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Short take: Veselin Topalov could have been cheating

Tuesday, 30 January 2007 - 10:59pm IST

Nigel Short, a former world championship finalist, tells DNA that Bulgarian GM may be receiving external help during his games.

MUMBAI: Did Veselin Topalov cheat in Corus, in San Luis and elsewhere? Yes, if one goes by circumstantial evidence. One is tempted to infer that the Bulgarian Grandmaster could be the recipient of external help while wrestling with the top brains of the world.

In the Corus championship, which concluded in Wijk aan Zee, Topalov’s behaviour was reportedly suspect. It was not the first time though that Topalov has faced such allegations. Immediately after the San Luis championship, a Bulgarian website reported that the former world champion had received outside help.

Most GMs believe that Topalov occasionally, if not constantly, was in non-verbal communications with his manager Silvio Danailov but no one voiced his opinion. But for the first time, someone has.

Nigel Short, a former world championship finalist, tells DNA that Topalov could have received external help. “It is my understanding that the majority of players in San Luis privately believe that Topalov received signalling from Danailov during play. The essence of these allegations, which I heard personally from disgruntled players in Argentina at the time, was not that Topalov constantly received computer advice but only at critical junctures. Indeed, if one were to cheat, a player of Topalov’s strength would only need two or three computer moves per game to put him at an overwhelming advantage vis-a-vis his opponents.”

The British GM says he observed something sinister in San Luis, where Topalov bulldozed his rivals to emerge a run-away winner. In fact, Topalov had 6.5 from seven games which could be equivalent to running 100 metres in about 9 seconds at that level of competition. “In San Luis I did observe, indeed I was quite struck by the fact, that Danailov sat in close physical proximity to Topalov during play. Furthermore, his not infrequent entering and exiting the hall would have provided facile opportunities for receiving communication from a third party. In fact any half-decent player with a laptop and an analysis engine is likely to be better appraised of the position, upon entering the room, than the GMs seated at the board themselves.”

Short believed the World Chess (Fide) should order an inquiry. “I believe there is a clear case for setting up an independent committee of decent honorable people to examine the dozens of hours of TV footage from San Luis (the whole event was recorded). Furthermore any evidence available from Mexico and Linares, Wijk aan Zee, etc. should also be examined.”

Short blames Fide officials for incompetence. “Fide deputy president Yiorgos Makropoulos and vice-president Zurab Azmaiparashvili spent more time in San Luis at their hotel 16 km away than they did in the tournament hall despite being paid thousands of dollars, plus considerable expenses, to do their job on the Appeal’s Committee. It came as absolutely no surprise to me that these dunderheads would flunk the first crisis that they were presented with i.e. Elista toiletgate. I might add that Azmai is singularly inappropriate for such work having, by his own admission, cheated in winning the 2003 European Championship.”

Short, who won the Commonwealth chess championship in November in Mumbai, terms the toiletgate charges against Vladimir Kramnik as a diversionary tactic. “Those of a cynical mind might view the Danailov/Topalov allegations of Kramnik’s cheating in Elista to be a smokescreen to deflect scrutiny from their own activities.”

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