Vladimir Kramnik: "Petrosian's chess legacy helped me a lot in my match vs Kasparov"

Время публикации: 06.11.2014 17:24 | Последнее обновление: 06.11.2014 17:51

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Duration: 22 min 35 sec (in Russian)

E.SUROV: Vladimir Kramnik is with us, we are in Moscow, at the opening ceremony of the Petrosian Memorial. Greetings Vladimir. My first question is probably the most logical one: what was Tigran Petrosian for you? What can you say about his chess?

V.KRAMNIK: First of all, for me he is one of the World Champions, I've studied them all. But today it occurred to me that he is the only World Champion since Botvinnik who I did not know in person. I knew Botvinnik well because I was his student; I knew Smyslov well, I've played a couple of games with Tal... Petrosian is the only one I've never met in person.
Nevertheless, I think that his chess legacy was exactly the thing which helped me a lot in my match vs Kasparov. If one thinks it over thoroughly one can see that my concept was similar to Petrosian's usual one: defensive play, very dense and viscous, prevailed over attack; as White, it was positional pressure. Besides, I haven't lost a single game in that match which had been typical for Petrosian too. I can even say that I had been playing in his manner for some 5 years before I changed my playing style again at the beginning of the 2000's (now it's also different from his). So, Tigran Petrosian's name means really a lot to me, as I assosiate him with the years of my championship.

E.SUROV: Does that mean that Petrosian's concept might be the best one for a title challenger? Or was it so just for you?

V.KRAMNIK: You know, it depends on the opponent, on your own style... If you start to play defensively while being used to attacking chess, you can be just bored and feel awkward, and it won't work at all. But I have acquired a taste for this kind of play in the middle of 1990's when I was working a lot with Sergey Dolmatov (his style is quite similar to Petrosian's), I understood that this kind of chess can be beautiful too. So, for me it was alright. My initial style had been different, and now it's also different (the change was natural somehow), but that time it worked well, it helped me to gain my title.

E.SUROV: But the change is so radical that I'm even recalling what Dmitry Andreikin told me in his recent interview. He said you are one of the two players which he admires because they always play for a win and reject draws, maybe sometimes even unreasonably. We can't apply this to Petrosian.

V.KRAMNIK: I don't know... I just want to play for pleasure, to play interesting chess. My philosophy has changed somehow, and I don't care so much about my results - which of course influences the results. So, if a position is interesting, I would play on if possible. I'm neither the World Champion nor the challenger anymore, so why not try to have some fun in my old age. My life has changed, my vision of chess has changed, now I just try to play creatively and without restrictions.
Probably it damages my results; this was a bit of the case in the Candidates where I was playing very risky and sharp chess. That wasn't what I particularly wanted to do, but sometimes it's difficult to switch styles, to resume playing classical and solid chess again at once. For example, in Stavanger I just went a bit mad! Before the tournament, I had caught a cold and came ill and coughing, so I decided to play solidly and reliably - and I suddenly got 3.5/5. Then I thought: if things are so fine, why not win the tournament? And then, there were the games vs Topalov, vs Grischuk... As a result, I finished by 0.5/4. Against Topalov, it was like this: no problem at all after the opening, I could make a draw anyhow; then, I suddenly saw some exchange sacrifice and thought that I had to win the game! Even though I clearly saw the sacrifice wouldn't work, being just a nonsense - I thought for 40 minites and went for it (laughing). In fact, it'd be better to avoid things like this. At least I should try to... Maybe I will try to play in a different, more strict way here in Moscow. Sometimes I would promise myself to do that, but it's difficult to keep this promise.

E.SUROV: Does it ever happen to you that you would sit over the board and think: "What is this all for? Why I'm playing chess?"

V.KRAMNIK: No, it never happens.

E.SUROV: But I mean now, when you're already not so young?

V.KRAMNIK: No, of course such thoughts never come to my mind. If they start to come, if I start feeling like this every second game, I will just stop playing, but now I play because I like the process. Chess is still interesting to me. Of course, it's more interesting when you play well - but it's interesting enough anyway. To me, chess is not a way of making money or supporting my family - I can earn more if I switch to some other area. Of course, it won't be easy but I think I will be able to, if I really wish that. So I don't keep playing just for money, I play because I like the game.

E.SUROV: You don't feel any pressure from the fact that you're already outside the top 10, do you?

V.KRAMNIK: I don't feel any pressure. You know, if you are so far from the top it doesn't mean to you if you are either 12th or 15th (laughing). Well, it's a bit unpleasant, but it happens. I know my own level - it's definitely the top 10 - and I'm sure I can come back there. I've experienced drops like this earlier in my career - for instance, there was a period when I had health issues, I then made a 6 months break, and as a result my rating dropped from 2812 to 2728. But I regained it later. Maybe such comebacks will be harder with age, but that's not the case yet, I hope.

E.SUROV: Do you think that participating in the Qatar Open will pose a risk for your rating?

V.KRAMNIK: Qatar open won't be an ordinary open, it will be a very strong one. I can gain Elo as well as lose it. As a matter of fact, it will be as strong as the first board at the Olympiad where I played recently; my performance was similar to my rating. There will be some 20 players 2700+, some 60 players 2600+... Vachier-Lagrave, Mamedyarov, Bacrot will be playing; Karjakin also wanted to take part but something prevented him. So, this is a very strong event which can be compared to a strong round-robin.
Besides, it's just interesting to me to visit Qatar. When I received the invitation I had no other ones for this autumn. I am used to play always the same tournaments - Dortmund, Moscow, London, etc., so I decided to try something else. The country is new to me, also the weather should be fine: I've checked out the Qatar average temperature for the end of November, and it's 27 degrees Celcius! So, why not?

E.SUROV: I've heard about some changes in your personal life. I mean, you've moved somewhere from the previous residence, haven't you?

V.KRAMNIK: That's true. My family and I have moved to Geneva some time ago, the thing we were wishing to do for a long time. We feel really satisfied; we enjoy Switzerland and we always wanted to move a bit away from big cities, especially given our two children. We used to live in Paris, exactly in the city center, and you can imagine what it is like; of course, it can't be compared to Moscow, but it's a megapolis anyway. Geneva is a calmer place, its environmental conditions are better. Another important thing is the language: I can live anywhere, I am used to travelling, but my family's way of life is more residential, and they are French-speaking. The provinces in France are too dull (it seems to me), so we've chosen Geneva which is a mix of provinciality (in its good sense) and a multinational city. Everyone speaks English here, some of my friends are living here too. So, we will stay in Geneva for a couple of years, and then, time will tell. I don't like long-term planning. Life is a dynamic thing.

E.SUROV: Thanks for the inverview.



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