Vladimir Kramnik on game five in Elista

6/13/2007 – On Wednesday, September 29 2006, game five of the reunification world championship match was scheduled to take place. However, Vladimir Kramnik did not appear at the board, and after an hour of waiting the point was awarded to his opponent Veselin Topalov. What exactly happened in Elista, what was the reason for this risky action? Kramnik tell it all in the final part of our interview.

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Interview with Vladimir Kramnik (Part 4)

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.


Video Kramnik-Miskolc08
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Kramnik-Miskolc 08

Frederic Friedel: I would like to return to game five, where you didn’t appear. How did that happen? You refused to play in the last minute?

Vladimir Kramnik: Yes, well, maybe it was a bit too much…

When did you decide not to play?

Okay, I was… I don’t know when was the final decision. I cannot say. It was very emotional. Actually it was wrong, because finally they got what they wanted. You could see – many people told me that they saw the manager of Topalov, Danailov, after this, and they never saw him so happy as on this day. So finally I made this mistake and they achieved what they wanted to achieve: to make a scandal, and in the best case to stop the match. To stop the match and keep his title which he begs for. Unfortunately this provocation proved to be successful. Because of this I believe it was probably a mistake.


Topalov waiting for his opponent in game five. Kramnik forfeited

Humanly I think it can be understood, because it was clear from the very beginning that they had started to violate the contract. We had a contract, an agreement – and I am not even talking about a gentleman’s agreement, which would have been for me already enough. But we had a clear contract. The Appeals Committee, based on the friends of Danailov, were violating this contract day after day. We were telling them, people, sorry, you are violating the contract, this is a call, this is a call, you are violating the contract. They didn’t care at all. And then all this already started to get on my nerves. You know that during a world championship match you are very tense in general, it is a tension, nervous tension. Such things slowly get on your nerves. I felt during this match completely helpless, I felt like okay, what can I do? This Appeals Committee is just made of friends of Danailov, and they are doing whatever they want, and they have the final word on everything. According to FIDE rules the decision of the Appeals Committee is final. They are making decisions, violating the contract. Of course it is clear that after the match I can sue them. But this would be after the match. I want to play a match and I want to play it on the board.


Veselin Topalov receives the full point for game five

It was very clear that the next decision to close the toilet – and actually they told me that they were on the way to making a decision to close completely the rest room – what would be next I don’t know. But it was rather clear to me that it will never stop. If the match would continue in the same way it would never stop. And then of course the last drop in all these very negative feelings which I started to have about it was this incredibly rude and insulting press release in the name of Topalov, where he was directly accusing me of cheating. This is really the thing that drove me crazy, completely, because this is such a violation of any ethics and law, simply of law – I could sue them the next day. Maybe this is what they wanted, that I start a case and the match collapses. But it was so unethical and insulting to me that I became incredibly emotional. That happened just three hours before the game, when I learned about it.


Silvio Danailov facing the photographers after his man was awarded a forfeit over Kramnik.

I think it was a very well-planned operation, because it was exactly the day when Ilyumzhinov left Elista for a meeting – he had some government meeting somewhere. So he was not there, he was not objecting, he couldn’t do anything. He was busy the whole day. I think it was a very well-planned operation which unfortunately succeeded because I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. I should have of course – now I understand it – I should have just played the game, swallow this insult for the moment and then to start something, to start to complain… But it was a feeling of a mixture of anger and the feeling that you are completely helpless, you cannot do anything. Tomorrow they will make another protest, and it will be accepted, and the day after tomorrow another, which will be accepted. I can also say that this protest was not done in time, so according to the contract it couldn’t have even been considered, because it was done the next day, and according to the contract it should have been done within two hours after the end of the game. So they were breaking all laws, so I was feeling very bad, at the time, but of course that was the main purpose of the whole attack, to make me feel that I am just a guest here, and not a welcome guest. Everything is under control – all these guys, Danailov and others, they have everything under their control.

But the match was in RUSSIA…

Yeah, that was what I thought, that at least in Russia I would have… well, it was rather clear to me that in Bulgaria it would be even worse. That was also a strange situation for me, it was also driving me crazy, that I am playing in my native country, and there is some kind of Mafia which is against me and I cannot do anything. I simply cannot do anything. I have no legal rights, they are breaking contracts, they don’t care about my warnings that they are breaking contracts. I felt helpless at home, you know. It is in my native country, playing a world championship match, under FIDE, organised by FIDE, and I cannot do anything. This was an incredibly uncomfortable feeling.


Press conference after the fifth game, with Kramnik and his manager Carsten Hensel (left) and FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos (gesturing)

After all this when I saw the interviews of Danailov, about how badly he was treated in Russia, how everybody was for me, this really made me laugh. I never yet played a tournament or a match under such conditions, when I felt I have no rights at all, to do anything. All my appeals are not accepted, all appeals of Topalov are accepted, they do whatever they want, they are breaking contracts, I warn them, they don’t care, and I cannot do anything. This was basically the situation. To pretend that he was in an unfair position and the whole organisation was for me, well you have to have a very strong imagination or no ethics at all to say such lies.

But those were not the only lies they were telling. It was also a pure lie – and this can be proved immediately – that I was playing very fast, that I was going to my room and coming back and playing fast, that is a pure lie,,,

What about the toilet visits? Fifty…

This is also a pure lie. Fifty is a pure lie. It was definitely not fifty. There were so many lies…

What were you doing in the toilet?

Well, what people do in toilets. In general during games you visit the toilet a bit more often. All chess players will tell you, most of them visit the toilet more often than usual. Also there was some water there so you could throw some water into your face, some cold water. But it was not too much, it was far from fifty. Actually this was even said by the Appeals Committee, that of course it was a big exaggeration. There were so many lies which they were telling, the manager of Topalov and unfortunately Topalov himself. I cannot understand how can you, in the evening, lie down in your bed, switch off the light, and what do you think about yourself, after doing such things. I don’t know what you could feel inside. You must simply have no morality at all. If you have at least a little bit of morality you cannot live anymore, doing such things.


Kramnik protesting after the fifth game in Elista

For me it is really something shocking, really a total shock, because I again I repeat that since the beginning of my chess career I never had even one third of this kind of dirt which I had during Elista from the Topalov camp. I think that after this match I can take any kind of insult very easily, because nothing any more can drive me out of my shape and make me angry. Because this was really beyond any limit. So now I am sure that if I ever – I hope not, but if I every have a problem I will keep cool after this experience. Looking back on it I would say it was pretty useful for me, but anyway it is past now, and I am very happy that it is past.

Thank you for this very frank conversation!

© ChessBase GmbH, Hamburg, 2007

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