Kramnik starts the psychological war
The first game of the World Chess Championship match between India's Vishy Anand and Russia's Vladimir Kramnik is only 82 days away, but the mind games have started already.
In a recent interview Kramnik questioned the value of Anand's title because it was won in a tournament and not a match. Such sniping is not new from Kramnik, but the manner of his comments are, if anything, more strident than before and could easily be interpreted as deliberate gamesmanship to unsettle his opponent.
Asked if he considered Anand to be the World Champion, he would only prevaricate, saying "It is not a question of simply yes or no. Anand won the tournament, which was called the World Championship Tournament, and I competed in that tournament as well...so I have no right not to consider him the World Champion. A question is however, what is the value of such a title?" Ouch!
Anand was questioned about the comments in an interview with the Indian newspaper DNA. Despite some obvious attempts by the interviewer to provoke a war of words, Anand refused to be drawn any further than replying that in his view "As a champion, you should learn to play all formats and accept the results".
It seems likely that we can expect more mental sparring contests before the match proper begins, but this writer judges this first skirmish a draw - Kramnik may possibly have unsettled Anand, but Anand chose to rise above the provocation and ended up looking the 'bigger' man.
Of course, other people may have different opinions...