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Elista Arrival

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ChessBase has a brief item on Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik arriving in Elista with some nice pics of Kramnik on the plane. (Game 1 begins Sep 23.) This pic on the left, however, comes from another match and is a fairly rare shot of Vlady without his glasses. It was taken at his London residence right before he took the title from Kasparov in 2000. It was taken by Valery Krylov, his physical trainer then and now.

Some insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the camp. Here's Kramnik second Evgeny Bareev after the London 2000 world championship match.

"There was wine and brandy. After tough games, Kramnik relaxed -– he had to have some sleep. I hardly drink, but as far as others are concerned… How to relieve the stress? Everybody has his own remedy. Some people like to have a stroll, others drink wine or beer. The Spaniards drank wine, our cook preferred beer…"

It's usually vodka in Elista, but I'm sure Ilyumzhinov has ways around the various Russian embargoes on fine Georgian wine. Both Topalov (Vallejo) and Kramnik (Illescas again) have Spaniards on their team...

I'm going to hold off to the last minute to make a prediction on the result and score. Topalov's incredibly strong finishing is a bad match-up for Kramnik's potentially still inferior stamina. The last week of the match could be bad for Kramnik regardless of how things are going up to that point. The memory of Kramnik's amazing play to tame Kasparov in 2000 stays with us, but he was far less impressive in Brissago against Leko two years ago. That was ice versus ice, and maybe he's really only at his best when he's neutralizing a "hot" player like Kasparov - and Topalov. Including rapid, blitz, blindfold, hopscotch and everything else, Kramnik has a significant +10 score from 61 encounters. Kramnik is +7 -2 against Topalov in classical chess and started out +6 -0. [I forgot I was counting from a more recent set of games I'd searched for. It's actually +10 -5 =24 for Kramnik.] The last time they played was Dortmund 2005, a win for Kramnik.

Both players have been so inconsistent (if always top 10) over the past few years that an old head-to-head score isn't very useful here in September 2006. Topalov wasn't the same player in 2005 that he was in 2004 and Kramnik had several poor years until coming back from health problems this summer with a brilliant Olympiad performance and a super-solid equal first at Dortmund last month. Kramnik has only played 16 games this year, but he's undefeated and has been more active than Topalov recently. The Bulgarian hasn't played a classical game since winning the MTel in May. Let's hope they don't spend too many of the 12 games shaking off the rust!

By they way, the conventional wisdom that says Topalov will be somehow escorted into the 2007 FIDE WCh tournament even if he loses this match is looking pretty solid from what I hear. Fair enough, but the method isn't clear. I'd wager on the field being expanded.


Vlad should drop chess and become a model. :-) I'm looking forward to this match, I hope it will be great! Have to move on from the retirement of the greatest player ever!

One again if you can read between the lines it becomes clear how deeply Mig hates Kramnik. Of course, head-to head means nothing.....BS! Even in his worst yaer 2005, Kramnik was able to beat Topalov. So much for the records. Had Kram not started his unhealthy e4-experiments, he would lead out even larger.

Its this childish way of interpreting facts that makes it so amusing to read this nonsense here. Kramnik beat the better part of MIG, Garry K, and is harrassed by the posse ever since.

Too bad this time Vlad will take the Topster out of history. Kramnik will win with +2 and everybody will see the difference between an in-form Kramnik and a cocky Bulgarian.

I wish I could agree, but I don’t think the head to head means that much either. Kramnik had Topalov’s number for a long time, but since he started this disastrous flirtation with e4 he hasn’t had it, and it may not be simple to relocate it. It’s clear too that Topalov is stronger now than then, whether because he’s just a late developer or for some other reason. I will hazard the suggestion that the increased computerisation of the game has helped Topalov: Kramnik’s great quality was always his touch or intuition, and there is less and less scope for that in the game.

I would love Kramnik to win, but I think Topalov is a favourite.

Heheheh, "read between the lines." You mean, "make up a bunch of garbage that completely contradicts what Mig actually wrote." The moral of the story is that no matter what I write a few trolls will say it's because I hate Kramnik. Let's try to keep this on topic, please.

Another tidbit is that I don't think Topalov has ever played a classical match longer than four games. Just another tiny piece of experience advantage for Kramnik.

Re your post on the other thread, Mig, surely this isn't scheduled to be the last world championship match we'll ever see, at least not if Topalov wins and Topalov-Radjabov goes ahead. A kind of Lasker-Janowski for the 21st century. Now that maybe would be a fitting valediction.

No, I think rdh meant what he said about reading between the lines. The truth is that Mig is a tremendous chess historian with an unfortunate tribalist streak that causes him to write utter nonsense about 20% of the time. In this sense he's not unlike the David Irving of chess. But those who rightly call him out on this nonsense are savagely attacked as trolls, jackasses and morons. Pretty transparent stuff that sullies an otherwise wonderful chess website.

As for the match, Kramnik over Topalov.

Mig, you are so clearly wrong about prior head-to-head match-ups meaning nothing. Spassky had an 80% scorring record against Fischer prior to their WC Match, and Spassky won that match going away.

So clearly, prior head-to-head match-ups mean everything. Topalov will be lucky to escape with his goatee!

To my mind the earlier encounters don't weigh much. Experience weigh some, but perhaps not too heavliy. I certainly hope that health factors won't decide. So what will? I think the course of the match will be important. Who is trailing and forced to take bigger risks. And who will be better at handling these situations. I think that Vlad will probably have the better nerves, and therefore I hold him as a slight favorite. But I would definitely like to see Topalov taking the first win. Then we would see the best of Kramnik. If it goes the other way around we might be stuck with some boring chess.

I've noted, once or twice, Mig's anti-Kramnik bias. But, happily, it hasn't found its way into this particular piece.

The photo was supplied by Kramnik's trainer, and is not uncomplimentary.

The verbal portrait of an exhausted Kramnik sleeping while his team unwinds with a drink or two was supplied by Kramnik's friend, Bareev. (Even more interesting might be Mig's recollections of Kasparov's team at work and play in London 2000.)

Mig says of Kramnik:
--amazing play to take down Kasparov in 2000
--may perform better against Kasparov/Topalov-type players
--has plus score against Topalov
--won his last game against Topalov
--brilliant Olympiad
--super-solid Dortmund victory
--undefeated this year
--more active than Topalov recently
--more match experience

--lingering health concerns
--less impressive against Leko

Hard to quarrel with any of that.

Mig's entitled to his opinion of the significance of head-to-head results where both players have been up and down over the past few years.

What is Kramnik's lifetime score against Shirov? My recollection is that Shirov had Kramnik's number, generally speaking. Interesting that Topalov & Kasparov do not.

In following Topolov's play, especially the last six or seven years, after a longer than usual lay-off he's had a tendency to come back and play his strongest chess. Fischer was also able to do that in his prime. Will that be the case here, we'll see?

The way Kramnik played at the recent Olympiad, I don't believe his stamina will be an issue with just 12 games. Also he does have a psychological edge. If Topolov jumps out to an early lead, say +2 after six, it's definately over. If it's equal or in Kramnik's favor after six, the longer the match goes-with his match experience- the more it favors him.

Either way, I'm looking forward to HOPEFULLY one of the more interesting World Championships in some time.

Kramnik's accomplishment in 2000 is impressive: he has done what nobody else has been able to before or since, beat Kasparov in a face to face match, with zero wins for Garry, no less! That is a major accomplishment result-wise.

However, I question assessment of Kramnik's play as anything extraordinary. Kasparov's play in that match was a bigger story: flat and unprepared. He kept going to the same opening without much of a plan of attack. He showed little of the midgame flare or opening innovations he has become reknown for. A couple of times in the match he even seemed to have given up.

That match to me was decided by two moments:
1. Kramnik goes to Berlin in Game 1, and Kasparov with horror realizes that all of his Petroff preparation has gone to crap.
2. Kasparov realizes that the match is going to be a lot more difficult than he thought (Game 3-5 or so) at which point he seemed to start to lose focus, take games off.

Mind you, a lot of credit should go to Kramnik for playing great chess--few errors, good D, the usual of what we have seen from him, before and since. It's just that Kasparov's offense was nowhere near the level we have come to expect of him. Forgetting Kramnik's response for the second, Kasparov didn't put on a great offensive performance. Ironically, Karpov, who never won a match against Kasparov, probably put on an amazing defensive performance against Kasparov more often.

Comparing Mig to a Nazi sympathizer and holocaust denier is a little bit appalling, no?


I think Mig is a great reporter. Overall he is not biased. he reports as he sees it and he is very accurate. I do not see any bias against Kramnik or anyone in chess.

I guess he is lucky to be on such good terms with Kasparov. But that provides all of us with Kasparov's insites that we would otherwise miss out on. We are lucky to have someone who can report on Kasparov so well.

Mig provides the best web site reporting on chess by far. #1 for sure by everyone's vote. and if you dont like it, then go away. No one is twisting your arm to read Mig on Chess.

Obviously we all have to agree that the old games dont matter. they are not counted in this Match. Only the 12 games played will count.

by the way. Fischer had a terrible record against Spassky and Fischer still won even after giving up the first 2 games in the match. The old games dont count. if the old games counted we would not need to play this match.

Make no mistake, both sides will do their best to win. the Match starts with a tie score 0-0. I will feel lucky if I get to watch all the games. I hope there are no early boring draws. I like a great fight. As long as the games are exciting and well played I will be happy with either player coming out the winner.

May the best man win.

What always puzzles me is people who keep reading this site even though Mig's reporting style (and alleged biases) apparently irritate them to the point of molar-wearing tooth-grinding.

Come now. That’s an extremely common phenomenon with reporters, surely? Over here the names of the loathsome yet readable Martin Samuel, Andrew Gilligan and Gary Bushell would come to mind, but I’m sure you have your US equivalents. Although personally I don’t find Mig in anything like that category.

I agree with the poster who said that the big story in 2000 was Kasparov playing badly. Apart from the well-publicised problems he was having at the time with his custody case (it is simply impossible to play well when this kind of thing is going on; I know about Korchnoi in Baguio and indeed going back Najdorf, but those situations were different), I also think Kasparov made it very difficult for himself by so publicly appointing Kramnik as his successor. Although I’m sure the custody thing was the main problem, I suspect somehow seeing himself proved right meant that losing wasn’t quite as unacceptable as losing to, say, Anand would have been.

I don't know anyone who consistently reads publications that irritate them. Maybe I have the wrong circle of friends.

At some point during a post-game interview while the match was ongoing Kasparov said something about having offboard problems. This caused wide speculation as to whether it was custody case, lunar eclipses or a rheumatic disease that causes inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. However, as the match ended, Kasparov explaiend that the problem was with his English and what he meant is that the strategy he prepared off-board opening- and psychology- wise was causing him huge problems.

I don't know if Garry perhaps decided simply not to allow any distractions to become excuses for his loss. But from what happened on the board his explanation strikes me as an ideally accurate one.

Don't think that Kramnik being appointed a successor was a problem in the way you describe, rdh. If anything, Kasparov started match in a rather combative way. He didn't press on with white and chose a risky opening with black--which to me is indicative that he overestimtaed his ability to defeat Kramnik. Perhaps, if Kasparov viewed Kramnik as successor, he viewed him as an obedient prince who would never have the drive to overthrow his father, whereas Vishy is the rebellious duke who sets out a rival claim to being the best in the world.

GK used to play the Grunfeld against Karpov as well, of course - equally unsuccessfully. And then that bizarre Nimzo - an opening he never played well, and played frankly at a 2250 level in the game he did play it.

Only GK knows, of course. If even he. But I do find it curious how everyone raves about Kramnik as a match player based on that match. Before that everyone had been saying how he was weak in matches. GK was utterly unrecognisable in that match, and then in Brissago I wouldn't say Kramnik demonstrated great match strategy, in fact on the contrary I would say that both there and against Fritz he demonstrated a definite lack of pragmatism - taking on the Marshall when he did was a needless risk reminiscent of his quixotic piece sacrifice against Fritz. I just hope he takes this match very pragmatically: if he wins the only decisive game in a 100-move Petroff ending and the remaining 11 are QIDs drawn in 25 moves, that's fine with me.

Anyone who raves about Kramnik's prowess in match play hasn't been paying attention. It rests on precisely ONE strong match, which happened to be the match of his life, and he deserves all due credit for it. But against Shirov, Fritz, and Leko he was mediocre. However, he does have the experience that Topalov lacks, and that surely counts for something.

It is true that GK did not seem to be himself in the 2000 match. But even in their games after that, Kramnik was an opponent that gave GK a lot of trouble. In the last several years of his career, Kramnik was the one opponent GK just couldn't beat. Clearly Kramnik had his number, and not only in 2000.

Didn't he play a brilliant Nimzo with a strong move 16... Nc7 about which he said something to the effect of, "No ten Gelfands could play this move." A player of Kasparov's class can play any opening well at any moment. He later commented apparently that the Grunfeld is just not solid enough to withstand match play. His main problem was not capitalizing on some of the good positions that he did get, although Kramnik also drew some pretty overwhelming positions. In general, I think Kramnik's nerves make it difficult for him to withstand match play. The way he lost to Shirov being my only real case other than my general impression of the guy as being somewhat fragile.

Personally, I thought that Kramnik's ability to tie the score against Leko in last game was pretty darn impressive, but that's just me.

However, the portrayal of Kramnik as a troublesome opponent for Kasparov post-London does not hold true.

Here are Garry's results in standard (classical, whatever you want to call it) chess post-2000:

Kasparov-Kramnik +1=10-0
Kasparov-Anand +1=8-0
Kasparov-Topalov +1-1=3
Kasparov-Leko +1=9-0

Roughly speaking, that's the same level of success against all of these guys.

Kramnik certainly did not have Kasparov's number after 2000. The only classical game between them after that time that wasn't a draw was Kasparov's win at Astana 2001. And any time Kramnik was white, he didn't even try to win, while as black he desperately hung on for draws. He was afraid of Kasparov after 2001. Kasparov also won their "mini-match" at Moscow 2001, the event Karpov chickened out of.
Yes, Kramnik's match record apart from the GK match is very poor. He was also monumentally slaughtered by Kamsky in 1994, and also lost to Gelfand that year.

Writing about Vera Menchik suffering from having no strong female competition (circa 1939), A.Alekhine wrote that the World Chess Championship should be "... settled, like any title of importance, in a match and not in a tournament." (from the book "Chess Facts and Fables" by Edward Winter, page 127b). Kirsan (and Topalov) disagree with those who insist a match is needed to transfer the WCC title.

Now that Kirsan has decided for the rest of us that his bi-annual FIDE tournaments will transfer the WCC title, I expect there might be a rash of off-year WCC title matches!

Tiger Woods is the planet's greatest golfer. Even so, Woods knows his chances of winning the next major tournament are less than 50%, simply because there are so many other great golfers competing against him simultaneously. It is likely one of them will play exceptionally well and Woods may come in second or third.

And so it is with chess tournaments populated by 8 of the top 9 players. (Either Kramnik or Topalov will be excluded from the 2007 FIDE Championship tournament.) The 2007 tourney winner XX will want to hurry and invite a challenger to a title match in 2008, before XX likely loses his title in 2009.

Chris B, yep.


All true, and yet, let's remember that even in a match the best player does not always win. Especially when a victory is by a one-game margin, it is hard to say that this is a reflection of one guy being slightly better rather than a matter of luck.


"Kramnik is +7 -2 against Topalov in classical chess and started out +6 -0. The last time they played was Dortmund 2005, a win for Kramnik."

Topalov beat Kramnik more than once in the 90's to add to the two wins in 2005. I think twice in 1996. First time was in Linares 1994.

I think Kramnik is actually +10 -5 and then a bunch of draws (but we often have decisive games between them).

Yah, I fixed it in my other previews. I was doing a search for more recent games and then forgot that those results were from a limited set when I started counting.

Why all the fuss about Topalovs blunders missing a draw (game 1) and a victory (game 2)? After two games Topalov at least proves to be a worthy successor of Bobby Fischer. Fischer was 0:2 points behind vs. Spassky in 1972. And who says history does not repeat itself?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 17, 2006 11:50 PM.

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