Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Kramnik Bails

| Permalink | 109 comments

With the tournament a week away from starting, classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik has bailed out of the much-awaited Russian Championship super-final. Bearing a note from his mother, Vlady claims stress from his title defense against Leko. This is pretty thin gruel considering that fewer than half the games were hard-fought and there were plenty of free days.

The most ridiculous part of this is that the tournament was originally scheduled for September, but back in Spring it was moved to November at the request of... Vladimir Kramnik! A few months ago Kasparov told me he doubted Kramnik would play, but I don't think that is on the record anywhere. My biggest problem with this is that it's simply unprofessional. One of the biggest names in the game backs out of a big event a week before it starts? In a real sport the sponsors would be getting their money back and the player would be fined unless there were serious health issues. I'm sure he's tired, but that doesn't cut it. Part of being a pro means playing even when you're not 100%. That responsibility increases when you are the champ.

This bailout has already led to much of the usual "Kramnik's afraid of Kasparov" talk among fans. I think it's more of the champion's malady of not wanting to risk playing at less 100%. They pick their spots and often feel they have more to lose than to gain by playing. When I spoke to Kasparov today he said he was relieved about one aspect of the super-final field. Not about Kramnik, but that thanks to Tseshkovsky he wasn't the oldest player in the field!


Well, bringing up the fact that there was a number of 20-move draws in the WC match doesn't strike me as particularly convincing. (And I would definitely say more than half of the games were hard-fought.) You can suffer badly from stress for many reasons apart from just having played a strenuous WC match, but it certainly helps. The most likely interpretation of this, provided what Chessbase writes is true, is that he did want to play all along but his doctor just advised him not to. If I were World Champion and didn't want to play this tournament, be it because I was scared of Kasparov or anything else, I wouldn't FIRST say "I'm very exhausted after the match but I'm going to play" and then change my mind.

On another note, as someone on another forum pointed out, is Kasparov pretending that Karpov doesn't exist? :-)

No, that's exactly what you would say, but I'm not suggesting he has known all along he wouldn't play. I don't doubt that Kramnik is tired. The problem is that he is a professional sportsman who agreed to play in an event and he is bailing out at the last minute. Unless he has a serious health problem this is totally unacceptable. It would be bad enough from any of the players, but from one of the biggest names and the classical champ in a big, it's very wrong. In any serious sport with professional sponsors they would be getting a lot of their money back right now.

Professionalism begins at home. Would you invite Kramnik to your next event knowing he might not show up, and only announce it a week before the first round? I don't recall Kramnik doing this before, so maybe. But it's definitely not a trivial event.

Kasparov hasn't lost a classical game to Karpov in 14 years. Their rivalry will live forever and their games will still get tremendous attention, but it's not a sporting issue anymore. Karpov is a legend, but isn't even among the favorites in this event. It's been so long since he played serious chess he'll mostly be looking to avoid embarrassment with short draws.

I fully agree about Karpov. I was thinking about that "thanks to Tseshkovsky, he (Kasparov) wasn't the oldest player in the field!" That one seemed to be ignoring Karpov. And yes, of course Kramnik's behaviour is unacceptable unless he has a very good reason. I think he might have just that, but who knows.

I agree with MIG. Exhaustion should rarely be an excuse. Most professional players are traveling around constantly, playing in tournaments week after week. Many of them are beyond exhaustion constantly, yet they rarely have the luxury of breaks. I know Kramnik is World Champion, but other world champs have had extremely active playing careers while holding the title, while Kramnik seems to play as seldom as possible. I like Kramnik (I have even been lucky enough to play him), but I find it hard to admire him as much as I admire the everyday GMs who get little notice. I sure wish chess could insitute some changes to allow a broader range of lower level players to actually get to compete against the elite. I like an elite tournament okay, but I think most chess lovers out here enjoy the Olympiads more precisely because it allows some GMs who normally don't get to play the elite to do so.

I'm not sure its fair to judge someone's health at a distance of hundreds of miles. Kramnik has a long record of showing up on time and fulfilling his obligations. If the gentleman says he's ill I see no reason not to take him at his word.

I would characterize a violation of the touch-move rule as unprofessional. I would characterize a public temper explosion over the awarding of a brilliancy prize to a 15-year old opponent as unprofessional. But is it fair to use that term to characterize the conduct of an exceptionally steady performer who gives up his place in a tournament because of illness?

Is there a point to encouraging a top chessplayer to "gut it out" in such circumstances? So we can watch him play lousy games and crash and burn? No thanks.

I can't recall this column EVER calling Kasparov unprofessional. I can't recall this column ever using the snide "note from his mama" type language with reference to Kasparov.

One has the right to chose sides, of course.
But one has no right to be surprised when players referred to with such little respect are reluctant to call with news or grant interviews.

Ted: Yes, many professionals are doing just that, playing in tournament after tournament. It is fine as long as it's not becoming a serious health issue. Then they should stop. Greg is spot on. If Kramnik says he's unable to play, why assume he isn't? This kind of reaction is Kramnik-specific. Not just talking about Mig, of course. How many of Morozevich's fans, for example, have spewed out insults over him after all the tournaments he's dropped out from only this year?

BS, Greg. But I'm happy you've admitted to taking sides, and you're correct that you have that right.

As for me, I called Kasparov "childish" and "a sore loser" for the prize-giving ceremony tantrum ("a blow to manners" and "We cannot but agree that there is no excuse for such behavior. It was embarrassing for every player and fan to have the chess world's leading representative explode like this." But I guess since you couldn't recall it and couldn't be bothered to look it up, it's okay to dismiss my criticism of Kramnik's actions as favoritism. Oh well, there's always next time.

As for respect, it has never been my strong point and is certainly not the object of this blog. Snide is rather the drink of choice around here. That Kramnik and others, Kasparov included, only want to speak to those who favor them is just another sign that chess is far from prime time as a sport.

Damn right you gut it out. I think a world champion has more responsibilities than the other players, yes. At least if he wants to be respected as such. Moro is an irresponsible flake and deserves censure for his regular late bailouts. I've certainly mentioned it many times. Unlike Kramnik, Moro rarely lectures the chess world on responsibility and professionalism. Most players can't afford to dump on events and organizers like this because they don't get invited back if they do (and they need the money). Cutting out like this is an abuse of rank.

At the very least I think you need your doctor to come up with something better than stress if you want to cut out a week before game one. Perhaps Kramnik deserves the benefit of the doubt that he is unfit to play chess. But I'm not willing to give it under these circumstances.

even if you play 20 move draws ... the preparation for every game etc. can be very stressful ... Kramnik seems to have pulled out on a doctor's advice (where did this note from the mother come from??). Even from his last interview a couple of weeks ago he was all set to play ...so unless we hear something to the contrary(the doctor's note was in french ..maybe mig can investigate if it was Lautier who actually signed the note:)), it appears for medical reasons.

wishful thinking ... how about the Russian organizers getting Anand to play instead of Kramnik?

"something better than stress" Huh, what?! Are you pretending that stress can't be a serious enough health issue? I don't want to be accused of putting words in your mouth, so could you just clarify what you meant there?

Sorry, I long ago gave up trying to explain every sentence and each piece of sarcasm! He should have gone for "catastrophic hang-nail" or "terminal butt calluses," a common chessplayer injury.

Acirce wears a Kramnik avatar at Chessgames.com, so I'm not surprised at all he's defending Kramnik for once again running away from Kasparov.
Yoozum of Chessgames.com suggested that Kramnik might have pulled out because of fear of losing a game to Kasparov, which would give renewed strength to Kasparov's claim to a unified championship.
In the tournament prior to Kramnik's WCC match against Leko, Kramnik's performance was subpar and barely won any games, and lost to Anand in the end. In the WCC his performance was once again subpar and only kept his title because he managed to draw the match 7-7 against Leko, who by the way only managed to get 3rd place in the aformentioned tournament.
Keep running, Kramnik.

Sorry, Leko got 4th place, not 3rd place, my mistake.

I am not surprised about Kramnik's move. He rarely plays. Maybe he is preparing to play Fischer for the Unification match

You have a good point, NYC Knight. I mean, Kramnik suggested that Ponomariov should be included in the reunification because he was a former FIDE champion who was stripped of the title for failing to play a challenger. So going with Kramnik's argument, Fischer must be included as well!

In golf, Tiger Woods chooses when he plays and is free to drop out at the last moment. He gets money when he shows up and gets none when he doesn't. Maybe Kramnik is acting more like a professional athlete, spoiled by riches. The bigger symptom of chess being less than other professional sports is that nothing is set in stone. The FIFA World Cup happens every 4 years and if Brazil were to fail to appear no one would claim Germany's title was less legitimate. Why can't the World Championship of chess be the same? Show up for your match or you forfeit any claim to the title.

I worked with 12-18 year olds in trouble with the law in a custody facility for over 8 years. I saw what stress can do to some people. Why some people thrive in that setting while it reduces others to breakdowns and tears, I don't know.

Comparing a stress-related illness to a hangnail is not accurate (to make a polite understatement). You can tough out a hang-nail, but that is harder to do with stress. One of my good friends is still on medication over three years after his breakdown. Another friend disappeared and when we found him, he had locked himself in the laundry room and was sitting on the dryer rocking back and forth crying (he was given medical leave from work...should he have toughed it out? Sorry, but it is not something you can overcome without time and possibly help.)

I have no idea if Kramnik is at that stage or not but let's hope he isn't or unification will be a long way off.

Just my perspective on the matter...


In a nutshell, Kramnik is a coward. Either way, he's ducking playing Kasparov, or else the really strong field. SHAME!

Mig, it is interesting to compare your treatment of:

1) Kasparov's "crime" of blowing up over Radjabov's brilliancy prize and

2) Kramnik's "crime" of withdrawing from the USSR championship.

In your article about Kasparov's blowup (March 10, 2003) you acknowledge Kasparov's "crime", but are nonetheless highly sympathetic to him:

Giving Radjabov the Brilliancy Prize was "horrible", "a slap in Kasparov's face", "an insult to chess and every other game to ever win a brilliancy prize."

"Kasparov has always worn his emotions on his sleeve and is very sensitive to any criticism, even after nearly 20 years at the top. It drives him to succeed..."

As for Kramnik's withdrawl from the Russian championship, you are not even sure Kramnik has committed a "crime"...."perhaps Kramnik deserves the benefit of the doubt...."

but you

--title your article: "Kramnik Bails"

--suggest that Kramnik is "bearing a note from his mother"

--refer's to Kramnik's decision as "pretty thin gruel" and

--"ridiculous" and


A chess journalist who can provide a positive context for a man with a history of boorish behavior who blows up and spoils one of the greatest days in the life of a 15-year-old kid can surely find a way to do the same for an impeccably reliable gentleman who, for the first time, has withdrawn from a chess tournament.

Respect may not be your strong suit, and "snide" might be the drink of choice. But if you want respect as a chess journalist, you will give respect to those players who deserve it.

What is wrong with titling it "Kramnik Bails" if that is the truth?

Well, Mig, your blog is really 'Dirt'. So many misrepresentations and direct lies in just few sentences. This is unacceptable is you pretend to name yourself a writer.

By the way, can anybody give an example of Champion participationg in a top level tournament in less than 1 month after the WC match finished?

Somebody mentioned that other players constantly move and play in tournaments under permanent stress. Let me remind you, the WC is not a regular player, he must show highest quality games, he must aim to win every tournament he participates in. And 4 weeks passed after the match with Leko is definitely not enough to completely restore, especially if you remember that Vladimir got cold during the match. I don't believe he'd be able to show his best in this tournament. Too much mental energy spent to win vs. Leko. Give him time to restore, and he will be back.

Kasparov's last attacks on Kramnik serve only one obvious reason: to break Vladimir's mental and spiritual stability before the unification match starts. Garry will sting him regularly and constantly for a single reason: he wants to win the title. Remember, Kasparov treats chess as war, where Kramnik is his ENEMY, not competitor, and the battle begins a long before the first pawn move. Be ready: the show to be continued.

Lies? What lies? It's the truth, Kramnik is bailing out. Not just that, but it was originally scheduled for September but it was moved to November for Kramnik, and now at the last minute he says he won't play.

Why should we be reminded of irrelevant facts? What difference does it make that the World Champion is expected to win the tournaments he enters? The World Champion's supposed superiority is, presumably, a result of his superior chess playing skills...not a result of his being given special allowences (or advantages) to which other players are not privileged. I would prefer a world champion who wins because he is a better player...not one who wins because he knows how (and is allowed) to pick his spots.

Chess is a cerebral game, testing the depth, concentration and flexibility of the mind. If it really takes Kramnik a month to recover from the stress of a match (even one as important as the one he played against Leko) than how strong is his mind, really? Is he World Champion for twelve months out of the year...or only for two he chooses he's mentally strong enough to play?

Please point out any lies. Greg, please continue to compare apples and oranges and to hijack every post to make it about my attitudes regarding Kasparov. You even managed to drag Radjabov's game into it. Good job of distraction! Illescas and many others agreed the game wasn't worthy. I guess if you can only sing one note you have to sing it all the time, but actually posting something relevant would be nice. Give it a try some time. I guess I'm not getting an apology for your totally erroneous accusation that I didn't criticize Kasparov for his tantrum. When one of your statements is refuted you just change the subject again.

Kramnik shouldn't have accepted the invitation in the first place. He especially shouldn't have asked that the event be moved and then cancelled out after the organizers and other players have already been inconvenienced. It's particularly amusing that you even criticize me for saying that Kramnik may actually have cause.

A month isn't enough? Other than the handful of elite players who can afford it, most players play far more often. The stress of a championship match is considerable, but a month is a month.

As I said, you can't play every event at 100%. You can't drop out a few days ahead of any event when you don't think you'll be at your best. ESPECIALLY if you are the world champion. Plus, with Kramnik's style it's not as if he is concerned about showing the highest quality in every game, as someone above put it. He draws half his games in under 25 moves these days. In his last tournament he drew all his games.

Where did the "Kasparov's attacks on Kramnik" come from? You guys build so many strawmen. I only mentioned that a few months ago Kasparov predicted Kramnik wouldn't play in Moscow. That's an attack? Heck, it's just an accurate prediction at this point, and he didn't even say it on the record.

Here's a fun test. Under which circumstances would it be okay for a world champion to drop out of a supertournament (and the national championship) a week before it starts? A bad cold? Insomnia? The flu? Depression? Having played a match a month earlier? Tell that to the 99% of chessplayers who have to play through all that and worse because they need to put food on the table. Making a living playing chess is a privilege.

I think the only "unprofessional" aspect of the whole episode is referring to Kramnik's behavior as unprofessional when this is only the first time he has done so. That too without any reliable information.

As others have mentioned, he was suffering from cold in the Leko match. He could have withdrawn ealier but I suppose he was hoping he could recover in time and when that didn't happen he had to pull out at the last minute.


Wow, a cold? A cold that has lasted for over a month? You can't be serious.

What I think is even worse is that he's letting down the fans.

Regarding the talk of pressure on Kramnik after pulling out, I feel that on the contrary, all the pressure will be on Kasparov. If he wins, nothing great as that was expected (unless it is by a big margin). But if he doesn't win, then it will be taken as a sign of further decline and won't help his case for unification. And if his performance is not good enough, he risks losing the #1 ranking as well.

Forced or not, seems like a good move by Kramnik.


Personally, I think Mig makes a valid point here. First of all, as an attorney who has done some work in the employment law area, I can tell you that "stress" is the single most common form of ailment used by malingerers or people looking for an excuse for an absence, largely because it is mostly subjective, it is easy to fake, and even a good doctor must basically take your word as to the amount of stress you are suffering. This doesn't mean that a claim of stress is never valid, but it does justify examining such claims with a healthy scepticism. So the nature of Kramnik's excuse is somewhat suspicious. And when you put it in the context of the fact that Kramnik is young and healthy, that there has been a month for him to recover, etc., it becomes even more suspicious. When you add into the mix the fact that Kramnik seems to have been mostly (although not completely) avoiding Kasparov since the last match, you have a pretty strong case that Kramnik is once again "picking his fights."

One of the reasons I have a lot of respect for Karpov and Kasparov as World Champions and as chessplayers is that, during their peak years as World Champions, they were both very active and proved their strength again and again in tournament play. One of the things I dislike about Kramnik as a World Champion and chessplayer is that he has done relatively little to prove he is the best in the world (a lost match to Shirov, a won match against a clearly off-form Kasparov, and a drawn match against Leko are certainly not bad but neither are they so impressive), but seems to be inclined to squeeze the last drop of profit and prestige out of his title. When you start ducking other players because you think it might devalue your title or negotiating position in future match negotiations, then you are "mini-maxing" in a rather contemptible way. And although I don't know for a fact that this is what Kramnik is doing (how would anyone every know this for a fact?) I agree with Mig that Kramnik's conduct is highly suspicious.

So, although I find many things about Kasparov's conduct unappealing, I do believe he has for most of his career demonstrated a form of courage that Kramnik appears to lack, namely, by participating time and time again in tournaments where he has not a whole lot to gain and a great deal to lose, and proving himself again and again in those tournaments. (The same thing could be said about Karpov.) This, as I understand it, is Mig's essential point: that Kramnik seems like he is always maneuvering for a prestige and business advantage, often at the expense of his participation in strong tournaments. Whereas Kasparov may have done the same maneuvering, but he to a certain extent earned the right to do so by proving his dominance again and again. If this is Mig's point (or part of his point) then I think you almost have to agree with them because the "historical" tournament record is pretty clearly in Kaspy's favor.

I used to be one of Kramnik's biggest fans. Now I am hoping that Kasim or Kaspy beats him (assuming whichever one of them wins their match can get him to play) because I think his tenure and his attituted as World Champion has been extremely bad for chess, and because both Kasim and Kaspy seem to have more fighting spirit. Kramnik, on the other hand, seems to be largely motivated by fear of losing his title/prestige. Actually, I think I am starting to hope that Kasim will win the whole shebang because of all the potential World Champions who might come out of this mess he seems to be the least egocentric and the most likely to act with honor if he wins.

Just my opinion.

- Geof

Good post Geof. If Kramnik is sick, which I have not heard, then that is one thing. But, I don't buy the stress angle. I truly don't believe that anyone can win a world championship without a brutally strong mind. A person who can't recover from stress in a month cannot be a person who could win the world chess championship, in my opinion. I believe it must partly be a lack of motivation, combined with the concern that he does feel he needs to win 1st place- if he is not in the proper mood he simply has no chance at 1st, so he risks looking bad. Looks bad this way, too, though.

Good arguments Geof!

After his match against Kasparov in 2000, Kramnik hardly played any games. Yes….I know he played the comp after a year or so.

I don’t think we are totally mental if we think that Kramnik is afraid of losing games. His mentality is rather visible on the board as well…”as long as Kramnik don’t lose any games he is ok.”

One aspect is also that Kramnik’s rating is 2760 now, while Moro’s is 2758. Maybe he don’t want to be a champ and “only” be 4th in the rating list. A drop from the big 3 (KAK) would be a strong mental blow for Kramnik.


Geoff, Beautifully articulated. I think you must be a pretty good lawyer, wish i could afford you. Also didnt Kram lose against Kamsky? So 2 lost matches, 1 won match against an undeniably pale kaspy, and a drawn match against Leko. Like i said in an earlier post somewhere, Kram has the potential to be great certainly, but hasnt achieved it yet. He's no Fisher, Karpov or Kasparov. As such, people will tolerate prima donna behaviour only so long. Certainly he's welcome to pick and choose, everybody must do as he wishes (it may be he's ill now, but that doesnt excuse his earlier duckings and weavings), but I for one no longer care whether he plays or not.

Wtf is this all about? Kramnik is a professional chess player.. so HE decides whether he wants to play or not. He will not play only because someone wants to see a Kasparov - Kramnik game.

The next games Kramnik will play? Of course the rematch against Leko in four years!

"A man who fights may lose, a man who doesn't has already lost."

I think the greatest loser of this whole topic is actually Kramnik. He knew that when he skips that tournament there will be great discussion, just like you are doing it. He knew that many would call him "unprofessional" or even a coward, especially after this very very, well let's call it "soft", WCC. So what does Kramnik win when he skips?
Now he has got a brave Kasparov (who has not been active at all, in fact his number of games is a shame! I can understand that he doesn't play, he is occupied with Project 2008 in Russia, but then he should let us all know that he is a politican now and not a chess WCC candidate) since Kasparov is brave enough to face all this great players, Kramnik himself has weakened his right to demand a new candidate tournament (as now the question appears if he is really a legitimate WC if he is that weak and sick after a WCC)... so what does Kramnik win with the whole action?
NOTHING, and I think that he is probably really not able to play, stress can lead to symptoms that last for months, like permanent head-ache or tiredness?

But of course I'm really disappointed. A tournament with 14 really good GMs is always far more interesting than the usual 2 round-robin like Linares or Dortmund last year! You've got much more players who have got nothing to lose, who fight until the very end as such tournaments are kind of "advertisement" for them. So even boring Kramnik would have faced motivated players!

Is my memory wrong or didnt Kasparov witdraw very late from Wijk Ann Zee a few years ago? I remember the reason being a Flu.

Critisising Kramnik for not playing much is possible, but compared with Kasparov it dosent make much sense. In the last years Kramnik definately played more, a quick check at Fides statistics shows that. Allthough Kramniks results has been bad, to me they seem to be statistically better than Kasparovs. The main reason for Kasparov being World n. 1 is that he dosent play much, not due to recent results. Maybe some could calculate the TPR of the toplayers in eg. 2004 or maybe 2003-2004 to give some results for comparison.

Heine, you are correct. I agree with you about Kasparov.

But..that's a different issue. Kasparov is not the current WCH. We are talking about Kramnik..most of the comments about Kramnik is not cos of this "stress" problem only. It's very visible that some people are quite frustrated with Kramnik's attitude in general.


Heine: Don't ask me to verify that these figures are correct, but the calculations have been done:


As for Kramnik being such a "coward", as some have implied, the "average opposition" column is interesting and seems to confirm that just about all he does is playing top-level opponents. Only Leko's is higher for 2004, and the only reason for that is that Kramnik hasn't had the favour to play himself.

Chess at the highest level should be match-based not tournament-based. Chess tournaments serve to only dilute the legendary status of the World Champion and should be merely showcases for aspiring challengers. That said, the Champion should be defending his crown at least once or twice a year. In my opinion, this is a key factor that is not understood by FIDE, ACP etc and is far more important than any unification.

Like heavyweight championship boxing bouts, for non "core fans" and even for many core fans, World Chess Championship Matches will always be, by far, the most interesting events.

If the World Champion defended once or twice a year, we could eliminate the ridiculous ranting that goes on endlessly about who should be "the Candidate"-- as every player who had any realistic chance to actually beat the Champion would probably, at some point over a five year period, have the opportunity.

I say to Kramnik, if you want to sit out this wannabe tournament fine. But select one (any one)of the legitimate challengers (Kasparov, Anand, etc) and set up the next match.

Kramnik, thats not the way Worldchampions should go!
I was wondered when i read that the Russian championship will go on with ALL he big strong players (just say KKK). i was really happy about that fact.
Than i must to read today, Kramnik is hangin` up his head, he fear by kasparov... what can we say to those slappy doings of a "worldmaster"?! - that isn`t the WC we want to have!!!
Come on Vlad, take care and come to the Russian mastership!

yours-Bjoerk Errikson


You made the interesting comment that "I truly don't believe that anyone can win a world championship without a brutally strong mind."

Kasparov and Karpov may fall into that category, but I think we have seen several world champions of a much more fragile nature. Fischer, of course, apparently considered withdrawing at lesat once DURING his world championship match.

I feel there are two groups of great players. There are those who enjoy the performance aspect of it, the testing of themselves and others, who love winning.

And there are those who are more academic, scientific "truth seekers" who are interested in the absolute objective evaluation of the position. Who cannot bear to play badly, but may bail out with a draw earlier than their more competitive peers, simply because, "Well, it WAS a draw, wasn't it?"

Chess accomodates both, but the audiences generally like the competitive ones better.


I wish we had a Steintz today! Or a Tal! So many prima donnas! Oooo, my aching back!

acirce, it is because the top players basically only play each other that they maintain their high ratings. If they consistenly played in tournaments against various new "lesser" GMs then they would lose rating points.

I also disagree with Mr. Ober- there is nothing more boring for chess than a world champ who plays in nothing except matches. The most exciting champs are the ones who prove their strength to the world by competing in various tournaments.

Duif, I don't usually disagree with you, but I still think all the champs had brutally strong minds. Yes, I know Fisher is looney, but I don't think stress would have gotten to him when he was a real player. He is just a kid inside who was never educated and is mentally unstable in the psychological sense- not in the sense of mental strength that I mean.

Kramnik certainly has the right not to play. For any reason at all.

I personally was disappointed that Susan Polgar declined her invitation to the US Championship, but of course she did so in the normal manner of declining (Seirawan also declined his), rather than withdrawing.

But regardless, Kramnik has the right to decline, withdraw, even forfeit.


On the other hand, I have come to a new conclusion after this. I agree with all those those that feel the essential thing is to set a qualifier for Kramnik to defend his title.

I believe that Kramnik has the right to the classical world title, of course. But I also feel that he will retain the right to call himself the CURRENT classical world champion only if within six months he has set in stone a qualification process for the next cycle.

And by set in stone, I mean that there is an independent organization to enforce the concept that if Kramnik does not cooperate in that cycle, even if he withdraws for illnes, he will forfeit his title.



That is, at the very moment that we DON'T know who the next champion will be (we know the small group of finalists, but not the actual champion) we can say with certainty what the process for finding a challenger is. An event without this requirement may be a great match--but it will NOT be the World Championship unless it is part of an established cycle.


Kramnik needs to withdraw from the Russian champsionship for stress? Fine. But what about the stress that sponsors, press, and fans have felt over the last 3 years? What about the stress that we feel now?

The last 20 years have been a learning process for everyone. While other sports have seen the income of their professional players go up and up, chess cannot even hold its world championship on a regular basis.


We have learned that a championship needs most of the top 10 players to be considered legitimate. And we have learned that those players will not play unless the semifinals, at least, are att classical speeds. And we have learned that without massive government support, there simply aren't enough sponsors for the traditional candidates/interzonal system. And we have learned that blitz chess is a different skill than classical, and that it probably makes more sense to go back to the roulette wheel systems when two players are tied, at least before the final.

So, we get it. A big event as a qualifier. A candidates stage with 7 or 8 players, something like Linares. A classical final.

Or instead of a World Championship, a Best Player of the Year system, based on points as tennis does.

Or even both. But something legitimate with a regular cycle so that we can all take a guess at how soon OUR favorite players might reach the top.

Because, OK, Kramnik doesn't feel well enough to play his national champoinship. But the fans and the sponsors are sick at heart. Even the journalists are getting sick of covering this stuff.

Kramnik earned a title in October 2004. If he wants to keep it, he has six months to find a cure for OUR stress, too. :)

--the very tired duif


I am very tired today, I'm sure I misunderstood your intent. My apologies.


Ted: That goes for some of the top players, but for some it's the other way around. If Morozevich only played 2600-rated opponents he'd be above 2800 soon, while Kramnik is a typical example of someone who gains more rating points (or should I say loses fewer) against the world's best than against sub-2700'ers.


I think you have touched on part of it. Kramnik didn't feel at the absolute top of his game, and he realized he might lose enough rating points to be #4 or perhaps even #5 or #6 early next year--which would make it more difficult politically for him to refuse the winner of the Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov match.

And that realization probably added to his stress as well.

But mostly I think Kramnik doesn't play to win. He plays to discover the truth. It is not a style that attracts as much affection as a more competitive player, but it HAS taken him over 2700.

Brian Ober makes a nice analogy in comparing the chess world championship to the sport of boxing. There was a time when even people who didn't follow the sport knew who the heavyweight boxing champion of the world was. Now there are two or three, or more, heavyweight champions of the world who all make mega bucks and who knows who they are ?

But requiring the chess world champion to defend his title twice a year ? Good grief ! That's almost like the flavor of the month.

Kramnik should have played and let the results fall where they may. Tigran Petrosian felt free to play a more relaxed kind of chess in tournaments. Kramnik should have saved his "I'm a poor stressed out guy" excuse for after the fact, to explain why he didn't do well in the tournament. Who knows ? Perhaps he wouldn't have needed it, and could have saved it for later. And we would have been following his tournament games, 'cause he's the world champion. If he wants to avoid the spotlight, he's chosen the wrong career path. And, even if it is unfair to say so, he's tarnished his title.


Geof...you are quite right in saying that stress is the most single common form of ailment used by malingerers, and is essentially an excuse as it is hard to diagnose, and that such claims should be viewed with healthy skepticism. And, as you pointed out, some claims are quite valid. I don't know if Kramnik falls into this category or not. Does anyone know outside of his close friends?

Ted (your comment that it takes a brutally strong mind to win a world championship) and Duif's response (two types of players)are both interesting. I can certainly see Ted's reasoning. If you didn't have that mental stamina, you probably would be one of the "almost was champions".

Overall though I think I lean towards Duif's interpretation of things simply because even after all these years I still find people full of interesting and complex contradictions, and having a world champion with a legitimate stress-related disorder would be one of those interesting contradictions.

(and just to reiterate, I have no idea if Kramnik's condition is legitimate or not, I'm neither defending nor accusing because I don't have the facts...the only thing I can say is that I too am disappointed that he will not be playing).

--thanks to those who have written such interesting and intelligent posts; I know I'm going to be mulling over some of their thoughts during some rather boring meetings today--


Seems that Kramnik stress is not one moth after the match with Leko, is one week before the game with Kasparov & co. And I believe him.

Why does Kramnik have "the right not to play"? Players should have SOME duty to the organizers and sponsors. Especially so since Kramnik is the one responsible for the tournament being moved in the first place.

Put it another way - Kramnik has essentially devalued the sponsor's investment. This makes it less valuable and heck, less lucrative to sponsor the event. This means the sponsor is less likely to return, and you know where this conversation leads.

Of course, had Kasparov pulled this stunt, people would be screaming bloody murder at how Kasparov is a chicken because he's in bad form, etc.

Don't get me wrong, my interactions with Kramnik have been nothing but positive and professional, and I think he's truly a good guy. But he's done a lot of very stupid things from a chess business standpoint. It is bad enough that his style isn't "sponsor-friendly" (then again, I happen to really LOVE his style as a chessplayer), but when he starts publicly saying he's not interested in some parts of re-unification, he basically creates a self fulfilling prophecy, since it really damages the sponsor/organizer market.

Duif wrote:
"And we have learned that without massive government support, there simply aren't enough sponsors for the traditional candidates/interzonal system."

No we haven't "learned" this. This bald assertion is merely repeated over and over. A new match system should not be identical to the one in the 1960s. Nevertheless, there are plenty of match systems that have been suggested and would no doubt draw more interest to chess than a one big tournament KO you suggest. However I do agree with most of your other points.

As for the folks who are going to tell Kramnik what it takes to be world champion and that he must have a "brutally tough mind" I say: Fischer Morphy Steinitz. Not counting many others who proably played as stong as world champs.

I agree there should be some system in place that if a player drops out more than once he should be fined or some other action taken. Certainly it woudl be fair for sponsors to require this. It woudl seem that some sort of regulation on this would benefit all players and sponsors. - But this type of guarantee comes at some price.

Did the sponsors bargain for these sorts of guarantees in this tournament? If they didn't bargain for these types of guarantees (eg. that Kramnik would definitely show) that means they didn't pay more for that guarantee. If they didn't pay for a guarantee they don't get it. If they did they have thier contract that they can pursue. Whining about not gettign things you didn't pay for is sort of silly. This doesn't seem very complicated to me.

The chessbase article didn't say the stress was caused by the WC match which occured one month ago. Mig does say affirmatively say the WC match was the basis for his cancelation. I woudl be interested in knowing what is the source for this additional claim. Did the doctors note itself say this or did Kramnik say this or somethign else?

I will say that, if the WC match the only reason I think it is weak. Unless he has some other issue I jsut don't get it. I don't think chess is bad for your health. Now if there is some other anxiety diagnosis going on or whatever, than I'm glad Kramnik is going to sit it out. the *last* thing Chess needs is another nut job standing front and center. I don't think we have a right to insist on pawing through his psychological medical records to find out. So sayign the doctor needs to reveal more about his health especially mental health is overboard. I do think we should see how often it happens and if there is a problem address it. Or even make some guidlines now.

If he lost a game to Kasparov it would hardly be a big deal to him. It is and it always has been the case in chess that one game means nothing. If you want to prove anything you need to have a match.

As far as singing the same tuen about Kasparov I agree this ahs nothign to do with him so I won't mention his relationships with sponsors. However I wouls also note as a Kramnik Fan that hearing the same tune about short draws and that Kasparov supposedly had an off match also has nothign to do with this. Its jsut the same tune over and over. *Anything* reported about Kramnik and here we go again listening to claims about his draws and lucky match with Kasparov and again repeat that he is afraid of Kasparov. Talk about only knowing one tune.
Mig writes
"Here's a fun test. Under which circumstances would it be okay for a world champion to drop out of a supertournament (and the national championship) a week before it starts? A bad cold? Insomnia? The flu? Depression? Having played a match a month earlier? Tell that to the 99% of chessplayers who have to play through all that and worse because they need to put food on the table. Making a living playing chess is a privilege."

Mig don't you think this is a bit over the top. "tell that to the 99% of chess players who have to play through all that and worse because they need to put food on the table." I'm sorry I have to chuckle. What exactly does Kramnik have to do with these players plight? Is the evil Kramnik now not only canceling his tournament but also taking the bread from other GM's babie's mouths?

Talking about privilege and what this or that guy "should" get in my mind gets us nowhere but further from reality. Fact is they can get what people are willing to pay to have them play. there are certian things that as a group players and others can do to help increase the amounts for everyone. Kramnik has tried to do this more than other WCs. But until thats done declaring "Kramniks has it too easy" or "other GMs have it too tough" is like spitting in the wind.
Kramnik can earn more money at chess because he is perceived as better than these other players. This perception means people want to watch him more than the 99% of GMs. Fight this all you want but the chess will continue to suffer because of its refusal to acknowedge reality.

I'd like to cut away all the "afraid of rating" and such, imagine whomever else than Kramnik as WC, and return to Migs question about under what circumstances it would be ok to withdraw.

My first thought was you keep your word! Unless we’re talking GBH here you play! However some more thinking (a dangerous thing) lead me to think that if we’re looking at chess as a sport, it doesn’t take much before sprinter or swimmer knows he’ll be trashed, a small cold is enough, and we don’t complain to much about a withdrawal it either…

So now I’ve ruined my own argument, don’t know exactly what to think, other than that I think we can demand a bit more from a chess player than from someone in a “physical” sport.

PS: just a small commet to those who are complaining about the missing balanced reporting while reading a BLOG named DAILY DIRT, did you also miss the mah-jong pieces in the Kramnik-Leko match?

I would like to give Kramnik the benefit of the doubt for the reason that he doesn’t have a track record for this sort of activity. Morozevich (one of my favorite players), on the other hand, does have a history of pulling out of events at the last second and deserves to be criticized. I must admit though that my first thought when I read the story, my initial gut reaction, was that Kramnik was suffering from Kasparovitis. Stress, however, can be a very real illness and should not be taken lightly. The evolving tangle of Kramnik’s hairdo during the World Championship match is enough to tell the tale:







If this had been a regular 24 game match then Kramnik would have ended up looking like Yussupow by the end of the contest. Let’s just hope that this cancellation is an anomaly, not a trend of top tier players which Leko might later refer to as, “being professional.”


I agree with everything you said, in particular the fact that a player of Kramnik's level dropping out causes some injury to the sponsors.

When I said "Kramnik has a right to withdraw," I just meant there's no point in tying him to a chair and making him sit there while the clock runs.

I did NOT mean it should happen without any consequences, financial or otherwise.

So I'm sorry if I didn't state things well.


I think this is much ado about nothing ..

here are some other instances of top GMs bailing:

Kasparov 2002 WAZ because of flu
Moro - Dos Hermanas '98, WAZ '99 becos of flu
Karpov 2003 in Bali due to conflict with organizers about plane's late arrival

If you add Kramnik russian super final 2004 because of stress doesnt seem too bad, does it? To present a balanced view, my counter to all of you saying this is the first time Kramnik bailed, didnt he pull a similar stunt with a category 19 tournament in Sarajevo and was replaced by Short?

as nfm says, did the sponsors have a guarantee and if they did, they are entitled to compensation. And regarding organizers changing the dates just to accommodate Kramnik ... it is their problem since from the above examples top GM withdrawals have happened before.

And as Heine points out earlier it is not that Kramnik can be accused of inactivity this year .. he has played 52 games to Kasparov's 24!

If Kramnik acquires a reputation for late withdrawals like Moro has, it will hurt his pocket in the long run since appearance fees will go down. So the market will discipline awols and while kramnik not playing is a disappointment, we dont really need mig blowing hot and cold over this ...

May I also add that I couldnt find a single instance of GM Anand withdrawing because of stress, flu or any such thing although I came across him playing several times under these conditions. There is a possibility I may be wrong but a google search didnt yield anything.

Kramnik said in the interview after the WC match, During the match, he suffered from serious sickness and he will make sure that it wont haunt him again. I am wondering what kind of sickness is this? Sickness that, he was going to loose to Leko and now again to Kasparov?

Seems like Kramnik is preparing to do a "Fischer".

Ganzy, I don't know if you ever had a flu or not, but let me tell you that a flu is so much worse than a "stress" that is ailing Kramnik.
And yes, a flu is much worse than a cold too.

Dionyseus, if you are unaware of how much stress can affect your overall health, it is relatively easy to get a clue nowadays with the help of this "Internet" thing. All these comments on the "bah, just some stress" theme are sickening me.

Nope, I don't buy that argument at all, Acirce, sorry, especially when he had a month of rest.

dionyseus, i'm sure you'd reconsider after you faced that same level of stress every day for over two weeks. i would be willing to bet that kramnik's stress was slowly elevated with each passing day...think about how much time it would take him to unwind after that. you can't forget that kramnik is a smoker, and such a strenous match must have been hell on him.

also, nobody ever considered that he may need at least a month's break from chess after having to focus solely on it for months prior to and during the match. i know that he does this for a living, but at some point i'm sure even kramnik can't take any more. playing in this tournament is probably the last thing he wants to do and physically/mentally can do.

to be honest, i'm pissed he won't play, but i definitely feel he has a good reason.

It is funny to me to read that it has nothing to do with rating that he would drop out. Because guess what, chess can actually be fun and relaxing, too! It would ONLY be his rating that could suffer if he were to say, "I am suffering from stress but I am going to honor my committment to play here, but I am going to play this one just for fun, ie. no preparation, no late nights, no really deep analysis otb, just playing lightly and easily by intuition. I know- naive. But it is true- it would only be his rating that would suffer. If you try to say other players in the tournament would suffer I disagree, if some players would lose to Kramnik when he is not applying himself then that is their own weakness. Yes, 99% of the time for these guys chess has to be their profession and must be played for blood. But, Kramnik is in the position at the top already, and I for one would really admire someone like him having the honesty to say that chess can also be a relaxing, fun recreation. You can't tell me the rating doesn't play a role, becasue that is what makes the top players not even consider doing what I have outlined.

Someone above mentioned having the world championship twice a year. That would water down the title and make it disappear from the news (much like we face today...). I suggest that the world championship cycle should run every two years. I also really want to see action chess separated from classical chess completely. Have different rating systems for them; have an Fast Chess World Champion if you want, but keep it out of classical chess.

According to chesspro.ru, Khalifman has been cut from the field after Kramnik's dropout to keep the number of players even. I believe his participation had been by invitation rather than directly qualifying, so it makes since that if you are doing a cut, he takes the hit.


So just because Kramnik decided to run away from Kasparov at the last minute, Khalifman gets penalized as well?

The arguments here are getting more and more ridiculous. looking at some of those:

a. Kramnik is trying to save his rating by not playing - As acirce has pointed out, Kramnik has played more than double the games that kasparov has played in the last two years. If anybody is avoiding playing to keep high rating, it is Kaspy not Kramnik.

b. Kramnik is running away from competition - If that was his intent, he wouldn't have agreed to participate in the first place. It looks like he tried his best to get tourmanent ready and dropped out when he couldn't do so. What about Kasparov dropping out of Olympiad when there was no apparent reason (according to Mig, it was probably about money). His absence cost Russia more in Olympiad than Kramnik's will in this championship.

c. It is Kasparov who is used to giving excuses whenever he doesn't do well (some medical reason, rust, involvement in politics etc.). Kramnik has rarely done that.

Mig, is there a source that points to Kramnik being responsible for postponing the tournament to November?


Instead of removing Khalifman, they should include Rublevsky (given his current form). In any case, why blame Kramnik for that. It is upto the organizers to add or remove a player to keep the number even.

In the spirit of other wild accusations in this discussion, let me speculate that it was Kasparov who prevailed upon the organizers to not include Rublevsky instead (as he lost to him recently) :)


Kapalik, you conveniently left out the strong argument that Kramnik bailed out because if Kasparov manages to win a game against him, it would strengthen Kasparov's claim to being Kasimdzhanov's proper challenger.
Kramnik also mentioned that Kasparov's form hasn't been well lately, so how would it look if he lost to Kasparov?

Hurray!I think its much better Kramnik not to play in the Russian Championship so we dont have to suffer looking at his games!!Who wants to see Kramnik making his draws?? NOBODY!

Again checking the Fide Page gives:
Kasparov in 2004: 3 wins 20 draws and 1 loss. 83.3% Draws.
Kramnik: 9 wins 39 Draws and 3 5 losses 73.5 % Draws.

Looking at the WC match in 2000 and 2004 there was 10 draws in 25 or less moves. Kasparov was white in 4, Leko in 4 and Kramnik in 2( both against Leko)

5 losses, not 3.5.....

Your draw percentage depends a lot on the level of your opposition. Looking again at http://members.aon.at/sfischl/cl2004.txt it shows that the three players (Leko, Kramnik, Kasparov) who have the highest number in the "Average Opposition" column are also the ones with the highest percentage of draws of those in the top. Of course there are many exceptions to such an observation, and of course it also depends on style and such.

I Agree. The stronger opposition, the more likely a higher draw percentage.

For 2004 Kramnik played against 2717 average and Kasparov 2693.

Hey Heine, you should check out which top player has the most short draws. Oh wait, I already did. With no more than 10 moves, here's how the list looks:
Kasparov 0
Anand 4
Kramnik 10
Morozevich 4
Topalov 4
Leko 3
Adams 15
Svidler 4
Polgar 2
Shirov 9

So we got Kasparov with zero less than 10 move draws, but in the other end of the spectrum we have Kramnik with ten and Adams with 15.

Hmm, let's increase that to no more than 12 moves and see what happens. Ah, Kramnik has 29 games that ended in a draw with no more than 12 moves, while Adams had 25.

There you have it, Kramnik is the champion of the short draws. Thank you.

Dionyseus, don't be ridiculous. You're taking those stats from the chessgames.com base, which you know is unreliable for a number of reasons. More than that, you don't take into account when the games were played (Kramnik has NO draw in less than ten moves since 1994) the total number of games in the base in question (Kramnik has almost three times as many as Morozevich, meaning the latter has a higher rate of ultra-short draws than the former), etc. That means absolutely nothing.

You're just desperately clutching at straws to make Kramnik look bad at all costs. I don't know why you hate him so much. Sure it's your right, but don't make a fool out of yourself.

Hmm, you claim Morozovich has more ultra short draws than Kramnik? How about you prove that?
And I don't care if Kramnik hasn't had a draw with less than 10 moves played since 1994, what I care about is the fact that Kasparov never had a draw with 10 or less moves ever. That's quite impressive.

I note that in this awe-inspiring 9 move draw by Morozevich, you call him "Drawozevich," and "Bring in Kramnik and Leko." http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1267483
Well Acirce, it seems you have not seen this beautiful 8 move draw here by Kramnik: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1085575
Or this one: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1051983
And this one: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1085858

The discussion is ridiculous in itself. I'm just going to show you what I mean, using your sources. Morozevich has 552 games in that base and 4 draws in maximum 10 moves. Kramnik has 1581 games and 10 such draws.

4/552 = 0.72%
10/1581 = 0.63%

making Moro's rate higher.
Do you agree that such stats are completely irrelevant? And who cares about fractions of percents anyway? As for my comment to that game, most posters realized that it was obviously a joke; look it up.

No, I disagree strongly. Using the same sources you're using, if you increase it to draws with no more than 12 moves, Morozevich only has 5 compared to Kramnik's 29!

i think you guys should end this here and now...regardless of who's right. all further posts not related to the discussion will be terminated lol.

I should have summed up my point on this absurd stats game more briefly to begin with: "Who cares?" There, let's move on.

One quick thought before moving on...Kasparov had to clear sections of his calendar to allow for the possible Ponomariov match (and preparation for it), so it's not surprising if the total number of games he played was down over that period.


I think the problem is the huge amount of draws not including a real struggle. And if non-events lasts 8 or 20 moves dosent matter much.

I will give Kasparov the credit that many of his draws are interesting struggles, but in sheer numbers he Outdraws Kramnik quite clearly in 2004.

In the inactivity discussion its a fair Point that Kramnmiks match happened, and Kasparovs not. Thus 14 more games for Kramnik, but thats all. They both had to clear sections of thier calender due to insecurity about when their match was happening.

Heine: One difference though is that 8-move draws are almost always "non-games" - they just throw out some well-known theory moves and shake hands - while 20-move ones, of course not always, can be full of fight although it just ends earlier than usual and although it may not look that way at a quick glance. To me there is a real difference although it might look subtle.

Here's some light (hopefully) rather than heat on this subject: The official Russian Chess Federation, at its Superfinal website, looking for filler before the games begin on Monday, has actually contacted - no, you can't reach Vlady, he doesn't answer his phone OR e-mails - his PERSONAL PHYSICIAN/SHRINK, who has condescended to tell us What's Eating Vlady Kramnik.

Apparently, the boy got so used to sleeping with the windows open, in the lovely late-fall weather at Brissago, he wasn't smart enough to close them when a cold snap came through. Oh yes, antibiotics, the whole deal, and yes, all those short draws were a major stalling tactic while hoping his sinuses would clear.


So anyway, he was sick then; he's sick now; so sorry, can't play, ta-ta - oh, and I now have this blonde bombshell to nurse me back to health.

You know what? This is so much fun, I'm going to go ahead and translate the piece. Look for it today or tomorrow at my new site, http://www.geocities.com/j_marfia/Russian_Chess_Translated.html - just start reading at 2004 Russian Championship!


My point is that 8-move draws is in no way ruining modern top chess. Wasnt the last one in 1994 you said?

The discussion seems to focus on the high number of draws. Thus I found some statistics from 2004 interesting. Kasparovs 83% and Kramniks 73% just indicates that the problem exits, and is not limitited to a few persons with a drawish reputation.

Kramnik has issued a press release, which Chessbase has in English:


It's nicely stated, and acknowledges the fans and the organisers in a positive way.

He says he is under doctors' orders not to play for the rest of the year.

I have no idea what his specific illness is, but having fostered medical children, I can say I myself know of at least two illnesses that would fit this category: hepatitis and mononucleosis. I'm sure there are many more.

That is, there are definitely some illnesses that take some time to treat and require rest, quiet, and avoiding stress as part of the treatment. Whether or not GM Krmanik's condition falls into any of these categories I do not know. But it is possible for this to occur. There have beem several Olympic athletes in the past sidelined for months, even missing critial events, due to similar illnesses, and there is never any question about their motivation.

It may be that the initial announcement wasn't clearly stated/translated--that it was not stress causing him to withdraw, but rather an illness that required him to avoid stress.

So I hope that the illness affecting GM Kramnik is one of the more minor kinds, that it will run its course smoothly, and that he will recover fully soon.


Looks like the comment where Kasparov is the 2nd oldest in the tournament was true - since Karpov has withdrawn. Guess Kasparov knew about it early.

Players are dropping out of the Russian Champs faster than the jurors who dropped out of the Scott Peterson case! By the time the first round starts, they'll be lucky if they have 6 players.

I wonder if Kramnik's "stress" had anything to do with his tournament preparation? This is just speculation on my part, but perhaps Kramnik thought that he would have time to prepare for the upcoming tournament after his World Championship match, but afterwards he found that he was too emotionally exhausted after the match to do any serious tournament preparation work. And so, too stressed out to do tournament preparation, he bails out with the excuse that "stress" prohibits him from participating. As I understand it, tournament preparation is extremely important at that level of chess.

Now that it is established from the russian websites that Kramnik is ill and not playing under doctor's advice, shouldnt mig withdraw all his snide comments or at a minimum state the facts as prominently as the "Kramnik Bails" DD?

"Established"? As much as I would like to entertain your suggestion of Stalinistic revisionism, that's not the way things work around here. There were no factual errors in my original post and there is nothing to be corrected. If Kramnik wanted to play he could play and I'm believe many other players would under identical circumstances. When you are 1) the world champion and 2) a player who requested that the tournament be moved to guarantee your participation, you show up. I doubt the 60-year-old Tsheshkovsky is under less risk of strain.

"In the course of the match I unfortunately contracted an illness that I have not yet overcome." --Kramnik (World Chess Champion)

"If Kramnik wanted to play he could play."
--Mig (Well-known Kramnik supporter and long-distance physician.)

Funny, I thought it was "stress." He figured nobody would say anything. After it was pointed out that this was both late and abusive, it was upgraded to an illness.

More to the point, I'm not saying he isn't at his best. I'm saying you show up anyway in this situation. Chess can be stressful, even exhausting under some circumstances, but this isn't boxing. Dropping out of an invitational chess event is a huge luxury. It says you are a flake (Morozevich) or are secure/rich enough to not care about the event in question or that it might affect future invitations.

Serious illness is of course an issue, but Tony Miles playing from a gurney comes to mind. You guys will have him half dead soon enough.

As a bonus: Organizers are additionally pissed because they'd already printed the tickets/invitations with Kramnik on them. Nice souvenir!

We heard no references to "flakes," "not caring," "gutting it out" and "Tony Miles' gurney" when Kasparov cancelled out of the Corus tournament because of "flu". You may have used respectful language such as "disappointing."

Can you (without seing or speaking with Kramnik or his doctor) determine that Kramnik was better able to play chess this week than was Kasparov when that gentleman "bailed out" of Corus? Is "flu" always more serious than "stress" (if that's the proper translation from the Russian)?

Or are the views you've taken regarding Kasparov's withdrawl from Corus and Kramnik's withdrawl twelve days before the Russian championship simply based on your personal relationships (or lack thereof) with each man?

Speaking from memory again, Greg? Since by now we all know you hurl such criticism without doing any homework, I freely discard it for what it is. This blog didn't exist then. Last time you were lying ("Mig didn't criticize Kasparov about the Linares tantrum!"); this time you might as well accuse me of not criticizing Alekhine for not giving Capablanca a rematch. I guess I must be an Alekhine ass-kisser since I chose not to be born then.

Nor do I recall them having moved Corus several months to accomodate Kasparov.

I've already confessed many, many, many times to the heinous crime of writing differently about Kasparov because he is my friend. That doesn't mean I go rougher on Kramnik and the other 90% of chessplayers because I don't go to the movies with them. Crying "Kasparov bias!" after every post (even, bizarrely, those with nothing to do with Kasparov like this one) has become something of a mania and I only hope it is treatable.

Then there is the matter of possible motives in both bail-out cases, but that's conjecture on top of conjecture.

And please skip the swath of extra space at the end of your posts. Thanks.

Well. Mig, I've emailed you asking where I can find your old "Mig on Chess" columns on the internet so I can "do my homework." No response from you. I'd still welcome that info.

I did find the first six "Mig on Chess" columns, and then an odd one here and there. The first six are quite fresh, cheerful, positive. Very different from the cutting snideness that so often arises these days.

My guess is that your continued association with the ex-champion has caused you "cognitive dissonance." If you're around somebody with a history of boorishness, who's lavish with his criticism of other players, it either grates on you each time or you begin falling in with that tone.

Lying? Re Kasparov's tantrum after the Radjabov brilliancy prize I truthfully stated, "I can't recall this column EVER calling Kasparov unprofessional. I can't recall this column ever using the snide "note from his mama" language with reference to Kasparov." If I'm mistaken, please let me know.

I think your readers are looking for some consistency. If snide and disrespectful writing is not appropriate for your friend,Kasparov, then maybe many of your readers don't find it appropriate when that objectionable tone is applied to their favorite players, whose overall conduct is, compared with Kasparov's, far less problematic.

Ah, so it's not that I have never criticized Kasparov, it's that I haven't used the exact same phrases! Now it's clear. I'm supposed to be more repetitive and boring. I'll work on it.

Yes, when you get to know people you lose some of the cheerful innocence. Human nature. And seven years of covering the chess world full time will make a cynic of anyone capable of cognition.

As for Kasparov's lavish criticism, please post some links and quotes. Other than about Kramnik, who he feels has let down chess and the title he cherished, I don't recall that much. Maybe a few dumb things after losing the title in 2000. I'm not nominating him for a peace prize, but acting like he's committed crimes against humanity for being a loudmouth is way out of hand.

Just received Mig's response re the location of some of the old "Mig on Chess" columns on a "New in Chess" CD and that others, from ClubKasparov, etc. have not yet been assembled.

Nah....criticism of Kasparov is generally swaddled in cotton. Words matter.

I will attempt to assemble examples of Kasparov's "lavish criticisms" of other players.

Since you didn't object to Kasparov's "history of boorishness" I won't post any of those examples.

Mig says "There were no factual errors in my original post and there is nothing to be corrected." Mig again I will ask where your source for saying Kramnik "claimed stress *from his title defense against Leko*" This is a factual matter. Either he claimed it was strees from his title match or he didn't. I don't know if he did or not. You published the only article making this factual claim that I know of. I am still curious if you have a source or if you made that fact up.

Do you think Words really matter? Who cares what Kramnik, Kasparov or others say? All that matters to Chess fans is their Chess games. Their games speak of themselves more than their words. We dont appreciate a Chess player because of their noble sayings and no Chess. We only like them because of their great Games.

Yes, Knight. Words matter. That's why we're here writing and reading them. Follow the previous several posts and you'll see I was referring to the blogmaster's words.

During the official press conference to open the Russian Championship, IA Alexander Bach stated very specifically that he had received a letter form Paris, from Kramnik's doctors, saying that "the match against Leko had caused Kramnik such tremendous stress that it would be determinental to Kramnik's health to play for several months." This was first reported in Russian at Chesspro.ru, and is available in English near the bottom of the page at:


It must be noted that there are several possible places where a translation error or a mistunderstanding could creep in here. It is possible that Kramnik has an illness that is aggravated by stress, rather than that the illness is stress itself. Without seeing the original letter, it is hard to say.

But certainly the first reports in Russian were that IA Bach had said it was the stress of the match.

Kramnik's LATER personal press release said rather that it was an illness that requiried ongoing treatment.

So I don't know if Kramnik or his doctors ever made the statement about the match stress, and I haven't seen the Paris letter itself published anywhere.

But the report at chesspro.ru about the announcement at the Championship press conference definitely did include this statement.

But remember that we are talking about an English translation of a Russian report of a letter in French. So it is unclear where the inconsistencies (stress vs illness requiring an avoidance of stress) crept in, but it's not unreasonable that they did so.


Thanks Duif. I must say I do think its lame if it is just the stress of the match and nothing else. "Botvinnik had said that after a world championship match the players needed at least half a year to completely recover from the strain." Give me a break. There was something wrong with him if it took that long.

Whats going on with Kasparov and FIDE?? Can we expect another schism before "reunificiation"?

from TWIC - "Vladimir Kramnik withdrew saying he was still suffering ill effects from the flu he suffered from during his match against Leko." So it wasn't stress?

2-3 month rest should be OK. What do you think?

2or 3 months of doing nothing?? I don't know what the theory is here but if you can really do nothign but relax I would think 1 week is fine. Paul Morphy traveled to Europe by ship and then traveled thoughout europe(in I don't know what) playing one match after another. In between he held some blindfold simuls! Of course he got kind of wierd after that but hey. Wasn't he playign chess?

This reminds me of the old Russian myth that blindfold chess causes psychological injury. It just seems ridiculous to me.

Now, of course, if there is something else going on - say he is physically sick, or he has other stressors goign on in his life, or does inded have some sort of psychological issue that needs to be addressed, or he can't really rest durign this time, then absolutely. Thats why I think we shoudl give him the benefit of the doubt.

Overall the sponsors made it clear that they were fine with it so I don't think *we* should make a big deal of it.

I mean 2-3 months of no Chess, but doing other small things like spending time with family, visiting places etc should be OK. I believe too much of Chess, studying, and match playing can break a person mentally. If Botvinnik is saying 6 months is required, still I agree with him. Botvinnik method of study was legendary as we all know. Morphy I believe had a natural talent like Capablanca. I read somewhere Anand wont even look at Chess for many days. Some days only for few mts. On the otherhand Kramnik said in one of his interviews, he studies atleast 1000 tournament games every month.
But in this case, Kramnik might have thought he wont be using all his energy playing Leko. He barely survived this match.

Right when I said doing nothing I really meant doign whatever he wants. Taking a break.

Certainly there are other jobs jsut as stressful as chess. Brain surgeons, Nasa engineers during a mission with lives and a gazillion dollars on the line, Lawyers during huge class action trials which lasts months, Soldiers at war, Penn and Teller's job (especially tellers) I could go on. I don't think these guys take 6 months after every event. But anyway I am interested to hear if there is something unique to chess. Maybe because a very specific part of the brain is exercised it make it tougher for chessplayers. I don't know.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 9, 2004 5:46 PM.

    Places to Play Chess was the previous entry in this blog.

    Free Speech is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.