The former world champion Vladimir Kramnik is currently in Moscow, preparing for a series of tournaments in November and December, namely the Tal Memorial, then the World Blitz Championship, and finally, a two-game mini-match of “advanced chess” against Anand himself. Before leaving for Russia, he gave an exclusive interview to the French correspondent of the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Yuri Kovalenko. This contained a number of interesting comments.
Asked about his reaction to losing his title after seven years, Kramnik commented: “OK, on paper Anand may be world champion. But from my point of view, there is a difference in significance between a title won in a match, and in a tournament. For me, the forthcoming match with Anand is more important. If I lose that, I will accept completely the fact that I have lost the title, but right now, I have no such feelings. At present, I take the view that I have just lent Anand the title temporarily”.
Anand vs Kramnik at the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City
When it was put to him that Anand was surely the strongest player in Mexico, Kramnik replied that the situation is like tennis: “Federer is better than Nadal, but cannot compete with him on clay. Everyone has their strong side. Mine is match-play, whereas Anand’s is tournaments. He is very even and stable, and can draw with the top players and beat those lower down.”
Analysing after their round ten game (which was drawn)
Kramnik also rejected claims that he was just trying to comfort himself, saying that his attitude to wins and defeats was nowadays a rather Buddist-like indifference. “I accept responsibility only for the quality of my work, not its result”.
Asked when and where his return match against Anand will take place, he replied that it was most likely to be in Germany in September 2008, adding that sponsors and organisers are already in place, and contracts will be signed within a month. Interestingly, in answer to the question of who his next opponent would be, if he were to beat Anand and regain the title, he replied “FIDE has decided that the winner of Anand-Kramnik will play against the winner of Topalov and the World Cup victor”. Old-style Cold War Kremlin-watchers may have sought to read some significance into his exact choice of words – not “I will play…” but “FIDE have decided that …”! Could there be a “but” lurking in there somewhere? Watch this space…
In reply to a question about Korchnoi’s longevity in chess, Kramnik replied that he has not the same fanaticism for the game as Korchnoi, and that once he feels he can no longer compete at his former level, he is likely to drift away from chess. “I cannot see myself playing beyond the age of 40”, he said.
For the present, though, Kramnik is fully devoted to chess in a thoroughly professional way. “Chess is like body-building. If you train every day, you stay in top shape. It is the same with your brain – chess is a matter of daily training”. He admits that by character, he is something of an Epicurean, but insists that he observes a fairly careful discipline, having stopped smoking - “at least, for the time being” – and not having consumed enough alcohol to get himself drunk for a long time. Gambling is not one of his vices, he says, adding that he finds poker “…rather one-dimensional and colourless compared with chess”.
His French wife, Marie-Laure, has retained her own surname, rather than becoming Mrs Kramnik, but Vladimir said this was largely for professional reasons (she is well-known in journalistic circles). “When we have children, they will have my surname”, he said. He also added that he wants his children to be Russian, rather than French. “I do not yet know where we will live, in Russia, in France, or somewhere else. But I definitely want my children to speak Russian and have the Russian mentality”. He also reveals that Marie-Laure speaks excellent Russian: “Russian tourists in Paris often end up speaking with her in Russian, and are always sure she is Russian herself, although she actually has no Russian roots at all”.
Finally, Kramnik revealed that he has been approached several times by Russian political parties, hoping to enlist his public support, but that he has resisted: “I do not want to get involved in party political games”. In another phrase that might interest the Kremlin-watchers, he adds “ I do not have time for politics at the moment ”. Hmmm – “at the moment”. Could it be that Kramnik’s absence from Russian politics is just a temporary thing – like his loaning of the world title to Anand….?
By Steve Giddins