IM Ligterink met Veselin Topalov in a rural hotel on the outskirts of Hoogeveen, hardly the kind of place where one would expect to witness an outbreak of pent up rage. But Topalov gets red spots on his neck ("rode vlekken in zijn nek") and a his voice starts to squeak when the conversation moves to the behaviour of Vladimir Kramnik during the recent World Championship match. On the other hand he doesn't complain about his losses in the first two rounds of the Essent tournament and in fact praises the games of his opponent.
Former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov
Topalov acknowledges that he has overreached by participating in Hoogeveen. "I underestimated the reaction of my body. It's not so strange that it relaxed after the intense concentration of the match in Elista. Should I not have come here to play? That did not occur to me for one moment. I have never ever breached a signed contract. I am not Kramnik. How often has he withdrawn with vague complaints of fatigue? This spring he withdrew from the tournament in Monaco immediately after he had signed the contract for the match against me."
Ligterink says that using the name of Kramnik has the same effect on Topalov as waving a red flag to a bull. He was restrained during the days after the match, but now he feels that the time has come to tell his side of the story.
"From the articles I have read I understand that the general public sees Kramnik as a martyr who won out against oppression. For them I'm the barking dog and and my manager Silvio Danailov the embodiment of Evil. That is a complete misrepresentation and makes no sense. Our protest against Kramnik's behaviour, which everyone condemned, was not a provocation, but an expression of sincere concern. During the first two long games Kramnik spent two and a half hours in his restroom backstage. You can't do that, can you? If you are playing a fair match then you cannot hide yourself. The audience must be able to see you on the stage.
"After the fourth game my manager asked to see the surveillance tapes in order to find out exactly how my opponent was spending his time in the restroom. He saw that Kramnik visited the toilet very frequently, and so we became suspicious. Naturally this is suspicious behavior. The toilet was the only area that was not covered by the surveillance cameras.
Veselin Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov, who arrived in Essent before game four, with a miniature gimmick item conjuring up memories of "Toiletgate".
Peter Doggers, who took the picture, reports that the day before Veselin had joked in the press room: “I will not play here without cameras in the toilets.” Judit Polgar answered to that: “Well, not in my toilet!” Topalov then added: “And I want the tapes too!”
"The Appeals Committee agreed to lock up the toilets in the restrooms. Kramnik reacted like an injured innocent. Contract this and contract that, how dare they insult me. It is always the same with him. He breaks the rules continuously, but heaven forbid his own rights should be touched.
"That Kramnik did not show up for the fifth game was his own fault. He thought he could get away with anything. I would have preferred to play the game and see our protest comprehensively addressed. Instead I got one free point. But Kramnik got his way in all the other points. He could do anything he wanted in his restroom, and the Appeals Committee was dismissed.
"The consequence was that starting from the sixth game I no longer knew whom I was playing against. Kramnik had been quite vulnerable in the past year, but in this match he hardly made any tactical mistakes. I began to have doubts. Was Kramnik my opponent or was it Kramnik assisted by a computer? In order to keep him at the board as much as possible I started playing very quickly. Too quickly sometimes. The blunder which caused me lose the ninth game was the result of a decision I had taken too quickly.
"I accept that I lost the match. But the events of Elista still haunt my mind. At night I dream about Kramnik. I dream that he has accepted the offer for a return match in Sofia. Or that I go for a long walk with him in Moscow, after which we visit an exclusive nightclub. The strange thing is that the two of us are the only visitors there."