Vladimir Kramnik: I deserved this victory

10/9/2006 – The classical chess world champion was satisfied, the FIDE champion despondent. Vladimir Kramnik answered questions with enthusiasm at the press conference after game ten, Veselin Topalov was subdued. Interesting: what Kramnik felt when he saw 24…f6 and why Topalov played this game-loser. Transcript.

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Vladimir Kramnik: “I deserved this victory”

And once again, at the post-game press conference, everything was reversed – a satisfied Kramnik, and a despondent, preoccupied Topalov. Vladimir answered the questions with enthusiasm, even down to those about the “still” and “sparkling” bottles of water that he had during the previous game. Veselin, on the other hand, had both players not been contractually obliged to appear before the press after every game, regardless of the result, would probably have preferred to avoid all questions...

Question: Vladimir, you have already been asked several times about yesterday, so I will ask you something different – how did you spend last night?


Vladimir Kramnik, the winner of game ten

Vladimir Kramnik: The day was not good, but I slept OK last night. I have already said many times that I am a professional. OK, yesterday’s game was not the best I have ever played, but so what – it is not a reason to fall to pieces. As you see, today I played normally again.

Was there applause in the hall at the end of the game? In general, when was the last time you were applauded after a game?

There was applause. The last time I heard this was probably at Dortmund, after I beat Leko in the last round, to win the tournament. After my games, they more often boo, but occasionally they applaud (smiles). Chess players get applauded most often in Belgrade – this, of course, is great. They usually get over a thousand people at each round, and after every game finishes, if it wasn’t a bloodless draw, there is tumultuous applause. It’s like being in a theatre.

How did you feel when Veselin played 24…f6?

I admit that this move was a big surprise for me. At first, I was dazed – there is both Qg4 and Nd7, and I didn’t know which to choose! Why did Veselin play this? The tension was enormous, and he is not made of wood, he also makes mistakes...Yesterday I gave Veselin a present, today he returned the compliment. As far as the position is concerned, I think that with correct play, Black could hold and the game would most likely be a draw. I was so deeply absorbed in calculating the variations, that the move 24...f6 came as a shock to me. At first, I thought it must be some sort of trap, and therefore I spent some time, trying to work out what Veselin was up to, but in the end, I couldn’t see it, so I just played 25.Nd7.

Veselin made further mistakes after that. For example, the move 28…Rxd4 is a mistake, he should play the rook to e7, when White still has to demonstrate some technique. After the capture on d4, absolutely everything wins. I tried to play the position as simply as possible, avoiding any risk. In principle, I could at several points have won a piece by f2-f3, but I decided to quietly exchange queens and win the ending.

You say that with the correct reaction from Black, the game would probably have been a draw. Did you not feel that, in your penultimate white, it was time to spring a big novelty and try to catch your opponent, while there was still time?

I am not sure what to say. At the end of the day, I won the game anyway. But, firstly, there was not an immediate draw – the position was still complicated. When going to the game, I just wanted to reach a complicated, fighting position. It is extremely difficult to win a game in the very opening, so it seems to me that in such a match situation, the best thing is to aim for a complicated struggle, maintain the tension, and wait for the opponent to make a mistake. That is what happened today.

It is generally thought that when player continually falls into time trouble, this is a clear sign that he is not in form. How do you assess your form?

Time trouble is a loose concept. I would not call the sort of time trouble that I have suffered real time trouble. Yes, today I thought a bit longer than usual. Veselin adopted a new set-up, and at the board, I had to find a way of neutralising it. But there was no real time trouble. In any case, I did not suffer from serious time shortage.

But it seemed as though Veselin played for that...

Yes, he tried. But so far, fortunately, there has not been a single game in which I have fallen into really serious time trouble. There was pressure, but that is normal. Bad form is when you have a few minutes for 20 moves, but when you have 5 minutes for 3 moves, as I did today, this is a normal, everyday situation. Veselin always has half an hour or so left by the time control, but that is his problem. For me, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference, whether I have 5 minutes or 30. The main thing is to play normal moves. Today I thought longer, but, it turns out, more effectively.

What do you think generally of your opponent’s tactic of trying to play quickly, so as not to give you time to go to your rest room?

I don’t know what their idea is. I think they just want to put me in an uncomfortable position. Certainly, during world championship matches, I am in the habit of going to my rest room when it is the opponent’s move. There is a demonstration board there, and I can quietly think about the position; there it is less oppressive, quieter, and nobody disturbs me. My opponent’s “tactics” are designed to force me out of my usual, comfortable routine and break my usual rhythm. But in principle, I can sit quietly at the board as well. I don’t think the game is worth a candle – firing moves out like bullets, even if they are of only average quality, just to irritate me. Not that I am applying this to Veselin.

Vladimir, during the last game, you had not one, but two bottles of liquid on your table. Your position, excuse me for saying so, was so dreadful, that one couldn’t help thinking about the comparison between “dead” (still) and “alive” (sparkling) water. Can you say whether the liquids were the same or different?

It was “Arkhis” mineral water!!

And why two bottles instead of one?

It was just a reserve. I drink a lot during the game. When I went to my room, I forgot to take the bottle, and couldn’t remember whether there was any left there or not, so I took another back, just in case. Sometimes your opponent moves, you sit thinking about your move, and want a drink, but there isn’t any water. So, I put a second bottle on the table.

You’re not worried about protests over your using two glasses?

I think two is still OK. But if it goes to three, maybe the Appeals Committee will have to go back to work.

Vladimir, today you won. Does that mean that the drum-roll of the day before yesterday was not for nothing?!

Yes, I played them the day before yesterday. I can’t say that it did me any good in yesterday’s game. I hope that it is not a question of drums, but how one plays the game. Then I still have hope.


Veselin Topalov, who lost after an unfortunate blunder

Veselin, can you explain your move 24…f6?

Veselin Topalov: It was just a bad mistake. When there are so many pieces on the board, one can blunder. It happens.

What exactly did you miss? That the knight could come to d7, or something further on?

A bit later, but that doesn’t really matter. I should have taken on b5 and Black is not too badly off. This was my first idea, but then I decided that 24…f6 was also interesting.

In the last few games, you have clearly had the initiative in the match. Could it be that the move 24…f6 was the result of a certain relaxation, or over-confidence?

No, it was a complicated position, it was necessary to calculate concrete variations. There was no relaxation, I was simply playing chess, but when you blunder...

And you did not underestimate your demoralised opponent?

It seems to me that 24…f6, compared with taking on b5, is the more complicated move. If I play 24…Bxb5, we get an ending with slight pressure for White. I looked at the clock, and since my opponent had less time, I decided to play the more complicated line.

Did you expect Kramnik today to produce some strong novelty, and take the bull by the horns, or to play quietly and settle for a small initiative?

I had no concrete expectations. I chose this variation, we got a complicated fight. I was ready for any type of situation – Kramnik chose quiet tactics. Everything would have been normal, if I hadn’t blundered everything away, virtually in one move...

From the FIDE World Championship site
Translated for ChessBase by Steve Giddins

Audio recordings of previous press conferences



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