I think this is a very difficult tournament for Topalov. Yes, this is a prestigious event and he wants to win it. On the other hand, his match against Kramnik is a lot more important. Therefore, Topalov cannot reveal all his repertoire. That makes it very difficult for him to win such a strong event like this. This may be the case of too many events too close together. I wish Topalov a lot of luck in accomplishing this very difficult task.
Gold-plated icon is the special prize of M-Tel Masters 2006
The President Parvanov will bestow the award to the winner (Sofia, May 18, 2006)
The special prize for the winner in the super chess tournament M-Tel Masters 2006 will be a copy of an ancient icon of “St. George the Conqueror” Its author is the famous Bulgarian artist and icon-painter Katya Bajlekova. The icon is painted in distemper, on wood and the background is made of 23-carat gold. It will be bestowed to the winner of the tournament by the President Georgi Parvanov at the official closing.
The sponsor of the tournament mineral water Hissar from spring № 7 will bestow a special cup to the most uncompromising player in the competition. M-Tel Masters 2006 will be officially closed on May 21.
Veselin Topalov: Better to win a title, than an “Oscar”
The match against Vladimir Kramnik is a fact. How do you feel as the main personage in it?
I had expected this match for two months and knew that in the end a contract would be signed. So this does not surprise me and I feel calm. However, now I think more for the “M-Tel Masters” tournament.
Kramnik said that this will be the biggest chess event for the past 10 years.
It is probably so and I agree with him. The world expects this match because there is a collision between different players with different styles.
So it turns out that Kramnik’s match against Kasparov and the world championship in Argentina were at a lower level?
The match against Kasparov was intriguing but I think that the interest towards it wasn’t so vast. In principle, no one expected that Kramnik will win, while the championship in Argentina was really at a high level. What Kramnik probably wanted to say is that the different sets the game we will play, outclass the one with Kasparov.
The negotiations were difficult; compromises had to have been made. What were your compromises?
Practically, I risk my title, whereas Kramnik is in a situation where he has nothing to lose. I find myself at a moment, where I have hegemony over the chess world and could lose my title in only 12 sets. But this is life. Undoubtedly, I risk more than he does. But frankly this does not worry me because I think that when you are at your best shape and show good results, you should risk more.
The duel will be in Russia. Is that an advantage for Kramnik?
If it were a soccer game, it would have been an advantage. But in a chess game, my experience has shown me that it doesn’t matter so much. Besides, I have always played well in Russia.
Do you have any information as to Kramnik’s shape?
As far as I know he has restored his health after surgery. However, for his checkmate shape I can’t say anything, because he hasn’t played in a while, if I am not wrong – from July last year.
For a chess-player of such rank is it an advantage or is it a drawback to “hide” for such a long time?
In this case, this hasn’t been his wish. But I do think that it is a disadvantage.
What is your score balance against the Russian?
Negative as a whole, but in 2005 he took some bad knocks from me. I don’t think that I have any complexes. Most of the tournaments were a long time ago and lately I play well against him.
At the press-conference in Moscow you and Iliumjinov did not talk about you as the champion and Kramnik as the pretender for the title…
This is politics. Iliumjinov has no right to call him the champion, but you should keep in mind that both are Russians, despite the fact that one lives in France. I am sure that if this press-conference took place somewhere else, maybe Iluimjinov would have spoken differently.
Kramnik calls himself the pretender for the title. Is this part of the compromise?
Neither does it say in my contract that Kramnik is the champion, nor does it state that he is the pretender for the title. All that is written is that I am the world champion and I play against Vladimir Kramnik. It is also nowhere written that he is the champion. A whole another question is when you speak in front of the Russian media – things tend to change.
Your staff is clear – Silvio Danailov and Ivan Cheparinov. Many people will be helping Kramnik. Aren’t you worried about that?
Forming the staff is a matter of personal contacts. It is not easy to find people that you trust. I’m glad that my staff consists of two Bulgarians, who I can trust for sure. I don’t think that the number of people helping you is decisive.
The game is similar to those played in the times of Kasparov, Karpov, Korchnoy, and Fisher. Can we make such an analogue?
Yes, that is right. It has been a while since the last big match and it is not clear if there would be one soon. However, it was somewhat different back then – part of the game was the political element, which isn’t so significant now. Back then there was a conflict, which is now missing.
Do you expect any “blows below the waist”?
I don’t think so. When there are tactics of this sort, a person can quite easily disregard them. He isolates himself from the world and …
Did something in you change after you won the title?
Oh, yes! Of course it did. But for now I think, I cope well with it. I continue to play successfully at the tournaments, which is not so easy.
And does the world of chess differ?
There is quite a lot of movement in the months after the world championship. People are becoming more positive. There was more of a standstill in chess, rather than a crisis. But at the moment things are once again moving upwards.
What do you expect from the “M-Tel Masters” tournament?
I have to defend my first place from last year. The “M-Tel Masters” is a significant event for me, because I play in Bulgaria and it is organized by my sponsor. I have to try to present myself well and not to show all my hidden weapons. I must admit that this is hard to do. You cannot win against the players, participating on the tournament just so.
One of them is Vishvanatan Anand. Is he your biggest opponent?
Yes, he plays at a very high level. But all others are also capable of surprising you.
If you had to make a comparison between last year’s opponents and this year’s, which are stronger?
The participants are always strong. Like last year, now they are also all from the chess elite.
Where do you keep the trophies from the World Championship in Argentina?
One of them I keep at my home in Salamanca. The other is in Sofia’s Museum of History and the third was placed on show at the Bulgarian Embassy in Argentina, but it should be coming home via a diplomatic route.
Does it flatter you that you will be awarded the “Oscar” of the game of chess?