Saturday, October 14, 2006

bathroom chess

Omar: I went to the New Yorker festival last weekend.

Me: Cool, how was it?

Omar: I heard Garry Kasparov speak. He doesn't play chess any more. Now he's in Russian politics. He told a story about a game between a Russian champion and a Bulgarian champion. The Russian champion went to the bathroom a ridiculous number of times. Then he won, and people think he was getting signals in the bathroom.

Me: But he's the Russian champion. Who would know better than him what move to make next? If he's getting tips from a better chess player, why isn't THAT person playing in the game instead?

Omar: Someone could be using a computer to narrow down the top choices, and then analyze each one. A human paired with a computer is unbeatable.

Me: Oh.

Omar: The champion sometimes has two directions that he could analyze, and he just needs a signal to tell him which direction to focus on. The judges take the game very seriously. While the champions are playing, they sit behind huge concrete blocks so that they can't see the audience. Even someone in the audience raising their hand could be a signal.

Me: Didn't his time run out while he was going to the bathroom?

Omar: He went during the other person's turn. Afterwards the Bulgarian team protested, so the judges made a change. Up until then, each team had its own separate bathroom, but for the next match, they only allowed one bathroom for both teams.

Me: But maybe he had an upset stomach, and that's why he went to the bathroom.

Omar: He went a ridiculous number of times, like forty times within a single match.

Me: Forty?!

Omar: They called it the "toilet chess match".


Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

Vox said...

This was during the unification of the chess world championships (there were two, due to a politics problem), and Kramnik, who ended up winning, did go to the bathroom a hell of a lot of times during the first matches. The reason he gave was that a) he drinks a lot of water during his matches (which he does...I'd guess 2 or probably 3 litters of water per match) and b) he likes to pace while he's thinking, and he was using the bathroom and the dressing room to pace (the bathroom was connected to the dressing room), since the dressing room alone wasn't big enough for him to pace comfortably.

I don't think he was cheating, it was just Topalov's (the bulgarian) team messing with his head...they did get a match out of it (Kramnik didn't play game 5 in protest), but Kramnik still kiked Topalov's ass in the end :)

You can read all about the "bathroom controversy" on wikipedia (

xerces blue said...

Kasparov has written several editorials in the Wall Street Journal about the match and about Putin's corrupt Russian government in the last few weeks. A particularly moving piece appeared just a few days ago about a prominent female Russian journalist who was murdered this October outside the steps of her Moscow apartment (shot numerous times)on the eve of publishing an investigative expose about the Putin corruption. You can still find the Kasparov editorials on the Wall Street journal website.

zwetan said...

hummm something like that did happen to me "going to the toilet a ridiculous amount of time", and drinking a lot of water is not really the explanation.

When your body want to expulse fluids (yes I try to not name it :D), it's more about removing toxic things in the blood than removing a too big amount of water.