Hangin Mason makes

The case for Kramnik vs. Topalov

12/15/2005 - Your Honor, members of the jury, today, I will make the case for the Kramnik vs. Topalov chess world championship match. I will prove today, that both champions' titles have flaws, but these flaws can be repaired. I will prove, beyond a shadow of doubt that the 14th classical chess world champion, Vladimir Kramnik is a worthy champion. I will also prove why the current FIDE Champion, Veselin Topalov should accept Kramnik's challenge.

  Veselin Topalov made some very interesting comments in the 8th issue of 2005 New in Chess magazine. He said: " a world champion should do three things: play chess, popularize chess, and win money." I say:" A world championship match is a good way to accomplish all three." This is especially true when Topalov doesnít have to do any legwork to find a sponsor. Vladimir Kramnik has a 1.4 million dollar offer waiting in the wings.

    Topalov feels that Kramnik is not a worthy contender, because he is only rated 7th in the world.  However, the case for Kramnik is very strong. In 2000, He did decisively defeat Garry Kasparov. This victory was significant in many ways, Kramnik defeated the greatest champion in chess history, who happened to be the highest rated player of all time, and the only man, at the time, rated over 2800. Kramnik didnít fall apart immediately after winning the title. Kramnik also became the 2nd man to break the 2800 barrier, when his rating hit 2808 in 2002. Kramnik also was the last man to really take it to the silicon beasts, when he took two games from Deep Fritz in Bahrain in 2002. 
   Since winning his title, Kramnik has won Amber and Linares twice.  He finished in 2nd place at Dortmund twice. He also was the runner up to Anand at Cap De Age.  Although Kramnik has had a horrible year in 2005, he had a very good year in 2004, with first place finishes at Linares and Amber, and a 2nd place finish at Dortmund, behind Anand. Vladimir Kramnik finished 2004 by retaining his title against Peter Leko at Brissago, Switzerland. At 30 years of age, Kramnik canít  be written off yet.

    There is no question that Veselin Topalov had a dominating year in 2005. He started out with a 3rd place finish at Corus, and followed up with two first places at Linares and Sophia. Topalov finished the year off by taking first at the San Luis FIDE Championship. He took the lead early and never relinquished it. At San Luis, he became the third man in chess history to break the 2800 plateau.

   I think that both Kramnik and Topalov need each other in order to make their titles more legitimate. Each player's title has serious flaws. However, these flaws can be repaired. 

   Kramnikís main flaw is that people believe he was undeserving in his title shot against Kasparov in 2000.  Kramnik didnít have to qualify in an interzonal and win three candidate matches, as prior challengers did. This is backed up by the fact that Kramnik lost to Shirov in a candidate match in 1998.  But we really canít hold this against Kramnik. In 2000, Kasparov asked Kramnik to play a match for the world championship. Kramnik wisely accepted the challenge and went on to become the 14th chess world champion.
    Kramnik made a series of mistakes since winning his title in 2000. Firstly, he was not a busy champion after winning the title. Secondly, he was reluctant to defend his title against Kasparov. Thirdly, his less than decisive defense of his title against Peter Leko, cast further doubt on his title.  Finally, Kramnik allowed his rating and standings to fall in the last year with a number of bottom half finishes in tournaments. Over the last three years, he allowed his place in the rating charts to fall from 2nd to 7th place.

      The flaw with Veselin Topalovís title is that he didnít gain it by beating a world champion in a match. Many people feel that all Topalov accomplished at San Luis was winning an old style interzonal tournament. Even though Topalov dominated the chess world in 2005 by winning 3 tournaments, he didnít have to win three candidate matches and mano-a-mano contest against a world champion.  So his title is flawed as well. 

    I believe you canít win a title by winning a double round robin tournament. In 1948, Mikhail Botvinnik won his title in a 5 round robin tournament against 4 of the top players in the world.  Botvinnik won all of his matches against Smyslov, Reshevsky, Euwe, and Keres. Botvinnik shored up his title by having successful world championship  matches against Bronstein, Smyslov, and Tal.  Whereas at San Luis,  Topalov won all of his 2 game matches, except for his drawn match against Vishy Anand, who was the top rated player in the tournament. 

    Topalov might be thinking Kramnik is unworthy, but lets not forget Spassky was rated 7th in the world when Fischer, the best player in the world, played him in the 1972 match in Reykjavik, Iceland. No one questioned Spasskyís right to be champion. After all, Spasskyís road to the title is the toughest in world championship history.

   Lets not forget that Capablanca faced a similar decision back in 1921. It was a fading 53-year-old champion, Emanuel Lasker, who wanted to renounce his chess crown and bequeath it to Capablanca.  Even though Capablanca was the dominant player during that time, he wisely knew that he had to play a match to win the true title. Lasker even insisted at being called the challenger. The match was played in Cuba in 1921; Capablanca won it decisively in 15 games with 4 wins and no loses.  I guess that Capablanca knew that there was a power transfer during a decisive match against the world champion.  This transfer of power and energy can only occur during match play.

    In view of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov outrageous demands that a challenger be rated 2700+ and have a sponsor willing to pay FIDE 20 percent of the prize fund in order to challenge Topalov, it is obvious that FIDE is not interested in match play. There reluctance to find sponsorship for such matches is very telling. FIDE is planning another world championship tournament in 2007.

   This leaves 2006 vacant. Topalov can achieve all his goals he described in New in Chess magazine. He can do this by playing a world championship match against Kramnik. Should Topalov choose not to play such a match, then for the rest of his life, he will hear the proverbial ď you never won the big oneĒ from every chess journalist. Topalov will be without a defense, especially considering Team Kramnik already found a willing sponsor and has issued the challenge.

   I suggest Topalov and Kramnik fix their flawed titles by playing a world championship match. They should do so without FIDE. The man who beat the man tradition is worth continuing by the worldís top players. This title has value.

   Since this match is only 14 games long, I donít think the champion should retain the title on a tie. There needs to be a tie-break blitz process, so that a decisive champion can emerge.  In the shortened match format, a tie is too much of an advantage for the champion.

   Topalov by defeating Kramnik can inherit the bloodline of past champions from Steinitz to Kramnik. Kramnik can add to his legacy by defeating another 2800+ player named Veselin Topalov.  The chess world would benefit from a Topalov vs. Kramnik match.  The winner of such a match would gain power and energy. Moreover, this match would heal the fracture chess world.

  Your Honor, members of the jury,  the defense rests.     

Your Comments

Chess Reporter
Fide has no claim to world title

FIDE Reunification

World Championship
Spassky road to the title

Chess Base
Ilyumzhinov comments -

 Capablanca - Lasker
Mikhail Botvinnik - 1948 Moscow
Kramnik - Kasparov