"Chess Diplomacy and the 2006 World Chess Championship"

To the Chess World:

In the past week, millions of chess fans have been following (with great interest) the World Chess Unification Match between GMs
Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik. In what was billed to be a battle between contrasting styles has descended into a nasty imbroglio of accusations and unreasonable demands. At press time, the match has been postponed after Kramnik refused to play game five unless played under the rules agreed upon at the outset. The diplomatic crisis started when Silvio Danailov (Topalov's manager) wrote a complaint that Kramnik's behavior was suspicious in that he made an unreasonable number of visits to the bathroom. Carsten Hensel (Kramnik's manager) filed a counterclaim with a number of conditions and thus we arrive at a stalemate (no pun intended).

What does this mean for the chess world? Firstly, it has endangered an already tenuous unification process; secondly, it has caused the most optimistic of observers to cast doubt on whether FIDE can manage a successful match; thirdly, it has made chess the butt of jokes around the world, thus, providing more reasons for lack of public interest and corporate support. There are many other issues, but it is without a doubt that this effort has been tainted and yet another footnote will be associated with a chess championship.

It is interesting that for the past three decades, the World Chess Championship has been mired in a fit of instability with hardball muckraking, infantile innuendos and questionable ethics. It is my hope that FIDE and the chess world will move to a situation where much of the influence is more evenly distributed among diverse nations. What has occurred in the past 30 years has shown a lack of knowledge of diplomacy. This appears to be a direct by-product of what we have seen in world affairs.

Of course, regions such as Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East do not wield a high level of influence in chess, but can certainly be a big help in chess diplomacy. These regions must develop their chess infrastructures and begin to play more of an active role in chess politics. For 30 years, the World Chess Championship cycle has been dominated by selfish interests and a number of people whose idea of diplomacy is to make bold threats and force concessions. The 'gunboat diplomacy' needs to stop.

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Posted by The Chess Drum: 30 September 2006