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Kramnik is world's best player

Tom Parfitt

Moscow: A gripping series of rapid-play games on Friday saw Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik defeat his Bulgarian opponent Veselin Topalov to take the title of unified World chess champion after a competition dogged by controversy (as briefly reported).

Tens of thousands of chess enthusiasts watched the finale live on the internet. Kramnik took the title with a convincing win in the last of four tie-breakers, rising to his feet and clutching his hands above his head at the moment of victory.

The championship, in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, was billed as a peacemaking event to heal a 13-year schism between two factions of chess, each claiming to name the world's best player.

But it veered close to disaster after Topalov accused his rival of taking too many toilet breaks during games last month, hinting that he was cheating by consulting a computer in his cubicle.

Protest

An appeals committee supported the Topalov camp's request to close his opponent's private toilet and oblige him to use a shared one. Kramnik then forfeited the fifth of 12 games after sitting it out in protest at the decision.

However, the Russian — a brilliant defensive player — shrugged off the scandal with a decisive victory in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia.

Asked how he was going to celebrate, the normally reserved 31-year-old said: "I'm going out to get drunk with my friends.''

Kramnik's victory removed the spectre of a prolonged legal battle with the International Chess Federation (FIDE) over the toilet incident if he had lost. The players will share $ 1million of prize money.

Split

The chess world split in 1993 when Garry Kasparov led a breakaway movement from the governing body FIDE after disagreements over an association he had set up to represent players' interests. He and his opponent, the British Grandmaster Nigel Short, were expelled from FIDE, but Kasparov's organisation survived and he remained the `classical World champion' until he was defeated by Kramnik in 2000.

In 2002 an agreement was signed to unify the factions and decide an undisputed World champion, but it took four years for Ilyumzhinov to broker the match, pitching Kramnik against the FIDE champion and World No. 1 Topalov.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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