Elista 2006: The world champion's first press conference

by ChessBase
10/14/2006 – The fourth tiebreak game was over, Vladimir Kramnik raised both fists in the air as a sign of victory, shouts, applause, friendly slaps, handshakes. Then Kramnik left for his first press conference as the unified world champion of FIDE. There he spoke about the match, his feelings, his team, his plans. New: videos with the final seconds of the match!

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Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik

Twelve games, played from September 23 to October 12 in Elista, Kalmikia. The games start at 15:00h (3:00 p.m.) local Elista time, which translates to 11:00h GMT, 13:00h CEST, 12:00h London, 7 a.m. New York.

Live coverage is available on the official FIDE site and on Playchess.com (with live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan for ten Ducats per day). You can buy them in the ChessBase Shop.

Kramnik: ‘Now I have to relax…’

First press conference of the unified world chess champion

Immediately after Topalov extended his hand in a sign of resigning the fourth tiebreak game, the crowd became ecstatic. There were shouts, applause, friendly slaps and handshakes… Kramnik left the table, raised his fist to the sky, just like in Moscow 1994 after his sensational victory over Kasparov, and went into tight embrace of his manager Carsten Hensel. Other team members were also there – Illescas, Rublevsky, Motylev, Krylov, Rösch, and even the cook… A few minutes the new ‘absolute’ FIDE world champion moved on to the press conference hall, where he was warmly met by dozens of journalists.

The new world champion Vladimir Kramnik at the press conference,
with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his assistant Berik Balgabaev

Question: In a situation that was similar to yours Mikhail Tal said "My head is filled with sun!" What were your first words after the match ended?

Vladimir Kramnik: I was very concentrated on the play, and even after I won the last game, I was still in a fighting mood. The moment after Veselin played 44…Rc5 was very emotional for me – I felt very happy. The joy passed after I replied 45.Rb7+. I need time to realize what happened. This was a very tough match, and I think I did a good job, considering the odds given to the opponent. Maybe it was the first case in the history of the world championship matches when one of the players had extra point and extra White. I am glad I managed to win under such circumstances.

Black played 45...Rxc5+ and White won win 45.Rb7+

What can you tell to your Russian supporters?

I am very glad that the crown stays in Russia. Personally for me this achievement is comparable to the victory against Kasparov. There aren’t many three-time world champions in the history, and I hope I will not stop there… Considering the atmosphere around the match and behavior of the opposing team, winning the match was a matter of principle.

This match will now be extensively discussed within the chess community. Can you tell which tendencies of chess development it revealed?

First of all, this was extremely tense match. Chess changes – for instance, nobody paid attention that there was not a single serious time trouble in 12 games. It is a significant step forward. People play faster and more practical, and the crisis occurs at fourth or fifth hour of play. This match signified certain tendencies of modern chess, which are still to be found. And the main conclusion, I repeat, is exceptionally high level of tension. There were no short draws at all. I think all chess fans are happy about it! Maybe not everybody is happy about my victory, though…

Vladimir Kramnik and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

I got a feeling that chess fans’ delights were caused by the fact that the title was determined at a rapid pace. Maybe we should talk about speeding the play up?

My opinion on time controls did not change. There are three controls in chess: classical, rapid and blitz. All three have the right to exist. They should supplement each other, like in tennis, where the games consist of three or five sets, depending on significance of the competition. I adhere to the opinion that the most important events must be held under classical time control; however, I am not against seeing many rapid tournaments. They are spectacular and attract the crowd. But classical chess must stay, at least for such matches. Classical chess has many supporters, and it is not out of place to say it has more than a century of history.

Do you consider symbolic that both players won games in their styles? Topalov won a tactical battle, and you converted two calm endings! Do you think you won the title because you showed more versatility than Veselin?

I am not sure about versatility, but I am objectively stronger in such positions as occurred in 2nd and 4th games – i.e., slightly better endings. I was somewhat lucky to get them. I handle them very well, I can say it without false modesty, while Veselin is not that good in them. I squeezed two wins out of nothing, so to speak, and he won an attacking ‘all-or-nothing’ game: g4, f5… In this regard the tiebreak was a litmus paper, revealing styles of the players. I am very glad that in the end I won one game more than Veselin.

Kramnik, manager Carsten Hensel (red tie)

Vladimir Belov, official match commentator, said that the tiebreak games turned out to be nearly the most flawless in the match. What do you think about it?

Flawless? I wouldn’t say that – just recall Topalov’s blunder in the Game 4 (albeit in a lost position), or my play in the Game 3… In principle, 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move is sufficient amount of time to avoid bad mistakes. The struggle was nervous and tough, and I think the level of play is high enough for such circumstances.

Vladimir, after you won on the board, will you continue the duel in Arbitration Court in Lausanne?

Let us not talk about sad things. I’d rather enjoy the moment of triumph and talk more about the games I won! I am not thinking about the future right now, except for the match against the computer. I was so concentrated on the WCC match that I am not going to start making plans any soon. Today I have to relax and drink with my team and people who supported me in Elista. And only then we’ll start thinking…

Could you tell more about the match against Fritz10? Are you going to be the last man standing?

I’m afraid it will be a very difficult match. Playing against computer is generally hard. Every year a tournament 3 vs. 3 is organized in Spain: three computer programs play against three top grandmasters. Last year there were Topalov, Ponomariov… And every human win there is seen as a great gift! I realize that I am not a favorite in that match. However, I really want to win it – not because of the money, but because this may be one of the last chances to beat the machine! I’ll do the best I can. After all, I have some experience playing against computer. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have much time for preparation, but it can’t be helped. I am a professional.

How could you evaluate your team’s work at the match?

I am highly satisfied with it. For some reason newspapers wrote that I implied that I was dissatisfied, but this is not true. If I said I got a worse position in the opening, it doesn’t mean that I am unhappy with anything. I am the only person responsible for the loss in the Game 9 – Black had no problems, but I found them… I am very pleased about both atmosphere in the team and the boys’ determination…

What are your feelings now, as you leave Kalmykia?

I feel deeply tired. But of course, Elista will become a memorable place for me – such events do not occur often. It was a very hard test – even harder than I expected – but the winner’s joy outweighs everything negative.

Source: FIDE World Championship site
Pictures by Murat Kul, Deputy President of Turkish Chess Federation

Watch a movie of the final moves of the fourth tiebreak game and, the press
conference and events surrounding the match.

The above video report is in Russian. Here are the last seconds in Dutch.


We will pass on any letters you send to the two players. We reserve the right to read the letters and publish them in whole or excerpts, if we decide to do so. No unduely rude or aggressive letters will be forwarded to the players.

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