SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The recently completed Tal Memorial must certainly give the organizers food for thought about what to do next year. The organizer’s first priority was to have the highest ELO rated players participate. So should we be surprised that the players also gave first priority to their ELOs and took very few chances? The result was a record number of draws. At one point as many as 5 players (ie. half the tournament !) were tied for first place. What really determined the final placings at the top were how well they did against the bottom finisher, American grandmaster Nakamura.
HOWEVER, in the end only Aronian and Carlsen found themselves tied for first place when the tournament came to an end. How was the tie broken? By an arbitrary formula that was out of the control of either player: the number of Blacks that each player was given according to a random drawing of lots! (Carlsen was given 5 Blacks; Aronian 4; so from the beginning of the tournament Aronian was at a disadvantage!)
Carlsen was awarded the title of champion because of this. Which is unfortunate in the eyes of many chess fans. NOT because they prefer the Armenian star over the Norwegian star, but because Aronian played an almost flawless tournament and could only draw the last round with Black, while Carlsen was fortunate to have Black against the hapless Nakamura.
Tie break systems are controversial, but very common in the chess world today. Some systems are more random than others, and none are perfect. So why are they used? Good question! Aronian was asked what he thought of the tie break system used in the Tal Memorial:
” …in general, I think a shared place should be shared. True, the chess world loves to see a single winner…I can say that if I was an organiser then I’d declare all the players who shared first prize the winners.” Link
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS