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

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
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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