Saturday, September 05, 2009

GM asleep at the board

September 4, 2009

Vladislav Tkachiev

Vladislav Tkachiev

(Juerg Mueller/Keystone/AFP/EPA)

A Russian-born chess maverick has caused a stir by falling asleep at the board after reportedly turning up drunk at a grandmasters' tournament in India.

Vladislav Tkachiev, 35, who was was born in Moscow, raised in Kazakhstan and now plays as a Frenchman, had to concede a game at the Calcutta Open and could face further sanctions from the game's governing body.

Tkachiev completed only 15 moves in an hour in a third-round match against India's Praveen Kumar after repeatedly dozing off.

“Each time he fell asleep, players around would try to wake him up with a shake of the shoulder,” the Indian Express newspaper reported, alongside photos showing Tkachiev with his head resting on the table.

“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."

Tkachiev, who is officially ranked 58th in the world, is known as one of the more colourful, fast-living characters on the chess circuit.

He has often expressed his frustration at the glacial speed and endless endgames of classical chess, championing instead the rapid-fire "blitz chess" which he says better suits his temperament as a player and which the public prefers.

"Blitz modifies the reality," he once said in an interview. "During the game light seems brighter, and beer sweeter."

In 2005 Tkachiev and his brother Evegeny - known as "the Blitz Brothers" - angered many chess traditionalists when they set up the "World Chess Beauty Contest", an online contest to find the world's sexiest female player.

Although some highly-ranked female players supported the contest as a valid bid to raise the profile of the game, others dismissed it as degrading and exploitative "soft pawn".

Among those supporting the contest was the British grandmaster Nigel Short, who joined the "chess chicks" judging panel.

But Short, newly recrowned as the UK's top player at the age of 44, expressed his disgust at Tkachiev's behaviour in Calcutta and reportedly asked for the player to be ejected from the tournament.

Soumen Majumnder, the co-organiser of the newspaper said that Tkachiev would have to wait until the after the tournament to decide whether he faces a sanction from chess authorities.

“What happened is unfortunate, it's in bad taste," he told the newspaper. “It’s in bad taste. Once the event is over, we will hold a meeting and decide how to proceed against this player."

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