Danailov: If we have to, then we’ll play

8/3/2010 – When FIDE decided to move the Candidates matches from Baku, Azerbaijan there was a sharp protest by Veselin Topalov, who threatened to withdraw from the cycle if he had to face a Russian opponent in Russia. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov fired back, implying Topalov could be replaced. In a remarkable Sports Express interview Yuri Vasiliev brings some clarity into the matter.

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Silvio Danailov: “The Russian player we played
in 2006 in Elista doesn’t exist for us!”

On the eve of the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Tromsø, Norway, former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria wrote an open letter to the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and members of the Presidential Board. FIDE had announce that it would move the Candidates matches from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Kazan in Russia. In his letter Topalov stated that he would not play any Candidates match against a Russian player in Russia, citing the problems he had encountered during the match against Vladimir Kramnik in 2006 in Elista, Kalmykia.

To learn more about the problem and the possibility of compromise, Sport Express report Yuri Vasiliev phoned the Topalov manager Silvio Danailov. The discussion, however, begins with the recent world championship match Anand vs Topalov in Sofia.

Danailov essentially says that Veselin Topalov would, after all, be willing to play in Candidates Matches in Russia – just not against a Russian player. The interview provides details on Danailov’s feelings towards Kramnik, his disapproval of FIDE’s conduct during the match in Sofia, and the upcoming matches and Olympiad.

Vasiliev begins the interview with the question whether it is correct that Anand received 100,000 Euros for agreeing to play the match in Sofia. Danailov answers that Anand initially wanted € 300,000 extra, but after long negotiations it was negotiated down to € 100,000. The money was not from the organisers but from FIDE. “We paid a very large amount to FIDE, from which, I believe, Anand was paid the extra fee,” Danailov says. “Usually, as you know, FIDE received 20 percent of the prize fund. With us they asked for 30, citing a desire to develop "Global Chess". They could not find sponsors for the match Anand-Topalov but took 30 percent, not 20, from us. And we had to pay.”

Editorial note: Section 13.3 of the FIDE World Championship rules (available here in PDF format) states that “If the match is played in the country of one of the players, then the opponent shall receive 100,000 (one hundred thousand) euros from the Prize Fund. The balance of the Prize Fund shall then be shared in accordance to Article 13.1 above.” We are told that had the match been played in India Topalov would have received the extra 100,000.

Vasiliev talks about the 2000 World Championship: after the match Kasparov had told him that practically the entire team of the former USSR had worked against him – adding sarcastically: “clearly because of warm feelings they had for me.” Vasiliev asks Danailov about the help Anand had received from the “three Ks”: Kasparov, Kramnik and Carlsen (written with a K in Russian). “Did they do it because of warm feeling towards you, Silvio?” he asks.

Danailov says he does not think that there were personal motives – that the help was given for purely political reasons. “They were afraid that if Topalov won the match, our influence will be too great. In general, I must say that in this match everyone was working against us, except for the Bulgarians. That includes FIDE, which in no way tried to hide it. “Mr. Makropoulos, the "supervisor" of the match, generally behaved like a manager of Anand.”

Danailov says that when Makropoulos used his power to give Anand an extra day to adapt, after his difficult journey due to the Icelandic volcano, he had behaved “absolutely incorrectly” (Абсолютно неправильно!). “Eight days before the match Anand was stuck in Frankfurt. I immediately said to him: "Take a car and you will be in Sofia in 24 hours. But they sat around at the airport for three days and only then undertook the land trip. And all that because Mr. Makropoulos promised them that "there will be no problems".

Will Topalov play in the Candidates?

In the second part of the interview Vasiliev comes to the point: How will Veselin compete for the title if he refuses to play in Kazan or in any other Russian city, as he wrote in his open letter? Danailov’s answer:

You should read his letter more carefully. It does not say that Topalov refuses to play in Russia. He’ll be in Khanty-Mansiysk for the Olympiad and will represent Bulgaria on board one. Topalov is refusing to play a match against a Russian player in Russia, if that match is connected with the [World Championship] title. The chances of Topalov meeting a Russian player in Kazan aren’t high, since for that both would need to get to the final – though it’s a possibility.

In general we were really outraged that the proposal to move the matches to Kazan were presented suddenly, at the last moment. FIDE kept the candidacy a secret. They have long known that there was a problem with Baku, because of Aronian, and that it was impossible to resolve. An international federation with self-respect should have opened up bidding for running the Candidates Matches in another city. Incidentally Sofia  could have offered a million dollars. Where is the problem?

But, like magicians, they produced the Kazan candidacy “from up their sleeve” at the last moment, and now they say: this is where you’ll play. At the same time they are holding on to the wildcard nominee from Baku, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. It is absurd! If the matches are run in Russia then the nominee should be from Russia. What has Azerbaijan got to do with it?

Vasiliev asks Danailov about the proposal by Emil Sutovsky to extend the quarter and semifinals to six games instead of four, and then, after a break of half a year, the finals to eight games and for a larger sum of money. Danailov says that Topalov agrees with Sutovsky’s proposal (“as does Magnus Carlsen”), except that the break before the finals should be 20 or 30 days. “As far as I know Carlsen will not sign a contract if they propose playing 20 days in a row in Kazan.” He says. “If the first and second highest ranked players in the world do not take part in the competition then we will have to see what sort of a candidates tournament it will be…”

There is the following little exchange at this point:

“So if FIDE decides to increase the number of games, then Topalov’s prepared to play a quaterfinal, and if successful, a semifinal match in Kazan?” asks Vasiliev.

“What does prepared or not prepared mean?” Says Danailov. “Those are just words. Let them show us a contract, the conditions, the prize fund. When we have seen all of that we will take a decision.”

Vasiliev: “But if everything you mention is satisfactory, then Topalov will travel to Kazan?”

Danialov: “Why not? We will study the contract, and if everything is okay then Topalov, of course, will travel to Kazan.”

Vasiliev: “But if Kramnik reaches the final, then Topalov won’t play him in Russia? Is that correct?”

Danialov: “Veselin expressed it clearly in his letter.”

Vasiliev: “But in Bilbao you said to me that it was necessary to forget the animosity from Elista 2006 and turn over a new leaf.”

Danialov: “The Russian player we played a match against in 2006 in Elista doesn’t exist for us!

Vasiliev: “But what if that player, Vladimir Kramnik, ‘materialises’ and you have to play him?”

Danialov: “If we have to, then we’ll play. Perhaps in Khanty-Mansiysk we’ll have to cross swords…”

Addenda

In an interview in the magazine Extra Time Zurab Azmaiparashvili corroborates Danailov's view that Magnus Carlsen wants longer matches and a break between the semi-finals and final. He claims that Carlsen said he didn’t want to play an Azeri grandmaster in Azerbaijan, and was demanding a contract that would include the match against Anand and promised more than the one million Euros that is currently being offered).

The ever assiduous Vasiliev has followed up with a Sport Express interview with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who dismisses these rumours and says that he is unaware of any protests from Carlsen. The system will not be changed to longer matches, as Boris Gelfand, the winner of last year’s World Cup, was unwilling to accept Sutovsky’s proposed changes during this cycle. “It was therefore decided to leave everything as it is,” says Ilyumzhinov. “However, in the next cycle, do not rule out the possibility that the idea will be implemented. Magnus Carlsen was present at the Presidential Board meetings, and I heard no protest from him. I chatted with and even played in a blitz tournament together with his father Henrik in Tromsø. He too showed no displeasure at the tournament in Kazan.” We are told that Ilyumzhinov scored 100% in the blitz tournament.

Finally our Russian colleague makes everything explicit:

Vasiliev: So, Kazan will hold the entire tournament without a break between the semifinals and finals?

Ilyumzhinov: Yes.

Vasiliev: And if Topalov rejects the proposed conditions for Kazan and refuses to sign a contract?

Ilyumzhinov: I hope that this will not happen, but if Topalov refuses to play, we will replace him there.

Vasiliev: When are the organizers going to send the players their contracts, and what is the deadline for their signature?

Ilyumzhinov: That will be done expeditiously. The organizers have to observe some simple formalities, and will be sending out the contracts without delay.


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