Sunday, October 08, 2006

Political pawns, late nights

When Toiletgate first emerged in the news recently, my first thought was George Michael, let alone an important chess match. Since then I have been glued to events unfolding in southern Russia, where the $1m world championships are being held between Veselin Topalov, a Bulgarian, and Vladimir Kramnik, a Russian.

In events not too dissimilar to the Oval fiasco, the Bulgarian's manager started the dispute when he claimed that the Russian made too many visits to his personal toilet during one of the best of 12 games. The Russian's toilet was subsequently locked, the governing body's committee saw fit for Kramnik to forfeit the game, he protested and then his toilet was reinstated - all this while the Chess Federation president was away at a conference hosted by Vladimir Putin. How can you focus when all that's gone on? (except on the toilet).

All the former Grand Masters (Kasparov and Britain's music teacher lookalike Nigel Short) thought he would abandon the match. But a hasty call from Putin changed events and put Kramnik back to the table; mirroring events in 1972 when Henry Kissinger urged the reclusive Bobby Fischer not to abandon his match with Boris Spassky.

And, as the match gets into its last stages, if one manager is at it then why not involve two; Kramnik's manager has since claimed that the Bulgarians were planning to plant a microchip in the Russian's toilet. Love it.

NOTE: These chain of events are not as confusing as Adam and Joe's excellent quizzlestick.

With the late night shenanigans in southern Russia, it would only be fitting that the latest finish in ATP Tour history has been smashed. Germany's Benjamin Becker and Jiri Novak slugged it out until 3:24 am in Tokyo earlier this week.