In the wake of his record-breaking victory in Dortmund, Kramnik gave another interview, this time to Alexander Levit of Russkaya Germaniya. The most interesting section is Kramnik’s graphic description of the burden that being World Champion had become, and the liberation he felt on losing the crown.
Originally posted at the Daily Dirt.
You showed here, in Dortmund, a totally different type of chess to that which we’ve become accustomed to from you in recent years. You didn’t try to obtain a minimal edge and then squeeze the maximum from it. In Dortmund you attacked decisively, brightly, with sacrifices, recalling the young Kramnik who chess fans, it seemed, had forgotten.
In recent years I’ve played a number of World Championship matches. Played and prepared for them. And it really restricts you. Firstly, a certain psychological stress almost never leaves you, you’re always thinking about the coming match, trying to protect something, to avoid using some novelty. And now… I simply decided to play chess. And while playing I’ve been trying to go all out, to use everything I can. Somehow I felt liberated – and that came across here in my play. I played two rapid tournaments, in Monaco and Baku, and everything went great, I felt that my long lost freshness was coming back. Dortmund confirmed that. And I’m very glad that I managed to put an end to last year’s poor streak. I hope that after that poor run a good one’s now started and I’ll try to carry it on.
Your fans hope so too. But, in general, we end up with a paradox: normally after becoming champion a sportsman rises to a new level, getting even stronger, while you’ve got stronger after losing the crown.
There’s no paradox. Always living up to the status of champion isn’t all that easy. For some, perhaps, it helps, mobilising them, but for me… For me it created additional – and entirely unnecessary – stress. I feel as though I play well in relaxed, creative conditions. When I don’t think about anything and simply play chess things go much better for me. It might seem strange, but after the match with Anand, when you’d have thought that I should have been really upset, I managed to feel liberated and started to play chess for my own pleasure again.