The outspoken Mr Danailov

by ChessBase
5/19/2007 – He is the manager of Veselin Topalov, the main organizer of the M-Tel tournament in Sofia, the creator of the Grand Slam. IM Silvio Danailov is also one of the most controversial figures in world chess. In an interview with the Russian site Chesspro he talks about his colleagues, chess professionalism, M-Tel invitations and about why Kramnik will lose his title in Mexico.

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Silvio Danailov: "I have been very lucky in life!"

Interview with Yuri Vasiliev, Chesspro

Yuri Vasiliev: Silvio, the first question is obvious: why are the participants of the third M-Tel Masters not as brilliant as those in the previous two tournaments.

Chess organizer and Topalov manager Silvio Danailov

Silvio Danailov: First of all a category 20 tournament cannot by definition be a weak one. Topalov, Mamedyarov and Adams are part of the top ten in the world, Kamsky is the strongest player in America. He was a world championship challenger and a legendary player who has returned to chess, which makes him interesting for everybody. Sasikiran is an extraordinarily strong and talented grandmaster, the second in India after Anand. Until now he has not really had the opportunity to show his potential. Now we have given him this chance. Nisipeanu was the European Champion in 2005 and represents Romania, which like us has recently become part of the European Union. This was a gesture of friendship to our neighbors.

Vasiliev: But you got us used to elite players taking part in the M-Tel Masters...

Danailov: I invited all the strongest players. It is not my fault that Ivanchuk, who told me that he wanted to play in Sofia, had prior commitments with his club in the Russian league. For the same reason we could not invite some other Russian GMs. Aronian, whom we would have liked to see in Sofia, could not come because of his participation in the Candidates. The same applies to Judit Polgar who, after thinking hard, said "Sorry but I have to prepare for the Candidates." For the same reason I did not invite Leko, because I knew he would refuse. He has to concentrate on the qualification for the World Championship in Mexico. I do not understand why FIDE refused to consider the traditional schedule of the tournament in Sofia when it arranged the Candidates matches. They could have easily moved the dates for Elista slightly, but they didn't want to do so.

What about Anand? He has been to Sofia and was very enthusiastic about his reception there.

Anand has played here three times, in two tournaments and a match against Topalov. Each time he was well received. He was always satisfied. I invited him this time again, but he said that he has some kind of engagement in India at the same time. It was his decision.

But you know I am happy that this year's M-Tel Masters does not have the usual collection of elite players. When the same players are present, year after year, as in Linares, it becomes boring. We have to give young players a chance to show what they are able to do. Like Sasikiran, who is India's number two and who has only played once against Anand (a game which he won). I am sure he will be amongst the top ten in the world very soon. I do not share the opinion that it is the "stars" who give a tournament its reputation. The opposite is true: the tournament creates the stars. It is not important who is playing in Wimbledon. The top players can all refuse to play, and still Wimbledon will be Wimbledon. Everyone knows that the M-Tel Masters is the most professional tournament, where the GMs must play their games until a decision is reached. It is a category 20 tournament. And everyone is excited to see new names, players who can develop into stars.

Did you also invite Kramnik?

Kramnik lives in an unreal world. He refused to play a return match against Topalov in Sofia, although he was guaranteed a million Dollars tax free for it. He belongs where he now is. Everybody saw where he was when he started hiding from Kasparov. He was Mr. Nobody. And he would have remained a Mr. Nobody if we hadn't agreed to play the match in Elista, which made him the World Champion. There was an incredible amount of interest for chess after the match in Elista. But Kramnik once again went into hiding. This refusal shows once again that the man does not understand the world in which he lives. It was a unique chance that was lost for chess. The interest in a match in Sofia would have far exceeded Elista. It was a golden chance for chess. But he missed it, just as he missed the chance to face Kasparov in a revenge match. Now we will see how he handles his title. In October he will of course lose it in Mexico. And then he will expect the revenge match that the FIDE president has promised him. But the question of getting this revenge match is still open. It is entirely possible that he will not get it. In one year, when Kramnik has lost his title, anything is possible...

Danailov with Veselin Topalov (middle) and FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos (left)

Why are you so sure that Kramnik will lose his title in Mexico?

Such a tournament can be won only by players who are used to playing in strong tournaments. That could be Anand or Aronian, if the latter succeeds in qualifying. It could be Topalov, who is used to playing in strong tournaments, and who won many of them. But it is quite clear to me that Kramnik is not capable of winning such a tournament. He may score plus two or plus three, but that is not enough to win the World Championship.

What about Svidler, Morozevich?

How many big tournaments did Svidler win in his life?

Svidler won four Russian Championships

When was this? And what kind of championships were they? Did Kasparov and Kramnik participate? Those were Swiss tournaments, not even round robins. Already in the Russian Superfinals, which were round robins, his performances was quite modest. And Morozevich? Only once in his life he scored plus one in Linares, and got very noisy about this "triumph". Of course plus one is a great achievement. But before this he only achieved last places in strong tournaments. The best that Morozevich can expect in Mexico is his 50%, which is what he collected in San Luis. If Aronian qualifies in Elista there will be two favorites in Mexico. If he doesn't than there only be one – Anand.

In what shape is Topalov right now? Can one expect a second Olympus ascent?

We are currently witnessing a Euphoria because Anand is leading the FIDE rating list. He just managed to became first, and there is so much noise about it, as if he had won some incredible competition. Veselin was number one for practically two years. During this time he won most strong tournaments, or came in second. He tried to behave like a true Champion, he played all games until the end, and played beautifully, he spoke to the press and generally moved chess forward. His toughest match was in Elista. The continuous stress has begun to leave its mark. Already in Morelia-Linares we realized that he had no energy left. We understood that he needed a rest. This is why we declined to play in Monaco, where Veselin played for ten years in a row. Now he is number two in the world. Naturally we want to get back to where we were, but we will not try to force events.

At this event we once again see the "Sofia Rules" in their full beauty. But these rules are liked only by the organizers, not the professionals, who are less enthusiastic about them.

That is quite natural, since they have to work harder for the same amount of money. But at some stage one has to become a real professional. You have to play to the end of the game, you must wear a decent suit. You must appear for your games wearing clean shoes, and not in sneakers and a T-shirt. After the game you must talk to the press. You must do all these things. In former times you didn't have to do anything. Take your money, play fifteen or twenty moves, and you can go and rest. But that could not go on forever. Either you become a professional or you can play in amateur tournaments.

Do you feel the after-effects of "Toiletgate"?

Kamsky said very well in his interview to the "Trud" newspaper. In America there is no such thing as "bad publicity". There is just publicity. Unfortunately, in the world in which we live (the chess world) there are too many amateurs. They have never heard about advertising, they don't know what marketing means, what real professionalism is. Because they are amateurs. During "toiletgate" everybody was talking about chess. The New York Times had an article about in on the front page. That was real publicity. Not "bad" or "good" publicity, just publicity. Everybody was interested in what is happening in the match with the two strongest chess players participating. Everyone was electrified by the events.

I am disliked not because of the scandal. People envy me because I took Topalov to the top, because I created the most professional chess tournament, because I am creating the Grand Slam, because I introduced the Sofia Rules. For fifty years people have been racking their brains on how to combat short draws. And it was so easy: just don't allow the players to discuss it over the board. People are envious, they are jealous. But these are not my problems. Chess must renew itself or die. There are no other options.

You mentioned Grand Slam. Are there any new developments in this project?

We are working on it. We already have 400,000 Euros in a bank in Bilbao for the Masters Final. As you saw in Linares, the organizers of three tournament organizers have already signed the agreement: Wijk aan Zee, Linares and Sofia. At the end of the year there will be a Masters, based on the results. We have the money for it. I think the forth Grand Slam tournament will be Mexico, where the mayor has shown great interest. We are working on it. Who found sponsors for Mexico Championship? Yours truly. Has anybody said thanks? Of course not. People just say "what an evil person this Danialov is!"

Is the attitude towards you in Bulgaria different?

We are well supported in Bulgaria. The President of the country, Georgi Parvanov, opens the tournament. That says a lot. We have reliable sponsors. Everything is OK here. In Bulgaria there is a second exceptional GM in the making, Ivan Cheparinov. He is already 2680. He has a huge potential, he is only 20. In few years he will fight for the World Championship crown. M-Tel Masters is definitely the best organized tournament. This is what the participants say, this is what the organizers of other tournaments and journalists admit. It is a very important sporting and social event in Bulgaria. We'll do our best to make the tournament an exemplary and traditional one for many years.

Young talent Ivan Cheparinov with mentor Silvio Danailov

I saw your small son and daughter, who are already arranging their little childish scandals... Nice lovely children. They have grown so fast!

Yes, I can consider myself a happy man. I have a great family, I have two great kids, and my work is my hobby. I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in my professional life. Fifteen years ago I said Topalov will become world champion, and they all laughed in my face. Now they are not laughing any more. I said chess players must become true professionals, like the ones we see in tennis. And I was able to create a tournament in which the players abide by truly professional rules, and talk to the press, as tennis players and other professionals in sport do. Now my main goal is the Grand Slam. It is very important and it will happen.

Apart from that I can only say that I have been very lucky in life!

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