Veselin Topalov discusses the Candidates' tournament
Interview given on March 25th.
Maria Manakova: How would you evaluate the Svidler - Giri endgame?
Veselin Topalov: I think it's a draw, obviously.
Mark Dvoretsky: Of course. Giri had a solid advantage, but, as always, he'd started to simplify everything with exchanges.
VT: I actually think that Giri is the only player who never got a worse position in this tournament.
MM: Yes, the commentators said the same thing.
MD: Giri and Svidler were constantly squandering good positions and advantages in the first half of the tournament - their realization was pretty bad. At least three such players...
MM: Caruana, Svidler, Giri.
MM: Have you seen the joke: "Giri is planning to publish a book, My 50 Memorable Draws"?
MD: Perhaps it's My Series of 50 Draws?
VT: In a row!
MM: Seems so.
VT: If he draws again, it would be his 12th. He also had many in Wijk an Zee. As far as I remember, of eleven games there, he lost one and won two. So, if he had 8 draws there, and - if he draws now - twelve here, that makes it 20 draws in 23 games. Such things happen.
MM: What "things"? Does he have some complex?
VT: I don't think so.
MM: What then?
MD: I think that's truly interesting: he's a young man, combative enough, clever enough. I don't know why he plays like that...
MM: Fear of success? Such things do exist too.
VT: Fear of winning perhaps?
MM: Perhaps. And now, there's Caruana - Aronian...
VT: There should be a draw too.
MD: Actually, Caruana had a solid advantage.
VT: Yes. They have a theoretical discussion.
MM: By the way, in many games here, players stopped playing, despite still having a lot of fighting ahead. Why? Do they fear?
VT: Who, for instance?
MD: Well, I wouldn't say that it's common here. Here, it's a rare thing.
MM: For instance, when Svidler played against you, Veselin.
VT: When? Ah, no, no, I offered draw in a position that I think I should have won.
VT: I had advantage in the endgame, but I offered draw because I thought I should have repeated the moves. But then I found out I had an advantage. But such things happen. It's my fault, not his.
MM: Could Caruana play on with you yesterday?
VT: I think there was a forced draw in the endgame. The variant was long, that's why he offered draw.
MM: Veselin, how to overcome yourself if tournament is going bad? What do you need to do? You have to make a revolution inside yourself, or something?
MD: Yes, in a way. By the way, I've described such a technique, "zigzag", in my book, it helps sometimes.
VT: Smyslov said once that if you're out of form, you shouldn't play in the tournament at all.
MD: But what if you understand that you're out of form during the tournament?
VT: Well, if the tournament is long, it can be a problem. (Laughs)
MM: What then? Do you have to work through the torment? Or you can still pull yourself together and...
MD: I've described an episode when Sasha Motylev began the B tournament in Wijk an Zee quite bleakly. So, he went to swim in the North Sea with his second Vokarev.
MD: After that, he started winning games and even qualified into the main tournament.
MM: So, what do you need for that?
MD: You have to move yourself away from the bad rut.
MD: There are various techniques. I've described several episodes of doing that myself. For instance, I gave advice to Yusupov during the Youth World Championship, and it helped him. Roshal did a similar thing with Makarychev. I have several such episodes in my book. But this is a creative procedure, it involves a lot of guesswork. You can make things only worse. You can guess wrong.
MM: So you can make it worse?
MD: Of course. These steps and measures are drastic, and they can make things worse, but they also can change your mood and help to get rid of... Because when your results are poor, you create a background for yourself. Like in Vysotski's song, "I got into a deep rut that's not my own"... And, to get out of the rut, you need a drastic measure.
MM: Veselin, are you familiar with the feeling when people play at some tournament, and everybody feels that someone is going to win? He feels it, everybody else feels too.
VT: I don't know. At least, I don't feel anything of the sort at this tournament.
MD: Anything can happen here.
VT: Everything changes here every day.
MD: Perhaps Topalov felt something of the sort in San Luis.
VT: I do feel that I'll finish last, but I certainly don't know who wins!
MM: But does it happen at other tournaments?
VT: Yes. But I don't feel anything like that here.
MD: We usually don't think in the terms, "I'll win the first place". I had an episode, I remember playing in the Soviet Championship First League. My start was good, I defeated Smyslov in the first round. And then there was a bad moment, I lost two games in a row, got nervous a bit. But then Razuvaev - we lived in one room - told me, "Why are you whining? Can't you see this is your tournament? This is your tournament! All shall be well!" Indeed, I played good, qualified for the High League.
MM: Did you ever had some non-chess thoughts that distracted you during games?
VT: Anything can happen.
MM: Is it bad?
VT: I don't know. We have much time for the games, so...
MM: And when you're in love, do you play any better?
VT: I don't know. Probably not.
MM: How come "you don't know"? OK, I was joking.
VT: Razuvaev said that positive emotions were good, and negative emotions were bad. That's Razuvaev's opinion.
MM: Do you agree with him?
VT: Yes, I think.
MM: Mark Izrailevich, did you prescribe any intimacy during the tournament for the players you've coached?
MD: What do you mean by "prescribed"? It's their intimate life, not mine! (Laughs)
MM: But did you recommend anything of the sort?
MD: You don't recommend such things. People know better.
VT: And nobody asks.