SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Immediately following his victory in the traditional Linares tournament last month, Veselin Topalov gave a short interview with Russian sports journalist Yurii Vasilev. Perhaps the most interesting part of this interview is when Topalov talks about why the match is being played in Bulgaria and not India. It is clear that Topalov was not pleased with the lack of initiative by the Indian star, preferring to sit back and let the Bulgarian do all of the fundraising.
But to be fair, chess is not as popular in India as the press has led us to think. For example, even though the current World Champion is Indian, it was impossible to find any sponsorship for last year’s national championship! Corporate sponsorship for chess in India is on the decline.
Veselin, your play in the tournament seemed sometimes too risky, most experts agreed that against Anand you will not do that. Was that the goal of your play?
As all know very well before the world championship match no one will disclose his training. But I can say that to win such a strong tournament was not easy. Of course, my main goal was to train well. I played for my own pleasure and made moves, which I liked.
For example, in the game of the first round with Grishchuk, I realized that the sacrifice I have undertaken was very dangerous, but I liked this move and I made it!
Topalov vs Grischuk
Topalov has just made the speculative sacrifice 21.Nf5!?
I am not very pleased with the quality of the games – for all but one out of the four I won I cannot say that it was a clear victory from the first to the last move. But I played interestingly and enjoyed the games.
Is everything ok with the match in Sofia?
How can there be doubt when the head of the organizing committee is the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov? The contract is signed with the organizers – and Anand’s, and mine. The first game will be held on April 23.
Where will the match be?
In one of the most beautiful halls of Sofia – in the Military Club. It is in the heart of the city, right against the Russian Church. At the time when Bulgaria was a monarchy, in the hall where we play, there were balls which collected the aristocracy from all over Europe. This is a very beautiful place!
And where will be the delegations of the players?
The team of Anand – in Hotel Hilton, where Kamsky lived during our match, and my team – in Grand Hotel Sofia, where the players of Mtel Masters lived.
The prize fund, as I read, will set a record for the world championship match, not counting the famous rematch of the twentieth century, “Fischer – Spassky of 1992, the year in which at stake were $ 5 million.
In this match the prize fund amounts to 2 million euros, or about $ 3 million, but if Anand has shown the slightest activity, the prize fund would be 5 million.India is a huge market and Anand is very popular there. But the World Champion preferred to come to a ready made situation and even to present himself as a victim. Of course he does not want to play in Bulgaria, but he does not have a choice as this was the best offer.
We were ready to play in India, the entire match or half of it, but Anand “did not lift a finger” to do something in this direction.
However, three million dollars – prize fund is not bad if you remember Kasparov was ready to play his matches – with Shirov, Ponomariov, Kasimdzhanov – and for a million dollars. But for none of these matches the money could not be found.
The prize fund for the match – this is public sector money?
No, it’s from the private sector, sponsorship money, but guaranteed by the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov, who I am very grateful, of course, as he played a big role.
What do you think about your opponent?
Anand is one of the greatest talents in the history of chess, he is now forty, and half of that time he is one of the strongest players in the world. However, I have to note that in Mexico, where Vishy won the world title, I did not participate due to the FIDE regulations.
Anand and Topalov have met almost 100 times
Regarding the forthcoming match, in Sofia purely psychologically for Anand will be much easier to play than for me. From me everyone awaits victory, while from him – nothing. If he loses, they’ll say: he played in a foreign country. And if he wins – he is a hero!
There is no “plus” in your position?
My pluses – a “plus one”, which I have in the classic games played with Anand, and “minus five” – in the age. He is 40, I am 35.
You followed the games of Anand in Wijk aan Zee at the beginning of the year?
Of course, I studied his games. “Plus Two” he scored, without really straining. It seemed that, if he wanted, he could participate in the fight for a first prize.
Let us digress a little from the match. They say you are a popular man in Bulgaria?
Well, of course. I was even invited on the show “Dancing Stars.”
Do you feel like a “superstar”?
Bulgaria is a small country. There are people who can be proud of their accomplishments, but the stars of international level are few. A real superstar is Hristo Stoichkov. Now – Dimitar Berbatov.
He has a cousin – Kiprian Berbatov – who became IM at 11. Will you invite him to your team, like Ponomariov did with Karjakin when he was 11?
I know Kiprian Berbatov will be present at the match. It did not come to my mind to invite him in the team, I will think about it.
In Linares your seconds were the Dutch players Smits and L’Ami – apparently they will be included in your team? And your former assistant Ivan Cheparinov, the famous master of making “debut mines” – too?
You are well aware, people whom you call will help me in preparing for the match. But there will also be others, which for obvious reasons, I would not yet disclose. Of course, the information tends to leak out, but let the opponent not get it out of my hands.
Personally, I think the match between Topalov and Anand will be very exciting. Both players have dynamic styles and play sharp openings. However, I believe that Topalov is a big favourite, and I feel certain that he will crush the Indian.
Recently Anand’s play has been showing signs of deterioration and lack of imagination. In Corus it took him for ages to finally win a game (against Shirov!), and he won only after Shirov missed an easy win. His play is certainly not that of a World Champion. Perhaps Anand has health issues.
On the other hand, Topalov likes to take calculated risks, and sometimes he assumes too much risk! Should Anand be able to exploit this characteristic of the Bulgarian star, then he might have a chance. Despite the declining level of play by Anand, he still remains one of the most difficult players to beat!
I certainly look forward to a great match!