ALEXANDER NIKITIN`S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
How do you assess participants’ chances in the FIDE championship in Argentina?
After Kasparov’s retirement I am not very interested to know who will be the first among equal in this championship. Though there are favorites and outsiders at the championship, chessplayers of approximately the same level will take part in this tournament. Anand is certainly a favorite. Leko has some chances, Topalov might have some as well. But Topalov had only one success in major tournaments, generally he is an ordinary elite grandmaster. The rest, I think, have very little chances to win this tournament.
I do not want to think who will win and I will be interested in the tournament when it starts. I think that the situation will be tense till the last moment. Frankly speaking I do not believe that FIDE will be able to fulfill its financial obligations.
You know well a specific character of world championships struggle. How do you think, who of the participants is prepared for coping with tension better?
Topalov is able to bear this kind of tension. Leko with his impenetrability can also withstand it. I think, Anand does not feel that comfortable in high stakes situation as in an ordinary tournament. Call San Luis competition a “tournament of the eight”, and he will play stronger and more unfettered.
Will you follow the tournament struggle?
Only from the point of view of interesting games and new opening ideas. I’m not very interested in the struggle itself. I do not really care who will win.
Did you follow the Russian championship in Kazan?
Was this the Russian championship? It’s a good Swiss tournament with a very solid line-up. The participants did not struggle for the title of the champion of Russia, as the Superfinal is to follow. It was a pure semifinal of the Russian championship. December tournament will be the final, where the strongest chessplayers will take part, except Kasparov. Kramnik will not play, he is not one of the strongest these days, as well…
Do you think that Kramnik will refuse?
I’m sure about that. Is there anything he can do there? Now he is an enigmatic figure at least, and the secret will be disclosed as soon as he plays and scores 50%. You can see yourself how he plays in the European team championship. I witnessed how Fischer’s mystery was cleared in 1992.
Do you think that Kramnik will not be able to play at the level he used to play, or is it a matter of psychology – he needs be defeated?
I will bear a load of visionary if I tell that Kramnik won’t be able to play at the level he had, but I don’t like this role. I think his victory over Kasparov had a corrosive influence on him. He started wallowing in glory and prosperity that he got. It’s difficult to catch a buzz and to play at the champion’s level at the same time. Kasparov worked a lot and systematically and there were just dribs and drabs of a buzz in his life. He simply did not have time for this. He lived working intensively. But Kramnik did not want to do this (or he couldn’t), he thought that he can simply live his life.
As for getting back his place in the elite by Kramnik, it’s quite a difficult task to swing into the last carriage of a moving train. I do not even know whether he is trying to do this now. It seems to me that he simply carries out his obligations to NAO chess club when he is playing in the club championship. Until Madam Ojjeh supports him he has to play for her club. He almost does not play anywhere else. And even if he plays, he plays in such a way that it would be better if he did not… It sits ill with a person who calls himself a world champion to prove that he doesn’t play worse than a mediocre grandmaster. I do not take seriously all these talks that he could not recover for a long time after the match against Leko. A few of 14 match games were low tension and there is no comparison between this match and any of five matches played by Kasparov and Karpov. They had a really tough struggle that exhausted the opponents mentally and physically. I think Kramnik is simply out of shape, but what’s to be done to get it back?... He has advisers, let them think about it.
Are you still in a contact with Garry Kasparov? Do you work on the book?
Yes, I help him as much as I can.
Does he still follow chess events?
He certainly does, but in a new role of a spectator. His retirement (I want to believe it’s a temporary thing) does not mean that he does not want to hear anything about chess any more. I’m sure that when he comes back from his political journey over Russia to Moscow, he will read in the Internet in addition to political websites some chess ones. Another thing is that he does not work at opening problems the way he used before, but he has assistants who did not put aside their analytical microscopes and did not switch off the computers…