Friday, 13 February 2009

World Chess Championship Literally Goes Down The Toilet

Sometimes the cartoon world, at least as reflected in the colorful pictures and captions of mass media, gets so bonkers that a real-world headline would be right at home in a humor magazine. Take the ludicrous bauble that prompted this article. It appeared in no less a distinguished place than the front page of The New York Times on the Web: "Bathroom Dispute Halts Chess Championship."

We could have gone with that. No doubt about it.

But we prefer to see the everyday zaniness through our own eyes, so we did a bit of a redo.

If case you missed the debacle, the world chess championship was halted when a player, Russia's Vladimir Kramnik, was locked out of his private bathroom because of inferences that he was going there too often and cheating while there. Expectedly enough, the bathrooms were part of the private areas of both players that were not under video surveillance.

In a rage over what he perceived as an insult to his personal dignity, Kramnik forfeited the fifth game of the match.

The day before, his opponent's team had filed a written protest to the World Chess Federation on behalf of Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov about Kramnik's frequent bathroom breaks.

The Federation responded by locking the private bathrooms of both players and informing them they should use the same bathroom for the remainder of the match.

Going on strike at the start of the next game, Mr. Kramnik left for his private area and took a seat outside of his privy, demanding it be unlocked. When the organizers refused, he did not resume his participation, and the game was forfeited to Topalov. He was ahead in the match 3-1, with 6.5 points needed to win.

Demanding that his bathroom be reopened, Kramnik said, "My dignity does not allow me to stand this situation."

Mr. Kramnik's manager fired off a letter demanding that the committee be replaced and the decision to lock the players out of their private bathrooms be reversed. He declared that his client's frequent trips to the bathroom were due to the fact that he drinks a lot of water during the games and likes to pace. Since the private rest area is too small for his perambulations, he also "uses the space of the bathroom as well."

The letter said that Mr. Kramnik would not continue unless the federation was "ready to respect Mr. Kramnik's rights, in this case, to use the toilet of his own restroom whenever he wishes to do so."

Meanwhile, Topalov's manager shot off his own missive, maintaining that the players should be accompanied to the bathroom by a match referee, since the new ruling would permit Kramnik "to visit the new bathroom an unlimited number of times without being subject to further control." He added that if the match goes on, his client "would refrain from shaking hands with Mr. Kramnik before the games and would not take part in joint press-conferences with him."

Play, we assume, eventually resumed. But, as far as the prestige of the match goes, the handle had already been pressed.

About the Author
Tom Attea, humorist and creator of, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing for the theater "delightfully funny," "witty," with "great humor" and "good, genuine laughs."

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