Kramnik wins the loo battle
A stiff handshake as each tried to stare the other down and then, to the relief of chess fans, the familiar push of a pawn. Three hours later, an uneventful 31-move draw left Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik 3,5 to 2,5 ahead of Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov with six games left in their $1-million world title unification match.
The two grandmasters returned to the board in Kalmykia after three days of verbal mudslinging followed by hours of diplomacy by the International Chess Federation (Fide) president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who also heads the republic in southern Russia. He even abandoned a Crimean summit meeting with Vladimir Putin to return to Kalmykia’s capital, Elista, and put the show back on the road.
Ilyumzhinov reinstated Kramnik’s private toilet, which sparked the crisis when Topalov’s manager implied it was being used for cheating, and announced the en bloc resignation of the appeals committee, whose support of Topalov provoked Kramnik to forfeit game five, without play, in protest.
But a full day of haggling failed to produce any compromise or concessions as Topalov insisted the forfeit should stand and Kramnik demanded it be rescinded.
Ilyumzhinov consulted the Fide lawyer and to general surprise ruled that the game-five forfeit should stand on the technicality that Kramnik had failed to register an official protest at its result.
Kramnik could have gone home but friends urged him to fight on amid a groundswell of public support. World number four Peter Svidler and respected analyst Evgeny Bareev flew out to strengthen his back-up team. A group of Western grandmasters led by the British champion Jonathan Rowson and including Norway’s 15-year-old prodigy Magnus Carlsen issued a public statement backing Kramnik.
Former champion Anatoly Karpov gave an interview accusing the appeals committee of being a cushy sinecure for Fide insiders. Ordinary fans on chess websites are around 10 to one against Topalov and his manager, who is seen as the villain of the episode.
Game seven is critical for the match as Topalov will again have the favourable white pieces. Under new regulations for this series the normal colour alternation reverses at the halfway mark.
Due to the forfeit the Bulgarian will have had three whites in succession, of which Kramnik has survived two, putting the onus on Topalov to make a big winning attempt in the next round.—Â