- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bulgarian chess grandmaster Veselin Topalov yesterday threatened to pull out of his $1.27 million world championship match if his Russian rival did not stop going to the bathroom so many times during play.

Mr. Topalov, who trails 3-1 in the 12-game match that is under way in Elista, Russia, said video recordings analyzed by “technical experts” on his team showed that opponent Vladimir Kramnik had visited the restroom more than 50 times, on average, in the course of each of the first four games.

The bathroom Mr. Kramnik frequented, said Mr. Topalov’s manager, Silvio Danailov, “is the only place without video or audio surveillance” in the playing hall.

“In our opinion, these facts are strange, if not suspicious,” Mr. Danailov said. Mr. Topalov, he added, has averaged four bathroom breaks per game. A grandmaster game can last nearly seven hours in a single session.

In a letter to the organizing committee of FIDE, the international chess federation staging the match, Mr. Topalov said he “would seriously reconsider [his] participation” in the title fight if the matter was not addressed.

Mr. Kramnik did not comment, but the charge is just the latest in a long tradition of gamesmanship and paranoia in the world of elite chess.

American champion Bobby Fischer routinely accused his Soviet rivals of colluding against him and demanded that television cameras be removed from the hall during his famous 1972 match with Soviet star Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The accusations flew especially thick and fast in the 1978 match in Baguio City, Philippines, between Russian world champion Anatoly Karpov and challenger Viktor Korchnoi, who had enraged Soviet chess authorities by defecting to Switzerland two years earlier.

Mr. Karpov at one point demanded that his opponent’s chair be X-rayed for “prohibited devices.”

Mr. Korchnoi charged that Mr. Karpov had hired a hypnotist to sit in the audience to unnerve him and that Mr. Karpov’s aides were literally feeding him hints by sending him cups of yogurt of varying flavors at critical moments during play.

More recently, the rise of chess-playing computer programs and microcommunications devices has added a new level of concern about cheating in the game.

Two players were recently ejected from a big tournament in Philadelphia on suspicion of using computers, including one player whose “hearing aid” turned out to be a transmitter.

Mr. Topalov’s handlers demanded that organizers restrict the two players to the hall’s public bathroom during games, and that a match arbiter approve each visit and accompany the player on his trip.

Videotapes of the players’ bathroom visits also should be made available to reporters covering the match “so that they can verify for themselves the facts described by us,” the handlers said.

The Topalov camp also supplied a detailed record of Mr. Kramnik’s trips away from the board while it was his opponent’s turn to move. During Tuesday’s third game, which ended in a draw, the Bulgarian team said a “short statistical sample” based on video recordings produced the following timeline:

“3:54 p.m. — Kramnik plays Move 15.

“3:55 p.m. — Goes into the bathroom.

“3:56 p.m. — Goes out of the bathroom.

“3:57 p.m. — Goes into the bathroom.

“3:59 p.m. — Goes out of the bathroom.

“4:03 p.m. — Goes into the bathroom.

“4:04 p.m. — Goes out of the bathroom.

“4:07 p.m. — Comes out for Move 16.”

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