TopalovIn the second half of 2010 my manager Silvio Danailovtold me he had received an email from a young French GM, offering his cooperation. We asked him to send an example of how he works, an analysis of some opening variation. Romain sent a file with an improvement in the Najdorf and I liked it. In my experience a young player willing to work hard is more valuable than a renowned but unmotivated GM, regardless of playing strength. Later I met Romain personally during the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk and we agreed on a training session in Salamanca. Looking back, I would say our first sessions were the most fruitful. That’s logical, as in 2010 it was easier for humans to find good ideas more quickly than computer engines than it was in 2014, the same way that in 2018 it is easier than it will be in the years to come.Of all our discoveries, I am most proud of the move 14.Ba4! played against Nakamura during the Melody Amber rapid and blitz tournaments in Monaco, a very deep idea which was very well developed by Romain. Lots of beautiful lines have still to be revealed. Also the strong novelty 12.Ne5! from the last round of the same event against Aronian gave me a big advantage, although the result was a loss.Often, the quality of the work of trainers or seconds has nothing to do with the final result. I don’t think they’re responsible for what happens during time trouble in a blindfold game or in the fifth hour of a long and tense struggle.What was also very important was that we had the good luck to anticipate the new move 9.c5!? played by Morozevich in Zug in 2013, knowledge of which gave me an important point. So an otherwise original and fresh idea turned out a fiasco for my opponent. Another excellent discovery in Lanzarote was 9.Be5!?, played against Kramnik. This surprise allowed me to get a huge advantage only a few moves later, something almost impossible in such a well-studied opening as the Queen's Gambit. There were many other improvements and some of them have still not been played.
Our last serious training was in the winter of 2014 when I prepared for the Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk. I believe I prepared very well, but the problem was that results came much later than needed. However, as I’ve already said, I don’t think Romain can be blamed for my loss against Svidler with the black pieces, for example. We found a great idea, revived a line with a bad reputation and I got an edge out of the opening, only to spoil it completely and lose. As a result the Candidates was a disaster me, but I would say my good play in the tournaments which followed in 2014 and 2015 was largely due to the work we did in Lanzarote in the winter of 2014. For example the new move 7...g5!?, which gave me victory over Carlsen in Saint Louis a year and a half later in 2015, was prepared back then. Romain crossed the 2700 benchmark in June 2014; I would like to think it was because he worked with me, not because he stopped working with me. This book is about how ideas are born during preparation, about what happens behind the scenes. Until Romain told me he was writing it I had no idea of his plans. I
believe chess fans will like the honesty of the stories as nothing is hidden. I hope you enjoy it.
Salamanca, October 2018