Chess champ hurls charges
During the three-week match, which ended on Friday, Topalov accused Kramnik of cheating by making frequent visits to his bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras. The accusations led to the locking of the bathrooms and a protest by Kramnik, who forfeited Game 5. Despite that setback, he managed to win the match in overtime, 8 1/2 to 7 1/2.
Speaking by telephone from his room in Elista, the capital of the Russian republic Kalmykia and the site of the match, Kramnik said Saturday that he understood Topalov had been under a lot of pressure during the match, but that he believed that Topalov and his manager, Silvio Danailov, who filed the protests, had gone too far.
"In any world championship, there is a lot of pressure and people act differently sometimes," Kramnik said. "It doesn't mean that you have to go under certain standards of ethical actions."
Kramnik said he believed that the accusations were intended to upset him and were not born of a belief that he was actually cheating.
"There was no theoretical possibility to have any kind of help from computers," Kramnik said. "We were checked with metal detectors. Our restrooms were checked. There was not a single chance. The main purpose of all these actions was to disturb me."
Asked to explain his frequent trips to his bathroom, Kramnik said that he liked to pace while playing and the main room available for his use was too small, so the bathroom became a "continuation of the room" as he walked back and forth.
Kramnik said he had still not decided whether to sue the World Chess Federation, which organized the match, over the forfeit of Game 5 and over its treatment of him.
As for his opponent, Kramnik said, "I have definite admiration for the way he plays."
He also said that he did not hold a grudge against Topalov.
"I am not the guy who keeps such things too long," Kramnik said. "I am rather an easy person in general. For me, it would be enough if he does not do such things again."
Repeated e-mail requests to Danailov to set up an interview with Topalov received no response.
For many in the chess world, the match brought a sigh of relief: After a 13-year schism, the chess world once again had an undisputed world champion.
But many also rued the squabbling, which was seen as embarrassing.
"The theater dispute with the bathroom is not too glorious," said Joel Lautier, a French grandmaster. "The match will always be associated with that incident."
Still, Lautier said he believed that the attention brought to the match, and by extension to the chess community, was positive. "I don't think that it is a fatal thing," he said. "At least it has brought chess into the headlines."
Susan Polgar, a former women's world champion who lives in Queens and created a foundation to promote chess, said that the off-the- board fights may even have helped.
"Most likely, the match wouldn't have gotten as much interest if they had just played the games," she said.
Polgar said she depended on corporate and private sponsors to support her foundation, whose budget is about $60,000 to $70,000 this year.
During the match, she said, she received new pledges from "some major new sponsors." She declined to identify them, citing their privacy.
In trying to promote chess, Polgar said she emphasized the educational benefits of the game, not its competitive aspects. The foundation's motto, she said, is "Win with grace, lose with dignity."
"The actions of two people should not be generalized," Polgar said. "And even those two people have the right to be wrong once in a while."
John Fedorowicz, a grandmaster who lives in Manhattan, said that what happened at the match was not very unusual. "Whenever these high-level matches happen," he said, "they always find some ways to upset their opponents."
He said he did not feel that what had happened reflected negatively on chess or would make people think less of chess players.
"I don't think we are nerds, but maybe some people do," Fedorowicz said, adding, "Baseball players like to play chess, and they aren't nerds."
Lautier said that chess had suffered from a lack of sponsorship in recent years, partly because of the split in the chess world and partly because there had been no charismatic champion to replace Garry Kasparov, who lost his title to Kramnik in 2000.
Lautier described Kramnik as a friend and "a good ambassador for the game," but he said of Kasparov, "Unfortunately, you don't have champions of that stature too often."
What happened at the recent match was not likely to change that, or to have a long-lasting impact on the game, he said.
"I think that this toilet episode will fade away," Lautier said. Comparing it to other disputes at title matches, he added, "It will be a part of chess folklore."
Commenting Saturday on the controversy, Kramnik said: "It was a difficult situation. I behaved emotionally, but I am a human being. I felt I did what I had to do."
He added: "I respect chess as a game. I would rather that chess get attention to the game itself. I feel pity that this happened."
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