Vladimir Kramnik: "Kasparov Was Blaming Me for Following the Conditions of the Contract That Was Put Together by Him"

Время публикации: 16.10.2011 02:08 | Последнее обновление: 16.12.2013 23:24

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Full interview in Russian

E.SUROV: This is Chess-News, my name is Evgeny Surov and Vladimir Kramnik is on the line. Hello, Vladimir!

V.KRAMNIK: Hello, good afternoon.

E.SUROV: Perhaps you watched the recent match Kasparov – Short?

V.KRAMNIK: Uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t. I was busy and I didn’t have time to watch it, I just saw the result. As I understood the battle was more or less equal with attacks from both sides.

E.SUROV: And you? Would you want to play with Kasparov now?

V.KRAMNIK: Sure, with pleasure! Actually organizers wanted to arrange something like that a couple of times. Blitz, rapid – regardless the format. And I was completely ready but unfortunately we couldn’t face the same enthusiasm form the opposite side. Maybe we can finally persuade Garry when I “quit” chess.

E.SUROV: But ten years ago it was completely the opposite situation – he was ready and you didn’t agree to play.

V.KRAMNIK: No, not that it was an opposite situation. We’re talking about different things. It was a World Championship with all the legal moments included. The development and direction of the whole chess world was under the decisions made at that time. And now, now it’s just a commercial event; let’s say a show for the public that would popularize chess. But at that time the situation was different – it was extremely confusing and I would like to deepen in it in our conversation. That’s because I see that a lot of people including chess players, although they know more, and still I was surprised to find out that some top-chess players didn’t know very important details of the situation that took place. So, I think it is important for everybody to know both sides of the story: not only from Kasparov’s perspective, but from mine as well.

E.SUROV: Then I’d like to start with your candidate match with Shirov. You lost it, didn’t you?

V.KRAMNIK: Yes, I did, I lost it. That turned out to be a sad story. Maybe not everybody knows that Shirov… I mean everyone knows that Shirov didn’t get anything at the end. But not everybody knows that I also received only a third part of that money… the money which was assigned for the one who would lose. I mean I was also deceived and, taking into consideration all the expenses that were used during the preparation time I actually didn’t earn anything on it, well, except negative emotions. Finally the contract still wasn’t signed.

In fact there were some really interesting details about that. As I remember, unfortunately, the idea of, to be straight out, “bunko” me and Shirov Rentero already had at the moment of organizing the match. That’s because he obstinately didn’t want to sign the contract – I mean I made some contract and send it to him to sign, there were obligations for both sides, financial points and so on. Eventually he said: “Well, let’s sign it when we are there, on the first day of arrival”. Of course on the first day of our arrival he was busy, he wasn’t there. Then there was the “opening ceremony day”, and something happened on that day and he again couldn’t sign it, but tomorrow “he’d definitely sign”… Interesting is I’d already realized that all that was going to end badly. And there was another interesting moment – believe me or not as long as I don’t have any proof – but I wasn’t about to play the fifth game at all. I mean I would deliver my final ultimatum after the third one: if the contract won’t be signed during the day I’d simply reject to play. 

E.SUROV: Aha, so eight years before your famous non-appearance for the fifth game you already then…

V. KRAMNIK: Yes, I was preparing myself. No, it was clear, he blatantly broke his word several times, he continued saying he’d sign, but he didn’t. But the problem was that unfortunately I lost a totally drawn position in the fourth game. That was the only reason why I went to the fifth game. Unfortunately I lost and it made clear that my non-appearance to the fifth game would be evaluated like “he’s a coward, he’s just afraid of losing the match and that’s why he’s not playing”. So I was put in a situation of no choice, I was forced to continue the match, because I was trailing.

It was logical that I’ve lost. I have to say that I underrated my rival. I was inexperienced at that time and I naively thought that I had to win somehow for my results were better and in general I was playing well. But that was the time when I understood that a match is a bit different thing.  The one who players better at the given moment and who is better prepared as psychologically so in chess terms, exactly he will win the match. To the point, that loss in the match against Shirov did me a great job. Later, after analyzing the situation, I understood that I actually benefited from it. I think I wasn’t ready to defeat Kasparov in 98. So it was good that I’ve lost the match with Shirov. If I won, the match with Kasparov would be held in 98, and I would probably lose it. But in 2000 after such a negative experience of match loss I was shaken up, it really gave me a lot – I think it helped me much in the match with Kasparov. Well, that’s a lyrical digression.

Regarding to organization of our match with Kasparov I can say that was a total fortuity, I didn’t even think it was possible. Especially if take into consideration my loss to Shirov and the fact that Kasparov had been negotiating about the match with Anand for a long time. So, I was sure that they’re going to play soon after they’d come to the agreement. However, I have to say that by the time the negotiations were going to finish I already outstripped Anand by the rating points; I mean I was the second by rating. But still it was clear that the negotiations were in progress and that in general Anand deserved to play the match. So I didn’t even imagine it was possible for me to play that match. Of course that was a bit upsetting, especially taking into account that the whole situation, not only with me, but in general, the World Championship system was basically destroyed. The last real World Championship cycle was held in 94-95. After that FIDE made a knockout system, which for me always… Firstly, I’m against of knockout system in principle; I think it’s harmful. Secondly, I never considered it as a real World Championship. But that’s my personal feeling. Upsetting was that I understood that I wouldn’t have any other chance to fight for the World title in the nearest future, while I had a feeling that I was ready at least to try because I gained enough strength and experience, which was very important. And I had the will, but there wasn’t any opportunity.

But all that happened during the tournament in Monaco. I suddenly got a call a round or two before the end of the tournament.

E.SUROV: Which year was that?

V.KRAMNIK: That was 2000. Unexpectedly Raymond Keene told me: “Look, it didn’t work out with Anand so we want you to play the match for the World title”. It was a shocker for me. So, we agreed to negotiate with Raymond Keene and Bain Games. Straight after the end of the tournament in Monaco Kasparov called me to say what was the situation and that he was ready to play the match and so on. That was it. And suddenly… Well, I flew to Moscow, found some good jurists from a big law company. They did everything quickly – expensively, as it always happens - but everything was done quickly and efficiently. So, after a week I had got the proposal I’d already signed the contract and started to prepare for the match.  Everything happened to be spontaneously, madly and unexpectedly…

E.SUROV: …and quickly and expensively. You can consider this question naïve but five minutes ago you’ve been talking about your loss to Shirov and now you don’t even mention him among the candidates who could challenge Kasparov.    

V.KRAMNIK: Yes, that’s another thing to talk about. The fact is that Raymond Keene told me – by the way he confirmed that in his interview to “New in Chess” – the problem was that there was some investor who was interested in the match of either Anand or me. So, if I have said no then nothing would have happened. That is an important point and some people don’t understand it. It wasn’t that I crept in ahead of someone, I was the last alternative. The last and the only. That means I didn’t play instead of Shirov, because the match with Shirov or anybody else instead of either Anand or me just wouldn’t take place at all. That’s an important detail and it changes the whole situation.

But still, there’s no doubt that Shirov was the victim in that situation. And I somehow felt uncomfortable. I still realize that it turned to be an absurd that the loser finally played the match and the winner didn’t.  But there are two points here. Firstly, as I know Shirov was offered to play against Kasparov, however, for less money. And there’s also a rumour that Kasparov did offer him a match somewhere in USA, I think, for half a million Euros or 600 thousand dollars. Shirov refused as Rentero promised him a way bigger amount of money. In my view Shirov nevertheless expected more money to be found but it didn’t happen. So, it’s not right to say that Shirov didn’t have any opportunity to play against Kasparov. He was given one, just for less money. Honestly, it’s not my intention to besmirch Alexei anyhow, but personally I would have agreed to play the World Championship match against Kasparov under any conditions. And if I was him I would agree to play for 600 thousand dollars as well. But he refused, that was his right and I perfectly understand it.

I understand that he is an injured side and I still have some bitter aftertaste for the whole story, however, I still can’t get what was my fault. I think that’s Kasparov who should feel guilty.   

Let’s look at the situation from my side. The situation was as following: I’m offered a match, I haven’t asked for it, two years have already past, there’s no World Championship cycle. So, if I refuse playing it’s absolutely unknown when again I would have this opportunity. The situation was ambiguous. I do understand the arguments that Shirov and others have, but I can only say that: not that I’m justifying myself but I really don’t think I am guilty. That was the way things happened. In any case I do know only one thing: there’s not a chess player, not a single person who would say no in my position. […] 

E,SUROV: Regarding to your chance of becoming the World Champion – have you ever thought that one can gain the title by taking part in FIDE knockout championship?

V.KRAMNIK: That’s possible but the fact is that I don’t need the title of the World Champion that is only on paper. I just never considered the knockout World Champion as a real one. I don’t want to offend anybody but that’s what I think. And even if I won the knockout World Championship I wouldn’t feel myself as a champion until I wouldn’t win over Kasparov or whoever would it be in the serious classic chess match. […]

As I understand not a lot of people expected that (win over Kasparov). There’s an important point regarding to the contract we’ve signed. And the point is that: we signed a long-term contract. That means it didn’t include only our match with Kasparov.

E.SUROV: What do you mean by long-term contract?

V.KRAMNIK: That changes the whole situation. Both of us signed that contract with the company Brain Games. […]

What was it about? The contract was made up by Kasparov. Brain Games confirmed that to me. There were negotiations about the details, but in general everything that was written in it – everything was initiated by Kasparov. The contract covered not only our match but the next cycle of the World Championship. So, Kasparov put it together and to be true I was happy about that. […]

The winner of our match was obliged to play with the winner of the Candidates Tournament. In actual fact the contract prescribed the development of chess for the next few years. That is an important point because otherwise I would have a moral obligation to play a rematch with Kasparov which I would do. […]

So, I won the match which meant Kasparov had legal obligations if not saying about the moral ones. Absurdity of the situation is that Kasparov started to blame me for following the conditions of the contract, the conditions that were put together by him. He understood that they’re not advantageous for him after he lost.

And another important point: if he put any obligations about the rematch into the contract, I would have signed it and we would have played. So, I didn’t have a right to play the rematch with Kasparov in principle. That’s just because I had a contract which obliged me to defend the title by playing with the Candidates Tournament’s winner. Actually, the contract was beneficial not only for me but for the whole chess world as it compelled the sponsor to hold the next World Championship cycle in all financial terms. Isn’t that great? […]

E.SUROV: And what was the reaction of Brain Games?

V.KRAMNIK: Frankly speaking I don’t know. Actually they had obligations as well. And both of us, Kasparov and I undertook obligations. Well, I don’t know if they’d agree to organize our rematch if we had decided so. And this is a legal side of the coin. But there is a moral side of it as well. Being aware of all the details now, I still can’t understand what moral right Kasparov is using not to ask but to demand the rematch. As to me, he doesn’t have that right.  That contradicts to the obligations that were undertaken by him on his own free will. To ask – maybe, something like “I would like to” but to demand…

E.SUROV: He didn’t ask but demand?

V.KRAMNIK: Sure, he was demanding it. He was gear up for play the rematch immediately after the match, it’s clear to me that he decided not to play in Candidates Tournament at the very first day, he only wanted to play the rematch, but that didn’t meet the obligation he and I have undertaken. […]

E.SUROV: After two years didn’t you feel like.. Haven’t you asked yourself: maybe I really have to play with the world’s strongest chess player? I mean he was number-one ranked player in the world.

V.KRAMNIK: Well, the fact is that it was already too late because they started to organize Candidates Tournament. And I conceptually don’t agree to this position. I mean World Championship is not a private business of the champion – that’s not like he decides to whom to play or not. Maybe I was a bit too much idealistic at that time, but I thought… After I won the match I talked to Joel Lautier about my obligation of re-establishing the World Championship. Believe me or not but I really thought so. I believed it has completely collapsed. I personally, like many others, never considered the World Championship that was held by FIDE as a real one. And there wasn’t any real competition in classical chess terms for a long time. So I set a goal… All the more, fortunately I had a company which had legal responsibility of doing that. I also considered rematch as something incorrect. I don’t believe it’s a right thing. So, if you have an opportunity of organizing a real cycle instead of the rematch, you should definitely organize the cycle.

And again when we are talking about the rematch we mean something on a hypothetical level as long as I didn’t get any concrete offer from anybody. However we’re talking in the way as if I’ve been actually offered to play the rematch. Not a single concrete offer.

So, if you look from my perspective. I was supposed to abrogate the contract, to refuse the match with computer as well as playing in the whole cycle of the World’s Championship which, by the way, was planned with a perfect format, in an absolutely right way – and all that to please Kasparov and play some mythical match with him. So, that meant I would be just a random person who won a random private match that wasn’t supported by any organization. But that’s insane. Come to think of it, who in one’s right mind would do so?

So, when the start of the Candidates Tournament was announced Kasparov was the first one to be invited and I remember I told Keene: “Use anything you want in order to make him to play in this tournament”. That’s because it would make the tournament more prestigious. Actually, I wanted it to be a real cycle with all the strongest chess players of the world. That’s why we’ve invited everybody. Anand was also invited but he refused to play because he just became the World Champion. I mean he became the World Champion in knockout system of FIDE. At the beginning Ivanchuk agreed to play but then as he had confessed FIDE pressurized him and he was forced to refuse. All other strongest players were there.  

Kasparov… well, in general it shouldn’t be done like that but we all wanted him to play in this tournament. Keene and I have talked about that and the first thing Keene asked me was if we can offer him special financial conditions. In general things shouldn’t be done like this as everybody has to be on equal terms, but I said any conditions, it didn’t worry me, just make sure he players. That was nothing, but the second thing… That’s true and Keene confirmed that in his recent interview – Kasparov was given an opportunity to choose the system. The system of conducting the tournament was totally up to him. That means he could choose any system he wished: a knockout, matches, a tournament, a tournament and then match between the first and the second places, that’s for insuring him that even if he won’t be the first in the tournament he can then win the match against the winner. So he was given all conditions just to play and fulfill his obligations. That’s why all the talks about me running away from him are absolute stupidity!  And he knows that pretty well. […]

I wanted to play with him, but I wanted the match to be official and legal, but not private. That’s it. [..]

I also want to add that the rumours about me being afraid of him and running from him are not true simply because I signed Prague Agreement. When Kasparov tried to find other ways I signed that I would play with the winner of the match Kasparov – Ponomariov. That clarifies once again that I wasn’t running from anybody.

Someone can say that’s not my credit, maybe it’s not mine, but I’m still happy that now we have more or less organized World Championship. We didn’t have it then. I think I can be calm as during my time of being the champion I’ve influenced, well, not only me, on the final renewal of the system that we have now; the real, serious World Championship cycle with classical time control.  

E.SUROV: I’d say kind of uniting cycle; we still don’t have a clear cycle as long as the rules are constantly changed.

E.KRAMNIK: Yes, but firstly it’s in progress. I think that if Kasparov and I have played that rematch we would now be playing a knockout World Championship with 30 minutes a game. I’m almost sure in that. Maybe that’s my inexorable position with regard to classical chess, but I believe there should be a serious cycle and notwithstanding all the attacks concerning me and to my own detriment – as it cost me a great deal of nerves and money – I wasted a lot of money on lawyers, trips where I tried to talk to sponsors – I nevertheless think that I conducted that cycle. At least it was held, in good locations, with normal money. Yet I made FIDE not to ignore neither me nor classical chess. I believe it is my credit, although I don’t exaggerate it.  

I’m still convinced that I made a right decision to follow my way like a stubborn ox.  Despite the colossal pressure, the whole PR machine that Kasparov always had – at that time it was really powerful – he used it all to put pressure on me and represent himself as a victim while I was sort of ungrateful friend who, let’s say, “bunkoed” him. That is totally false, the pressure was utterly great. There was pressure from FIDE as I became its rival and they didn’t like that at all. The pressure came from all sides; they traduced me as much as they could. People who don’t remember those times can just look into the archives and see – not a week went by without someone blasting me. But, somehow I could stand that pressure and stuck to my guns. All in all I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, although I made some mistakes as well.  

E.SUROV: Let me thank you for your usual wish to talk about those historical subjects. I’m not saying “restoring the story” as on the one hand it’s incorrect – there is your story as well as Kasparov’s own story. However, you not just agree but you want to talk about that. Thank you for that.

V.KRAMNIK: My pleasure. By the way, I’d like to add that I’m ready to listen to Kasparov’s view on the subject; maybe I’m not acquainted to some things that are known to him. But I would like to listen to him from the logical point of view. I mean without emotions like “I just want to play and he’s obliged to”. That’s because most of his speeches were like that, based on emotions; and I wish he’d explain his position logically. I hope he’d answer you. You can ask him, the story is important and delicate so I think he’d like to answer. That’s because I believe facts are against him and I’m just interested what would be his answer. And if you have any other questions I’m ready to answer them as well.

E.SUROV: Thank you, Vladimir Kramnik.

V.KRAMNIK: Thank you very much.


Full interview in Russian


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