Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Topalov Open to Unification

| Permalink | 51 comments

This interview in Russian at 64 with Topalov's longtime manager Silvio Danailov makes many positive noises about a potential Topalov-Kramnik match. (A match with Kasparov is mentioned in the same breath as also being "interesting" to Topalov.) Kramnik is mentioned as being in the historical line of champions and Danailov says "we reject privileges." Danailov adds that Kramnik likely wouldn't have scored more than +2 in San Luis, which is beside the point even if it is hard to disagree with.

November (06 I assume) is given as the earliest possible date for such a match, although what that could mean for the FIDE cycle that starts this December is far from clear. Topalov comments that it depends on FIDE and finding sponsorship, and that it's up to Danailov and Kramnik's manager Carsten Hensel, who "have a good relationship." All in all, good news, although I wouldn't hold anyone to casual early comments like these. If your Russian is lacking you can translate online here or here.

Topalov, who was rarely heard from in interviews, continues to impress with his openness and humility. When asked about his chances in a potential match with Kasparov, he said he couldn't say what Kasparov's form would be like right now. But that "against Kasparov in top form, no one would have a chance." He continued by saying that Karpov and Kasparov were far above their contemporaries, something not true in his case. Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, both FIDE champions are Bulgarian.


Supercool. Somehow not unexpected coming from Topalov. Two questions I have are: What is Topalov's overall score against Kasparov and what is his overall score against Kramnik. Just curious.

Breaking news: Topalov and Polgar already agreed to a draw. All eyes on Svidler - Anand.

Kaidanov commented that Topalov's FIDE rating now is now over 2800 (something like 2804), but below Kasparov's 2812, thus making Topalov the third to reach that plateau (Kramnik was 2800+ for a while).

As I posted a week ago, Kramnik is career +5 against Topalov in long time control games, although Topalov is +1 against him this year, with two wins, a loss, and a draw.

Kasparov is +6 against Topalov in career classical games. (Kasparov beat him 4-0 in a rapid match in 1998.) Topalov won their only decisive encounter in the past four years in Linares this year, although that game had a few caveats.

Topalov is clearly playing at another level this year. He would be a favorite against Kramnik - whose form has been poor - and perhaps only a slight underdog against Kasparov. (Now that Topy is playing the Berlin!?)

Thank you, Mig, for the repeat. I agree. The past is not a guideline for the future in this case.

Although it means nothing to him, I bow down to Toaplov, and acknowledge his absolute class, and I dont mean only in Chess. What a refreshing change from the usual bunch of egoistical whingers. Chmapion written all over him if he doesnt win another game in his life.

Svidler - Anand drawn on nineteenth move.

I agree. Topalov is classy and eminently likeable.

"Topalov is clearly playing at another level this year. He would be a favorite against Kramnik - whose form has been poor - and perhaps only a slight underdog against Kasparov. (Now that Topy is playing the Berlin!?)" (Mig)

Even though I like Topo a lot better than Kramnik I'd give Kramnik the edge in a match. Kramnik's rock-solid style and ability to not lose are huge plusses for him in matches. The reason Kramnik has been doing badly in tournaments is because he's been trying to win more and that does not suit his style. The same can be said of Leko, to some extent.

Another advantage for Kramnik is his ability to take all life out of a position, and exploit miniscule advantages to a win without any danger of losing. Look at his games when he plays 1. d4 - even Topalov has a hard time turning that into a wild tactical game, and sometimes (notably Dortmund this year) overstretches when doing so and loses. Just like Kramnik beat Kasparov +2=0 in 2000, he can do the same against Topalov.

It is no surprise Kramnik only drew the match with Leko: Leko is also a very solid match player, not a tournament player (which also explains Leko's poor performance in San Luis). I think Kramnik's chances in a match against Topalov are better than in a match against Leko.

One plus for Topalov is that he has shown improvement in his ability to exploit small positional advantages, notably against Polgar and Morozevich. Still, he probably lags Kramnik on that front.

I'd give Topalov a slight edge against Kramnik. It looks like he has successfully assimilated Kramnik's own ideas into his own play. However, he brings a whole lot of new sharpness that would be strong against Kramnik's increasing rustiness.

The only problem with Topalov is his play doesn't have the epic quality yet contained in the games of Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer, Kasparov, etc. Rather, he has a refined version of the late 90's supersharp style. If he can do more with it, he will be remembered with the greats.

What do you think? Should Kramnik challenge Topalov or should Topalov challenge Kramnik?

I give FIDE the benefit of the doubt. I think they'll do the right thing and fully cooperate and assist in the organization of a Topalov-Kramnik match. I know FIDE is a popular punching bag, but now that they have made an effort to change, we should give credit where credit is due. They held a double round robin including an elite field with excellent time controls. The result is a clearly popular and deserving champion with the promise of new ideas and hope for fans of chess.

If FIDE does try to block such a match, Topalov needs to use his new authority courageously and speak out for it. FIDE owes him because he has done a lot to further their political viability with this victory.

In response to CHS' question, maybe they should just organize a long match without a title or challenge, and let the fans decide for themselves what to call it. :) Okay, so that's probably a bad idea overall, but it has a lot of merit.

Actually, Bulgaria has 3 simultaneous World Champions:
- Topalov
- Antoaneta Stefanova (Ladies)
- Liuben Spassov (Seniors)

They're missing the Correspondence Chess World Champion (currently: Joop van Oosterom of the Netherlands). :-)

"Leko is also a very solid match player, not a tournament player (which also explains Leko's poor performance in San Luis)"

You do know that Leko won Corus this year, right?

"You do know that Leko won Corus this year, right?"

With a +4 score against a field much weaker than other tournaments like Linares, Sofia and San Luis, where Leko had mediocre results. Leko did win Linares once in a very strong field and Dortmund when it was a qualifier for Kramnik, but he doesn't do it consistently. Regardless, his style is more of a positional and solid player, not that of a wild tactician like Shirov or Topalov.

My comments should be seen as a compliment to Leko: he is primarily a positional and solid match player, but occasionally manages to win tournaments as well - making him a more well-round player than many others. Kramnik only wins supertournaments when the field is so tight that a +2 secures 1st place. Topalov, on the other hand, does not strike me as a good match player (though I admit he hasn't had any big matches in his career).

Murali wrote, "Leko did win Linares once in a very strong field and Dortmund when it was a qualifier for Kramnik, but he doesn't do it consistently."

Well, who DOES do it consistently? Certainly not anyone now active. Obviously Topalov has had a break-out year, for which congratulations are due, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain this level.

At the level Kramnik and Topalov have played in the last twelve to eighteen months, it's a no-brainer to conclude that Topalov would be favored. It has been a very long time since Kramnik has been in top form. Can he return to that level? We don't know, but he certainly hasn't shown it.

By all rights, Kramnik shouldn't be classical champion right now. All agree the championship was Leko's for the taking, except that he inexplicably stopped playing to win once he got to +1. One must assume that Topalov wouldn't be so generous.

"Topalov, who was rarely heard from in interviews, continues to impress with his openness and humility."

He has certainly impressed me. I admire him now for even more than his splendid performance in Argentina.

A great player and an exceedingly pleasant person. Not something you find all that often in chess.

Funny, prior to Kramnik's win vs. Kasparov, he had a rather unimpressive record of Match results, and his reputation...and rating was based on his tournament results. Let's face it: Kasparov had some kind of psychological block when it came to playing against Kramnik, which had the effect of weakening his strength of play, when paired against Kramnik. There was an element of masochism at play, when Kasparov deliberately manipulated the circumstances to ensure that the only chaleenger who could contest a match for his title was his bete noire, Kramnik!

The myth of invulnerability was born during Kramnik's match vs. Kasparov, where he did manage to avoid defeat against the greatest attacking player of the day. But let's not forget that the fact that he could score just two wins vs. Kasparov was less than impressive.

At any rate, we are not talking about an Emmanual Lasker or a Wilhelm Steinitz, both of whom compiled an amazingly impressive record of Match successes.

Topalov, if he faces a match vs. Kramnik, will not be burdened with a "Kramnik complex". Neither would Anand, Leko, Shirov, Ivanchuk, Svidler, etc.

It does look like Judit Polgar has a similar destructive complex, when it comes to Kramnik. However, whereas Kasparov lost faith in his abilities to defeat Kramnik, Judit lacks faith in her abilities to draw Kramnik.

Also, after beating Kasparov in their last game in Linares, Topalov spoke of Kasparov with respect, almost reverence. I'll join in the chorus of Topalov-as-a-human-being fans.

Thx for the interview. Very kind words of the manager. Topalov also appears to be a nice guy. I hope for me (and the chessoworld) that they get this unification match rolling. Im also suprised by the early date - November! WOW!

PS: Is/Was Danailov also the manager of Ponomariov?

Me again, and sorry for posting again so soon.

But I really must point out to Doug that there was probably no player in the world at that time who could have played a match against Kasparov without losing a single game. I consider Kramnik's performance impressive indeed.

Oh, and it's Emanuel Lasker. I admire him, please spell him correctly. Thank you.

"Even though I like Topo a lot better than Kramnik I'd give Kramnik the edge in a match. Kramnik's rock-solid style and ability to not lose are huge plusses for him in matches."

Your analysis seem, unfortunately, quite accurate. We all know that it is a mounain climbing when you face a boring defensive player at all levels. So you are right, it is quite possible that we get another upset in Nov.2006 if Danilov's predictions come true. That is precisely why I don't think it is such a great idea. But you have to agree that unfortunately this match inevitable. The very fact that Topolov is open to face both players for different reasons respectively, as 'd' rightly says, just shows what a great guy Veselin really is. Ftacnik said to me a few weeks ago that Kasparov was a great ambassador for Chess but that there was also a touch of arrogance about him...well, Topolov seems to be a great Ambassador without being arrogant. All credit to him.

To be pefectly honest, people like me are too harsh on Kramnik. The guy has his own style...what can he do? so maybe a match against him is not such a bad idea after all.

You have to love this guy. With Kasparov leaving chess, Topalov comes along just in time to spice up chess at the top. Add me to those who admire him for his great class and sportsmanship.

P.S. Yes Danilov was Pono's manager. Funny that in the Kramnik-Leko match both had the same manager, Carsten Hensel.

so Topalov plays Kramnik and wipes him out.

then Kasparov comes along and the BIG MATCH is on. that is the one that would bring the huge prize fund. go for it Topalov and Kaspy. the world would really love to see that.

I am sure a minimum of $5 million could be easy to raise then. maybe more. I know Fischer played for the $5 million and Kaspy always wanted that. that was one big reason that Kaspy broke off from FIDE. now maybe it might become possible.


Is there any indication of what would happen with the FIDE cycle if there were a Kramnik-Topalov match and Topalov lost? If Topalov wins, no problem - Topalov gets the "automatic into semis" bid that he is already promised, and Kramnik has no more excuse to deny FIDE's right to tell him to "take his damn place in line". However, if Kramnik wins, then what? If FIDE keeps up with the "Topalov is our champion, he still goes to semis of the cycle" line, which doesn't seem unlikely considering how much Ilyumzhinov seems to hate Kramnik, then in fact the match would not have reunified anything. If, on the other hand, FIDE does then recognize Kramnik and gives him the auto-to-semis status, where does that leave Topalov? Do they pretend he was 2nd at San Luis and bump everyone else down, which has the effect of Morozevich being entirely ejected from his first class ticket into the match rounds? Do they make their match rounds larger, say instead of 10 candidates making it to matches, make it 12 - one of the extras is Topalov and another maybe from the last-chance-super-tournament?

The point is: If Kramnik defeats Topalov in a match, FIDE would have to seriously restructure their cycle (which is already underway) or else deny the reunification.

I met Topalov 14 years ago when he was still just a talented junior IM, and got the impression that he's a very nice guy. It is great to see him succeed like this. He plays very interesting chess, and I believe that in his and Kramnik's current form, Topalov would win clearly. Look at his games: He plays well in all types of positions, even Kramnik's pet Berlin defence.

Kramnik's form curve has been going downwards for the last 2 or 3 years, just look at the ratings, e.g., on chessmetrics.com. I don't know what's wrong with him, but clearly its going the wrong way. A bit early considering his age.

It would certainly be great if a Topalov - Kramnik match could happen to end all disputes on who's the champion.... but it would only end the disputes for sure if a qualification cycle accepted by all is in place as well. Imagine if Kramnik won such a match with +1, and then refused to take part in FIDE's next cycle.... then we would be back to square one!

On the other hand, I don't think a match is a likely scenario, considering the problems of the past few years with arranging matches. If the match doesn't happen, and Kramnik doesn't find a challenger, then Kramnik's title won't be worth anything.

By the way, I agree very much with the comments about Kasparov's psycological block against Kramnik. I believe Kasparov has always had a hard time against very strong defensive players. This is also the reason that he never completely succeeded in crushing Karpov, who has the same talent as Kramnik in defensive play. Kasparov's overall score against Kramnik is pretty bad considering the rating difference between the two. I don't believe that Topalov would have that problem.

It's true Topalov is obviously a very nice and decent man, but i don't know why that should earn him accolades...it's sad indeed when in our times people are generally so miserable that when someone is being decent and not at all rude, people think he must be the second coming. Just because he's not the most unpleasant person in the world.
Besides, everyone has their quirks...

Besides, Topalov is being realistic, not humble, in his statements about Kasparov, for example.

I am worried about Danailov's comments about FIDE realising the "enormity and complicated nature of the publicized rules of the next cycle", and plans to organise another match-tournament instead. That might spell the doom of the best hope for the future of the WCC, the democratic qualification cycle.

Sacateca: The acolades for Topalov is not for being nice, but rather for managing to stay grounded after consistently proving he's the best.

Many of us (me included) does not know what that takes, but we can always see what happened to the others...

(And perhaps realistic and humble is partly the same thing ;-)

quely: i think Topalov would himself agree that he has not yet exactly proven to be the best...first among equals, more to the point :)
But, to stop nit-picking, i also think Topalov has a decent character to stay grounded and he has certainly proven himself not to be lacking in character the traits that would be needed for him to ascent to the highest throne (even Botvinnik would approve of his character, i'm sure ;) )

PS: However, people like Kasparov, and Fischer, were also realistic in stating out that they are the best...or i'm not sure who do you mean when you say look what happened to others. Kasparov even went as far as to admit that for a period he wasn't on top, when his results were disappointing.

Topalov at least proves that unmitigated arrogance is not a prerequisite to success in chess. Good form all the way around.

Topalov's all-draws in the second half of San Luis proved he is no Fischer. Still, based on this tournament alone one can't just say he is worse than Kasparov. Even in his prime Kasparov faced (and drew) tough positions against Kramnik, turned the tables in inferior positions (notably against Adams), blew away winning positions (notably against Anand) and secured wins through gross blunders (notably against Shirov). Topalov demonstrated all of those in San Luis.

Topalov is a long way from Kasparov's 11-tournament winning streak, and currently sits at 3 (Linares, Sofia, San Luis). He was "only" 2nd at Dortmund, but come on - even God Kasparov was only second in Linares 2003 (or was it 2004, or both)?

Just a small piece of information to all Topalov non-believers: Topa is the 3rd only player in history to break the 2800 ELO point (after Kasparov and Kramnik). His current FIDE rating is 2803!

"Topalov is a long way from Kasparov's 11-tournament winning streak, and currently sits at 3 (Linares, Sofia, San Luis)."

Actually, by the rules at Linares, Topalov was second. He and Kasparov tied on points, but Kasparov had the tie-breaker.

But that nit-pick aside, I agree with the comment. Topalov has had a smashing year, but he has a long way to go (as he himself would admit) before he will be ranked with the all-time greats.

To nit-pick even more, Topalov didn't win Dortmund. So he is currently at 1 :)

Danailov may seem easy-going in this interview, but don't forget he's the guy who torpedoed the match Kasparov-Ponomariov.

It was never made exactly clear what happened there, but I take statements like "I"m (we're) completely loyal to FIDE" or "We are ready to sacrifice all our privileges" with a grain of salt.

I think mine is going to be the minority view, but here's the logic (I promise to be short): Rigour in world championship titles is composed of two parts: Match play, and systematic qualifying. Kramnik had one and not the other when he beat Kasparov. Because of Kasparov's standing, the fact that Kramnik didnt qualify and was handpicked over more suitable candidates (eg: Shirov by virtue of having beaten Kramnik in a qualifier) didnt matter so much at the time. The world was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, provided Kramnik proved the lack of one essential part of rigour in his title was erased by a combination of a new convincing WC cycle, and convincing OTB play in general. This latter certainly wouldnt be necessary except that he had jumped the queue so to speak, in getting a shot at Kasparov. IMO he did neither, and is no longer WC. The rigour in Topalov's title (certainly not matching upto the standards of yore), has a stronger component of the qualifying part, and a weaker component of the Match part than was the case for Kramnik. Still this combination (IMO) gives a stronger title than Kramnik's. Therefore as to reunification, a Topalov-Kramnik match would fudge the issue EVEN more. It is not necessary, not from a reunification point of view, and not from a sporting one (Kramnik by his record is a mediocre match player except for that amazing combination of factors that led to the Kasparov dethroning). What I would love to see from a SPORTING point of view is a Kasparov - Kramnik match. Not for a title, but just because it would be soooo interesting. A kasparov salivating at the prospect of revenge, Kramnik using his unique anti Kasparov Kryptonite. Man, that would be something.

Personally i am a bit bored about unification intrigues and politics. In my perception Topalov is the clear world champion whose calibre is similar to other greats (spassky,smyslov,tal etc).He is WC not only for his formal title, but (mainly) because of his general presence in modern chessworld (He plays exciting agressive chess and most of all he is a real fighter)

I also think that it is meaningless to chat about kramnik immediately after the end of world championship. Ok he won Kasparov once (in a very boring match). But what does it mean??? Please no more kramnik anymore!!!


Christos, I don't get your argument. Topalov is World Champion, indeed, but he should be considered the true champ because he plays exciting chess? That's BS. Kramnik beat Kasparov, and it is irrelevant because the match was boring to you? Also BS. Topalov is doing the right thing in inviting reunification. Nobody who beats Kasparov in a match should ever hear "only +2" against the greatest player in the history of the game. Instead of choosing sides and debating, as though this was some college football opinion poll, it is right and just to settle things over the board, and if the players are willing to do so, then more power to them.



Did i ever say that Topalov is WC because he plays exciting chess? Please do not distort so violently my arguments.Let me make my opinion crystal clear:

A real champion has to fight in two different battlefields.

Firstly he has to win the formal championship.
Secondly he has to gain people's approbation, this is harder since it has to do with informal and intangible things like respect, appreciation etc.

Topalov did both, kramnik not. So in my humble opinion Topalov has nothing to prove by playing Kramnik.

Kramnik's victory over Kasparov proved two things:
(1)Kramnik is the reigning 'Berlin Defense' World Champion (2)Kasparov is getting older and more stubborn (he refused to substitute another defense).
Kramnik has accomplished little since 2000 and I accept Topalov as the latest World Champion in the line of Karpov..Kasparov..Kramnik..Topalov.

Correction: I should have said that Kasparov stubbornly refused to substitute another 'opening'(in order to avoid the Berlin Defense).

If a Kramnik-Topalov match took place, who would get draw odds?

Hopefully nobody. And hopefully a tied match would be followed up by more classical games instead of rapid nonsense.

Murali: you write that Topalov is no Fischer because he got draws in the last half of San Luis. Not to be picky, though, but what tournament of Fischer's would be comparable? If you're comparing to the 1970 Interzonal, for example - that was a Swiss, no?

I don't think it makes sense to criticize VT for not taking unnecessary risks in the second half of San Luis. The point of a WC tournament is to win it.


The match is official...go to chessbase.com. Topalov is going to eat Kramnik alive.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 14, 2005 2:00 PM.

    Topalov FIDE Champion! was the previous entry in this blog.

    Pics 05 - Still Life with GMs is the next entry in this blog.

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