'I was lucky to win'

ARVIND AARON

"I do not have any sponsors, but it would be nice if I had one," says Viktor Bologan. — Pic. ARVIND AARON-

VIKTOR BOLOGAN worked hard to find a place in the prize list. But as the tournament progressed, the Moldovan soon found that things went well for him from the start and he won by a one-point difference to reach a milestone in his chess career.

Bologan was accompanied by his wife Margarita and their one-year-old daughter Katerina. Ranked No. 42 in the world with a rating of 2650, this 1971-born player is a renowned trainer and theoretician. His success was sparked by a well-controlled game that helped him prevail over Viswanathan Anand in the third round.

Bologan's success here can be compared to Alexander Khalifman's FIDE world chess title in 1999 at Las Vegas. The chess world is filled with talented players ranked in the top 100 who don't click for some reason. Mainly all of them do not get opportunities to play in the big league all the time. Bologan made use of his opportunity and has added an important title to his achievement list.

In the last round, he needed a draw to win the tournament and was pitted against Kramnik. A defeat would mean Kramnik would win the title. Bologan sat nervously and was perhaps praying for a draw. His wife was in the first row in the audience taking pictures of the cherished moments. Bologan never looked beyond the 64th square and he fought hard after Kramnik rejected his draw offer once. When Kramnik offered a draw after his 38th move, Bologan accepted it gleefully.

This victory in a major tournament will make it difficult for other big time organisers to overlook him. If they don't invite him, at least he can be sure of returning to Dortmund to defend his title next year. This new spark and confidence that he can beat players with the reputation of Anand and Leko will augur well for his future success.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview to The Sportstar after the prize distribution function.

Question: Is this your career-best victory? Which was the previous best?

Answer: I think so, yes. Previously I had won 15, 16 category round robin tournaments. Among the Open tournaments I had won the Aeroflot Open and the New York Open.

Which was your best game and were you in danger in any of your games here?

The best game was the one with Vishy (Anand). I was very satisfied with that game with the white pieces. Only against Leko, I think I was in a losing position.

You are 2650 in rating. Do you believe that players in 2650 can win 2700 tournaments?

This is the first time it has happened to me. I don't know about the others. I was lucky to win this tournament.

How long did you prepare for this tournament and what did you do different this time?

Different than before... okay I had quite a long time to prepare. More than one month. I used most of it to recover from the European Championship for one week and then started to look into the openings a little bit. Altogether this was the best preparation I made for a single tournament.

You are a famous trainer to prominent players such as Ponomariov. It is not far off that one day you will also have a trainer?

I always used to follow other players. I always had good coaches in my life. Many in Moldova, some of whom are dead now. Dvoretsky, Landa etc. Now I am training with other Grandmasters like everybody else does.

You live mostly in Moscow these days. Will this news be a big one back in Moldova?

I am sure it will be.

Do you have some sponsorship or funding for your chess activities?

I do not have one. Moldova is a poor country. I think I can do it myself. It would be nice to have a sponsor and everything settled.

Everybody expected Kramnik, Anand or Leko to win here. But you proved them wrong.

That was very logical. I knew that to earn some money here I have to finish in the top three. So I had to kick out one of these three guys. I was lucky that they were not in their best shape. I had a good start in the tournament. So it became much easier to play against them.

About 19 of the 30 games ended in draws. Do you think this draw culture will kill chess?

Draws don't kill chess. I had two draws in the last two games. Of course they have to find a solution to fight draws because it is boring for the spectators.

After you played Ng6 did you see the title in your grasp in the penultimate round itself?

That was the problem (laughs). I saw it and after that I missed my chance to win with a round to spare.