Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chess Championship: Kramnik, Topalov, and Bathrooms

Whoa, a posting about the referees in the sport of chess?! A dispute? Of course there's a petty dispute, just like in any other world chess championship. The latest dispute with the referees is their decision in the middle of the match (after game 4 out of 12) to prohibit both players from using the pre-arranged private bathrooms. The referees received a complaint from Topalov that Kramnik was using his private bathroom 50 times per game. The referees concluded that Kramnik was using it less than 50 times per game, but ruled that it would block the players from using private bathrooms and they'd both have to use the same bathroom for the remaining games. That's a pretty controversial decision -- Kramnik protested that there was no valid reason for changing the arrangements.

Unlike the NFL, NHL, and NBA, the players are actually given the freedom of speech to criticize the referees in chess. Thank goodness! We can actually know why each player is unhappy and listen to the criticism of the referees. It's too bad, though, that the referees have not brokered a resolution and convinced Kramnik that the change is justified. It makes the public wonder whether the refs know what they're doing and are being fair. If chess had the same NFL, NHL, NBA gag rule, we'd all be in the dark.

As it is, Kramnik refused to play game 5 and the refs forfeited that game to Topalov. They postponed the next game and are trying to negotiate a deal now.

If Kramnik forfeits the rest of the match, the chess world will not crumble. It would have a new champion in Topalov, a disgraced former champion in Kramnik, and a healthy debate about the referee's conduct. If only every sport allowed the same open debate.


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