INTERVIEWS OF KRAMNIK’S SECONDS
Sergey RUBLEVSKY: «This was incomprehensible...»
Sincerely congratulate you with the victory!
The match was so difficult and at times disgusting… How did it look from inside?
Our team gathered for almost two months: there was a month of training sessions and then a month here in Elista. Team chemistry was surprisingly good. It is understandable that in the end we all got a bit bored, but it had been agreed on the very first day that under no circumstances we’ll spoil each other’s mood. And everything went smoothly.
How the roles were assigned? I tried to guess about them in one of my first reports, but I am not sure I guessed it right…
We all did our job. The cook cooked, the masseur did his work, and we worked on chess. We did not assign any special roles inside the group – everybody worked on everything together.
Did you have a chance for jogging?
We didn’t even have a chance to play table tennis regularly… There were just evening walks.
To be honest, after ‘the chief’ lost the 9th game without much fight, did you have any dark thoughts?..
I don’t know… There was certain confidence that Volodya wins the match. Before that he played a couple of games in dreadful style, not stronger than an average master. And we even thought: okay, there is nothing to fear if he loses a game or two – this will return him on his usual level. He will be forced to play stronger!
I felt some fear after the 8th game, because it was a loss as White. The situation was odd, and we worried that Volodya will start playing extremely solid and defensive even with White. And then he suddenly lost the very next game. I cannot recall two such a weak games in his career. This was incomprehensible!
In addition, Topalov was pushing like a tank…
Right, because he had just one chance. He prepared well and started pushing. In some aspects of chess he is simply brilliant. However, there are things he cannot do as good as Volodya. This is my own opinion, of course. Therefore we were confident that if Volodya plays normally, he will win the match.
I wrote in one of my reports that Rublevsky is undoubtedly a soul of the team. Did you have to use any non-chess methods to shake up ‘the chief’?
No, he did everything himself. It was obvious that he underperformed in those two games, and he had to find out what’s going on.
Where did he find the strength? In the 10th game Kramnik looked completely different.
Did he have a choice? He already could not be defensive, it was time to get more combative and even the score. And we did not worry about the tiebreak from the beginning. Just one extra day – no big deal. My view was that Volodya’s chances in rapids are even higher, because I know how Topalov plays speed games, I met him many times. One just had to get the right motivation, and that’s it. I had no doubts about the victory.
I have to return to the events around the 5th game. I am sure the situation looked differently from inside. There were many people, respectable people, who advised leaving Elista – Karpov, Korchnoi… They said: health is more important than title, go leave. Why it was decided to continue the struggle?
In principle, this decision was taken by Volodya. He decided everything alone. We thought that the match is over, and did not even prepare for the 6th game, because nobody wants doing futile work.
It is our mistake that there was no protest about the 5th game result, I agree. We read the contract carelessly. However, this was a human reaction, so to speak. When you face such offense, you forget about everything.
Volodya was completely confident that the 5th game will be played. We prepared as usual. In the morning we found that there was certain toilet protest. Volodya said: ah, forget it, I will not play with the toilet being locked, they will open it, everything will be okay. He was sure that in the worst case he’ll lose about 15-20 minutes, then the toilet will be opened, and the game will continue normally. He did not believe in such meanness.
So, he did not realize that the toilet protest is a genius provocation?
Yes-yes-yes! He thought: maybe the game will not start on time, he’ll lose a few minutes, but then everything will be alright.
This is a very important nuance in my opinion. It is clear that you expected provocations, but did not recognize this one as the most important.
Yes, we did not. Nobody just could believe it. We thought Volodya will approach the arbiter, show him the contract – come on, order to open the toilet and let us play chess, what’s the problem? We sincerely could not believe the problem is so severe.
So the 5th game is forfeited, and the Appeals Committee decision is also not in your favor. The most human decision is to slam the door saying ‘get lost with all these toilets and committees’.
And Volodya decided to continue the match. A correct decision in principle, I think.
Now we can say it, of course. And what if he lost the match? The journalists agreed that Kramnik had no chance winning in a court. There could be some money compensation, but the match result would stand.
We weren’t fools either. Everyone knew he will not get the title back. Therefore his decision is decision of a man. No attorneys would help him if the match was lost with one-point margin. Leaving was an option, too. However, everything ended in the best way.
Is Kramnik the main candidate for the Fair Play prize?
I don’t know, but I really want the world of chess to condemn Topalov and his people.
The world of chess is not uniform, you know, and it is naïve to expect certain consolidated reaction.
I agree. If there will be consolidated reaction, it will not last for long.
Seeing any consolidated reaction will greatly surprise me.
I read some literature before the match – about Korchnoi’s matches, and other WCC scandals. I thought it will be useful as general knowledge. However, I could not expect such a shit as Danailov created. And I really want FIDE to get rid of this Appeals Committee.
The Appeals Committee has lost its face, and Japanese say.
I’d say they never had any face. Or there was face, but it was so… special – from the beginning.
«I was lucky having no reasons to blush!»
Sasha, what was the most difficult moment of the match?
Not exactly difficult – uncertain... It was when Vladimir did not show up for the 5th game. It wasn’t clear whether the match continues or not. We kept working, but the situation was very uncertain. Will the 5th game be replayed, or…
Or you give up a point.
Yes, and although this option was not really considered, it actually happened. Themostunfairdecision! I think if I wasn’t a member of Kramnik’s team, I would nevertheless insist on replaying the game… We all got very tired during those days – seconds and of course Vladimir himself. It transpired that Danailov outplays him in this backstage struggle.
You know, it was also obvious for the journalists. Danailov tirelessly ran from one cottage to another, negotiated, while Topalov, in jeans and T-short, enjoyed sun and life.
Topalov mentioned this in one of the interviews, saying that he rested for 3-4 days and started missing chess. Vladimir’ssituationwasnearlyopposite. I can say for myself. Sergey Rublevsky and I did not take part in the conflict, we just worked on chess, but got as tired as never before.
This tiredness took its toll in 8th and 9th games. It was clear that Vladimir was in the dumps. His opening play is the 9th game is just disastrous. Vladimir himself fails to explain his moves. And there is nothing to explain – it is just tiredness.
After the 9th game we were depressed. Losing two games in a row was not the main problem – it was quality of play what disturbed us. And one could not think of any idea how to increase it. A very hard moment! It is a miracle that Vladimir managed to reverse the situation.
Even if we forget about Topalov’s blunder in the 10th game, one could see that Vladimir played it in different mood.
Vladimir played well. Objectively the game was close to a draw, but Black needed demonstrating significant accuracy, and Topalov was not even close. Compared to the two previous games, the 10th game was diametrically opposite. However, it gave rise to new problems: how to play the last two games, what strategy should be selected? The tension was extremely high until the very end.
You spent so much times together – seven healthy men, each one with their own habits and maybe eccentricities. I cannot believe such isolated life went completely smoothly…
For me this was a first experience. We all have different tempers, and there was almost no time to go out. But I was pleasantly surprised that the atmosphere was almost ideal. There was not a single case of anybody raising his voice! And at the same time the tension was electrifying. All those filth from the other side only made us more united. One can say, we believed in miracle, and the miracle happened.
Did Rublevsky have to take his famous jokes and anecdotes out of his sleeve?
All the time! The most important is that there was no pressure from the inside, even when the situation worsened. Every evening we walked together – Volodya, Sergey, Miguel and I. Our favorite route was from refuse bin to our house. This was our method of restoring peace of minds.
Did you go to steppes? Its close, and there are no refuse bins.
No, we didn’t. Usually it was already dark, and we did not want taking any risks. We are all cheerful people by nature, so the atmosphere during those walks was excellent.
Rublevsky said you obeyed prohibition during the match. I believe him, albeit it is difficult to imagine. Again, you are healthy men, and the tension was so high… Notdrinkingforawholemonth!
Even two months – there were training sessions a month before the match. Sowhat? For me it was easier – I am not very fond of drinking. I only drink in a good company. The prohibition was agreed beforehand, just to rule out unnecessary complications.
Someone could relax too much after a stress … After everybody agreed, abstaining from alcohol was easy. And it was especially pleasing to forget about the agreement after the match.
And what about other man’s passions? Were they prohibited as well?
Even if they were not, Iwouldn’ttell. A team is a team, and everything should remain inside.
So you lived like monks…
And the cook was a sole of our company. He is a real wizard, premium specialist. Later we started using him as our heave artillery for last games. We were taking him to the playing hall, saying, Victor, you may forget about cooking, but you must appear in the hall. Andherewego: awin, andtwodrawsfromthepositionofstrength.
Did the masseur helped only Kramnik, or every team member could make use of his skills?
Yes, every team member could receive treatment. I had problems, and he helped me. I know Miguel also received treatment. There were no objections.
So it was a well-arranged life…
…But very monotonous – it is seen even from our walks.
You did not show up even in the playing hall, not to mention the press room. Was it because you didn’t want showing your reactions, or Vladimir loaded you with work?
No, I simply wanted to use those hours for resting. We prepared for from evening to morning, and were already tired and sleepy in the afternoon.
Have you seen the seconds of another party?
Never, to my surprise. They probably also worked a lot, and used every minute for rest. Sleep, lie down, gather your thoughts – and back to work. Day after day, day after day…
The match is over. Could you comment actions of the Bulgarian delegation?
It is obvious that all these protests were arranged in advance. Each protest was a part of a well-defined plot. In my opinion, this was the only responsibility of some members of Topalov’s team, otherwise it is hard to understand what else they did. Their aim was to make psychological impact on Kramnik.
Everybody knows that Kramnik unlike some other players does not need to hate the opponent to play well. It is known that Botvinnik could not play normally if he had no reasons to dislike his opponent. When he was losing to Tal – and Tal was such an outstanding person that nobody could hate him – he suffered from inability to find any reasons for aversion. And then he found it: ‘Yes, Tal is a very nice guy, but his uncle…’ SoMikhailMoiseevichfoundtheemotionheneeded.
Vladimir does not need it. His own comfort is more important for him. Our opponents figured it too well, and developed their campaign until it was unbearable for any sane person. They got what they wanted in some way: free point and extra White, not mentioning psychological situation. So the Bulgarian delegation made a good job, one has to admit it.
But their methods?!
So what? I guess they thought any methods are usable in a title match. However, in the end the justice prevailed!
Topalov is an outstanding player. Should we count him as accessory if this dirty campaign? Danailov’s role as well as role of some other members of the delegation is clear for me, but what about Topalov’s role?
My own opinion is that all members of a team are equally responsible for individual actions of each team member. Being in shoes of Topalov’s seconds, I’d feel highly uncomfortable. I was lucky being in a team that never made me blushing! Never!
As for Topalov, maybe he did not participate in it directly. But nobody prevented him from expressing his own opinion, if he had one, especially if it was opposite to Danailov’s. Nobody prevented him from saying: ‘Enough!’ But he did not do anything.
I am not a man who wants to win at all costs. I am sure Kramnik is also similar to me in this sense. So Danailov’s actions primarily hit his player. Thousands of chess fans admired Topalov’s brilliant style. And it is difficult for me to believe that the number of his fans will not start decreasing now. These people supported not Danailov, but Topalov. And whom they can support now?
Questions – Ilya Odessky