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Secret Games

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While recapping US Champ Hikaru Nakamura's recent triumphs I left out a tournament of which he was most proud. (Hey, did I mention he's now contributing to the ChessNinja Black Belt newsletter?) In October Nakamura scored 5.5/6 at the Western States Open in Reno to finish a full point ahead of a field that included over a dozen US Championship players. In three consecutive rounds he beat veteran GMs Wojtkiewicz, Kudrin, and Yermolinsky in what were described to me by Nakamura's step-father Sunil Weermantry as long grinds.

I say "described" because the games themselves are not readily available! In this era of live online broadcasts and daily event coverage, the event organizer wants seven dollars to send you the bulletins with 110 games from the open section! While it's his right to do as he wishes with his bulletins (and they may contain added value such as analysis), it seems obvious he would profit much more from the publicity gained by releasing the games widely so places like ChessBase.com with their hundreds of thousands of readers could report on the event. I can't imagine he sells more than a handful of the bulletins, especially once the event is over. I emailed the organizer and didn't get the games or a reply. Bizarre.

While the organizer owns the scoresheets, the gamescores themselves aren't copyrightable property. So if I went around to the players to collect as many scores as I could I could post them (or even sell them) myself. In 1998 FIDE tried to charge to download the Olympiad games. They gave up after a few rounds. There is never a shortage of people willing to repeat dumb ideas.


Yes, this is ridiculous. I played in the event (poorly) and still have not seen any of the games. Weikel runs a good show, but he thinks it's 1985. No sudden death (thus adjournments and late rounds) and charging for paper bulletins. Round 5 was a different time control than 1-4 and 6 too, to avoid Rd 6 starting too late. Serper told me the last round started about 5 hours late one year before the sudden death round 5 "compromise". I agree the publicity would be more valuble than the $7 times X. There were many interesting games in the tournament. Nak dominated, beating an FM, IM, and 3 strong GMs before his short last round draw. If anyone has the games in pgn or .cbv, send them to me!

Yes, it is just the right of organizers to decide what is more profitable for them. We prefer to have the games for nothing, but someone, believe me, must spend entire day (!) to input these 110 games. It is quite hard amd sometimes exceptionally boring work. Why someone is obliged do it for us?!
In the last years, I played in several Open tournaments (Schwabish Gmund GER 2004, Odessa Open UKR 2004, Bucharest Open ROM 2003), the games from which cannot be found in databases.
Indeed, most of organizers prefer to make their games public. It means that we are lucky.

Why does the organizer own the scoresheets? If I pay 80$ to enter a tournament, play the games myself, why does the organizer have a claim on the games? It seems to me that only my opponent and I have a claim if anyone does. Unless I receive a fee for appearing at a tournament(LOL) there is no reason that the organizer should own my scoresheet.

In a weekend swiss where the players pay to compete, it seems that the organizer has no rights to the scoresheet. Did all those players pay the organizer for the right to produce games for him? Usually it works the other way around. You pay me and I produce something for you. Did they sign a release somewhere?

The organizer owns the scoresheet because it says so in the Laws of Chess.

Typically, the organizer takes the top (more legible) copy and leaves the player with the second copy. Press firmly, don't use a felt pen.

Nobody has mentioned how many of us like to play serious games that won't end up in anybody's database. "I didn't know you played that!" Yeah, so it's "send me the games of the other players", not "here are the moves to my games" in this chessic "Feed Me" Little Shop of Horrors database world.

I believe that Mig would profit much more from the publicity gained by releasing his belts for free on any website. Why not everybody to become altruistic one day?
Yes, it's ridiculous for the games from open tournaments to appear in databases and later on in chess books. Therefore I would never play opens for free or so even if I stopped receiving good invitations completely.
Best regards,

Shirov here! Great. Only that thinks is not so simple, check "How the NHL screwed itself" at http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=1963623

If chess have less spectators (in person, online,...) I don't think a good thing. The only way to get the atention to a chess event for peoples in remote locations, who are not professionals, is those games. Sponsors should care about this and, in an "unrelated" discussion, also payed players.

How would I profit by giving away my writing for free? Organizers benefit from publicity by attracting more players next time. It is my understanding that there are prizes for the winners of open tournaments.

While it is romantic to consider a gamescore a creative work by the players, it is nothing more than the written record of a competition. Players earn money (or don't, unfortunately), by winning events or by becoming famous enough to get paid for appearing. This can happen by rating and/or beautiful games.

It is somewhat absurd for others to profit from raw gamescores, but now that they are so common there is little of this, which is why what the Western States Open organizer is doing is so bizarre. Unannotated databases offer three million games for less than $50. It is an archival function that produces an important historical record.

We would all like the players to be millionaires. All of them, all the way down to 2400 rating, perhaps. Or maybe 2200. But chess, like any sport, doesn't owe anybody a living. It's a merit system, and a relatively impoverished one. If you want royalties, write. If you want prizes and appearance fees, play.

I sympathize with the boring work problem but if these events themselves make any money (how can they be held if they don't?) then some of the money could be allocated to this boring job that will certainly gain more money thru publicity than it will cost. Actually if MonRoi wanted to build a useful product (see previous post) then they should build a machine that could read scoresheets to produce electronic game scores - problem solved.

No need to mention that many local chess player would enter those games as volunteers. Just ask.

I doubt seriously many players look at a game in a database and decide, "Hey, that's a great game. I'll make plans now to play in that tournament next year!" Even if some do, I don't think it would be the best investment of the organizer's time to enter all the scoresheets into a database and put it on a website in hopes of getting that extra one player per year.

The give-everything-away-free-to-get-market-share theory of B2C commerce went out with the dot.com bust and Club Kasparov. The entitlement mentality of many chess players is, frankly, pathetic.

If it's so important to you, pay the man. Don't manufacture reasons why it would be better for him to give you free stuff. I think he's in the best position to decide that.

one extra player? tournaments with game scores are routinely listed in TWIC and seen by thousands. a player may not decide to play in a tournament because of a "great game" he saw, but he may play in the tournament BECAUSE HE KNOWS IT EXISTS. The most successful tournament organizer in the USA (in the world!?) always makes games available when possible. maybe it is to be a nice guy, but every serious tournament player in the US knows who Mr. Bill Goichberg is. I am not trying to knock Weikel- I enjoy his events and will continue to play in them, but I think his annoying practice of holding games scores hurts him more than it helps him.

RedIvan, you misunderstand. Without the games, there is no coverage. I'm not going to write a report on a tournament without any games. It's the equivalent of pay-per-view events. Big boxing matches can do this because enough people are willing to pay. If they want to send me a selection of the key games, that's fine, but it's still a shame to have the rest lost to history.

It isn't "entitlement mentality" that leads to football and basketball scores being in the newspaper. I'm not going to pay the man, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with his practices. Making the games available is simply part of running a good event. I know it's work. Trust me, I was the happiest guy in San Diego that all 32 games were on DGT boards!

IMO, one of the biggest problems in the 'net is the inconvenience of paying for goods and services online. I myself would like to support certain sites but there is no safe and easy way to do so. I think that is one big reason for the dot com crash of 2000.

For example, I like to support the Chessbase site and this one because of lots of up-to-date and interesting info, but there is no safe mechanism for support. Clicking ads? Sure, but when does that amount to fraud? Donation through PayPal? Possibily, but, you, the donator, are taking all the risks through Paypal (read the fine print). Purchase stuff, ok, how? Credit card? Some, especially youngsters, don't have one, and there is significant risk (online fraud, spies, lax server security, etc). Debit card, are you kidding?

And then there is the privacy issue. Some may want to support anonymously. I know for a fact that if you donate to charities and give them your name and address, those same charities, not satisfied in getting a donation from you and protecting you, turn around and sell your name to other charities. Soon, you get an avalanche of spam phone calls, spam email, and spam snail mail. In Canada, anyone can ask for the list of donors by paying $100. Imagine what happens when you donate to a worthless business online by accident. They then sell your name to other worthless businesses, track your ip all over the net, bugging the hell out of you with their ads, knowing you're a live one.

What is needed is something like Paypal except there is insurance and *privacy* and the organization is a reputable bank under *tight* government controls with regard to online transactions.

What does this have to do with the topic at hand, the sale of game scores? Not much except that if tournaments are webcast and some safe and private version of PayPal exists, surfers would have a convenient and comfortable way of supporting webcasts. Chess website can get support this way too, instead of banner ads (many are ip harvesters for spyware companies).

Of interest is the solution some game companies such as Blizzard (of Starcraft and Warcraft fame) came up with: sell $10-50 tickets in brick & mortar stores and the buyer just enters the serial number of the ticket online and start playing online. Completely safe and anonymous. Tickets have neglible weight and can be produced by the brick & mortar store onsite (through printing and from faxes etc), thus distribution of software is now cheap (no more truckloads of CDs and manuals). Also, youngsters can buy tickets without need for PayPal or credit, or debit. The risk is tranferred from the buyer to the brick & mortar.

I hope to see in the future:

1. Webcast World Championship with lots of features, etc. I go to a store and buy a WC ticket, type in the serial number and viola, a high quality video and audio stream.

2. Website I like and want to support. I go buy a ticket, type in the serial, hit donate, get my receipt, file tax credit. Only the government knows whom I donated to. The website doesn't know who I am so I can't be spammed by them in the future (the website might be sold to a flake as have happened hundreds of times).

3. Buy software privately through purchase of a ticket. No one needs to know I purchased a playboy mag or bought Chess for Dummies.

IMO, the adoption of *safe* and *private* mechanism for purchases is the way to go for websites and webcasts to make money online.

I really don't believe the point here is altruism vs. profit or who should own the scoresheets or methods of payment.

The point here is simple: What actually works?

In my opinion we actually know quite a lot about the answer to this question. You don't trade off a world wide audience for small change.

Wow! Alexei Shirov! Is it really?? I think even Mig's most vociferous critics will admit than he has been successful in establishing a forum for dialogue between fans and superstars that never existed before. And I dont mean just this blog, quite a few of his endeavours have this effect.

I'm not very interested in this thread, but I would like to know why Shirov's not playing Wij aan Zee this year! I consider GK, Anand, Moro and Shirov to be the most exciting and interesting players in the world, and 2 of them are not playing!!

You'll be happy to know Seņor Shirov is playing in the Gibraltar tournament starting on Jan. 25. He'll be the top seed in a very strong Masters open.


As for online security, I'd rather not trade in all the conveniences of the internet. Distribution of tickets to stores worldwide?! I have subscribers in 18 countries! Security and privacy are issues for everyone, but they are at a satisfactory level for the vast majority at this point. Purchasing online is more secure than handing your credit card to a waiter who walks off with it for 10 minutes. No system is perfect.

on the subject, new fide rule states that all 2400+ games must be submitted to fide on order for them to be rated! Bad news for GM Azmaiparzhi~.

"Bad news for GM Azmaiparashvili"? (I assume that's the player referred to by that truncated name.) Why is that?

There's a famous story accusing GM Azmaiparashvili of padding his rating. He once won an obscure and mysterious "tournament" in Macedonia with a *massive* score, thus gaining many rating points just in time for him to qualify for a critical FIDE event. [I forget the details, but others can surely add more. I'll post more if I can dig anything up.] As I recall, details and games dribbled out very slowly, and what "games" were released looked highly suspicious. Many observers concluded that it was a big fix.

Azmaiparashvili/50 bogus Elo points (Strumica, 1995): see Ian Rogers's article at


In an irony to end all ironies, Azmaiparashvili was, years later, called upon to adjudicate the Alexandru Crisan game-fixing matter!

I hadn't realized that Strumica 1995 was known/suspected to be fake. Does anyone else have evidence or counter-evidence about this?

I will say that statistically, it appears to have been the most unlikely tournament outcome ever. It was a four-player tournament, 18 rounds, with a final result of:
Azmaiparashvili 16/18
Kutirov 11.5/18
Kurajica 5/18
Rashkovsky 3.5/18

In the FIDE rating system, you are awarded 5 rating points for each half point you score above your predicted total. Conversely, you lose 5 points for each half point below predicted. My Chessmetrics historical ratings work a little differently, but it's still interesting to look at all the events in my database (from 1843 to 2004) and see who scored the most raw points above or below their prediction, per event.

Combining all the events, and each player within each event, you get a big list of more than 100,000 distinct event performances going back to 1843. Out of that list, two of the fifty best "rating gains" of all time, per event, came from that one four-player tournament (Azmaiparashvili fiftieth-best, Kutirov was something like third-best). And, at the other end of the list, two of the TEN worst rating losses of all time came from that tournament (Kurajica had the worst rating loss ever, and Rashkovsky was tenth worst).

As I said, statistically it seems pretty unlikely. On the other hand, with only four players in the tournament, if two of them are in horrible form and are wildly shedding rating points, then the other two can't help but collect them, so I wouldn't say this is necessarily conclusive evidence. I wasn't really following chess much ten years ago, so maybe this has all been resolved and I just didn't hear about it. What did the players say? Does anyone know?

Faker than Pamela Anderson's, umm, acting skills.

My impression is that the chess world has always regarded Strumica 1995 as a fake event. Sadly, aside from the link I gave above, there doesn't seem to be much except for Valery Salov's site, which, though always amusing, is perhaps not fully reputable...;-)

If you want "the other side", Azmai was interviewed in _New In Chess_ numbers 1996/3 and 2003/5, and Strumica 1995 was addressed. I haven't read those interviews, but I'm sure they state that everything was on the up and up!

If half the internet reports are true this Azmai character is compiling quite a resume. Kicking GM Helgi Olafson under the table at the World Open, working for Kasparov at World Championship matches, headbutting a cop in Spain, and a fake tournament to boost his ratings. What a guy!

There is a very easy way around this dumb-a**. One person pays the filthy $7, enters the games in a *.pgn and then publishes the games online. SUCKER!!!

I know a good reliable way of supporting those events. It's called a hand. You pick some some money in your hand and put in the hand of someone's in the Tournament Organization that you trust!

Some might argue that there is some privacy concern. For my part I do not care with those concerns in real life (maybe the fact that I weight over 200 lbs helps). 8;-)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 11, 2005 1:12 AM.

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