Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Sofia's Choice

| Permalink | 28 comments

The Sofia, Bulgaria supertournament coming in May (Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Leko, Polgar, Ponomariov) will not have agreed draws and no draws that aren't approved by a panel of arbiters. The players literally won't be able to talk to each other. I don't have the exact rules yet, but it sounds like a good start. Joel Lautier has some thoughts about draws and such at the ACP site here.

Rumor mill: An Italian chess cognoscenti says he believes a similar tournament was being arranged in Italy over the same dates as Sofia, but the Bulgarians put up more money for the players.

[Update: Obviously with Kasparov announcing his retirement he will not be playing. Leko was already listed as a replacement, but that hasn't been confirmed yet. Kasparov was annoyed that one of the organizers, Danailov, had gone around telling everyone that he was playing.]


Great idea! Why has nobody done this before?

I don't think there will be "inevitability of playing lots of pointless moves in dead drawn positions". Surely if such a position is reached the players can repeat moves. If a player can't risk doing that, then it isn't a dead draw!

I hope one day this will be the rule in all tournaments, and we'll have no more wimpouts like Leko-Kasparov in Linares.

Argh, will the anti-draw fundamentalists stop ruining my favourite game!?
If they absolutely have to do something about so-called "premature draws", use a move limit or something. This is worse. One of the fundamentals of chess is that there is one player, making his own sovereign decisions, against another player, doing the same. With a "panel of arbiters" who can overrule their decisions it's not a game between two players any more.

Oh well, let's see how it turns out.

Draws by mutual agreement were fine when chess was a game between gentlemen. It has no place in professional competition.

If you want to get rid of the draws then make it financially rewarding to play for wins. It sounds extremely simplistic but we all know that the dollar gets results. An example, each round could have a set dollar amount. Let's say hypothetically a ten round tournament with a $100,000 prize fund. Each round would then be worth $10,000. Every player that wins in any given round would get a share of $10,000. There is no incentive for a draw because it doesn't pay. Also, this keeps players playing for wins right up to the last round.

With the current formula and attitudes in place, keeping your rating high is worth more than the potential cash on hand. Systems that reward wins in a tournament might provoke a little, but losing rating points seems more important. That's one reason having a more dynamic formula is so important. It would make the list less important.

Dead against any changes to the rules on draws, especially extra money/3points to the win etc. as I believe that this will lead to corruption. Unscrupulous players will realise that it makes a lot more sense to have a loss and a win than 2 draws and will come to "arrangements". More "blunders", If a player wants a quick draw to get around the panel or arbiters, there will be more games ending in perpetual etc. the law will become an ass.

In any sport where there is a silly rule brought in (e.g. turning a blind eye to steroids in Baseball and drugs in cycling), some players will start the slide and others will say "well they're doing it so why don't I?"

I'd rather see heavyweights battle it out and so what if it is a draw. e.g. the 1st Anand-Kasparov game was a goodie, better than a lopsided win vs Kasim or Vallejo

It should be more up to tournament organisers to invite attacking players. We'd far rather see Topalov than Kramnik, Morozevich than Leko etc. If the Linares/Wijk invitations dry up, these players may change their style.

Chess is a great game and I don't see why you see the need to fix it. Celebrate the winners whoever they are - they put in years of hard work to get to the top and they deserve to be at there however they got there.

This idea just sounds nutty to me. I am surprised that the top players would agree to something like this.

When considering ideas/changes like this, it is important to be very clear on what we are trying to accomplish. IMO, I do not think we want to punish draws in general, rather we want to stop "premature" draws. If this is the goal, then any rule change has to treat these cases differently. This is why I don't like the 3 points for a win idea. IMO, the way to do this is to make offering a draw include some disincentive in the game. Two ideas for this:

1. When you make a draw offer, your opponent gets extra time on the clock.
2. When you make a draw offer, your opponent does not have to accept/decline immediately. The offer remains "open" for some period of time/moves.

For example, two Linares games: In Leko-Kasparov, Leko offers a draw after move 26. With extra time, Kasparov might be encouraged to press on. With an "open" draw offer, he would also be able to safely press for some advantage. However, at the very end of Anand-Vallejo, neither of these changes would affect anything; the game was dead drawn, so neither player could make any particular use of extra time or "free" moves.

But it looks like Kasparov will not be at Sophia since he is retiring... this seems a very bizarre decision to me...even more so than his loss to Topalov. More importantly I think it is a terrible dissapointment. But que sera sera.

International trainer Mark Dvoretsky wrote an interesting article about this idea of "no draw offer".

The article is available at http://www.chesscafe.com/text/skittles206.pdf

(by the way, the article is three years old. It mentions the then recent Kasparov vs Kramnik, in the Botvinnik Memorial).

I love it, it seems like organizers are finally doing what is needed for chess to grow.

Nothing but a naked power grab by Lautier and Co. Who the hell do they think they are?

I like the idea, not because I see it as the only sollution, but because we need to try out different approaches.

And very important: this is one of the "least invasive" ideas we can implement. Option to change sides, and draw offer open for five moves would to a greater extent change the way you think in a game.

And about Mig's statement about rating beeing more important than potential price money for each win: does this apply further down than the top three (or top ten, or 100)? I wouldn't think so, but am curious to why you believe so. And it would be fun to have a tournament test it?

Dvoretsky has continued to advocate for this solution during the three years since the article linked above.

It is a very economical solution: players can still draw games, by repitition of moves, by 50-move rule, or by stalemate. If the players both feel that the position is a draw, let them _show_ it with repetition!

This is the only solution I know of that will not threaten to heavily affect other areas of the game (compared to a change in the point system, or in prize system).

I've long thought that Dvoretsky's proposal is overdue for a fair trial in tournament play.

I can just see it now. Weird winks, twenty-move exchanges to ensure a drawn position and 100 + move pointlessly continued games. The problem is not with GMs, it's with the chess game. It may be reaching its end.

i like Chuckles' ideas better than any forcing ideas.

Instead of arbiters in the Dvoretsky proposal,why not put three computers with, say, Fritz, Junior and Shredder to decide the issue of the game when players agree on draw before a pre determined number of move?

I just don't understand the attitude by most players that draws are 'just fine'. I personally feel that a draw is almost as bad as a loss. I play chess for the one reason that we should all be playing chess--- to win! I draw less than 10% of my games, because I always play to win. If that means taking risks to unbalance the position then so be it. The problem comes from professionals feeling too much pressure to make their living along with the fact that getting by on draws can provide this living. Chess should instead provide professionals with a true incentive to play for a win- as chess is meant to be played.

I got another idea on how to eliminate so-named "GM draws" in 10 moves or so.

1. I guess, there is no easy way to push against, and there is no real need to eliminate such draws in matches. There are 2 kinds of matches:
- title matches where the final result is the most important part. The match strategy instantly requires at least one player to play for win, and short GM draws are caused mostly by serious reasons: temporary health or psychological issues, need to get some rest, etc.;
- exhibition ones where result does not matter, and both players just play for their pleasure (and for money of course), and for pleasure of those who watch. Short draws are not the bothering issue here also, IMHO.

2. Commercial tournaments. And here my proposition comes up: share the prise fund (or at least it's significant part) not according to the player's rank in the final report, but depending on the number of wins achived!
Let's assume we have a prise fund of $1000 and have a tournament where only 4 games were won, and the rest were draws.
For every win the player will get $250, and for a draw - just nothing!
If a player (like Leko in Linares ;-)) finished all his games drawn, his pockets remain empty. Another player, who accepted more risks, like Vallieho in Linares, and won once, even after losing 5 games will get $250 as a sign of appreciation.
What do you think?

Just to return to Mig's original item and the update, Kasparov had no reason to be upset that Danailov was telling people that Garry would be playing in Sofia, because Danailov was saying no such thing. Upon being questioned specifically on this halfway through Linares, Danailov named five players (including Leko but not Pono) and said that he was hoping Kasparov would play but that he doubted Garry would accept the invitation. Of course subsequent events proved his expectation correct.

Saying it to other places in the media months ago and saying it when Kasparov was sitting there are two different things. Both newspapers I found that reported Kasparov was playing gave Danailov as the source. That was several months ago, and at the time Garry was probably planning to play, although he obviously hadn't confirmed.

To the player who does not like to draw you can play your games with alot of mistakes and even blunders to avoid a natural and correct conclusion. My god this is going to be so boring... seeing Topalov and Leko play out king and pawn vs. king is not what I call fun, sorry. Will there at least be a strong arbiter to who can be contacted by the players and decide when there is no life in a position. Otherwise I am sure we will be seeing alot of three move repetitions. What does the tournament do to prevent this ? How does the rule distinguish between 1 Nf3 Nf6 2.Ng1 and a three move repetition that is somehow required by the position or even one that is played in a lifeless position to avoid continuing a bloodless struggle?

Along my last post, I think this fixed money round idea suffers from the same dillema. Do we now want to encourage GM's to make weak moves so that a few more games are decided. There could even be bribery thaT way. Consider a double round robin like linares. If you and I draw both games, we don't get payed but lets say I say i'll tank one to you and you tank one to me. Then we both win big. In Linares, Kasim would have been payed the same as Leko (0). This is not right either. Finally, it matters by luck how much you get. Lets say Vallejo won his game in a round where he was the only victor but Anand won both his games when there were 3 victories. Anand gets payed less. Obviously you can attempt to modify the scheme but it will still suffer from at least some of these defects. A 40 move limit seems reasonable to me. If guys reach the control, think it over a while and consider the position even then they have given it a decent try and can give up. Of course it would require more qualified arbiters to prevent less exaggerated examples of 1.Nf3 Nf6 Ng1... and also standards. After all, what one guy considers a serious effort another may not. However these guys are chess players after all do you really think they will be so desperate to sit around and "fake it" for 40 moves and 2 hrs just to make a draw and feel slick ? I think that the move limit will definitely improve the game and is an important addition.

Most newspapers couldn't tell the difference between 'Kasparov has been invited to play' and 'Kasparov is playing' - witness the number of newspapers who continued to call Kasparov World Champion after 2000.
As far as I can understand, Kasparov did nothing more than shrug when the media continued to call him World Champion - he should have done the same when the media misinterpreted Danailov's words and listed him as a certain starter in Sofia, rather than blame Danailov.

Good lord, let's beat this into the ground too. I don't know why everything has to be some active plan of attack. I asked a writer and an editor where they got the player list and they said "Danailov." I'm not accusing him of infanticide, and maybe the papers were both wrong. Garry just didn't like the implication created that he had backed out of the event when he had never agreed to play. Hence "annoyed." You'd think no one on the planet had every been annoyed before. I'll stop mentioning anything Kasparov does other than buying ice-cream for children and rescuing puppies.

I haven't liked everything that Kasparov has done, but it still seems a little rough to me that when the greatest chessplayer of all time retires from serious chess, he is subjected to so many bitter attacks. Still, you better leave the ice-cream buying part out also, Mig; that kind of thing is open to various interpretations these days. A "rescuing puppies" story would be nice, though.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that Kasparov has done some free/volunteer stuff promoting chess in schools and other good works, but you don't hear much about this kind of thing anywhere. It would be interesting to know more about this aspect of him, as a kind of balance against all the negativity floating around. Maybe a potential topic for a future Daily Dirt entry or Chess Base article?

Your comments have some truth to them, but don't you see the problem? Players who did such things (and they can be done just as easily today) are not chess players! They may have started out as chess players, with a passion for the game, but once they go the route you suggest they are no longer chess players, but are rather simply people on the dole who have found a niche where they can sit back and suck up money. That is not chess. Personally, I would like to see all such people removed from the chess world, because I like chess the way it is meant to be- a sport/game/art where we have a passion for what we are doing and strive to pit our strength against our opponents in order to show that we have become better than they are. If some players reduce themselves to throwing games to each other, these are not chess players any longer.

Gee, no need to get so offended. You wrote that...

Danailov, had gone around telling everyone that he was playing

when it wasn't true.

In any case it is common knowledge how unreliable player lists for upcoming tournaments are. I recall Garry being listed for a super-tournament in India. Kramnik was on the original list issued in Calvia for Linares 2005 despite never indicating that he would play. (Admittedly Kramnik was also on the list for the Russian Championship...)
Media people always take the invitation list and turn it into a player list - it's a fact of life.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 10, 2005 10:03 AM.

    Jen Shahade: Women, Beauty, Chess was the previous entry in this blog.

    Wild Linares 2005 is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.