Archive for the ‘Veselin Topalov’ Category

Spurious Cheating Charge Against Chess Child

October 29, 2007

In the infamous Toiletgate scandal in last year’s world chess championship, challenger Veselin Topalov insinuated that champion Vladimir Kramnik was somehow cheating during his frequent trips to the restroom. The implication was that, when Kramnik was on the throne, he was consulting a computer or receiving move suggestions through a wireless earpiece.

Now similar vague cheating charges have been made at the European Union championship for young children in Batumi, Georgia. Entry was restricted to the age of eight and below, and Nikita Ayvazyan of Moscow won last week with a score of 8 to 1. Andy Soltis wrote in yesterday’s New York Post (the article is not yet posted online) that the Azerbaijani delegation of parents and chess teachers accused Ayvazyan of receiving secret help during the game. The tournament organizers found no basis to the accusation and blasted the Azerbaijanis for making it.

Bathroom Break

September 24, 2007

The world championship now being conducted in Mexico City is a nice reprieve from last year’s off-the-board shenanigans in Elista, Kalmykia, when the Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov insinuated that reigning champion Vladimir Kramnik was cheating on the toilet and the tournament officials responded by locking Kramnik out of his bathroom.

“I was lying on my couch next to my toilet and was furious,” Kramnik recalled. “I did not think about the world championship or the score. And then there was a new problem: I had to go to the bathroom, urgently. I asked the arbiter to open my toilet. He just shrugged and offered me an empty coffee cup.”

Martin Landau Dragged into Chess Cheating Scandal

September 20, 2007

The manager of Veselin Topalov, who forced world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik to defend his hydration and evacuation habits in last year’s Toiletgate cheating scandal, has finally released a video. The manager claims that Kramnik left the video behind in his private restroom at the World Championship and is the blueprint for how he cheated Topalov. (Many thanks to Tom Panelas for posting the video on his own blog.)

No “Dunderheads,” the Chess Ethics Commission Rules

August 31, 2007

British grandmaster Nigel Short used the word “dunderhead” to characterize two high-ranking officials of the world chess federation. One of them, a chess federation VP, took offense and complained to the federation’s ethics commission. This week the commission chastised Short for his use of the word but upheld his right to criticize the official.

In essence, the commission ruled that chess officials are allowed to be dunderheads but no one is allowed to point that out. When The New York Times reached Short for his reaction, he said that he’d no longer call the VP a dunderhead. “I’ll stick to the facts,” Short said. “I’ll call him a cheat who is unfit for office.”

The ethics commission ruling inspired me to research the origin of the word dunderhead, which means a stupid or muddle-headed person. According to the word-origins section of, “‘dunder‘ was the dregs or over-flowed froth of fermenting wine, originally from Spanish ‘redundar’, to overflow or froth over.” Other Web sites suggest a Dutch origin, from donder (thunder), the idea being that your thinking would be impaired if a thunderclap went off next to your head. Can anyone add to this etymological discussion?

BTW, on the same day as the Short ruling, the FIDE ethics gurus reprimanded Veselin Topalov and his manager for insinuating that defending champion Vladimir Kramnik was cheating on the toilet because they said he had gone to the restroom a suspicious 50 times. The commission warned Topalov that if he engages in such psychological warfare again, he could be banned from chess for a year. So Topalov hasn’t been punished at all; the federation could at least have asked him to write dunderhead 500 times. He’s gotten away with dragging the 2006 World Championship into the toilet. The Short and Topalov rulings can be found on the world chess federation Website.

Copy Editing Confidential

May 19, 2007

I’ve been poring over (it’s poring not pouring, right?) a type-set proof of King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game in search of annoying typos. 


Gremlins are inevitable in a work of 150,000 words (yes, I have a lot to say!) but I’m hell-bent on reducing them to a minimum.  I’ve had nightmares ever since a well-intentioned copy-editor  inexplicably changed Veselin Topalov’s first name, which I had corretly spelled, to Vaselin.  Now maybe Vaseline is an apt nickname for a grandmaster who is as oily as petroleum jelly (after being down two games in last year’s world-championship match, the slippery Bulgarian tried to distract the chess world from his pathetic 0-2 score by charging his opponent with going to the bathroom too frequently and consulting a chess-playing computer while on the privy).   

Now Vaseline does figure in King’s Gambit, but not as someone’s first name.  In Chapter 8, “I’m Not the World’s Biggest Geek,”  I describe the late Alexander Wojtkiewicz, who was perhaps the most active grandmaster on the U.S. weekend tournament circuit.

“In a chess world full of oversized characters, Wojtkiewicz was still a stand-out.  He was equal part hustler and naïf, and the stories about him were endless and amusing.  Like the time he wondered unknowingly into a gay bar with a male friend and a woman.  At some point the woman had a nose bleed and Wojt got the attention of the place when he anxiously and loudly asked the bartender for Vaseline, an old Polish remedy for her affliction.  There was also the time that he was staying with friends in Chicago, disappeared for a weekend without telling them, and returned with no explanation, as if he had just stepped out to buy a paper, except that he was now on crutches.”