Sportstar Archives: Vladimir Kramnik - Traditions and rivalry

Kramnik is a busy person these days giving scores of interviews. But his company of friends and with those whom he played cards at the nights remains the same: Karpov and Gelfand...

Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in action.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

“I WILL be playing in Kazakhstan, I have no reason to be afraid of him," said the Braingames world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik while countering the argument put forth by No. 1 ranked Garry Kasparov after winning the Linares tournament earlier in March. Kramnik, 25, was the joint-winner of the Amber chess tournament. He had won the tournament in 1996, 1998 (jointly) and 1999 and his fourth title now makes him the winner on most occasions.

Kramnik, who did the seemingly impossible in November 2000, is perfect with his English today. Having maintained the same frame with which he defeated Kasparov in London, Kramnik has now got back his favourite habit: smoking and drinking.

As it appeared in the print edition

Kramnik is a busy person these days giving scores of interviews. But his company of friends and with those whom he played cards at the nights remains the same: Karpov and Gelfand.

Until last year Kramnik did not carry a mobile phone. As a champion, he now does and is busy receiving several calls a day, even between his two games at Monte Carlo. During this interview he received a call and told this writer that it was from Boris Spassky, former world chess champion.

Kramnik, given the same protocol as Anand as world champion in the western circuit, has turned in a super performance for his fourth title at Monte Carlo. He has turned this event his own after making a historic impression at Dortmund over the years. Immediately after the victory and the closing dinner, Kramnik spoke in his first interview at the press room, past midnight.

Excerpts:

Congratulations. You have won this tournament for the fourth time. Any difference in your approach as well as your new status as (Braingames) world champion?

Now I feel that I have more responsibility. It is more difficult to play. Of course in about a year you get used to it. You will know how to do it and gain some experience. Somehow I feel I have more fighting spirit nowadays than before. May be I am not in good shape as I was for the match. I prepared for so long for the match that my chess was not the best here but my fighting spirit helped and it was okay. I was fighting most games till the very end.

What's your programme for the rest of the year?

I am going to play in an exhibition tournament at Zurich commemorating the 70th birthday of Viktor Korchnoi. It is more like a show and rapid chess. Then I would like to play in Kazakhstan if the tournament takes place. Then probably in Frankfurt in June. I haven't signed the agreement yet but probably it will happen. In July, Dortmund for sure.

“It is nonsense. It is purely my decision whether to play in a tournament or not. If I am playing, I don't care who else is there. If Kasparov is playing good, I am not avoiding him...I have no reason to be afraid of him. Unfortunately he likes these kind of statements. Normally I don't say these because I know it is nonsense.”

Which was your best game in this tournament and which was the most difficult match?

I liked the game I played against Ivanchuk. It was a positional game which I won. Also the game against Gelfand when I played with white pieces. I managed to win the endgame which was not so easy. I played very well against Leko with black. It was a winning position but probably due to tiredness I could not win. Some games I did not play well and some I played very well in this tournament.

You had a 2-0 score against Shirov. Did you beat him at the board or in your mind?

Now I don't have anything against him. We played chess. I don't come to the board to beat him because of something. His results against me have started to be poor. It was the other way round before. In serious (Elo rating games) chess, I think I have 4.5/5 in the last five games. There is nothing there.

You received two points: Shirov blundered his queen, Gelfand blundered the rook. Were these your easy points here? How do you see the blindfold blunders this time?

With Gelfand it did not matter because I was already winning at that point. Against Shirov, yes, it was some kind of a gift. But it happens in blindfold. Normally I play the blindfold quite well. I don't blunder. Very rarely. Okay, you get tired and it happens. For me it is easier to play blindfold. If it is difficult to see a position in blindfold, then you start to blunder. For me it is not tiring at all. In a second I get the exact position in my mind. It was a bit too many blunders this year, but I don't know the reasons.

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Kasparov had said in Linares that Anand and you are avoiding him. Your response?

Okay, it is a usual media statement. I would say he is also avoiding us. He didn't play here and he refused to play in Dortmund where also Anand and I will play. So (laughs), I have the right to say the same. In fact, it is nonsense. It is purely my decision whether to play in a tournament or not. If I am playing, I don't care who else is there. If Kasparov is playing good, I am not avoiding him. I will be playing in Kazakhstan (in May 2001). I have no reason to be afraid of him. Unfortunately he likes these kind of statements. Normally I don't say these because I know it is nonsense.

In your closing speech you said if there is any other tournament clashing with the Amber tournament, you will prefer to play here. Did you keep the tournament (FIDE World Cup of Rapid Chess) in Cannes in mind, while saying this?

In a way, yes. I believe it is important to keep traditions in chess. This (Amber) is a traditional tournament, and I believe everybody is fully satisfied to play. Even if I am offered more money to play at the same time I will choose this one. I like it here, the atmosphere, the people. I think they will organise the tournament in Cannes but it would be better if there is no clash in dates.

Germany is home to Russia's Vladimir Kramnik in more than one sense. His biggest achievements have been recorded in Dortmund.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

How useful was having Miguel Illescas as your second in a rapid and blindfold tournament?

Illescas is not exactly like a second here. He is here as my friend.

You gave the skip to Linares. Did it help you?

Not really. Because I had many other engagements. I was not physically very well prepared. I played some simultaneous games and some meetings in France. It was like 10 days before the tournament. I was not completely fresh. But that was my own problem!

What do you like to say about Veselin's performance this time?

He played very well. He was the best player here. May be I won more with class and experience but Veselin was the best. I really liked the way he played here. For a couple of years he was showing average results. He is definitely a top player. That is for sure. For some reason he couldn't realise his strength. Now he is really coming back. I like the way he does it... very serious chess player.

Did the change - of Leko and Almasi replacing Lautier and Nikolic - make any difference to the tournament this year?

Well, it made the tournament stronger. Each year this tournament is getting stronger and stronger. It is difficult for us to show the same results every year.

Then are you saying the 15 points scored by you this time is much more than the 15 points scored by Alexei (Shirov) last year?

Yes, you may say so. Also in 1994, I scored plus 10 (16/22) actually. It was only enough for second place because Vishy scored 17. Okay, because we are talking about a much weaker tournament then. Now it is a really top tournament.

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What about your games against Anand? Both of you being champions is there more pressure on each of you?

Some people are interested to see such a match. For me, it is the same. I take it very easily. Okay, I could win 1.5-0.5 here. He could also win. It is just a game. I think we live in a time where there is no rivalry. We are normal people. Vishy and I, I mean. We just play chess, nothing else.

Any news from Braingames about a possible chess cycle?

I have to say that they are now very active. I do not want to leak any information before they announce. Believe me, something big will come from them probably in one month's time.

How do you take the news from FIDE Commerce about the Grand Prix cycle they are going to organise?

It will be eight tournaments in a year.

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If it happens will you participate? Did they approach you on this?

Yes, of course I would participate. What I don't like about FIDE is that they don't seem to have a concrete plan. They had earlier announced things but nothing happened. They announced the Grand Prix. Show me what's it like? Where? How much money? It should be clear on paper. Not in the newspaper! (laughs). It must carry signatures of sponsors, guarantees etc. They made an announcement that I will play against Vishy. They announced the Grand Prix. Nothing is happening. So, I like to look at the facts and respond. The idea to do something is good. If they do it, of course I will play.

Did you get to meet the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in this hotel?

No. I did not even know that he was here. I did not see him and they (FIDE officials) did not contact me.

How is the response in Russia these days? Are you an idol, like the best in any other sport would be?

Actually I don't care much about it. There are some positive improvements in Russian chess for the last several months. I think soon there will be some new tournaments in Russia. This tournament has now completed a decade of organisation.

Being a four-time winner what is the most memorable thing you carry from Monaco when you go back to Moscow?

I am a professional. The most memorable thing I carry is my result. If I play any tournament, I want to win the tournament. I would love to come here very much, every year, and whatever happens I will be here.

(The interview first appeared in the Sportstar issue dated April 21,2001.)

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