Sunday's handshake affair shook Wijk aan Zee 2008 – and most obviously Nigel Short, who was staying in the same hotel as we were and with whom we imbibed in a midnight drink. The English grandmaster was still shaking as he sipped his glass of red wine. It was clear that the refusal by his opponent to accept his handshake had had a deeply disruptive effect on his emotional balance. Nigel had received the decision of the Appeals Committee and was not at all happy with that. Ivan Cheparinov was expected to issue a "public excuse" ("apology" was the intended word) before 11 a.m. the next day, which Nigel was expected to accept. The replay of the game was scheduled for two and a half hours later, at 1:30 p.m. on the free day.
When he heard about the decision Nigel was incandescent with rage and informed the Committee that he had no intention of replaying the game. He left the venue immediately and joined our correspondent Steve Giddins in a nearby Italian restaurant. "I have never seen Nigel so angry," Steve writes in his BCM report. "He was literally almost speechless, and being pretty lost for words myself, we hardly exchanged more than 3-4 sentences for almost a whole hour, as we sat in the restaurant. One thing Short did say was 'It looks as though I have played my last game in this tournament'. It was impossible to know what to say, or how even to attempt to help him come to terms with such a manifest injustice. The overwhelming feeling was that he had been 'stitched up' – caught in a classic, premeditated sting by the Bulgarians, the latter backed up by an ill-directed Appeals Committee, and now he had nowhere to turn, and nobody to whom he could appeal further. The mood only lightened a little after almost an hour, when the restaurant’s piped music progressed beyond 'Santa Lucia' and 'O sole mio', and instead began playing the theme music from 'The Godfather'. At this moment, I caught Nigel’s eye, and said with mock solemnity, 'For justice, we must go to Don Corleone!'. We both laughed for the first time since hearing the Appeals Committee ruling."
Nigel's feeling was that he could not play the game, even if it meant forfeiting the tournament. There was an important principle at stake. If it is forbidden to refuse the traditional handshake at the beginning of the game, in order not to disrupt the emotional balance of the opponent, then this could not be watered down by allowing him to do so later, after a warning by the arbiter. The damage is done with the refusal. Does the rule really mean that players are allowed to routinely break the rule, and then acquiesce when the arbiter warned them about it? That is certainly not the way it is done in Tennis, Snooker or any other sporting event in which good behaviour is requured of the participants (i.e. in most other sporting events).
The debate went through a number of glasses of beer (on our part – Nigel stuck to his glass of red wine), and in the end the outlook was grim. He seemed determined to make the point and not to play, even if it cost him his participation in an event that he had been enjoying tremendously – reading a book by Morozevich and playing slightly antiquated openings, with a reasonably amount of success. However he decided to phone his wife and sleep on it.
In his report to the British Chess Magazine (link above) Steve Giddins takes up the story: "When I left Nigel later that night, he was still intent on withdrawing from the tournament. The following morning, he was met by one of the Tournament Committee members, who attempted to persuade him to remain and play. At the same time, I was discussing the issue with several friends, including BCM editor John Saunders, who marshalled some persuasive arguments as to why Short should play, despite the egregious manner in which he had been treated. I finally managed to meet up with Nigel at around 11.30 that morning, by which time Cheparinov’s 'apology', as cynical and insincere a document as I have ever read, had duly been handed in, precisely 12 minutes before the required deadline.
News - Statement Ivan Cheparinov (English)
January 21 2008 - Corus Chess Press
To the Organizing Committee Corus chess tournament
CC : Appeal Committee
I accept the decision of the Appeal Committee and on the name of chess, the chess fans and showing respect to the opinion of my colleagues would like to state the following:
I apologize officially to Mr. Short, to the Organizing Committee and the sponsors of Corus chess tournament.
I am ready to play the game today at 13’ 30 and will shake hands with Mr. Short according to the decision of the Appeal Committee.
I was ready to put to Nigel the case for staying and playing, but the first thing he said to me was “I think I am going to play”. It turned out that several other friends and family members to whom he had spoken overnight had also urged him to remain in the tournament, and he was already as good as convinced."
At the appointed starting time a number of journalists and photographers were collected in the playing hall, waiting with bated breath to see what would transpire. The sequence of events was captured by Frits Agterdenbos, who posted a photo report on his web portal Chess Vista.
13:20h: everything is prepared for Short-Cheparinov II
Chief arbiter Thomas van Beekum waiting for the players to arrive
Ivan Cheparinov enters and makes his way to the table
The Bulgarian settles down, fills out his scoresheet and adjusts his pieces...
... and waits for Nigel Short to arrive
At 13:30h Thomas van Beekum starts the clock
Cheparinov's manager Silvio Danialov (right) talking to GMs Erwin L'Ami and Jan Smeets
Ivan Cheparinov strides the stage, waiting to see if his opponent will arrive
... which he does at last, about ten minutes after the clock was started
The handshake is offered by Cheparinov and accepted by Short
The game can begin: Nigel plays 1.e4 and a Sicilian Najdorf ensues
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6
Tired, tense... and grimly determined: Nigel Short
Are these two just pawns in a bigger game, ChessVista asks
For those of you who want to see the whole thing in moving pictures – including an action replay of the handshake – Chess Vibes has posted a film on YouTube:
The handshake: Short vs Cheparinov II
Short,N (2645) - Cheparinov,I (2713) [B92]
Corus B Wijk aan Zee NED (8), 21.01.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Be6 10.Nd5 Nbd7 11.Qd3 Bxd5 12.exd5 Rc8 13.c4 a5 14.Kh1 Re8 15.Rad1 Bf8 16.Nd2 g6 17.b3 Bg7 18.a3 h5 19.f3 b6 20.b4 axb4 21.axb4
21...e4 22.fxe4 Ne5 23.Qb3 Neg4 24.Bg5 Qd7 25.Qb1 Ra8 26.h3 Nh7 27.Bf4 Ne5 28.c5 bxc5 29.bxc5 Reb8 30.Qc2 dxc5 31.Qxc5
White is a pawn up and has good prospects to win. 31...Rc8 32.Qe3 Nf8 33.Qg3 Qe8 34.Bb5 Qe7 35.Nf3 Nxf3 36.Qxf3 Rc3 37.Rd3 Raa3 38.e5 Rxd3 39.Bxd3 Nd7 40.e6 fxe6 41.Qe2 Nf8 42.Bc4 Rc3 43.dxe6 Rxc4 44.Qxc4 Qxe6 45.Qxe6+ Nxe6
The advantage has been converted into an exchange. Black will now try to set up a fortress and hold the position. On Playchess.com many spectators started to predict a draw. 46.Be3 Nd4 47.Kg1 Nf5 48.Bc5 Be5 49.Re1 Bc3 50.Re4 Kf7 51.Kf2 Bf6 52.Ra4 Ke6 53.Ke2 Kf7 54.Bf2 Ke6 55.Kd3 Kf7 56.Ra7+ Ke6 57.Ra6+ Kf7 58.Ke4 Bb2 59.Rc6 Bg7 60.Be1 Bf6 61.Bc3 Bh4 62.Be5 Bg5 63.Ra6 Bh4 64.Bf4 Bf6
Nigel Short has centralised his king and set up his pieces for the final thrust: 65.g4 hxg4 66.hxg4 Ng7 67.Be5 Be7 68.Kd5 Ne8 69.Ra7 Nf6+ 70.Bxf6 Kxf6 71.g5+ Kf7
72.Rxe7+. You probably know how to win this ending: 72...Kxe7 73.Ke5 Kf7 74.Kd6 Kf8 75.Ke6 Kg7 76.Ke7 Kh8 77.Kf7 Kh7 78.Kf6 Kh8 79.Kxg6 Kg8 80.Kh6 Kh8 81.g6 Kg8 82.g7 Kf7 83.Kh7. 1-0. [Click to replay]
Steve Giddins wrote: "Of course, as his friends had pointed out to him beforehand, Short had scored a huge moral victory the moment he turned up to play, regardless of the result, but winning the game in such fine style completed the triumph. An elated Short walked out of the playing area, to be greeted by a bevy of photographers and journalists, all waiting for a reaction. They were not disappointed. He looked at them, grinned, and then said 'There is a God. And he is not Bulgarian!' It brought the house down."
On Tuesday all eyes – and we mean all eyes – will be on the game Topalov-Kramnik. Will the two shake hands? Will there be a new scandal? We predict: neither will take the initiative and offer the handshake, so there will be no breach of FIDE rules. Remember: there will be live commentary on Playchess by Yasser Seirawan, who will give us his take on the International Handshake Affair.