Reports | April 24, 2010 0:17

Who will win? The opinion of top GMs (2)

PreviewAccording to our poll on the homepage Vishy Anand is the clear favourite to win the World Championship match, by 69%, where Topalov gets 31% of the votes. But what do their colleagues think? Today the opinion of Aronian, Carlsen, Gelfand and Ivanchuk.

ChessVibes asked nine of the world's best players what they think of the upcoming World Champion match. Who is the favourite? Who is the better player? And what about Topalov's plan to follow the Sofia rule? Will this be to his advantage? In part 1, yesterday, we gave answers from Leinier Dominguez, Vugar Gashimov, Alexander Grischuk, Sergei Karjakin and Ruslan Ponomariov. Today, in the second and last part, we get the answers from Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk. Please note that the interviews were conducted a few weeks ago.

World's number 11 Vassily Ivanchuk (2748, Ukraine)

Who is the favourite to win the match?
Vassily Ivanchuk I think it’s about equal chances, and I expect a very interesting fight. It’s difficult to say if one has the better chances. Fifty-fifty for me. Playing in Sofia can be an advantage but it can also be a disadvantage. I cannot definitely say this is an advantage for Topalov. As far as Anand is concerned, well, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable about it; I played in Sofia, and when I played against Topalov, against Cheparinov I didn’t feel any problem and nobody disturbed us, because Bulgarian chess amateurs are very polite and always correct, so it’s no problem for any chess player to play in Sofia. [Magnus Carlsen, who was listening along: “You didn’t play too badly either, against Topalov and Cheparinov!”] Yes, but OK, it’s a very nice place, Sofia, with very nice people.
Levon Aronian Since the match is played in Bulgaria, I guess this will be more than a home-ground advantage. As we know from experience with matches for the World Championship, Veselin’s manager is capable of producing blunders when it comes to mixing things up during the match. So even if things go really well for Vishy, you can never be sure some things will not appear.
Magnus Carlsen The chances are about even, just like the match Anand-Kramnik, which I think was also pretty even. Even with the pretty crushing result I think if they had played another match I would again say that the chances were even. I mean these are all very strong players. Of course Topalov has the home advantage, but I think the Anand team has taken, or at least should have taken a lot of precautions and done some preparation to make sure they’re comfortable and all that, so I don’t think that’s going to matter much. Also I think match experience in general is overrated. [Smiles.] I mean, whether it’s tournament chess or a match, you still have to play chess and you still have to have great opening preparation. The quality of the moves is what matters.
Boris Gelfand Very hard to say, but I really hope it will be a good match, because after what Topalov did in Elista, there’s a risk they’ll do it in Sofia as well. I hope common sense will prevail. Vishy took care that the Appeals Committee consists of honorable people, whose opinion can be trusted, not like it was in Elista. A far as the chances are concerned: both are fantastic players with a very high level, so both of them could win. I think playing in Sofia is a big advantage for Veselin. As he says himself, he only makes the moves, and his team does everything, his manager takes care of everything else, and I don’t trust much. After the history in Elista, judging from what happened before, and he never admitted his guilt or apologized. All over chess was compared to toilet, all over the chess world, I think it was a big damage to chess in general that we associate ourselves not with something honorable but with toilet, just be the whim of one person, that’s really damaging to all of us, to the whole chess movement.

World's number 9 Boris Gelfand (2750, Israel)

And it you just look at the players, is it 50-50 then?
Levon Aronian They’re both great players; it’s hard for me to say. I have a really good score with Anand and, not a bad score, but... Topalov plays better with me. So I might be really subjective. But a lot of people, a lot of my colleagues, tell me Anand is a better player. But we’ll see this interesting clash of a very aggressive player (Topalov), and more of a strategical player (Anand).
Magnus Carlsen At least their top level, their highest possible level, is pretty even. Of course both of them are capable of playing particularly well at times.
Boris Gelfand It’s clear that both of them are going to prepare very well and very profound, so we will have to see who comes in better form. I believe there will be a lot of critical momens in the match. Who will stand the pressure better? Who will prepare an extra novelty? Something like this will decide. But both are fantastic players who will have all the reasons to win.

World's number 1 Magnus Carlsen (2813, Norway)

What do you think of Topalov following the Sofia rule?
Magnus Carlsen I think that’s his business, if he doesn’t want to offer a draw. That’s a right every chess player has. The Topalov team probably shouldn’t probably not try to force it on Vishy, but if he doesn’t want to, that’s his business. It would not bother me. It would bother me, however, if someone said that because I’m not following the Sofia rule, I’m offending the host. I mean that’s just crap. But Anand knows that he has to fight anyway, so that he will need to play a few further moves every now and then shouldn’t bother him too much, especially since he is known for playing quickly anyway.
Vassily Ivanchuk This is a little bit strange, especially with a drawish position. I don’t think it’s a completely correct decision. For me it’s not interesting to see if the position is completely drawn and the players need to continue to play, to make a lot of stupid moves. If I remember correctly, Svidler-Topalov for example, an opposite-coloured bishop ending, and they played twenty moves. Why? For whom? I don’t understand this. The Sofia rule is acceptable, but it has to be used sensibly.
Levon Aronian That’s actually... crazy. That kind of things can go through one’s mind. I don’t see a reason for Vishy to get upset about it. OK, let him play. If he wants to play till the end of the world, he’s going to exhaust himself.
Boris Gelfand Very strange. Let’s say we get a rook ending with three against three, what will he do? Or Vishy would have a rook ending with two against one? What will happen? I think we have very cheap PR here; it’s not in the rules of the Championship that you should ask the arbiter in such cases. You should offer a draw to your opponent. I think in general this rule is outdated twenty years. If you look at the history, in the early 80s it really was a problem in top tournaments. Nowadays it’s not a problem; there are very few short draws. At the very top, you need to be an ambitious player, otherwise you don’t get to the top. If you make short draws, you will stop at a certain level. But OK if organizers like it, they can impose it upon the players, who can accept or decline the invitation. I think it’s just some kind of pressure, I mean, the Elista toilet scandal didn’t start from nothing. It was preceded by four or five protests on any subject, so I’m afraid it’s the start of the same campaign. I hope it’s not, I hope it will be a fair match. This is very important for the chess world, to have a great match and a fair match.

World's number 5 Levon Aronian (2782, Armenia)

Do you think longer games, as a result of the Sofia rule, would help Topalov, who is five years younger?
Levon Aronian When I play against Topalov, I think that when he loses a game, he blunders things. Otherwise he’s very tough to beat, but he blunders. I think that blunder comes because he spends too much energy while he thinks, and because he doesn’t stand up during the game. So that’s one of the factors that I think may represent a threat to him.
Magnus Carlsen Maybe, but the match is not that long. If it was a 24-game match I would definitely say Topalov would have a slight advantage. If it was an 18-game match probably also, but I’m pretty sure that with 12 games Vishy isn’t going to be too worn out.
Boris Gelfand I don’t think it has something to do with age. We will have to see who will be in better form. There’s no reason to believe that Vishy wouldn’t be able to play long games. He has a few months to prepare physically. I think it’s just bad PR, and I hope there will be no more scandals. Some people say bad advertisement for chess is still advertisement, but I don’t think so. I think chess should position itself as a high-level sport, a high-level activity for cultural people and that’s why all these scandals are very bad for chess.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

zee's picture

Very enlightening. I especially liked these responses. I guess the people at the top of the pyramid can be honest about their concerns and indeed they have an obligation to speak their mind.

Yes, particularly what GM Gelfand said, these are some of the concerns the general public has as well. We all hope that the match is well conducted in the honor of our sport.

Tom's picture

This interview made me like Gelfand a lot more!

Joe's picture

Yeah, I like Gelfand too, he seems to give the most personal answers rather than the words that can mean anything (Aronian too btw) and are politically correct.

Mauricio Valdes's picture

Gelfand is right!
I agree with him in all his answers, specially the first one.
I hope Toiletgate Part II does not emerge!

Roo Bookaroo's picture

Nobody has dared speak out on the probability chances of an incident arising, only expressing pious hopes that none will happen.
Being a pessimist by nature, and judging by the past, and all the nationalistic pressures at play in this match, and what the financing sources are, I would advance that the chances for an incident, or many, are high, that is more than 50%.

Harish Srinivasan's picture

Great going chessvibes. Very nice interviews.

VladimirOo's picture

I hope one day, one will ask Gelfand for an article about his expectations and views on chess, after all he is one of the most experienced player still on activityy and he seems to have very interesting insights on his 'job'.

mishanp's picture

@Vladimir - Gelfand's next in line for an in-depth question and answer session at Crestbook: http://crestbook.com/?q=node/1161 The forum thread's been closed for readers' questions so his answers should be coming soon.

After winning the World Cup he also gave a Russian interview here with some very interesting comments on chess but also some forthright opinions on how badly FIDE's been run. http://chesspro.ru/_events/2009/fide3.html

I translated some of it here: http://tinyurl.com/3y8y8ya

Thomas's picture

@ValdimirOo: Maybe not exactly what you have in mind, but do you know Gelfand's book "My most memorable games"? I would highly recommend it, personally it made me appreciate him as a player - who has been around for a long time, but always falling a tiny bit short of the absolute world top.

mishanp's picture

@Vladimir - Gelfand's next in line for an in-depth question and answer session at Crestbook: http://crestbook.com/?q=node/1161 The forum thread's been closed for readers' questions, so his answers should be coming soon.

Harish Srinivasan's picture

"Also I think match experience in general is overrated. [Smiles.] "

Surely Kasparov has had no influence in this regard, as I think he believed in completely the opposite as I understand from his books.

Vesco's picture

What´s up with Gelfand and all this PR - Toilet stuff?

acirce's picture

Roo Bookaroo: on what level does it have to be to count as an "incident"?

I never thought there would be a scandal as bad as "Toiletgate", and it still doesn't seem like the Bulgarians will be able to make that happen. Remember that they needed quite a bit of cooperation in Elista, by the Appeals Committee etc. This time, Danailov doesn't even seem to have Makropoulos in his pocket.

But I always expected dirty tricks and provocations on a smaller scale, maybe more intense than earlier to make up for not being able to do anything "big" - and they certainly haven't "disappointed" in that regard with the match not even having started.

Go Anand!

h. white's picture

chess players, like the ones giving commentary to this article ( ivanchuk, gelfand, aronian, and carlson) eminate digniity and honour. there not only good at chess needs them.

rajeshv's picture

From reading Part 2, you get a sense that this set of super GMs were quite relaxed and spoke their mind without holding much back. This makes it very interesting to read about their views. In contrast, at least a couple of the previous set of super GMs give the impression that they were a bit more formal and careful in their responses. Their opinions were interesting too, nevertheless.

But one thing seems clear, purely on chess terms, they evaluate the chances to be very equal - which goes very much in contrast to the 69% poll numbers (mostly by us patzers)! And also, a good number of them seem to think the location may make some difference. Hopefully, it doesn't happen! Overall, the top players (all 9 combined) didn't give clear opinion on % chances, my reading of it adds up to something like : Topalov 53% - Anand 47%. Hopefully, that doesn't happen either :D

Let us hope for only pure chess action! GO Vishy!!!

rajeshv's picture

one more question I think could've been asked is: Will you be rooting for one or the other? Who? Why? That would've been interesting.

jhoro's picture

Gelfand expresses the strongest anti-Topalov and anti-Sofia-rule sentiment. I guess it has nothing to do with the thorough trashing he received in a "drawn" end-game in Linares in February when Topalov insisted in playing it to the end

jhoro's picture

i guess i did something wrong as my comment disappeared. let me try again just in case:

Gelfand expresses the strongest anti-Topalov & anti-Sofia-rule sentiment. I guess it has nothing to do with the thorough trashing he received in a "drawn" end-game in Linares in February when Topalov insisted on playing it to the end

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1573660

Castro's picture

Gelfand was particulary well, in the end, when calling the toilet issue about the "Sofia rules". :-)
It's time to recognize the toilet some honorability! (And there, before, he erred)

No restrictions to the chess draw by mutual agreement, whatsoever!

Castro's picture

One thing is sad:
Whatever the final result, and now more, because of the latest controversies, there will always be people (one side or another, with more or less reason) extracting non-chess explanations or meanings, rather than chess!
(Like:
- "Well done Vishy! You have punished those cheaters!", or
- "It was the distress caused by this and that disrespect, or ambience", etc.)
:-(

mishanp's picture

jhoro - Gelfand expressed similar opinions about Topalov and Danailov in Elista long before this year's Linares. On the "drawn endgame" - I don't think it was the sort of position any players would immediately agree to a draw. Afterwards Gelfand said:

- The endgame you lost to Topalov - was it drawn?
- Well, it wasn't such a simple endgame. It's drawn, of course. But it needs great precision. I think the clever clogs pundits (with a computer at their side) could easily find the draw. But at the board a hundred out of a hundred of them would lose it.
- A hundred out of a hundred?
- Yes, a hundred out of a hundred.
...
- The endgame will end up in textbooks. The draw, I think, is there, but it's not as simple as it seems. Playing 48...Ke8 was unfortunate. Maybe 49...Ke7 still saved it... It needs checking.
http://tinyurl.com/3yyqpeq

Another example of Gelfand giving interesting interviews/not being afraid to speak out (here against FIDE) is: http://tinyurl.com/3y8y8ya

rajeshv's picture

jhoro, well, that game may have been techinically "drawn" at some point, but quite obviously Topalov went into that ending (returning the exchange) on purpose with hopes of win. So, I don't think it is reasonable to assume that - Gelfand would've thought that Topalov was dragging a drawn ending unnecessarily. It simply appears that he has strong feelings about how Topalov&Co handled Elista, and for good reason.

It is actually great that we get to hear the uninhibited opinions of top players on these matters. I especially like how he puts it -
"All over chess was compared to toilet, all over the chess world, I think it was a big damage to chess in general that we associate ourselves not with something honorable but with toilet, just be the whim of one person, that’s really damaging to all of us, to the whole chess movement.".. and
"I think chess should position itself as a high-level sport, a high-level activity for cultural people and that’s why all these scandals are very bad for chess"

mishanp's picture

Yep, a translation of Gelfand's comments on that endgame:

- The endgame you lost to Topalov - was it drawn?
- Well, it wasn't such a simple endgame. It's drawn, of course. But it needs great precision. I think the clever clogs pundits (with a computer at their side) could easily find the draw. But at the board a hundred out of a hundred of them would lose it.
- A hundred out of a hundred?
- Yes, a hundred out of a hundred.
...
- The endgame will end up in textbooks. The draw, I think, is there, but it's not as simple as it seems. Playing 48...Ke8 was unfortunate. Maybe 49...Ke7 still saved it... It needs checking. http://chesspro.ru/_events/2010/linares7.html

Vla's picture

Thanks all! Surely Gelfand must be an interesting player, quite underrated.

antichrist's picture

Well they should have Gelfand as the live commentator there, to balance out all the pro-Bulgaria cheating and conspiracies!

test's picture

As others have said; the home advantage can be double edged in the sense that it can also put more pressure on the home player.

But that's not the problem with playing in Sofia. Remember Elista. Imagine what the Danailov team can do here in Sofia. They literally control everything. (Pretending that Danailov and the organizing committee are separate entities is naive.) That is what Gelfand is alluding to.

In that respect I was surprised about Makropoulos' decision to postpone, going against the organizing committee (and Danailov). I've always been a bit suspicious of Makropoulos, but with this decision at least he has shown that he has honor, ethics and common sense.

mgm's picture

Gelfand is a good buddy of Kramnik so that explains his bias against Topalov. He says something interesting though:

"I mean, the Elista toilet scandal didn’t start from nothing. It was preceded by four or five protests on any subject"

I don't remember anything like this during the match. I remember though two GMs, very close to Kramink (actually ex-seconds/trainers), Dolmatov and Bareev who in no uncertain terms called Topalov a cheater. That was before the match in Elista had started.. So yes, Gelfand is right that the toilet scandal did not start from nothing. And as far as I know Kasparov made a similar complaint during the London '2000 match about Kramnik going to the toilet too early (and often) during the game..

noone's picture

I am hoping for an incident. Maybe a fist fight. Manager v manager.

SXL's picture

Danailov in a fist fight against Aruna?

Good for tourism, that.

Estragon's picture

Very measured and thoughtful comments from those who should know the combatants' play best.

I think the large margin in open polls, here and on every other site I've seen one, favoring Anand reflects a level of popularity of the Champ and a certain amount of wishful thinking. Many harbor strong suspicions about Danilov in particular.

And Topalov isn't so personally popular, either. Remember when a Russian reporter asked Morozevich at the Tal Memorial if he missed Topalov, being the only top player not playing at Moscow, Morozevich shot back, "I never miss Topalov, anywhere!"

SanChess's picture

The home advantage is definitely a double-edge sword.
1- Topalov will be under more pressure because nobody will be satisfied with less than a win.
2- Danailov will have less targets for his tricks since the event is taking place in his own country and he has been personally involved with the venue and the organization.
3- The organizers will have to wrestle with their favouritism in a non-so-obvious manner lest they lose more credibility.
Anand is fighting here more than just Topalov and in that sense his task is a re-enactment of Fischer vs the Soviets.

ivan's picture

It's a pretty normal reaction by Morozevich and It's also true that most super GMs don't like Topalov and for a good reason. Very few people, not only in chess, but in real life, like the individuals who are better then themselves in their own field.

Thomas's picture

@Estragon: You are probably right that Anand's large margin in polls is at least partly a popularity contest - BTW are there any Bulgarian polls (which may well have different results)?

Moreover, people voting in a poll were forced to choose - or those who cannot or don't want to choose couldn't participate because "dunno, too close to call" wasn't among the answers.

Actually, I think Anand has one objective/undeniable advantage which even the Topalov camp may agree on: he is clearly stronger in rapid and blitz. So if we agree that the match is rather even, a 6-6 tie after the classical games is a distinct possibility. As the match progresses and remains even, Anand may become the objective favorite, because
- either he prevails in tiebreaks
- or Topalov will take excessive risks to avoid a tiebreak, and this backfires

One poster (Rich Fireman on Dailydirt) actually referred to this as "draw odds for Anand", IMO he has a point.

Thomas's picture

About Gelfand's comments on Sofia rules, specifically @jhoro: I think there is a misunderstanding. Noone says that players would be _obliged_ to offer or accept a draw, this may happen only in team competitions at the request or order of the captain. The issue is whether, consistent with the official rules of the game, they are _allowed_ to do so - or whether R+3P vs. R+3P has to be played on until the remaining pawns disappear, the players find a move repetition or the 50 move rule applies.

Regarding Gelfand's comments on his rook endgame vs. Topalov, "a hundred out of a hundred would lose it" may be an exaggeration, sort of covering up his 'failure' - in a way he did fail if the endgame was objectively drawn, also taking into account that he is usually strong in endgames. He may have been simply tired at the end of a long tournament ... .
Yet, if "clever clogs pundits" refers to players like most of us here (say, ELO 1600-2400), he is probably right?

ask's picture

who would win the past wchships when the matches were only 12 games instead of 24? any changes in result? anyone checked it out?

KK's picture

Is chessvibes having live coverage of this match?

ask2's picture

what time today start the game?

Guillaume's picture

As I understand, the game starts in 45 minutes. I hope Chessvibes can broadcast it.

Guillaume's picture

Oops, my bad. It's rather starting in 1h45m.

Thomas's picture

Interesting that the official homepage quotes the Ivanchuk interview - with a slightly exaggerated title "The Bulgarians are wonderful hosts" - but none of the others ... . I guess I have to stick with Chessvibes for more complete and varied coverage.

Robin's picture

Interesting that the official homepage quotes the Ivanchuk interview - with a slightly exaggerated title "The Bulgarians are wonderful hosts" - but none of the others ... . I guess I have to stick with Chessvibes for more complete and varied coverage.

masoud's picture

I really dont know what is going on in anands mind that he is playing in tapalov's home land????!!!!!!!!!!.he is smarter than what I think but I am not sure about it.just let see what would happen?any else thet we can do?

Anthony's picture

As I understand, the game starts in 45 minutes. I hope Chessvibes can broadcast it.

Simon's picture

Interesting that the official homepage quotes the Ivanchuk interview - with a slightly exaggerated title "The Bulgarians are wonderful hosts" - but none of the others ... . I guess I have to stick with Chessvibes for more complete and varied coverage.

Eddie Holloway's picture

Facinating.I pick Toppie to win

Game 2 must rate as one of the worst WCC games ever.

Eric's picture

I really dont know what is going on in anands mind that he is playing in tapalov's home land????!!!!!!!!!!.he is smarter than what I think but I am not sure about it.just let see what would happen?any else thet we can do?

Vladimir Drabov's picture

I thought Aronian and Carlsen were very intelligent people and would be very insightful, but it was Gelfand who was really insightful and seems intelligent.

I agree with him on all fronts. Speaking my mind, I opine the following:
Anand is an universal player and a class act who would use all negatives against him and turn them into deadly weapon against his opponent (remember the situation against the truly great Kramnik, who is a much better player than Topolov?)

It is ridiculous that we the chess fans of this website seem more informed that the top chess players of the world regarding chess chances. Anand is at least two levels of class ahead of Topolov in chess and will kick Topolov's butt in his own backyard.

What home advantage and old age? I am very disappointed with the stupid analysis of these world class chess players (all except Gelfand). Anand is the greatest chess talent of all time, and will prove it in the final result.

Dalianov is the real toilet-gate and will try to pull out his tricks, especially if Topolov goes -2 or -3 around/soon after half way. In the case of Anand, it will backfire against the Bulgarians. Did I not say that Anand is the greatest player and one with the greatest class? Match point Gelfand, all these other top chess players do not even know to analyze their area of specialty well. Game and match to us chess fans of chess vibes over these GrandMaster morons (all here except Chucky and Gelfand).

Sincerely,
Vladimir Drobov

Vladimir Drabov's picture

I really like and respect Gelfand after these honest and answers that seem correct.

It is absolutely correct - money is not everything, bad publicity for chess is what it is, not a good publicity and everyone concerned should be cognizant about chess being perceived as an intellectual, gentleman's game and act responsibly in way to sustain and enhance that image. No classless acts by Danialov or the Bulgain Chess Federation. If they put another toiletgate or its equivalent for any reason, they should be banned or seriously penalized. I know that as a serious chess fan, I would not tolerate it. It is my game and something that I have lived passionately since I was 6, and believe me, money, prestige or coolness cannot be reason for liking chess!

Thank you Gelfand for your brave and very relevant observations and comments.

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