MOSCOW: Referees barred private toilets on Friday for the two grandmasters fighting for the world chess championship title in southern Russia after the contest was plunged into scandal over the frequency of one player's restroom breaks, ITAR-TASS news agency said.
Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov, who has yet to win a match after four attempts against Viktor Kramnik of Russia, threatened to quit the tournament entirely if organisers did not enact better controls on toilet breaks.
Topalov's manager complained in a letter that Kramnik had used his private restroom far too frequently during the first four games of the tournament, insinuating that the Russian champion was cheating in the toilet, the only area not under video surveillance during play.
In response, chess officials ordered that the toilets in the private restrooms allocated separately to each player be locked and that they both use a single toilet in a different location, according to ITAR-TASS.
Videotapes showed that in each of the four matches played so far, Kramnik left the board and went into his four-room private rest area -- only the toilet in this area is not watched by video cameras -- around 25 times, disappearing into the toilet on a number of these occasions.
In a front-page article, the daily Kommersant said chess grandmasters in standard tournament play use the toilet five to 10 times during matches and noted that in the third match Kramnik went to the toilet two times in 13 minutes alone.
Kramnik's behavior "looks very strange, if not suspicious," Topalov's manager said in the letter.
Kommersant commented that the meaning behind Topalov's use of the word "suspicious" was clear: although he is alone during his breaks, Kramnik might "somehow" be using his toilet trips to get advice that has helped him secure a 3:1 lead after the first four games in the 12-game series.
Ground rules for chess tournaments involving international grandmasters are often the subject of protracted negotiations and are agreed in minute detail. Scandals over similar issues are a regular feature of top-level chess tournaments.
Kramnik, a brilliant defensive tactician, won the first two games and the next two were drawn. Game five was scheduled to be played Friday.