World Championship Crisis – what our readers think

9/30/2006 – While the tumultuous events of the last two days unfolded, letters have been pouring in from all over the world, some very emotional, many imaginative, witty, or constructive. We would like to share them with our readers, and with the officials in Elista, who should get a feeling for the ground swell in the chess world. Take some time, it is a long but interesting read.

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The following letters were received by our English language news department, which had not specifically asked for feedback on the events in Elista. The readers had spontaneously clicked on the general news feedback link on the left of the page and sent us their opinion.

The general view was heavily in favour of one side of the conflict, and to some extent aggressively critical towards the other. In the following selection we have only excluded letters which were gratuitously insulting, clearly libelous or orthographically chaotic. Some of the letters are, we admit, borderline in tone or taste. We would normally not publish such letters, but in this exceptional case, in order to give a true cross segment or public opinion as presented to us.

We would like to stress that we have not left out any letter that supported the minority opinion. And it is also relevant to mention that more than half the letters arrived before the articles by Yasser Seirawan and John Nunn had appeared on our news pages.

Some of the messages are quite imaginative, witty or constructive. We draw your attention to the last letter sent by an experienced co-organiser of world championship matches (and many year FIDE delegate) David Levy. There were also constructive suggestions, like the interesting "last resort plan" sent to us by Vadim di Pietro, which we forwarded to the FIDE office in Elista with an appeal to consider it before the match was aborted and the players left the country. There is an interesting analysis by British Champion Jonathan Rowson and a number of amusing pieces, like the letter by Jake Palmer of New York. We could not resist including a few potty pictures (at the end of the page), which readers submitted in great profusion. We did however omit the ransom joke, which, although genuinely funny, is too tasteless for reproduction here.

Mig has put up a petition for those who would like to encourage Topalov to give back the point won by forfeit and continue the match at 3:1, which appears to be the final sticking point in negotiations.

So on to our readers' feedback, in roughly chronological order...

September 28, 2006

Robin Longstreet, USA
Sounds like Topalov is trying to get into Kramnik's head and is feeling desparate after falling into a -2 hole. It's not as if Kramnik played flawless chess in the 1st two games after all. I would suggest Topalov worry more about his own game and less about the amount of time Kramnik spends in the rest room.

Tom Chivs, London
My opinion of Topalov has just gone through the floor, via the toilet. There are a million and one obvious explanations for this 'problem', and ways to fix it. So why the big threat and mass media press release? Because Topalov can't take responsibility for his match situation. So he blames someone or something else, and wants to run away, under the smoke-screen of a cheating accusation. I hope he runs away to the world of draughts, frankly.

Russell C., San Francisco, CA USA
I really feel that Kramnik is not cheating. Why would he cheat, would he need to cheat? I don't think so due to his performance in the past. Kramnik is a fine Grandmaster and in my mind would never opt to cheat his way to the top. Kramnik doesn't have a history of being a cheat. Topalov has been a classic champion, cocky, and arrogant. Now Topalov is in a losing position and is complaining and might be thinking his crown is lost! Topalov is a great comeback artist and shouldn't have to use these antic's to weezel or get out of the match. I wish the both of them luck and hopefully the match won't concede.

Predrag Miletic, Belgrade, Serbia
Such behavior by Topalov is unacceptable. All that trash talking before the match and now this - acting like some kind of primadona without results to prove it. What a scumbag.

Jane Black, Adena, Ohio, USA
You have got to be kidding me? First, the man earlier this year said that Kramnik was not good enough to be even in a championship match. Then, once it became apparent that Kramnik was healthy and able to play in tournaments to boost his rating, Topalov backtracked and conceded that Kramnick was good in match play. Now that Topalov has over-aggressively tried to attack his player on the board only to lose twice and draw twice, he claims that Kramnik has got to be cheating. Topalov does not have the character to shoulder any title of champion. So much for unifying the title.

Andrew Felter, San Antonio, TX USA
If this fact is true that Kramnik visited his restroom 50 times, then I must conclude Kramnik really does have his own imaginary friend to talk with! *GASPS*

Roberto Balzan, Roma
Shame on Topalov and/or his team.

M. Reichelt, Tucson USA
Quote Silvio Danailov: "The careful study of the video recordings from the rest rooms..." My suggestion is that Mr Topalov should "carefully study" simple mating patterns. Then, playing a mate in three moves when it's on the board would stop all silly accusations.

Ted Teodoro, River Edge, NJ, USA
If he can't overcome Kramnik over the board, Topalov will try to subdue him in the bathrooms. After four games, I think it has become pretty obvious to the Bulgarians that they need to seek victory somewhere else, and even the call of nature will not be spared from their scrutiny and desperate plans. If they must go, then go. However, leave the crown to Kramnik who has earned it outright to this day.

Mark Stark, Edmonton
I find it quite strange that many of the concerns broached by Topalov's team have not been adequately adressed prior to the commencement of the match.

From an amateur's perspective, the quality of play has been extremely high, with the obvious exceptions of the puzzling blunders. Unusual to say the least, but this unpredictability certainly makes the match exciting. If there is one player in the world who can overcome a 2-game deficit against Kramnik, Topalov is certainly that individual.

As for a general impression of the two combatants: they both seem like moral and honest individuals (Kramnik's drawish playing style a separate issue). Kramnik has suffered some health problems in the past and (speaking as one who has suffered severe health problems and played competitive chess) I can say that maybe the bathroom is a type of sanctuary Kramnik uses to gather himself and avoid some of the hustle and bustle of the playing arena.

In the interest of fair play, something will have to be done to resolve this issue, however. Although Topalov strikes me as as honorable individual, I cannot help but think that one minute aspect of his team's objection is the employment of additional psychological pressure on Kramnik -- a tactic employed in many other world championship matches. Kramnik may be up 2 games but I don't think that's necessarily a decisive lead at this point.

Earl Roberts, Levin, New Zealand
Well should it come as any suprise that Topalov's seconds are now resorting to even checking how many times Topalov's opponents take a pee?? Topalov in the months leading up to the match spent a lot of time on why this match should not go ahead with such excuses as to much of a rating difference between him and Kraminik for example. Now Topalov can't seem to win a game it is all a conspiracy with chess engines in the toilet??....I thought this sort of nonsense was the domain of the internet! Mind you, if all proves true and professional chess players may well find that their playing conditions including a compulsary evaculation of their internal workings before sitting down to play... Is playing a game of chess really this hard?

IM Ben Finegold, Ann Arbor, MI USA
If I were the organizers of the match I would throw Topalov's manager out of Elista for such stupidity and being a troublemaker. This is a chess match, not a forum for idiocy. Making the match something that is not chess takes away from the wonderful spectacle that is chess. Nobody cares whether Topalov's manager is sane or not, so this rant should not be allowed to continue, as it takes the press coverage away from the great chess games, and makes it a circus. Having the players followed or checked by security cameras when they go to the bathroom is so absurd, it is hard to fathom that Topalov and members of his team allowed this letter to be delivered and published.

John Julian, Spokane Valley, Washington
I find it extremely distasteful and rude of V. Topalov to suggest that Kramnik is somehow receiving outside assistance, simply because he uses the restroom frequently. I find it pathetic that the Bulgarian delegation finds it necessary to look for reasons other than blunders by the FIDE champ that explain his having to overcome a 2 point margin. If you somehow have a means to do so, please relay the disgust of the chess world (which you will no doubt receive in large sum) at his rude and childish behavior.

September 29, 2006

Pedro Valarezo, Spain
I think that that the example Topalov quoted on move 15 by Kramnik is absurd. The queen is attacked by a pawn, and the only place to go is d3. With all other moves he looses the queen. You don't need to consult anybody to find that out, no PC, nothing. Is is a forced move.

Wallace Hannum, Berkeley, CA USA
I find it in extremely bad taste that Topalov is accusing of Kramnik of cheating because he makes frequently trips to the bathroom. First of all, if Kramnik were using a computer, I fail to see why he would be in the restroom for less than a minute and then return again. They list Kramnik leaving and returning to the restroom several times while waiting for Topalov's 15th move. Doesn't it seem odd that Kramnik would need to quickly "consult" a computer 3 times in 4 minutes? Perhaps Kramnik prefers the quiet, or he prefers to pace about. It doesn't matter, Kramnik is free to come and go as he pleases.

It's remarkable that Topalov would insult Kramnik as not being in his class before the match (even though Kramnik has the superior record when they've played classical chess) and now try to excuse his own poor play by accusing Kramnik of cheating. I suppose Kramnik's computer is what made Topalov not take the draw in game one (as well as made him play the losing 57...f5)?

Then in game two that sneaky computer told Vlad to blunder with 31..Bxf8? and then somehow forced Topalov's mistake of 32.Qxg6? In game 3 Kramnik made several tame moves, from a superior position, that no computer would have played because they're not aware of his +2 match lead. He played safe, solid chess and was never worse but hardly made any dramatic "computer" moves. Kramnik has made several inaccuracies in this match but Topalov has made more. Neither man has played computer chess. Kramnik has played safe, intelligent chess to maintain his match lead while Topalov threw away at least 2 half-points by over-pressing.

It seems obvious to me that Kramnik would have no reason to check with a computer for less than a minute but 4 times before playing his next move. It makes no sense. There is no substance to his claim since neither Kramnik's play shows computer influence nor has anyone actually seen or heard anything that would imply foul play. Its idle speculation from someone who stands to lose the most important match of his career. Topalov never asked Kramnik about it during any of the press conferences they've attended, which I imagine is because he doesn't want an explanation. It merely wants an excuse for his play and the fact that he will not win this match down 2 points with only 4 whites to go. Even Kasparov had the decency to accept Kramnik's victory without this type of misconduct.

Its disgraceful and puts our game in a bad light; and this immediately before reunification is finally achieved after so many years. Topalov has been out-classed on the board and is now showing is lack of character in a cheap attempt to unsettle Kramnik. Shame on Topalov and his team.

Nat Kongsamran, Bangkok Thailand
I think that Topalov team is too serious about this point. However in the games Topalov had chances to win but he couldn't grab them. It looks funny to raise this issue when he lost 2 games and threatens to give up the match. If so, may he be dethorned his championship due to this stingy manner. For the fair rule, the committee may consider the appropriate regulation for both sides and let them follow fairly. I feel that this action will degrace Topalov a lots that he takes only his own benefit and gives up when he is inferior. It's not the true champion.

Chris Major, Mountain View, USA
That's definitely too suspicious. They're right to react this way. In fact, there's no plausible explanation I could imagine; so I think they should leave right now. I was surprised that they didn't complain about the drawing of lots. Any kid could easily see that Kramnik could have been told which chest to choose. Well... I didn't watch the ceremony, so maybe I'm missing a point. Anyway, all this is very telling: even Topalov now sincerely believes computers are better than Kramnik.

Ole Morten Persen, Geithus
Remembering Topalovs statements after San Luis, and especially those regarding Kramnik and the rating difference, it's clear to me now, as it was then that Topalov is simply afraid of Kramnik and his match strength. He knows he can't beat him, and being 2 points down already has confirmed this to him as well as the rest of the world. So better to avoid defeat by withdrawing? If he pulls a Fischer now and abandons the match he should not only be stripped of his FIDE title of world champion, he should also have to compensate for the financial loss of the sponsors and FIDE. Such action can do nothing but harm chess.

Tom Welsh, Basingstoke, UK
Having witnessed the Karpov-Korchnoy matches with their yogurt witch-hunts, parapsychologists and sundry other paranoia - and also the increasingly bizarre Spassky-Korchnoy series - I thought I had seen it all. But the Topalov team's in-depth analysis of Kramnik's visits to the bathroom really take the cake! What on earth is he supposed to be doing in there anyway? Maybe he is just very nervous; or he has a runny nose and needs to blow it often; or several other possibilities. In any case, expert commentators have pointed out that, if Kramnik had seen deeper into the positions in Games 1 and 2, Topalov would actually have got better results!

If Topalov's team persist in this extremely bad sportsmanship, I think his best course is to withdraw from the match. But only on the understanding that, as he is two points behind after four games, that would entail agreeing to concede the match and the world championship. It is really too transparent a trick to start finding fault with the playing conditions only after going two points down!

Munish Ratanpal, Bangalore, India
To the surprise and dismay of chessplayers the world over, Topalov has used the cheapest trick imaginable to duck out of losing the World Championship. I am sure the arbiters, including the highly respected chief arbiter Geurt Gijssen have taken all measures to ensure a fair match, and there is no question of foul play on Kramnik's part. I hope Topalov sees sense, and decides to play on, regardless of the outcome of the match.

GM James Plaskett, Cartagena, Spain
For crying out loud... GROW UP, Topalov! This kind of crap gives the game a VERY bad name.

Tom Welsh, Basingstoke, UK
This is getting to the point where I am in danger of losing all interest in this "world championship". First we have games 1 being lost by Topalov from an utterly drawn position, and game 2 lost by Topalov from an utterly drawn position. We have two so-called "world champions" overlooking the same mate in three. And now legal arguments over bathroom visits! If all concerned are trying to make chess a laughing stock, they are doing a great job.

Nat Kongsamran, Bangkok Thailand
Both players have made agreement or contract already before the game, and if the result is not like this, Topalov's Team wouldn't play this psycho game. This shows the tiny mind of Topalov's Team included him. It will bring disgrace to him a lots that he wants only win by neglect any moral in mind. Poor Topalov. Goodbye to your poor mind and your team.

John Rood, Holbrook, MA, USA
My personal reaction is that it appears that Topalov has made a farce of this Unification World Championship. This seems very serious to me and he should bear the consequences of his actions in some manner.

Mauricio Gutierrez, Chicago, USA
Pathetic. That the world championship would come down to petty squabbles shows just why the sport of chess is in the state it is. For sponsors, there are certainly much better places to invest. As a fan, I am deeply disappointed.

Cláudio Amorim, Salvador, Brasil
If the match is interrupted, FIDE should impose a huge fine on Topalov team, responsible for starting all disturbance. All in all, the allegations are just silly: if Kramnik has been assisted by a computer it must be a stupid machine, judging by the tactical innacuracies he has repeatdly commited.

Richard Huntley, Bow, NH USA
Now that Topalov is in danger of losing his title, he is grasping for some excuse to retain it. If he is as good as he boasted a year ago, he should be able to make a comeback. If he wants to act like Bobby Fisher then he should at least be able to perform like Fisher. He agreed to the terms of the match and should honor them. Topalov needs to grow up.

Joan Thornton, Melbourne, Australia
This is the saddest day for chess since Fischer walked out in the 1972 WCC match. Both players should have their heads banged together. Ban them both from all pro events for a year. Instead, have a match between Susan Polgar and Magnus Carlsen.

Anthony Andrea, London
Why would Topalov team have access to tapes from restroom? Only arbiters need these tapes. Unless definite evidence of possible cheating is found by arbiters, match conditions must remain unaltered, as agreed by both sides before match. Changing conditions shows favour to Topalov and discredits arbiters. Reasonbable response to Topalov appeal would have been to investigate possibility of cheating and decide if Kramnik was POSSIBLY cheating or not. The current decision implies Kramnik may have been cheating. Kramnik cannot play on under such a condition. One of these players MUST be disqualified. If arbiters are not capable of managing the situation into a decisive conclusion by disqualifying one of the players then they have no business being arbiters. BOTH PLAYERS CANNOT BE RIGHT UNLESS ARBITERS ARE INCOMPETENT WHICH SEEMS TO BE THE CASE HERE. I was a supporter of Topalov, but now Kramnik. ARBITERS SEEM TO BE CORRUPT!!

David Levens, Nottingham, England
I thought chess players of this calibre would be intelligent. Kramnik and Topalov may well have high IQs but, obviously, no common sense. The Bulgarian team set a trap and Kramnik walked right into it!! How on earth do they think FIDE officials can now sell chess to a good sponsor? I think I'll return to marathon running - athletes have more brains!

K. Hersch, Kansas, USA
It is clear that Danialov and Topalov when saw that they can't beat Kramnik, they pulled this dirty trick. It is disgraceful. Even before the match, it was clear that the Bulgarian side cares only about money. Chess and principles are not in their agenda.

Anthony DiMilo, Falls Church, VA
Fisher's chair in 1972 and now Kramnik's toilet in 2006. FIDE once again finds a way to make the royal game of chess a joke to the world. Today, Topalov didn't missing the winning move - He played the Toilet Counter Gambit and won. Well, he main retain his world championship*, but with an asterisk. But I don't see how he can have any claim to anyone's respect.

Metin Sezgin, Cambridge, UK
You should put maps of the Topa-Kramnik game area so that we can make sense of your reports. What are the floor plans like, and were are these rest rooms? How do players access them etc. etc. etc.

Dan Wigley, Florida, USA
Concerning WCC toiletgate, the Appeals Committee made a mistake and missed a fair solution. Things are in a mess now. Kramnik simply needs space to pace. First, the Appeals Committee should have exercised some diplomacy and discussed the matter with both teams before making any decisions. They would have found out that, as Kramnik's team states, Kramnik likes to pace (probably to help with stress), and the bathroom gives more needed space for that, as the rest area is small. Second, the Appeals Committee should have insisted on this explanation and maintained the bathroom arrangements that the players had agreed upon. Third, the Appeals Committee should have decided to increase the size of the rest areas so that Kramnik could pace without having to enter the bathroom space. Also, I don't understand Misha Savinov's praise of psychological warfare. I'd rather see the players play chess. This warfare is dangerous and will likely result in the games not being played at at.

Michko, Saint Maur, France
I have written the following message to any email address of the FIDE I was able to find at their site:

"Dear sir, to allow this buffoonery is so mean, vulgar, despicable, pityful. Shame on you, the FIDE administration, to destroy the image of our beautiful game. Shame on your President, Mr Iliumjinov, to whom you will please address my more sincere contempt. M. Michko"

I would like the Chessbase organization to allow a petition against the FIDE to be written. I hope you have the means and the will to do that. They are simply destroying the image, the dignity and the reputation of our beautiful game and his champion, Vladimir Kramnik.

Bobby Amback, Louisville, KY USA
I applaud Kramnik for not standing for this dispecable pshycological warefare. Shame on FIDE for allowigng his to happen. I think this marks the end of FIDE, they control nothing and noone.

John Rood, Holbrook, MA, USA
Please keep in mind that in your reporting now you are affecting world opinion about chess. As an American, I wish to point out that you are specifically affecting American opinion. No matter whether or not psychological warefare has always been the way world championships in chess have been played in the past, Americans don't like this. We are a new country and don't have a history of millenia of intrigue, and we tend to think this is one of the great faults of the Old World. Freedom of the press has raised the standards of "transparency" which are expected of everyone about whom the press reports. You might think about this.

Bernard Rehm
Shame on Topalov. I was thinking that there are two legitimate world champions. Now for me there's only one left: Vladimir Kramnik. Shame on Topalov for trying to get out of the board what he's not able to win on the board.

Nat Kongsamran, Bangkok Thailand
Kindly tell Topalov that please go to hell. The shamed champion, he should not have chance to make good face anymore. The cheating Topalov and his team, included the biased Appeals Committe. Why do these kind of very bad people still influence the world, included Ex PM Taksin Shinnawatra of my country, Thailand? Why is the cheating all over the world? Even in the game of intellect. Topalov's cheating team want only win, win, win, win and win without the moral in their mind. I don't understand these kind of people. How can they live in the world, in the society ? May be dead is better than live without dignity. Goodbye morality, goodbye Topalov in the world of chess. A chess fan.

Amurali Dharan
I am angry with what has happened till now. I am strongly in favour of Kramnik's action. I love chess, want to see ONE champion but not at the cost of FIDE manupilating the result. Well done Kramnik! Refuse to play under such obviously biased conditions.

a) Danailov's comments while cleverly avoiding accusations are insane to people who know chess but bring disrepute to Kramnik among the people who do not play chess. They think it is pretty obvious that Kramnik is cheating as they have not followed his chess through the years.

b) FIDE should have ignored Danailov and asked him to walk out. He had every opportunity to check all this when he visited Elista before the match.

c) Odd behaviour of Kramnik does not mean suspicious behaviour. Looking at the moves played it is pretty obvious that Kramnik has not been consulting a computer.

Jim Anderson, UK
Sad that Misha Savinov thinks it justified that gamesmanship / parapsychology should help to decide a world title, and not skill on the board. John McEnroe started this kind of thing in tennis - who is to say how many games he won by disrupting his opponent by a screaming match, and not by skill. This kind of attitude has led to a lowering of standards in all sport e.g. shirt pulling & diving in soccer, drugs in athletics - anything goes, as long as you can win. Games should be won on the board, not by what is going on off the board. Are you a worthy world champion if you have to pull cheap stunts to distract your opponent? Am I being cynical in saying it is usually started by the player who is falling behind, or feels that his skills are not enough on their own?

Justin Horton, Huesca, Spain
I believe I understand the hidden motive behind Kramnik and Topalov's behaviour in Elista. They are trying to make the game appeal to children by behaving like a couple of kids.

Ivica Mihoci, Croatia
One would think that we now have a 1972. match "deja vu", but this time with the Bulgarians who show no manners and they are excessively rude because they want to "win" a match with unfair methods. This is a wonderful situation when we finally see a Bulgarian in his real "pants". If the Bulgarian thinks that he can double Fischer in this match he is deadly wrong. I find him a rude and disrespectful man who doesn't deserve to wear a FIDE chess crown, and an especially not a "unified" chess crown. What a shame... I hope that all players around the world will raise their voice and support Kramnik who now suffers form bullies bred in Bulgaria.

Lee Bradbury, Kinston, NC, USA
Chess players are the most stubborn people on the planet, because chess is all they have, and as you have no one but yourself to blame for a loss (as opposed to team sports), they have egos larger than they are and as insecure as gold bricks thrown into a public fountain. But as in all sports there is such a thing as class, and I don't believe that Lasker or Tarrasch or Capablanca would have thrown tantrums when they blundered. Topalov and Kramnik do not appear to care for the true worth of chess, and this is not titles, nor money: they will share the money evenly without regard to the match's outcome, and titles will not last forever. If there is any eternal quality of chess, it is the artistry of a fight. The true worth of chess is its fans' adulation of the players and love of their artistry. If Kramnik's and Topalov's pouting, infantile Fischer-tantrums are not ended, the fans are the only ones who will suffer. That is selfish of the champions. And it is not fair. Tell them that.

Pavel Evseev, Moscow,Russia
Could I ask you to send my email to FIDE concerning Elista Match as an open email.

Dear Sirs, as a chessplayer since 1970, could I ask you to provide equal and fair attention to both player in the Elista Match. It is obviously that toilet ideas of Mr.Danailov are one of the home-made surprises. Toilet scandal is the only chance to have Mr.Topalov (great chessplayer no doubt) to be WC after 13.10.2006Y. Please compare honest smiles of Mssr. Danailov and Topalov with wise face of Vladimir on the FIDE report.

No doubt both Vladimir and his opponents are knowing about medical problems of Vladi. I can understand Vladimir have no willing to speak publicly about that.

Please take into account that toilet scandal can be the last step after that chess will be game in park only , not No.1 Wise-Game-in-The-World. Then the main figures will be no Vladimir, Veselin, Garry or Robert James but his manager championmakers and scandalmakers. Would you like to read in the Britannica 2020: Chess – a Game No1. in the World before toilet scandal (when the Mr. Ilyumzhinov was the President), now game No. 100?

Even if for FIDE it is more convenient for some reason Mssr Danailov and Topalov to be a WC, please do your step to fairplay. No one man in the World cannot assume Mssr Danailov and Topalov as a World Champion after the 3:1 and the toilet scandal which was organized by them.

Mike Jaqua, Denver, CO USA
I just saw the latest Chessbase article. The spirit of Bobby Fischer is alive and well in the chess world. The whole lot of them are squabbling like kids on a playground. Isn't there even one adult in Kalmikia who can set these immature brats straight?

"Silvio, sit down and stay quiet!"
"Carsten, you too!"
"Toppy, you watch your manners. Shake Vladdy's hand and play nice."
"Vladdy, sit down and play nicely too. If you have to go potty, this nice arbiter man will go with you. Yes, there will be one with Toppy too."
"Nice arbiter men, you all make sure Toppy and Vladdy play fair. Don't let them out of your sight even for a moment. They have been veeeerrry badly behaved boys."

Yes. I think this situation can be handled. Just get parents to take charge. Please do forward this message verbatim to the boys in Kalmikia. I will be happy to come over there and administer time out, spankings, and dunce hats it you like.

Mike Archer, Golden Colorado, USA
How shameful! I have never been a big fan of Kramnik. I don't care for his style of chess, he beat Kasparov on an off day then avoided a rematch until after he retired and he has really done very little for chess. On the other hand, I have been a fan and supporter of Topalov.

But the behavior of Topalov's team is beyond shameful! What do they think - the Classical World Champion, a 2800 player, is going to use Fritz to find a move in an important match? Team Topalov should withdraw their ridiculous protests, void the 5th game default and get on with the match.

Philippe Van Rompaey, Belgium
I'm not a real good chess player, i.e. approx. 1100 on the Playchess server. But I love this royal games and what it symbolizes. I ask myself: What does the title "world champion" embody? What aura does this title carry with it. It's royal, not only in chess. World champions symbolize: skill, talent, devotion, above all love for the particular field of expertise. It is a title you fight for in a noble way. Not one you protect since 2000 by avoiding a rematch by all means possible. Does Alonso refuse to race against Schumacher? No. And boy do they play "psy" games. But never in a way they themselves become a "joke". Who wants to win a game, let alone a tittle over "toilet issues". When I think about all these things in chess, I'm glad that half of my library features books on world champion Kasparov! My hero, he also had his off-bord "psy" games. But what are Topalov and Kramnik thinking? By their display they seriously weakened the value of the highest title in chess. Have both players ever considered their actions? None of them is worth a title, let alone THE title. Than again, how can we expect them to respect the game of chess, when they clearly do not respect themselves nor the way they intend to win. A sad day. Where are you Kasparov? If this game stills means anything to you, my world champion, please make a move! Now! The right move!

Joe Justice, Dayton, OH
In my opinion Topalov sank very low for his recent behavior. He figured out that it'd be close to impossible to overcome a deficit of two in a 12-game match against Kraminik, and chose to create controversy to destabilize him.

John Miller, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
I find it sad that the only way Topalov could get a point out of the first five games was to sabotage the event. There is no need to change match conditions once the games are in progress. He will never be a true champion in my view.

Ruggero Itarsky, Milano, Italy
I would like to thank Topalov, Kramnik and the Appeal Commitee for turning the World Championship into a toilet farce. The whole world is laughing at us!! Do I still have to call myself a chess player, only to have people ask me if I have free access to my bathroom?!?! They are a disgrace for chess and an insult to everyone who worked hard to give chess a good image. People on the Appeal Commitee should resign their posts immediately and Topalov and Kramnik should be heavily fined, stripped of their GM titles and restricted from competitions for a period. And while they are at it, a couple of weeks in a South Africa mine will help them wisen up.

Gary Furness, MD, Santa Rosa, California, USA
What a complete embarrassment for chess. And some supporters think chess should be in the Olympics? Words fail me to try and express the incredible disappointment in Topalov's "team". Poor sportsmenship doesn't begin to convey the depth of their desperate attempts to "win" this match with Kramnick. Topalov should be stripped of his title, another tournament/round robin started, and that victor meet Kramnik.

Vladimir Skavysh, Chicago, USA
Eh, just when I was led to believe that FIDE would do at least one thing right, another crisis erupts. However, perhaps Danailov should be blamed this time. Just recall how he "managed" the affairs of GM Ponomariov two years ago. How many more cancelled matches will the chess world allow before the beastly Danailov is tamed?

Colin Cloudermi, Cookeville, USA
I believe that FIDE was absolutely unfounded in folding to Topalov. They had no right to change rules to contracted match. The only change that should have been made would be putting attendants in the restrooms. Furthermore if either player should threaten to, or actualy abandon competition, FIDE should counterthreaten a breach of contract lawsuit against the respective party. How can FIDE ever hope to be a respected sports body if they crawl under a desk when faced with a threat??

Robert N Bernard, Glen Ridge, NJ USA
Send Yasser... Yasser, Yasser, he's our man! If he can't do it, nobody can!

Brian Martis MD, Ann Arnor, Michigan, USA
In my opinion, one strong possibility for Mr. Kramnik's repeated bathroom visits is that Mr. Kramnik may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There may be a alternative explanation to this behavior that if addressed might prevent an unnecessary unpleasant situation. I think that tournament officials need to be aware of such a possibility.

Will Denayer, Cork, Ireland
Does anyone in Topalov's camp really believes that Kramnik is cheating in his toilet room - it's not even possible I believe, for the room is electronically safe (any functioning electronical device would be detected)? If not, which game is really going on here? I do not believe that any of this insanity would occure if Topalov would be in the lead. In other words, Topalov's camp is playing dirty tricks and they should be ashamed about themselves. Binding agreements are just that, binding agreements.

Alex Villasana, Norcross, GA
As a chess coach, I'm affected in a negative way by the conduct of both players. I have to look very hard for good examples of sportmanship, so I can motivate our new players. I keep hearing that we want chess to go main stream... how in the world are we going to attract the sponsorship required, when we have this kind of circus at the highest level of our beloved sport?

Ken Blaine, Akron, OH USA
Topolov's complaints did not deserve more than five minutes of consideration before being rejected. Chess players will continue to do this sort of thing if there are no negative consequences for them. Yes, he might quit if he does not get his way but everyone knows he he did this because he thinks he is going to lose big. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying this ruse.

Arbiters and rules commitees need to adopt suspension and financial penalty procedures like those in professional golf or tennis. As long as chess officials are intimidated by threats of quiting then chess fans will have to put up with unprofessional behavior like this.

The players have a responsibility to fans and sponsors and the chess officials should be ensuring they meet that responsibility. Once a participant in golf, tennis or chess advances from amateur to professional he/she has an explicit responsibility of professional behavior to the fans and sponsors.

Daniel Wigley, Florida, USA
After seeing the relevant parts of the contract, the Kramnik team is correct. The Appeals Committee is not following the contract and is acting incompetently. I'm about to give up on being a chess fan. I am so sick and tired of the nonsense, disappointments, and frustration. It is the only sport in which there is a real threat that players may walk away without finishing the match. Does it happen in tennis? football? golf? basketball? baseball? table tennis? curling? track and field? darts? The chess world can't even conduct a match without making ridiculous blunders.

Jerry Olsen I suppose you're getting lots of comments about this debacle. I'll add mine: I think the Topalov camp is corrupt, and so is the FIDE organization. Topalov was trailing this match by 2 points after just 4 games. If he loses the match, he loses his claim the the FIDE title, and he loses the money to be made by playing that match with Radjabov (which FIDE pre-approved with their usual dose of short-sightedness).

Many people have worked for a long time to make unification a reality, and millions of chess fans were excited to see this most-important match in decades. But petty greed and mismanagement will see that it all crumbles. Does anyone still wonder why chess can't get to first base as a serious competition?

Russell Miller, Chelan WA USA
Seems to me that Mr. K leaving his seat and returning so many times would be a distraction to Mr. Topalov.

Antonymous
If Kramnik is cheating than trap him and declare Topalov WC. If not: one should punish Topalov for his insults. The Topalov Team (Danilov) crashed round five on Sept 29 because the alligations could not be proven, and are an example of really unfair play and psycological traps thats goes way too far and are not what we want to see. Therefore the score should be 3-0 or 3-1 in conjunction with sending Mr Danilov home. I do not even care if you pay him with FIDE money.

Anyway whats the matter? Even if person X is winning this the incompetent FIDE are gonna organise WCC in tournament play next time and this is enought for the chessworld to punish FIDE. If not: The person X should have the titel and not a currupt organisation.

Soren Riis, Oxford
Topalov has played a mixture brilliant chess combined with some less fortunate moves. To raise the toilet issue was not the most impresive of Topalovs moves, however the real blunder was made by the appeal committee. I think Kramnik is right to put his foot down since he has been treated in a very undignified way.

Even if Kramnik forfeit game 5, he still have very good chances winning the match! If he wins this way I think most of us would consider him as a worthy champion. I hope Topalov will show good sportsmanship and stop worring about Kramik cheating. I am sure Topalov knows - deep in his heart - that there is no foul play. Topalov has played brilliant chess and with 2 1/2 hours for 40 moves (that used to be the time limit in championships) the players might have avoided the mistakes bf8? and Qxg6? in game 2, and Topalov might have won a truely spetacular attacking game. It is the changed time controls, not that Kramnik is cheating, that is the problem.

Thus I my view both players are in different ways victims of bad decisions made by officials who are not up to the task.

Richard Huntley, Bow, NH USA
I wrote once but since reading the Open Letter II by Vladimir Kramnik, I feel compelled to write again. Kramnik's letter demonstrates logic and reason. Any refusal to go along with his requests demonstrates the fear of losing that Topalov seems unwilling to let go. Again, if he wants to act like Bobby then let him play like him. If he is as good as he claims then overcoming two points should not be a problem!

Jake Palmer, NY, NY, USA
At NSA headquarters we recorded the following conversation between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, and Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Due to the intelligence technology used (bugs) we could only record one side of the conversation. Anyway, here it is:

- Vladimir? Oh, sorry, I need to speak to Vladimir Putin. I have been waiting for an hour now.

- No, I don't have an appointment. He asked me brief him on the chess match, when there are new developments. Okay, I'll wait...

- Vladimir, is it you? Oh, good. Well, the match is over...

- Yes, I know, but one of the players had to be disqualified after game four. Kramnik. Yes, our Russian world champion. It was because of the number of times he was visiting the toilet. His opponents claimed it was too often and very suspicious...

- Topalov. The Bulgarian. Yes, he is now the world champion...

- No, actually he was trailing by 1:3, and Kramnik was looking very solid. But we had to disqualify him...

- Vladimir, please be reasonable. It was not my decision...

- Vladimir, I know you are very upset, and I can understand that, but it was the Appeals Committee that took the decision and awarded the title to the Bulgarian...

- The "Appeals Committee". They control the outcome of the match.

- One is Greek, one is Mexican and one I forget. Okay, don't shout. He's Georgian. And the Chief Arbiter is Dutch. Yes, they disqualified the Russian and awarded the title to the Bulgarian...

- Yes, I know I am the President of Kalmykia, and am paying for the event. But it is their decision, and even if I don't agree with it...

- Vladimir, you are shouting again. You are very upset, I can see that. I think it is better to continue this discussion later...

- What do you mean? Yes of course I want to keep my position. You nominated me yourself a last October.

- Vladimir, look, I really think it is better to continue talking when you calm down. I'm hanging up now. No really. Alexander is calling on the other line. Alexander Zhukov, your deputy. Yes, the Chess Federation guy. They say he sounds very angry.

- Talk to you later, Vladimir. And please don't do anything rash. I'll find a way out of this mess. I promise.

- (Deep, long sigh, then click. End of conversation.

John Kunz, Watertown, NY, USA
Glad to see that yasir has it right. I personnally think Topalov's behavior is disgraceful.

David Graham, Lombard
For the first time, I find myself feeling embarassed by my fondness for chess and its people.

E. Mihaylov, Dublin
The behaviour of Kramnik is disgraceful and he should be disqualified. This is a WCC match, not a WC match.

Roktim Bandyopadhyay, Kolkkata, India
It is very much clear that appeals committee made a huge mistake (on purpose?) a baseless protest has been rewarded! Anyway GM Seirawans letter is really fantastic, it would be great if more number of top GMs express their views publicly. It is time to stand up and fight for the right cause! let us have a honest world chess champion.

Jose Ortiz, Lima, Peru
I write to you in order to fully support GM Yasser Seirawan's letter to FIDE President, Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

September 30, 2006

Matthew D. Nelson, Lexington, Kentucky (USA)
Though Kramnik's bathroom visits do seem a bit odd (perhaps his health condition?), the notion that he is somehow cheating is very doubtful. Indeed, he was outplayed for most of Game 1, he walked into a self-mate in Game 2 (which any computer would have seen), and he has only held draws in Games 3 & 4. But for Topalov's overpressing for a win in Game 1 and the miss of forced mate in Game 2, he would be well on his way to taking the title. Thus, Yasser Seirawan's solution sounds very reasonable in that it gives Topa complete assurances of fair play, even though the over the board play wouldn't seem to indicate that Kranmik is getting any sort of strong outside advice. Yasser has a penchant for cool headed thinking and skillful diplomacy. Dipatch him to Elista immediately to mediate!

Claudio Medeiros, Natal, Brazil
I completely agreed with Mr. Seirawan. This is an example of equilibrated and healthy opinion from a man compromised with chess. Besides, it is inacceptable to impose an off the board defeat to Mr. Kramnik, for this would be unfair and would deadly hurt the outcome of this match and, by consequence the whole image of chess as a professional sport. In such circunstances I would myself probably retire from my chess club in order to not indirectly be part of a so violated process.

Christopher Salisbury
I agree with Topalov. He has every right to be suspicious of such a bizarre situation, where an opponent is able to visit a private room/bathroom dozens of times during a single game. In a match of this importance, there should not be the remotest possibility of cheating.

Justin Tomes, Windsor, PA, USA
Why haven't you guys mentioned the fact that Topalov was clearly responsible for losing the first two games with his blunders, and that rather than foolishly being suspicious of Kramnik, perhaps he should try to blame the water or air?

Ben van Vlierden, Soest
Seirawan provides a wonderful reaction to the current situation, albeit very subdued. Isn't it time for the chess players of the world to get outraged and take over from the Kalmukkian gang?

Larry S. Tamarkin, Levittown, NY, USA
I agree whole-heartedly with the possibility of sending Yasser to Elista to mediate with all concerned. There is one attribute to Yasser's personality which is posessed by almost no one else (that I am aware of): drum-roll -- Yasser is respected by everbody! Even people who don't like Yasser respects his views. I think this is because even Yasser's detracters realize that Yasser has no vested interest that are clearly against the interest of anyone else. They realize that he is trying to do right by everyone concerned, and is generally only willing to act if all parties can be brought to agreement on the issues at hand (and is always willing to explore other's views toward a compromise solution). Yasser is definately the best diplomat for chess since Capablanca -- really, since he is semi-retired as a professional player, probably even better. Yes, send Yasser!

Jon Thomas, Atlanta, USA
What kind of character has Kramnik showed the chess world? He never replayed the only person he as ever beaten in a classical match. Then we had to wait six years for him to even put up his title again. Now he disappears repeatedly into a bathroom, an act which no chessplayer would allow another, and his defense is, "Its in the contract!" If Kramnik had any chess character, he would GLUE himself to his seat and teach Topolov the meaning of the word.

Frides Laméris, Zuidlaren, Netherlands
Being a chess amateur, theologian and therapist, I wonder what causes all these disturbances in world championship matches. In expectance of a fair match between Kramnik and Topalov I am now reminded unfortunately of what I came across in Kasparov's first book, writing on his match with Karpov in 1985 and a Dutch book on Kortchnoi-Karpov match in Baguio 1978. What is happening? Im also reminded of Smyslovs article/interview (on the Internet) on the divine and satanic aspects of chess. How is it possible that this beautiful game on the top level is surrounded by so much awkard behaviour sometimes? I will provide no answers in my first reaction. Is it the same sadness which I felt seeing how the soccer game became and is still becoming progressively more unnatractive, due to interests which have nothing the do with the norms of genuine sportive creativity and the standard of fair play, which is actually more and more threatened by the (financial) standards of both organizations and players? Hope we may witness parties come back to good sense. Top level chess should no longer be played in suspicious atmosphere's. It's a shame for the game!

Jean-Paul Charlier, Moscow
Dear Veselin and Vladimir, thanks to you, the New York Times writes about chess again. The world is more interested in what Vladimir does in the toilet than in what he does on the board. Thanks for recognizing this and courageously sacrificing your reputation for the sake of chess. You restored the grandeur of chess. Our noble game needs childish divas and eccentric geniuses. In recent years, normalcy killed it.

But don't get complacent. Here's what you should do now. Vladimir should complain that Veselin sometimes scratches his tender parts in a most disgraceful way. Veselin should protest against the presence of that cute lady in a mini-skirt who glances at him in such a provocative manner. Not only it is obvious that she's doing this on behalf of Vladimir, but her presence is insulting as it implies possible human weaknesses that are below the dignity of chess geniuses. Vladimir should request that the parapsychologist of Veselin be immediately dispatched to another continent.

I thank chessbase.com in advance for forwarding this kind advice to you. We all have to work together to get chess back in the world media.

Lagrain Jan, Lommel, Belgium
I was asking myself why one question isn't posed in this discussion: why would Kramnik use a computer or assistance and still have one inferior and one losing position in the first two games, exactly the games that he has won so far. He even made one big blunder in game two. Isn't this relevant for the discussion?

Yen Paniagua, Managua, Nicaragua
All this problem is outrageous. These persons are just making everything the bad way. For future references, they should consider put metal detectors, and persons around the bathrooms, but giving the video tapes and let the press take the pictures, that was just wrong.

I have some doubts: If Topalov complains, are they going to put glass doors on the bathrooms? Would they do the same in a female world championship? Would it be different if Kramnik had gone to the bathroom less often (does the number of times count)? If Kramnik were sick, should it matter to Topalov? Do they realize some people just don't like to share they bathrooms?

Corno Klaver, Johannesburg, South Africa
What a disguisting performance of the top players in the world, we as chess lovers was looking so forward to this match, and now??? Come on guys, just play chess. As a chess fan im disgusted and the name of chess is just getting worse and worse. You guys arent uplifting chess just killing it. Chess will never grow if the top two guys act like this!! Come on Kramnik and Topalov. Please just play the game!!!

Peter Thompson, London, UK
If the Bulgarians are accusing Vladmir Kramnik of going into the toilet and using an electronic device - or getting moves whispered to him through an open window!?! - then on which restroom visit did he come up with the blunder in game 2? Maybe it was a Bulgarian outside the window? Or maybe his chess computer fell in the bowl? Or MAYBE Topalov and his team should concentrate on the board!!! If he had won the first two games , as some say he should have, then we wouldn't be in this ridiculous situation.

The Appeals Committee are obviously not competent (as Kramink has said in his second letter, they don't seem to know the rules!), but I disagree that they are bias towards Topalov. They gave in on the single-toilet request, but rejected the other Bulgarian demands and admitted that amount of toilet visits had been exaggerated.

There is no way that Kramnik is going to accept the forfeit of game 5. It will up to the Bulgarians to eat humble pie and get on with it. Not much chance there either. So unfortunately, I think the World Championship re-unification is over, and yet again it appears that the top chess players, and their management teams, are too mentally unstable to provide what all chess fans across the world are crying out for - the creation of a single World Champion! A focal point that will encourage sponsors to sponsor, media to cover and bring new people to the wonderful game on the checkered-board of 64!

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada
Maybe the prize money should be reduced from one million to one hundred dollars. Then everybody could evacuate to his hearts' (and other elimination organs') content. The world is spending far too much money as it is on liquid materials, such as crude oil. Messrs. Presidents, take note.

Janne Kejo
I think the main problem is now the 5. game. Shall it be won by Topalov or shall it be yet to be played? Kramnik won't continue the match if the 5th game is not played. Topalov on the other hand won't give away the point just like that. Topalov must get some compensation for the point. Kramnik, too, needs to get some compensation for complication of the situation. FIDE is the one that has blundered and must pay for it.

Here is my suggestion: FIDE pays Topalov 50,000 dollars for the effort Topalov made (in vain) for the 5th game. Kramnik will be paid 30,000 dollars for the mess FIDE has created. Then the match continues with the 5th game, score being 3-1.

Bertram Scott, Kingston, Jamaica
It is a truism that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Here we are in 2006 at another World chess championship match, and we might as well be in Iceland, 1972.

It would seem that Kramnik is right in part and also wrong in part. Kramnik's point that Topalov's protest was not timely is incorrect. Topalov's appeal, or more correctly, his complaint, was not about the playing of the previous game, and as such, is not subject to the time constraint for appeals on the merits of the game. However: Topalov's complaint was an attempt to vary the terms of a contractual agreement, and this could not be done unilaterally by the appeals committe, as was incorrectly done, but required the consent of Kramnik and Topalov, the parties to the agreement.

Also, Kramnik is right that Topalov's complaint should not have been tabled as an appeal as it had no merit, but should have been considered as just a complaint. In essence, it was dealt with as a complaint for Topalov's appeal fee was returned. Therefore, the status quo of the rest rooms and bathrooms should remain as they were prior to game 5 until, and unless the parties agree otherwise.

One highly respected GM, Yasser Seirawan, has concluded that the forfeit should be reversed without explaining the legal basis for his conclusion. One has to tread very careful here less the very essence of the royal game be hurled into further disrepute.

Pursuant to FIDE Laws of Chess, 6.7, "Any player who arrives at the chessboard more than one hour after the scheduled start of the session shall lose the game unless the rules of the competition specify or the arbiter decides otherwise." Here, the rules of the 2006 World Championship match in Elista specifically state that FIDE Rules of Chess apply, and the arbiter has not specified otherwise. So, overruling the forfeit will take an act of alchemy, which, based upon pass experiences, is not beyond the morals and powers of FIDE.

Kramnik and his team should have taken a lesson from Spasky-Fischer 1972 and played the game under protest. After all, the actions of the appeals committee and the decisions of the arbiter are indeed like bishops of opposite colors.

Snorri Bergsson, Reykjavík, Iceland
I was one of the few chessplayers in Iceland who supported Mr. Kramnik in this match, not because of his chess style, but I thought this event was a FIDE-organized dismantle of the Classical World Champion Title by making sure Mr. Topalov, the FIDE world champion, would triumph. I simply did not trust FIDE to be impartial in this. A few other arguments also supported by alignment to Mr. Kramnik.

After the Toiletgate no chessplayer in Iceland now dares to admit he would continue supporting Mr. Topalov who is now the most disliked chessplayer in this part of the world. Topalovs team broke the rules and regulations of the match, and it is they who should be punished. And also the Kirsan-gang (Azmai & co) should be removed from the Appeals Committee. And Topalov should apologize. Is the Crown worth all this? Is the Crown worth his new title. "The Most Hated Chessplayer in the World"?

I am sure that the chess world wants a fair and sqaure match. We, I am sure, have had enough of these chess-politics that are making chess looks like the sport of lunatics and psychologically disorientated persons.

Barrie Richmond,MD (Psychoanalysis), Highland Park, IL USA
Agree with Nunn and Yasser. If possible, place them both on the Arbitration/Appeals committee. It's obviously very important that the match be played out on the chess board, not politically, or in legal courts.

Tom Welsh, Basingstoke, UK
I could not agree more with Grandmaster John Nunn's views, as published on the chessbase.com Web site. Kramnik has done nothing even slightly wrong, and no one has suggested any way in which he might have cheated. Topalov's team and the organizers have obviously, without even attempting to conceal the fact, conspired to bring an end to the match which Topalov was well on the way to losing before it was halfway through. I have lost all respect for Topalov, his team, and FIDE. As far as I am concerned, Kramnik is the World Champion. He won a formal title match against Kasparov; who, in turn, had won matches against Karpov; who became legitimate World Champion by default when Fischer (presumably) was unwilling to risk playing him. This is an unbroken succession of truly great chess strategists. Topalov, perhaps the most brilliant player who has ever lived, is (as Fischer once said rather unfairly of Lasker), "a high-class coffee-house player". Perhaps that is too much of a handicap in match play at the highest level. Certainly his character does not bear comparison with Kramnik's.

Dr. Waldemar Kurowski, Germany
With his behavior, Kramnik has violated the basic norms of human relations. Even if he was not cheating with his more than strange "love" for toilets, he had to understand that it was not only highly suspicious and hence very unpleasant for his opponent but also very crude and hence disturbing. We all should know how crudeness disturbs the Russia to become really dignified nation. Unfortunately, very few people are able to perceive clear those fundaments of people life. That is why there were and are so many wars and arguments in the world (also in the chess world). Ilyumzhinov and his team undoubtedly perceive, that is why they were reelected. Unfortunately, the others do not. Very selfish behavior of Kramnik is not undergoing to the rules of the match but to the rules of elementary human behavior. That is why Kramnik has lost the match and he should thank his opponents for their indulgence.

Ken Cowcill, Ontario, Canada
I'll make a prediction. Tomorrow they will play game 5, because if it is game 6, Kramnik won't be playing and there will be no game. So, here's hoping for a game tomorrow.

Marco Bevilacqua, Roma, Italy
I totally agree with both John Nunn and Yasser Seirawan: given the unexpected difficulty of the match, the Topalov clan decided to move the game from the table to the papers where Mr Danailov is clearly rated over 3000. I believe Mr Kramnik never inspired particular fondness in anyone given his cold style, but the the aggressive behaviour of Topalov team (taking possession of rest rooms videos; the lack of any proof of cheating; the threat not to shake hands) and the weak response of the Appeals Comittee (whose members orientation we all can easily presume) are clearly blowing this unprecedent opportunity for chess world to gain a new balance. This lack of respect of the opponent, of the rules and of the intelligence of thousands of chess lovers is really disgusting and offensive. I hope (but do not believe) Mr Ilyumzhinov will be so wise to impose the decency in all this unpleasant situation.

Michael Cook, Serres, Greece
Chess has indeed shot itself in the foot again. What a breath of fresh air it is to hear the sensible, well-expressed opinions of John Nunn and Yasser Seirawan after the hysterics of Topalov's team. Maybe Topalov has been getting bad advice from someone: in the past I never remember any case of him being a 'bad loser', and I certainly never remember anyone accusing Kramnik (of all people) of being a cheat. It seems to me that Kramnik has every right to feel insulted. And of course today the world's press is having a lot of fun laughing at the funny chess players again.

IM Emil Hermansson, Eslöv, Sweden
I have rarely seen someone describe a situation better than John Nunn did in his latest article about the World Championship. I fully agree with him and feel that this is another big upset for the chess world.

Don MacKinnon, North Battleford, Sk. Canada
As a chess organizer for scholastic chess in Canada, where one of our often repeated messages is about fair play and sportsmanship; I am appalled to see that Mr. Topolov has now announced he will no longer shake Mr. Kramnik's hand during the current world championship match. What type of message is Mr. Topolov sending to young chess players around the world? (Is he saying that you can try any tactic, no matter how low, in order to win?) Shame on Mr. Topolov, whose chess playing abilities I admire, but who has now completely lost my support. He has given chess more than a black eye, he has brought it into disrepute, and has cast himself as a morally unworthy champion.

Craig G., America
I agree with Mr. Nunn, and who wouldn't?! Any outsider, especially an American should know how hard it is for chess to be accepted. This latest fiasco only depreciates the games value, and brings me to another point that may or may not be fitting for this situation.

Do we really need a World Championship Match? Bickering between two individuales can quickly destroy a one vs one match. Need I bring up 1972 Fischer vs Spassky? The game of tennis does not have a World Championship, neither does golf. Please note that these games are not team endeavors, just like chess. So why does chess require a World Champion? Because it's been that way for so long?! Times change, so does the course of history. It is time to move on, especially if we are to ever have this game gain the respect it deserves.

Garry Kasparov was considered the world's #1 during Kramniks so-called reign. I know of no-one in the American chess circles I frequent who ever considered Kramnik a true champion. My point is that the general consensus held Garry as the #1 player all those years. This is akin to what I am talking about. Tennis, and golf have ranking systems of one type or another. Thus based on an individuals year long performance in premier events their ranking moves up or down.

It is time that chess follow this proven method if it is to ever gain similar stature. By doing so we would be graced with great tournaments such as Linares. We would also avoid, or at least reduce the affect, of such situations as to what is happening now in Elista. With tournaments, you have multiple players, so if one wants to cry and run a la Fischer, then go ahead. There are plenty of great players who will keep the games going.

Vadim di Pietro, Chicago
LAST RESORT: PLAY NOW, DECIDE LATER! If the players can not agree to the current score, 3-1 or 3-2, then the following should take place: continue with the rest of the match. That is, tomorrow's game should be game 6 with Topalov as white. In the meantime, FIDE should work with the players' managers to appoint a mutually agreed upon outside arbiter. Over the next few days, the players' managers can present their case to the arbiter. The players will agree to abide by the decision of the arbiter. The arbiter will announce his decision AFTER all other games (except tie-break games) are played, and only if his decision matters.

If, excluding the result of game 5, Kramnik finishes at least 1.5 points ahead of Topalov, then Kramnik is declared the Unified World Chess Champion. If, excluding the result of game 5, Topalov is at least 1.5 points ahead of Kramnik, then Topalov is declared the Unified World Chess Champion. If, excluding game 5, the players score is seperated by less than 1.5 points, then, based on the arguments presented by the players' managers, the arbiter will determine whether Game 5 should be replayed or if the full point should be awarded to Topalov. If the score is tied after the outcome of game 5, whether it was replayed or awarded by the arbiter to Topalov, then the players will proceed with the tie-breakers as planned.

Obviously the main attraction of this plan is that there is a significant probability that the outcome of the match will not depend on the outcome of game 5, and so the arbiter's decision will not matter anyways. The main detraction of this plan is the anti climactic possibility of having the world chess championship decided by an arbiter's decision. Unfortunately, given the current situation, I believe this plan is the best we can hope for. As for the bathroom issue, I believe that this issue is secondary and that they will be able to figure out a solution on their own.

Predrag Miletic, Belgrade, Serbia
Nunn has hit the bullseye! Right on the money! Great article.

Mark Warriner, Richmond, VA
Send Seirawan! He is offering the only clear and correct assessment of the entire situation. Bravo Yasser!

Jonathan Shockley, San Francisco, California
Kramnik's contract was violated when they locked his bathroom, therefore he was in no obligation to play game 5. Kramnik's explanation that he likes to use the space of the bathroom to walk is perfectly normal, but he was in no obligation to provide explanations or justifications for his actions. That is HIS space and he can walk in and out as many times as he likes.

Kramnik could have walked in and out of the bathroom 1000 times and that still wouldn't violate the contract. Furthermore, if the claim is that Kramnik cheated (which is preposterous, given the moves played on the board, Kramnik's history, and the strict security precautions), why aren't we raising the same suspicions about Topalov? I mean, are we supposed to believe that Kramnik can cheat during 30 visits to the bathroom, but Topalov cannot cheat during his 10 visits? Civilized countries and people presume a person is innocent before proven guilty. Topalov's psychological tricks, such as his refusal to shake hands before games are an indication of his unwillingness to solve this issue in a reasonable manner--attempting to play the man and not the board (where he is trailing by 2 points) Everything should go back to the way it was before, maybe with extra bathroom checks on both sides. If Topalov refuses to play under these conditions, he'll be in violation of the contract, and he should be declared the loser of the World Championship match.

Michael Vidler, Birmingham
Thank you for keeping us up to date on what is happening in the match. Curious developments indeed. John Nunn makes many sensible comments about the procedural improprieties that occurred after Topalov complained and the rights of Kramnik, but there is one point that doesn't appear to have been addressed. Aren't the officials, including the appeals committee, also agreed by each side before the match? I don't think this excuses them their remarkable decision (did they even ask Kramnik his side of things before taking action?), but it would be interesting to know if Kramnik accepted them as the appeals committee when he signed up to the match. It would seem very odd not to known beforehand.

Akram Shehata, Cairo, Egypt
I am an International Player and a Book reviewer for chesscafe.com I have been following the games of the world chess champion with great interest, Until, Mr. Danailov strangely protested on this toilete issue. First: It is clear from the begining that Mr. Kramnik (Super GM) can never cheat and expose all his previous achievemnts to vein. Secondly: The level of the games played so far, no matter how interesting the play went, was full of blunders from both sides that no amature can suspect cheating. Thirdly: both players attended the last interview, just before the first protest, and both were laughing and discussing with open heart issues of the match. So... what happened? Who suggested this collapse? I am sure Topalov is so strong to finsih the match with such unconvincing protests. Finally: Mr. Kramnik, to my knowledge did not refuse to negotiate the matter, no mattert how insulting this is, but he was not even consulted before the committe's act. He has all the right for an apology, and every thing back as it was and match continue starting game 5. May Topalov manage his team this time and force them onto a halt of this drama, and just say bravely, I will play on and kindly do not disturb my opponent. Or I am just dreaming of such sportive manners...

Stephen Goodman, Falls Church, VA, USA
I am shocked by the travesty unfolding in Elista and by the utterly disgraceful way in which GM Kramnik has been treated. I had long ago lost all respect for FIDE and now have lost all respect for Topalov as well. He is not and never will be Kramnik's equal, either as a player or, more importantly, as a person.

Michko, Saint Maur, France
Bravo Dr Nunn ! Everything is said quietly and clearly. I blame much more Topalov than his manager who probably thinks this is just a power and money matter. But Topalov has proved himself wrong, insulting, vulgar and unfair. I sincerely hope the chess elite will boycott him at least for a while in the most important chess tournaments.

Carl Berg, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
I am deeply frustrated by the behavior of team Topalov! Here we have one of the best players in the world, a man of immense tactical talent and really amazing comeback abilities, and he has to resort to toilet time tactics. GM Nunn is right: chess has suffered yet another embarassing episode. Let us hope that calmer minds prevail, but then again, this a FIDE event.

Aqel Mantik, Manama, Bahrain
John Nunn's article is the best I have seen so far from a top GM. Topalov lost two games because of his blunders, not because Kramnik played flawlessly. After games 3 and 4, Topalov (and his team) realized that it is extremely difficult to beat Kramnik. Therefore, they resorted to cheap tactics. The fact that Kramnik is not getting any help from an electronic whatever is very clear. He lost his slight advantage in game 1, he blundered horribly in game 2, and he could have gotten a promising position in game 3.

GM Jonathan Rowson, British Chess Champion, London, UK
Like most chess players, I have been saddened by the recent turn of events, and hope there is some way out of this position, which now resembles a reciprocal zugzwang. Allowing the clocks to start yesterday was an organisational mistake equivalent to blundering one’s queen without compensation. After Kramnik’s inevitable forfeit, neither side can move from their respective positions without making a big concession.

It would seem therefore that the situation now calls for some sort of compromise, and I notice that the FIDE President highlighted this need in his recent interview on the FIDE website. To call for the two sides to compromise sounds suitably ‘Presidential’ until you realise that compromise is not at all appropriate in the circumstances. I agree with the recent postings of John Nunn and Yasser Seirawan that the match has to be resumed at 3-1 and game five recommenced as soon as possible.

A pertinent analogue helps to highlight why compromise is not always the appropriate way to resolve a conflict: Two brothers, lets call them Vosilin and Vledimir, saw a cake on their kitchen table at the same time, assumed it was for them, and started arguing over it. Vosilin said that he liked the look of the cake and wanted all of it for himself. Vledimir said that he also wanted the cake, but given that his brother also wanted some, they should cut the cake in half and share it.

Their father, lets call him Fido, arrived in the kitchen just in time to stop a fully fledged physical fight. Trying to be wise, Fido advised them that fighting was a childish way to solve a dispute, and that when two grownups can’t agree on something, they should seek a compromise. Fido further explained that they would both have to make a concession in order to solve the problem without fighting.

However, the brothers held on to their respective positions, Vledimir because he felt he was right, and Vosilin because he thought it was the best strategy. Fido explained that if they weren’t willing to change their minds, he would have to resolve the situation by finding a mid-point between their two views.

So what was the outcome? Fido cut the cake, but granted three quarters of the cake to Vosilin and only a quarter to Vledimir.

Let us hope a similar outcome does not transpire in Elista. Compromise is NOT the solution in manifestly unfair situations. Fido’s responsibility was to tell Vosilin that his demand was unreasonable and allow the cake to be cut in half. Fide’s responsibility now is to tell the Topalov camp that their demands have been unreasonable, and restore the match score to 3-1.

Dallas Gatti, Melbourne, Australia
Bravo Seirawan and Nunn! I totally agree with both of them on this matter. Topalov's creditability, and especially those of his manager, have been dragged in the mud. The Appeals Committee has made a complete mockery of this whole situation, and Kramnik has every right to stand his ground on this. I guess that if this is the only way that they can win this match, they will pursue it. I must say though that I am not a Kirsan fan, but I feel sorry for him. This was his crowning glory of his tenure as the President of FIDE, and it has come to this. He has real passion for this game, has thrown bucket loads of money at it, tried to reunify the World Chess Championship back into one, and regardless if you agree with the whole process or not, he has made a real attempt at it.

Anthony Andrea, London
John Nunn is right about everything. FIDE have shown favouritism to Topper. They have handled a spurious protest so incompetently that the match is threatened. it is pathetic.

Kehaar, Finland
Here we go, let the mud-throwing begin. Use any incident whatsoever as an excuse to try to discredit Kirsan & co. This one is just so transparent, I was surprised to see Yasser being as neutral as he was, but then this was coming. From the same GM Nunn who was part of attempting to ruin Fischer's reputation with making editorial changes (to the worse) to Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games. Why is this man still allowed to write articles? His dishonesty is known and so his writings shouldn't be endorsed and published if you want to retain any illusion of unbiased news reporting. It fools practically no one to say he is a much respected GM. If he is much respected by some it is only because those people who respect him are dishonest themselves or they simply don't care (or care to know) of his lies.

Jason Buczyna, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
The grandmasters who have written in their opinions on the matter seem to be forgetting one very important aspect, an aspect that the Appeals Committee seems to understand, with their possible bias being a distraction, but irrelevant to the logic of the actual argument. This aspect is that Kramnik's actions should be seen as extremely suspicious by any unbiased person. His team claims he likes to walk around a lot during the games. He can still do this: the pictures of the rest room show plenty of room for walking back and forth, around, and along various contours. People claim he might need to use the toilet a lot because he drinks 2-3 liters of water during games. I know from experience this argument doesn't hold water, so to speak. I drink 2-3 liters of water during long academic exams, and I occasionally need to use the toilet during the exams. On extreme occasions in exams lasting 4 hours or more, I might need to go 2-3 times if I've had more water than usual – this is 2-3 times, not 2-3 dozen. You could perhaps multiply this number by a factor of 2 for an older man, but his number is still so very high as to be suspicious. Also in these exams, it is well known that if someone used the restroom more than 2-3 times or so, there would be suspicion of unauthorized aid, whether due to notes, computer, cell phone, etc. This suspicion in Kramnik's situation is thus more than understandable from the Topalov side.

Next comes a more relevant point. I had analyzed the first four games extensively with computer, and I was very suspicious of Kramnik's moves a bit before news of the toilet controversy became known – in fact, I was already fairly sure that Kramnik was cheating. I didn't have 100% proof, something that is usually impossible to come about anyway, but I had enough to convince me he was probably cheating before I had knowledge of the toilet affair. Thus, I wasn't entirely surprised to learn of the controversy once news of it broke on the ChessBase site, and I imagine that many computer chess enthusiasts who use the Rybka engine weren't surprised, either. Yes, there have been blunders. Obviously using aid on every move isn't a wise idea, and it's well-known that a grandmaster would have a gigantic advantage in only using aid a few times during the course of the game. But outside of the blunders have been long strings of Rybka moves, something very unusual in a match between humans (something that is much more common is an unexpected move will be made and then Rybka will see its benefits after a few minutes). While it's true that the Appeals Committee has ruled that it doesn't suspect Kramnik of cheating, I see this as more of a legal move than anything else, since such allegations at this point are difficult to prove with 100% certainty. However, the fact that there is high suspicion on one side and that the suspicion is very reasonably placed calls for some sort of action that makes the conditions equal for both players. Such conditions have been arranged with the decision of the appeals committee. While they might have a biased stake in their role, their decision shows a lack of bias in that they reached a compromise between the two sides, especially in making the restroom rules equal for the two players and in not having them accompanied by an assistant arbiter, in spite of the fact that accompaniment by an assistant arbiter would greatly reduce the chances of being able to receive some sort of outside aid via transmission. Thus, people need to begin looking at this from the logical point of view of what is probably going on as opposed to the view that Kramnik's team claims is the legal view (in spite of the fact that the signed contract says nothing about the rest rooms having to be equipped with a toilet).

Also, why hasn't Kramnik needed to use the toilet dozens of times per game in the other events in which he's participated this year?

Ken Blaine, Akron, OH
Until the chess ruling body adopts rules and proceedures patterned after professional golf or tennis, professional chess will not well serve its fans or professionals.

IM Michael Rahal, Barcelona, Spain
One of the things I have always enjoyed when reading all three of John Nunn's Best Games Books is the way he clearly focusses on the main issues of each game. He has done the same with the problems in the match Kramnik-Topalov:

1. After the fourth game in which Topalov pressed without achieving anything, I think it's clear to him that he will have big trouble winning 2 out of the next 8 games. He missed his chance in game 2 (Qc7 mating).

2. The Arbiter or Appeals Committe gave Topalov access to the videos of Kramnik in his private rest room! Incredible, and also probably illegal.

3. I would add that ANY chess fan can easily check the analysis of the games with a chess engine and decide for himself if one of the two players was cheating. In my opinion, Game 1 and Game 2, even Game 3, with all the mistakes that were made by both players, make it clear that no outside help was used, apart from the fact that these top players don't need it to play extremely well.

It's a real pity but I have the feeling that Topalov (or his manager Danailov) is trying to win the match off the board, or at least gain some psicological advantage by putting pressure on Kramnik. But the big mistake is allowing Topalov to win by forfeit the 5th game. Neither of them will back down now and I don't see a solution. Topalov will obviously claim this win with Black, and I wouldn't think that Kramnik will carry on the match after losing a game by forfeit. Whoever allowed this 5th game to happen is responsible for the damage it has done. An aggreement should have been reached WITHOUT the 5th game being started.

Charles Antoine, Ottawa Canada
In my view, Dr Nunn analysis is by far the most sensible one I have read so far. He clearly states the facts and one can only conclude that Topalov's outstanding reputation has (thanks probably to his manager) seriously and probably permanently been damaged, greatly helped in this by the incomptence of the organisers. Mr. Seiravan proposal to restart the match with game 5 makes much sense to me, but one can doubt whether Kramnik should do this without the committee's apologies for their ineptness.

GM Ray Keene, Times chess correspondent, London, UK
John Nunn and Yasser Seirawan are both 100% correct in their assessment of the fracas in Elista. Would that Bessel Kok had won the FIDE election!! I only have one slight reservation. Chess hasnt shot itself in the foot again – FIDE has. And its aim is always unerring!!

Tom Rogers, Westfield, NJ, USA
In response to John Nunn's question concerning who would want to sponsor chess now, might I suggest American Standard (manufacturer of toilets), Church (maker of toilet seats), or perhaps Roto-Rooter (let's just say their specialty is clearing clogged toilets). I agree with Dr. Nunn that chess has shot itself in the foot, but a more apt analogy would be that the players and their handlers (particularly Topalov's team) have flushed the world chess championship match down the toilet.

David Levy, London, GB

At the time of writing (around 7am London time on October 1st) it appears that the match in Elista is likely to come to a premature and disastrous end. In my opinion, if this happens it will be the Appeal Committee that is responsible. What should have been a relatively minor crisis has been severely exacerbated by the ruling that both players’ toilets would be closed and that the players would have to share a single toilet. To many outside the world of top class chess this might seem to be an overly strong accusation on my part, but I am convinced that it is justified.

Between moves Kramnik likes to make full use of the physical space at his disposal for walking, which is undeniably his right. It would be his right even if he did not have a medical condition that is, it would seem, eased by walking. There is nothing, in itself, wrong with what Kramnik wants. The problem lies in the fact that there have been a few established cases of computerised cheating during chess games, and Team Topalov has implied that there were insufficient controls instigated by the match organisers to ensure that no-one could justifiably suspect anything untoward during Kramnik’s frequent visits to the toilet.

It would be madness to suggest that either player in this match would attempt to make any use of computers during a game. But that is not the point. The fact is that Kramnik’s frequent use of the toilet appears to have disturbed Topalov, whose team exercised their right to protest, since one of the golden rules of competitive chess is that it is forbidden to disturb or distract the opponent in any way whatsoever. But the right to protest does not carry with it an automatic right for a protest to be upheld, which is, in effect, what the Appeal Committee has done in Elista. It was the committee’s legal right to take any decision they felt appropriate, and they exercised that right as they were entitled to do, but the manner in which they did so was sheer madness.

It is long established that for World Championship matches each player has their own rest area and their own toilet area. In London, in 1986, for the first half of the Kasparov-Karpov match, we even arranged routes for the two players to be able to reach their respective toilets without meeting each other on the way, such was the animosity between them. The arrangements for the Elista match took the standard toilet requirements into consideration, with the agreement of both sides. But when Team Topalov protested about Kramnik’s frequent use of his toilet, the Appeal Committee failed in their duty to ensure the smooth continuation of the match. What they should have done, in my opinion, is to have arranged for both toilets to have been swept for electronic devices a few minutes prior to the start of each game, and to have advised Team Topalov that they regarded this to be a sufficient action in response to the protest. Then the match would have continued normally. There is a precedent for electronic sweeping – the Icelandic organisers examined Spassky’s chair during the 1972 match, after Fischer had suspected the chair of containing something untoward.

But instead the Appeal Committee decided to change the physical conditions of the match, and to do so in a way that contravened what both sides had agreed prior to the start of the match. It is the given right of lawmakers to make an ass of the Law if they see fit, and the Appeal Committee exercised this right, to disastrous effect.

Once the Appeal Committee had made its ruling it is extremely difficult to see how the match could have been kept on the rails. Kramnik, understandably, was unwilling to play under physical conditions that did not conform to those that had been agreed, and he should not be criticised for taking this position. The Chief Arbiter had no choice but to start the clocks and to forfeit Kramnik. Topalov should not be criticised for winning a game by forfeit, any more than Spassky should be criticised for winning the second game in Reykjavik by forfeit. Thus we can see that, following the madness of the Appeal Committee, the variation played out in Elista was forced.

So what now? Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is doing his best to resolve this chess tragedy, but in order to do so he needs, first and foremost, a magnanimous gesture from one of the players regarding the score in the match. Either Topalov gives up the point that he won by forfeit in game 5, which he has no good reason to do, or Kramik accepts that the Appeal Committee’s decision before game 5, mad though it was, had to be obeyed because it was the Law at that time. Again there is a precedent from the Reykjavik match in 1972, when Fischer accepted his forfeit and continued the match from a score of 0-2, winning the championship in brilliant style. And if Kramnik follows Fischer’s example and accepts the forfeit, he will doubtless be able to secure from the match organisers an arrangement for the toilets that also satisfies Team Topalov.

Chess lovers the world over want this match to continue. But magnanimous gestures are not the norm in World Chess Championship matches. Is there any way that might lead to the continuation of the match? Perhaps there is. If President Putin were to send Kramnik a message of good luck, telling him that Russia hopes and expects him to win the match, then perhaps we will see both the magnanimous gesture on Kramnik’s part and more reasoned toilet arrangements than those dictated by the Appeal Committtee.

GM Nigel Short, Athens, Greece
I would like to share a picture of me behaving in a suspicious fashion during a tournament in 2005 in Kiev. Fortunately I did not get caught (except on the picture) and consequently there was no forfeit or disqualification.

The venue had chess themed toilet, with a king outside the gents, and a queen for the women. The walls were checkered and had chess figurines. Inside the cubicles they had series helpmates and other problems on the walls. Some people spent hours trying to solve them and came perilously close to disqualification.


A "solution to the current crisis" sent to us by an unnamed graphic artist

Finally a picture a number of readers pointed to in Ajedrez ND


No caption required...

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