‘Many fishy things’: Kramnik doesn’t accept ‘Clash of Claims’ chess grudge match loss against player whose results he doubted

Cheating allegations continue to rock the chess world, and former world champion Vladimir Kramnik has been at the forefront of the discussion. Now, the Russian has lost a specifically arranged match 15.5-11.5 against a junior opponent whose results he doubted, and he did not accept the outcome.

We live in the era of supercomputers, and chess players have been contending for decades with computers that have become far superior to the best of human ability. Nowadays, the ease of access and the portability of such software have shrouded many chess events in doubt and controversy. Former world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik has been one of the loudest voices in the room when it comes to questioning online results, though his observations and analysis have been a subject of criticism and ridicule in the community.

Vladimir Kramnik at the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku
Kramnik, eight years ago, with a much more sterling reputation. Photo by David Llada via FIDE

Kramnik consistently casted doubts on the results in the Titled Tuesday online blitz tournaments, which is chess.com’s flagship weekly competition that attracts top grandmasters and other titled players on the regular despite its small prize pool. The Russian grandmaster has previously insinuated foul play on the part of players like Tihon Chernyaev, Matvey Caltsenko, and even Hikaru Nakamura.

Kramnik has specifically called out José Eduardo “Jospem” Martínez Alcántara, a 25-year-old Peruvian grandmaster playing for Mexico, who had a crushing head-to-head result over him in the competition. He is in the world top 25 in the blitz time control, and he has previously played a Titled Tuesday event while being filmed by chess.com’s staff, where he finished second.

They arranged a live match with an over-the-board and an online portion under controlled settings with the aim of putting the allegations to rest, but the way the event has played out will do anything but.

The initial conditions of the match, titled Clash of Claims, were to involve a 36-game 3+2 blitz match played out across three days at the Casino Granvia in Madrid, Spain, under strictly monitored conditions, with each matchday featuring six over-the-board games and six online ones.

However, he continued to raise concerns about the setup and the computers, demanding that new machines be unboxed each day or that extra breaks be added, and at one point, he demanded the online games be played on Lichess rather than chess.com. The disagreements also wreaked havoc with the intended schedule, meaning the match was truncated to just 28 matches, with most of the online portion taking place on the final day of play.

After the live games were completed, Kramnik headed into the final day with a one-point lead, 7.5-6.5, with only two online games played. On day three, when all the matches were online, his young opponent performed significantly better, clinching the match with three games to spare. Even so, Kramnik continued to complain about the chess.com servers—and he wasn’t entirely wrong, as the issues on day one showed—and when his move didn’t register in the penultimate game, he abandoned the rest of the (already decided) match.

Soon after, he posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he “[considers] the match not played because yoo (sic!) many fishy things happening,” with a promise to post his findings based on the video recordings later in the day.

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