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The Hastings System

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If you have no trouble with differential equations and are looking for a challenge, check out the rules for the recently completed 2004-05 Hastings Congress. (Won by my old KasparovChess coworker Vladimir Belov, now all grown up. Good job!)

1,871 words are needed to explain the rules. They didn't have the money to run a traditional Premier section, so it was combined with the Challengers in a KO with "lucky losers," players who lost but were needed to fill out the next round of the draw and so moved on anyway.

Of more interest than the tournament format was the time control:

The rate of play shall be 40 moves in the first 70 minutes for White and 90 minutes for Black, plus 20 minutes extra for all the remaining moves; adding on one minute per move from the first. This shall apply throughout all rounds in both tournaments.

Rationale isn't given, but I assume it was to encourage more decisive results and so avoid playoff games. After all, if this equalizes the colors, wouldn't both players fight equally hard for a win and so produce more decisive games? Not a bad theory, but at least this time around it didn't work out. White still won more games and 44% of the games were drawn.

Two schools of thought to start out with. 1) Without either side starting with a clear advantage, the mathematical chance of a draw is higher. This is obvious if you take the game as a science. But because almost all draws are agreed in positions still with considerable potential to produce a decisive result, this isn't as relevant as 2): since most players consider a draw with black to be a success, taking away the disadvantage of black by giving a time bonus should encourage both players to play for a win, which in turn, because humans make mistakes, would lead to fewer draws (as well, of course, as more wins for black).

So much for the theories. Perhaps the SEC mentality is too deeply engrained and experiments like this one need more time. On the other hand, giving Anand a 20-minute time advantage hardly seems fair!


I certainly hope that players have the good sense to boycott organizers employing such ridiculousness. Give me traditional time controls! Whatever happened to 40/2, 20/1, etc.?

I read something on the official site to the effect that, since equalization of colours was almost impossible, the time differential was a way to even up the two sides. Interestingly enough, there those saying White would have the advantage and those pulling for Black were evenly divided.

Stewart Reuben's comments from the official site:

Of course there are technical problems. For the first 4 rounds it is a one round knock-out. White would normally have a tremendous advantage. Thus the rate of play is 40 moves in 70 minutes for White and 90 minutes for Black, plus all the moves in 20 minutes, adding on one minute from the start. I presumably nobody else has ever thought of the idea of compensating Black in this way. It is completely within the Laws of Chess and also the FIDE Rating Regulations.

In a one game knockout, White would normally have a tremendous advantage. By using the time handicap, we hope to eradicate this. Approximately the same number of people has said it is too little as has said it is too much.

How would bidding for white work?

E.g. both players gives a sealed envelope to the TD stating how much time they are willing to burn in order to get the white pieces. The one giving the largest number gets white, and his clock starts at his time bid.

At least, because the game now is symmetrical, there is provably no advantage to either player.

Hmmm.. Interesting idea. What would you do in the case of a tie? You have to break the symmetry at some point.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 14, 2005 5:28 PM.

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