Columns | March 17, 2010 14:15

Not again!?

Europe-Echecs interview DanailovPerhaps it was because I'm currently reading The Age of Empathy - Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, Frans de Waal's latest book on how and why humans (and other primates) are capable of showing empathy and solving moral problems - that I found myself shocked by the recent Europe Echecs interview with Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov. Topalov's match against Anand hasn't even started yet, but the first provocations are already in the air again.

Photo: Europe-Echecs

Tiebreak in ElistaFrans de Waal is one of the world's leading primatologists and has written an impressive body of work about the similarities between apes and humans. In his latest work, he hands us a toolkit on how to improve our society by looking at (human) nature. Empathy and morality are not only human affairs, but also play an very important role in other species, such as chimpansees and dolphins. De Waal argues that the election of president Obama is a clear sign that the 'nightmare' days of Reagan and Thatcher are over and that perhaps it is time to transform society into a more empathic place. Well, I think it's time to end the 'nightmare' of Toiletgate and start a new era where chess professionals actually show some empathy and respect for each other instead of constantly trying to provoke the opponent.

In the video of the interview, Danailov talks about whether the 'Sofia rules' apply in the upcoming Topalov-Anand match, to be held in Sofia next month. They will not be applied - at least not officially. But that's no problem for Danailov:

If one player doesn't offer or accept draws they will apply. Vishy [Anand] doesn't agree but he will be forced, because Topalov will not offer him a draw and he will not speak to him. So, what to do? He will be forced. This is the best. This is the best, otherwise... I don't know, there's people who are absolutely conservative, they are against these rules, but this is the future of chess. This is for sure. Everybody now understands this. Of course, I understand there are some players, old players, who don't want to work... they like short draws and whatever. They like to offer them, but this is finished. Chess ... we need a professional sport, and in professional sport, we cannot do this.

It's a remarkable statement: Anand - forced against his will to comply to rules that are not official; this is the future of chess, no matter what 'old' chess players say - their opinion clearly is unimportant and shouldn't be respected. But the most remarkable is that Danailov says that Topalov will not only refuse to offer any draws but also will ignore his opponent altogether: "He will not speak to him." In other words, he will drop all courtesy and normal etiquette and create a 'non-speaking terms' atmosphere in a match in his home country, against one of the most relaxed and friendly chess players in the professional chess scene.

And why? Because of 'professionalism', that vacuous word all too often misused by people who refuse to acknowledge that most if not all work requires empathy and social skills - in other words, people who haven't the slightest idea what 'professionalism' really means. (Here's how one competency library actually defines 'professionalism': "Thinking carefully about the likely effects on others of one's words, actions, appearance, and mode of behavior.") To exclude all social elements from a profession is in fact the ultimate un-professional thing imaginable.

It's a fallacy Frans de Waal convincingly demolishes in his book, showing how cooperation and social interaction are absolutely crucial to succeed in any job and society, and are in fact measures by which we judge people and choose them as colleagues, friends or mates. Not so for the Bulgarians, who've created their own rules and apparently don't mind to be social isolates in the chess world, as long as the results speak for themselves. What an utterly unprofessional attitude!

In a similar vein, we've argued before on this site that shaking hands before and after a game shouldn't actually be incorporated in the rules of chess, but instead should be respected even though they're not in the rules - because, as De Waal shows, that's how empathy and social skills work: intuitively, without explicit rules, automatically. And that's why apes and other animals are capable of displaying them, too, without being able to read lawbooks or guides on ethical behaviour. It's a thing of nature. It's in our genes.

Tiebreak in ElistaThe sad thing is that we've seen this all before, four years ago in Elista. There, the Bulgarian team made themselves ridiculous in the eyes of world by accusing Vladimir Kramnik - without a shred of hard evidence - of cheating. They even published a childish book on it - still lacking any solid evidence - to prove their point, which I reviewed back in 2007. Perhaps it's worth recalling how Topalov accused Kramnik of unfairly using his 'home advantage' up till the Kremlin in order to "keep the title at any cost" and that he (Kramnik) "will not balk at violating ethical principles."

In his book, Topalov wrote that it was naive of him to agree to the match against Kramnik being played on Russian (well, kind of) ground, because such a match obviously couldn't be fair. Well, it's four years later and look who's playing on home ground this time. Will Topalov and Danailov return the compliment and agree if Anand claimed a match in Bulgaria couldn't ever be fair because of some kind of home advantage? Frans de Waal devotes an entire chapter on the 'walking in other man's 'shoes' concept, but looking at the interview of Europe Echecs, I have my doubts if Danailov has read it. Note how he laughs during the entire interview, routinely dismissing dissenting views and announcing how the reigning World Champion will be 'forced' to do this and that. Does that sound like someone showing any kind of empathy or 'ethical principles' at all?

Silvio Danailov has recently announced his candidacy for president of the European Chess Union. Heaven forbid someone who doesn't understand the first thing about 'professionalism', baselessly accuses some world class players of unethical behaviour and laughingly tells others what to do, ever gets to play such an important role in European chess, even if he did show some good initiatives like the exciting M-Tel tournament and his passion for more fighting chess. This kind of destructive madness really can't be tolerated in our beautiful chess world. Frans de Waal ends his book The Age of Empathy (I am quoting from the Dutch version) with the following words:

We must rely on our intellect to figure out how to balance individual and collective interests. One instrument we have and which enriches our thinking enormously, has been selected over ages, meaning its survival value has been proven time and again. It is our capacity to show a sense of oneness with others, to understand them, and to place ourselves in their situation.

We can only hope this message will reach the Bulgarian team before the Topalov-Anand match starts.

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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Arne Moll's picture

@test: what interests me is that Danailov states that 'Anand doesn't agree'. How does he know this? It suggests to me it's not just a random provocation but was actually part of some kind of (failed) negotiations, which the Bulgarians then tried to use to their advantage by turning it into a media provocation. It would also explain the grin on Danailov's face, wouldn't it?

Sherman's picture

Danailov is right! Money for players means that no more short draws. Chess must be a sport! And people will pay money for battles not for handshakes and chats with oponent during games.

Is more respectfull oferring a draw in lost position? Relations between players during game must be defined like in every other sport! If players want to talk each other they can do it after game and they can show their respect between games. I cant see anything wrong and Danailov talk like man who knows how find money for chess and make money from chess.
Arne for different knows how to make bias against such people.

Manu's picture

" But trying to pass this article as objective is unethical and unprofessional."

Rob Brown's picture

In the 1972 world championship much more was at stake then whether Fischer or Spassky was the better player. Bobby threatened to pull out. Then he wanted a smaller chess set. Then he insisted that the game be played away from the audience. When Fischer began to win, the Soviet side, fearing some kind of radio waves, had the furniture taken apart. But, despite all the huffing, puffing and posturing on both sides, Fischer and Spassky shook hands before and after each game and treated each other with great respect. After Fischer scored a particularly fine win Spassky joined the audience in a standing ovation for the victor. In contrast, the Bulgarian team, led by Danilov, knowing that their man was being outplayed and would surely lose, resorted to unwarranted personal attacks and unfounded accusations in a scurrilous and infantile attempt upset Kramnik's equilibrium. Their antics set a new low in unsportsmanlike behaviour in chess. If they attempt these shenanigans against Anand, as Danilov appears to suggest they will, the Bulgarian vulgarians should be forfeited.

gabriel's picture

I believe that Danilov was emphatic enough, but he could be more emphatetic...

Felix's picture

I expect Topalov to make draws in obvious drawn endings (like philidor position in rook endings or rook endgames with 3 vs 3 pawns on the same side and so on) and to resign in obviously lost positions. That he doesn't want to make early draws is good for the spectators, but I don't think he will behave unfair by always playing till there are only kings left. At least I hope so.

What Danilov said sounded provocative, but maybe it was not his intention.

Alexander's picture

An IM cannot give World Champion lessons in chess, or its future. Period.

guitarspider's picture

Yes, let's bring in Kramnik's toilet visits and forget about what the actual topic is! Let's continue to accuse others of cheating in the most ridiculous manner possible! Let's do it as often as possible! Let us always keep in mind that the opponent is the enemy and not some human being deserving of respect! Let us toss aside all our unnecessary preconceptions of good social behaviour! Nobody benefits from being nice in a war game!

Remember when chess was the game of gentlemen? Seems we've come a long way...

Dan's picture

@Arne, would you agree it is equally or more unprofessional for Anand to force the match to be conducted without the Sofia Rules, and in doing so fail to empathise with his opponent, the organisers / sponsors and the general chess public (assuming that they all prefer sofia rules).

gary's picture

Thank you Arne Moll for standing up for basic moral rights like honesty and fairness.
Topalov and manager Silvio Danailov seriously violated these necessary rights in the match with Kramink and for that I have absolutely NO respect for either of them as human beings. For this reason I am deeply disappointed that Topalov is once again in a match for the regal title of World Chess Champion.

VladimirOo's picture

Indeed, during Kasparov-Karpov, Karpov-Korchnoi and even Spassky-Fischer there were a lot of trash around the table and behind the players. These high-intensity matches aroused a lot a attention from the outside to the chess world: world was passionate by the outcome.

But never will give some dignity to chess this toilet-gate in Elista: that's indecent, even respectful to the title of Champion and to the chess world to use such 'dirty' tricks to earn some points.

Even Karpov could not agree with some moves from the Kremlin against Korchnoi (read the latter's 'Chess is my Life' for more), since it would damage the dignity of chess. Even Alekhine remembered that he loved chess and could not make it ridicule...

I fear that, compared to his ambitions, Danailov does not love chess enough to prevent himself from using some ways to succeed. Again, do you want it 'at all cost'?

joakimvitriol's picture

Agree that there is problem of drawing public attention to chess so to me this behavior looks much more like instrument to achieve that goal then the way to really insult opponent and play some psychological games.

fd's picture

Let's just hope Anand reaches an overwhelming position in game one and then offers a draw... Will Topalov decline, just because his manager is constantly talking out of his a....?

Bert de Bruut's picture

Well Sherman, you should not be surprised that many of us have come to dislike Dainalov, since he well deserves that for the dirty tricks he pulled on Kramnik in the Elista match. We do not enjoy Dainalov seemingly preparing to behave badly again, since he apparently already fails to realize he is the host this time, and should behave like one. Topalov's chess skills should suffice versus Anand, and if that is not the case, than he won't deserve to win the match. No way Dainalov should again be allowed to earn Topalov any free points, like he did in Elista - let alone the title!

CAL|Daniel's picture

Once again great article Arne, maybe your best yet. Someone needs to call it like it is. I couldn't agree with you more.

Sherman's picture

Arne,this article is at least provocative. You explain your argues like a child. How Danailov smiles during interview???? LOL...Excuse me, i'ts just fans bias. Your viewpoint is for poor minds. And I'm surprised how many people share your viewpoint. Where is going the world...
What do you want Arne? What must do Danailov? Topalov? What?
Tell us please! What must do Topa to recognize Arne his strong? To admit defeat even before the match and to say that he respects Anand too much to beat him on the chessboard? Will you than respect Topa a bit more as chessplayer?

Custom article!...

catfishcore's picture

Obama never started a war in Afghanistan or anywhere else! Meanwhile Reagan least you forget, was playing war under the table, so to speak, in Nicaragua.

Knallo's picture

I am truly saddened. I admired Topalov not only for his chess (which I still [must] do), but for his pleasant and modest personality. Up to Elista, that is. I was willing to let bygones be bygones, but what I read here is simply too much.
If Topalov continues to be Danailov's puppet, or if - worse - he shares Danailov's views, he will lose just about every fan he ever had.
Of which I am one. A sad one, as I said.

WGIFM's picture

They are the Mike Tyson and Don King of chess. Frankly, who is interested in Danailov's oral kung-fu? For me such messages are so remote from the spirit of chess.
However it is obvious that some of us prefer the Danailov tpye emotional and overheated "professionalism" and "fighting spirit" rather than the game itself.

Castro's picture

That said, Danailov have a point:
IF Topalov doesn't offer or accept draws, there will be no single draw by agreement. That's La Palisse talking. It takes two to tango!
That is different from having a rule imposing.

d4-player's picture

I agree with many people that Silvio D is sometimes somewhat resembling a headache, and also that ugly horse face of him doesn't helps. But on the other hand, damn, he seems to know how to make things done. I wonder if he could finally make chess join the rest of top sports, like tenis or even poker.

Castro's picture

Both his devilish-looking and nonsensical words about draw offers in chess just make me LOL!
(The former because it is indeed hilarious, and the latter because I'm fed up with those ridiculous nonsenses).
My well-know and absolutely firm position:
Completely FREE draw offers now and ever! It IS chess. In a well organized chess event, unfought draws are irrelevant (if not bad for the exact interveners). Otherwise call that stupid new sport other name. ALL the reasons for it are NO good reasons AT ALL. (Yes, I think even some GMs are wrong)
Ugh! Castro spoke again :-)

Barthod's picture

Danailov is a joke. He should have been banned for life after Elista.
Everybody hopes that Anand wins. But offcause we know that Topalov and Danailov will use every dirty trick in the book to win the match.

Axel Müller's picture

Just one point: I can understand the attraction of Sofia rules in tournament play. But what is the point in a match?

I enjoyed this article a lot. Thank you.

bird's picture

I´m very surprised for the article. It is biased against Danailov and Topalov. I thingk that there is a lot of politics behind this. Some people don´t like Danailov as ECU president, so the campaign starts here.
Everybody has the right to have their side, but as a journalist it´s supposed to be more objective.
The interview is provocative, but it doesn´t harms anyone. I rather prefer a match between two guys who wants to win no matter what (Spassky-Fischer; Alekhine-Capablanca; Karpov-Kasparov) and I don´t want to see a match with nothing to offer like Leko-Kramnik. You can see how chess was going down with that kind of matches instead of the whole world wanting to see who is going to crush the opponent.
Arne, if chessvibes wants to take part in the fight for ECU, do it frontally and don´t use words that are just wanting to make more ppl look with interest at the world´s chess champioship match.

pete's picture

@VladimirOo: "...but I do not believe he respects Anand, such as he did with Kramnik"

I think it is vise versa, he respects Anand much more than Kramnik.
Also I do not see anything wrong with some media noise surrounding the event. I have to admit he last WC match between Anand and Kramnik was a bit too peaceful :) ... but lets see what will happen. With Topalov it is never boring.

VladimirOo's picture

Before any professional match, take soccer for example, team captains do shake hands: that's it, professional but respectful.
Before the match, Italy can claim as much that they will crush France in final, or Spain against Portugal, but on the ground there are 1) rules of play, 2) rules of fair-play that makes this sport respectable, worth admiring adding the thrill it conveys. But of course, the latter is unofficial, and so easy to forget.

Rivalry does not imply harshness. Danailov may use any tactical warfare to disturb his opponent, but I do not believe he respects Anand, such as he did with Kramnik. Then, no wonder i might recognize Topalov's strenght but dislike him: man and play are different (Alekhine, Fischer...).

Kramnik-Anand was a tough match before and during it. But once ended, we saw two gentlemen.

So, what do you want: win at all cost and blood for entertainment ? Or a decent (aggressive, but decent) World Champion?

matthew's picture

for some reason this only post the end of my comment so just ignore it

matthew's picture

lol need a brain transplant anyone? just in case you forgot it was your buddy bush that started that one, check and mate

Vesco's picture

So much bias in this article, but Im not surprised coming from Arne, who seems to think he is the ultimate source of ethical, moral, and intellectual advice.

What´s the big deal with the interview? His smile? Come on! Grow up, man! Better say you don´t like them, and then we understand you are speaking subjectively. But trying to pass this article as objective is unethical and unprofessional. And by now ChessVibes should be acting professionally, is no longer a blog site for friends to see. What you write here matters.

Honestly people, what did Danailov said that is unethical? Saying that Topalov will refuse short draws?! This is the world backwards. What should be exalted is actually being thrown to the ground and stepped on.

Bartleby's picture

Some apes show empathy, some apes show a cocky attitude. It's all natural.

Kotrag's picture

@Ron: the problem is that you seem not to be able to accept a different opinion. If Silvio and Topalov have insulted Kramnik, he should have sued them.
@Arne: is going to the toilet after each move less disrespectful and disturbing (maybe on purpose) as compared to anouncing in advance that Topa will not accept draw offers from the oponent?

test's picture

"will you all acknowledge that he is the new undisputed world champ?"

We will have to. Unless of course there is proof of cheating.

If there is another scandal like the one in Elista it's less clear.
I wonder if people would have recognized him as undisputed WC if he had won that match.

pete's picture

c'mon Ron, it's a bit harsh ... like Korchnoi and Karpov should have received a lifelong ban for their circus match ;)

I wonder what will all those people who hate Topalov say if he beats Anand? will you all acknowledge that he is the new undisputed world champ? :D :D

Ron's picture

Ladies and gentlemen, the problem is that we accept, or tolerate, people like Danailov and Topalov to continue playing in tournaments and even for the WC. They should have received a lifelong exemption from chess after the events in Elista. If we would all stand up and protest, like some GM-s did, this sort of thing would disappear.

test's picture

The Sofia rules (draw offers forbidden) are not part of the official rules of chess and obviously an organizer can't enforce unofficial rules in a World Championship.

So one might speculate: maybe the Danailov camp proposed to use Sofia Rules and Anand refused this, which is his good right. Or maybe it was just an unfortunate way of saying that Topalov will not be offering or accepting draws. Maybe Danailov needs to work on his public relation skills.

"It would also explain the grin on Danailov’s face, wouldn’t it?"

He does strike me as having a psychopatic personality. (Past & present actions.) If that is the case you can't really blame him for not having empathy. ;)

T. Goto's picture

Well, I think Mr. Topalov and Mr. Danailov can establish their own rules and their own league, which will be a one-man show, since nobody will show up. Enjoy your peace and quiet in Sophia, gentlemen! I hope Vishy will finish his opponent nice and clean; then we can just move on.

test's picture

I agree that the statements by Danailov are provocative, but only in a sporting sense. It's like saying: Topalov will fight to the death, king vs king if need be, expect a tough battle, no easy games.

If you have trouble with an opponent saying before the game (any game) to expect a tough battle, maybe you shouldn't be playing any competitive sport/game in the first place.

Nobody is forced to comply to any rules here. Since when is it an obligation to accept draw offers?

The not speaking part is a bit unclear. One is not supposed to talk to the opponent anyway. So what does this mean anyway? Topalov will obey the official rules of chess? That's disrespectful?

(Apart from all that let me mention that I very strongly dislike Danailov for reasons mentioned in this thread already.)

theun's picture

Anand being already the moral winner of the yet to be played match should lobby very strongly against any involvement of this dirty trickster. What a sad affair, i hope Karpov will take notice of this article

Nonationalism's picture

Yeah at least Reagan supported Saddam and Bin Laden. Now the evil Obama is destroying all that!

test's picture

... just let us see what happens if Anand has a completely winning position against Topalov and offers a draw ...

Al Gore's picture

Let us all rejoice that the dark ages of Reagan-Thatcher-Hitler have been overcome by the Glory of Obama. A new age is dawning, let us sing His praise!

Although to be fair, Clinton was famous for saying "I feel your pain", which is about as empathetic as you can get. Of course he was a white devil, but you can't have everything. Until now.

Mr X's picture

Danailov says that Anand must go by Sofia rules de facto, 'cos 'Topalov won't speak to him'. And later on '...this is the future of chess.' Is this guy insane?? The future of chess is to behave like a stupid idiot and be proud of it?? Just 'cos it represents some sort of fighting spirit?? I hope Topalov loses anyway and after that he will fade away from chess scene. Topalov is after all responsible for his manager's lack of human manners.

songamonga's picture

It might be rude but all fights are. The ideia is to make Anand unconfortable and it might work. Anand will most certainly try to rely on some games where a plus can be obtained to try to score, other games he will try to play calmly. What Danilov says is that every game will be a fight till the bare kings. This might have been a good tactic if not anounced in advance. Vanity spoke louder. Anyway it will be a good match.

Peter Doggers's picture

Normally we try to cover the chess news as objective as possible, but every now and then we can't help but comment on some developments in a column. I didn't write this one, though I more or less agree with Arne.

I especially didn't like the part "Vishy does not agree with it, but he will be forced" [broad smile Danailov] and then "Topalov will not speak to him". In my opinion not speaking to someone, and announcing it in advance, shows a lack of dignity and respect, while Vishy should be treated as a guest in Bulgaria and as the World Champion of chess.

In fact before the article was published I asked Arne to mention that Danailov has done good things for chess, such as the MTel tournament and the attempts to stimulate fighting chess, because this is often forgotten. This is Danailov at his best. However, psychological warfare like this is unfortunately his other side.

pete's picture

sorry about that .. seems to me Arne that you are a bit allergic towards Danailov :) ... I don't think we will have such drama as with the Kramnik match.

Guillaume's picture

Very good article. I cannot agree more.
Vishy should just refuse to play on the basis of this interview alone.

Nutos's picture

Vishy is on to a winner actually. He will have the moral high ground. Whatever the result he is likely to be the one that is most respected by all - so the only thing he is playing is chess. If Topalov is playing chess and some other sort of mind-game then I doubt he'll come out on top. From my own playing (or trying to) chess you play the best chess when you approach it as a game without the trappings of score-line or tournament position on your mind. Vishy will concentrate on playing chess. That said - I don't think Topalov's plan to wear out Vishy is a bad one.

Matzo's picture

Even though I don't like Danilov very much, I think there is nothing wrong with announcing that Topalov will make the match more interesting by not accepting or offering draws. The fact that he will not communicate with Anand during the games also doesn't strike me as that unusual--if anything, it would be unethical if he were to talk to him during the game, short of offering a draw. So, all things considered, this announcement makes me even more excited about the match.

patyolat's picture

" De Waal argues that the election of president Obama is a clear sign that the ‘nightmare’ days of Reagan and Thatcher are over and that perhaps it is time to transform society into a more empathic place."

All your points should be questioned if you start an article about chess with a statement like that. Reagan never started a major war during his 8 years in office as opposed to the "empathic" "antiwar" Obama who did just that in Afghanistan immediately after taking office.

The way I interpret Danailov's statement is that you can't offer or accept draws but have to force it like by repetition. I happen to agree with him on that. And if that's the case there really isn't any need for players to talk over the board. Topalov has the killer instinct which I like in a chess player no wonder he doesn't need the small talk before or after the games with his opponent in a world championship match. They certanly could be on friendly terms after the match but that rarely happens since the loser doesn't usually have the warmest feelings towards his conqueror.


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