Hangin's Take a cut at Kramnik's  pre match interviews

Here is an interview from a Paris newspaper conducted by Pierre Barthélémy of the newspaper Le Monde, Paris. You can see the whole interview on chessbase.

How important are the computer chess programs in the preparation and during a match?

Kramnik: On the one hand it is very important to use the computer in your team for getting a certain basic level in your preparation. On the other hand it is not good to use it all the time. In a way you have to become independent from it so as not to affect your own play. Let me put it like this: my trainers are working with the computer permanently – I do not.


Hangin's take:
   Kramnik has the right attitude about computer use. Top Players need to work closely with them. However you can't let them destroy your own creativity. I recall after the drawn match against Deep Fritz in Bahrain in 2000, Kramnik saying that computers have trouble with their evaluation functions in some subtle positional areas. He also said that computers have trouble  with long-term strategic
 endgames. Computers have shown that they can hold their own against the very top players in the world. However they still have a something to learn. I am sure the computer positional evaluation process is always being improved. If you rely solely on computers, you could miss out on excellent subtle positional moves. Had Karpov embraced computers, he could have stayed in the top 5 longer. It was evident in 1999 that Karpov had no use for computers.  He lost the Advance chess match against Anand, by a sore of 1-5.

In 2000, you told me that your victory against Garry Kasparov was psychological; how do you prepare psychologically for this new opponent?

Kramnik: I do not think I defeated Kasparov just because of psychological resilience. The psyche is of course an important part as in every sport especially in a World Chess Championship match. But your general understanding of chess, your preparation, your physical fitness, your mental energy, your strategic and tactical abilities are very important as well. It is complex: You have to be strong in every field to become World Champion.

Hangin's take:
  Kramnik won the psychological battle against Kasparov that’s clear. However Kasparov was not very confident going into the match. At the time of the match, Kramnik had an even score against Kasparov. I recall a chess life article just prior to the match where Kasparov said; hey I could lose this match. I like to think that the title is worth a pawn; I like to consider it the 9th pawn.  Holding the title should make a player better, give him more confidence. Naturally you need to work hard and have talent too. Kasparov did not bring his 9th pawn with him into the 2000 match. I think there are a lot of reasons for Kasparov lack of confidence and ultimate defeat. As humans we all fail eventually. Kasparov had a very long, successful, tough career. He’s been in so many pressure situations. Over time that wears a man out. I don’t care who the man is, it will wear him out. The 6th World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik said that a world championship match takes a year off your life.  Well Kasparov has played the equivalent of 9-world championship matches in a 15-year period.  During this time, Kasparov took on the best of the rest: Karpov, Short, Anand, and Kramnik. Kasparov came out on top 8 out of 9 times. When you are young, pressure situations make your stronger by building character. But they also take something away from you.

From 1984-1987 Kasparov played in the equivalent of 5 tough world championship matches. That’s an incredible amount of pressure. Just playing in a single world championship match is pressure enough. We saw what Bobby Fischer did in game one and two of his match in 1972.    Kasparov has experience incredible amounts of pressure in most of his matches. Take the 1984 match against Karpov, Kasparov found himself down 4-0 after 9 games and 5-0 after game 27. Very few people could handle that kind of pressure and still have enough strength and courage to continue. Kasparov was able to tough it out for 48 games. Kasparov wore his opponent out and force the match to end prematurely. The match was stopped with Kasparov trailing 5-3 but gaining momentum. Six months later the match was resumed with Kasparov winning by a score of 5-3. A year later in 1986, Karpov exercised his automatic rematch clause and Kasparov again had to defend his title. Kasparov won that match as well. Soon afterwards the next cycle came around in 1987 and Kasparov was defending his title again against Karpov. This match ends with Kasparov needing to win the last game to tie the match and retain his title. Kasparov proved to be up to the task, he won the last game and retained his title.  This was an incredibly hectic pace, which took its toll. Kasparov again defend his title in 90, 93, and 95.

    I think the 1997 Deep Blue match also took its toll. During this match Kasparov was in for the shock of his life. He was about to meet a major technological innovation. A massively parallel processing chess machine, backed by IBM, the biggest, proudest computer company in the world. Kasparov did not know it, but he was facing a silicon monster with near world champion chess capability. Kasparov showed he was the better of the two over 5 games, but not understanding what he was up against, he broke down in game 6. His first major breakdown in his career. He lost his will to fight. He lost the last game, without putting up a fight. That cost him the match. Kasparov would finally lose his title in 2000.  Vladimir Kramnik would dominate that match from the start. Kasparov with the white pieces was unrecognizable.  Kasparov defeat in 2000 can be attributed to his long tough pressure packed career, which finally took its toll in 2000. Kasparov shouldered the heavy burden of the title with distinction. He will go down as the greatest world champion in chess history.


Hangin's take on Kramnik match preparation:
     Kramnik has two world championship preparations under his belt. His first was as a 2nd to Kasparov during the successful title defense in 1995. Kramnik had a chance to observe Garry Kasparov, who is the master at match preparation. Kramnik used this knowledge about Kasparov to help form a plan to defeat the him in 1995. Kramnik has an impressive list of seconds for this match. He has Evgeny Bareev, Peter Svidler and Miguel Illescas, who has been on two teams that defeated Kasparov in match play. The first time in 1997 with Deep Blue, and he was with Kramnik during the 2000 brain games world championship. Kramnik had a great plan, he dominated Kasparov. Kramnik with white pressed Kasparov hard. To Kasparov credit, he made some great saves to draw games. Kramnik, with the black pieces, defanged Kasparov  with the Berlin defense. Kasparov said he tried to rebuild his opening repertoire during the match, but was unable to. Kramnik made a good point and said that sometimes you just have to play. Kramnik won the opening psychological battle. However Kasparov failed to bring the 9th pawn with him.


More Kramnik interviews