Chess Mess

Something stinks in the world of chess. And it’s not frequent bathroom breaks.

Monday, October 2, 2006 1:15 p.m. EDT

It usually takes a scandal to get the world’s pre-eminent mind sport into the news these days. The latest example comes from the current world chess championship in Elista, Russia. The match between Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria was intended to unify the chess championship that has been divided since my challenger and I broke away from the international chess federation (FIDE) in 1993 in an attempt to professionalize the sport.

The first four games of Kramnik-Topalov–the match was scheduled for 12 games–received scant attention in the world press. That changed when the Bulgarians published a complaint about Mr. Kramnik’s frequent trips to the restroom during the games, calling his behavior “suspicious” and threatening to abandon the match. The appeals committee governing the match agreed, and ruled to close the players’ private restrooms, which would be replaced by a shared one. (How it pains me to see such distasteful events driving the coverage of a world championship.) Mr. Kramnik protested the decision by sitting out the fifth game and was forfeited. Currently the match sits suspended.

The article ended with…

Combine this collapsing power structure with players and managers concerned only with self-interest and making money, and what happened in Elista was practically inevitable. In fact, most of the principal actors in Elista stand to gain from the cancellation of the match. Mr. Topalov was losing at the game and so he switched to gamesmanship. If the match is aborted he can claim he wasn’t defeated and so maintain his status as FIDE champion.

Mr. Kramnik rose to the provocation and now may walk off with the same faded title he took from me in 2000. For years he avoided both a rematch and unification with FIDE. If this chaos isn’t resolved he can go on to claim “champion for life” standing outside of FIDE.

Just like their brothers in spirit in the Kremlin, the chess nomenclatura hope to prolong the anarchy and corruption from which they have profited for so long. Mr. Ilyumzhinov needs this match to continue, but it is he who sowed the seeds of its downfall.

For a game associated with brainpower, chess’s leaders and its leading players have displayed remarkably little in recent years. They are now paying the price by having their pettiness and incompetence splashed across front pages around the world.

Here is the full article. Posted by Picasa

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar