Interview with Veselin Topalov

Topalov about Linares and the World Championship match with Anand

The Russian journalist Yurii Vasilev conducted an interesting interview with Veselin Topalov for Sport Express after his victory in Linares. For the chess fans not acquainted with the coming match Topalov – Anand this is a nice introduction, for the frequent Chessdom readers it is a good summary of the events. Enjoy the interview, and follow the linked articles for further information.

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This conversation with the ex-world champion Veselin Topalov was held immediately after his victory in the super-tournament 21st category in Linares. Starting from 2005, this 11 th supertournament, which he wins.

In less than two months Topalov will play a match for the crown of World Champion with Anand. And if we assume, that the Bulgarian would like to provide the analytical staff of the rival with “misinformation”, then he succeeded. Because he played quite surprisingly – recklessly, and even somewhere in a “hooligan” manner. He quickly took decisions in the most difficult situations, without thinking too much he was making dangerous sacrifices and entering in dubious forced variations. But even so he could analyse the subtle nuances of a seemingly drawn rook endgame – and win it! The game that Topalov played black against Aronian (commented by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk on Chessdom) was recognized as the most beautiful and awarded a special price: the two GMs received 27 liters of the best quality Spanish olive oil.

Veselin Topalov

Topalov with the prize for Linares
photo by Yurii Vasilev for Sport Express

Veselin, your play in the tournament seemed sometimes too risky, most experts agreed that against Anand you will not do that. Was that the goal of your play?

As all know very well before the world championship match no one will disclose his training. But I can say that to win such a strong tournament was not easy. Of course, my main goal was to train well. I played for my own pleasure and made moves, which I liked. For example, in the game of the first round with Grishchuk, I realized that the sacrifice I have undertaken was very dangerous, but I liked this move and I made it!

I am not very pleased with the quality of the games – for all but one out of the four I won I cannot say that it was a clear victory from the first to the last move. But I played interestingly and enjoyed the games.

Is everything ok with the match in Sofia?

How can there be doubt when the head of the organizing committee is the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov? The contract is signed with the organizers – and Anand’s, and mine. The first game will be held on April 23.

Where will the match be?

In one of the most beautiful halls of Sofia – in the Military Club. It is in the heart of the city, right against the Russian Church. At the time when Bulgaria was a monarchy, in the hall where we play, there were balls which collected the aristocracy from all over Europe. This is a very beautiful place!

And where will be the delegations of the players?

The team of Anand – in Hotel Hilton, where Kamsky lived during our match, and my team – in Grand Hotel Sofia, where the players of Mtel Masters lived.

The prize fund, as I read, will set a record for the world championship match, not counting the famous rematch of the twentieth century, “Fischer – Spassky of 1992, the year in which at stake were $ 5 million.

In this match the prize fund amounts to 2 million euros, or about $ 3 million, but if Anand has shown the slightest activity, the prize fund would be 5 million. India is a huge market and Anand is very popular there. But the World Champion preffered to come to a ready made situation and even to present himself as a victim. Of course he does not want to play in Bulgaria, but he does not have what to do as this was the best offer.

We were ready to play in India, the entire match or half of it, but Anand “did not lift a finger” to do something in this direction. However, three million dollars – prize fund is not bad if you remember Kasparov was ready to play his matches – with Shirov, Ponomariov, Kasimdzhanov – and for a million dollars. But for none of these matches the money could not be found.

The prize fund for the match – this is public sector money?

No, it’s from the private sector, sponsorship money, but guaranteed by the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov, who I am very grateful, of course, as he played a big role.

What do you think about your opponent?

Anand is one of the greatest talents in the history of chess, he is now forty, and half of that time he is one of the strongest players in the world. However, I have to note that in Mexico, where Vishy won the world title, I did not participate due to the FIDE regulations.

Regarding the forthcoming match, in Sofia purely psychologically for Anand will be much easier to play than for me. From me everyone awaits victory, while from him – nothing. If he loses, they’ll say: he played in a foreign country. And if he wins – he is a hero!

There is no “plus” in your position?

My pluses – a “plus one”, which I have in the classic games played with Anand, and “minus five” – in the age. He is 40, I am 35.

You followed the games of Anand in Wijk aan Zee at the beginning of the year?

Of course, I studied his games. “Plus Two” he scored, without really straining. It seemed that, if he wanted, he could participate in the fight for a first prize.

Let us digress a little from the match. They say you are a popular man in Bulgaria?

Well, of course. I was even invited on the show “Dancing Stars.”

Do you feel like a “superstar”?

Bulgaria is a small country. There are people who can be proud of their accomplishments, but the stars of international level are few. A real superstar is Hristo Stoichkov. Now – Dimitar Berbatov.

He has a cousin – Kiprian Berbatov – who became IM at 11. Will you invite him to your team, like Ponomariov did with Karjakin when he was 11?

I know Kiprian Berbatov will be present at the match. It did not come to my mind to invite him in the team, I will think about it.

In Linares your seconds were the Dutch players Smits and L’Ami – apparently they will be included in your team? And your former assistant Ivan Cheparinov, the famous master of making “debut mines” – too?

You are well aware, people whom you call will help me in preparing for the match. But there will also be others, which for obvious reasons, I would not yet disclose. Of course, the information tends to leak out, but let the opponent not get it out of my hands.