Jonathan Speelman on Chess
Sunday December 31, 2006
2006 has in chess terms been above all the ‘Year of the Computer’: the computer both as fearsome adversary and more importantly a powerful tool which can potentially be used to cheat.
Whereas other sports fret about drugs, this is a complete non-issue in chess and players have to undergo testing in some official competitions merely as a sop to the Olympic Committee and WADA. However the use of computers is not only technically quite possible but has also been detected in isolated cases in Open tournaments. It’s therefore perfectly reasonable that players should have to pass through a metal detector in the most serious of competitions. Moreover, the various allegations about cheating at the highest level, while I believe them to be utterly baseless, have certainly not come out of thin air.
The imbroglio during the Kramnik v Topalov match this October was fuelled initially by a whispering campaign against Topalov himself, following his sterling victory at the world championship tournament in San Luis in Argentina, last October.
It was suggested that Topalov had improved ‘too much’ and must therefore have been receiving help. Some of this emanated from Russian sources and while Kramnik himself was certainly not involved, it surely provided some motivation for the campaign that Topalov’s manager Silvio Danailov unleashed in Elista as he alleged quite openly that Kramnik was going to the toilet in order to receive help from ‘Fritz’.
It’s recently been confirmed that a ‘UTP-5’ computer cable was found in the suspended ceiling above Kramnik’s toilet during the inspection at Elista. This was hardly a revelation in a theatre building (and indeed, if you’re into conspiracies, could even have been planted). But it does explain the vehemence of the Topalov camp’s protests at a supremely tense time when it was all too easy for paranoia to take over.
FIDE’s response was to hush the matter up and it’s further come to light that two members of the second appeals committee (after the first one was ‘voluntarily’ disbanded) sent a letter offering to resign when they heard about this.