'Topalov is better adapted to modern chess'

by ChessBase
10/30/2005 – When former world champion Garry Kasparov speaks about his colleagues, one does well to listen. After the San Luis championship, which he admits following with interest and pleasure, Kasparov gave the ChessPro news site an extensive interview, evaluating the performances of Topalov, Anand and Leko, and explaining what Topalov's victory means for the chess world.

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Garry Kasparov:
A Topalov-Kramnik match won’t resolve anything

Interview with Eugeny Atarov (ChessPro)

Do you believe in omens? Personally, I do. They are like a chain of stars in the dark sky indicating the right way and foretelling seemingly unexpected events. Twenty years have passed since the beginning of the new era in chess, the era of Kasparov that changed our perception of the ancient game once and for all. Garry Kimovich, back then 22-year old Garik, wrested the championship crown from another chess colossus, Anatoly Karpov, who had not felt the bitter taste of defeat for a whole decade. Twenty years down the road the chess world has a new World Champion, one who has upturned the existing chess hierarchy…

Kasparov observed this change like all the rest of us from the outside. This spring he retired from chess. When choosing someone to summarize the outcome of the World Championship in San Luis, it is hard to think of a better expert. Topalov’s style and energy are reminiscent of Kasparov himself. With this in mind, the Thirteenth World Champion’s evaluation of Topalov’s performance seems all the more interesting.

Garry Kimovich, how unexpected was the outcome of the event in San Luis for you?

What is so unexpected about it? I think the result is as logical, only so far as the outcome of any tournament could be. Certainly, some results might have been different. Topalov’s victory could have been not that convincing, but he deservedly won the title. Veselin has been playing better than anybody else the whole year. He came better prepared for tough, hard fight. Some element of luck is an integral part of success, but with rare exceptions Topalov deserved all the points he scored.

In other words, you would not say that it was the tournament of his life?

Topalov’s triumph in San Luis became the logical conclusion of his rise throughout the year. At present he plays more powerful, interesting and fresh chess. After the event he will back up the high quality of his game with best rating in the world (excluding mine which is a bit higher). This “triple multiplier” makes Topalov’s success quite logical. Moreover, it is the resolution of a longstanding conflict – for the first time since 1993 the player demonstrating the most interesting, succinct play became FIDE World Champion.

You are talking about Veselin’s victory as “logical”, but before the event many experts, including you (although indirectly) had prophesied Topalov being somewhere in the top trio but had not proclaimed him the #1 favorite. For example your former coach Alexander Nikitin called him a “merely elite GM”.

Actually, it is very difficult to resist the magic of big names. When trying to forecast, most people looked at the problem in the historical context. They analyzed the results of the last ten or five years. A more realistic approach was called for. They should have followed current developments! I had no doubts whatsoever that Anand and Topalov would be at the top. I was wrong only about Leko, but thought that two of this trio would compete for the title and placed them in this order.

However, had I been asked to pick just one I would have bet on Topalov. Actually, I said it on many occasions in private talks. I wrote in the article for “New in Chess” that this format favored Topalov. I still think that the result of a match Anand-Topalov would be unclear. Vishy’s chances would not be worse, to say the least. On the other hand, in a long tough tournament, Veselin was a clear favorite.

One should take Topalov the way he is right now, not a replica of himself five or even three years ago. He is capable of winning several games in a row – take for example his performances in Linares, Sofia and Dortmund. He is eager to fight, to fight to the very end, finding inner resources and energy to continue the battle. I don’t know any other player like him!

I know one – you!

I was talking about those who are in the active circuit. I don’t belong to the group fighting for chess titles and trophies anymore.

Don’t you think that the Bulgarian made a great quality leap in San Luis?

I would not use this term. I think Topalov consolidated his game and kept advancing in the direction he had taken. He made a breakthrough similar to that of Kramnik in 2000. The question remains, what happens next?

Do you feel some sort of succession, the continuation of “Kasparov’s vector”? After all, Topalov plays in the style that you displayed.

Topalov wins the title

It is quite obvious. Kramink’s style and perception of chess are similar to these of Karpov whereas Topalov is closer to me than to anyone else. One can observe some sort of pattern in chess: the adherents of a dry, positional style are succeeded by tacticians. These two tendencies have been swaying to and fro for 20 years. I see the logic of chess development here. Chess changes by its own inner rules to guarantee against self-exhaustion. The San Luis tournament saw tense and interesting fights in many games. It means that classic chess in not dead! The restoration of a normal time control brought chess to a new level, boosted its popularity, and gave a stimulus for further development. Up to 80,000 people followed the games from San Luis in Playchess.com portal!

Topalov’s victory looks unconditional. In your opinion, what happened with Anand?

Nothing serious. Anand staged a normal performance. Does he not lose heart in tough situations, when someone shoots ahead? Did it happen for the first time? So, no wonder. Had Anand been on track from the first round he could have won the tournament. However, another player wiped everyone out of his way. As soon as things did not go the way they were expected for Vishy, he crumbled. Anand losing heart, Anand buckling under pressure – it looks so natural and familiar.

With all the above mentioned in mind, would you feel upset if Anand had won?

Should I care? Well, probably in that case I would try to find different logic in chess development.

Did not you go up to Anand in Linares and say: “I am leaving, you are in charge now”?

First, I did not go up to him – we were seated at the same table. Secondly, back then for me he was the second player, in terms of his game, rating and status. However, after Linares there was Sofia. After that super-tournament the power balance in chess changed drastically. Topalov won the event in a brilliant style, with a powerful finishing spurt, including an excellent victory over Anand. Many forgot about this encounter, but it was extremely important from a psychological standpoint. For some reason, before the World Championship the results of Sofia were apparently disregarded. Personally, I realized that Topalov was gradually taking the top position.

Why did Leko flop?

Leko had a real breakthrough in 2002, which lasted till the match with Kramnik. He kept the momentum and won Wijk-an-Zee 2005. However, Peter has never had enough energy to be on the top permanently. Besides, it looks like Leko (and not only he) feels uncomfortable after my retirement. Suddenly they all had to fight for first place. Previously it was okay to be second, if Kasparov won the event. The Hungarian was not prepared to fight for the first prize in this new psychological situation…

Topalov is better adapted to modern chess that requires constant work with computers, precision in all areas, incessant self-perfection. He seized the spirit of the time, whereas Anand and Leko did not quite catch it. Let me repeat that Topalov closed the “time gap” that has gaped since 1993. The chess player embodying the leading tendency is first in the rating list. For the time being the topic is closed.

My next question echoes the letter you wrote back in January before the tournament in Wijk-an-Zee. You said that your heart was bleeding as you did not take part in this event. Did not you see yourself among the participants of the World Championship?

It was not the case. The decision that I made in March is final. I just enjoyed watching the games, guessing the move (by the way, quite often I guessed right), evaluated the positions (again, my evaluations for the most part were correct). But I have switched over, so to say. My mind drifted in a different direction. I did not project myself to this event.

In other words, all these talks and hints that have been circulating about your return to chess are groundless?

If anyone wants to believe in such a thing, he is welcome to do so. Actually all these rumors amuse me. For many years a lot of people were waiting for the time when I would finally leave. Ironically, when I satisfied everyone and left, all these talks about my return started to pop up.

Frankly speaking without you the vacuum is felt...

I don’t know. I see it philosophically. I rejoice at good chess, good games. As a spectator I really enjoyed the event: a gripping fight, many decisive encounters. For me and I think for many spectators the issue of who held the world championship title was finally resolved. But now it is time to switch to building a normal system. After all, the event did not solve any of FIDE’s problems! It has no real money; the structure of this organization hinders an effective work with corporate sponsors. It is necessary to work out an effective anti-crisis program that I have been talking about for many years. I still believe that the chess world should switch to a unified rating system incorporating rapid and the most important blitz games. There are plenty of things to do…

Speaking of the doping issue, I think it is high time to introduce anti-computer control to rule out any possibility of contact with a machine in the course of games, rather than taking steroid tests. Chess must be reformed to make our game really professional well-to-do sport. Chess players should not have to watch every penny…

It does not look like San Luis solved even a single one of FIDE’s problems…

At least one is settled. FIDE has Topalov – a real, legitimate world champion. He has the highest rating, best play and the official title. However, this fact did not solve other problems. Even in San Luis the prize fund was provided by the city budget! We see the same situation in Khanty-Mansyisk. FIDE is still dependent on the ambition of individual bureaucrats. There are no corporate sponsors, clear schedule, etc. There are no components that are necessary for chess transition into a different quality. Things will get moving only if FIDE’s administrative resources are combined with corporate money, as was the case back in the 90s, when the PCA signed the sponsorship contract with Intel.

If you were Topalov, which path would you take: play in the new multi-stage FIDE cycle or pick up Kramnik’s gauntlet?

In my opinion Kramnik has no weight right now. He can’t influence the situation. He might have some questionable legal rights, due to Prague Agreement. But he has no moral or chess rights. Presently, it is up to Topalov. He is his own master. His match with Kramnik will trigger chaos, it won’t resolve anything! But go ahead, if someone who is ready to fork out millions for a parallel cycle appears on the scene, the situation might change. But for the time being that is just a hypothetical chance.

If Kramnik, who beat you in 2000, has lost his status, then who is the successor of the 120-year old tradition of world championships?

Kasparov in his final round game – and last competitive game – against Topalov in this year's Linares tournament

Troubling times have already come. It is not clear how to define the branch stemming from my 1993 match with Short. Many respectable people changed their opinion many times. Those who did not recognize me as the World Champion, did so with Kramnik. Unfortunately, for many people it was bias rather then principle. In my opinion we signed a very important agreement in Prague. The World Champions acknowledged that the title had to belong to an organization rather than to a person. The fulfillment of this agreement depended on public recognition, which rests on the results shown by a particular player in the best tournaments. It is now the end of 2005, not Prague 2002.

Kramnik’s results speak for themselves. He slipped down to the seventh position from the second one. Do you take his draw in the match with Leko seriously? After all Peter won no cycle. It was some sort of parallel reality, which could have materialized had Kramik and Leko had impressive victories to their names. If Kramnik had won Sofia or Dortmund things would have been different! As soon as Kramnik started demonstrating stable result (unfortunately stably bad) the issue was over. It is clear that my claims to FIDE were founded not only on my victory over Karpov in 1985 but also on my top rating and tournament victories.

That was the gist of the split. The best GM did not possess the FIDE title. I was someone to reckon with. What split are we talking about right now? Did Kramnik win Sofia or tie with me in Linares?

Allow me the last question. In martial arts every champion defeats his predecessor. It just happened that you lost your last game to Topalov. Was it not the finger of fate?

Maybe. I did not think about it very much, but if it helps the chess world to solve its problems, I can admit that it was the finger of fate. Go ahead! I can live with that. I know why I lost that game. I stopped playing chess and thought only about the press-conference, where I was going to announce my retirement. Nevertheless, it was the omen symbolizing a new era in chess. I am very glad! If it was necessary for me to lose just one game to open a new era, I am ready to make this sacrifice.

  • Original interview in ChessPro (translation provided by Eugeny Atarov)

The ChessPro.ru site was started in July 2004, mainly to organize and promote blitz tournaments. In the first “Moscow blitz” twelve GMs played, include Morozevich, Grischuk, Dreev, Tkachiev and Rublevsky. Authors of the site are Morozevich, Grischuk, Shirov, Sutovsky, Radjabov, Karjakin, etc. The editorial staff consists of Eugeny Atarov (chief in editor: interviews, reports, photos, statistic, web), Sergey Shipov (main chess analysis, chess champion portraits), Maxim Notkin (monthly tournament review), Sergey Voronkov (literature editor, book reviews and archives).

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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