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Your Federation at Work

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Two of the scarier items from the recently released minutes of the FIDE General Assembly meeting held last October. Recommended only for insomniacs.

"To standardise the time control for all major tournaments, he proposed a time control of: 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per a move, starting from move 1."

"Mr. Koya mentioned that a new age category would be introduced in the World Youth Championships, for children under 8."

Eek. As for our recent topic of title proliferation, according to the fascinating 2003 Treasurer's Report, FIDE got $126,224 for title applications. Making titles harder to get would be a financial hardship. That being the case, perhaps the creation of a new title is more likely. The oft-proposed, already existing unofficial title "Super GM" is one candidate. Solving title over-proliferation with a new title is pretty ugly. In another ten or fifteen years we'll need another one unless the title is relative (i.e. top 100 instead of a rating point like 2600).


This so imbecilic that I shall not dignify it with comment, except perhaps to say that I can see the day where I shall refuse to be involved in anything in which FIDE is involved.

The IAAF has recently announced that from now on all races will be exactly 1 mile in length. Hundred meter and 5,000 meter races will be outlawed. FINA has eliminated all races except the 100 meter backstroke and the Olympics will consist only of ski jumping from now on, even in the summer.

John, I am not one to defend FIDE, but I think you missed the point.

The 100-meter dash is one race, like Blitz is one form of chess. The 5,000 meter is another race, Rapid Chess is another game. The marathon is another race, and Classical Chess is a third form of chess. Each race has a determined distance, so should each form of chess. How can you compare someone's result in the 100 against someone else who runs 80? You can't compare Blitz to Classical. But what is the difference between Blitz and Rapid? You must have a standard by which to define the differences. That is not to say there can only be one TC for each. But, the infinite number in use today is ridiculous.

The "scary" part (as Mig put it) of what FIDE is suggesting is the relatively short time control for Classical Chess of just 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per a move, starting from move 1.

Again, FIDE is is sacrificing quality for quantity.

The proposed time control is not so bad when you consider that games among GM's (the ones playing in "major tournaments") begin at move 20 (or even much later) nowadays. It, in effect, provides GM's with roughly 1.5 hours for 20 moves, plus 45 minutes for the rest of the game (assuming time control is reached). It also means that a 50-move game would take about 4.5 hours.

I find this reasonable. Hell, I'm a chessplayer myself, and I can barely stand more than a couple of hours as an spectator!

The fact is that sponsorship money has disappeared and something has to give...unless GM's are willing to play their classical time control in exchange for $300 first prize. Now, I'm NOT saying that shortening time controls GUARANTEES that sponsorship money will miraculously appear. Far from that. All I'm saying is that the damned game is in crisis and something has to be tried in order to give it a chance to survive. Returning some of the minutes stolen with 30-move home-brewed lines might be a good start point.

A lot of fans prefer "excitement" to quality anyway. This is just part of the same trend as shorter time controls are intended to be more spectatorfriendly. It's surely a pity when the players themselves aren't respected, yes.

Tgoods, I don't disagree with anything you said. The absurd part is having these things legislated by an international sports federation, and that is what I am objecting to.

Sorry, irvin posted while I was typing, and sort of illustrated my point a bit.

FIDE's time controls are trash. But their approach doesn't lack logic per the same general prevailing attitude we see all the time that the players somehow owe the spectators something so that they become lambasted as soon as they don't play 'exciting' enough.

Let's ignore FIDE and their title proliferation and just start again.

Here are the New World Order Titles.

Anand, Kasparov, Kramnik, Leko.

Also Fischer, Karpov, Smyslov, Spassky, as former world champions, can have the title Grandmaster Emeritus. I'll add Korchnoi to them.

Adams, Bareev, Bologan, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Kasimdzhanov, Khalifman, Morozevich, Polgar, Ponomariov, Shirov, Short, Svidler, Topalov.

If anyone wants to pay me $100,000 per annum (cheaper than FIDE) to run this service, please don't hesitate to send the cheque for Year 1 today.

Anyone who thinks (as FIDE apparently does) that the main reason chess doesn't get enough sponsorship is because the games are too long, they're missing the point by about a mile. The vast majority of people don't care how long a chess game is; they simply don't care about chess. Nothing you do to change the game will ever change that.

OrangeKing is actually spot on. There is a lot of completely disproportionate focus on such petty details as short draw percentage and so on, but the problem - insofar that it is a problem - is so much bigger. Why was chess so popular in the USSR? Why did it take a revolution? They certainly didn't make it popular by giving in to anti-intellectualism, on the contrary.

Dump FIDE.

Come on aren't we missing an obvious title option here? How about Grandmaster Flash?! Of course this begs the question: Who Are The Furious Five? I'd suggest the top five angriest players but I have no idea who they would be... Angry Factor? fade out under Rats in the front room, roaches in the back \ Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat.

I think it's time that FIDE eliminated this whole silly chess business and run competitions based exclusively on speed with which grandmasters are able to push buttons on the chess clock. My money would be on Moro. Topalov strikes me as more of a deep thinker.

Boy, Mig wasn't kidding when he said this report is a cure for insomnia!!

I really don't see any evidence that FIDE's short time controls have made Chess more popular. The cure has nothing to do with the disease.

Irvin wrote: "The proposed time control is not so bad when you consider that games among GM's (the ones playing in "major tournaments") begin at move 20 (or even much later) nowadays."

This is patently false. Yes, there are some lines that don't get out of theory before move 20, but that's not the case for all games, or even most. The final game of the Kramnik-Leko game had a novelty at move 7, for instance. Furthermore, the existence of theory out to move 20 doesn't mean the GM has no decisions to make. And lastly, the FIDE proposal would embrace many lower-level tournaments, where the players are typically on their own a lot earlier than move 20.

The chess world sure could use some of Fischer's integrity at least. Why are chess players, even serious ones, so willing to whore themselves to bigger audiences and sponsorship?

Plus i wholeheartedly agree with those who say that time controls will have very little to do with chess popularity. There're already a lot of chess players in the net who hardly play but blitz, and get bored during the first hour of a game if nothing exciting, in their opinion, happens.

i'm afraid that Botvinnik was at least partly right when he condemned blitz. It's fun to play sometimes, sure, but it's not the essence of chess.
You can't really compare running shorter distances with it, either, as the quality of the running doesn't deteriorate when distance is shorter...the quality of a chess game deteriorates with shorter time controls.

i'm genuinelly worried for quality of chess with the current trends, and thank Providence for every remaining classical time control tournament.

On the other hand, perhaps shorter time controls make sense on lower level tournaments, since the depth of thinking is not as high as on the top to begin with.


Koya is removed from Indian chess federtion for gross financial irregulities. Now, if we somebody cn take care of kirsan as well.... we can see some sense in chess leadership.

Sacateca wrote: "The chess world sure could use some of Fischer's integrity at least. Why are chess players, even serious ones, so willing to whore themselves to bigger audiences and sponsorship?"

Somebody's forgotten their history. Fischer was legendary for demanding huge cash prizes and appearance fees, once his fame allowed him to do so. That's not "whoring yourself." It's making a living.

FIDE should be listed as a terrorist organization.

I was hoping someone will start a discussion on the other part of the thread. Soon we are going to have a 8 year old world champion. Already there is an Asian Champion. From India. Chess has become really young!

I really don't understand what is it going to achieve except making 40 odd overenthusiastic parents poorer by $6000 and making unscrupulous coaches riches.

Can any thing be done with this pathetic world body?

This is a great blog. Johns first post had me chuckling. Orangeking and Acirce are right. We can hardly blame standard time controls for chess's lack of populartity. Are the crowds so huge at rapid chess tournaments? Its funny they want to skrew around with the time controls when the one thing that used to draw public attention, World Championship matches and thier cycles, are ignored.

Anyway you are right reading the minutes is boring stuff. But Mig to be fair you missed this, which perhaps explains why the new time controls will be ok:

"In order to popularize chess FIDE hereby declares that "endgames" do not exist and have never existed. Any player who utters the word "endgame" will be fined and ridiculed. All chess books are to be collected by May 12th 2006 so that any mention of the word "endgame" can be promptly whited out."

Hooray, without those boring "endgames" chess is sure to be more popular than reality tv.

The main problem classical time controls is that they bring a "seriousness" to chess that makes it impractical, from a purely financial standpoint.

Who the hell is going to invest the money necessary to host a Yermolinski-Lombardy 8-game elimination match, at one game per day, with a single rest day after 4 games? Notice how I have chosen 2 rather-obscure GM's playing a short match with minimal rest. Why? This is the best the average GM can REALISTICALLY expect. To play some elimination matches, make a little money and go on. The top-tournament invitations reach VERY FEW of them. The average IM, GM has to realize that the current debate on time controls, and money, and chess as a profitable endeavour, is heaviliy tilted in favor of the top players. In other words, all talk in this debate is geared toward finding a way of maximizing income for the top 10 players, at best. That's not good for chess in general. It's good for the top players, but not for the rest. It stands to reason that making things easier (financially) for potential sponsors would bring more opportunities for everyone. Perhaps not a great deal of money, but certainly more than what the average GM is making today: next to nothing.

Why shouldn't matches take place over the course of, say, 3 days (a weekend beginnig on Friday), mixing time controls, assiging different points for different time controls. For example: 2 games at 2hrs. per player for the whole game, 4 games at 1hr, 8 games at 15 minutes and 6 games at 5 minutes. That's a total of 20 games taking a maximum tototal time of 21 hours over a three-day period. The longer games can be assigned 3 points, with the others 4, 3 and 2, respectively.

This approach makes it easier to find sponsorship money (less expensive to host), brings more excitement (the variety in games/formats), minimizes the effect of draws and puts less of a financial burden on playes (they can accept less money for playing these matches, since they are committing less of their time).

Let the top players find the 2-million prize funds. In the meantime, we can have a lot of fun watching a Nakamura-Shabalov weekend war for $2.000 bucks.

That's something worth thinking about...

The problem is people aren't interested in chess *at all*. Please tell me where all the people are tuning in to games with sped up time controls? Now that FIDE has again redefined the classical time controls are peopel going to go flocking to your Lombardy Yermo match?

Sponsors want spectators. I would imagine they would want the match to last 10 years if people would watch it the whole time and players will play the whole time for the same price. The players are saying not only do they not mind playign longer they *want* to play the longer games. Many spectators want to see the next game of the century not some game that someone skrews up in time trouble so it comes to an abrupt end. They also like to compare the play of todays players to the past. See kasparovs success with the MGP series. If the time controls are different (which they already are to some extent) then you simply cant do that comparison.

No one wants to sponsor an event that no one notices. If you are interested enough in chess that you will actually want to *watch* a game (and unfortunately lets face it thats very few people) generally you are watching only the top players *regardless* of the time control. The players involved is the first draw. Then I would bet if you asked most spectators what time control they are most interested in they woudl say classical.

If you want to do rapid chess then have a rapid chess tournament. I think there are indeed a certain type of spectator that is interested in that format more than classical. Destabilizing the time controls does not help. I'm not sure why I even have to say this.

Shifting time controls has just not brought more people to the game. From what little I can tell the only things that have actually brought more people into the chess fold have been world championships and Man machine events. Since Kasparov Lost to Deeper Blue interest in the latter seems to have dropped off. I see no way to reverse this other than having a person finally win one of these matches.(which I think may return some but not all of the lost interest)

On the World championship, since we haven't had a credible cycle to find a challenger in 12 years interest in WC has also dropped off. That is very easilly remedied. But instead we keep tweaking the time controls??

BTW If more people are interested in chess for whatever reason - whether it is becasue of a WC match or a man v mchine match that is good for everyone involved in chess. If there are 2x as many people signing up for USCF or Chess Ninja and reading about chess thats 2xs as many people who will have heard of Lombardy and Yermo from games they have seen analyzed from interviews or from other chess related events and media they have seen. That name recognition and increased interest in chess, will help both players find sponsors, sell books, charge more for coaching or whatever they want to do, much more than destabilizign the time control.

I think he was just 1) stating the obvious fact that people in general don't care about chess, and 2) going on talking about the opinions of those -- players and fans -- who *do* care.

Anyway, here for example is a survey conducted by the ACP among titled players on the time controls, speaking completely in favour of the classical 7-hour control including a 30 sec increment:


Lombardy? Hell, how old is he now?
I don't mind to be referred to as an average GM, which exactly what I am now. The problem is that we got singled out as an example of bothersome mid-level GM's who demand something. Well, we don't.
Lombardy was pretty good in his day, and I was a two-time US Champion and once cracked World Top 20 in my day. So Lombardy got old, and then it was my turn. Currently neither one of us is asking any favors from FIDE, USCF, Mig, Corus or any mythical sponsors.
Comparing me at 46 with Shabalov at his 37 just doesn't make any sense. When I was 37 or whereabouts I was at the top of my game and played Kamsky (who was like Nakamura is now, an up-and-coming chess genius) on numerous occasions. With Shabba we met at the chessboard over 30 times and have been close friends for almost 15 years.
I understand that this garbage is coming from someone who's overreacting to some comments I may have made. What surprises me is that nobody here bothered to step in and defend me from this senseless attack.
Mig, I expect a reply.

1) Yermo obviously doesn't need a defense from me or anyone else. I assume he was just surprised that something so silly would go unchallenged. 2) You don't really think I have time to actually read all this stuff, do you?! I haven't read the posts here since last night. If I dedicated 24/7 attention to fact-checking and idiot-proofing these comments I'd never get out of the house. Not bad during winter, but I do need fresh doughnuts on occasion. That said, we don't need people slagging the GMs who are kind enough to come by and share their unique perspective here. Slag some other GMs, preferably ones who don't speak English.

Obviously, at least to anyone with a functioning frontal lobe, Yermo and Lombardy (a world junior champ who beat Spassky long before Fischer did) are rather poor choices for average anything. Lombardy is 67 and not exactly involved in the title fight or chess politics. And I don't think calling any former US Champion, world championship participant, and author like Yermo "obscure" makes much sense when there are so many better choices. Ilincic, for example. That bastard.

From what I can tell Yermolinsky has five wins and one loss against Shabalov. Maybe you should avoid objective-sounding words like "better" and stick with things like "favorite" and even better, "I'm sorry."

Actually I'm not much into affirmative action. If a 2600 pro is to earn a good living from chess, that means a 2700 has to be rich. It's a sport, merit (and fame) based, and there's not going to be a nice way to help the "average GM" without money at the top.

League play is the heart of chess professionalism for the non-elite. Not a world championship cycle or a KO whenever Kirsan gets up on the right side of the bed. National play is tough in the US because of the distances involved, let alone sponsorship. But even international play is easy with the internet. The recent Russia-China-France match was a good model.

Anyway... it would be nice to avoid letting this be hijacked into a referendum on whether or not Alex Yermolinsky is the second coming of Capablanca or not. (Personally I'd take Yermo. Cuban food always gives me gas.) In the immortal words of Dr. Danny Olim: Where the hell is my drink?!

The world championship system, before with zonals and interzonals and now with the KO, has much to do with promoting chess around the world, not with making money. When an Argentine is in the championship cycle it puts chess in the news there for a week or two. It's an inexpensive way to promote the game worldwide.

Even a perfect WC cycle isn't going to make players outside of the top 10 wealthy. They key for any sort of income distribution is to have a strong federation negotiate sponsorship for an entire cycle instead of just a big-money final match.

Anyone that knows anything about chess would not consider yermo "obscure". maybe to some guy on the street who has only heard of Fischer and maybe Kasparov, but not in the chess world and especially in the USA. he also wrote one of the best books of the last 10 years. opinionated, perhaps; obscure, not...

And what's so bad about obscure, anyway? If it's good enough for Jude it's good enough for me.

Mig, enough with the Thomas Hardy jokes already.

Another comment regarding the old-style Interzonals. In the past week I've been going through all the historical interzonal/candidate events, getting the cycle progressions for everyone into a database, so I can do interesting things with them. I was struck by how many relatively weak players were in the interzonals. It was nothing like the eighteen highest-rated players; as Mig alluded to, I'm sure that there were routinely players who came from weaker zones and weren't even top-100 players, or even top-500 players. Sometimes several of them.

And time after time, you would see a very tight race at the top, with a half-point easily making the difference between elimination or qualifying for the candidates matches. For one of those top finishers, fully 20-25% of his interzonal games were against much weaker opponents. It's almost as random as the FIDE KO's, just in a different way.

Certainly one aspect of chess success is being able to beat up on the lower-rated players, but it does seem like there is a lot of room for improvement in the old-style Interzonal format. Based on the feedback Yasser Seirawan received from his "Fresh Start" proposal, I think the top players prefer the knockouts, where they can at least control their own destiny, even if they get stuck playing blitz sometimes. I would like to know whether they care much about having four-game matches rather than two-game, and whether double-elimination tournaments would be a major step forward. I certainly think they would, but of course they lead to longer events (and/or fewer participants), and more complicated brackets. I think it's worth the tradeoffs, but of course I don't have to cough up the money for these things, or endure the marathon days of stressful games. I'm sure there are other perspectives than mine!

Looking back at those tournaments, I think the proof is largely in the pudding. We know that a giant swiss will create some unfortunate results, but that's where the candidates matches come in. There were very few qualifiers you could really call dark horses or outsiders (van der Sterren stands out in my mind). But that good news, having a few surprises.

At least a swiss allows recovery by a top seed if they lose a game, unlike a KO. But if we took the final eight from the KO's, they wouldn't look any more random than the big swisses. In the end you are just trying to find eight acceptable candidates. By that I mean found by a method that has enough rigor to make "he got lucky" a small issue.

The main difference in rigorousness in my eye is how fate is determined by seeding in a KO. You know before you start that only two players from each section will make it. This is very harsh because you could end up with three of the hottest players in the same section, or have a strong up-and-comer (but without a high rating) facing a top favorite in the first or second round and someone goes home.

The two big problems with swisses are the countless draws by the leaders and the need to use tiebreaks.

One nice thing about a double-elimination is that it can mix people around; they aren't stuck in a particular section just due to the vagaries of their seeding. The winners' bracket stays fixed, of course, but you can easily design the tournament format so that people who drop down to the losers' bracket are rotated around to play someone from a different section. You have to do something like that, otherwise you frequently face someone in the losers bracket whom you just faced two rounds before in the winners' bracket. And, of course, a double-elimination tournament allows you to recover from a lost mini-match, unlike a single-elimination tournament.

I do kind of like Alex Yermolinsky's suggestion (http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/archives/reality_check.htm) of flipping a coin to resolve knockout tiebreaks. It obviously makes the classical games much more urgent. Presumably it would then be the underdogs rather than the rapid-experts who would try to kill the play. Probably the coin flip would be less entertaining, though...

Foe everyone's reference, this is a fantastic resource:


if you want to look around at the various candidate cycles for the past 55-60 years. I've been the one taking up all the bandwidth on their server for the past couple of weeks, gathering info. It's a wonderful reference source.

Topalov tried hard to beat Kazimdzhanov in the last FIDE KO but failed after 4 games (more than the normal 2). Would we want that match to be decided by a coin toss? Or should we support a system that moves Kazim forward since he proved to be about equal in classical but better in rapid?

This is interesting. A la West vs FIDE ?


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 4, 2005 12:59 PM.

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