News and views on the World Championship

10/10/2006 – A letter of support by "famous Bulgarian grandmasters" for Veselin Topalov. What did the President of Bulgaria say to the President of FIDE? Is the new Appeals Committee in Elista really neutral? Could Topalov sue FIDE if the result of game five were reversed? And look who's calling for a boycott of the Topalov team. Here's a collection of news items from different countries.

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The articles, press releases and general opinions on the World Championship in Elista keep pouring in, and we keep putting them out as fast as we can. There has been talk of a bias on our part towards the position of Vladimir Kramnik, but we protest innocence. If there is any bias to be found in the material we have published it is definitely on the part of the chess community, which seems to have decided quite firmly on whose side they are.

We would like to mention quite explicitly: we have not knowingly left out a single article, letter or statement that we received, or which came to our knowledge, that defended the actions of the Topalov team in Elista; or that condemned those of his opponent. We did not leave a single letter, written by a grandmaster or titled chess player in support of Veselin Topalov, unpublished. Below, incidentally, is the first we found – and it took some trouble locating it. On the other hand letters from grandmasters keep trickling in, asking us to add their names to the list of the original letter in support of Kramnik.


Hands off from the World Champion!

One of our readers sent us a link to a letter that was published in the Bulgarian News Agency BNA. Below is a translation to the best of our ability. The article states that "the sport desk of the Bulgarian News Agency has received an open letter signed by famous Bulgarian Grandmasters entitled 'Hands off from the World Champion!' But there do not appear to be any signatures by specific grandmasters. The article is also to be found on the Sport-ni web site.

Open letter

We are deeply indignant at the unprecedented massive campaign against the World Champion Veselin Topalov. This began a few months before the match, with serious accusations against him, and they were intensified at the beginning of the match, which is being held on Russian territory. This contradicts elementary ethical norms and is in contrast with the famous Russian hospitality.

The high point of this dirty aggression was reached with the open letter of Russian grandmasters Peter Svidler and Evgeny Bareev. What a moral position do they represent, since they are demonstrably part of the Challenger's staff? Of what do you, dear sirs, accuse Topalov? That he fights and does it openly and honestly?

Hereby we stress that all decisions of arbiters and the Appeal Committee were in absolute harmony with the rules in place at the time. All the rest is speculation and do-nothing conjectures directed towards wide chess community, which is not familiar with detailed rules and regulations of the match. What complaints could the Russian side have to the initial composition of the Appeal Committee, whose members were in Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's Presidential team, promoted by the Russian Chess Federation itself, and reelected in
Torino, Italy this May?

We demand that the Russian media and those Russian chess players who create an false tension around the match should stop this odious campaign immediately and let the WCC match reach its normal end.

BNA


Letter from the Bulgarian Prime Minister

Republic of Bulgaria
Sofia, October 6

Dear Mr. Ilyumzhinov,

I keep following relentlessly the chess match between two famous chess players, Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik. I would like to express my gratitude for you for securing excellent condition for this meeting.

We all realize the importance of the match; this is a competition of great minds. However, tension linked with complaints of both sides and exercises in putting pressure on the players do not benefit anybody, go against the rules of fair play and raise doubts about sincerity of the match participants. It is no secret that representatives of the match organizing nation often have certain advantages. I firmly stand the idea that political games must not influence situation on the board.

I sincerely hope to see all games of the match played. They deserve global attention, but not due to the reasons that could raise doubts about reputation of the ancient game and professionalism of the players.

I greatly appreciate your contribution to carrying out a proper match that obeys the rules of fair play. I am confident that efforts of the FIDE President will be duly appreciated by all nations engaged in this intellectual contest. First of all, I believe that your efforts will allow the strongest win.

Good luck!

Sergey Stanishev
Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria

Source: FIDE World Championship Site


In the October 7th edition of The Telegraph Malcolm Pein points to "another potentially sinister development." The Appeals Committee, so obviously biased before, still contains Jorge Vega and now includes an Azerbaijani arbiter Faik Gasanov.


The new Appeals Committee, with Boris Kutin, Jorge Vega and Faik Gasanov

If Topalov wins there will be a lucrative match against the Azerbaijani Teimour Radjabov and his country’s Sport’s Minister Azad Rahimov has publicly declared his support for Topalov. On the 19th of September he said: “It is known that we signed an agreement both with the Bulgarian State Youth and Sports Ministry, and the existing World Chess Champion. That agreement envisages the holding of Veselin Topalov`s next match with Teimour Radjabav if the Bulgarian chess player defeats Vladimir Kramnik. That is why in the match to be held in Elista in a day or two, we shall support the Bulgarian”. The quote is also to be found in this Trend News Agency report.


In their Geo Quiz section BBC News on October 2nd looked for "the capital of a Russian republic where an international chess battle is under way. Kalmykia is nestled between the Volga and the Don rivers. Its neighbors include Daghestan and the Caspian Sea. Military battles are part of this region's history. Kalmykia served as an outpost at the southern edge of the Russian empire. The Kalmyks were known as gallant soldiers and excellent horsemen. Today its battles are being played out on a game board. Even Kalmykia's President is a chess fanatic. So name this chess-crazed capital .....where a Russian and a Bulgarian are squaring off over a chessboard."

The answer to the quiz, which our readers here may not find too difficult, is given in a nice long interview with the Daily Telegraph chess correspondent IM Malcolm Pein. If you have Quicktime installed on your system you should definitely listen to it. If not – install Quicktime.


Reader feedback

We have received many hundreds of letters from visitors to our home page, and we are still in the process of sorting and editing them. There is one we would like to pick from the mass, because it seems to contribut important information to the current debate: who can sue whom with regard to the game five forfeit.

John Cox, London, England

Apparently FIDE have made public its legal advice – or some of it. My Russian's not up to the task, but I'm told FIDE's lawyer Morten Sand thinks that if the forfeit were reversed Topalov could sue FIDE successfully, but if it isn't Kramnik couldn't. As a professional lawyer and a keen amateur (IM strength) I find this aspect interesting. Can you tell your readers the following:

1. Are the contracts publicly available? If not, why not? They ought to be, surely. Of course the rules and regulations are on FIDE's website, but these can apply only insofar as the contract says that they do. It is not satisfactory that chess fans are kept guessing about the true obligations of FIDE and the players.

2. What is the governing law? From the fact that FIDE retains a Swiss lawyer, I might guess that it is Swiss law and that the forum for any litigation would be the Court for Arbitration on Sport in Lausanne (if that is the right title).

My views are necessarily worth a great deal less than Mr Sand’s without having seen the contract and without being a Swiss lawyer, but I must say I find his opinion very surprising. Sports people generally fail to understand that a sporting event is governed first and foremost not by the laws of the game but by the contract. That will no doubt say that the rules of the game apply, but it will also deal with other matters – the obligations of the organisers to put the match on and pay the players, the start times of the games, the conditions, and so on. No doubt it will oblige the organiser to put the games on according to the conditions of contest. Let us assume that those include the right to a private toilet (which it seems that they do: I know Macropoulos argued differently, but his case as he puts it himself is very weak). If the organisers then purport to put on a game without a private toilet, there is no doubt in English law that a player is entitled to refuse to play until the breach of contract is remedied. The arbiter and organisers can forfeit the player all they like, but he has his contractual remedies, and those are to be put back in the position he would have been in had the contract been fulfilled. On this view it cannot matter that a player files no official protest within two hours according to the rules against the outcome of game five: game five has simply not occurred according to the contractual conditions, and there is nothing to protest against.

It is true that for FIDE to accept that Kramnik was entitled to refuse to play would mean accepting that they had been in breach of contract, and that this would mean that Topalov had a claim against them. But Topalov’s claim could only be to be put back in the position he should have been in had the breach not occurred. And what is that position? – at the board waiting for game five to be played according to the agreed conditions. What he couldn’t do is sue for his lost point back, because this was something he could never have obtained through the proper operation of the contract.

As a statement of English law, I don't think anything in the above is very contentious, but of course how these principles apply to the contract we can’t say without seeing it. I for one would find it very interesting if ChessBase could find out what the governing law of the contract is and obtain a view from a lawyer in that jurisdiction about what the relevant principles under that law are. It would be even better of course if the contracts were made available.


The chairman of the Frankfurt Chess Tigers, Hans-Walter Schmitt, has published a remarkable interview which culminates in a call for a boycott of Topalov at major tournaments. Schmitt is the organiser of the Random Chess festival Mainz Chess Classic, which collects hundreds of top players for a Rapid and Random Chess festival every year. Here the main points of his feisty interview:

  • FIDE does not realise what they have done. The biggest mistake was to hold the World Championship in Elista and not in Reykjavik, Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janairo or Sydney. Public checks would then have been easier.


    Chess Classic organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt

  • The world-wide publicity generated by the scandal is short-lived, and it brings a noble sport into disrepute. Suspicion of cheating in a sport drives away the sponsors. This event has cast general doubt on the entire chess scene – now anyone who is playing well can be accused of electronic doping.

  • The Topalov team used their accusations of cheating as a psychological weapon, but it will come back to them like a bumerang. Experts will check how a player who for many years has played consistantly in tournaments at a 2730-2740 level suddenly, at the age of 30, climbs to consistantly over 2800. How he was able to produce such an unbelievable series of victories, in San Luis, Morelia/Linares and Sofia. In the rapid chess events in Leon and Monaco he plays like a 2700 player.

  • If Topalov was right in his accusations against Kramnik, then the latter would be destroyed and banned from chess for life. But looking at the facts I am on Kramnik's side, like the 100 grandmasters who have supported him, while none were on Topalov's side.

  • The organisers of Wijk aan Zee, Morelia/Linares, Monaco, Dortmund, Mainz and Corsica should threaten to boycott the Topalov team if they do not immediately cease with their accusations and tricks. A two-year boycott would hit them where it hurts most: on their wallets. The top ten players should boycott the Sofia tournament which is organised by Silvio Danialov.

  • Topalov will win the world championship in Elista [the interview was published after Topalov had won game eight and equalised 4:4]. The player who is unjustly attacked will normally lose and succumb to the tricks of his adversary. There is usually no short-term justice. But in the end the better player will prevail. I am on Kramnik's side, but I fear that in the end the great tactician Danailov will be the proud winner in this contest.


    Schmitt with Vishy Anand (left) and Teimour Radjabov at the 2006 Chess Classic

  • Full interview on the Chess Tiger homepage (in German)

Addendum

There has been some discussion about whether our summary of Hans-Walter Schmitt's words, above, was entirely accurate. Did he actually call for a boycott? Schmitt himself asked us to provide a verbatim translation, which we hearwith do, keeping the text as close to the original as possible.

Question: Why is the suspicion of doping or cheating already such a terrible poison for chess?

Hans-Walter Schmitt: FIDE has been concerned for years now with physical doping – too much coffee and tea, beta blockers, EPO, anabolics and other things, which are performance enhancing in physical sports, but do not have any benefits in mental sports. They have not paid any attention to electronic doping in seven-hour chess, except to put mobile phone users under general suspicion. This match places the whole of tournament chess under general suspicion, whether it be opens, team championships, club championships. Wherever people can stand up from the board and move around without supervision the suspicion that they are cheating will rise in linear relation to the quality and accuracy of their game. This is quite fatal and scares away the sponsors! They want to invest money in a clean, exciting and suspenseful sport, for a sport in which the outcome is completely open. The psychological weapon that the Team Topalov used to draw Kramnik out of his composure will act like a boomerang.

Question: How would the boomerang work?

HWS: For the Topalov Team: for example a team of experts could investigate how a player who has been active in the tournament scene for so many years can suddenly, at the ripe age of 20, no longer have a performance of 2730 – 2740, but play consistently over 2800 – with an unbelievable series of victories in San Luis, Morelia / Linares and Sofia. At the rapid chess tournaments in Leon and Monaco he only plays like an average 2700 player, and in Mainz he refuses to face Anand. The chess world can expect the constant decline of sponsor appreciation.

Question: What can one do in order to reverse this trend?

HWS: Educate and take forceful measures. Take prophylactic measure in tournaments. Anyone who is caught cheating receives a worldwide ban for at least two years, and is put on a list. The second variation is to play “faster”, and the third is to eliminate all preparation with Chess960 [Fischer Random Chess] – this form of chess will come sooner than many people expect.

Question: But what does one do with the Topalov Team, which is apparently using the methods of discrediting and slander in order to draw the Russian world champion Vladimir Kramnik out of his composure – with success, incidentally. They have already stolen one point from Kramnik, so the method seems to be succeeding…

HWS: Okay, the side that is attacking initially has the advantage, he has the element of surprise. But only until the other side has found the proper countermeasures. The only measures that help are to demystify the opponent at the basis [“an der Basis zu entzaubern”]. With clear judicial and practical methods, or by simply tearing the mask off his face. Very often these people demystify [discredit] themselves.

The process of demystification has already started, with the solidarity shown by Internet users and grandmaster colleagues. 100 grandmasters are on Kramnik’s side, none on Topalov’s. Veselin Topalov has lost much of his popularity value and will never be able to win it back again. However, if his claims should turn out to be correct, then Vladimir Kramnik is finished and should be banned for life. But the facts put me on the side of Kramnik.

Question: But hat cannot be all! As an international organiser one has some power?

HWS: That is a precise objection. Yes, the organisers in Wijk aan Zee, Morelia / Linares, Monaco, Dortmund, Mainz and Corsica could threaten the Topalov Team with a loud protest or just a quiet boycott, if they don’t immediately stop these unfounded accusations and these tricks. Two years of not being invited to the tournaments would probably hit him at his most sensitive place – his wallet. Apart from that some of his colleagues from the top ten could boycott the tournament organised by Silvio Danailov in Sofia.

Question: Who will win in Elista?

HWS: The attacking side, the one that is behaving like a deceitful snake, is clearly in the advantage – i.e. Topalov! The unjustly accused and cheated player faces a giant dilemma and will normally lose. The “good person” often succumbs to the “devil” and his tricks – here there is often no short-term justice, but after a certain amount of time it is regulated in favour of the better player. I am on Kramnik’s side and hope and pray, but I fear that Topalov now has the better hand and that in the end Danailov with his complicate tactics and dirty manipulations will be hailed as a great strategist and boast about it.

Question: What would you have done as the manager of Kramnik after the fifth game, with the score at 3:2?

HWS: Probably the Kramnik Team could not act differently, for legal reasons, contracts, sanctions, damage claims, etc. Still I would have packed our bags and would have left with the 3:1 lead. I would have protected my world champion from these conniving schemes and tried, together with him and his friends, to set up a Western opposition in competition with FIDE. I would consider it fatal if the Bulgarian Caissa management (Danailov) would now gain control of the classical Western tournaments Corus and Linares.



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