Apr 27, 2001

Conversation with the 14th World Chess Champion Grandmaster Alexander Khalifman

By Valery Salov

Valery: First of all, tell me, please, a few words about the tiebreak match with Anand. In the first game weren't you slightly worse at the moment when you proposed a draw after 22.Qd4?
Alexander: No, I don't think so. I had a blackout when I played 18.Bc7. I was very angry with myself: it was a loss of a very important tempo. He didn't play well in the opening. 18.Be5 Ne5 19.Re5 instead would have led to a stable advantage for white.
V: Perhaps, you should have captured on 'e5' with your Rook anyway?
A: Quite possible. But I don't think that I was worse in the final position. How? Because he offers exchange of Queens on 'c5' (after 22…Rac8 23.Bb3)? Perhaps, I can play 24.Qf4 after that, there is always some counterplay.
V: If 24.Qf4, he can play 24…Qb6. OK. Perhaps it's just a moral advantage.
A: In this sense you are right, of course, everything changed so quickly in black's favour.
V: What about the second game? No doubt, you had a huge advantage, even a forced win twice.
A: Yes. I was just destined not to win it.
V: And the third one?
A: Just a catastrophe. I simply didn't recover after the second game. Hadn't I discovered the win immediately after I had missed it… hadn't it been so simple… I could have continued the fight. But this feeling of having missed something so simple, the victory in the match being so close, it just knocked me down.
V: It's interesting that in this tournament all top rated players except Morozevich have qualified for the semi-finals.
A: Yes, it is true. What can I say, they all played well and deserved it.
V: What's your opinion about the London match? There are a lot of speculations now in the press about organising a unification match with Kramnik. I don't see any sense in that. What for?
A: I also think so. In itself, the idea of bringing all the best players to the world championship is great…
V: But what can be done if they don't want to participate?
A: If they don't want to play, there is nothing to be done about it. Indeed this situation seems very strange to me. We have to be aware that a considerable part of the press is engaged in promoting Mr. Kasparov and that may not be denied. The flood of information during KK match in London [presenting it as WC] got no response from FIDE: it was unable to wage its own counter-propaganda campaign.
V: This match was presented in the mainstream media as the World Championship and it certainly affected in a very negative way the preparation of this tournament. As a result, neither here, in India, nor in Iran they were able to find private sponsorship for the prize-fund.
A: Yes, this is always a problem, always.
V: And the journalists don't want to recognise that as long as they present some private matches as the WC it will always have a very negative effect on the true World Championship. And it may not always depend on Ilyumzhinov's money, because Ilyumzhinov will not agree to spend every year $5 million for the pleasure of organising this tournament.
A: Right, right, and it doesn't even depend on the name of the sponsor, be it Ilyumzhinov or anyone else. If it's a real World Championship it's a real World Championship and everyone knows that any other event, no matter how good or interesting it is, may not have the same status. For instance, no one intends to call Linares tournament World Championship…
V: In fact there were such projects [Laughs]: to declare it a sort of Masters tournament.
A: Yeah, one day we can find ourselves in a situation with 6 or 7 World Championships every year and I think that it's all up to FIDE, I think that FIDE has enough authority to avoid it.
V: The problem is that there are a lot of people inside FIDE who in fact are lobbying for Kasparov's interests to the detriment of the other players.
A: Yes, it's a very sad impression and… OK, it is not like yet another conspiracy theory, but it looks very close to be true. Somebody, even in the FIDE governing body is trying to play a double game…
V: They are trying to sit on two chairs… perhaps even giving the preference to the other one [Laughs].
A: Yes, OK, but it's not the way it should be: anyone can choose his chair, but it should be only one chair. If you are FIDE, then there is the only World Championship and its winner is the only World Champion. And if someone tries to play both games at the same time, I think it's too much. In general I believe it depends on FIDE to make this event really a reliable World Championship and let the world know that all the other events, strong or weak, are not. For me it's absolutely clear that the winner of this event will become the World Champion and, OK, Vladimir Kramnik has just won a very tough and very important match for him, but this match has nothing in common with World Championship at all.
V: I know that a lot of players feel the same way, but the media has different approach. For example, I had a lengthy correspondence with Mark Crowther from the London Chess Centre. Six months ago he was assuring me that no one would ever call the winner of the London match 'The World Champion', that at the very worst they would call him 'Braingames World Champion'. But look at their writings after that match. So they just lie when it's convenient to them.
A: Exactly, exactly, and it's very strange. OK, free press is great, but…
V: OK, the press is free, but are we free? That is the question. [Laughs]
A: I was really shocked when I read the last issue of the German magazine "Schach. Germany is one of the major chess countries in the world and this magazine is very popular there. There is an interview with Vladimir Kramnik in the number 12 issue and it goes like this: how is it to be the World Champion, always World Champion, at no moment there is something like Braingames WC. Just World Champion, just like that. And an announcement: 'in the next issue we'll inform you about the FIDE Knockout spectacle!' Not even FIDE World Championship but "knockout show"!
V: Oh, that's really funny! [Laughs heartily].
A: Just like that. It's incredible! [Also laughs]. And after that: "We'll tell you how to determine a World Champion in a democratic way. What an irony! OK, it's not "democratic way", it's just sport!
V: It's just a parody of journalism!
A: It's not general elections of the World Champion, we just play chess here, nothing else!
V: And besides, it's chess of a very high level that is being played here so far. The games are fantastic. Practically no major mistakes, very high level. Much higher level than in… [Laughs again]
A: Absolutely. When one compares to…
V: And about journalists I have no doubt that they are free, but what about us? The press is definitely free [Laughs]! Now let me ask you one question that surely will be cut off from the bulletin. My theory, my personal theory, is that Kasparov got money for his match in London… only after he had made all those declarations during the conflict in Yugoslavia last year. … not conflict, but rather a massacre. He wrote an article for the "Wall Street Journal", gave a few interviews encouraging the bombing of Belgrade. And only after that, like a true political prostitute, he got some payment, which he deserved.
A: Well, I can't make any comment on that, because I didn't read this interview.
V: Afterwards his apologists were saying that he regretted very much these statements, that he has apologised for that, but OK, he regrets it now, but they already killed more than 5 thousand civilians, injured many more, destroyed completely the infrastructure in the country…
A: Well, it's not a matter of discussion, of course. In my opinion, what they did with Yugoslavia is just incredible and inhuman.
V: But it's a very strange coincidence that only after he had done all this he got some money for his match, it might be not completely accidental. OK, it will not appear in the bulletin anyway, but on some other site we will have it published. Let's get back to our chess issues.
A: Well, about negotiations with Kramnik… I see some logic in them only if he decides to come back to FIDE and there will be no revenge match. Then we'll have only ex-world champion Kasparov outside of FIDE and absolutely on his own. There is some point in negotiating with Kramnik to bring him back to FIDE to join the next World Championship, but only from this point of view.
V: Have you read the recent interview with Klara Kasparova? She declared: "The new fourteenth chess champion said that he wanted to introduce order in the world of chess. I can say that I will very carefully watch him doing so". I'm not sure that Kramnik will be free to come back to FIDE [Laughs].
A: Something like 'Big Mother' is watching you! Well, I hope that his steps will not be…
V: Perhaps she should be called not 'Big Mother', but simply 'The God Mother'.
A: I hope that he will remain independent and his steps will not be the ones expected by the Kasparov Family. OK, anyway, I think that I have said enough and I would like just to leave this place now.
V: OK, thank you very much for the interview.

Valery Salov: Conversation with World Champion Xie Jun
Opening for White according to Kramnik
Gennady Nesis: The rich history of the ancient game
Alexander Baburin: Launch of Two New Chess Web

"Chess is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it;and thence it is never played for money."

Benjamin Franklin, "Chess made easy", 1802

"It is one of the insights of modern players, and especially of the best ones, that one has toplay the position itself, not some abstract idea of the position."

John Watson, "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy", 1998

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