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Dortmund Pairings

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Rolf Behovits, press officer of the Dortmund supertournament, is always on the ball. No other tournament gets its materials out so early and in such organized fashion. The event starts on July 8 and the press releases started coming in April!

I noticed something weird with the last one, which was issued after a press conference announcing the tournament on April 29. The tournament is back to a ten-player round-robin and included in the press release were the full pairings! Unless my mind is playing tricks, I can't recall ever seeing pairings done in advance like this. Quite pointedly they are done in public at the opening ceremony to show transparency, add some suspense, and cut down on over-preparation by the players.

Here they were included without a peep. I don't know if they were done publicly during the press conference or what. This isn't a big deal, but if you're into conspiracy theories the pairings are interesting. Both local favorites (with connections to the organizers), Kramnik and Leko, have five whites. Kramnik has crucial whites against Topalov, Adams, and Svidler. (The only German, Arkady Naiditsch, also has five whites.)

Okay, taking off the tinfoil hat, it should be a good show. Loose cannon Sutovsky has joined the field by winning the Aeroflot Open. Peter Heine Nielsen, Naiditsch, and Loek Van Wely are the other two (very) relative outsiders. We'll also see how Bacrot flexes his flashy new rating against the big boys. And we'll see if the dream pairings help Kramnik break out of his slump. He has always played well in Dortmund, but after he burned me at the Mtel I can't call him the favorite.

One thing I love about this event is that all the participants play in a blitz tournament with local players on the off day. Register for that here: marketing@sparkasse-dortmund.de

[Update: TD Stefan Toth responded to a reader's email, stating the pairings were done in a committee meeting and have been done this way since 2000. Of course the format has been double round-robin or KO since 2001, when pairings are irrelevant. His message and my reply are below.]


I once was part of a group who setup an international tournament in Seattle. We did the pairing early so that one of games could be played early in Canada to accomdate two Canadian players that were taking parting in the event. One of the USA players objected and dropped out. We were able to get an IM to take his place so the IM norm was still possible in the event.

Let's hope they can show the pairings were done faily otherwise this might be interpreted as having Kramnik's stamina, or lack thereof, into account. On top of the five whites, his second half looks weaker than the first. Anyway, it's Topalov or Leko.

Before smearing Kramnik, Leko and the Dortmund organizers with insinuations that the pairings were rigged it might have been more responsible to contact the Dortmund organizers about the matter.

No big deal. I'm sure Mig does this to Kasparov and Linares every year.

agree acirce
some how i think kasparov holds all the chess media in his hands .
just look at chessbase report about timour radjnabov when he accused kasparov of playing dirty tricks against him

Since Kasparov's been leaving the chess world in peace, let's return the favor.

Chessbase is to Kasparov what Russian media is to Putin.

Ok, sorry. I'll be quiet.

Were there pairings shenanigans in Linares? Please enlighten us, acirce. Would be tough in a double round-robin.

Of course I asked the organizers, over a month ago. No response. I have since mailed Rolf at the direct address I have for him. I doubt there was foul play, these are Germans after all, but it is extremely irregular to my knowledge. The way the pairings came out in favor of Leko, Kramnik, and Naiditsch just lends itself to connect the two curiosities, though I did so tongue in cheek. I certainly hope they were done in public or else this is a very poor precedent. We have enough smoke-filled rooms and conspiracy theories already.

When I saw the schedule a couple of months ago, I was initially upset about Topalov's 4 White draw. And I noticed the Kramnik & Leko 5 Whites, as well as Kramnik's seemingly nice setup. But then I thought maybe it's better to have black against the best players and white against the other guys. Still not sure.
And the way Kramnik is playing his whites against Topalov, this might be a blessing for Topa fans.
I'm excited about this year's edition of the tournament, especially the addition of Sutovsky and the 10 player field....

Mike Gehsperz has a point -- has anyone actually rigorously validated the assumption that it's better to have white vs. the leading players?

After all, on the scoretable, a point is a point, and if you get white vs. a 2600, you're much more likely to convert it to a full point than if you're playing Leko.

Especially considering that the top players tend to mostly draw against each other.

Between the very top players, it's usually a draw anyway, while against a lower player it's a lot harder to win with Black. I'm not convinced that aspect of the pairings is advantagous for Kramnik. This thing should be analysed statistically. The 5 whites obviously are, though...

I don't know why Dortmund keeps changing its format. It's pretty obvious that a double round robin is more serious.

Note that Topalov takes on Leko with White in the final round.

Acirce, to defend your favourite player Kramnik you attacked Mig and Kasparov, claiming that Kasparov got special treatment in big tournaments. Can you offer any proof of that?

Seems like he dropped it, just the usual reflex. "Someone mentions Kramnik in any context, attack Kasparov." Seems worth dropping in any case. Still no word from Dortmund guys though. I'd just like to know why they did it, must be some reason to break with tradition like this.

I'm always torn on the format thing. Double round-robins are solid, but we already have Linares and Wijk aan Zee is usually more exciting because of the variety of opponents mingling with the top-10 guys. Nine games, as in Dortmund, is a pretty short run though.

No, I did not claim that. Go back to sleep.

There have been issues about Kasparov getting special treatment at large tournaments. The past allegations include excluding players from the tournamnt and even his ability to leave go to his room alone during a game. We don't need to rehash these issues. Nor should we deny that these issues came up.

Obviously having 5 whites instead of 4 is an advantage. As to who has white agaisnt whom, I think that is just a bunch of hand waving. Unless of course someone has some relevant statistics to back up what they say.

Here is my handwaving: I would think that the best way to win these single round robins would be to have all your whites against the weakest players and try to draw the black games. It is well known that at these tournaments the strong players take early draws to save their strength for lower rated players so why would you want to waste your whites against the strong players?

Nevertheless, I do agree that if this is normally done in public and it wasn't here(we don't knwo whether it was or wasn't) it is a good thing to call it out.

Kasparov never was one of those players to only go for a draw with black, was he? So, for him the advantage of 5 whites would have been somewhat less than for those who don't attempt to win black games.

Ok this is really stupid. From http://www.chessgate.de/do2005/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=15

"To underline the festival character of the Sparkassen Chess Meeting it was a deliberate decision not to have live transmission of the matches via the internet this year. “We would like to privilege those visitors who come to Dortmund personally,” Kolbe says. Chess fans all over the world will, of course, be informed about the results and the moves in the games immediately at the end of each day."

acirce, you are too kind. That is unbelievable!

Confronted with the blogmaster's item, the Dortmund organizers responded as follows:

"The drawing of lots has been made during a committee meeting on 20 April 2005. All members of the committee (7) including the title sponsor "Sparkasse", the Dortmund Theatre and a member of the City Hall were attendant. There is absolutely no doubt that the procedure was correct.

We are doing it this way since several years (2000) in order to promote the event as much as possible and before the regional starting press conference. This press confernce takes always place 2-3 months before the start of the event itself: this time on 29 April in Dortmund. 20,000 flyers (main content: schedule and daily pairings) were printed in connection with this press conference and some other promotion activities. These flyers and of course the starting press conference are important platforms for our sponsors. The information material incl. the entire schedule and incl. the pairings were then distributed parallel to the press conference to many chess lovers and clubs in Germany.

During the press conference itself the entire information package was officially announced but the participants were already informed before (also a tradition).

Our promotion campaign including the exact schedule and pairings is the basis for many chess fans and journalists to plan their stay in Dortmund early in advance. I think this is one of the main reasons that Dortmund welcomes year by year more than 5000 spectators and 100 journalists during the event. That is a big difference in comparison with other top level chess events that I visited in the recent years.

I have no idea about the intention of Mr Greengard to start publicly such insinuations. I agree with you that his post is very strange and absolutely absurd. He should know very well that this process is working in Dortmund for several years. But I have to add that I do not know Mr Greengard personally and I have never seen him in one of the chess events (almost 50) that I visited during the last 10 years. Therefore I think his connections in the world of chess are limited and maybe he is just looking for strange stories in order to satisfy his ego.

With best regards
Stefan Koth
(Tournament Director of the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting)"


I'm not sure re Koth's description of the blogmaster's "limited" connections with the world of chess, but the rest of his note seems reasonable enough. Unsubstantiated, totally false insinuations of cheating are exactly what the chess world does not need. Hiding this sort of stuff behind a "tin hat" joke is irresponsible and sad.

haha, great job, greg koster.

In Russia, they say that the person who yells "catch the thief" the loudest is the thief. For a long time Mig has been aligned with Kasparov, who got ridiculous preferential treatment in the tournaments he played, even including the right top ban opponents from playing in certain events.

We can take the last years Russian Superfinal as an example of the preferential treatment. Kasparov got a strategically placed rest day after round 2, so that the rusty Kasparov wouldn't get too tired after playing the first 4 rounds in 4 days. Also, he had whites against 5 of the 6 of his highest rated opponents: Morozevich, Svidler, Bareev, Dreev and Motylev. He got black against all 4 lowest rated players:
Timofeev, Epishin, Korotylev and Tseshkovsky. Kasparov couldn't have had a better schedule.

If I remember correctly, Kramnik and Leko had 6 whites and 7 blacks in 2005 Wijk. Yet the moment they get one more white than black, the organizers get acused of cheatig? I feel Koth responded in a proper way.

No, the moment they do the pairings in private it becomes notable. I thought I was the one making the conspiracy theory jokes in the original item, but as usual you guys are serious. Pathetic.

Of course the Dortmund pairings were irrelevant in recent years, as I mentioned in my reply to Toth:

Thanks for the informative and insulting response. I'm delighted you chose to answer Mr. Hammarstrom's message. I cannot imagine why my own requests for information were unanswered. (Actually, I can imagine. As you can tell, I have an active imagination.)

My connections were indeed limited, limited to writing to three different addresses from the website and the Dortmund press releases. If you do not reply, then? It is always amusing how quickly that changes when "insinuations" are made in public. And if you actually read the item in question it is clear no serious accusations are being made. Nor is it clear what any of this would have to do with my ego, and I leave that for you to explain if you care to.

I believe I have all of the information sent out by the organizers and nowhere is it explained when and how the pairings were done. As you should know, the pairings have been irrelevant in recent years because of the format. The number of whites is irrelevant in double round-robins and knock-outs. They are often critical in an event with the format Dortmund is back to this year. With that in mind, they should be done in public. Of course this is only my opinion, if I am allowed that.

Perhaps the reason you are canceling the live game broadcasts is because you would like to see me in person? Keep up the good work, and good luck with the tournament this year.

If Mig gave them a reasonable amount of time to respond then I think I have to agree with him here. I'm not saying anything is wrong with thier set up or that anythign was done improperly but if you don't answer peoples questions, then you leave open questions. Its that simple.

As far as not publishing the games on the net, I don't know what to think. My immediate reaction is to agree that it is crazy. But if I am the mayor of Dortmund and my entire reason for putting up dollar one for this event is to get people *into* my town, why should I care if its relayed over the net? Sure its not realistic to think people who live in a different country will come just becasue they can't watch the game on the net. But what about someone who lives in a neighboring town about 30 minutes away? Maybe not putting it on the net could mean the difference of that person making one or more trips over to Dortmund. Ok sure peopel can show up and report the moves to the different servers and maybe that will happen. But why make it easy? Anyway I admit I didn't think this through much but but I don't see how dortmund really gains anythign by having everyone watch the match on the net for free.

Dortmund really lost alot of prestige in my mind if this is actually from the tournament director. You could imagine this from ICC kibbing, but to think he actually wrote that. What an idiot.

bmajors: I feel the same.

Mig, you're right. This whole rigged pairings thing stinks to high heaven, and now they're hiding the games. What jerks.

"Rigged pairings"?? Yermo must be joking.
Dortmund has been prepairing the players for years, whatever the format.
The players like it, as it cuts down on opening preparation - they know in advance which colour they'll have against each opponent.
The spectators and the journalists love it - they can plan their visit to Dortmund to coincide with the big games.
If you think that the organisers will bother to rig the advance pairings in favour of a particular player, you should also suspect them of putting better lighting over the boards of their favourites and deliberately stuffing up the travel arrangements of players they don't like.
But of course there is no evidence for any of these claims - just as there is no evidence that the Dortmund organisers have ever rigged the pairings.
In fact pre-pairing has been so successful and popular at Dortmund that it's amazing that the idea of pre-pairing hasn't caught on in other super-tournaments.

Thanks to Mr. Koth for clarifying. I also thought the part about Mig's ego may have been a bit unnecessary, but nothing that compares to the original insinuations, which were really irresponsible to say the least. Other than that his response was very satisfactory.

Throwing the Kramnik-bashers more ammunition is never the wisest thing to do. It was probably a joke, but the fact that people actually believed it speaks volumes.

Irresponsible? What is this, the New York effing Times? Get a life. If the title and the other content of this blog encourage anyone to take everything as 100% straight, including the parts with big "HUMOR HERE" signs, they need to pull their heads out.

I would have written about the fact they did the pairings ahead of time and not in public (i.e. with the players present) regardless of how many whites Kramnik, Leko, and Naiditsch had. It's simply bad practice. That the three favorite sons got five whites is worth pointing out in the process, in order to draw attention to WHY this is bad practice. This is valuable. This got a response and information that was not obtained by request. If it gets attention it may even change things next time.

Doing the pairings ahead of time (in public) has good and bad points. It is trivially handy for the press and spectators. It increases the amount of preparation; they just don't need to do as much of it during the event. It dramatically increases the likelihood they will work with their seconds to prepare deeply for each game, as they would for a match. This is good or bad depending on your view of intense preparation done with large teams. I would rather have the pairings known only the day before to decrease that preparation time.

As I pointed out several times above, that they have been doing this for the last few years is not the point. Announcing the pairings ahead of time in private for a double round-robin is meaningless except for the trivial conveniences mentioned above and the effect of increasing preparation. Continuing the practice when the format changed to a single round-robin was unwise, and I'm sure they didn't give it any thought. Now they have.

I seem to be the only person who can read and comprehend Mig's post which does not accuse anyone of anything unethical. In fact he explicitly says he 'doubts foul play'. Maybe I'm not as paranoid or as skilled at reading 'between the lines' as I should be. I suppose there was a bit of manipulation to incite Koth to respond in such an insulting manner about Mig. Mig doesn't need anyone to defend him, but I thought I should point out that he never made any allegations. Other people have misinterpreted his words or put words in his mouth.

"Mig doesn't need anyone to defend him, but I thought I should point out that he never made any allegations."

That much is obvious, which is why I said "insinuations". That doesn't mean direct attacks, it just means suggesting the possibility. That alone influences people who read it. Here in particular it meant planting an idea to be picked up and used by fools against the Dortmund organizers and Kramnik/Leko etc. People have already been running around claiming that Kramnik received "special treatment".

Now, if I were into conspiracy theories, I'd think that this was exactly the intent. But taking the tinfoil hat off..

What on earth would I have to gain by doing that? Motive? And what people? Here?! The point of suggesting the possibility was to point out the possibility, which illustrates why it's a dumb idea. The possibility is what is relevant.

The vanilla version: "Golly, they did the pairings in private. That is unusual with events of this format because it opens the door to charges of rigging the pairings."

Gripping stuff. I hope somebody starts a chess blog with content like that so I can not read it.

With tin hat firmly in place, I suspected this whole Dortmund "rigged pairings" idea arose in the fertile imagination of Garry Kasparov. He and the blogmaster were probably discussing the next bizarre media event that could be arranged to keep Kasparov in the news, something to top "battery with a chessboard" and "pelting with katchup-covered eggs".

In the course of this conversation, Kasparov probably suggested a rehabilitation campaign to firmly put to rest the old canards about his having received favorable treatment over the years from tournament organizers. The blogmaster suggested that it would be impossible to convince anyone that Kasparov didn't get favorable treatment and proposed, instead, that it be insinuated that "everybody does it". The Dortmund pairings presented the opportunity...and the blogmaster ran with it.

I sent several emails to Kasparov, and have had no reply. (wink wink) So I am certainly justified in insinuating that this conversation may have actually taken place.

My post, is, of course, perfectly silly. But perhaps issuing defamatory insinuations as a tool to get someone to respond to emails, and then wrapping the whole enterprise in a "joke" is simply shoddy, irresponsible behavior. I'm sure the blogmaster never gave it any thought. Now he has.

i am a first-time poster,but a long-time reader.to mr koster,acirce,and blah blah so-called kramnik/anti-kasparov/anti-mig people:GET A LIFE!you guys kinda suck,honestly.simple logic:if blogmaster didn't put stuff like that on blogs,would there be material to discuss?so,when he does,why do you forget that it's a forum?you all sound ridiculous with personal attacks.i bet if it was someone else who had posted these comments,you wouldn't make the same comments.
i actually feel stupid commenting here.i had wanted to stay out of it,but By Jove,... pity,pity...anywho,there we go.i just threw myself into a hellish fire pit.

There were no personal attacks here until you posted yours, just discussions and respectful disagreements. In case you forgot, this is a forum, not a place for you to haul insults.

I should add that I think Mig makes many good points about pairings issues, both in general and regarding this case. Unfortunately all that came somewhat in the background because of those completely unnecessary insinuations. However, no need do hash that over and over either.

greg koster: Hehehe. Now THAT is funny.

I love the word "irresponsible" used over and over again by the same two and a half people who always say the same things and always laugh at each others' "jokes" and always agree with each other. It would be irresponsible if I expected people to believe it was true. So either the 2.5 really believed it themselves or can read the post and honestly say I wanted people to believe it. So, the Reagan conundrum: gullible or mendacious? (Not to rule out the ever-popular "both".)

Anyway, if it took all this silliness to get an answer from Dortmund - although I doubt slandering me was required - it was in a good cause.

The blogmaster has properly identified the key word: responsibility.

An individual in the blogmaster's position has a fundamental choice: If one treats members of the chess world responsibly, in a more or less even-handed fashion, then most members of the chess world will generally respond in kind, returning phone calls and emails, cooperating. Even a totally anonymous person (me) has had no trouble whatever getting responses within 24 hours from the ACP and the Dortmund organizers on various occasions.

If, on the other hand, one cheerfully and admittedly plays favorites, mitigating or ignoring the flaws of his friends while "wittily" mocking and highlighting the minor foibles of his non-friends; then one has made oneself a court jester, and shouldn't be surprised if he's treated as such and ignored by those his columns disfavor. Of course in this blog both friends and non-friends are mocked wittily, but the former are clearly "laughed with," and the latter "laughed at."

The blogmaster suggests that the only way he could get the attention of the Dortmund organizers was to publish a tongue-in-cheek (?) insinuation that they had rigged the pairings in favor of Kramnik, Leko, and the German player. I suggest an alternative: treat Kramnik, Leko, the Dortmund organizers, and everyone else in the chess world responsibly, and see if it's possible to produce witty copy without making irresponsible (that word again) insinuations against your non-friends. You may be surprised at how quickly your e-mails will be returned.

Two guesses:
1) None of the Dortmund invitees has given a second thought to the credibility of the Dortmund pairings.
2) A request by any Dortmund invitee to send a representative to the pair drawing would be graciously accommodated by the Dortmund organizers.

Laughed with or at is an excuse for people caught laughing at. The distinction is claimed or perceived, rather than objective. If both sides are "mocked wittily", then that would be an indication on equal (yet mocking) treatment.

As has been pointed out earlier, you should try and understand what type of medium you are participating in, this is not 60 minutes.

Am I the only one who finds Mr. Koster's constant use of the term "blogmaster" to be rather passive aggressive?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 28, 2005 12:28 AM.

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