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Psychological warfare in Elista September 29, 2006

Posted by dorigo in chess, games, news.

Apparently, the World Chess Championship reunification match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov is being threatened by the bizarre accusations and behavior of the players and their teams.

It is not the first time that psychological warfare plays a big role in a chess match. The most striking example was the 1972 Reykjavik match between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, when the latter forfeited a game for futile reasons, later winning the championship at the board despite the handicap.  

What happens in Elista is that Topalov’s team complained for the tens of visits to the restrooms that Kramnik pays during every game: allegedly (and Danailov, head of Topalov’s team, produced tapes that show evidence for that), after almost every single move Kramnik leaves the chess table, goes into his restroom, enters in the bathroom, and stays there for a minute, then goes out, in again, and so on until he walks back into the stage and sits at the board to think at his move. The bathrooms inside the players restrooms are the only places not monitored by cameras, and Topalov’s team deemed Kramnik’s behavior suspicious.

The arbiters did not accept Danailov’s request that the players use public bathrooms in the building, and tried to settle the matter by  deciding  that a single bathroom be reserved to the two players and shared by them.

This afternoon, Topalov arrived at the board to play game 5, but Kramnik did not show up. His team sent out a note in which they complained about the decision and threatened that Kramnik will not play any more if he is not allowed to use a private bathroom during the game.

At this very moment, Topalov is waiting for Kramnik’s time to expire (players have one hour to show up at the starting time, otherwise they lose the game by forfeit).

It is very bad to see this happening. I fear the match will not continue if Kramnik is indeed given a forfeit. In any case, I find Kramnik’s behaviour really childish, and I did not expect him to act that way – especially given the fact that he is leading the match by a score of 3:1.

What is hurt by all that is the image of the game of chess. I can already see the headlines in tomorrow’s newspapers, and the accent given to the oddity of chessplayers, their fussiness, and tales of madness in strong chessplayers of the past.



1. Joachim - September 29, 2006

It seems like the attempt from the Topalov team was a “cheap” attempt to unsettle Kramnik. However, apparently they succeeded – Kramnik decides to make a point to stick to the contract instead of agreeing to the referees. Well, it’s all about the principles… The sad thing is: i don’t believe the players themselves to be the reason behind this behaviour, rather their management. And i always thought the boss from Dilbert was exaggerated…


2. Fred - September 29, 2006

Thanks for bringing up the 1972 Championship. This frequent bathroom visiting neurosis is a strange way to create some drama for the purpose of further engaging the general public for what could still be a classic. Kramnik’s weak act pales in comparison to Fischer’s historical antics and without his aides his game lacks the supreme confidence that Bobby projected throughout his career. The epitome of paranoia, Fischer trusted nobody, disdained almost everyone, and eerily fueled by his constant self-inflicted isolation, made all of us take notice of a game that was perpetually off the radar screen. Vladimir needs to take a few more classes at the Konstantin Stanislavski School of Chess Acting to approach Bobby’s World, a place you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. I really like that Boris guy and did a quick study to discover that he lost his very first game to Korchnoi in 12 moves, Leningrad, 1948.

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