10-02-2006, 10:53 PM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Not far from US 1.
Favorite beer: Beer?! Blech. But Dad likes Dortmunder Union.
Kasparov's op-ed in The WSJ pointed out that Fischer's was principled. I'd have to say... up to a point.
t usually takes a scandal to get the world's pre-eminent mind sport into the news these days. The latest example comes from the current world chess championship in Elista, Russia. The match between Russia's Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria was intended to unify the chess championship that has been divided since my challenger and I broke away from the international chess federation (FIDE) in 1993 in an attempt to professionalize the sport.
The first four games of Kramnik-Topalov--the match was scheduled for 12 games--received scant attention in the world press. That changed when the Bulgarians published a complaint about Mr. Kramnik's frequent trips to the restroom during the games, calling his behavior "suspicious" and threatening to abandon the match. The appeals committee governing the match agreed, and ruled to close the players' private restrooms, which would be replaced by a shared one. (How it pains me to see such distasteful events driving the coverage of a world championship.) Mr. Kramnik protested the decision by sitting out the fifth game and was forfeited. Currently the match sits suspended.
The clear implication of the original protest was that Mr. Kramnik might be cheating during his restroom visits. In recent years the chess world has been rife with such suspicions thanks to the rise of powerful microcomputers and transmitting technologies. Several amateur chessplayers have even been caught using such devices to cheat in tournaments. I should add that Mr. Kramnik was leading 3-1 at the time of Mr. Topalov's protest, although it was mostly thanks to very shaky play by his opponent, not a display of suspiciously superhuman skill.
Adding irony to the tragedy is the fact that for the past year and a half Mr. Topalov himself has been the subject of rumors and even public accusations that he has cheated with computer assistance. Hard evidence is lacking, with some pointing to odd behavior by his assistants and other critics saying there is simply no other explanation for Mr. Topalov's sudden ascent to the top of the rating list after my retirement.
Chess has a long history of scandal and controversy at the highest level. The last world championship game to be decided by forfeit was Bobby Fischer's loss to Boris Spassky in their legendary match in Reykjavik in 1972. Mr. Fischer was well known for such protests and lived up to his reputation by complaining about the conditions in the playing hall after game one, and then not appearing to play the second game. Mr. Spassky, a gentleman--too much so, perhaps--agreed to Mr. Fischer's demands, even playing the next game in a small back room usually reserved for table tennis. (Notably, Mr. Fischer accepted the forfeit almost meekly.) Mr. Spassky's 2-0 lead didn't help him in the end. Mr. Fischer won the match convincingly and, while he was clearly the superior player, I am one of many who believe that by making concessions off the board Mr. Spassky was psychologically unable to play his best at the board.
Until last Friday, that was the last forfeit in world championship history. It's still not clear if this will be the first match cancellation since 1985. After five months of grueling play, my first world championship contest with Anatoly Karpov was abruptly cancelled by the FIDE president. Instead of having a set number of games, our match was to go to the first player to reach six victories, a goal that had proved unreachable despite Mr. Karpov's jumping out to a 5-0 lead. After I won games 47 and 48 to move to the score to 3-5, the match was abruptly cancelled. The Soviet sports authorities who had such influence in FIDE didn't want to take the chance I would win another game. Their loyal favorite, Mr. Karpov, hadn't won a game in months, and I--the outspoken youngster from Baku--was getting too close for comfort.
Mr. Fischer may have been difficult and unstable, but he was a sportsman whose complaints were based on principle and a sincere desire to improve the standards of the chess world. Tournament conditions and prize funds improved immeasurably thanks to his efforts. My battles with the power-hungry thugs who ran the Soviet and international chess world were politically driven. To me they represented a backwards and corrupt system. They saw me as a threat to their control.
The protests and conflicts seen in the current match are of a very different nature and reflect the complete loss of professionalism in the sport. The event is taking place in the capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia under the auspices of its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also the president of FIDE. He has created a vertical column of power that would be familiar to any observer of Russia today. He runs the chess world in the same authoritarian way he runs his impoverished republic. After a decade of such mistreatment, the only place that could be found to host this match was his own capital. Serious sponsors rarely want anything to do with Mr. Ilyumzhinov and his organization.
Even his closest cronies in FIDE failed Mr. Ilyumzhinov this time. He stocked the match's appeals committee with FIDE officials, but while he was away, their decision created the crisis that now seems likely to end the match in ruin. Recognizing the failure of his stated goals and low methods, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has lately taken steps to unify the chess world and make long overdue moves to professionalize the organization of events. This terrifies the fixers who would be the first to go under a professional administration.
Combine this collapsing power structure with players and managers concerned only with self-interest and making money, and what happened in Elista was practically inevitable. In fact, most of the principal actors in Elista stand to gain from the cancellation of the match. Mr. Topalov was losing at the game and so he switched to gamesmanship. If the match is aborted he can claim he wasn't defeated and so maintain his status as FIDE champion.
Mr. Kramnik rose to the provocation and now may walk off with the same faded title he took from me in 2000. For years he avoided both a rematch and unification with FIDE. If this chaos isn't resolved he can go on to claim "champion for life" standing outside of FIDE.
Just like their brothers in spirit in the Kremlin, the chess nomenclatura hope to prolong the anarchy and corruption from which they have profited for so long. Mr. Ilyumzhinov needs this match to continue, but it is he who sowed the seeds of its downfall.
For a game associated with brainpower, chess's leaders and its leading players have displayed remarkably little in recent years. They are now paying the price by having their pettiness and incompetence splashed across front pages around the world.
Mr. Kasparov is the former world chess champion and the current chairman of the United Civil Front in Russia.
really, all we need is a nice
around the bathroom, and to play with no adjurnments
If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begun upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of
at the time