luck.

Question: Are you settling down in Kiev?

Ponomariov: No, I have not moved to Kiev yet, partly due to the situation which resulted from rescheduling the match.

Question: How are you going to prepare for your September match with Kasparov?

Ponomariov: I still don't know.

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