Who will win? The opinion of top GMs (1)

0 | Chess Event Coverage
PreviewAccording to our poll on the homepage, the readers of ChessVibes think World Champion Anand is the clear favourite to win the match, by 69%, where Topalov gets 31% of the votes. But what do their colleagues think? Today the opinion of Dominguez, Gashimov, Grischuk, Karjakin and Ponomariov; tomorrow 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, today, we get answers from Leinier Dominguez, Vugar Gashimov, Alexander Grischuk, Sergei Karjakin and Ruslan Ponomariov. Please note that the interviews were conducted a few weeks ago.


World number 12 Vugar Gashimov (2740, Azerbaijan)

Who is the favourite to win the match? Vugar Gashimov First, of course, I hope, as every chess player, it will be an interesting match. Because, OK, everybody wants to see something. We know both of them like to attack, to sacrifice something, and to play good chess. In this match, if I will bet, I will bet for Topalov, because he will play in Sofia. He has better chances, because last time he played bad against Kamsky but now I think he wll play well. It’s not possible he will play bad twice! [Laughs.] Leinier Dominguez For me it’s very difficult to say; I wouldn’t even give anyone a slight favourite or anything. For me it’s a very even match. They’re both very strong, practical players with a very deep preparation and with a good team. I think it will be a very difficult match for both; it will be tough. To me it’s not clear whether playing in Sofia is an advantage for Topalov. To play in your own country could easily become a handicap, I’m not so sure about this. I can understand that for some people it’s very good to play at home. For example Topalov seems to be very good to play in his country because he’s always having very nice results there, but OK, that’s anywhere he’s playing because he’s very strong. I don’t think it will matter so much. Sergey Karjakin It’s a very hard question. I think the player who will be better prepared, who will have a better team, and who will play better chess [laughs] he will win, but it’s hard to say who. I think slight favourite is Topalov, because he’s playing in Sofia and I think he will have big support. I think it’s a clear advantage to him, and I think it’s a mistake from Anand. If my own country wouldn’t offer anything then I would have to play there, but in other cases I wouldn’t. Alexander Grischuk First of all I expect this to be the most interesting match since Kasparov-Kramnik. I think in Sofia Topalov is the slight favourite but I think otherwise the chances would be completely equal. He usually plays good there, and also I think Vishy doesn’t like to be under pressure so it will be a little bit difficult.


World number 15 Ruslan Ponomariov (2737, Ukraine)

Ruslan Ponomariov This match will be quite interesting; I think they have more or less an even score. For me it’s always interesting to follow World Championship matches, to follow the development of chess, maybe something new, and when two strong personalities play, it’s also very interesting. Who will crush another personality first? What can of psychological tricks will appear? When you play a match against another strong player you must always make strong pressure on him in all aspects. Both have advantages. Kramnik beat Topalov, but Anand beat Kramnik, so Anand also must beat Topalov, but maybe in this case it’s not so clear. It’s also interesting that for example when Anand played against Kramnik, he used a very tricky tactic. Kramnik is a very good technical player, which he proved in his match againt Topalov, but Anand played much more complicated chess than Topalov and it gave him success. But which new tactic Vishy will use against Topalov is not so clear, because Topalov likes this very complicated chess very much. Maybe playing in Sofia gives him some advantage but even when he played against Kamsky, who is I think much weaker than Anand, even then it was very difficult, so it has some advantages and some disadvantages. It has some psychological advantage because when more people are coming to watch your games and support you maybe also receive this kind of positive energy. When football teams play, maybe you can see it’s just a field with 11 players, but at home, when people support you, it’s better. Of course, maybe in some aspects you want to show your best, and it’s also some extra weight for you. During the last few months Anand’s games were perhaps not so impressive, maybe Veselin played a bit better, but remember that when Anand played against Kramnik, before that he came last in Bilbao.


World number 27, Leinier Dominguez (2713, Cuba)

And it you just look at the players, is it 50-50 then? Vugar Gashimov Maybe in chess skills Anand is more talented. We remember before, he was always playing fast, very strong, and finally he’s the World Champion now. In chess skills he’s better a bit, but Topalov has one better skill: he’s a fighter. He can always fight. That’s why I think the match can be decided because it’s in Sofia. This can be the only thing that’s decisive. Leinier Dominguez To me they’re pretty even. Maybe one of them is stronger in some areas and the other may be slightly better in some other areas, but it’s pretty even I think. Sergey Karjakin I think they’re playing more or less equal chess. What do you think of Topalov following the Sofia rule? Vugar Gashimov OK, I don’t think anyone of them is going to offer a draw with White or something! [Laughs.] But if he wants to do this, this is his problem, this is his business. Ruslan Ponomariov Yes, I read this discussion on ChessVibes. I don’t think Vishy will have any trouble with it because he’s a very quiet player with Indian mentality, and he’s quite experienced. He must be ready to play till the end, no short draws. When he played against Kramnik, the second game was quite interesting. It was a very complicated position and suddenly they agreed to a draw. For the spectators it would have been much better if they had continued. Chess is first of all a game of gentlemen and they must show respect to each other, to give a good example to the younger players: how not only to fight, but also to show good manners. Sergey Karjakin I don’t really understand this. If the position is drawn, then it’s time to accept a draw. If this is not in the contract, then why to do it?


World number 7 Alexander Grischuk (2756, Russia)

Alexander Grischuk It’s their right. I still don’t understand why you have to speak to your opponent via the arbiter, I don’t see any sense in that. I mean you can just allow that I will never offer or refuse a draw and Vishy is not stupid or totally unethical, I mean if he would just announce this, he would not bother him by offering draws in playable positions. OK, they’re just trying to bring some attention to the match; I don’t take it very seriously. Leinier Dominguez In general I like this Sofia rule, because it’s a good thing not to allow players to make short draws. But I don’t know what is happening now in the match. There are different circumstances and, I don’t know, it’s kind of strange. Do you think longer games, as a result of the Sofia rule, would help Topalov, who is five years younger? Leinier Dominguez [Laughs.] Well, I’m not so sure. OK, of course Topalov is very strong in this point, he has a lot of energy, he’s always playing till the end. But Vishy is also very strong, and it’s not like he’s physically weak or something. I don’t think it’s a really important aspect.


World number 21 Sergey Karjakin (2725)

Ruslan Ponomariov I don’t think it’s just following this rule, maybe he just wants to play till the end, like when I played Ivanchuk in 2002 somehow I also had such tactic, play till the end, to fight every position, when I was in trouble, and somehow it gave me some advantages because I was younger, I had more energy. Of course now the match is not so long, it’s not like Kasparov against Karpov, and they have lots of free days.

Sergey Karjakin Maybe it’s a little bit to the advantage of Veselin because he’s a little bit younger and I think basically he has more energy than Vishy but I don’t know, we will see. Alexander Grischuk I don’t think it would favour anyone but the observers, especially after Kramnik-Leko which was really disgusting for a lot of people!

Tomorrow we'll publish part 2, with Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen.
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