Cheaters Don’t Always Win

By James Schroeder © 2006

Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, World Chess Champion, accepted a challenge from Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Champion of F.I.D.E. (Federation International des Echecs, if that is the correct spelling. It is French.) and the “twelve game match” began September 23rd.

Geurt Gijssen is one of the worst arbiters in history. In a F.I.D.E. team tournament one of the players wrote a move on his score sheet but made a different move on the board. Gijssen ruled that the player must make on the board the same move he had written on his score sheet. That is insane! There is no such rule in the F.I.D.E. Laws of Chess, nor in any other laws of chess.

Nevertheless, Kramnik and Topalov agreed to have Gijssen as the Chief Arbiter of their match.

Kramnik, who has a reputation of being a “very nice guy”, is also very naive and made the mistake of agreeing to an appeals committee consisting of Georgios Makropoulos, Jorge Vega and Zurab Azmaiparashvili.

The players have separate rest rooms which have a camera connected to the outside, where an assistant arbiter watches them. The only place the camera can’t see is the toilet.

Kramnik has been very ill for two years, thereby not playing in many tournaments to which he had been invited. Following his doctor’s orders Kramnik drinks a lot of water.

Kramnik won the first two games and then there were two draws. Topalov then revealed his vile character and officially protested Kramnik’s “frequent visits to his rest room” and accused Kramnik of cheating, but did not offer any evidence to support that accusation.

The Appeals Committee then ruled that Kramnik could no longer use his private rest room, but that both players must use a common rest room.

Kramnik refused to accept this illegal ruling, mentioning that the pre-match agreement contained a clause which said that none of the conditions could be changed after the start of the match without the approval of both players, and he did not approve.

Nothing daunted, the Appeals Committee refused to rescind their ruling and ordered game five to be played as scheduled.

Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of F.I.D.E., should have immediately exercised his authority and rescinded the illegal ruling of the Appeals Committee, but he did nothing.

A few months ago there was an election for President of F.I.D.E., where the time-honored tactics of Tammany Hall were used. Many electors received money (about $1,000) and after they entered the voting booth they were watched by Ilyumzhinov’s gang of cronies to make certain they voted “correctly”.

No one would dare cross Ilyumzhinov, who is President of Kalmykia and has been accused of having his rivals murdered. Not uncommon in Russian politics, sad to say.

Grasping at straws, Topalov said that Kramnik had been on an airplane flight lasting five hours and did not make frequent trips to the bathroom. That is spurious because Kramnik would sleep on the plane and did not drink any water while on the plane.

Topalov has been universally condemned by almost every other grandmaster and by the Association of Chess Professionals, as being a liar and a cheat, devoid of integrity and ethics. I need to look in a dictionary to find more words to describe Topalov and Ilyumzhinov.

Game five began, in a sense, with Topalov sitting alone at the chess board, but Kramnik refused to play and, after one hour, lost by forfeit.

Former World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, in The Wall Street Journal, October 2: “For the past year and a half Topalov has been the subject of rumors and public accusations that he has cheated with computer assistance. Hard evidence is lacking but some point to the odd behavior of his assistants, and other persons say there is simply no other explanation for Topalov’s sudden ascent to the top of the rating list after my retirement.”

The prize money for the match is that each player gets $500,000, win or lose. That’s a bad precedent. The winner should always get more money. Not that it matters in this case because both players are millionaires, and possibly multi-millionaires. All the best players in the world for the past fifteen years have earned millions of dollars playing chess.

On October 2nd Ilyumzhinov replaced two members of the Appeals Committee, which now consists of Jorge Vegas, Boris Kutin and Faik Gasanov. Georgios Makropoulos was appointed “F.I.D.E. Observer of the Match”. The new Appeals Committee said that the players could resume using their personal rest rooms, but did not rescind the forfeit. Afflicted by hubris, Kramnik agreed to continue playing the match, under protest.

Game six was a draw in thirty-one moves.

Because of a peculiar rule, for this match only, Topalov had white in game seven, a draw in sixty moves.

Kramnik changed his strategy for game eight and tried to attack, without justification, and Topalov easily won in fifty-two moves.

In game nine Kramnik played very poorly and was crushed in thirty-one moves.

Kramnik won game ten in thirty-one moves.

Game eleven was a draw in sixty-six moves.

Before the next game Kramnik issued a statement: “Should the decision of F.I.D.E. regarding the fifth game have any influence on the awarding of the World Championship title, with Mr. Topalov receiving the title after being granted a free point for the unplayed fifth game, I will not recognize Mr. Topalov as World Champion and will take legal action against F.I.D.E. at the end of the world championship match.”

If Kramnik wins game twelve that will be meaningless, but if Topalov wins or draws it appears that Kramnik will insist upon playing game five or immediately “take legal action against F.I.D.E.”

Game twelve was a draw in 47 moves.

Despite his previous statement Kramnik agreed to participate in a tie-breaking set of four games, played with an electronic clock. Each player starts with twenty-five minutes and receives 10 more seconds after each move.

Topalov had white in the first play off game which was a draw in 47 moves.

Kramnik won play off game two in 45 moves.

Topalov won play off game three in 45 moves.

Kramnik won play off game four in 50 moves.

That brought an end to the match and, hopefully, an end to the chess career of Topalov. Hans-Walter Schmitt has called for a boycott of Topalov at major tournaments. “Suspicion of cheating in sports drives away sponsors. This event has cast general doubt on the entire chess scene. Now, anyone who is playing well can be accused of electronic cheating.”

Ironically, Kramnik was NOT playing well in the first four games where Topalov accused him of cheating. Topalov could have forced a draw in game one, but foolishly entered an endgame a pawn down against the world’s best endgame player. In game two Topalov missed 26 RxPch with a forced win and later missed 36 QR5 with a forced win. There may have been other places where he missed easy wins.

A match that will live in infamy. As P. T. Barnum said: “There’s a sucker born every minute,” but Kramnik showed that the sucker does not always lose. His victory over the evil empire of Ilyumzhinov and the cheating of Topalov and the Appeals Committee should come with a warning to future organizers: Do it right the first time.

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[…] James Schroeder’s earlier article reviewing the match is [here]. […]