Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Topalov FIDE Champion!

| Permalink | 72 comments

I awarded him the title a week ago, but now it's official. The 30-year-old Bulgarian GM is guaranteed clear first place with a round to spare. Fittingly enough, he locked it up with a draw against defending champion Kasimdzhanov, who eliminated Topalov in Libya last year. There is still something to play for in San Luis between Svidler and Anand, who meet in tomorrow's final round. The top finishers automatically qualify for the candidates matches. #2 goes to the quarters, #3 and #4 into the first round of 10. Not sure of the tiebreaks in play. 'Most wins' would make Anand #2 if he draws Svidler in the final round. Then there's a little matter of $50K between #2 and #3, which might cover the Svidler family diaper bills for a year.

Congratulations to Veselin, the very deserving winner. There is little doubt he has been both the best and most successful player in 2005. He will also be the top-rated active player on the list come January. His dominating victory in San Luis is a stroke of good fortune for FIDE and the chess world. If Kramnik can put money together and FIDE and Topalov want to play him, great. It's a loose end that should be tied up. But the chess world doesn't need Kramnik to have a legitimate champion, especially heading into a traditional classical cycle organized by FIDE.

I don't want this to sound anti-unification. Neither Topalov nor Kramnik have anything to lose by playing such a match if they can get money for it, perhaps in Bulgaria. As long as the winner is obligated to defend the title in the FIDE cycle, etc. That's the tricky part, can FIDE be trusted to honor the classical tradition and can the winner be trusted to honor FIDE and the cycle? Topalov will have to defend his FIDE title in the semifinals soon enough anyway, so why not go for all the marbles and try to become the 15th World Champion? I bet "Capablanca.. Botvinnik.. Kasparov.. Topalov" sounds a lot better than "Khalifman.. Ponomariov.. Kasimdzhanov.. Topalov". Nothing personal to those esteemed players, but it's got to be true. Even if he loses to Kramnik Topalov should be seeded into the semis, seems a reasonable deal.

[Apologies for the slowdown around here. Been terribly busy with writing that actually pays me. Hope to get caught up by the end of the weekend, but things are going to be sporadic until mid-November.]


Who say the chess world doesn't need Kramnik to have a legitimate champion? You? Please don't make me laugh

Legitimate champion? The problem isn't the lack of them! Without a unification match we'd still have two -- that is exactly the problem.

I think it will almost entirely be up to Topalov now. And I think he will say yes.

Yes, we don't need Kramnik!
This year in all the tournaments, Topalov has proven that he is the best, and his World Title is so well deserved. And legitimate! As for Kramnik ... he should be chasing Topalov now ... not complaining about the misterious Brisaggo virus.

Topalov has nothing to say yes to. If FIDE can get their real classical cycle underway its legitimacy shouldn't be held hostage to a unification match that doesn't exist and can't be funded. If it CAN be funded, great. To me it's about having a real classical champion again, something we haven't had since 1995. (Broad qualification, long match.)

I agree with Mig's comment above entirely. (And believe me, that is fairly rare, although I don't comment that often.)

Kramnik (or his people) needs to put together a cycle of his (their) own, play in a unification match, or face the fact that he's becoming irrelevant due to his poor results since winning the title. Kasparov kept his legitimacy mainly by kicking everyone's ass. When was the last time Kramnik kicked ass for more than one round at a time?

I'll subscribe to that... We do not need Kramnik! It would also make sense to see Kasparov regaining the title in a rematch against Topolov but that's the absolute ideal. For now Topolov 100% deserves the title, hail the new King! Hail explosive Topolov!

The "two world-champions" debate will rage on and on until the "Fide" champ plays the "Classical" champ (whomever they may be should that day arise). End of story.
However, let us for tonight, put that to one side. We have had a fantastic tournament in San Luis (still with one day to go!), and a undisputably deserving winner in Veselin Topalov. Congratulations Topalov!

Superb performance by Topalov in the first half; it's too bad his wins weren't spaced out across the entire tournament, since this leaves a bit of a bad taste, the way he slowed down in the second half.

There is also the $8 G to settle between Kasim and Leko.

I believe the real problem would occur if Kramnik and Topalov played and Kramnik won! Should FIDE take that risk??

Journalists are going to have a field day with journalistic puns surrounding Topalov's name. I admit... I have been guilty.

The weird little twist in this fide effort ... too me ... is that topalov now has the right to seed into the semifinals of the 2007 world championship ... no draw odds? ... no nuthin except seeding advantage? This little wrinkle seems to me to really force kramnik to cede his claims and get into the mix... or end up marginilized ... kind of crappy it seems to me.

The easiest solution would be to give Kramnik preferential seeding in the new cycle, maybe at the same stage as Topalov himself (therefore pleasing the Kramnik fans) or FIDE #2 (Anand or Svidler). It is FIDE's moral obligation for giving Kramnik no recognition of his title; after all, FIDE's claimed recognition - that Kramnik was invited to San Luis - does not hold ground because Kramnik would have qualified on rating alone.
(The best solution would have been to have a two-stage tournament in San Luis and have Kramnik be seeded into the second stage, but it is too late for that now...)

With this configuration, it does not matter whether there is a match between Topalov and Kramnik. Kramnik's fans may keep calling him WC, Topalov's admirers will see Veselin as the real WC, but at the end of the day what matters is that both would have their titles recognized by preferential seeding in the next cycle.

Topalov deserves praise for a great tournament, courageously (and very intelligently) played.

Of course I want a match against Kramnik next. But if it should not be feasible through no fault of Topalov's I cannot begrudge him the title of World Champion.

And I do want further World Championships to be decided by matches.

It's too early to form a consensus view about who is or isn't the legitimate world champion and it would not reflect well on the chess world to allow FIDE, at this stage in time, its claim that it owns the title.

Mig, just speak for yourself! But saying "the chessworld doesnt need Kramnik" is ridiculous.

Gee, who the heck do you think I speak for? Putting "I think" and "In my humble opinion" in front of every sentence is rather redundant in general, particularly in a blog.

Congratulations to Topalov, he played fantastic and deserve the victory. He is truly a worthy World Champion.

As for Kramnik (Who? :-)), his results since the surprise victory over Kasparov has not been that convincing, and he has not come up with a qualification cycle for the next match after Brissago. So in my humble opinion, his "title" has lost its legimitacy. Kasparov proved he was the best again and again by beating the rest of the top players. Kramnik has failed to do so. Just look at the match with Leko. Kramnik just barely made a tie with Leko, and look at Leko's disappointing result in San Luis!

Now, if Topalov had won in San Luis after tiebreak, or after loosing to Leko or something similar, it might be a different matter. But with a victory this convincing, there is no doubt that he is clearly better than the rest of the players in San Luis at the moment. Would that have been different if Kramnik had participated? Surely not, just look at their results over the last year or so.

In my opinion, this stops the endless discussions. I consider Topalov to be the 15th World Champion (Kasparov was the 13th, Kramnik was the 14th). So, he won the title in a tournament, big deal. I would have preferred the old system with candidates matches etc., but I can live with it..... it's no different from the situation in 1948 after Botvinnik won the title.

It is ridiculous to keep mentioning Kramnik's results. Results have NEVER had anything to do with deciding whether a world champion is legitimate or not, except for the results in the world title matches.

It is not just Kramnik fans who consider him the real champion. I am certainly no Kramnik fan. I will not forgive him for an incident in a game I played against him. However, I know the history of the world championship, and I consider him the real world champion until he loses a world championship match OR absolutely refuses to play.

There should be no more disruptions to the world championship cycle once a reunification match happens. Even Kasparov should not get to just play a match for the title- he should have to go through the cycle like everyone else if he ever wants the title back. The champ also should not have to be seeded into a cycle. The champ should be the final match in each cycle!

Well, I can easily picture one possible version of the story in Karjakin's My Pre-Processor and Other Great Predecessors book, Vol VII, published some time around 2023 under Mig’s editorship. Vladimir Kramnik, the most unappreciated and reviled world champion in the history of the game, finding himself at the lowest point in his professional career, shedding rating points faster then Joey while blundering whole pieces left and right, takes on the world's darling and undisputed super-challenger and triumphantly succeeds in legitimizing his ridiculed crown, thus establishing himself as one of the game's immortals by dint of having originally dethroned The Beast, then winning a vital and gutsy last game encounter against immovable-object challenger #1 followed by a victory over the era's phenomenal performer. Not to mention being the champion who re-unified the chess world and heralded a new era of peace, stability and corporate prosperity to the realm of grandmasterdom ( OK, perhaps Mig wouldn’t have been the appropriate person to edit this particular chapter ).

The way I see it now, Kramnik's game can only go up while Topalov's stratospheric level and following winds will be very hard to maintain for long. And since I'm a guy who appreciates the value of history and tradition in sports and firmly believes that 20 ATP Masters titles don't equate one Wimbledon, I would love to see such a match materialize and bring true closure to the mess of the last 10 ( or more ) years, and also peace of mind to the chess historians of the future ( and to make my sympathies clear, for Topy to win it and establish himself as a link of the golden chain going back to Steinitz ). But last time I checked, Topy's match experience seemed scarce and rather unsuccesfull, while Kramnik now seems to know a thing or two about how to go about playing a match at the summit
( to put things in perspective though, Kramnik too had an abysmal match record before winning the title from Kasparov). It's a tremendous opportunity for both of them to truly make chess history through this match ( while also bringing clarity to chess history itself in the process ), and I sincerely hope that they will work out a way to give the chess world a gift it really deserves – to partly make up for all the great lost matches of the past ten years that we never had a chance to enjoy ( Ivanchuk – Shirov candidates match would have been my particular favourite ).

For the record, I don't put Topalov in the Steinitz line at all. Kramnik is still the classical world champion in that line. My point was that Topalov's clear victory goes a long way toward tidying up all the claims about validity, such as those that dogged Kasimdzhanov and the other KO champions and that would have been an issue here had the title gone to tiebreaks after a +2 or +3 win. Such things matter in times of chaos.

When there is a broad, democratic cycle and a long-match final, I'll happily count the winner as #15, whether or not Kramnik participates. If, say, Kramnik plays another match against the winner of Dortmund, it's just not good enough if there is a viable alternative (which has been the problem). Both sides have exploited the confusion to do as little as possible. One side putting together a real classical cycle will make the other irrelevant unless he participates or organizes his own. Kramnik can't sit around when there is a sincere effort to restore the classical title, especially considering how relatively weak the systems that produced his matches were.

Of course we never know how sincere FIDE is until these things actually happen. Kramnik has to do more than hope FIDE fails so he can continue to be be champion by default thanks to the long-faded glory of his 2000 match win over Kasparov. That match and the Dortmund-Leko match were vaguely accepted because of Kasparov's lineage and dominance and the lack of a credible alternative thanks to the random FIDE KO events. But if a real cycle happens Kramnik can't pretend to be the defender of the classical title by doing less, much like Kasparov would have been marginalized in 1997-2000 had FIDE put together a real cycle, though he would have had more leeway thanks to his huge rating.

As I wrote during the Prague agreement days, I'm willing to accept the defending champion in the semifinals. At least one of the participants in the final will have beaten the incumbent. But quarter-finals trivialize the title a bit too much for my taste, though that's all it really is. Succession is a powerful myth-making force and shouldn't be discarded lightly.

Reunification talks have already started, but nobody's bringing up the issue of the cash. Two million bones isn't going to come from nowhere. Kramnik could only get 800K for the Leko match.

Mig wrote "When there is a broad, democratic cycle and a long-match final, I'll happily count the winner as #15...."

Does this mean you think the title was vacant from Alekhine's death in 1946 until Smyslov beat Botvinnik in 1957? ;)

This succession stuff is tricky!

Seems to me the match is the thing that transfers the crown of the king. Would Topalov have done as well in a long match against Vishy alone? If Topalov is that much stronger than Kramnik, he should have no objection to a match. Of course sponsorship is the catch.
Part of Kramnik's claim to Champion should be whether he can attract a purse.

Oh, I think we can allow extenuating circumstance for death. It's so tough to find sponsorships for matches against rotting corpses, especially now in the television era. Kramnik's not dead, he's just playing like it.

That and there was no cycle in 1946.

The whole succession idea is bogus. No one ever beat Fischer. FIDE crowned Karpov champion instead. Now FIDE has crowned Topalov, who has played like a real champion in 2005 - tied for first in Linares, beat Kasparov, and now has smashed a super-GM field in a fourteen round tournament. The burden is now on Kramnik to put together a match soon, because if Topalov puts together another year like this, no one will give a rip about the so called classical line of succession. If Kramnik fails to attract the big bucks soon, his line of "succession" will just wither away.

I agree that if Kramnik can come up with the sponsor, and FIDE as well as Topalov agrees to the match, it would certainly be good, and close all discussion. It just seems as a very unlikely scenario.

And as for the succession comments: How about 1975...... Karpov didn't win the title from Fischer, instead he proved himself as a worthy champion by terrific tournament results over the following years.

Kasimdznov plaed in the World Chess championship. Though he is(13.10.2005!)FIDE World champion . Now Toppy have won. time. Now it is Kramnik's turn to give a rematch to Garry. Vlady, with out giving a rematch to Garry, If your are playing a reunification match with Toppy, is a rediculus. Please just think for a while. You can retake your mistakes by giving a rematch to Garry Kasparov. Just forget the past, be a legitimate chess champion.
Thank You

Kasimdznov played in the World Chess championship. Though he is(13.10.2005!)FIDE World champion . Now Toppy have won. time. Now it is Kramnik's turn to give a rematch to Garry. Vlady, with out giving a rematch to Garry, If your are playing a reunification match with Toppy, is a rediculus. Please just think for a while. You can retake your mistakes by giving a rematch to Garry Kasparov. Just forget the past, be a legitimate chess champion.
Thank You

To some extent, we've been spoiled by Karpov and Kasparov, who were both world champions in the traditional sense (of defeating the incumbent in a match), and by dint of their tremendous tournament record.

This was not always so. Botvinnik, for instance, was not especially dominant in tournaments during his long reign. And Fischer outrated Spassky throughout the latter's *entire* reign, if Chessmetrics ratings are to be believed.

We may have to get to non-dominant champions again. Seen in that light, Kramnik's title is a bit more meaningful (but not much more).

It's not a question of whether or not WC is the most dominant player in tournaments. WC is supposed to be the best player in the world, when push comes to show, and that is decided with matches, not tournaments. Tournament domination is a great thing, and certainly merits a strong claim on being a worthy WC contender. Also lacklustre results for a long period, like Kramnik's, do indicate that it's probably high time to have a match and show one still rules or if not, lose the title.
That's what his bad results amount to, in my opinion. Like it or not, he succesfully defended his title in 2004, just unfortunately not against Kasparov. But since Kasparov is out of the picture now, that doesn't even matter.
Everyone who talks about cycles, should realize that cycles are a means to an end, not an end of their own. To determine a worthy challenger. But i don't think chess is ill-served when cycles are bypassed and WC just plays a worthy challenger. i don't know what difference it makes. (This is also my argument as to why Kramnik should have just played Kasparov when Kasparov was dominating tournaments, even without a cycle or unification...all those things are secondary in the interest of chess, chess wants to have a WC that is the best player in the world, simple as that).
Topalov should play Kramnik. Only when Kramnik refuses, he should be counted out. It seems to me that Topalov may be reasonable enough to want to play Kramnik, and show he is the best at the moment (sigh, talk about hard times for chess!).
And i know i keep repeating this, but right now in the world there's only one person who really is up to being a World Champion, and he's not playing...anyone else is the second choise.
Historically, WC has always been above his peers, and at the moment no active players is clearly that. Even more so when considering the shaky quality of the San Luis tournament.
This tournament didn't conclude that Topalov would be a better player than Kramnik.
However, if Topalov was to play Kasparov, i am willing to forget about Kramnik, as Kramnik ducked Kasparov for such a long time. Even without any kind of cycle, a match between Topalov and Kasparov would be ideal.

I don't like to see Kramnik being slated all the time. I think he has had genuine health problems in last year or so which has affected his level of play. Topalov and Kramnik must both be recognised as world champions and hopefully some rich sponsors will come forward to enable a match between these two fine players.

Wim Woodward said 'No one ever beat Fischer. FIDE crowned Karpov champion instead.'

This would have been a valid argument if Fischer had stayed in the game. Most of the world would have been behind him and supported him in trying to rectify the title being handed to Karpov. However, Fischer decided to drop out, so you can't just keep calling him world champion forever!

I like most of what you wrote except where you stated that 'Historically, WC has always been above his peers'. This has really not been true until Fischer, Kasparov, and Karpov. Botvinnik, Euwe, Smyslov, Spassky, etc, certainly were not above their peers.

I like Topolov much better than Kramnik, having met and talked with both of them. But likes and dislikes should have nothing to do with who is world champion. The historic, classical match is all that truly counts, in my opinion, except under extraordinary circumstances (like MIG mentioned) where a champion dies. Kramnik is champion for now, no matter how much many of you dislike it. He loses that status only if he shies away from playing Topolov. If Topolov unfortunately refuses to play Kramnik then it will still be sad times for the chess world.

Acirce and Knight tour Amen. The problem is we do still have 2 champs. Kramnik wins in 2000, beats Kasparov. It's not Kramnik's fault Garry didn't have a re-match clause. Kramnik defends against Leko 2004, has draw odds and retains. Going back over the years the precedent has been to put the title up every 3 years, big deal, it took 4. Now Topalov is the clear legit challenger, and a match with Kramnik just has to take place!! Many reasons, for closure to the whole mess that has taken place since the early 90's. Both players are in their peak playing years! If they play next year, they'll both be just 31. When was the last time we had 2 combatants of equal age compete in their prime?? Fischer-Spassky 6 years difference, Kasparov-Karpov 12 years apart, Kramnik- Kasparov 12 years difference. Damn these guys should play even for peanuts!! If the match is drawn, but I would hope for a match where wins only count, contest 5 games of FischerRandom or 960 if you prefer, it's still chess, just exploring the other 959 positions. The chess fans and players need closure to this whole fiasco. As chess players you know when certain moves are just "cryin' out to be played. From what I could see Kramnik has an edge in games as well, 19-9 with some 13 draws. We have 2 champs, a Kramnik-Topalov match begs to be played out. This will link the chain, way back to Steinitz.

If it were a matter of preference or courage that would be one thing, but it's not. I don't think anyone expects Topalov to invalidate his own position by standing up and saying his own title is worthless unless he faces Kramnik. Again, it would have been tougher had he barely scraped through San Luis and things had looked primus inter pares. Then he would have more to prove on a personal level and to the chess world. But after this phenomenal result he is unlikely to feel any less worthy than Kramnik drawing a match with the winner of Dortmund (Leko, who, just for trivia, will finish with a negative score in San Luis).

As for performance, tournaments, and peers, none of that mattered much back when we had an established and (mostly) transparent cycle. Petrosian didn't have to win any tournaments to be champ because he was the one and only. But when things get messy everything matters, including perception, sponsorship, tradition, attitude, rating, and more.

I think Danailov could probably find sponsorship for a Kramnik match in Bulgaria. But is it worth their while? If the money is good enough, I could see it happening. The dilemma they face is that if you begin touting such a match and it doesn't come off, you've downplayed your own title for nothing. Kramnik has already embraced unification with the FIDE champion because he knows his own title isn't worth much these days. Topalov might be feeling a bit cockier. But if the money's there, why not play Kramnik? The FIDE title gets tossed back into to the pot soon anyway with the cycle starting, and Topalov could surely wrangle a spot in at least the semis should he lose to Kramnik.

Let's hope they don't make the same mistake Ponomariov made, believing that the title itself was really worth something. Having it isn't the thing, using it is. Using it for unification would be something. Sitting around BEING champion for a year isn't much.

Just added this update to the main item now that I have a bit more time:

I don't want this to sound anti-unification. Neither Topalov nor Kramnik have anything to lose by playing such a match if they can get money for it, perhaps in Bulgaria. As long as the winner is obligated to defend the title in the FIDE cycle, etc. That's the tricky part, can FIDE be trusted to honor the classical tradition and can the winner be trusted to honor FIDE and the cycle? Topalov will have to defend his FIDE title in the semifinals soon enough anyway, so why not go for all the marbles and try to become the 15th World Champion? I bet "Capablanca.. Botvinnik.. Kasparov.. Topalov" sounds a lot better than "Khalifman.. Ponomariov.. Kasimdzhanov.. Topalov". Nothing personal to thos esteemed players, but it's got to be true. Even if he loses to Kramnik Topalov should be seeded into the semis, seems a reasonable deal.

Sacateca - there's nothing in the definition of "best player" that says "best match player," unless the English language has changed overnight. Tournament dominance is, IMO, just as good an indication of strength.

However, the drama of selecing the WC through head-to-head matches is worth preserving. It's useful to recognize that this is a choice based on what we humans find psychologically satisfying, though.

macuga: i think it would be hard to dispute that WC has historically always been the strongest (i'm not sure if you object to the word 'strongest', i admit that 'best' was a bit inaccurate and indeed subjective...'strongest' is better) player, this is at least the impression i've gotten from Kasparov's MGP books, and not all of them were dominant in tournaments consistently. Part of tournaments is always lottery and luck, elements that are not present in one-on-one matches. i imagine this is also why candidates matches are such a credible way of finding a challenger, instead of just using some super-tournament as a qualifier like someone wanted.
Also, i'm not absolutely alone with my opinion in this matter, as also Yasser Seirawan said that WC is supposed to be "the best player". He left no room for interpretation when he gave a little speech on that matter.

It is not by accident that WC has always been decided in matches when possible, and that matches are also used in the qualifying stage.

knight_tour: Hmm, maybe you are right about Spassky and Euwe, but surely Botvinnik and Smyslov were truly above? Also before them, Alekhine and Capablance...but anyway, you do have a point, and i guess i have to rephrase that the greatest world champions always were above their peers. But yes, while it's of course a pity that it's not the case right now, it certainly still makes for a legitimate WC.
Btw, you mentioned something about your game against Kramnik before...what happened?

In boxing people know who is the best, even if there are 4 or 5 FIDEs in that circus.
In chess - even in chaotic times - people know who is the best.
I agree with Peter: Kasparov #13, Kramnik # 14, Topalov # 15.
No doubt Kramnik was the best in the world when he impressively beat Kasparov in their long, fair match. Who organized the match did not matter, when FIDE did not do their job.
No doubt Topalov is the best in the world for the moment (Kaspy retired).
Once a satisfactory FIDE cycle has finally put on track, there is no problem.
Playing Kramnik now has no sense for Topalov, unless he will be fascinated by some million bucks.
If Kramnik should maintain that he is still no 1 in the world - not by formalities, but by evident strenght - he will have his chance to prove it in the next cycle. Kramnik wins, and there is no more discussion. If he does.

In the meantime, let Kramnik prepare himself the best he can (he dearly needs the time), and let Topalov enjoy the tremedous feeling (and the considerable spin off money he will make out of it onwards) of having been crowned a 100 % worthy and correct Champion of the World.

PS. I am sure Kramnik has already sent Topalov a congratulation message.

And if the unlikely becomes reality and Kramnik offers Kasparov a rematch?

mig - isn't fide pretty much making it clear that topalov's title is approximately worthless... as he will be seeding into the semifinals of the 07 championship?... as the 'world champion'? ...seems to me the fide process diminishes topalov's title by definition.

that's the rub that has to make kramnik try to come out and win this process... or beat topalov in a long match prior to '07... or disappear into the mist....what am i missing?... (i get the feeling a smothered mate is coming down the pike.)

Would that be the Kasparov who *retired* earlier this year???

Maybe wishful thinking, but wouldn't Kasparov come back from the shadows if he had a clear and certain path for a match with Kramnik, or WC? That is, if he started from the same level as Kramnik.

Okay guys, enough. Since you all cant agree, lets just make Anand the champion! He did come second-best here, but i think he had some bad luck! :-)

sacateca: No, head-to-head matches are just one measure of strength. Tournaments are another. There's no reason to believe that head-to-head matches are more valid, as indicators of strength, than tournaments.

Some players, for instance, have an opponent that they tend to do poorly against. Take Kasparov and Kramnik: according to Jeff Sonas, Kramnik has performed at something like 80 points higher than his rating, when he played against GK -- but not against anyone else (except Polgar, to a lesser extent). In a match between Kasparov and Kramnik, such differential advantages are exaggerated.

Chess strength is not a simple number. Some people have better chess understanding; others have better endurance; others are gifted with the ability to prepare vs. specific opponents; etc. Matches are a good measure of some of these components, and a poor measure of others.

The reason why matches are seen as _the_ way of determining a WC is (a) tradition; and (b) drama.

Also, your argument that tournaments involve luck is a specious one. Sure, a specific tournament might involve some luck in terms of colors drawn, but in a long-term tournament track record, luck is canceled out.

Well, it's clear that there is no "unification" of opinion among "the chess world" yet about the necessity or desirability of a Topalov-Kramnik unification match. Some are saying that Topalov can never be the real WC without it, and some are saying that of course he can. It would be interesting to see how this split breaks down among the different groupings in the "chess community" - top GMs, other GMs and titled players, national and club organizers, club players.

Personally, I think that Topalov is a "good enough" world champion for most of the chess world right now. People claiming that "Kramnik is the real world champion" today have a much harder sell than people claiming that "Kasparov is the real world champion" did two years ago. Kasparov was the top-rated player with unshakeable tournament domination. Kramnik is not. Topalov himself is the highest-rated active player and has better "tournament domination" than anyone else who hasn't retired.

For the last several years, the defenders of Khalifman, Ponomariev, and Kasimjanov as legitimate world champions have had only one string to their bow: "the championship is the property of FIDE, so the champion is whoever FIDE says and nobody else." Today the defenders of Kramnik, similarly, have only one argument: "the championship is legitimately won by whoever wins a match with the champion, so the champion is Kramnik and nobody else." But actually factors like the format of the championship event(s), tournament performance, level of activity, rating, and other things, affect people's perceptions of the "worthiness" of a WC claimant. Today these factors are on Topalov's side.

I think that there is strong sentiment among the chess community that we are tired of schisms and want a real champion one way or another, sort of like the situation in the Catholic Church before the Council of Constance. When someone who is new to the game asks us, "who is the world champion?" we don't want to have to launch into a long essay about the claims of various parties. We want a one-name answer!

A lot of people, though, may end up supporting a Kramnik-Topalov match because it would "make everyone happy". I'm not at all sure that it would do that, and suspect that it would be more likely to disunify than to unify. People scoff at FIDE's ability to bring off events according to their plans and projections, but has the "unregulated sector" performed better or worse? What happened to the matches with Shirov and Ponomariev, after all? These things have a nasty habit of breaking down. Consider the following possibilities:

Topalov and Kramnik discuss a match, and then the negotiations break down amid mutual recriminations. Result: Topalov and/or FIDE have given legitimacy to Kramnik's claim to be counter-champion, and the schism is strengthened.

Topalov and Kramnik play a match and draw it! Result: the schism is strengthened, and everything is up in the air.

Topalov and Kramnik play a match, Kramnik wins it, and then Kramnik decides that he doesn't need FIDE any more and is the true champion and can play whoever he likes for the championship in five years or so. The schism is now worse than ever! Note to Mig: what procedures could possibly guarantee that "the winner is obligated to defend his title in the FIDE cycle"? You agree that this is the "tricky part" - isn't it "impossibly tricky"?

On the other hand, what happens if Topalov and FIDE gently inform Kramnik that he has missed the boat and has to get on board in the next cycle? If he does, then that settles the issue. Even if he doesn't, but if the new-format FIDE cycle continues as planned, then, although the "Kramnik-is-champion" forces may never be convinced, they will become increasingly irrelevant, and people will forget about them, as they forget about the "Fischer-is-champion" loyalists (though Fischer helped this process along considerably).

I think that the second path has a better chance of eliminating the schism than the first path, so I am for it, for what negligible quantity it is worth.


Petrel, thanks for a thoughtful comment.

Your approach is a little cynical though.

"...although the "Kramnik-is-champion" forces may never be convinced, they will become increasingly irrelevant..."

"I think that the second path has a better chance of eliminating the schism than the first path, ..."

Things can be eliminated and become irrelevant, just as people can, if you get my point.

What about people's feelings about all this? What about the people's wish for a clear history of WC chess?

It is not all about solving the matter by making somebody irrelevant, it's about solving the matter in a way that will satisfy people.

A few other comments:

Match rules can easily be defined so that no draw is possible, and so that noone is given an advantage (rapid playoff, or first to x wins, or two more games until winner is decided etc.).

Kramnik would of course sign a contract with FIDE so that he "has" to enter the next FIDE cycle. He could then later run away, but he would surely be sued by FIDE for millions of bucks, so really, that is also not something to consider a likely problem.

petrel, I would think that having some (half?) of the winner's prize money for a Topalov-Kramnik match being put in an escrow account, payable contingent on the winner playing in the FIDE cycle, would guarantee that the winner would stick with the FIDE cycle. Certain guarantees would have to be written into the contract in the event of the winners death, failure of FIDE to put on a cycle, etc, but nothing that a bunch of Swiss lawyers and bankers probably couldn't figure out.

The reason tournaments are not considered as valid a measure of superiority is that you don`t have control over what happens in games in which you are not involved. What if you are playing perfect chess and people draw you by playing equally perfect chess, but then blunder against someone else who is playing worse than you, and that person ends up with a higher score? By playing the best in that tournament, you still won`t win, and you`d have no control over it.

In a match, this can`t happen. Each game involves you. You can only lose a game by making a mistake.

Alkelele and Icepick: Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

I don't think it's as easy to put together a "binding" contract as you apparently do. I suppose the idea of putting half the purse of a match in an escrow account, basically as a "performance bond" to ensure that the winner plays in the upcoming FIDE cycle, would provide an incentive. But I don't have any confidence that Kramnik would agree to such a provision. Indeed, if FIDE ever made such a suggestion, I confidently expect that many would denounce it as a "degrading and humiliating" proposal, and ask "how can the World Champion be held hostage to whatever venue, terms, and conditions FIDE decides to come up with?" with all sorts of talk of Tripoli, time controls, etc. The net effect, I predict, would be to cause the negotiations to break down, with both sides of the schism more aggrieved than before.

Similarly, discussions of the drawn-tournament problem also yield excellent chances for the negotiations to break down. I presume that neither side would like to give the other draw odds (that is, to be labeled the "challenger"). As for a rapid playoff, isn't that a sore point for the "Kramnik-is-champion" side, much of whose moral capital is found in the proposition that the world championship should not be awarded on the basis of blitz games? :-)

(As a side note, suppose you had to come up with "Armageddon"-style classical time controls. That is, White has time controls on the order of Corus or San Luis. Black gets draw odds. To make it fair, how much time does Black get? An hour? Thirty minutes? Fifteen?)

Alkelele: with regard to people becoming "irrelevant", note that this refers only to the following hypothetical situation:

(a) FIDE and Topalov decline a match with Kramnik

(b) Kramnik declines to play in the FIDE cycle

(c) The next FIDE cycle (whether won by Topalov or someone else) is perceived as well-organized and reasonably fair and "classical"

(d) Nothing else unforeseen happens, like Kasparov coming out of retirement and losing another match to Kramnik

In this situation, yes, I think that people continuing to uphold the proposition that "Kramnik is champion" would be seen as increasingly irrelevant to the real WC situation. I would call this a "realistic" view, not "cynical", but that's a matter of opinion :-)


Just to contribute to the debate of tournaments vs matches being preferred.

Four month ago, John Nunn published an article at Chessbase proposing a formula with a tournament. This is what he had to say about this:


All systems have their pros and cons. There is no special reason to suppose that a tournament would be less fair than a series of matches. With matches, a lot depends on whom you are paired against, which is a matter of chance. If you have to meet an opponent you find especially difficult, then you may go out early on – chess is full of cases in which A regularly beats B, B regularly beats C and C regularly beats A. Also, with matches, if A beats B 6-0 and C beats D 3.5-2.5, then A and C meet each other on level terms in the next round, although it is likely that A has performed better than C thus far. A may then lose 3.5-2.5 to C and go out, although his performance rating for the whole event is higher than C’s.

There are also practical reasons for preferring a tournament. A series of knock-out matches is likely to last longer than a tournament if the matches are long enough to be fair (at least six games), the problem of tie-breaks is more likely to arise than with a tournament and, in the final, if there is a quick draw then the spectators can take an early trip home as there is nothing else to watch. While no system is perfect, I think that a tournament is to be preferred.

Topolov has already spoken to '64' ans is willing to play against Kramnik.

http://www.64.ru/?/news/item=142 for the interview in question. He and Danailov indeed do seem positive, which is great.

>Also, your argument that tournaments involve >luck is a specious one. Sure, a specific >tournament might involve some luck in terms of >colors drawn, but in a long-term tournament >track record, luck is canceled out.

A tournament unavoidably produces encounters played between opponents of different aspirations at particular moments - especially past the halfway point, when for some contenders chances have evaporated and interest slackens - and therefore the results become unavoidably randomized - and occasionally suspicious. We're talking about human beings here, not engine tournaments. In a match however, there are no such concerns as only equally interested parties compete during the whole course. Yes, there are difficult and easier opponents for every player.
But this applies to every sport, and no sport organization has tried to establish a system that bypasses this 'difficulty' in the interest of fairness. If you can't conquer a difficult opponent in a match, then the world isn't really being deprived of a truly dominant champion in the event of your failure and life can go on.

And for those who implied that Smyslov and Spassky were no more than equal to their peers at the time they assumed the title - you have to be keeding. Both Smyslov and Spassky won candidates cycles twice in row, an amazing competitive feat considering that they even had to begin their cycles in Soviet Championship semi-finals in some cases. Apart from their champion opponents, who else was in their competitive class at the time of their ascent to the throne ?

Imho, Topalov is the World Champion. He crushed the opposition in this tournament and will have the highest rating among players that are still active.
Topalov has proven that he's Number 1 and the legitimate World Champion.

Josh and Tashko explained very well the details of what i meant with luck and lottery in tournaments.
Also, i really don't know about Smyslov that much, but some of his games are amongst the most impressive of all...a definite quality player, with such fine technique as almost never to go wrong. He would beat anyone at all in quiet positions these days, now everyone just agrees to a draw.

Have you noticed that Topalov's nose is similarly curved as Kasparov's? Maybe it frightnens his opponents.

It is interesting that the different parties involved are all in the position of playing "Meta-games" with respect to their decisions to play, sponsor, or sanction chess activity. Topalov's interests do not necessarily dovetail with FIDE's.
FIDE has insisted upon the creation of a World Championship cycle which greatly limits the influence and importance of the Title holder. By mandating that the defending Champ onely be seeded in the Semi-Final match, FIDE has taken away nearly all off the de facto "Veto Power" that the defending champ has had, and on occasion, wielded. However, the cost is the loss of the tradition whereby the challenger must defeat the defending Champ in a match of length.

It is perhaps in Topalov's interest to maximize the income that he can derive from this current stint as World Champion. Whether or not he loses to Kramnik, FIDE will insist that he play and win both a Semi-Final and Final match, in order to keep his title. Even if Topalov were to lose to Kramnik, he would still receive this seeeding to the Semi-Final Match. Thus, there is not much disincentive for Topalov to play a match vs. Kramnik. At best, if he wins, he stands to make a nice pay day, and cement his reputation as a legitimate and worthy WC. If he loses to Kramnik, he is still quite a bit richer, and can go back to making a career of the FIDE World Championship's for as long as they last.

The sucession in chess history is a false thing. Some chess historians argue that Morphy was the first world champion. Some say Philidor. Some even say Anderson. But most say Steinitz. Its very unclear and hard to believe any of them. Its a waste of time debating on this matter. The truth is Chess history contains tales and legends. Nobody really knows its origins and nobody can really tell its end. Today we have 4 people who can still claim to be the best.
1. Fischer (still undefeated WC)
2. Kasparov (Highest rated player)
3. Kramnik (Classical WC)
4. Topalov (World No.1+ FIDE WC)

FIDE awarded Karpov, the WC title without ever playing a match. So if we have accepted Karpov as the WC, why is it hard for us today to accept Topalov as the WC? The golden link? Well Karpov really speaking cannot establish a link between himself and the great Steinitz. Fischer did not allow it and still claims to be the WC. So what shall we do when there is a lot of confusion because of this title. What I think is just to follow the Ratings. The ratings makes it clear who is the best in the world. Topalov today is the best player as his rating matches with his performances recently.

sacateca wrote "Also, i really don't know about Smyslov that much, but some of his games are amongst the most impressive of all...a definite quality player, with such fine technique as almost never to go wrong. He would beat anyone at all in quiet positions these days, now everyone just agrees to a draw."

People seem to forget that a lot of the technique back in the old days was the product of adjournment analysis. Would Smyslov have appeared as flawless if he had played straight through to the end, no break? Smyslov was terrifyingly strong, but his appearance of perfection was no doubt helped by sleepless nights of work on half-finished games.

Also, it's not at all clear that Smyslov would beat anyone at quiet positions today. A lot of those quiet positions have been analized back home with messrs Fritz, Shredder, Junior, et al. From the opening to the endgame, baby! They often come up with both sides are feeling peaceful. Otherwise, it's often a computer inspired bloodbath. GETTING to those quiet positions would be damn near impossible without help from an opponent.

TWIC reports that both Topalov & Kramnik will play at Corus Wijk aan Zee 2006. That said, nothing can match the gravitas of a head-to-head match, and isn't that what the KO and to a lesser extent the RR formats lack? Perhaps Sonas can calculate a gravitas factor ...

Icepick: It is a good point, that part of the old master's endgame technique, a rather large part, was simply adjournments. But regardless of computer analysis, i'm not convinced that our beloved top GMs would always be able to defend against Smyslov's maneuvering. It is just in technical positions they make most mistakes, and Smyslov, and Karpov at his prime, hardly ever made technical mistakes even before adjournment.
Today it seems that players concentrate on tactics and openings.
i'm reminded of this game (perhaps in Russian Champs 2004), Kasparov against someone like Dreev maybe?, an endgame with two minor pieces, king and pawns, where engines were showing whatever they were showing, draw, but Kasparov won the ending because his opponent made inaccurate moves. And Garry's play wasn't flawless either, but provided chances to save the endgame a few times. (If anyone remembers the game better, i think Garry had 4 pawns rolling down on the kingside, one doubled...)
In that kind of position, i imagine Smyslov would've been even stronger than Kasparov...but that's just the kind of technique most GMs don't have, and the desire to exploit practical chances, even if theoretically the position would be drawn.

Apropos Corus, and still maybe a little bit off-topic, what about Linares? TWIC mentions something cryptic about a split event between Spain and Mexico (?!)

"Limited information on the Linares tournament this year. I understand it may be a split event between Linares in Spain and an as yet unannounced place in Mexico. Approximate dates for Linares 12th Feb - 12th March 3rd 2006. Possible lineup: Veselin Topalov (not yet confirmed), Peter Leko, Vassily Ivanchuk, Peter Svidler, Etienne Bacrot, Paco Vallejo and two more possibly including Viswanathan Anand. 8 players. All news yet to be officially confirmed."

"If you can't conquer a difficult opponent in a match, then the world isn't really being deprived of a truly dominant champion in the event of your failure and life can go on."

I would like to disagree. A champion CAN have an opponent that does not get better results than him, but is particularly difficult for him.

I suppose that no one will seriously discuss that Fischer was the most truly dominant champion of all time. But even Fischer had a particularly difficult opponent - he had a negative score against Efim Geller.

A player can also be a world champion without being a truly dominant world champion. Around 2000, when I saw Shirov beating Kramnik, Kramnik beating Kasparov, and Kasparov beating Shirov, I was forced to think about it again.

Anyway, my point here is that it can be argued that Topalov is not the classical champion (linked to Steinitz), but he is the FIDE champion, and it is not fair to diminish this achievement by saying that is was done in a tournament and not in matches. It was a tournament with the best players in the world, except for the retired Kasparov and the declining Kramnik (who drops one position in the rating on every published list). It was a tournament where the fourth highest player in the world ended up with a negative score. Nobody wins a tournament like this with one round of advance and with no defeats only "by luck".

Yes, I would love as much as you to see a Topalov-Anand match, and hopefully we will see that in he future.

edu, I'm not sure that Botvinnik can be linked to Steinitz. And Karpov can't be linked to Fischer. No matter, they both proved their mettle. Hopefully Topper can too! And yes, a Topalov-Anand match would be very interesting, probably much more so than Topalov-Kramnik. T&A have played several interesting games this year, and I'd love to see more of their 'discussion' of the Queen's Indian Defense.


A difficult opponent does not imply an insarmountable obstacle. It is a difficulty encountered by sportsmen in every sport, but this fact does not introduce an element of injustice or unfairness to tournaments or championships. And to further emphasize my point from the previous posting, it a mark of a true champion to go past such an obstacle in much play
for the world championship. Spassky had a very negative score against Tal before their candidates matches final, yet he succeeded in defeating him and from then on it was almost all Spassky in their encounters for the rest of their careeers. Botvinnik lost one-sidedly to Tal in what appeared to many as a mismatch of class and ability, and yet found a way to turn the tables and win by an even bigger margin in the return match. Petrosian was almost winless in his entire career against Portish, yet succeeded in eliminating him in the candidates matches with a last game victory. And Fischer-Spassky was in essence another such example, which also implies that a Fischer-Geller match would have been even more lopsided in favor of Bobby, despite his previous misfortunes against the Ukrainian. True difference in class should always prevail against a history of previous misfortunes.

"T&A have played several interesting games this year, and I'd love to see more"

Hmm. Interesting.

Ivanchuk might be in line for some kind of Ironman award. No sooner does he finish the Karabakh Internation on 10/11 then he jets off to play in the Samba Cup in Denmark. So far, he has started out with two draws. Given that the Samba filed is weaker than that in Nagorno Karabakh, Ivanchuk will need to start putting together some wins, if he hopes to avoid dropping a dozen or so of his hard won rating points.
So far, it is a real yawn-fest, with 9 draws out of 10 games in the first 2 rounds. At least Magnus Carlsen pushed for a win against Lars Bo Hansen

morning, when I first wrote that bit about T&A, I didn't realize what I had written. I re-read it write before hitting post, and thought about taking it out. Then I thought, "Nah, anyone still reading this thread deserves to get whatever humor out of it they can."

I agree with that guy who said Topalov just smashed a team of super grandmasters and came out World Champion! Although, I suggest having a match between Kramnik and Topalov! I think Topalov would smash him, too!



Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 13, 2005 6:34 PM.

    That Other Tournament was the previous entry in this blog.

    Topalov Open to Unification is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.