Kramnik: 'Fritz punishes you immediately'

11/23/2006 – The Stern, which means "star" in German, is one of the biggest news magazines in Europe, reaching almost eight million readers. In this week's edition there is an interesting interview with world champions Vladimir Kramnik, who speaks about his training for the match against Deep Fritz, his experience with computers, but also about the scandal in Elista. We bring you excerpts in English.

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The chess duel Man vs Machine, Vladimir Kramnik vs Deep Fritz will be staged from November 25 until December 5th. It is sponsored by the RAG AG, one of Europe's largest energy companies. The venue is the National Art Gallery in Bonn, Germany. Schedule:

Game 1: Saturday 25.11.2006 15:00 h
Game 2: Monday 27.11.2006 15:00 h
Game 3: Wednesday 29.11.2006 15:00 h
Game 4: Friday 01.12.2006 15:00 h
Game 5: Sunday 03.12.2006 15:00 h
Game 6: Tuesday 05.12.2006 15:00 h

There will be full live coverage on the Playchess server, as well as on the official site and a number of partner sites.


The Stern was founded in 1948 and has become, together with Der Spiegel, one of Europe's biggest weekly news magazines. It is printed in over a million copies and reaches 7.84 million readers. The magazine appears on Thursdays, and this week had a big story on the Man vs Machine match in Bonn.

Vladimir Kramnik:

"Fritz punishes you immediately"

Just yesterday, Stern says, he defended his world championship title, now he is playing in Bonn against the best chess computer. Vladimir Kramnik spoke about the unequal battle between man and machine. Here are some highlights from the interview, which was published in German:

  • About "Toiletgate": The scandal in Elista was initiated by his opponent to throw him off track, when he was leading 3:1. Naturally he did not use any kind of computer assistance during his games. It was absurd. In Elista the controls were much sharper than at any airport. Whenever he entered the hall he was meticulously searched, including the heels of his shoes. The toilets and resting areas were examined before each game, the audience were hidden behind glass plates, and there was even an interference signal to prevent the use of mobile phones.

  • About the aborted game five after Topalov had his toilet locked: "I was lying on my couch next to my toilet and was furious. I did not think about the world championship or the score. And then there was a new problem: I had to go to the bathroom, urgently. I asked the arbiter to open my toilet. He just shrugged and offered me an empty coffee cup."

  • On his next opponent, Deep Fritz: "I have discovered a few tiny weaknesses, and I will try to play on them. Fritz is much stronger than its predecessor in Bahrain." Fritz is now looking at eight to ten million positions per second, Kramnik at just one. But human beings know how to distinguish between good and bad moves. When he sees a position Kramnik is able to rule out 99.9 percent of all possible continuations, because they are incongruous. He can concentrate on the three of four best moves. "I have to strive for positions in which I can make use my advantages. However, in our training games, which were played at faster time controls, Fritz usually won."

  • Did he learn anything from computers: "A great deal. Fritz gives you new insights into certain positions. In some of my training games I was absolutely thrilled. The machine developed astonishing visions. Fritz plays more extravagently than any human being could ever do."

    On the difference between playing against machines: Kramnik says he plays differently against Fritz, and will try to play more "anarchic" moves than usual. He will not use the same strategy for all six games. But of course he cannot play illogically, because "Fritz punishes you immediately for that." Kramnik did not reveal his game plan in this interview because the programmers of Deep Fritz could read about it and draw their conclusions.

  • On his health: Kramnik still needs to take medication for rheumatic artritis, but is feeling better. "At least I can walk", he says, but he has to pass on some of his favourite sports: tennis, football and table tennis. His doctor wants him to swim a lot. "So I plough through the water every day, for two kilometers. But honestly I hate it. Swimming is so boring!"

  • On his chances in this match: "The day will come when we will no longer have a chance against computers. If I indeed manage to beat Fritz in this match it will probably be the last time that a human being wins against a computer."

The interview was conducted by Stéphanie Souron and Harmut Metz

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