Vladimir Kramnik, the reigning world chess champion, celebrated his thirty-second birthday yesterday by doing, in his own words, something “unfortunately pretty boring”–preparing for today’s opponent in the elite Dortmund tournament. When Kramnik, whose play has sometimes been described, perhaps unfairly, as “unfortunately pretty boring,” defended his crown last year, he earned the sympathy of fellow chess pros and fans when he was forced to explain his hydration and evacuation habits after challenger Veselin Topalov exaggerated the number of times (50!, he said) that “Krapnik” had visited the bathroom (Topalov was insinuating that the world champion was cheating on the toilet by consulting chess-playing software). Kramnik managed to win the match despite Topalov’s assault on his dignity and bladder.
Dortmund is the last tournament in which Kramnik will participate before September’s world championship in Mexico City. This weekend, FIDE, the world chess federation, released a byzantine set of rules on who will be playing whom in world-tile matches after Mexico City. When asked on his birthday about what he thought of the new labyrinthine rules, Kramnik said he’d need to study them in order to understand them!
“I think there are more people who don’t understand the system than who understand,” Kramnik remarked. “I don’t know if the people who have invented it fully understand the system but it seems to be very complicated.” And this coming from a man who has mastered the intricacies of the Semi-Slav Variation and other esoteric chess openings. Pity us mere mortals who try to make sense of the new rules for world-championship succession. Fortunately, chessbase and chessninja have taken a stab at deciphering the rules for us.