Question:Vladimir, what is your score against Topalov in rapid chess, and will it affect the outcome of the tiebreak in any way?
Vladimir Kramnik: The match booklet states it is +4 in my favor. However, it counts rapid and blindfold games together. Will the score matter? I hope it will, but actually the tiebreak is a lottery. A lot will depend on small details: luck, the night’s sleep, etc. It is impossible to predict the result. In principle, I have already won the match from my point of view, so I think this will make playing easier for me.
What can you say about today’s [the 12th] game?
It is a very interesting and combative game. I exerted pressure, but the opponent managed to create counterplay and made a draw. Maybe I could play more accurately, I cannot tell without detailed analysis. But the draw is generally logical.
And yet, you had White, which means something at the WCC…
Modern chess theory develops in such direction that it is very difficult to find sharp positions with an advantage. So it is not surprising that both opponents were satisfied with a complex position. Maybe my advantage wasn’t big, but playing White was more pleasant. Veselin was lucky to organize his defense on time, but there was a chance for me, too! I did my best, but alas… I played for a win, but did not want to go too far. My attitude in the Game 10 was the same – and that time it worked.
Are you superstitious? The tiebreak is scheduled on Friday, 13th… Also, tomorrow is 13th, 10th month, year 2006, and the sum of all digits gives 13. Kasparov would have been very pleased, and what about you?
Fortunately I am not playing against him tomorrow. So I am alright! All these horrors are applicable to my opponent as well, so I do not feel any discomfort…
Which color is better to have at the start of the tiebreak?
I think it doesn’t matter. A tiebreak is decided by nerves.
You wrote an open letter before the 11th game. What further steps will you take, and do you think the unification idea works?
I have nothing to add to the letter. As for the unification, you realize it is difficult to talk about reconciliation in such a heated atmosphere…
One could note a certain rotation order of your suits during the match against Kasparov in London. Why did you alter it today?
I began to experiment by the end of the match: wearing the same dress is boring. I changed my trousers and jackets, and even combined a jacket with jeans in the Game 10. I am trying to catch my luck!
Do you consider this research promising?
I don’t know; we’ll see tomorrow. I have to consider my dress for tomorrow quite seriously!
Did you feel any agitation during the game?
I was a bit nervous in the end, as I felt I am winning the game and the match. The opponent made several saving moves to make a draw. As for agitation – this is not my first game at the highest level…
Veselin, how do you evaluate the course of the match in general?
Veselin Topalov: On the whole, I was better prepared, and obviously had more fresh ideas and winning opportunities. I had the initiative in most games, but only managed to convert two chances. Kramnik, on the contrary, utilized everything he had. It was a very strange match: after a false start I not only managed to tie the score, but even took the lead at some point. And then committed another blunder, making the score even again.
Do you feel the burden of unforced errors?
It is impossible to make an error if you agree to a draw after 15 moves. If each of your games lasts 50 moves, errors are unavoidable. Errors are natural consequence of struggle! If we always played at maximum effort, there would be more errors – we are humans.
You always play for a win, but if you were told before today’s game that it is going to end in a draw, would you feel happy?
That depends on the way this draw is achieved. I am not satisfied with the way I drew today, because I felt the victory is very near; but maybe the feeling was false, and the position was drawn.
Veselin, how do you see the future of chess? For example, for the next ten years… How will it develop, and will it become unified?
Unified? I have no idea why some people consider chess split! In my opinion, chess is unified since San Luis. The unification has already taken place! I don’t know what will happen in ten years. There is FIDE, and there is FIDE President and Executive Committee; it’s their business. The only thing I can do as champion is to try improving the image of chess. I cannot solve all our problems.
Let us talk about tomorrow. What do you think about the tiebreak? You had a chance to play rapid against Kramnik in Monaco…
To be honest, I am still not sure whether we will play 25 or 15-minute games. In general, Kramnik has a small plus… Actually, talking about the tiebreak, I’d rather blunder a queen or a mate in one than appear in the situation of Leko in 2004. He did not yield to Kramnik two years ago, but Leko is nobody now, and Kramnik is a world champion. Tiebreak is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter for me how it ends. If I lose, it will happen because of my own fault, not because of the regulations.
This match arose many suspicions. Don’t you think such scandals will soon scare away everybody but fanatics?
I don’t think the popularity of chess suffered because of the misunderstandings that occurred during the match. Looking back at the history of chess, it enjoyed maximum popularity at times of political confrontation. First it was Spassky-Fischer match, then Karpov-Korchnoi, and then Karpov-Kasparov. A high point for 20 years straight! At the same time, only a small group of professionals was interested in pure chess content. Others are excited by scandals.
So, ‘world peace’ does not benefit chess in your opinion?
No, I am against war! And we did not plan unleashing it. Our team just submitted a casual appeal… Laymen do not always understand complicated maneuvers of pieces or players’ ideas, but they like watching hand flicker in time trouble…