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World Chess Championship
2002-03 Unification


Garry Kasparov on the Current and Future World Championship
Interview: September 28, 2001
By Denis Bilunov

Editor's Note: The following interview with Garry Kasparov took place on September 28, 2001. Questions or comments by interviewer Denis Bilunov are in italics; Garry Kasparov's comments are in regular type.

Garry, you have refused, through your agent Owen Williams, to participate in the candidates' tournament in Dortmund, which is declared to be a qualification tournament preceding the BrainGames Network World Championship Match. Do you think it possible to play a rematch with Kramnik?

Let's start with last year's events. As soon as Raymond Keene obtained an opportunity of getting the money needed for the match, he, with rare steadfastness, set about convincing Owen and me that Anand presented no interest at all. According to him, it was only Kramnik who should play: Kramnik had the best score with Kasparov, and he is the only one of the top ten to have an even score with Kasparov. The World Championship match should be interesting, and the match with Kramnik would be just what the public wanted. BGN pays money to organize something interesting for the public. To add to this, I (against my own interests) refused to schedule a rematch - and this was taken for granted.

A day after the London match was over, with no moves on my side, we had a suggestion from Argentina. The point was that [Argentine GM and organizer Miguel] Quinteros arrived with a concrete proposal (concerning a rematch) from the Argentine authorities. Well, this idea was hushed up. Quinteros was told that it would be good if a new qualification tournament were held. Naturally, this was the easiest way of sending him back. But for all that I was constantly told: Oh, yes, this is a very interesting idea. And later on the idea was hushed up.

Even then, in November, many realized that the outcome of the London match could be fortuitous. Quinteros and his organizing team stuck to this point of view. Now that almost a year has passed, lots of chess players share this perspective. It is obvious that my chess power hasn't decreased. It is true that last autumn I had a tragedy, but in the past two and a half years, I have won nine tournaments out of ten. Specifically, I have won eight tournaments solely and shared one victory with Kramnik. What headway has Kramnik made in all this time?

In his recent interview with ChessBase, Kramnik's main second, Bareev, said: 'We were lucky.' (By the way, it is interesting to compare this confession with Bareev's proud interview that he granted last year in November.) Now it is quite understandable why Kramnik's number one task is not to play a rematch. Ever. It doesn't matter with whom and for what kind of money he will play the new match - whether his opponent be Leko, Topalov, or anyone else. The task is not to play it with me. He realizes that maybe this kind of thing won't happen twice. He has chances of winning the match, but he also has chances of losing it. I have a hunch that Kramnik estimates his chances at less than 50%, and so he doesn't want to run any risks now. You see, you cannot hit upon the 'Berlin Wall' twice. And what if he'll have to play principled openings?

I believe that Kramnik's duty to the world of chess and himself is to prove that the outcome of the London match was not accidental. Kramnik is still chess player number two, and the world of chess is eager to know whether the London match's result is legitimate. But most likely Kramnik inwardly shares Bareev's point of view, so it follows that his aim is not to play the match with me. Here any method would do: pretending to attach no significance to my tournament victories, giving no importance to the loss of the game in Astana... Although Kramnik knows perfectly well that the rematch could draw a lot of money (a great deal more than any other competition with his participation), he is not interested in this event: the risk is much too high.

Why isn't Keene interested in this event? He is supposed to be a businessman, isn't he?

In November Keene was presented with a champion of his dreams. Now he is in the position of controlling the entire process. The question of who will be offered the money is extremely important for Keene. From Keene's point of view, there is no difference between four million for the Kramnik - Kasparov match and one and a half million for the Kramnik - Leko match. What is really important for Keene is how much Braingames will be paid, and, incidentally, the less the prize money, the more chances of getting the money into his organization.

I can't say that Braingames has any advantages over other companies. Everyone could see how the London match was organized. It so happened that, compared with the halls where I had played world championship matches before, Riverside Studio proved a cross between a handball court and a stable (I don't want to use stronger language). I played in the Kolonny Hall, Tchaikovsky Hall, the Hall of the Park Lane Hotel, where the British Parliament was in session during the war, the Savoy Hotel in London, the Lope de Vega Theater in Seville. I protected and won my title in places with big history and good, long-standing reputations. It so happened that I lost my title in the place that was a far and desperate cry from anything of the kind.

What's to come next? We don't know that, but today it stands to reason that Braingames is not too solid financially. I won't go into the London match contract's details, but I will just say that Braingames had a legal possibility of 'hooking' me: If I had been paid a certain amount of money last year in November, I would now be obliged to participate in the new cycle. But that didn't happen. Obviously, Braingames has never had any money in its bank account. They suggest that I play in the Dortmund tournament, but where is their deposit? When Kramnik got a suggestion concerning the match, there were two million dollars of prize money on deposit with a bank. Right then, in late March he made inquiries about the actual presence of that money.

And look what's going on now! While Braingames pays nothing, it is the organizers of the Dortmund tournament who pay. They are happy to raise their tournament's status at the same cost as usual. So we can only set our hopes on Bahrain. If there is no money from Bahrain, there will be nothing at all. If the Kramnik - Deep Fritz match does not prove super-successful, Braingames will go bankrupt, I think. For the time being, if this company suggests that I take part in this or that tournament, it should prove that it has enough financial resources available for organizing and holding the new cycle.

Is it true that there is a long-standing conflict between you and the Dortmund tournament organizers?

In 1994 they wanted to raise their tournament's status and initiated negotiations with me. In Moscow, during the Olympiad, they themselves suggested that I play a match with the PCA cycle winner (who was supposed to be identified as a result of the Anand - Kamsky match). We agreed about the venue and all terms of the competition. In January of 1995, without letting us know anything, they threw mud at the PCA and at me, held a press conference (which we had absolutely no knowledge of), put forward some completely absurd accusations, and declared that they would hold a supertournament with the participation of the world's best chess players, including... World Champion Anatoly Karpov.

After that episode I of course rejected all of their invitations; it would have been nice if apologies had come first. They did without me for a while, but recently we have negotiated again. I said: 'OK, I can play in this tournament. After all, time flies, so let bygones be bygones. But take some necessary steps, make it clear that the staff of the organizing committee has changed, and the new people have nothing in common with that incident.' But - no, it turns out that the participant list of the 2001 tournament was full, and this is followed by the announcement of the Braingames qualification tournament. Well, there is no logic here: if Karpov was considered champion in Dortmund in 1995-97, why offend Anand now? It is necessary to be consistent and keep to some certain viewpoint.

In fact, we can see that the trio Kramnik - Braingames - Dortmund does only what is advantageous for each of them. I am sure that, if Kramnik keeps his status as BGN champion, he, in a year or two, or as soon as I stop posing a threat to him, will start talking about his right to play a rematch with future candidates.

Are you talking about all this as a matter of the near future?

No, surely Kramnik won't be pleased so much. I still have five years or so, and I know what I should work on. I believe that Kramnik is going to adopt a wait-and-see policy for two years at least. I'll be forty, and he'll be twenty eight (this age is the peak of a player's form). Kramnik will surely delay any activity. Little by little, people will forget all the details, and the pressure on him will weaken.

There is almost no pressure on him even now, though. When I won the title of World Champion, I had a top rating and regularly won the matches with Karpov; I won all of the tournaments I took part in, but everybody continued demanding new victories. When the usual course of things was slightly broken at the World Cup, a lot of talk was immediately stirred up. In 1991 Ivanchuk came first in Linares, and I had a relatively unhappy period. So after the tournament in Reggio Emilia, stories went around: Kasparov is not what he used to be, Kasparov - at best - is the first among equals... Then I started winning again, and everybody seemed to forget what had happened before. But I was constantly expected to protect my position, and maybe this is only natural. More to the point, now that there is such a chaos in the world of chess, there is only one thing that can remain unquestionable: the World Champion must be the world's strongest chess player.

The London match provided Kramnik with a title, but this title should be supported by victories. Kramnik had an opportunity of doing this in Wijk aan Zee and Astana. Well, we all know the outcomes.

You know, some say that the World Champion should not necessarily be the world's strongest chess player...

Yes, I am familiar with this point of view. Paradoxical as it might seem, I heard this viewpoint from the same people who did not take Khalifman seriously after his victory at FIDE World Championship in Las Vegas. Back at that time these people said: 'Well, Khalifman, all right, yet the World Champion should be the strongest chess player...' Many disagreed with them, and, by the way, Kramnik did, though he (unlike me) participated in FIDE tournaments.

And now we are getting round to the most important thing. Everybody says that it was Kasparov who made up all these rules. My position has always been very simple: The idea of a rematch is wrong, because one cannot have an automatic right to it. Now I zealously defend my right to a rematch, because I win all of the tournaments I take part in, including those where Kramnik plays as well. He needn't look for a new opponent now.

It would be a good job to develop a new qualification system. I am all for this, and it's true I myself suggested doing all this. But now it looks absurd. There are a number of reasons here. Firstly, there is no union with FIDE. Today it's absurd to attempt to hold qualification cycles where a number of the strongest chess players are not involved. It's clear that neither Anand nor the new FIDE Champion will participate in the qualifications. Secondly, the qualifications are held in order to identify the strongest candidate. Today there is no need to hold these qualifications, because anybody can readily see what kind of match is a real and genuine World Championship match. Everything else will be just a parody, and Kramnik, incidentally, realizes this perfectly well too.

My opinion hasn't changed in this respect: the World Champion should play a match with the strongest chess player. True, it would be nice if a qualifying tournament were held, and let the winner of this tournament play a match with the loser of the rematch, and then let the regular cycle operate. But to make the qualifications legitimate, it is necessary to be sure that World Champion is the world's strongest chess player. If Kramnik beats me for a second time, there will be no more questions. If he loses, we can conclude that the result of the London match was not valid. Or, to be more precise, it was legitimate, but the title has not been handed down completely yet.

This article originally appeared at It has been reused with permission.


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