The short draw between Grischuk and Kramnik has already sparked debate and criticism, but the most interesting contributions actually came from the players themselves in the post-match press conference which, as Mark Crowther notes, was almost longer than the game itself.
The cynical might consider it a brilliant deflection from the matter at hand – an inglorious draw in a position that seemed full of life – but rarely since Capablanca or Fischer have players at the very top of the game mused so publicly about the threat chess faces from the growth of opening theory. In his live commentary during the game, Sergey Shipov commented:
15…Kh8 An almost instant response! Kramnik is a monster of home preparation, my friends. Or even a mega-monster! Whatever line you choose, everywhere he’s got a couple of megabytes of analysis in store.
In the press conference afterwards Vladimir Kramnik himself identified this as the problem, lamenting that computer analysis meant it was getting harder and harder to achieve any sort of advantage with the white pieces. In order to get back to playing chess he suggested minor modifications to the rules that would make theory, as it currently exists, obsolete.
Note: my translation of the press conference below isn’t intended to be a perfect word-for-word transcription, but should give a good idea of what was said. The journalists’ questions are barely picked up by the microphones, so where I’ve included them some guesswork is involved! Finally, Grischuk mentions a sanatorium near the start – in the Soviet Union, and to a degree today, that institution was more of a holiday resort than a medical institution.
You can see the press conference on the Russian Chess Federation’s video feed from about 16:11:15. The start doesn’t seem to have been broadcast live.
Kramnik: The match will be interesting. One game was short, but I don’t think that tells you anything. There will be very interesting, fighting games. I’m absolutely sure there won’t be four quick draws.
Was two days enough of a break after the tie-breaks?
Grischuk: Yes, in general, particularly as that tie-break system was introduced the year before last in the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Previously it had only been two rapid games, then two blitz, then armageddon. The tie-break couldn’t last longer than about 4 hours. Now the minimum it’ll last is 4.5 to 5 hours, and if it comes down to blitz then it can last 7 or 8 hours. Or if there’s armageddon, a whole 10. At the World Cup there weren’t any rest days at all. People played tie-breaks, for example, to 12 at night, and then the next day there was another game. For us now, in comparison, it’s really like a sanatorium!
Kramnik: Of course, after such tense matches and tie-breaks you always want even more rest days, but two isn’t bad at all. One might have been too little – not having even one is crazy, just playing to exhaustion – but two is normal. I think I’ve recovered, more or less, as far as that’s possible at my pensionable age (smiles), after such stress. I think I’m ready to play the next match.
Kramnik said that in blitz game vs. Radjabov clock stoped for the first time in his life. But it happend before when he played against me.
We played in Zurich 2009. In the final position I was winning. But suddenly in Switzerland! clock stoped working. And I agreed with a draw.
Kramnik seemed to be surprised and said he’d forgotten about the incident – he recalled a repetition and agreeing a draw as another event was about to start. The curious can find the game in this ChessVibes report. (Update: as mentioned by WaldiWuff in the comments, the Zurich incident was actually captured on this video).
Now back to the conference:
Why didn’t you play on in the final position?
Grischuk: I considered it, but firstly, I didn’t see any particularly good moves, and secondly, I trusted him. (everyone laughs)
Kramnik: In general I’m the sort of person who inspires trust.
A journalist asks if the last word of theory will be been spoken on the Queen’s Gambit in Kazan.
Kramnik: Well, it’s already been spoken, but it hasn’t been revealed yet. (smiles) Those who’re working on it already know… No, I’m joking, in fact the last word will never be said. But, of course, theory is coming on in leaps and bounds. In general, it’s becoming harder and harder for White to get a fight. It’s not simply difficult to get an edge, but to get any kind of fight, for it not to be an empty draw or a totally even position. It’s becoming harder and harder just to get some minimal amount of pressure. And you can already forget about getting some sort of great advantage. So the tendency is clear. That’s been visible at all the tournaments, but particularly here, in a tournament where everyone’s well prepared. The tendency’s very clear. Everyone can see that only on a very limited number of occasions did White get any sort of hint of an edge or fight.
But nevertheless, everyone’s trying. It’s actually a problem of modern chess, that computer programs are getting stronger and stronger and are neutralising lots of opening that were considered rich and varied, and had been played for years. And that’s quite sad, from the point of view of the game. I can’t say I like it, but we’re professionals and we have to deal with it. You have to learn to live with it somehow. It’s a sport. You have to try and win. Before it was easier, it has to be said, particularly if you wanted, first and foremost, to play chess, and not to compete in analysis.
I can’t say I like it, but there’s no escape. If you want to achieve good results, to get to the World Championship and so on, then there’s no choice, you’ve got to do that dull work. What option is there? I’d be absolutely in favour of getting rid of all computer programs today. I’d jump at the chance, but unfortunately that’s not very realistic. (smiles)
Grischuk: Yes, play’s changed significantly. I remember playing on the fourth board in team tournaments and coming up against less well-known players. You’d play someone who’s 2400 or 2500, an international master, and you’d play the Catalan with g3 and he’d be like “what’s that, g3?”. But at the moment my wife’s playing in the European Championship, and I’m following that. The women there are playing everything according to Topalov and Anand, the latest moves, everything’s prepared. They’re all playing chess.
The questioner says there should be an initiative (I think in the final position of the game):
Kramnik: It’s fine. White’s got a minimal edge, perhaps enough to pose some problems at the board, but with someone who’s prepared with a computer… – that’s the whole problem. At the board positions that used to be considered += can still be played, but if you’re up against someone who knows what to do, who’s analysed it at home with a computer, then += doesn’t worry anyone very much anymore. That’s the whole problem. It’s important to think up something new, to try and surprise someone and pose problems at the board. That’s probably how chess will develop. Because it’s absolutely obvious chess is a drawn game. If two knights can’t mate then why even talk about…
It’s obvious that the outcome of almost any opening is going to be equality. The stronger computers get, the more lines are neutralised, the more drawing resources are found for Black, unfortunately. Therefore, I don’t know… by the way, yesterday we discussed that at dinner. My seconds and I discussed the idea that instead of, for example, Chess960, maybe we could change the form of chess by making some tiny changes to the rules which leave it almost untouched. For instance, I had the idea of banning castling before the tenth move. That’s an example. Essentially it doesn’t change the game at all, but it gets rid of all the theory i.e. you have to create new theory, but while that theory’s being created we can still play for another 50 years or so.
You can think up a lot of such little ideas. I’d be glad, overall. It strikes me that maybe it’ll come to that. Despite the inexhaustibility of chess it’s becoming harder and harder, and as the years go by the tendency’s becoming more and more pronounced, particularly at the top level where everyone’s well prepared. So perhaps it’d make sense to make such minor changes. That was just one thought… we had some other ideas, like only allowing pawns to advance one square at a time. But then it’d be hard for White to get an edge. It’d be completely even. Or stopping capturing en-passant. A minor detail, in principle. It doesn’t change much, but a lot of theoretical positions would be altered. We were a fountain of new ideas over dinner. (smiles)
Grischuk: FIDE wanted the opposite, for pieces to also be able to capture en passant.
Kramnik: We didn’t get that far! We weren’t as creative as FIDE.
Grischuk: FIDE wanted to look at that, in all seriousness, at one of their Congresses.
A question on how far you can analyse.
Kramnik: You can’t analyse anything completely, but computers have become so much stronger that in general any opening can be analysed very deeply. Of course, not completely – I’m joking when I say I know everything. Of course not, but I know a lot. Others do as well. Chess is inexhaustible, of course, but if we want a more spectacular struggle then it’s going to be quite tough.
Of course everyone came here above all to win. All that playing interesting chess and so on, that can be left for Monaco and other tournaments. Here everyone’s got one task, and one task alone. So of course everyone’s playing their best-prepared openings, where they feel as confident as possible. You can’t blame anyone for that, but of course that creates great problems for White. It’s no surprise that White hasn’t won a single game yet in this tournament. It’s hard to win.
Kramnik: Everyone’s playing solidly here, because it’s the Candidates Tournament. In other tournaments people play more openly, more… well, they bluff a little, are more original, use something they haven’t prepared very well. Here everyone’s bringing all their weapons to the table. So it’s not easy for White, of course. But still, we’ll keep fighting.
A journalist asks Grischuk what modified forms of chess he prefers.
Grischuk: I like Fischer Random Chess, rapid and blitz. You can think of different ways of castling. For instance, put the king on d1 and the queen on e1.
Kramnik: I’m against completely changing the game, but some slight rule change – taking en passant with a piece. I’m in favour. That castling barely changes the game but it would get rid of theory. I don’t want to change the game. Why? It’s a good game, interesting. But getting rid of theory, if you get can’t rid of engines – if you can’t destroy them – of course I’d be in favour. But you need to think up something sensible, so there are no flaws.
I wouldn’t regret it. I want to play chess. That’s what interests me and not preparation. Even if, in general, that’s something I’m good at, I’d be happy to have a complete disarmament. I want to play chess. What can I do if that’s possible less and less often at the top level. I prepare out of necessity, not because I like doing it. I’d be very happy to work less, have a clearer head, sleep a bit, read a book, go for a walk and play chess. It was great the way it used to be. A century ago. But people won’t let me. (smiles)
I’ll again be translating Sergey Shipov’s commentary on the Candidates Matches live tomorrow: http://www.chessintranslation.com/live-game/
I’m not sure if the game will be Kramnik – Grischuk after today’s debacle, but I can’t help think that Kramnik might nevertheless show us it’s still possible to get something with the white pieces!