ELISTA, Russia (AP) – Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik on Friday became the first universally recognized world chess champion since 1993, winning a series of timed, tiebreaking games over Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov to take a tournament that reunified the title.

Kramnik secured his victory over Topalov in a fourth tiebreaker of the turbulent, three-week tournament that was fraught with protests and appeals by both sides. His team erupted in joyful shouting after Kramnik’s win gave him an edge of 8½ to 7½ points, and he rose to his feet and clutched his hands over his head before shaking hands with Topalov.

Kramnik and Topalov, both 31, will each receive $500,000 for taking part in the tournament, which was arranged to heal a 13-year-old schism in the chess world dating back to World Champion Garry Kasparov’s withdrawal from the World Chess Federation.

“We are planning to get drunk with my friends today,” said Kramnik, usually a picture of calm and elegance.

Topalov, who is known for aggressive play, won his title of World Chess Champion in October 2005. Kramnik, whom enthusiasts liken to a boa constrictor for his slow but deadly play, has been the classical world champion since 2000, when he defeated Kasparov. Now the two championships have merged under the aegis of the World Chess Federation, known by its French acronym FIDE.

“Life goes on, I am 31, and I still have a chance to fight for the champion’s title,” Topalov said.

The tournament had ended at 6 points apiece, setting up the tiebreakers,

The event was close to collapsing after Kramnik failed to show for Game 5, protesting a FIDE decision to lock the players’ private bathrooms. The organization insisted that each use a common bathroom for the rest of the tournament. Topalov’s manager had accused Kramnik of taking too many bathroom breaks – apparently suggesting he was secretly using a computer or other device to help him with his moves.

A tournament-saving agreement was eventually reached, with FIDE ruling that private bathrooms would be assigned to each player on a permanent basis and inspected by the opposite side before each game.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.