As noted in an earlier post, the World Chess Championship is taking place even as I type in Elista, Russia.
However, due to some unusual protests it is only sort of taking place currently.
The match is between FIDE (the world governing body) World Champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Classical Champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. This match is also much, much more.
Many years ago former world champion Gary Kasparov broke with FIDE and attempted to start his own organization. Since Kasparov was clearly the strongest player in the world, the world regarded him as the champion even though he had not won through a FIDE cycle. Kramnik beat Kasparov a few years back to claim his title. Topalov has not only dominated world chess this year but also won the FIDE title. This is the match to reunify the titles…you know, just like boxing!
Chess players can be more than a little finicky, and the World Championships have been know for their fair share of strange challenges and demands. Eating habits have been challenged, espionage and hypnotism charged, and outright cheating alleged.
The 12 game match has begun with 2 wins for Kramnik and 2 draws. At one point for a win and 1/2 point for a draw, he has a 3-1 lead.
But the Elista match offers us something really bizarre.
Each player has a private lavatory, complete with an LCD in the wall so players can see and reflect on the board position while they “attend to business”. Topalov claims, and has submitted videotape in support of his point, that Kramnik spends far more time in the bathroom than at the board. Topalov suggests this this is not only not consistent with the traditions of Over The Board play, but that Kramnik could be getting assistance during these frequent trips.
In order to keep the peace and continue the match, the sponsors have decided to create a single shared (but spacious and luxurious) bathroom that players will share.
This partially mollified Topalov, who through advisors asked that players also be accompanied by a FIDE arbiter to ensure the players do not receive aid.
Kramnik protested the decision, saying it was in violation of the match contract he signed.
So, we come to game Five. The single bathroon has been built, and the individual bathrooms locked. Kramnik refused to come out and play until his bathroom was unlocked. While he sat and stewed his lost the game on a time forfeit.
Now Kramnik demands that game five be replayed, or else he will walk.
They have wondered why chess has not taken off in the USA, and I have to agree. Behavior like this is infantile to end up on the front page of US Weekly and the National Inquirer, which makes it the perfect stuff to capture the attention of a public smitten with Paris Hilton and the like!