The world of chess has been rocked by a controversial demand for the game’s greatest international tournament to be played in complete silence.
Bulgarian champion Veselin Topalov has invoked little-known rules which allow him to ban conversation between the him and his opponent during the World Chess Championship.
Casting aside the sport’s staid and cerebral reputation, he has insisted he will not speak to India’s Viswanathan Anand as they compete for the title and a prize of £1.7 million over almost a month.
It is the first time the rules have been applied to the 12-match tournament, which starts in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Saturday, and have provoked uproar among players and fans.
Rules allowing players to demand a ban on communication were introduced in 2005 in order to curb the practice of competitors offering each other draws during drawn-out games.
But they have rarely been invoked and this is the first time any player has demanded their application in a world championship.
The move by Topalov, who has a reputation as the “bad boy” of chess, have been described as “insane” and “a sheer provocation”.
The dispute has been escalated by Anand, a popular figure on the world chess scene, who has said he will refuse to play in silence, arguing “a world championship should be played with world championship rules.”
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