Veselin Topalov: "I Am Not a Chess Fanatic!"

Monday, 29.06.2015 00:56

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On 26 June 2015, Veselin Topalov answered questions live on air for almost a full hour, in Russian. Here, we present an abbreviated transcript in English, covering the most interesting subjects discussed. 


E.SUROV: Veselin, has it been a long time since you have won a large super tournament?

V.TOPALOV: I think the last time I won a tournament featuring the reigning world champion was in Bilbao in 2008. This is when Anand was the champion, and he played in the tournament. Since then I am not sure. Of course, I won a lot of tournaments after that, but not with such a line-up. Of course, there was Linares in 2010, but then the world champion was not playing. Of course, this is not critical, but nevertheless it is important.

E.SUROV: In general, it is important for you to play the world champion?

V.TOPALOV: Not that important, I'm just talking about statistics. I won the Zug stage of the FIDE Grand Prix and in London shared the first place, and in Linares, and maybe even in some other tournament. But if I remember correctly, the Bilbao - this is the last tournament in which the champion also played.

E.SUROV: Did Carlsen say anything to you? Congratulations or something?

V.TOPALOV: Of course, he was in a bad mood - he even lost the last game. But what to do? I was not solely to blame, in my opinion, he played the entire tournament indifferently.

E.SUROV: But do you think, that this first round incident heavily influenced both of you?

V.TOPALOV: I think, I was not much affected, but he was. That is, I did not think it was anything out of the ordinary. OK, a point is a point. But I was very annoyed with my game because the position was absolutely normal, and then he beat me out of nowhere. I was very worried. Well, I won this game, but if I had continued to play like this, of course, the result would have been bad. So I do not believe there was any kind of super-event. But it probably affected him. Although if one player wins a game that way, and then goes on to win the whole tournament, it does not mean that the other player, the loser, has to play all the remaining games badly.

E.SUROV: But by a strange coincidence, that is what happened. And do you believe in fate? Maybe it's fate?

V.TOPALOV: Frankly, I do not believe and I do not think it's fate. It is not just luck that he was late for the game and had not heard about the time control. If he had been there, he probably would have heard. I also had not known what the control was. But except him, we were all in the room when the arbiter said about this. It is not an accident, because he was late for almost all the games. He's the champion and maybe wants to thus avoid the photographers?

E.SUROV: So he was late subsequently, for the next game?

V.TOPALOV: I think he was almost always late. I wasn't paying close attention, but generally yes.

E.SUROV: Aha! But you do not really care what the time control is, because you are never in time trouble?

V.TOPALOV: Of course, I am not indifferent. But just because I've played here for the first two years, I believed that everything would be the same. But I heard the arbiter say about the control, I found it a bit strange. And then during the game, I asked again, and she confirmed that there was no second control, the increment begins after the fortieth move to the end of the game. It is a bit strange.

E.SUROV: In general, what do you think is the best time control? Would you like to play all tournaments with the same control?

V.TOPALOV: I also like the FIDE control, I just feel that it is necessary to reduce the time a little bit. I do not know what time control is the best, in order to maintain the quality of the game, but I do not think you need so long to play. We have to choose between boring the spectators and having a very short control. Of course, seven hours - that's too much, but, say, an hour - it's too little. The FIDE time control is quite dynamic.

E.SUROV: And how would you explain the fact that before the last round, the fight for the first place was between the two oldest players of the tournament?

V.TOPALOV: I have no explanation for this. I have repeated many times, that I did not consider myself the favorite. After Gibraltar, which ended in late January or early February, I had not played for a long time and thought it was normal. Therefore, this tournament began uncertainly, first with Carlsen, Nakamura then lost a big advantage. And it's abnormal that I then showed a good result. But Anand played quite regularly and always seems to score "3" - in Germany, and in Shamkir, I think, too, he is always fighting for first place. But he played fairly regularly. Again, for me it was a big surprise. Not that Anand played so, but that I showed this result.

E.SUROV: Your manager Silvio Danailov yesterday during the broadcast on the website of the tournament said, almost in plain text, you practically do not prepare. Is this true?

V.TOPALOV: I watch games that are played in the tournament, I try to follow, but, of course, not in the way I used to. Maximum - four hours a day, in the morning when my daughter goes to kindergarten. But at one o'clock, she is back, and then it is very hard to do any work. Of course, I had prepared for the tournament a couple of ideas, and I cannot say that I did not work, but I did so much less than before. I watch games with the computer, analyze, but I don't have training sessions like before. ...

E.SUROV: Tell us how strong your ambitions are these days.

V.TOPALOV: Actually, not very big. I was very disappointed with myself last year in Khanty-Mansiysk. I have a great chance to reach this year's Candidates tournament on rating, but even there I'm not sure. If I do not like the contract, I do not even know whether I will take part. I am probably still going to play, but it is not one hundred percent certain. I have an offer simply go to South America and give some simuls, rather than to prepare for the Candidates tournament. So my only ambition in playing there would be not to make money, but to take first place and get the right to play a match for the world title. But if in my next few tournaments, I do not play well and it becomes clear that objectively, all I can hope for in the Candidates Tournament is some place in the middle of the field, it will not be a motivation to play. So maybe I should give up now. Although, again, while I am more inclined to accept the offer and to play, but it is not one hundred percent. At the same time we must also see who will play, what the prize fund is, and so on. ...

E.SUROV: Tell me, what exactly you did not like in Khanty-Mansiysk, apart from your own result?

V.TOPALOV: No, I'm just saying that if a person is preparing for a long time, then of course he hopes to win. If someone had told me that I would be preparing for two months and then get even "-1" (and I actually scored "-2"), earning 40 thousand dollars or euros - I can't remember exactly - I would not have gone. And when I realized, five rounds before the end, I was on "-2", and had no chance of first place, I had to play for another week, with no motivation. There will be some difference in money, but if I wanted to make money, I would have accepted an invitation to some other event and would have earned that money much more easily than in Khanty-Mansiysk.

E.SUROV: But this is a sport, and it is impossible to predict what will be the result.

V.TOPALOV: All right, but objectively the person must also feel a little bit, there's a chance. I know I will play Nakamura, Caruana, Anand and four other players, except for me, if qualify. That is, I need to jump from "-2" to "+3" - this is not so easy. But, on the other hand, I did not expect that here at some point I would be on "+5". And this tournament is not weaker, perhaps even a bit stronger than the Candidates tournament in composition. It's hard to compare, but just everything's different. ...

E.SUROV: And you as a man are no longer young, you have a family, etc. Are you ready for another world championship match, even if you qualify for one?

V.TOPALOV: Objectively I think that only a younger opponent can beat Carlsen. Maybe, of course, Caruana, maybe Giri, who is now improving a lot, and he even has a positive score against Carlsen. Although, of course, there is a difference in class, and he is still a long way behind Carlsen. The young Chinese guy could also do it. But I do not think that a person who is older can win the match. It is theoretically possible, but practically, in my opinion, is not very realistic. If we compare Carlsen with Anand or me or someone else, by ten criteria, he will be stronger in eight of them. Energy, youth, what else ... Of course, he also has very great chess abilities. Therefore, it seems to me that only people younger than him have not only a chance, but also the motivation to beat him.

E.SUROV: Another question. At a press conference yesterday, you said that the computer is now the equal of the leading players, almost all of them. And what way do you see out of this situation? What to do? Because the computer also dilutes chess a little, and it will go on.

V.TOPALOV: To be honest, I do not see a way out and I cannot offer anything specific. The only thing that one can offer is FischerRandom chess, but I personally do not like it. Professionals will adapt to the new positions, but for fans it will be much worse than for us. For example, if you buy a book and study the French defense, then you want the that evening in the chess club, you want to play what you have learned, some new move, or whatever. And if you're going to change all this, you as an amateur will be completely confused. OK, the books contain a lot of information, but on the other hand, they are part of the culture and the history of chess. The standard starting position is now more or less balanced and harmonious. But when you have chaos ... Maybe at first it will be interesting, but then the computer program will still play better. ...

E.SUROV: In your opinion, the Sofia rules - they are an important item for the entertainment of the tournament?

V.TOPALOV: Yes. In principle, Silvio invented them about ten years ago, and since then they have much improved entertainment at tournaments. And even when those rules are not applied, the organizers, the players and the audience understand that it cannot be allowed that games are agreed drawn after a handful of moves. ...

E.SUROV: One reader asks how you feel about the situation with Sergey Karjakin in Stavanger? That is, he has won the two previous tournaments, but this time did not get invited.

V.TOPALOV: I do not think that he was not invited specifically because of some political decisions. It's just the rules, which they have adopted in the Grand Chess Tour, to invite only the top 10 on ratings. I told the organizers that I personally consider this: instead of having a qualification, they should have a wild card. In general, my personal opinion is that it is necessary to invite one Chinese, at least one American, one Russian, one Indian. It is better for any big event, even if the quality is a bit reduced. What difference does it make if you have, instead of numbers 1 to 9 on the rating list, say without no.4? The quality of the tournament remains extremely high in either case, but China is a huge potential market for players.


E.SUROV: Veselin, you know, after you had won this last tournament and received your prize, etc, there was a celebration for the 40th birthday of your colleague, Vladimir Kramnik. Did you want to offer him any wishes?

V.TOPALOV: None. Of course not.

E.SUROV: You do not communicate with him? And you do not want to?

V.TOPALOV: How can you communicate with him? Last year I said he was the luckiest man in the history of chess. He never won a single cycle, he got all the matches that he played for political reasons. And they are all the time trying to prove something, although it was quite obvious that he... When I signed a contract to play in the world championship match in Elista, he was number three in Russia. That is, it is clear that there was no sporting selection. This is the man who always said that Kasparov must qualify. The man who had never qualified himself, yet always got all these... When he shared first or second place in London, there was clearly an attempt to make Carlsen refuse to play the match, and to replace him with Kramnik, so that he would again get to play a World Championship match. And so on, all the time. That's the sort of person he is. He heads a team that never wins. And all the while he was on the first board, although he was only number three on rating. Clearly, this is the result of political support.

E.SUROV: So you think that it is a worldwide conspiracy? Well, not worldwide, but...

V.TOPALOV: For example, in the same way in the 70s Karpov was a darling of the Politburo or the political elite. So Kramnik is now. Just like the old days. But at least Karpov, unlike him, played in and won qualifying matches.

E.SUROV: But that's not why you do not speak to Kramnik. You signed the contract for the match, and there at that match, you spoke to him, you shook hands, so it is not because he did not win qualifying matches that he is distasteful to you. Probably there is some other reason?

V.TOPALOV: Of course. I have always said, and still believe, that there was, in Elista... If you feel it is normal to destroy official documents and videos, then this is another matter. If you think that, say, the police went into Bakh's federation office just to address some issues of tax, and not for political reasons, that is another matter. If you think that the police are trying to catch Bakh in some tax fraud, not because he supported Karpov, then that is another matter. If you think it's just a coincidence that official documents were destroyed, then it's okay. Each person can judge for himself.

E.SUROV: Official documents - this is where? In Elista?

V.TOPALOV: In Elista, everything was was recorded. There were dozens of hours of videotapes. If everything was normal, why were they destroyed?

E.SUROV: One of our readers just wrote that he was rooting for you in that match, and it is very unfortunate that direct evidence of unsportsmanlike conduct by your opponent has not yet been produced.

V.TOPALOV: How can I produce it when they say that it has all been destroyed? Of course, this does not mean that it's true, but it is normal for FIDE. I do not mean that everything they say is untrue, but very often they specifically publish information that is absolutely false, and on the official website. And they are well aware that the information they give out is wrong. For example, when Ponomariov and Kasparov negotiated several times, they wrote that he signed everything, but he never did sign anything. So FIDE often quite deliberately publish false information. I'm not saying that they do so all the time. But sometimes, when it suits them, they do it. But how can I produce the evidence, when they have the documents?

E.SUROV: And you still think, after almost ten years, that your opponent was cheating?

V.TOPALOV: I believe that the very fact that they are hiding stuff shows that this was so. If there is nothing, what's the problem with showing the material? It is quite clear that what they are saying is not true. Closing the door or not closing it, how much drinking water was used - it's all bullshit! It's easy enough to prove, you just need to see it. But nobody at FIDE has ever said that we are wrong. They say only that they did not see anything.

E.SUROV: So Kramnik and FIDE were working together?

V.TOPALOV: I am not saying that... But it was claimed that Makropoulos and Azmaiparashvili wanted me to win, and so then they changed the Appeals Committee - instead of Makropoulos and Azmaiparashvili, they put in Kutin and Gasanov. But sorry, I had a memorandum to say I would play against Radjabov if I won the match. That is ... [connection lost] Ok, I am back....Faik [Gasanov] is an honest guy, though, on the other hand, he was very interested in seeing me win and then play against Radjabov. But relations between Kutin and Silvio were the same as the relations Silvio had with Zurab or Makropoulos - that is, also quite good. So it was a bit pointless to say that these guys favoured me, and then to change them for others who feel the same way...


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