Kolkata Open: inebriated grandmaster forfeits game

by ChessBase
9/5/2009 – An incident at this grandmaster tournament in India has made it to the national and now the international broadsheets: one of the top seeds, GM Vladislav Tkachiev, who recently won the French Championship, appeared for his round three game in an intoxicated state, fell asleep a number of times at the board and was ultimately declared the loser. Details.

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The 4th Kolkata Grandmaster Open is under way, from September 1st-10th 2009. Time controls are 90 minutes for the game plus 30 seconds per move. After four rounds Indian GM Sandipan Chanda leads with a 4.0/4 score, with four GMs half a point behind (amongst them Nigel Short).

Standings after four rounds

1 Sandipan Chanda GM IND 2611 4.0 10.5
2 Short Nigel D GM ENG 2706 3.5 10.5
Safarli Eltaj GM AZE 2587 3.5 10.5
4 Hossain Enamul GM BAN 2516 3.5 9.0
5 Le Quang Liem GM VIE 2602 3.5 9.0
6 Guseinov Gadir GM AZE 2667 3.0 10.5
7 Ganguly Surya Shekhar GM IND 2634 3.0 10.5
8 Panchanathan Magesh GM IND 2532 3.0 10.0
9 Malakhatko Vadim GM BEL 2569 3.0 9.5
10 Gagunashvili Merab GM GEO 2564 3.0 9.5
11 Aleksandrov Aleksej GM BLR 2639 3.0 9.0
Khusnutdinov Rustam GM KAZ 2506 3.0 9.0
13 Grover Sahaj FM IND 2288 3.0 9.0
14 Rahman Ziaur GM BAN 2554 3.0 8.5
Satyapragyan Swayangsu IM IND 2439 3.0 8.5
16 Mchedlishvili Mikheil GM GEO 2613 3.0 8.5
17 Sengupta Deep IM IND 2494 3.0 8.5
18 Adhiban B IM IND 2490 3.0 8.0
19 Markos Jan GM SVK 2565 3.0 7.5
20 Laxman R R IM IND 2486 3.0 7.0
21 Negi Parimarjan GM IND 2615 3.0 7.0
22 Postny Evgeny GM ISR 2651 3.0 7.0

The event was marred by an incident in round three: one of the top seeds, Vladislav Tkachiev, who recently won the French Championship, appeared in an inebriated condition for his game and was unable to complete it. He was defaulted after fifteen moves of play. Here's how the Indian broadsheets report it:

Express India reports: In an unusual incident at the ongoing Kolkata Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament on Thursday, a top-rated French player had to concede his game after he couldn’t sit through his match against his opponent. Reason — he showed up drunk at the venue, slept through his moves several times over, and eventually had to be carried off. Vladislav Tkachiev of France, who boasts of an Elo rating of 2669, was declared ‘timed run-out’— a rarity in international chess — when officials at the event decided he wasn’t in a condition to carry on against Tamil Nadu’s Praveen Kumar. The Indian player walked away with a point.

French Champion GM Vladislav Tkachiev, rated 2669

The Hindustan Times: He was so badly under the influence of alcohol that he could hardly sit on his chair and after 11 moves, fell asleep resting his head on the table.Attempts to wake him up proved futile and the game was awarded to the Indian on the technical ground of Tkachiev being unable to complete his moves within the stipulated time of an hour and 30 minutes. He was warned and reprimanded by the organisers afterwards but allowed to take part in the remainder of the competition.


We received the following eye-witness account from one of the tournament participants:

Tkachiev's appearance, more comatose than drunk, during the third round in the 2009 Kolkata Open was, to anyone who witnessed it, a disgrace. Contrary to the embarrassed assertions of the organisers to the press, the commotion caused by his profound inebriation disturbed almost everyone in the playing hall. His behaviour was not only highly disrespectful to the sponsors, the organisers, the players and the audience (among whom were a large number of children) but most particularly his opponent.

The chief arbiter totally mishandled the suituation. First of all he should never have permitted various players to give illegal assistance by trying to wake Tkachiev up.

Secondly, and even more inexcusably, he had absolutely no right to try and wake him up himself when the Frenchman was down to his last few minutes. If, during a normal game, the arbiter were to inform a player game that he is about to lose on time, he would be guilty of gross professional misconduct. It is hard to see how the present case differs, in this respect.

The arbiter then compounded this error by seeking the support of members of the Appeals Committee for his action during the round! The Committee Members were participants and, rather than be disturbed during their games, were obviously likely to agree to any course of action suggested by the official whose job it is to make such decisions. Even so, as one appeals committee member later confided, he would have strongly advised against waking Tkachiev, had he been informed that he was drunk (rather than merely ill).

It is ironic that in a country where Grandmaster G.N.Gopal was banned by the AICF for the crime of attempting to further his chess career, and where the high-scoring Olympiad debutant Mary Ann Gomes was bullied into issuing a written apology for enjoying a modest sociable evening in Dresden, that Vladislav Tkachiev received nothing more than a warning for breaching all forms of decency in Kolkata. On suspects that, had he been Indian, he would be have expelled from the tournament without any ado. While it is most praiseworthy that India treats its foreign guests with such respect, that respect has to be reciprocated. When it was grossly abused, as was the case here, a firm stance ought to be taken. Vladislav Tkachiev can consider his treatment exceedingly lenient.

On a final note: Vladislav Tkachiev is one the six FIDE presidential nominees for the 2009 World Cup in Khanty-Mansysk. Is this really the image of chess that FIDE wishes to promote?

Other international reports

Here's a letter that Israeli GM Artur Kogan, who currently lives in Tarragona, Spain, addressed to the organisers of the event:

Dear chess organiser,

I was very sorry to read about the accident with my good friend (since childhood) GM Tkachiev, a very talented and charming famous personality in the chess world. I want to express my apology for this sad story in the name of chess lovers and his many fans, but in the same time to ask for understanding and help.

Vlad had drinking problems since few years because of severe depression and bad old Russion habits (Vodka!), but lately with very big efforts and support of his friends he managed to overcome it (no choice, big health problems)! He proved it by winning the latest French championship with a fantastic result and great form (around three months without alcohol)! Something that I was very, very happy to hear about and hoping for his renewed positive career and way to the top of chess where he really belongs (twice he got into the top eight in the world championships!).

Please pass him my regards and big wish that he will take care and comeback to be the Vlad that we all love, and stop humiliating himself in public. This talented man desrevs much more and is clear that I will apreciate your sincere help and understanding! Even a doctor or other kind of help such as a flight back to his home if needed, his good friends and family will share the expenses.

Is your choice, I always respect the right of information and many times I fought for the truth and for more respect for chess, but personaly I don't think that is in the benefit of chess to publish such cases in the world media. I would apreciate if you treat this case with maximum respect – after all history has proved what happens if we forget the legacy of chess players and misunderstand them...

All the best,
GM Arthur Kogan

This is not the first time that Tkachiev has been in trouble with his drinking problem. At last year's Chess Olympiad in Dresden he did not show up for the final round game, which lost the French team a vital point and any medal chances. In the following video Tkachiev apologised for what had happened in Dresden and promised that it would not repeat itself.

Tkachiev apologises for the final round in Dresden

We have known Vlad Tkachiev for a long time now and always enjoyed his company. He is a flamboyant personality, very frank and open, with a wide range of subjects one can discuss with him for hours. He may be wild, but he is never dull or boring. It is sad to see him in trouble like this, and for his problems to be at the center of the current international media coverage of chess. Here's an extraordinary intervew with conducted with him six years ago in ChessBase Magazine:

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