In what some might consider cruel and unusual punishment, Bulgarian schoolchildren recently played chess with an IBM supercomputer. Fortunately, they had a little help from Veselin Topalov, who after the match gave an interview to Danail Kisov of Klassa.bg.
Those wanting to read a little more about the chess showdown between the supercomputer and the schoolchildren (they drew one out of three blitz games) can have a look at this report on Alexandra Kosteniuk’s blog.
In the interview, Topalov talks about the current power of computers (at best humans can draw) and recalls his first laptop in 1992, when it was merely an alternative to carrying a suitcase full of books. Asked why he lost the match with Anand, Topalov’s opinion hasn’t altered in the last month or two:
For me, Anand defended excellently. He used all his chances pretty well, while I didn’t make the most of mine. The loss was relative, as I’d taken a conscious risk in the last game. That proved a somewhat reckless decision as the match could have ended in a draw. However, I was aiming to take Anand’s title from him, not to end up level with him.
A financial theme runs through the interview, and Topalov talks about how chess is a cheap game for children to learn, while only at the very top does it become expensive to update computer equipment and hire seconds. He repeats the pyramid theory of chess earnings that he mentioned in Linares this year – that those at the top must earn a lot so that those lower down will get at least a reasonable income. The interviewer brings up some curious comparisons:
Do you consider yourself an attractive competitor for sponsors. Something like the equivalent of David Beckham in football?
It’s not really comparable. It’s true that with Silvio Danailov, the best manager in the world, we’ve done a lot of things. We’ve found sponsors for chess from China to Mexico. However, as well as that advantage I have the disadvantage of representing one relatively small country. And, of course, for a large company it’s more interesting to sponsor an American, a German or a Russian, which is logical. I’m not complaining, but all the same it’s a fact.
Or, returning to chess (and echoing Mark Taimanov’s comments after the match in Sofia):
Are you flattered by the fact that you’re considered the last romantic in chess, that your play is compared to that of Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer?
People love when you win. Overall the style of a player doesn’t interest them that much. But if you manage to both win and play beautifully then it’s even better. I really have managed to demonstrate beautiful and effective play, which is rare. Garry Kasparov did the same. Mikhail Tal, who was World Champion for only a year, is also an example as people remember him for being a romantic in chess.
On his plans for the rest of the year:
Above all there’s my participation in the Chess Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk this autumn. However, I have to admit that while I was playing the World Championship match everything else was put on the back burner. Now Silvio Danailov is negotiating my participation in two tournaments. One is in Bilbao, and the other in China. We’ll take part in these events not only for the result that I might achieve, but also for the sake of my manager’s candidacy to be the President of the ECU. I’m obliged to do whatever I can to help him win the election. If that happens, then Bulgaria will gain serious prestige in Europe. And that will lead to serious support from private companies.
But for the moment he’s watching the World Cup. He names Argentina as favorites (after Spain’s loss in the first game) and is asked to make another odd comparison:
Looking at your aggressive attacking style of play on the checkered board, which football players at the tournament would you say resemble it?
I want to say Lionel Messi, but hardly. Cristiano Ronaldo also hasn’t yet shown his huge potential. However, I can liken it to Didier Drogba.
Topalov lives in Salamanca, and explains how he ended up there:
It happened entirely by accident. Silvio Danailov got married and his wife is from there and so I chose to live in that relatively quiet Spanish town. I feel wonderful there now, relaxing after the strenuous match against Anand. I can drink coffee and watch the World Cup in peace. Unfortunately Kandelarov, my GP, has forbidden me my favorite shrimps, lemon, wine and beer, so now I watch the matches with soft drinks and coffee. And you could say I suffer a little because of it.