Topalov: 'This match is going to be very tough'

2/12/2009 – It starts next Monday, the special Candidates Match between Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky in Sofia. The Topalov team has already taken residence in the Bulgarian capital, Kamsky and his helpers arrive today. Topalov, a Bulgarian who lives in Spain, enjoys the home field advantage – theoretically. There are, as he stresses, also disadvantages. Interview with Dagobert Kohlmeyer.

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“This match is going to be very tough”

Interview with Veselin Topalov on his upcoming match against Gata Kamsky

By Dagobert Kohlmeyer

Monday, February 16 is the start of the World Championship Candidates Final between Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky, to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Former World Champion Veselin Topalov, who is a native of Bulgaria (but lives mainly in Spain) and US grandmaster Gata Kamsky, originally from Novokuznetsk in Russia – he is from a Tatar family and was originally called Gataulla (Gata) Kamskiy – will play an eight-game match. The prize fund is US $250,000, and winner is scheduled to challenge World Champion Viswanathan Anand later this year.

The Topalov team has been in Sofia for a week now, while Gata Kamsky and his team will arrive in the Bulgarian capital today (Thursday, February 12th). The former have taken residence in the five star Kempinski Zografski hotel, while the Kamsky team will be in the five start Hilton just across the street from the venue, the 6th Hall of the National Palace of Culture.

Dagobert Kohlmeyer: Your match against Kamsky was originally supposed to take place last November in Lvov, Ukraine. Instead both of you played in the Chess Olympiad in Dresden. What happened?

Veselin Topalov: It was uncertain for a long time, and when the match in Ukraine broke down I was able to go to Dresden to help my team, and Kamsky was able to do the same for the US team. I had become clear that Lvov would definitely not be able to stage a proper Candidates Match.

What went wrong with the Lvov bid?

The other side only talked and did nothing. So the time was passing and nothing happened. The Ukrainian organisers made the mistake of believing the empty promises of a fraudster who offered $750,000 for the match. The facts were clear, the organisers and FIDE simply failed to check them carefully. There were no bank guarantees or anything.

But now you are playing for a much lower sum…

That is true, but on the other hand this is not a world championship final and I am ready to play the match under these conditions. Naturally I would have liked to have a larger prize fund, but due to the financial crisis it was impossible to find more than $250,000 in Bulgaria. The largest part was given by the Sports Ministry, the rest comes from private sponsors.

How was your preparation for the match?

I think I did everything that was necessary in the past months. In December I won the first Super Tournament in Nanjing, China, which was beautifully organised. With this victory I was able to consolidate my first place in the world chess rankings. After that I was in Spain and concentrated fully on my preparation for the match in Sofia.

Are you in top shape for the match?

Yes I am. It is very important for me to be in top shape in Sofia – in order to perform at the highest level in chess you have to be physically and mentally well prepared. At my age that is not yet a problem. Anand is six years older than me and is playing at the highest level.


Topalov second Ivan Cheparinov

Which grandmasters are your seconds in Sofia?

We have three seconds: my compatriot Ivan Cheparinov, the Spanish player Franzisco Vallejo and the Dutch GM Erwin L’Ami.


Topalov second Francisco Vallejo Pons

How do you assess your chances against Gata Kamsky?

I do not expect this to be an easy match. It will be a very hard fight, but I am convinced that I will win. However, since we are playing just eight games I must not make any mistakes. I have to be fully concentrated. The Elo advantage is not enough to win.

What is the strength of your opponent?

Gata Kamsky is a great fighter and has nerves of steel. After a long pause he has returned to top level chess. He is sure to put me under great pressure. In my preparation I tried to find the weak points in his game, but whether I will be able to use this will only become clear during the match.


Topalov opponent in Sofia: Gata Kamsky, USA

Is it an advantage for you to play at home in Sofia?

A home match is always very pleasant if you are successful. On the other hand it can be a disadvantage because the expectations of my countrymen is great and the pressure very high. I am used to this from the M’Tel Masters in Bulgaria. It would have been no problem for me to play the Candidates Match on foreign soil.

FIDE is currently experimenting with the rules for the world championship cycle. Which format do you prefer?

I know three variations from my own experience: a match between two players, the tournament format and the knockout system. All three are fine for me. But once you begin a cycle you have to finish it. That is the most important point. If the World Chess Federation simply changes the rules during a running cycle, as it has done so often in the past years, then it loses credibility. FIDE need not be surprised if top players abandon the world championship cycle.

Many thanks for this interview.


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Topalov-Kamsky Candidates Match

Schedule

Monday February 16: 18:00h Opening
Tuesday February 17: 15:00h Game 1
Wednesday February 18: 15:00h Game 2
Thursday February 19 Rest day
Friday February 20: 15:00h Game 3
Saturday February 21: 15:00h Game 4
Sunday February 22 Rest day

Monday

February 23: 15:00h Game 5
Tuesday February 24: 15:00h Game 6
Wednesday February 25 Rest day
Thursday February 26: 15:00h Game 7
Friday February 27: 15:00h Game 8
Saturday February 28 Tiebreaks

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse the PGN games.


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