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The Year 2006 in Review
The World Championship

The World Chess Championship is always a high profile chess event. The year 2006 saw the most important World Championship match in 13 years: the Kramnik - Topalov unification match. The long awaited match was announced by FIDE in April, to take place in Elista, Kalmykia, with the opening ceremony scheduled for September.

Many chess fans groaned when they heard that another top chess event would take place in the capital of Kalmykia, long one of the poorest countries in the world. No one was surprised at the choice, since FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was also president of the obscure Russian autonomous republic.

The purpose of the unification match was to repair a schism in the World Championship, created in 1993 when World Champion Garry Kasparov and official challenger Nigel Short agreed to play their match outside the control of FIDE. The two grandmasters expected their act of defiance, some called it piracy, would usher in a new era of prosperity for professional chess.

For a few years it seemed that they were right, but the petty bickering typical of top grandmasters eventually led to trouble wooing and keeping corporate sponsorship. In the meantime FIDE, knocked off balance by the loss of its flagship event, recovered its footing, reestablished its own series of title events, and waited for the right moment to reassert itself. That moment arrived when Kasparov retired.

The unification match would take place between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov. Kramnik had won his half of the title by beating Kasparov in 2000; Topalov his half by besting seven other top players at a special tournament in 2005.

No one suspected that the match would generate a new set of problems for world class chess. After Kramnik won the first two games, the next two were drawn. Then Topalov struck a devastating blow off the board. His manager, Silvio Danailov, issued two press releases and filed an official complaint that Kramnik had been spending too little time at the board and too much time in his rest room. The number of times that Kramnik visited the toilet was documented in detail. The insinuation was that Kramnik was cheating by using a computer. The world media latched on to the story and 'Toiletgate' was born.

The match appeals committee decided to lock the toilet for game five. This was not in accordance with the contractual agreements surrounding the match and Kramnik decided to forfeit the game. An embarrassed Ilyumzhinov rushed back from a regional meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, postponed the sixth game, and started negotiating with the two feuding players. Unable to break the deadlock, he declared that game six would be played with the toilets open and the result of the forfeit to stand. Would Kramnik appear?

Although Topalov had been the sentimental favorite going into the match -- his aggressive style and willingness to take risks contrast with Kramnik's logical play and willingness to make quick draws -- the roles reversed when Kramnik appeared at the board to play game six 'under protest'. The game was drawn.

After another draw and two wins for Topalov, Kramnik won the tenth game to even the score. There were two more draws and the match headed into tiebreak. In the first tiebreak match, a segment of four rapidplay games, Kramnik won two and lost one, to become the undisputed World Chess Champion.

Topalov and his manager continued their sniping at Kramnik's match behavior, but offered no evidence of any cheating. In December they issued a challenge for a rematch, but by year end the challenge had still not been accepted by FIDE.


FIDE's cycle for the unified World Championship also ran into some trouble. In January the world organization announced pairings for eight Candidate Matches to be held in October, and opened the bidding procedure. In September, after no bids were received, it announced that either the matches or a 16-player Candidate Tournament would be held in April 2007. The venue would again be Elista. A few months later the match format was confirmed for matches to start in May.

The FIDE events were played out against a backdrop of FIDE elections. FIDE presidential elections were to take place toward the end of the Olympiad in early June. For the first time since becoming president in a special 1995 off-year election, Ilyumzhinov was faced with a real challenge. This came from Bessel Kok, a Dutch national with top managerial experience in the telecommunications industry. It was rumored that without a unification match in view, the Russian federation would not nominate the Kalmyk for re-election, thereby preventing Ilyumzhinov from running again. The match was announced and the FIDE President was re-elected by almost a 2-1 margin.

At the end of the year, Ilyumzhinov and Kok joined forces to launch Global Chess BV in Amsterdam. The company, to be run by Kok, would be responsible for FIDE tournaments and matches connected to the World Championship for men, women, and juniors.

In March, the The Women's World Chess Championship, a 64-player knockout event, was held in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Xu Yuhua of China won the title by beating Alisa Galliamova of Russia.

Next : International Events 2006

 More of this Feature
• The Best Players
• World Championship
• International Events
• National Championships
• Opens
• Computers
• Passages
 Related Resources
• World Championship 2005
  Glossary (offsite)
  ChessChrono (offsite
• 2006 Unification Match