A quick pre-match interview with Vladimir Kramnik

by ChessBase
10/9/2008 – Next Tuesday is the day, the first move in the World Championship match between Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik will be executed in the State Art Gallery in Bonn, Germany. This week the players have arrived and taken up quarters with their teams. We took the opportunity to do a phone interview, in which the Challenger reveals some but not all of his secrets.

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Interview with World Championship Challenger Vladimir Kramnik

The following interview was conducted by telephone shortly after Vladimir Kramnik's arrival in Bonn for the World Championship match against Vishy Anand.

Frederic Friedel: Thank you Vladimir for taking this call so soon after your arrival in Bonn…

Vladimir Kramnik: For you always, Frederic.

Very kind. Let us start with some rote questions: how are you feeling, how is your health, are you in top fighting form?

I had some health problems, two or three years ago, as you know. But now I have overcome all of them, so I feel really well and physically, strangely enough, better than five or seven years ago. In this sense there are no problems.

So what do you think your chances are in the match?

I don’t actually try to assess chances – I just try to do my best and to win. To make prognoses is something for your companions, or for journalists. For me it is enough that I know I have chances, definitely. The second step is to do everything to realize these chances, and this is what I am concentrating on, rather than assessing my chances.

How long have you been preparing – specifically for this match?

Well, okay, in between you play some tournaments, you get some preparation during tournaments. But of course since we signed the contract, basically, I started to prepare, in different ways, and that began to intensify with time. So basically my preparation started – let me see, when did we sign? – well sometime in November. From that time I started to collect my team, I started to check the games of my opponent, to think about different possible strategies. But it became fairly intense from somewhere around April – more intense with more concrete chess work.

Who is in your team? Who are your seconds?

My team consists of Russian grandmaster [Sergey] Rublevsky, French GM [Laurent] Fressinet and Hungarian GM [Peter] Leko.

Peter Leko is there in Bonn? What a surprise! What about Bareev and the other guys?

They are not here.

So you are not hiding your seconds?

No, not at all. Why should I?

If you are in such a frank mood, can you tell me: what openings do you plan to play?

[Laughs heartily]. I…, well..., listen, maybe I should leave this question unanswered.

Are you going the play the Petroff, or is it finished after the two games you lost in Dortmund, with the Qd2 by Naiditsch…

Okay, it is not a very long time now to find out, isn’t it? You have been waiting for many months for an answer to this question – which I started to get from your colleagues around December last year – I guess you guys can wait a few more days to get the answer. So let’s not get too excited about it, okay?

Yes. Well here’s a question that is genuinely puzzling to me: what is this thing about playing so badly – both you and Anand – in tournaments leading up to the World Championship? What happened in Dortmund and Moscow? I mean, you won Dortmund eight times in the past, at least five times more often than anyone else. And this year you produce the worst result of your adult career? What is going on?

Yes, it is true, Dortmund was one of the worst in my career. In Moscow [at the Tal Memorial] it was better, actually quite a decent result. Well, I guess that for some time now we are immersed in this match, we are constantly thinking about the match. Before and even during every game you somehow think maybe I shouldn’t play this or shouldn’t show that. This is not the best way to play in top tournaments. I think this is one of the reasons why our results were not the best, lately. It was clear that both me and Anand, we are not actually playing for results. Basically our main goal was to warm up and simply not to lose touch with practical chess. I can tell you that for me the result was not really important. Of course this is not the best attitude during a tournament, and not one to produce good results. Sometimes it can still happen that you play well, but normally you don’t, under such circumstances.

It also loses you a bunch of points on the ratings list…

That does not matter, I don’t care about it at all. What matters is this match. All the sacrifices which were made by me, and I guess also by my opponent, will be justified in case of victory. All the bad results will be forgotten in micro-seconds if you win this match. So it is all not so relevant.

You are using computers extensively in your preparation…

[Ironically] Yes, from time to time…

Do you think that, under the line, it is a good thing that we have computers? Is it good for chess, or is it bad?

What do you think: is it good that you have the Internet or is it bad? [Waits for an answer]

Hmmm… Good, I think…

Actually it is like it is, it is not good or bad, it is like it is and you have to adjust to it. Of course I would say that it was easier for us before computers, but I don’t want to be like an old grandma longing for the good old days, you know. We have computers that are becoming more and more powerful, and you simply have to deal with this, if you want to perform well. So I am trying to adjust myself to the circumstances and to make the best possible use of the situation. I am not emotional about it. We are already so heavily computerised in the world of chess, to check everything you analyse with the computer – it is business as usual already. Every top chess player has his own way of dealing with the computer, to use this incredible instrument in the most efficient way, for himself. Everyone finds his golden middle, and I hope I have found mine. There is no big advice you can give. Except maybe to say that it can also turn against you sometimes, if you don’t do it well – as you saw for example in Brissago 2004…

You mean the Marshall with the queen sacrifice…?

Bad advice from the computer?

Kramnik,Vladimir - Leko,Peter (2741) [C89] World Championship Brissago (8), 07.10.2004
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Re4 g5 16.Qf1 Qh5 17.Nd2 Bf5 18.f3 Nf6 19.Re1 Rae8 20.Rxe8 Rxe8 21.a4 Qg6 22.axb5 Bd3

In this game, which was the chess highlight of the 2004 match, Kramnik bashed out a prepared variation against Leko's Marshall Attack. After the 22nd move, Black only had a few minutes left on the clock, and the World Champion confidently sacrificed the queen with 23.Qf2? This is a move Fritz considered for a short period of time, giving White an advantage. Leko played 23...Re2 24.Qxe2 Bxe2 25.bxa6 Qd3!! and went on to win after 26.Kf2 Bxf3 27.Nxf3 Ne4+ 28.Ke1 Nxc3 29.bxc3 Qxc3+ 30.Kf2 Qxa1 31.a7 h6 32.h4 g4 0–1. The problem was that the computer was not given enough time to find the refutation. Top players are often impatient and press the space key (play move) too quickly, trusting the shallow analysis of the chess engine.

Which your engine proposed…

You simply did not stay long enough on that move. After a few minutes Fritz finds the refutation…

No, no, it was all your fault [laughs]. It was your engine that gave me this bad advice.

Anyway, if you win this match is it because of preparation?

No, I believe it is not about that. Of course preparation gets deeper and deeper, but you know that chess is so complex you cannot win a match just because you are better prepared. That is a simple way of putting it for people who do not understand chess deeply. Any chess player will tell you that however good your preparation is you still have to play incredibly well, and in a World Championship match your opponent’s preparation is also very strong, so you cannot just win because of good preparation. Basically you must play better than your opponent in this particular match and at this particular moment. That is mainly why you win the match, and not because you are psychologically stronger or better prepared – those are all fairy-tales. Maybe there is five or ten percent truth in it, but the main truth is that you simply have to be better than your opponent, and that is what I am concentrating on.

What are you going to be doing during the match in Bonn? Have you brought reading material – what books for example? Will you be watching films – which ones?

Yes, of course I have a big resource of films, movies, books. It is always the same: I bring a lot with me, and I never touch many of them, because there is simply no time. I bring many more books that I could ever manage to read, just in case, so if I don’t like one I can start another one.

What kind of books?

Oh, many different kinds: easy reading, some humour, some historical books, very different kinds. I need to have a big choice according to my mood. I also bring a lot of different music, mainly classical music, and different movies. But with movies it is not a big problem, you can go out and buy them. Anyway I have a big choice. The only problem is to find time for it.

Do you do fitness training during the match?

Before the match a lot, but also during, because it takes a lot of energy and I try to stay fit during the match.

Thank you very much for this interview, Vlady.

Thank you, Frederic, and see you soon in Bonn.

World Championship live broadcast

FoidosChess is a live chess broadcasting application, based on the new Mircosoft Silverlight technology, which will be used for live coverage of the the World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, starting October 14th in Bonn, Germany.

FoidosChess will use five parallel video streams to present the World Championship match and commentaries by top Grandmasters in German (Artur Yussupov, Dr Helmut Pfleger, Klaus Bischoff), English (Yasser Seirawan), Spanish (Miguel Illescas) and Russian. All commentators will interview interesting guests during the games. Via chat communication between commentator and Internet viewers will be also possible.

Chess Media Services BV is a Netherlands based consortium of companies that love chess and understand the value and power of the game. Chess Media Services is a consortium of dynamic companies. UEP GmbH, (Germany), DGT BV (Netherlands), Share Dimension srl. (Romania), Noterik BV (Netherlands) all bringing their expertise and power behind FoidosChess.


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