The Cables of Elista

by ChessBase
2/14/2007 – Some time ago pictures surfaced, purporting to show computer cables hidden in the ceiling of a toilet used by Vladimir Kramnik during the world championship match in Elista last October. They were, we were told, reported to the authorities, who were keen to hush things up. In fact the Topalov team was put under considerable pressure (Silvio Danailov: "I was in fear for my life"). Pictures and story.

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The Cables of Elista

A month ago we received pictures from Veselin Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov purporting to show computer cables that were discovered in the ceiling of the bathroom used by Vladimir Kramnik during the world championship match in Elista. We chose not to publish the pictures or a story before they had been reported in a major news outlet. In the meantime a book entitled "Toilet War" has appeared (we will be reviewing it soon), published in a first run of 20,000 copies. And on Monday the Veselin Topalov web site carried the pictures, together with a taunt: "Chessbase did not want to publish these facts due to unknown reasons. At the same time they published two articles and one video against Mr. Danailov and Mr. Topalov that are simple speculations."

Well, here, for what they are worth, are The Pictures.

The ceiling in Kramnik's bathroom is opened, it reveals a cable.

Detail. Click the picture to enlarge to the original resolution.

A second picture of the cables in Kramnik's bathroom

Detail. Click to enlarge to the original resolution

The Exif information of the original pictures, which were sent to us by Danailov, reveal that they were taken on October 1st 2006 at 13:20:00h and 13:20:12h camera time, i.e. twelve seconds apart. The camera was an Olympus Model C300Z, D550Z. Exposure time 1/30 second, F-number 2.90, focal length 6.00 mm, ISO speed 100, flash fired. The images were managed by Paint Shop Photo Album version 5.22, but there is no evidence of any post processing. In the second picture the fact that the upper cables seem to penetrate the fingers is not suspicious: the camera merged ambient light with light from the flash. The hand was probably moving downwards.

Danailov tells us that the pictures were taken by "our technical specialists during the official inspection of the Kramnik bathroom on October 1st." He provided the protocol of the inspection together with a translation.

Report on the inspection of the rest room and the toilet of Mr. Vladimir Kramnik

The Committee members: S. Danailov, D. Djonkov, R. Ivanov Gospodinov (representatives of the Topalov team) in the presence of the Deputy Chief Arbiter P. Nikolopoulos, the Chair of the Executive Committee V.Bovaev carried out an inspection of the rest room and toilet of Mr. Vladimir Kramnik.

The inspection included:

  1. Dismantling of two thirds of the suspended ceiling in the bathroom. An UTP-5 cable was discovered as a result of the dismantling and removed upon agreement by the two parties. The suspended ceiling parts were installed after the inspection.
  2. Dismantling of the instantaneous water heater whose power was cut off, then restored and it was sealed.
  3. A chipped wall tile under the sink was filled with polyurethane.
  4. Opening and check of the ventilation shaft in the toilet wall which was filled at the request of the Bulgarian side.
  5. Sealing of the cables which remained after dismantling of the shower cabin, sealing of the sewer hole used for the shower cabin.
  6. All toilet walls were checked using a special device by the Bulgarian experts.

Upon completion of the above actions the entrance door to the toilet was sealed.

  1. The rest room, which is under constant video surveillance, was carefully inspected by the experts of the Bulgarian side.
  2. Upon request by the Bulgarian side the video surveillance of the Kramnik rest room will be carried out 24 hours starting at 15.00 today, 1 October 2006.
    The video tapes will only be watched by Mr. Nikolopoulos who shall not provide them to third parties.

The inspection took place on 1 October 2006 from 13.00 to 15.00. The room of Mr. Kramnik fully complies with all conditions for its future use. The parties are satisfied with the inspection results.

Signatures S. Danailov, P. Nikolopoulos, D. Djonov, V.E. Bovaev, R. Ivanov.

"Why," we asked Silvio Danailov, "did you not present the pictures at the time to the authorities and the press to prove that there was a computer connection in the bathroom?" His reply: "We tried to organize a press conference and to show what we found in the bathroom of Kramnik, but they told us very clearly: if we did that the match would be terminated immediately. In that case we would have had problems. The airport was closed and these people were desperate. Some days earlier they had told us that the local police may enter in our house with an official order to check if we have material which could threaten the security of Russia. Sounds crazy, but if you were there you would feel differently. The pressure was huge, and we decide to shut up. The danger was real. I do not joke about this kind of thing."

Danailov also provided us with a scan of a letter written by the second Appeals Committee (the first had been fired by Ilyumzhinov) after the cables had been found.

"If Vega and Kutin resigned on October 4th from the Appeals Committee," we asked Danailov, "how is it that nobody heard about this? We thought that they had remained part of the Appeals Committee to the end." To this Silvio answered: "At the time when Vega and Kutin resigned, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was not in Elista. The airport was closed and they could not leave. I know that they decided to wait for Kirsan and to present the resignation personally to him. What happened after that I don't know. I only know that the organizers hid the letter from the press. The reasons were obvious."

Members of the second Elista Appeals Committee Jorge Vega and Boris Kutin

We asked Jorge Vega and Boris Kutin about this letter of resignation. They were surprised that it had surfaced and confirmed that it had been written (by Vega) and signed. But, they said, it was a "draft" which they had taken to President Ilyumzhinov – an offer to resign. After the discussion they had torn it up. "The letter does not exist for us," said Kutin. Both said they had not seen the cables in the bathroom, and drew our attention to one more relevant item of information: until round five of the world championship match in Elista the rest and bathrooms of the players switched after every game, which each player using the facilities on his side of the board.

In an interview that appeared on November 21 2006 in the Bulgarian newspaper Standart Danailov describes the situation quite vividly: "I was in fear for my life. They came to me and said: 'Be careful! You will have problems!' They also told us: 'The police will search your house and your baggage.' Once they get in they could leave there whatever you can think of – drugs and everything. Our life turned into a nightmare... They offered me money to continue the match when the score was 3-1 for Kramnik. The sum was quite substantial. They wanted to make us give up the victory in game five, however I was not offered money for the cable." Danailov also talks about a possible doping sting planned by the Russian authorities. You can read all about it in the Standart interview.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov himself has told us that the world championship venue was a normal utility building, where cables in the ceiling were not the least bit unusual. And during a press conference at the ACP tournament in Odessa he said: "If you break open a wall, any wall, you’ll find tubes, cables, metal works, etc. After the wall in the toilet room was demolished everything inside and around it was thoroughly examined, and all parties signed the protocol stating that the issue is cleared and all complaints are recalled. The papers are in the FIDE office in Elista."

Frederic Friedel


"Coincidences" is the title of an article that has appeared on the Veselin Topalov semi-official web site. "In the last several months", it says, "the mud throwing against Topalov has continued without an obvious reason. It is time to put the pieces on the table and connect the puzzle. Some parts of it we will analyze, some we will leave for the audience to think about it, but the picture is starting to get clear."

On the ACP and the Grand Slam: "It is an organization that was created by Lautier, Hensel, Kramnik, Tregubov and Skripchenko several years ago. Since then it has tried many times to organize something professional, without any particular success. At the same time Mr. Danailov without any big organization standing behind him, was able to organize the Grand Slam and make the step chess needed to take long time ago.

Why was a speculative video was published in Kommersant just a few days before the start of the ACP rapid tournament in Odessa, Ukraine? We really hope the two things have nothing in common and this is a simple coincidence.

During Corus 2007 the attacks [against Topalov/Danailov] continued. One of the possibilities is that they were directed against the Grand Slam. However, there were also many people who just cannot accept that the number one player is not the world champion. It was obvious how Topalov won a shared first place with style, and Kramnik had to struggle every move to achieve a fourth place."

On the Süddeutsche Zeitung story: "Was the article in the German newspaper and the date of the game Topalov-Kramnik a coincidence? The article in Suddeutsche Zeitung has no credibility. It’s 'proud' author and close friend to Hensel, published it just a day after the official establishment of the Grand Slam and just a day before Kramnik-Topalov’s game. Mr. Martin Breutigam, instead of publishing nonsense, should have congratulated Danailov for uniting the biggest chess tournaments in the world in an exciting league and should have wished good luck to both players.

On Nigel Short: "It was sad that Nigel Short, the man who shared food with Topalov in San Luis, attacked him in such an ugly manner. An official excuse is still expected."

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