At last the Dresden organisers have rolled out the big guns for their press conferences. Today's session, for example, will feature Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky while last night, Karpov and another ex world champion, Alexander Khalifman, entertained the crowd. Both gave their views on a number of matters such as the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, Viktor Kortchnoi and the challenge to the supremacy of Russian chess. The older Karpov was more lengthy in his answers while Khalifman opted to be brief and, at times, rather witty.
When asked by Susan Polgar if he ever met the late Bobby Fischer, Karpov said, "not over the board", but they did meet in person a couple of times in 1977. More recently they had "negotiations to play", but Fischer wanted to try a new variant of chess wherein white would commence the game with one pawn less. Karpov called this idea "a strange one" and the match never took place.
On Fischer as a person: "Ah, it's difficult for me to judge, because I [only] met him 4 or five times in my life. So I cannot say in general. But in my experience, he was [a] nice person. We had nice talks, discussions. It was mostly about chess, because otherwise he was not easy person to talk about."
Now mainly inactive from competitive play, Karpov these days devotes his time to projects including chess schools (having opened one recently in Poland), works relating to the environment and the so-called International Association of Peace Foundations of which he has been president since 1982. However, he still keeps a keen eye on contemporary chess issues - like the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, for instance. When asked about this event, the ex world champion couldn't help a little historical detour and proposed an optimum number of games for the world championship battle. He says that 24 games, common back in his heyday, may be too long for the current era and prefers sixteen to be just about right.
On the same topic (the Anand v Kramnik), Khalifman offered something a little more interesting: "The way it happened was a bit surprising, well, I think not even not a bit, but for everybody because Anand showed the big advantage. I wrote it in some chess magazines there was a big advantage in the preparation. So Vladimir was not properly ready for this match. I don't how it happened, but it was a fact. And so, Anand deservedly won. That's the only thing I can say about it.
And about numbers ...it's very strange that some people are so much addicted to numbers. Well, world champions are not prisoners. They don't need numbers. They are just world champions. That's it."
Ian Wilkinson, the Jamaican Chess Federation boss (who only took up chess in 1999, he informed the press conference), posed a question regarding Russian supremacy in chess and the challenges they face, specifically in the Olympiad. Once again, Karpov detoured into the near past.
"Still, the Russian team is the strongest, I'm sure. But what's [been] missing during last years and last Olympiad, they are really missing I believe a leader of the team. A person who would be the leader over the chess board, not only the strongest chess player, but [someone] who could mobilise the forces and effort of the whole team."
Wilkinson interjects, "Like you?"
Karpov continues: "Yes, I did it for so many years and then we did it together with Kasparov. And even when we had big problems, personal problems, we could unite just to win like it has happened in '86 or '88. So this is very important", before finally adding, "But now probably we don't have such persons. And it's a bit of a problem because Olympiad is not just a combination of individual results. [There is] something else in the Olympiad and in the team competition."
As was his preferred method, Khalifman was short and sharp.
"Well, Ok, in my opinion it is good for the competitive spirit, for the Olympiad that no team is dominant. It's pretty good because it's sport and it's good that no one can pick the winner before it starts."
Finally on the question of Viktor Kortchnoi, Karpov recalled the time when the Swiss board 1 was a "problem" for the Soviet Union. These days, though, with the two of them playing for a team called the South Urals, Karpov says that Kortchnoi is a real team player.
Again, Khalifman was blunt with the answer: "Well, I can admit I just did not understand the question. Viktor Kortchnoi is a great chess player. What else should I say? That's it!"
You may also like to hear what Karpov thinks about the new match points system. He said simply: "This I don't like".