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Blitzed in Kolkata

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From indianexpress.com on 3rd-round action at the Kolkata Open.

In an unusual incident at the ongoing Kolkata Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament on Thursday, a top-rated French player had to concede his game after he couldn't sit through his match against his opponent. Reason -- he showed up drunk at the venue, slept through his moves several times over, and eventually had to be carried off.

No bonus points for guessing who it was. One of our favorite, well, one of the only, chess party animals. Last time for something like this? I believe there was a "sporting violation" of sorts when most of the members of a team showed up much the worse for wear at a Russian team championship last year. Drunk vs hungover isn't really a line we need to walk, I suppose. Did they test his BAC?

The match lasted over an hour, with the French player repeatedly dozing off while contemplating a move. Each time he fell asleep, players around would try to wake him up with a shake of the shoulder. Some even offered him water, and Tkachiev, having briefly refreshed himself at the change room while his opponent waited, dozed off again and eventually had to be carried off. Russian-born Tkachiev, aged 35, is an accomplished chess player, and had played against Viswanathan Anand in the World Chess Championship Knockout back in 2001. Chess star Nigel Short, the biggest attraction at the event, expressed his disgust at the incident, advising the organisers to promptly eject him from the tournament.

But he apparently came back to play in the next round. The UK Times has a little more, extrapolating from the Indian Express original, doing some googling, and adding some background to paint the recently crowned French champion as more suitably Dionysian. Over on the other boards where people were conscious and presumably sober, the resurgent insurgent, Nigel Short, freshly returned to #1 UK status, started out his third consecutive event with a 3/3 score. He then gave up a draw to sit a half-point back of Chanda. Top seed Mamedyarov hung a pawn to 13.Nxa5 in the 4th round and lost.


I was reading about this incident on Chessbase where GM Tkachiev's Israeli friend spoke at length about this. I thought that was unwarranted. What's this obsession with people and the media to wash peoples' dirty laundry in public. What was the need to dig deeper (about his struggle with depression, alcoholism etc.) and put it out for everyone to read? Wasn't it enough that he was reported for showing up drunk? Why the added spice?

Although I'll grant that the Israeli GM-friend had good intentions (to defend his friend from the wrath of the organizers), and I'm specifically referring to the media. Let's not give this incident more coverage than is necessary at the cost of someone's private life.

Exactly my thoughts. That "friend" turned the story from a annoying yet somewhat funny bit about a russian guy showing up dead-drunk for a chess game in India into a pathetic life-struggle story of a chronic alcoholic. If I were Tkachiev I would be sooo very pissed.

FYI: The chessbase piece has been updated with a eyewitness account. (wonder who, Short?)

Kogan: Thy name is Frenemy :-P

"If I were Tkachiev I would be sooo very pissed".

But hopefully not in the British sense :)

Now Kogan gets plenty of blame for his letter - along with IronMan and unlike playjunior and jaideepblue, I will at least give him the benefit of doubt that he had good intentions and that he is a genuine friend of Tkachiev.
Some facts:
1) The letter was addressed at the organizers, not the media
2) We do not even know if Kogan was aware of, informed of and agreeing with the fact that the organizers then shared his letter with others. I kinda doubt it, as Kogan wrote (near the end, his typos): "personaly I don't think that is in the benefit of chess to publish such cases in the world media. I would apreciate if you treat this case with maximum respect."

As far as media are concerned: The organizers didn't (and still don't) mention the incident on the tournament webpage, but it was immediatley picked up by mainstream media - first in India, then worldwide (New York Times, Guardian, German Bild-Zeitung, ...). Only then chess sites also wrote about it, guess it's hard to ignore such news altogether.

With additional information from Kogan available (regardless of the fact if Chessbase should have published it or not), I would question playjunior's use of the word 'pathetic' - depression and alcoholism are illnesses, to some extent comparable with flu or cancer. I would also suggest that Mig removes the "funny" tag for this story.

I am glad that people here seem to see it as I do: not something to dwell on. Some anonymous person is quoted as being terribly prim about it all on Chessbase.

Yea, now we learn that a Russian dude who over-drinks from time to time has a flu. You're a genious, Thomas.

The Chessbase piece alludes to an incident with Mary Ann Gomes in Dresden. Anyone know what that was about? I don't seem to recall reading anything like that before...

basically she went to the bermuda party and returned really late

You are a genius putting those words into my mouth (pen or keyboard). I didn't say Tkachiev "has a flu", all I said that - unless Kogan made things up - he is seriously ill and it's NOT simply a case of occasional over-drinking. While illnesses (also flu or cancer) may be self-inflicted, at a certain stage you need professional help to be cured.

Regarding the apparent anti-Russian tone in your comment: I once (more than ten years ago) won a blitz game against a totally drunk Armenian GM. Unlike for Tkachiev's opponent, it required still some effort from my side. But later, just as Tkachiev he couldn't continue playing and needed help from others to reach his hotel room and bed.
[I won't give his name, he is currently top 20 in the Armenian ELO list - if anyone wants to know it could be narrowed down to just a few candidates]

Live now, by the way: http://www.monroi.com/watch/?tnm_id=1314

Sadly no Tkachev, but it looks to me as if Short might be winning a very neat ending...

Oops, spoke too soon :) It's just been drawn. I'd missed that Bc7 is simply defended by Bd8.

"I would also suggest that Mig removes the "funny" tag for this story."

I second that. It is simply tragic. I hope Tkachiev gets all the help he needs.

Of course being ill doesn't absolve him from any responsibility, though.

There is no apparent anti-Russian tone in my comment. On documented footage of Russian GMs drinking and rolling over their opponents next day, I recommend Kramnik's DVD, where he tells about his first Olympic experience.

Our folks drink too, indeed. Maybe not the current team, but previously, (in particular when Vaganian was in), I have heard of stories about glorious boys-night-outs before an important match. I play drunk blitz myself on the internet, and I assure you I have nothing against it. Actually drunk posting should be encouraged IMO.

While posting without having any sense of humour should not. That gives me a flu, reading your posts. And it is pathetic, although not cancerous I believe, to accuse me of being anti-Russian; not based on my posts here but merely because I accused you of favouring European players and venues for non-objective reasons.

And yes, what happened is kind of funny. Not professional, but funny.

From the Chessbase's "eye-witness" account:

"...but most particularly... guilty of gross professional misconduct...strongly advised...breaching all forms of decency...without any ado...grossly abused... exceedingly lenient...".

Should Short's chess renaissance be ascribed to a surfeit of cakes from Mr. Kipling? Does he get an extra plum in his mouth for becoming British #1? Or does that just happen when chaps from good old Blighty spend a lot of time in the colonies, gracing the natives with their presence?

I am pretty sure Short is not the author of Chessbase's eye-witness account. Short is treated as a superstar in India and has had schedules and round times changed in India. He doesn't need to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. It is most likely some Indian player who is afraid of retribution.

The Kogan letter did indicate that Tkachiev had been sober for three months or so. Therefore this could just be a one-off thing and not a return to alcoholism. He must have been drinking all day to be sloshed to that extent. I'm not sure why the arbiters waited an hour or so before defaulting him. He should have been defaulted immediately. I'm surprised that he actually managed to show up to the board in that state. It's not the end of the world that he showed up drunk, so I don't think he should have been ejected from the tournament. Just a warning not to do it again would suffice with a threat of ejection.

Believe it or not, my reply had nothing to do with your earlier accusations against me (which I still consider largely unfounded) - I would have answered in the same way to anyone else. "Russian dude" sounds just a bit derogatory, and suggests that Russians are the only ones with a drinking problem. Just the impression I got, and "apparent" was meant to imply that I wasn't sure about it.
To list a few players with known alcohol problems (by country of origin or ancestry): Woitkiewicz was Polish, Ehlvest is Estonian, Tal was Latvian [for Tal, I am not aware of any incidents or scandals - but I guess it is safe to say that alcohol was partly responsible for his fragile health and early death].
So, if anything, it is primarily an eastern European or ex-Soviet issue. By comparison, Timman and Adams also seem(ed) to enjoy a few drinks, but I never heard of incidents or scandals ... .

BTW, give Kramnik a break ... : he was 16 at his first Olympiad, I guess many of us had teenage habits which we later abandoned or practiced less frequently. And for the Russian team spirit _and_ results, it might even be better to share a few drinks in the evening (even at the prize of a hangover the next day), then if players hardly talk to each other?

Finally about humor: I have my own sense of humor and irony, but I think it is out of place regarding the current topic.

The stress and climate of India, plus a dose of food poisoning, could make the effects of a few drinks much worse.

Seems to me to be much ado about nothing. I'm sure there are rules and consequences and that they were/will be carried out. Case closed.

Depression and drinking is a powerful, hard to break circle. I wish him luck with that.

Relapses are to be expected when someone is getting out , no big deal with that , i too wish him luck with that and humble suggest him to start running very often .

Perhaps GM Short should be more sympathetic -- being drunk at the board is a much lesser crime than to try to run off with the FIDE world championship title in some breakaway effort. Some people have longer memories than others.

I disagree. I respect a former World Champ Challenger for asking for a little decorum and professionalism from a top 60 player. I have chess pride.

Nigel Short is a big a$$hole. I remember his attitude at various instances, such as the Kamsky incident a few years ago. In this story, he again showed what a self righteous jerk he is.

I'm sure you can say a lot of things about Short, but I don't think he was to blame in any "Kamsky incident". In fact, I entirely understand him.

chesspride is right though. And Kasparov at least recognized that blunder as a blunder. Short defends the 1993 breakaway to this day.

I won't discuss the 1993 breakaway, but regarding Short's role and motivation in (commenting on) the current incident, two questions arise:

1) Was he fully aware of Tkachiev's situation? I doubt it .. so far most sources (including Mig here) just portrayed him as a "happy party animal" - only now the other side of the medal is mentioned [or did I miss something earlier?]

2) How disturbing was Tkachiev's behavior to the other players? If he was just silently asleep, I would say "no big deal" - it's anyone's own choice to look at Tkachiev rather than the position on your board. If he was snoring loudly or kept bumping into others while awake and going to the toilet, it's another story.

BTW, I agree with howler that the anonymous Chessbase source was probably not Short. The eye-witness account mentions internal Indian affairs (G.N. Gopal, Mary Ann Gomes) - something Short may not even know, or at least wouldn't really care about?

Short has suffered enough for his sins. No other GM in history has had as many lousy puns made on his name.

Mary Ann Gomes is a reasonably cute female chess player. I'd lay long odds that Short has linked her on Facebook at the very least. In fact frankly if he didn't try and pull her at the Bermuda party I'd be mildly surprised.

Nor it is possible that Short doesn't know about Tkachiev's problems. I did, and I'm hardly on the international scene. I hope he finds a way through. I was lucky enough to play him once and he was a lot more civil afterwards than most top 60 GMs who've just rolled over angliskii patzer.

It strikes me the thing could have been handled with a lot more decency. It's pretty hard to imagine Artur Kogan meant the organisers to post his letter on the internet, for example. The best solution is the one a friend of mine adopted when in the same position against a rather less well-known Russian GM, who strangely enough had failed to recover in time from a drinking session with none other than Vlad T. After a couple of attempts to wake him up my friend simply stopped the clocks, wrote 1/2-1/2 on both scoresheets, signed them with his name and his opponent's, took them up to the front desk and beat a hasty retreat. That's how such matters are dealt with among gentlemen.

Interesting comments, rdh. Sounds exactly right on both Short and (what would have been) the best way to handle Tkachiev.

For what it's worth, I find it really hard to imagine anyone other than Short writing that eye-witness account. That supercilious, class-swot tone is hard to pull off if you're not soaked in the atmosphere; it's unmistakable, vintage Short, and not at all the sort of thing a native Indian would write.

I see no problems with the arbiter trying to wake up Tkachiev. In the interests of the sport, his job is to ensure that the sponsors and spectators get to see both players slugging it out OTB instead of them slacking.

Secondly, as a human, it's important to find out if the player needs any medical attention. Just letting him be that way on the table is stupid and it could lead to something more serious if not attended to immediately.

To argue that waking up a player during a game is unlawful is very stupid of Short and others arguing this position.

You never know from the first glance if a player is simply tired, drunk or seriously ill, or maybe a combination of the above. Maybe he just had a hard attack?

I think that a player should definitely be woken up, probably by arbiter, because it is simply not normal for a game of chess to take place between a player who is awake and a sleeping player. The very fact that a player is sleeping indicates abnormality.

Only after this a penalty can be assessed if the sleeping player was drunk or in some other way breached the rules. That would make sense.

But letting a sleeping player sleep till his flag drops is not only stupid, but would be of a deep concern to players' health and safety. I wouldn't want to be let dying at the chessboard if I had a heart attack or something. Yes, of course, the probability of this happening in chess tournaments is very low, but it may still happen. So I think Mr Short should re-think his approach to the issue of making it illegal to wake up a player.

There is reason for Short behavior in current situation. Normally, Short is friendly fellow but in this case, he and Tkachiev had problems in past. There is rumor among European circuit of player that Tkachiev (who is good looking and "lady's man") had affair (romance) with wife of Short. This was a couple years ago but old wound take time to heal, as it is said.

Let's hope Tkachiev gets to write Short's obituary, then!

Nigel Short's latest statement or version:
"As Professor Anantharam [chief arbiter] rightly argued, there was, in fact, a good argument for waking Tkachiev up, as the commotion caused by his methylated somnolence was disturbing to overyone. However this should have been done to forfeit him and to remove him from the playing venue, NOT to render him assistance.

Lastly, on a personal note: I have on many occasions enjoyed Vladislav Tkachiev's entertaining company. He is vivacious and witty when still sober. What he chooses to do in the company of friends in his own room is, of course, his own business. However when he brings the game into disrepute, causing widespread public embarrassment, as he most certainly did on this occasion, an example must be made."

Two additional comments from me:
1) In any case, Short wouldn't let Tkachiev die from a heart attack ... .
2) I don't know how many times Tkachiev had to be woken up ... . IMO it would have made sense to forfeit him at the third time. By then, it should have been reasonably clear that he wouldn't reach the time control anyway, so why not put an end to the situation which was embarassing for Tkachiev, and distracting for other participants?

"Professor R. Anantharam is a most charming man...".

Christ, can we stop Short ever again opening his mouth? How about some sort of Victorian order of merit, a blunderbuss, and a dose of malaria? A classic combination. Surely one of them would work.

If he really bothers you so much, why don't you talk to him?

Excellent point, Vugg! A heart failure or a stroke can be experienced at any time, and there are cases when there is no sign to tell about these horrible accidents. The existing rules should be improved by giving the arbiter the right and the obligation to check whereas a player having the head on the board can continue the game or might need immediate medical attention. By the way, how many opens or important tournaments have someone with at least first aid training ready to intervene? Is there a human life worth these days?

Also, don't forget you guys that Kingpin called Mr. Short 'Nasty Nigel'.

In cases like this common sense takes precedence. The Laws of Chess begin with a very appropriate preface:

"The Laws of Chess cannot cover all possible situations that may arise during a game, nor can they regulate all administrative questions. Where cases are not precisely regulated by an Article of the Laws, it should be possible to reach a correct decision by studying analogous situations which are discussed in the Laws. The Laws assume that arbiters have the necessary competence, sound judgement and absolute objectivity. Too detailed a rule might deprive the arbiter of his freedom of judgement and thus prevent him from finding the solution to a problem dictated by fairness, logic and special factors."

Waking him up was the right thing to do. It's arguable that he should have been forfeited immediately, but since his opponent wanted to play, and if it's not to annoying for the other players, the arbiter's decision to let him play on is ok.

Nigel Short statement is taking lawyer approach to the problem, he starts confidently from the premise that "Tkachiev had not merely fallen asleep, but was deeply drunk" - but if you play that game then you should consider the following:

If Tkachiev had been forfeited, he could argue that premise is not legally established and that:
- he was not really drunk but only had some illness with symptoms surprisingly similar to drunkenness (or that he is using some medication with the same effect)
- he did not need to be woken up because he knew fully well that after a short "rest" he would be able to able to play correctly
- playing while being ill, is not bringing the game into disrepute, but is on contrary heroic

And then he could appeal the exclusion decision. That would be similar legal gibberish.

That's why you have to apply common sense to this case.


Guess Tkachiev cannot bet on himself, but could anyone do so on his behalf (and having his 'cooperation')? And could the potential betting winst be higher than the prize money he might not get?

"I would like to explain the recent incident at the Calcutta tournament in which I was involved. From the very beginning of the event I experienced problems with health and acclimatization, and had to take strong medications, which obviously affected my ability to play." (Vladimir Tkachiev in Chessbase).

Not one word about alcohol.

Vladislav Tkachiev, not the other guy.

Did you also read the comment by Frank Dixon, Kingston, Canada? First he mentions one (or it appears two) similar incidents at Canadian tournaments, then at the end he comes up with the following suggestion:
"GM Alexander Kotov's book "Think Like A Grandmaster" is universally admired in the chess world as one of the all-time greatest instructional texts. Perhaps some enterprising writer will now write an article punningly entitled "Drink Like A Grandmaster", to deal with incidents like this!"
I wonder if this was really his own idea, or if he is also following this blog ,:)

No, I missed that. I'm sure that someone long before me or Mr. Dixon came up with "Drink Like a Grandmaster". I may have even seen it somewhere, but I can't remember.

What remains to be done: someone (not necessarily the first one suggesting it) has to write that article and find a place to publish it ... .

Are you talking about a confessed oenomaniac or it is a case of me lacking proper understanding of English language (NOT my mother tongue)?

Hey, that's good! Oenomaniac.

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