Interview with Garry Kasparov

At your 38 years old you are still the number one. What is your motivation, now that you have already won everything?

I have always loved playing chess, and for me playing chess is about “winning”, and I couldn’t imagine myself playing chess for fun, because winning is a part of the challenge. At one point, when you are used to fighting for your number one spot, you will not be able to imagine yourself giving it up without a fight. In many years I faced several crucial points when people said “Garry will no longer be the best player”, and it encourages me, it strengthens my determination to fight again.

And it’s very clear that my success in 2001 was dictated by the disaster in London. Also my very successful years in 1999 and 2000 resulted from growing criticism of me in 1997 when I didn’t play much chess and Anand was doing very well. So, as long as I have my energy in place, I will be fighting.

In your last match against Kramnik you were only able to defeat him in the blitz games. Whose turn is it now, yours or his?

I don’t think that you should look at my match with Kramnik in Moscow separated from the whole year. I have a long history of playing with Vladimir, and if you analyze it, you will notice that before our match in London, Kramnik was more dominant; not that he was winning –we had an equal score in classical chess, and he was slightly better in rapid chess- but he was keeping the initiative.

So we could say that the match in London was the result of the tendency that was built up in previous years. Kramnik was always pushing, and I had to defend myself more than Kramnik did. So Kramnik had some chess initiative, as well as a psychological advantage. When you look at all the games after the match in London, you would find the reverse is true. It is not that I am winning by a big margin, but first of all, in classical chess I defeated him in Astana and then, in December in Moscow, we played seven games, and Kramnik lost the main one; one lost, six draws, and he could have lost more. With three ‘white’ games he had no chances of winning at all, and with black he was always struggling.

So, it seems to me that the trend is more on my side, and I am keeping the initiative. The fact is that in Moscow Kramnik was very close to losing in classical and rapid chess, and indeed he did lose in rapid chess. So I am very happy and satisfied with the overall results on 2001 in my games against Kramnik, because now I feel that I have initiative and I hope I will be able to prolong this tendency until it materializes into more concrete results.

Do you see it possible another match against Kramnik in the near future?

Unfortunately, it is well known that Kramnik wants to avoid this match, and it will be very difficult to force him to play. At the final press conference in London, when I lost the match, I wished that Kramnik would follow my footsteps, and would defend the integrity of the title. Everyone knows that I won the title from Karpov in 1985 and defended against Karpov in 1986 and 1987 in Sevilla. And we know that the title today, that Kramnik carries, has credibility only if the owner of the title is prepared to prove he is the best player in the world. Kramnik has completely failed to prove that he is the best player in the world, in 2001, because his results were, obviously, less impressive than mine.

I was surprised when Kramnik expressed his opinions about the qualification and the procedures to find the challenger. It is well known (especially in Spain) that Kramnik never won any qualification cycle. Moreover, he lost to Shirov! And many people challenged my choice to play Kramnik instead of Shirov, because Shirov had more “sportive credit”.

My view today is that, unless Kramnik is pressed by the world of chess to defend his title, against me, preferably inside of two years, he will devalue the title because the world championship is about crowning the best player in all of chess. Who can argue if he elects to defend his title against the #1 player in the world? His present intention is to find a challenger ranked 4 to 10 and this will prove that he is more interested in holding on to the title for three years and avoiding having to play the #1 ranked player of the last 17 years.

Do you think he could fear to lose his title, against you, or against any other chess player?

Kramnik is so much better than any of the other players today, so he has no fear of playing somebody other than me. That’s why he talks about a Dortmund qualification, which is laughable because the Dortmund Tournament invitation contains no details of the follow up challenge to Kramnik. No format, no number of games, no venue, no prize money, no date and not even if its classical chess or if Kramnik has an automatic rematch. Everyone I showed this offer to thought it was a joke. It is a sad joke for chess because those with little or no chance of a world title will sign up without even asking, “What’s next?” Sadly, this is how Kramnik wants to find his challenger. What might bring about a touch of reality is that the only serious sponsorship funding would be attracted by my match with Kramnik.

You have already stated that you were not willing to enter the FIDE World Championship, and you do not seem inclined either to take part in the Braingames Candidates Tournament. Will you not miss fighting for the World Title, were you out of both cycles?

My view on the FIDE Championships is very well known and ha snot changed over the past nine years.

As for Braingames… I don’t really know what we are talking about. What is the Braingames cycle? Have you seen an official offer? When I offered Kramnik the match, the prize money was in the bank account. All we know today is that Braingames appears to be a broken organization and some of its assets sold to a small media company called Einstein TV. This new owner will have to move very fast to bring ay credibility to the old BGN. I want to stress that all I know is what I read in the press and that did not sound very solid or promising.

Now Kramnik is talking about playing the computer -Deep Fritz-, match in October, which means that he is not planning to defend his title this year, so much for the vaunted two year cycle.

Do you mean it is only an idea, not a serious project?

In my opinion, a serious project has the following:

- The most credible match, preferably #1 vs. #2, and a match which 90% of the world’s players will salute as THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

- It must be properly funded. The present group is blowing a lot of smoke and the chess world is so docile that it buys into it. Nobody asks tough, legitimate questions.

- It must publish its game plan including format, type of chess, number of games, schedule (number of days), date, venue, prize money (including split), expenses, other funding and a full future cycle with funding.

- Preferably it should raise legitimate sponsorship and funding. I will state here that, in my opinion, only Kasparov (#1) vs. Kramnik (#2) can raise genuine third party funding for a $3 million prize fund and another $1 million for organization expenses.

Going back to the FIDE, what is your opinion about the new young World Champion, Ponomariov?

I don’t have any clear opinion about Ponomariov because he had never played in major tournaments. It is very hard to talk about somebody who never entered in a strong event. He is talented, but I wouldn’t say he is extremely talented, because Grischuk, for instance, maybe more talented than Ponomariov.

I would say that Ponomariov looks like Gata Kamski, but at his age, Kamski had played against all top players. But Ponomariov never played me, Kramnik, Anand, Shirov or Adams… So, how can you identify his strength? For me it is a big mystery. In my website [ ] I published more on this subject, a big report on Ponomariov-Ivanchuck match, because it is a long story. But I want to add a very, very important comment, which was completely overlooked by most journalists: Ponomariov didn’t win the same title as Khalifman or Anand. As you know I am not very impressed by the Fide Championships at all. The K.O. systems shortened games that turn the game into more of a lottery. Khalifman and Anand won a normal seven hour game of chess. Ponomariov played only semi-rapid chess, and this is very, very different and you can’t compare the Moscow tournament with the previous Fide Championships. Fide changed the time control completely. This caused some strange results and is why I strongly insist that Moscow has no comparison with the chess that was played in Las Vegas and Delhi.

Khalifman played very interesting chess in Las Vegas; and Anand played great chess in Delhi. But Ponomariov played speed chess in Moscow! The Final match against Ivanchuk is the best proof. Ivanchuk completely outplayed him in games 2, 4 and 5, and in games 2 and 5 it was automatic, in normal chess the game would be won without any difficulty. And we saw big blunders which were a big pity because Vassily is a very strong and talented player, and he was the victim of this miserable time control.

So that’s why I think it is very important to start stating that with this new time control you can not identify this as equal to Delhi, Las Vegas or Groningen, just because it is the same number squares or the same number of pieces. If we follow this logic, then at one point we have to accept the rapid chess or blitz chess in the Final for a “so-called” World Championship!

How much time would Ponomariov need to reach your level of play?

I am not sure that he would ever be at mine, Kramnik or Anandґs level. He may be talented enough, but, I do not know! Whoever convinced him to withdraw from Linares did not do chess or Ponomariov good service. If you are a World Champion, even if it’s a FIDE World champion, you can not run and hide.

He is not making any progress if he is missing big events, but I guess he is not confident of playing tournaments with strong players with normal time control. Lets not forget that Ponomariovґs rise in 2001 was due to the new time control.

Talking about young stars, what do you think about your countryman, Radjabov, and about the Spaniard Francisco Vallejo?

Paco Vallejo is not as young as Radjabov. I believe he is Ponomariovґs age, Vallejo is playing Linares and it is a great opportunity for him to show his ability and caliber. As for Radjabov, I think he has a great talent, and at his age he demonstrated very solid and very mature chess, and I expect that in the next two years he will enter in the very top of chess elite.

By the way, I would say Grischuk also has a great talent. He is not as well organized as Ponomariov, but I think he is a very good talented player, and if he puts his acts together, I think he has also very good chances. Just go to the database and look at the game Grischuk-Ponomariov.

So, don’t you see your successor among any of these young chess players?

I think the talent of Radjabov is closest to this chance, but it is premature for me to make any forecast about the future successes of young players. It is quite a different chess, because at one point, chess has changed, I started to play in a different environment. And today, we don’t even know if classical chess will survive at all, because if FIDE succeeds, and there is only rapid chess, then… what kind of chess are we talking about? There will be different players, there will be no need for Kasparov or Fischer, there will be a need of rapid players, Ponomariovґs type… So that’s why I don’t know if there would be a need for another Kasparov!

You will meet Shirov again in Linares. Will you shake hands with him? No, no, absolutely not. I think Shirov has insulted me, saying that my match with Kramnik was fixed. When I spoke to him in Wijk aan Zee, I asked him about this, about his very disturbing comment in “NewIn Chess” magazine, where he accuses me of choosing Kramnik because the match would be fixed. He also repeated this accusation on the Internet, during one of the games on ICC.

He told me it was not him, it was the magazine, that changed his words, so I said, ‘fine, then say publicly that the magazine perverted your words’. But he did not bother to do so. Your publication is in a position to confront him with the question and to make public his answer. Shirov doesn’t care about this, so I don’t want to shake his hand. I don’t think it is good for chess, but this is personal, many of his other remarks were quite disturbing, but the big one about fixing a World championship went too far. It was degrading for the game of chess, for Kramnik and for me.

The world of chess is usually involved in many politics(??), much more than any other sport. Why?

The World of chess is not organized, properly, and it is quite amazing that intelligent chess players are not able to create a trade union to defend their rights. This exists in every professional sport: in basketball, in Tennis, in soccer, in Ice Hockey… everywhere! In chess it does not exist. The Chess world is fragmented, not united around some basic ideas. That is why you had Mr. Ilumzhinov taking it all over so easily. It is not only about his money, but it is just about the general atmosphere that prevails in chess. There is no sense of solidarity among professional players; there is no sense of ethics. I don’t feel there is enough respect for the game from the professional players. For me it is absolutely essential for the success of the sport.

Kramnik will play in October with a computer, Deep Fritz…

Well, maybe he will play, we do not know…We know that nobody has made a very detailed statement.

If finally he plays, how do you evaluate his chances?

From what I saw in the Internet, about the rules of the match, the computer has no chances, because Miguel Illescas who is Kramnikґs coach, and who was on Deep Blue team in 1997, has demanded too many concessions from the computer. If all these demands are satisfied, then the computer has no chance! I don’t think that the match should be organized in this fashion. After my match with Deep Blue I have proposed equal terms, and several times I proposed fair conditions on both sides. I think now Illescas is trying to make Kramnik have the same advantages that Deep Blue had in against me in 1997.

Is a new match against a computer a part of your plans, while you are still the best chess player in the world?

I have not received a firm offer at this time. I would love to play again, but it is hard to organize: you need a global publicity and a big computer… it is very complicated, because I am not just going to play and collect the money, I want a big “splash”. When I played Deep Blue, everybody knew about it. Now, Kramnikґs match, is a very different story. I don’t know if it is going to happen or not, but in any case, I cannot imagine it will be on the front page of newspapers in Spain.

One of your most important matches was held in New York 1995, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, where you defeated Vishy Anand. I guess that the images of the terrorist attack have been even more impressive for you, due to this memory. What were your impressions? How did you receive the news?

Do you remember when the first game was played with Anand? The date? It was the eleventh of September! It is a phenomenal coincidence. About the news, I was watching CNN live at 9:00am in NY, 5:00 here in Moscow, when the second plane crashed into the building. It was terrible, and I think that everybody understands that the world has changed very dramatically. It is a source of constant sadness to me that the World Trade Center is no more.

David Llada

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