'The pieces are like my children'

by ChessBase
1/13/2006 – Look what found: a four-page pictorial interview with world chess champion Veselin Topalov – in Playboy Bulgaria. The December issue features the national sports hero answering twenty questions on the burdens of the title, the Bulgarian phenomenon, superstition, and the future of the game. We told you we bought it for the interviews.

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Interview with Veselin Topalov

In the Bulgarian Playboy Magazine December 2005 

The world chess champion on superstition, the burden of being world champion and the future of the immortal game.

Interview with "Champion Veselin Topalov"
gets title page billing on Playboy Bulgaria

Playboy: Vesko, which is the best and which is the worst thing about being a world chess champion?

Topalov: The most beautiful thing is when you see the happiness in the people’s eyes. And the worst is that you haven’t any free time.

Playboy: Which is the most absurd rumour you have heard about yourself?

Topalov: That I am married to a Spanish woman, and that my sponsor will be Hristo Stoichkov.

Playboy: Why is superstition is so wide-spread in your work. Tell me something about that.

Topalov: Maybe in this way it is easier for people to excuse their failures. It also boosts their self-confidence. I am not a fatalist, but at the World Championship in Argentina Nigel Short, the English chess player, brought to me luck when he had meals at our table.

Playboy: Which are your favorite openings for white and why?

Topalov: I will answer only this: the most unpleasant ones for the opponent.

Playboy: What about your favorite defence with black?

Topalov: The Sicilian Defence, because it gives chances to win with black.

Playboy: Which is your favorite piece on the board and why?

Topalov: All of them. They are just like my children, and I take care of them. I haven’t got a favorite piece.

Playboy: Karpov or Kasparov?

Topalov: Kasparov – my playing style is similar to his.

Playboy: Who is the strongest chess player you had played against?

Topalov: Him. Kasparov.

Interview with Veselin Topalov in the Christmas issue of Playboy Bulgaria

Playboy: And who is the strongest chess player you hadn’t played against?

Topalov: Bobby Fisher. I am hoping to play against him, even though we are different generation in chess.

Playboy: Which is your most shameful failure until now?

Topalov: There isn’t any.

Playboy: Do you play some of the others kinds of chess –“Scandinavian” and “Reverse chess”?

Topalov: Yes, I have played the two options in my childhood. Now I do not play them any more.

Playboy: How did you explain the Bulgarian phenomenon in the world chess? Maybe, because the chess is one of the cheapest and accessible sports for the mass?

Topalov in Bulgaria after winning the World Championship

Topalov: We have unbelievable individuals and schools with chess tradition. 

Playboy: What is your vision? Are there any possibilities for changes and additions in the chess rules to make the game more attractive for the mass media?

Topalov: These anti-draw rules which were implemented at the M-tel Masters by Silvio Danialov made the games more interesting and attractive for the public.

Playboy: Who is the most beautiful town where you played?

Topalov: Las Vegas – undoubtedly.

Playboy: What would be your job, if you were not chess player?

Topalov: I don’t know… Maybe I’d be pilot in civil aviation (with smile).

Playboy: Which other sport do you watch closely? Do you have favorite sportsmen?

Topalov: Soccer, tennis. But I don’t have any concrete favorites in these sports.

Playboy: Tell me more about your life in Spain – how you lives there, what is your preference in entertainment?

Girls and chess in Playboy Bulgaria

Topalov: I live normal. I prefer if people don’t recognise me on the streets. For that reason I chose the little students' town of Salamanca. There I feel good and have a chance to prepare in peace and quiet. I like to meet with friends and go to the disco…

Playboy: We know – you are very sober. Are they times when you want to get drunk and think about nothing?

Topalov: I have hardly ever been drunk, and this is problem. There were cases when I am really exhausted and I wanted to drink.

Playboy: Who is the biggest playboy amongst the grandmasters in the world today?

Topalov: Argentinean Miguel Quinteros, but he is not so successful as a chess player.

Playboy: When you in Spain and feel nostalgia for Bulgaria, about what you remember – some favorite places here?

Topalov: Maybe Sofia, the garden in front of the National Theatre. That’s where chess lovers gather.

Translated by Simeon Stoichkov

Simeon Stoichkov, 30, was born in Sofia. He learnt to play chess at the age of five and went on to be a Candidate Master. In 2002 he graduated with excellence in Nationally Sports Academy in Sofia. The subject: “Metamorphosis of Chess in Eastern Cultures”. In 2001 he participated in the creation of Chess in School Magazine (published by the Bulgarian Chess Federation). In the same year he was one of the trainers who prepared the Sofia team that won Gold at the School Olympiad in Regio Emiglia. In 2000-2003 Stoichkov was a director of the Chess School at the National Palace of Children, and was one of the initiators of the Children's Olympiad “Sport against drugs”. Since 2001 he has conducted chess education in elite schools in Sofia. In 2004 Simeon initiated the Art Sport Talent Foundation and is its President. In the same year, together with GM Vladimir Georgiev, he wrote the book “Antoaneta Stefanova – 20 years and 20 days on the road to the crown”.

Simeon with Antoaneta Stefanova

Chess in Schools in Bulgaria


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