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Reality Check

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Former US Champion GM Alex Yermolinsky added some needed perspective to our discussion of the perceived problem of too many short draws at the top level. A shout-out to my Contra Costa roots..

"The absolute majority of 9-round tournaments are Swisses. Who's going to get more wins, a guy who played on Board One throughout the event or somebody who raised to the top at the last moment? Do you want to reward the winners of mismatched games or worse yet the cheaters of pre-arranged encounters? It's no secret how people act when facing a last round situation when a draw gives no prize. Is that the kind of "fighting chess" you want to encourage? Same goes for the 3 point soccer scoring system. People will just dump games, period.

Secondly, the problem with abundance of draws in top-level chess runs deep and cannot be fixed unless you break up the entire system of invitational tournaments. Linares, yawn...

Knockouts are actually quite cool. The only problem I have is that the clock-bangers KNOW that the blitz tie-break is coming and do nothing but kill the play in the slow games. Solution? Forget blitz, and toss a coin. We're all big boys now, we can handle a little bit of bad luck.

Thirdly, I'm not even going to reply to proposals of changing the scoring system. Every issue of Chess Lies magazine has yet another letter from a backwood nutso full of "abolish the stalemate rule" ravings. Enough.

And finally, a sociological comment. Our chess heroes do not exist in outer space void, they live, think and act according to the real world that surrounds them. It's funny how chess fans demand greater altruism from top GM's while being pragmatic, sober and responsible people themselves." - Yermo

Now you can see why I want GM Yermolinsky to annotate for Ninja. Sane, perceptive, Oakland A's fan, cute as a button. What's not to like? Must read: The Road to Chess Improvement

The two most reasonable and practical ideas I know of, neither of them at all new: 1) Minimum move rule. 40-50 moves are not too much to ask at a professional event. (If the players are paying an entry fee they have no obligation to entertain and can do what they like. 2) .4 points for a draw with white, .6 for a draw with black. Both can be done by the organizers without messing with rating formulas. Neither force players to be wildly aggressive or treat draws as the disease instead of a symptom. The second item would eliminate the logjam of ties and the need for trigonometric tiebreak formulas, or at least make them required far less often.

The worry is that it would give black draw odds in a final-round game between two tied players at the top of the standings. I don't think that's necessarily bad. Most top players already try only for a draw with black anyway, so it can't get worse from that perspective.


I would second the suggestions made by Permanent Link and add one of my own. 1.1 points for a win with white, 1.2 for a win with black.

Well forgetting the blitz and tossing a coin fixes the problem on the single table, but if the goal is to "promote it (chess) as a commercial success" you can never forget the blitz... Like it or not, faster games are vital for "spreading the word", and entertainment for the masses are the key to sponsors. We need solutions that fixes the whole problem.

.4-.6 only fixes part of the problem, if you want to reward those playing all out, then the total points for winning should be larger than the added sum of points for draws. Counting up the total points from this change will give the same ansver as todays system, and in the big picutre little is changed.

And finally: Everybody acts as if changing the scoring system will change the game itself. I do not believe this is the case, and I do believe that penalizing draws is a good solution. Altough a draw is a perfectly legal and natural outcome, this does not mean there is a law of nature stating that a drawn game has equal value to a won game. The scoring system is not a part of the original chess rules, which means our main consern should not be conservation, but development.

Thanks to old friend Yermo, he cleary fixed a bug in "my" anti-draws idea ( using number of wins as a first tiebreak ).
But really seems impossible to solve a problem without creating another one :-)

Mig's first statement (40 moves minimum) is good and can be easily applied in every tournament.

Second statement (draw 0.4 white 0.6 black): I think the bug Yermo noted in my idea is in part in this statement too. But there is at least another bug I can explain with an example.

In a swiss tourn:
- DRAW first game with black
- WIN second with Withe (and normally not against a top player due to first round result)
- DRAW third game with black (against a good but not top player)

- WIN first game with white
- WIN second game with black (against a very good player or a top one )
- LOSE third game with white (against a top player this time)

RANKING after three rounds: LANTINI has 2.2 points. He is ahead MIG that has only 2.

WHAT ? :-)
STOCK EXCHANGE CHESS player LANTINI with only one win and TWO DRAWS is 0.2 points AHEAD poor combactive fighter MIG with TWO WINS, NO DRAWS, and one lost and this is due to the new antidraw rule???
(with old rules both 2 points but MIG has better Buholz)

Besides the most of tourns have an odd numbers of round and the number of games a player has with black or white is casual.

I don't see the point of the coin toss vs. blitz it still gives weaker players("clock banger or not") the incentive to kill the play in the slow games. I think a good start would, although it has consequences as well, be to increase the number of games from 2 to 4 and decrease the number of players in half. If the match is drawn then maybe a coin toss. The point is that it is much harder to kill the play 4 times in a row. If the match ends up drawn then it is far more likely that the players are really of close to equal strength and that a tossup can decide which one moves on.

Some stupid chess fans would rather watch poor quality decisive games, than high quality, hard fought draws. So what?

Hi All,

What do you guys think of "Chess Komi" to solve the draw problem?

A Komi is a term in Go where the player of the black stones which move first must win the game by 7.5 points or more or the player loses. There is no draw in Go. The Komi used to be only 5.5 points until September of 2002. In fact, the Komi was continuously adjusted since its introduction in 1937. It was controversial at the time but is now widely accepted in the professional and amature ranks.

For Chess, I propose a Komi in the form of a time advantage to white and draw odds to black. This is already tried in the Armageddon tie-break of 6 minutes for white, 5 minutes for black and draw odds. Instead of Armageddon for only tie-breaks speed chess style, apply it to slow chess.

For example. In slow chess, white would start with say 120 minutes initially and black with 90 minutes, and white with 1 minute increments and black with only 30 second increments. Another 45 minutes are added to white's clock at move 40, and only 30 minutes for black. Thereafter, no more additional time. Black has draw odds.

Now, these time advantage numbers are pure guesses, obviously. There are no data available to come up with something more solid. However, the good thing about a "Chess Komi" is that it can be adjusted as data increases. I estimate just a few hundred games spread over a few different kinds of tournaments is sufficient to come up with a fair "Chess Komi" such that white and black score 50%.

What's good about the "Chess Komi" is we don't have to mess with the rating system or the scoring system (soccer scoring, eg). Another good thing is all games end decisively. Also, all matches end decisively if the number of games is odd (like the Stanley Cup playoffs - 7 games). Pairings are easier - no draws, no colour worries, players can flip for colour or choose. Every Swiss Open determines a clear winner, no ties for first if the number of rounds is sufficient for the number of players and byes being awarded zero.

Still another effect of the "Chess Komi" is that opening theory is drastically changed. Drawish openings are sought after by black and avoided by white. This change can reinvigorate Chess in general. With the "Chess Komi," we will see lots of enterprising sacs by white to take advantage of black's less time, but black only has to draw to win.

The problem, of course, is the radical idea of the Armageddon tie-break being applied to slow chess. There will be screams by white or black players of unfair Komi, but that will right itself over time. In the beginning, the Go Komi was also very controversial, but pros accept it today with absolutely no argument.

In my opinion, the Chess Komi is the way to go. It is easy to implement, costs no investments, and saves the organizers and TDs a lot of problems. We can have drama much like the seventh game of a Stanley Cup playoff and spectators are always guranteed a decisive game on whatever game they view live.


I donít think changing the point system will be of much use.

In a Swiss tournament a solution is very easy. Donít share the prize money between tied players. Break the tie! This was done in Politiken cup in Copenhagen this year. When ties are broken the players donít want to play draws because it is important to get so good a tie break score as possible and in the last round the one who has the worst tiebreak will need to try to win or he will get a smaller prize (if any) than his opponent!

In round robins it is more difficult. But if you break ties there are less change of many quick draws in the final rounds.


This seems to me like a Gordian-knot-problem (I hope this word exists in English). So let me be your Alexander: SPANK THEM, SPANK THEM HARD until they start fighting. (Ask Rustam Kamsky)
More serious: A total different approach: Let the arbiters decide whether the player have to play or are ALLOWED to draw. Sure this will lead to some misjudgment because of the arbiters not being GMs. But so what? Let them play on. I am sure an arbiter is able to check it out in more than 95% of the cases.
By the way, can you imagine Boxing, first round, Tyson to Holifield: c`mon let`s draw, go to the hotel bar and beat up some girls?

I did not get it. Yermolinsky argues against changing the score system - like increasing the weight of win-loose relative to draw-draw - because it does not solve the problem of fixed games in Swiss tournaments. However, it does change the incentives: loosing a game is still more embarrassing than drawing it. We are not looking for perfect solutions here, we are just trying to find marginal improvements. Or maybe there is something else a chess amateur like me cannot see.

What's wrong with using the tournament performance rating to determine a winner?
We all know Kramnik just took advantage of the system to win 2nd, but his 2701 performance rating (6th out of 8 players) couldn't guarantee 2nd at a world open tourney.

as far as i can see yermo does not offer any solutions to the problem, just trashing the ideas.
even it seems to me, he sees no worth-to-try stuff here (maybe there is no problem at all?), which is IMO sad.

well, he says it's too difficult problem, proposed solutions are ridiculous, and finally chess players are living on chess,
so the fans do not have the right to force them playing aggressively.

but i think it's jus not true. we, the fans have every right to force them playing aggressively, becasue, like it or not, we support them directly or indirectly (through sponsors, watching tournaments, taking lectures, buying books etc.).

can you imagine, for example, NBA's basketball players as not playing for the fans in the first place?

without real fighting (for example linares, dortmund in 2004), there won't be professional chess in a long run, period.

in my opinion we should try as many suggestions as possible. because we _need_ to change the system if we want more fans, more sponsors, more media news, more money, more GMs living on chess.

(ps: yermo's book is fantastic anyway, thx)

Yermo "People will just dump games,period." Maybe Bobby was right, the Russians cheat.
I like the idea of having the option of changing sides when a draw is offered. That would be exciting.

2 wins and 1 loss should beat 1 win and 2 draws, generally. Using performance ratings would also be good.

Yermo is right. Many of the anti-draw ideas are really moronic.

"can you imagine, for example, NBA's basketball players as not playing for the fans in the first place?" - Well, Utah Jazz and New York Knicks of the 90s did not play what is often considered "pretty" basketball.

But I also cannot imagine NBA changing its rules so that shot clock starts at 10 seconds, not 24, just because casual fan prefers shorter posessions. Bringing the game (whether chess or basketball) to the lowest common denominator will not help the game, but will destroy it.

Draws are not a problem. Don't fix chess when its not broken. If some 1200-rated fish doesn't think Kramnik's games are exciting, he should shut the hell up and not watch them. Kramnik's play is over his head and he would be better off watching two 1500s anyway (and that is guaranteed to have little draws, too). And just because lower rated folks think position may have possibilities doesn't mean that a GM cannot see its a dead draw.

So this "what should we do about draws in chess" craze really doesn't make sense to me. A better question is: "what should we do about people who whine about draws on chess forums?".

It's funny you should mention the shot-clock anology Russianbear, only for all the wrong reasons. Fact is, the 24-second shot clock was invented in 1954 because the game of basketball was lacking in pace and speed. Low scoring games were overwhelming, there were cases of games ending up as low as 19-18 (Fort Wayne Pistons vs Minneapolis Lakers Nov. 22, 1950). This was a real problem and had to be dealt with. Anyone who has read into NBA history has heard of the Celtic legend Bob Cousy. Quote:

[Former Boston Celtics All-Star guard Bob Cousy was legendary for his ability to stall with the ball. "That was the way the game was played -- get a lead and put the ball in the icebox," said Cousy. "Teams literally started sitting on the ball in the third quarter. Coaches are conservative by nature to begin with, and it didn't make much sense to play a wide-open game.]

I like to compare Vladimir Kramnik to Bob Cousy. Both spectacular players in their field, both effectively and legally exploiting flaws in the game.

In 1955, the season after the shot-clock was included, the scoring increased drastically, the games were more interesting and most importantly, public interested also increased and finally to the point where it is today.

Right now, I believe that we as chess fans face the exact same problems the NBA faced fifty years ago. Danny Biasone the inventor of the shot-clock certainly did not "destroy" basketball, he took a bold decision and saved a dying game.

quote [Said Maurice Podoloff, the NBA's first president: "The adoption of the clock was the most important event in the NBA."]

One of the biggest problems with draws in chess are the ones that occur when there is still life in the position. Draws that are agreed when the drawing idea has been demonstrated are truly just part of the game. A champion like Karpov often won (and wins) games that would be agreed a draw nowadays. I would be satisfied if, at the highest level of chess, we could eliminate draws by agreement when the result is not clear.

I have a solution that would eliminate such draws in certain match situations. If a multigame match is drawn at the end, each player may choose to take the opponent's position at the end of any game agreed to be a draw. The tiebreaker games would start at the end position at a reasonable time control (20/60 or G/60 30s delay). Much like adjourned games, the players would have the advantage of computer and human analysis of the final position and could come up with winning plans to win the game and the match. Accordingly during a match players would be hesitant to offer a draw in a slightly better position on the chance that their opponent could come back and win the same position in the tiebreak portion of the match. This would ensure that each game is fought until the result is clear. Under the current system a player may claim he was slightly better but didn't have good winning chances and settle for a draw. With this new tiebreak system, a player's judgment of an equal position must stand up to rigorous analysis or he may end up losing the match. When a top flight player says a position is a draw, it is hard for most of us to argue. However, under this format the standard for a draw would be 'I could not possibly lose this position if I were playing the other side.' This standard is much more palatable to me than, 'My chances to win are small and I don't want to waste my energy'.

Hannes Sigurgeirsson: chess is far from being a dying game. As far as I know, it is the most popular it has ever been. Besides basketball was a relatively young game when the shot clock was invented. Chess had "draw by agreement" as a valid result for a hundred years, at least.

And my own basketball analogy still stands. There is no reason to change the rules cause you don't like a certain style of play.

Russianbear(is that your real name?): Your basketbal anology certainly stands, but ironically it backfired and refutes your own point. What happened with the shot-clock was that they indeed did change the rules because they [didn't like the certain style of play], to quote you.


[Draws are not a problem. Don't fix chess when its not broken. If some 1200-rated fish doesn't think Kramnik's games are exciting, he should shut the hell up and not watch them. Kramnik's play is over his head and he would be better off watching two 1500s anyway (and that is guaranteed to have little draws, too). And just because lower rated folks think position may have possibilities doesn't mean that a GM cannot see its a dead draw.]

This is also a really naive point of view. For your information, even though you and your deep inner knowledge of chess may see the beauty of nineteen consecutive draws, it's not you who count, it's the "1200 fish". I can't see anybody in their right mind sponsor Leko vs Kramnik while both players keep drawing all of their classical games. This is not what the public is interested in.

Hannes Sigurgeirsson: my analogy didn't backfire. I followed someone else's metaphor that compared modern basketball to modern chess. I don't see what pre-shot clock basketball has to do with anything.

And sorry, but Leko-Kramnik did find sponsorship and it is now one thing in the chess world that is sure to happen. It will also be the the most exciting thing that has happened in chess in about 4 years. Of course, you are not required to watch it, if you think it is boring.

"This is not what the public is interested in." - when has the public elected you as their spokesman? I for one is excited about Kramnik-Leko (it will surely be more interesting to watch than Kasparov-Kasimjanov - good luck with finding sponsorship for that battle of two fighting chess giants, btw) and I happen to think that a lot of people will watch it.

Ryan Deering: "One of the biggest problems with draws in chess are the ones that occur when there is still life in the position. Draws that are agreed when the drawing idea has been demonstrated are truly just part of the game."

I totally agree with that! I wouldn't mind if Kramnik and Leko drew all the games in their match, as long as they play each position to the end. I don't want to see them agree a draw as soon as black equalizes.

I'm not sure I agree with his idea about choosing to swap sides though. My own idea is that when a player offers a draw, then it stands my the whole game (so if the oppenent a slight winning chance they can go for it knowing that if it goes wrong they can just take the draw).

That would put a stop to all the draws agreed when there is still play in the position, because no one would ever offer the draw in the first place. But it wouldn't punish a proper hard fought draw which would happen if the scoring system was changed.

RussianBear: I don't have to be "publics spokeman" to say that the public is not interested in endless none spirited short drawn games. This is not a gallup-survey, this is common sense. And of course by public I did not mean you or me, I meant the millions and millions of ordinary people who the sponsors hope the match will attract. To quote someone who has for more chess understanding than me and you and someone who does need to reside to hypocrisy regarding his supposed deeper understanding of Kramniks game than anyone else:

[Unfortunately Kramnik, whose achingly dull chess of recent years has disappointed even his heterosexual male fans, still doesn't seem to have got the message, as his latest dreary performance in Dortmund, Germany, reconfirms. Perhaps, according to some higher cerebral criteria, his draw-festooned path to the final could be viewed as a fine technical accomplishment. Then again, perhaps not. I suspect nobody really gives a damn. It was not attractive chess, that is for sure.
-Nigel D. Short telegraph column.]

And for the last time, the reason I said the shot-clock anology refuted your own point, was that you said [There is no reason to change the rules cause you don't like a certain style of play.] - While in reality thats PRECISELY what was done. I can not explain this any further, sorry, this is my last comment in this thread, sir anonymous RussianBear.

"Bored", I agree with your Chess Komi post. Although I wouldn't say opening theory would be drastically changed; theory would in principle stay the same, it's practical chess that would change to be more closely aligned to theory (see my second post under Stock Exchange Chess.)

Another Go term to consider: _honte_, sometimes translated as the proper or honest move, as opposed to a trick play or overplay. Even when playing weaker players and giving them handicap stones, one is advised to stick with honte moves, if only to avoid acquiring bad habits. In chess, the fans all want White to press harder (and that's the main reason to like white-must-win scoring), but it's a tougher sell to convince people that Black should be applauded for taking the easy draw when he can. I consider Black's playing for the draw to be honte. Maybe I could gain some rating points if I played more double-edged openings as Black when facing weaker players, but I prefer to stick with one repertoire and play the same way regardless of the opposition or the tournament situation. I wonder if some GMs feel that way too.

It is interesting that this lack of fighting spirit in Kramnik was discussed a long time ago in his book with Damsky. However, one point that I think nobody seems to have mentioned is how Kramnik probably feels about the way he has played in Dortmund. The assumption on this site has been that he is satisfied with a tournament of all draws including almost being "Karjaked." Of course he is not satisfied! In fact, he would probably say that he was completely out of form. Perhaps this tournament could be a motivator for Volodya in his match with Leko?

Hi Undertone,

I just read your comment under "Stock Exchange Chess." Sorry, didn't know someone has already proposed an identical idea of forcing white to win by giving black draw odds and give white time odds.

While I agree that white will not necessarily play _honte_ moves and is more likely to play tricky, tough to solve moves (and probably not sound) to take advantage of black's less time, that isn't necessarily bad. Tal was doing exactly that in his hey day and he had gained great popularity. We always see errors in attack and defense under regular rules, should we object when we see errors under Chess Komi rules?

Under Chess Komi, I don't see a problem with black winning by using drawing techniques. If black succeeds, it meant overcoming a time deficit and huge pressure by white. Black deserves the full point for doing so.

Having said that, I enjoy any well played game, even those that end in draw. It's those GM draws that I don't like. Draws are a part of the game, as almost everyone know, but we see far too many GM and dull draws in big tournaments like Linares nowadays. If something like the Chess Komi gets instituted GM and dull draws will be a thing of the past.

Someone mentioned the Basketball shot clock. This was a rule change. In Major League Baseball, they introduced the DH in the American League, also a rule change (to increase scoring). We saw a major rule change in Soccer recently. In Chess, there were a couple of major rule changes a long time ago. One, the queen used to move one square diagonally, and two, the pawns had no choice of moving two squares up initially. About time Chess gets another major rule change.


It might interest everyone to know, that starting on August 17th, the Generation Chess New York Masters will be implementing a "No Short Draw rule".
There will be no draws under 40 moves permitted IF your score is +2, or if you are chosen to play on the live internet broadcast game.
There will be at least $400 per week added to the prize fund this upcoming season, so this is the players incentive to abide by these guidelines. We will see what affect this new rule has, and whether the Grandmasters accept it or not. My hope is that they will. When people are willing to donate a lot of money and energy into promoting chess, the players should have an obligation to play out their games for the crowd.
What happened at the end of last year's US Championship was an absolute disgrace if these partipants had any desire to ever have such a well organized US Championship again in the future. I honestly wouldn't blame the AFC if they decided to never fund a US Championship again because of these draws, and I don't see how anyone else could have blamed them either. Fortunately it hasn't come to this, but the fact is that not agreeing to quick draws will simply bring more money into chess. I have received donations for the New York Masters that I would have never received before, had I not had this rule in place as the new sponsors made it very clear that this was the reason they were now choosing to donate money.

I think we need to encourage winning, I support the following scoring changes. 1.2 for a win with black, 1.1 for a win with white, .5 for a draw. As far as a coin toss to decide who wins, why not try the cow chip toss or 2 out of 3 falls mud wrestling.

After Kasparov agreed to a draw with the computer on ESPN just when things were getting interesting, chess on American TV was setback many years.

When the expected actions of the top players in tournaments in the last round is to play it safe and agree to draws quickly, chess is NOT marketable on TV.

Without TV money, chess will not get TV money.

I don't think anyone can find fault with my logic on that one. So the question really is, does the chess world want the TV money? Not sure about you, but if GM's could be competing for a million dollar+ prize fund EVERY WEEK (like tennis, golf), I would imagine that they would actually maybe want a bit of that TV money.

First, the product must be improved. American TV viewers like action, drama, decisive results.

Chess will not get "tv money" like golf or tennis no mattter how many drawn positions are played out.

Chess is better suited to the internet than TV.

Huh, somebody resurrected an old thread. Reading it, I stumbled upon Ryan Deering's suggestion and I think it is quite interesting if you use it not "after the match", but immediately.

That is, any draw offer could be also treated as an offer to switch sides, so the opponent has three options: agree to a draw, decline a draw and stay with his own color, or switch the colors and continue the game. In this case, players would be much less likely to offer draws in sligtly better or unclear positions. It would be interesting to test this idea in a tournament and see how it works out. Or maybe someone tried it before?

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