Topalov: 'Next Year I Will Challenge the World Champion'

8/24/2008 – A few days ago former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov visited the International Alcubeirre Tournament in Spain, where he gave a simultaneous exhibition and spoke to a local newspaper about Kasparov, the Zaragoza Expo, Scarlett Johansson ("I like her more in some ways, but my thing is chess"), his chess career and chess playing computers. Heraldo interview.

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Veselin Topalov: "Next Year I Will Challenge the World Champion"

The 2nd International Alcubeirre Tournament, a nine-round Swiss in the Rapid format, took place Aug. 15-16, 2008. Chilean GM Roberto Cifuentes won last year and again this year. There were 51 players and the first prize was 600 euros. The Bulgarian former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov visited Zaragoza before attending the Alcubeirre tournament. He gave a simultaneous exhibition on Aug 16 and scored +22 =2 (draws to Daniel Moreno and David Vallés). In this interview with Heraldo newspaper he shares his goals and his life's ups and downs.

By R. Lahoz, Zaragoza

Q: Is Kasparov more afraid of Putin or of you?

A: I don't think Kasparov is afraid of anyone. Just the act of raising his voice the way he has shows his courage and the conviction of his beliefs. Veselin Topalov is just another opponent on the other side of the chessboard.

Q: But you were the last player to defeat the Ogre of Baku. After losing to you, Kasparov retired.

A: That was in Linares, 2005. It's one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. It was very strange. Before we sat down at the table, I didn't know it was going to be his last game, that when he got up his brilliant career would be over. Later, he announced his retirement as a professional. Perhaps that's why he was nervous during our game. I only took advantage of the moment and waited for his mistake.

Q: Whatever the case, that game has become one of the peaks of your career.

A: I was also world champion in 2005. But the truth is that all the journalists ask me that question, [about] the famous game against Kasparov, the last great champion.

Q: We'll try to be a little more original, or at least ask something you've been asked fewer times before. I imagine you've come to Zaragoza to see the Expo?

A: Yes, it's really worth seeing. I haven't been able to explore it all. Of course I went by the pavilion of my country, Bulgaria. To be honest with you, I've gone to the pavilions that didn't have long lines to get in.

Q: But if the people line up to get in it must be because they are the most attractive pavilions.

A: Well, despite not having seen the most attractive ones, I really have enjoyed the Expo a lot.

Q: You're also visiting other places in Aragon.

A: Yes. They invited me to the 2nd Alcubierre International Tournament. They've made a great effort in that little town in the Huesca province. [Population 437 according to Wikipedia.] I've also made an effort to come. Usually I only attend so-called super-tournaments. I will be at the closing and hand out the prizes. I will also face 25 players in a simultaneous exhibition that will take place at the town's community center.

Q: Your presence passes unnoticed in the streets of Spain. But in Bulgaria you are better known than [legendary Bulgarian footballer] Stoichkov. Either the Bulgarians hate Barça or passionately love chess...


Actress and singer Scarlett Johansson

A: So they say. There is a great fan following for chess in my country. The Sofia tournament [M-Tel], which is one of the best in the world along with Linares and Wijk aan Zee (Holland), was even attended by the president of the country, Georgi Purvanov.

Q: The Bulgarians would rather see you than Scarlett Johansson.

A: Okay, okay, when you put it like that...

Q: They say that during the filming of "The Black Dahlia," when Scarlett Johansson came into a hotel in Sofia the people barely looked at her because they were intently watching a game of yours on television.

A: That's true. I told you that chess has a great fan following in Bulgaria.

Q: Personally I like Scarlett Johansson more than the queen, and much more than the bishop or the knight...

A: Your attitude is understandable. In some ways I myself like Scarlett more in some ways. But my thing is chess. We've come to Aragon so people get into chess, to promote it. It's really admirable to organize a tournament the way they have in Alcubierre.

Q: What's more, you're at the top of your game.

A: Now they are going to hold the world championship in Bonn between Anand and Kramnik. I lost the crown in 2006 against Kramnik. I will challenge the world champion next year. To achieve that objective I have to beat the American Gata Kamsky in the candidates final.

Q: Topalov: an indomitable fighter. Is a top-level player born or bred?

A: Talent is one part, plus a lot of hard work.

Q: Does that remind you of the teenage Topalov who traveled with his manager 4,000 kilometers through Hungary, Germany, and France in an old Citroen to get to Spain?

A: Throughout my career there has been a great deal of sacrifice. I came to Spain because there are many tournaments here, because here I could better develop my career.

Q: They call you the "Bulgarian of Salamanca."

A: I live in Salamanca half the year, the other half in Bulgaria. The wife of my manager, Silvio Danailov, who's the person I came to Spain with, is from there.

Q: Very few earthlings can defeat you. Perhaps only machines can?

A: The computer programs are advancing more every day. They have evolved tremendously over the past 20 years. Their memory is limitless.

Q: Will the computer checkmate humankind?

A: The problem for man is time. In a game with unlimited time per move, man will still win.



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