London Chess Classic 2010 raises old questions
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Heads or tails?
Is it too much to ask for a fair and just tie-break system? All sports and games have their own particular system(s) that suit their own particular needs, but not everyone is satisfied with the outcome everytime. The chess world has experimented with a wide variety of systems over the years, but has thus far failed to find the perfect system to silence the critics.
The 1983 Candidates match between Smyslov and Huebner saw the spin of a roulette wheel decide the winner! Apparently the option of playing rapid games to decide their fate was rejected…
This week the chess world seems to be focusing on the subject once more…
The second edition of the London Chess Classic finished earlier this week with a massive 3-way tie for 1st place between World Champion Anand, top-rated Carlsen and dark-horse McShane. I stress ”massive 3.way tie” because there were only 8 players in the tournament to begin with, and this means that 1st place was shared by one player less than half of the entire tournament!
Even more curious, the tie-break system used to determine the official winner of the tournament favoured the Norwegian prodigy–even though both Anand and McShane crushed him in their individual games! This has generated some questioning of the rationale behind the organizers’ rules and regulations that arbitrarily gave more weight to the number of victories in the final score.
Kasparov joins the discussion:
”With round seven under way Garry expounded on the scoring system in London (three points for a win, one for a draw). He told us almost exactly what Dean Arvidson of Los Angeles, USA wrote: even if Carlsen had lost his sixth round game to Kramnik, he could (and as it turns out would) have still have won the tournament!”
”Carlsen would have had 12 points (instead of 13), and Kramnik would have had 12 points (instead of 10). But Carlsen would have been declared the winner on tiebreak #3 (number of games won). He would have been a full point behind according to classic scoring, having lost to Kramnik, McShane and Anand, but would have won with the football scoring!” (http://www.chessbase.com/ today)
Kavalek wrote in his prestigious chess column:
”The second London Chess Classic, one of this year’s major chess events, finished Wednesday. But many chess players may ask: Who actually won the all-grandmaster tournament?
Magnus Carlsen doesn’t have to worry. According to the rules set up by the London organizers, the 20-year-old grandmaster from Norway finished first and will collect 50,000 Euros for his efforts. He benefited from the soccer scoring system – 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points for a loss – favoring players who fight and win. ”
”Carlsen scored 13 points, two points ahead of the world champion Vishy Anand of India and Luke McShane of England. It was a great recovery by Magnus who started with two loses in the first three games.
But ask the traditionalists, who for several centuries counted one point for a win and a half point for a draw, and they will tell you that in the year 2010 three players shared first place in London: McShane, Anand and Carlsen.”
Tie Breaks: In order of priority. 1. Number of games with Black. 2. Number of games won with Black. 3. Number of games won. 4. Ranking based on the games between the tied players only. Carlsen won the tournament by virtue of beating the tail enders more convincingly than either McShane or Anand did.
Personally, I think that too much has been made of this question. As a competitive type of person and one who accepts that there is no perfect way to break ties unless you are willing to have play-off games, I am of the opinion that we just have to accept that if the players agree to play in the first place, knowing in advance the tie-break rules, then it is just too bad if they lose out because of the fine print! Ofcourse, I haven’t heard any of the players complaining…
I think the tournament was interesting, but much too short to have any real sporting importance. There are so few world class chess events in England these days and this has lead to some in the press to ordain the London Chess Classic with some regal status that it does not deserve, in my opinion. It is nice to see that some sort of grand chess tradition is being resuscitated in England, and Malcom Pein (the chief organizer) must be congratulated for his dedication and efforts for twice in as many years to bring a handful of world class players to play in London.
More pertinent, by my way of thinking, is what this tournament does for the image of chess in England and beyond. Naturally I am talking about the general lack of corporate sponsorship and media-interest that our little game must put up with. Has the London Classic advanced the cause of professional chess and improved its status in the eyes of corporate directors?
The reason I ask this is because of how we have all just seemed to have accepted that it is not at all unusual to have sponsors for the London Classic that prefer to remain anonymous! Seriously. Do you know of any other sport that is sponsored anonymously? I don’t…and I suspect that you would never see a similar situation because today professional sport recognize minimum standards of transparency at the sponsorship level. The tobacco and alcohol industries–for example– have suffered because of new ethics in sponsorship.
According to the few press clippings that actually mention the sponsorship in question, a group of London investors is involved. I congratulate them! But of course, if I were to ever run into any of them then I would love to ask why all the secrecy. Sponsorship is not philanthropy, it needs to be a mutually beneficial business partnership.
And if infact the people behind the money at the London Classic are just good intentioned, generous philanthropists (which I suspect is the case), then we should drop the word ‘sponsorship’ from the London Classic whenever the press is around.
Here is a CNN report about chess and sport, with Kasparov and others, that was done during the final days of the London Classic. Enjoy!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS