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Onischuk on the Continental

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Today I received this letter from GM Alexander Onischuk, one of the seven players in the much-discussed tiebreak at the Continental Championship. Further debunking of the original conspiracy story isn't really needed, but it's good to hear from another of the principals. (Needleman's comments are in the other thread.) If anything, I hope this teaches us all to be a little more critical when reading the news. Or, "news."

Hi everyone. First of all, I would like to thank Mig for being objective and not making conclusions based on the lies of some local Argentinean journalist as, unfortunately, the ChessBase web site did.

I could say a lot about the system of the tournament, which started at 10PM on the day of the last round and the closing ceremony and was supposed to be finished at about 5AM, but I won’t do that. I'll just give you some facts.

Some of you in your comments say something like "Felgaer fought, why didn't other GMs fight?" Well, everything was different from what the local journalist wrote. It was actually GM Felgaer who sent the young player into the dangerous minus-one zone in the fourth round. After that GM Felgaer made two short draws (and the bye) and secured his place in the World Cup.

I also would like to give you a score of my game with GM Granda Zuniga, which was a quite typical game between GMs in the first half of the tournament.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 b4 10.Na4 Ne4 11.Bxc4? Nxg3 12.hxg3 Bg7 13.Qe2 Nd7 14.O-O ½-½

Does this look to you, dear chess friends, like an arranged game? I made a mistake and offered a draw in a probably worse but complicated position. For my opponent, who had +1 at that moment and the best progressive score (tie-break), to agree meant practically to qualify for the World Cup, so he agreed.

I understand that chess fans want to see fighting, interesting games, but you cannot demand it from us at 2AM or if it is the second long game of the day. Before criticizing professional players please think about the reasons that can be behind short draws. Better conditions in chess, not rules like a "thirty moves rule," can improve the situation.

Sincerely, GM Alex Onischuk

Brazil's Gilberto Milos just sent me a note. He has much similar to say on his site. Click on the "Continental Tie Breaks" item. As one of the few ever really in danger, he makes the point that because of the tiebreaks he only had to "wait" one round, the fourth, to be ahead of Needleman again.


Now we learn that even Felgaer took short draws as he should have! I think there is another reasonable explanation of Ilardo's article: misplaced Argentine nationalism. Reread it. It is the foreign GMs against the locals who play fair. Viva la patria!

Now we learn that even Felgaer took short draws and one might expect. Now Ilardo's article becomes much easier to understand. It is misplaced Argentine nationalism. Reread it. It is the nasty foreign GMs against the good fairfighting local boys. Viva la patria!

Ilardo's journalism on the Continental has now been labeled by his own newspaper "Punto de vista" or "Point of view." But he continues his campaign to infect Argentine chess with nationalism, using a soccer metaphor to explain how Needleman was supposedly screwed. His only concession is to say that what the GMs supposedly did was legal.


respectfully, have to disagree with GM Onischuk about conditions in chess needing to improve in order for players to not agree on short draws, not fight, etc. if this is not what he meant and i just misunderstood then i apologize.

i think the game of chess has to improve, then conditions will improve, not the other way around. if GMs started fighting, avoided short draws, and provided more exciting games then more companies would be willing to sponsor events and thus make conditions in chess better. but if i as a potentail sponsor hear that eventhough i might put up 1 million $ and the GMs might do 10 move draws i might not want to put up this money for that reason.

the more exciting the game is, the more sponsors and fans it will attract period.

true, i think the conditions in the continental were bad, but short draws occur even where single games are played on a sunny afternoon where the particular player is ahead, behind, or even for the lead in some tournament.

its a fact of life that the masses just like a good fight. for us hard core chess enthusiasts we will be fans regardless, but to attract new fans and new sponsors, which will in turn create better conditions for chess players, the game must be more (hate to say it, but its just a fact of life) entertaining.

we all know about the strategy of short draws and how it may make sense in the overall view of a tournament or match, but try explaining that to a potential fan or sponsor and see how much they care.

if the existing core of fans and sponsors remain, then how will conditions improve? it seems that if that doesnt change conditions wont change.

others say that chess is not a spectator sport, and that players play for themselves not for the fans or sponsors. again, chess needs more spectators which will attract more sponsors.

a friend of mine came with me to a major us tourney where we saw the 2 leaders in the final round play each other. the result was a 12 move draw where only a pair of pawns was exchanged. my friend immediately said, "what the F***". after i explained the situation he asked if the point of 2 competitors playing was to determine who was better. again, i explained, but he just said, well thats great for them, but why do i or any one else want to see that?

Instead of saying that you respectfully disagree, Racerx, why don't you just say "I don't care about you I just care about me"?

RacerX above has a very good point: If these short draws were the exception rather than the rule, people would be more willing for forgive. Let's face it though, in this case there was a decent reason, but it just makes a convenient excuse for generally the bad sporting behavior that is the "GM draw".

Thank to GM Oniscuk for giving us the score of his game with GM Granda. It´s a pitty that he didn´t give the games eith Vescovi and Milos (4th and 6th round)

>>Instead of saying that you respectfully disagree, Racerx, why don't you just say "I don't care about you I just care about me"?

Because that's pretty much true of everyone so it goes without saying.

I can't understand jumping on racerx as he actually bothered to express his opinion without flaming someone. Is that some kind of taboo in the weird anti-mannered ethos of the Internet?

I'm pretty sure what Onischuk was talking about with "conditions" was money to players just for playing. You fail to address why a chess player who has a family to feed should make a sacrifice for chess and risk his already fluctuating income for the "better of chess". Sure, if you pay a player to fight and give him guaranteed money, he'll be much more likely to put up a battle in every round. This is why I don't agree with Ashley's move at HB Global. The players were not getting paid anything special to have to play at least 30 moves to try. Quite the contrary, even GMs who normally would not pay entry fee had to pay entry fees. Also, at HB Global $25,000 (difference between first and second) could have potentially been decided by a blitz playoff. It's one thing to try to improve the popularity of chess, but why not improve it at the professional level? I believe these prize disparities only encourage the kind of deals that occur between GMs in the final round (**cough** Serper-Mitkov 2005 North American Open **cough**) that really have a chance of destroying chess. Now while I can't say for a fact anything foul happened in that game, I believe any respectable player who sat watching that game while they were both watching the Milman-Akobian game (where milman was paying for potentially clear first) realized that no real moves were made on that board until after it was clear a winner (in a dead drawn position) would get more money than the two of them drawing combined..... Hrrrrrrm. Yes, big prizes encourage fighting chess.......


I have said this before, and I will say it again: Sponsors have a right to set standards which assure the maximum number of fighting games; fans, on the other hand, have no stake in it whatsoever and should shut up already. Day after day, we hear people complaining about how games were not exciting, but few of the people complaining actually do anything that contributes to a GM's earnings. If, for example, ICC had some commission so that players would receive a percentage of some payout based on number of spectators, then it would be different, but why should they risk losing in situations of critical importance only to entertain people? Fans generally want to see blood on the board, but don't really give a damn whose blood is spilled. For the winner, he has gained fans, but I am willing to bet that the fans mean a hell of a lot less than the paycheck which justifies his dedicating his life to chess. For the loser, there is the return to the hotel room empty-handed, with people saying "Oh, what a pity", and then nothing more. Chess is not like other sports, in which fans complain because they are paying season ticket prices and want to get their money's worth from what they see on the field of play. In chess, fans are specters watching from afar, often from the comfort of our own homes, and so the players owe us absolutely nothing. Granted, it would be wonderful if some player competed for "a higher cause", but why should they be penalized for doing what is best for themselves? Which of us will pay the bills for a GM who is on a losing streak and fails to earn anything for a month or two? Until the chess public starts contributing in some meaningful way to GM chess, then our complaints are irrelevant, unlike those of the sponsors.



Better conditions in chess, but not rules like a “thirty moves rule,” can improve the situation.
-GM Alex Onischuk

Well first he shows us a game that ended in a 14 move draw and then he says that a no draw-rule can´t improve the situation. I disagree completely.

The conditions could of course have been better in this tournament.

If anything, I hope this teaches us all to be a little more critical when reading the news.

Yes I am very critical of this newsletter from GM Alex Onischuk and I completely agree with Racerx.

Ilardo was right, even if he exaggerated the matter. The GM's knew that -1 would qualify them. There was no need for a verbal agreement. Everybody knew what they had to do. There was a 99% chance that Needleman would not make it to an even score in the end. Even Onischuk admitted that the draws were intentional, he just tried to justify it by bad conditions.

The GM's were right, this was the correct strategy. The organisers chose the wrong tie braking system. It should have been double elimination.

Maliq wrote:
"Until the chess public starts contributing in some meaningful way to GM chess, then our complaints are irrelevant, unlike those of the sponsors."

I do it for tourneys in my city (where there is sometimes a couples of IMs and not too ofently a GM) 'cause I think I should reward the show that players have putted.

I'm not sure that enables me to complain about the show. But I do hope that the titled players will respect lower rated players or spectators like me. ;-)

I am truly surprised that GM Onishuk even responds to stupid allegations from jegutman and the likes. Didn't he hear something about biser and swines? No matter what he says he'll be flamed anyway. Of course USCF 1500-1800 players know better what chess needs. You wanna fighting chess - go see U1600 World Open. Never mind people drop pieces and pawns every single move there. This is the future of chess most of the 'visionaries' on this message board see.

I completely agree with Maliq and I made some similar points on this issue, but the it was immediately followed up by some 1200's voicing their naive opinion with no appreciation for how hard it is to play on that level and how much those GMs have already sacrificed to be professionals. The same people that want GMs to fight also want $20,000 prizes in the U1600 section of HB Global because these low players "pay entry too". This is absolutely hypocritical. If every tournament was one open section and the same money was paid out only at the top (and all the guppies still entered) there would be a lot more fighting chess because there would be money even if you lost a fight. But GMs can go to a large tournament such as HB Global and walk away without enough money to cover their expenses. But clearly this was a successful event as the losses were ONLY in the sextuple digit range. Racerx's argument is like telling an employee, you only get paid if you do a good job. This is nice, but the employee will go somewhere else. Normally the situation is: you only get paid to do a job, if you dont' do it, you're fired and wont' get paid after that. This seems to be the right model especially in a situation where the money is not so big. There can be situations wehre there is some guaranteed money and some money to be "earned" from sponsors for fighting, which increases their pocketbook for winning games. Or another example... "The carrot vs. the stick", well, the carrot does work better than the stick, but try to get your horse to pull you and tell him if he does there will be a carrot next time. Good luck with that.

So 1/0 inter-ne-trash games are the future of chess? ;-)

I don't think that expecting prize money when you're rated below let's say 2000 is a good thing, period. Maybe the only exception might be paying for some of the expenses like restaurant and hotel rooms (with sponsorship).

I've always wondered why in those sections the prizes were not something like lessons from a titled player and the money given as a sallary for the titled players. I think that would be a win-win for everyone.

observer, I could claim that there are even more decisive games if we had an U800 section with a $1,000,000 prize fund? Does that make U800 sections with million dollar prize funds the future of chess? If these games in the U1600 section at the World Open are so great then why aren't there spectators complaining when two friends in the U1600 section draw or when two people who can tie for first in the last round draw. Believe me, these draws happen. If you just want to see decisive results and not quality games, why even play in a real tournament? Why not go play $1 hustle games on the corner? Why even leave your house, just play for money on ICC? Clearly there are players out there who like high quality games since the U1600 section at the world open has quite a few less spectators than the Open section. I don't see Nakamura coming down to watch the 6th board int he U1600 section, but when he's playing on 6th board players are all over him, but please, tell me why 1500's should get paid because as you put it, they know better what chess needs. 1500's are important only when they play chess: 1) not for prize money and 2) to get better. Those class sections are where the biggest sandbaggers are every year. So please, continue to encourage unethical playing practices, clearly that's the future of chess.

jegutman, this is from google:

Definitions of sarcasm:
witty language used to convey insults or scorn; "he used sarcasm to upset his opponent"; "irony is wasted on the stupid";

Sorry if my sarcastic post was way too deep for you. I should have said beginners section instead of U1600 to be clear I guess. I just hate to see the way patzers criticize very strong players like Kamsky, Onishuk, Yermo etc. I bet most of the readers of this blog didn't even get why Onishuk calls his 11th move a mistake. It is funny to read some patzer's evaluations of GM games made with Fritz's assistance. When Fritz says +0.0 it doesn't mean "dead draw". Also +3.51 means nothing if there is a mating net around your King. Just give GMs more respect and stop nonsense about prearranged games (draws).

He's not talking about prize money, he's talking about playing a second tournament from 10pm to 5am. Expecting fighting chess under those circumstances is a joke. You have to provide some incentive and here there was none at all, by system. It can't all be stick, you need some carrot. Or least something other than torture.

In a regular tournament you can make a case for this being a chicken and egg situation. I.e. that if they play more fighting chess, they get more sponsorship and money and better conditions (although this has never been shown at all). I promote that view all the time. But in this extreme situation, with the only point being to qualify and only one player going out, with the hour, with it being a pay-to-play situation, ridiculous. You can't extrapolate this situation and event to other events.

These guys are chessplayers and of course fans can make them feel guilty for not playing chess. That's a cheap thrill for the amateur in this little world. And I'll hammer GMs who make short draws in invitationals, where they are laughing at the sponsors and the fans and taking a day off from work. But we have to think enough to realize that not every game is the same, not every situation is the same. Leave the black-and-white thinking for the board.

Amusing to see a few die-hards still trying to make a case for conspiracy, despite the fact that we now know Needleman was in with a chance with only two rounds to play. Facts are stubborn things, but nothing compared to a person who has made up his mind to ignore them.

Sorry observer, now that you say you were being sarcastic that all makes some sense. Anyways, sarcasm normally is indicated by tone which was very hard to get out of your post (but much easier out of spoken word). Next time just be more evil about it. I think the complaints about the round robin were rediculous. I made a similar argument about the lack of incentive for GMs to produce a great game when the guppies are going to go over it in 5 seconds with fritz and judge it by fritz's 1/2 second evaluation of the position. I certainly as a fan wish there were fewer draws, but it is not my place to criticize a GM for taking a short draw when it makes sense, in fact, I would be willing to criticize a GM for not taking a short draw in the right situation.

It's scary to think of what can happen in the name of watering down high level chess for impatient, blood thirsty amateurs. Gee, why not turn it into a reality TV show and dunk the loser into a tank of snapping turtles or leeches? That'd draw fans and sponsors..and maybe a sweet TV deal for "chess". How many more patzer fans could you attract with some sort of "strip" chess...or maybe hair vs. hair matches between titled rivals like the WWE..supported by weeks of internet broadcasted interview schtick?? Hey, chess is chess and pro wrestling is pro wrestling and boxing is boxing and poker is poker. The "fans" who should be catered to are the ones who love each game/sport for what it is..and not what it could be twisted into.

Reading through the posts, I noticed several that use the rating card.

"some 1200's voicing their naive opinion"

"Of course USCF 1500-1800 players know better what chess needs"

Comments like these, imply the poster has no logical argument. If they did, they wouldn't have to denigrate ninety percent of the chess playing fans to make their point.


I will never understand this denigrating behaviour. Also is it not funny that Mig doesn't seem to mind much about this kind of low-rated players bashing? ;-)

Well lwolf123, I hope these players are looking to improve or can accept there is quite a bit of chess understanding they are missing. I promise you most masters won't be making a post about how they should be sacrificing unsoundly more often to appease the fans or how it's unreasonable to take a draw in the last round to secure money for a professional player. They also understand how hard it is to play a high quality game and how much energy it takes out of you. Also, they understand that there is beauty in games that don't necessarily have huge material sacrifice and ones that do. Are you in denial altogether that a person 1500-1800 is a weaker chess player than someone 2000-2300? Do you think those higher rated players are just luckier? Yes, I do believe the quality of chess coming from class players is much lower than that coming from masters. I do not mean to denigrate the quality of a class player, but instead I am just trying to put it into perspective. My argument was not illogical, citing a low-rated player's opinion as invalid as to how the game should be played is reasonable since they clearly have less understanding and less experience. I believe there is too much of an attack on higher-rated players. Why shouldn't the skill level of a player matter in his opinion of the quality of the games presented at a tournament? Speaking of no logical argument, you claim that I had no logical argument simply because I "denigrate ninety percent of the chess playing fans", but this in itself is an illogical argument since it IS possible to both insult someone and have a valid point.

I don't understand the need for holding a mini-tournament at 10:00pm. Why didn't they just use one of the many available tie-break systems available? For lack of a better one they could have used performance ratings to break the tie. Please note that I am not advocating use of "performance rating" to be the tie-breaking method, I am using it as an example. Of cause the organizers have to publish this before the tournaments starts so the players will be aware of the tie break rules. Or was there a some-sort of fide condition/rule that did not allow them to use such tie-breaking system?


Brazil's Gilberto Milos just sent me a note. He has much similar to say on his site, with more detail. http://www.milos.com.br. Click on the "Continental Tie Breaks" item. As one of the few ever really in danger, he makes the point that because of the tiebreaks he only had to "wait" one round, the fourth, to be ahead of Needleman again.

but, too often you use the rating card to justify your opinions. No one is asking for unsound sacrifices. The public wants to see some good fighting chess among the masters instead of short pre-arranged draws.

if you aren't rated 2500+, then perhaps you shouldn't be commenting on GM games. They know so much more than you.

We should all stay in our little rating boxes b/c chess is just about the game. It has nothing to do with money, or sponsors, or fans.

Bibs wrote: chess is just about the game. It has nothing to do with money, or sponsors, or fans."

Bibs, thank you for making such a profound statement. Too often, we forget about the joy it gives to us.

Whilst seated in a sporting bar with me Dad, we were facing a wall with 4 huge TVs. Every TV had a different channel. As a trivia game on TV number 2 took a break, we casually spied on the TV on the left, where they were airing some kind of X sports, where teenagers (or more usually, 30-35 year olds acting like teenagers) on heavy motorcycles run off ramps and do fantastic back flips, twirl-dee-doos and other wondrous stuff in the air, finishing by landing on concrete pavement. Whilst laughing our eyes out at the utter senseless of it all, a teenager who, in the middle of a backflip, did a header into the pavement; an entertaining thought entered into my head: XChess!

XChess, obviously the "X" stands for "Extreme"! Here are the rules:

1.The winner gets to punch his opponent in the face.
2.In the event of a draw, the players each, in the style of the three stooges, poke each other in the eyes once, and play again.

I haven't figured out how a winner actually wins a match, but I believe this would sell.


So just who are these "fans" our titled players are supposed to provide "fighting chess" for?? Are these folks who are long term dues paying members of chess federations and clubs? Kibitzers at ICC? Casual fans who want free entertainment on the internet? Just who is "the public"..this mass of faceless chess fans who are so enraged about short draws? It's obvious some people get very worked up about GM draws..but It seems likely most chess consumers who spend money on the game are more concerned with their own results. I'm a little suspicious of claims made on behalf of "the fans"...I'm not attacking anybody posting here. If there's been some sort of formal study on the subject that I'm not aware of..please fill me in on it.

Seth, you've obviously never heard of the Chess Boxing World Championship.

"So just who are these "fans" our titled players are supposed to provide "fighting chess" for??"

I suppose the answer would be:
To the fans that the sponsors are trying to target. If the sponsors figure that their target market don't care about IM/GM games, the sponsors stop sponsoring and the IM/GMs stop making any money.

Titled players have a problem: most chess players don't really understand their games, but the titled players are still fully dependant (either directly or through the sponsors) on the masses of comparatively mediocre players. There has to be some coexistence here, and mutual slack-giving. Us weakies have to understand that sometimes we just won't immediately understand why some GM games turn out the way they do instead of the way we want them to, and GMs need to remember that for all their genuine desire to create works of art, they still need the masses in order to pay their bills.

Alan Ward wrote:
Titled players have a problem: most chess players don't really understand their games, but the titled players are still fully dependant (either directly or through the sponsors) on the masses of comparatively mediocre players.

I don't know how things are in other countries, but about 90% of all tournaments in the U.S. that the GMs/IMs play in are NOT sponsored by anybody except the players themselves who pay the entry fee (which sometimes includes the titled players, although they may get a free entry). In this situation I don't think strong players have ANY responsibility to fight as long as they don't prearrange the results, which would be against the USCF rules. By the way, I don't understand why on this forum and elsewhere people refer to short draws as prearranged games. In my experience, the majority of such draws (except maybe the 5-move ones) are not discussed at all before the game and just occur because both players see that their opponent is not being aggressive.

Well, sorry, maybe it's little bit irrelevant, maybe not.

I am a chess fan for almost two decades now [amateur player, not especially strong].
2 or 3 years ago I just got fed up with all this kind of stuff (world champ chaos, money-oriented chess at all levels and cases) and abandoned chess.
There are thousand interesting things (not only sports) apart from chess to do out there - things quite exciting and well organized.
I can see that no money is no fight etc. etc.
But just tell me why deal seriously with chess any more ?
All those kind of things are constantly discouraging people like me, who are ready to return to chess but we just want a reason to do it.
+ : Some of you are calling Fischer nuts but he was just the person who promoted chess with his play : if he played in that tie-break he would just go mad ! It's true that chess players like Fischer (who was NOT paid by anyone as well) has "spoiled" us all.

1. Kasparov, Garry 2812
2. Anand, Viswanathan 2788
3. Topalov, Veselin 2788
4. Leko, Peter 2763
5. Ivanchuk, Vassily

4 of the top 5 players in the world are known for fighting chess... maybe this whole problem has been exaggerated slightly?

I'm still waiting for a study to be cited that shows that it's anything more than a vocal minority that is overly concerned. It's not clear how many of those folks are chess "consumers" willing to spend money to see "fighting chess" anyway. I'm quite happy to give the benefit of the doubt to the masters personally.

My suggestion to increase the number of contested tournament games (at least in swiss tournaments): award prize money based on tiebreaks. If two players tie for first, the current practice is that they split the total of the first and second prizes.

That leads to many situations where the financial difference between a win and a draw is much smaller than the difference between a draw and a loss--hence risk averse players opt for uncontested draws.

If instead prize money is not divided, but awarded per tie breaks, then I suspect it will be in most players' interests to play for a win in the final round of a swiss.

Of course, all the objections about how tie breaks aren't fair apply, but so what? Swiss tournaments aren't fair--they only try to approximate the fairness of a round robin. I think it's worth experimenting with, anyway.

Another idea is suggested by the Adams-Hydra match: award at least some of the prize money on a per-round basis, divided equally among the winners in the round. This probably makes more sense in smaller tournaments though. If all games in a round are drawn, carry the money over to the next round.

Why don' t argentinians accept that Needleman is the weaker? It's obvious for anyone (not only for Gms) try to beat the weakest player.

Yes, we lower-rated player know better what is best for chess. That we don’t know chess better than the high-rated players is a no-brainer, but we provide the income of these same high-rated players, by generating a target-public for the sponsors, which ultimately leads to money in the player’s pockets. This is a very basic and obvious concept of publicity, which should be easy to get if you’re willing to pay just a little attention.

The “but most of the players pay for their appearance” is no argument here because we’re talking about professional chess, which is by definition being paid for play (or organize or teach, but that’s another point).

With that (well or not) said, GM Onischuk would have a much stronger point if there were no tournaments at all with good conditions, or that in good conditions tournaments the players would always play for the public, or at least always play half-decent games of chess. But yes there are good condition tournaments, and no, the brilliant players that play in such tournaments do not always play half-decent games of chess. The message is very clear to both the die-hard fans and the eventual sponsors.

Racerx in his post above made a very valid point: if this is an egg-and-chicken situation, why always consider only one of the two hypotheses? Because eventually the sponsors will begin to ask themselves “why would we provide money and structure to a chess tournament if in the end the players will agree to shameful 10-moves draw that will attract no new public, just the same fan base that will come and watch no matter what?”

Maybe the ridiculous conditions of this continental are proof that they have started asking it already.

P.S. Leko, known for fighting chess? Oh, come on!

Since the overarching goal of chess development has as a condition some kind of opening into the USA market, I recommend this serious study on the subject and also ask anybody who may know of other such articles to let us know about them.
"The demand for chess in the United States, 1946-1990".
American Economist; 3/22/1994; Chressanthis, George A.

sk wrote:
"I don't know how things are in other countries, but about 90% of all tournaments in the U.S. that the GMs/IMs play in are NOT sponsored by anybody except the players themselves who pay the entry fee (which sometimes includes the titled players, although they may get a free entry). In this situation I don't think strong players have ANY responsibility to fight as long as they don't prearrange the results, which would be against the USCF rules."

Fair enough, but it doesn't detract from my main point, namely that titled players do need the chess masses in order to make money. Now, I'm just theorizing here, but titled players ostensibly lend prestige to a tournament; stick in a GM or two and a lot of people are going to want to play in it. If everyone knew that the titled players would usually play aggresively, I'd wager that more people would want to join the tournament and be around the action. Conversely, if somehow everyone knew that the titled games would be bloodless affairs, attendance would drop, and the titled players would win less money.

To carify, I don't mean to say that titled players have some sort of moral duty to play a certain way. It's a game, damnit, and they can play however they want to play. What I'm saying is that it's in the titled players' long term best interests to play a brand of game that "the chess masses" find enjoyable.

The FIDE president has now nominated Gaston Needleman for the World Championship, meaning that he actually gets to take part, despite his last place finish in the playoff.

I'm honestly curious about this question and would appreciate an answer: Why do you guys hate strong chess players so much? Is it jealousy or something else? I'm completely baffled by the vitriol in this thread. Just because YOU play for fun (because you're not good enough?) doesn't mean others have to. We see the same absurdity in professional sports but at least those guys are making millions. They DO owe you anything. Some GM who pays $1,000 to take a shot at a $10,000 prize that you aren't contributing a cent to somehow makes that GM indebted to you? Get a flipping life.

Where can we find the information?

If this is true. That's a good news!!!! :-)

Good news, IMHO he deserves a wild card :-)

WHAT? Then what was that whole grueling tiebreak session for?!

John, :-)

For my part it's not hate. Well I previously wrote that I have no lessons to teach them about things like short draws and ... Guess what I have a short draw in my records. Just put the right conditions (e.g. being exhausted in a round near the end of the tourney and a draw offer by a stronger opponent) and you have the so-called GM draw.

The only thing I expect, is that titled players will behave nicely though I'm not sure I'm in the position to teach them anything on that 'cause we all know that we sometimes have our bad days.

But I disagree on one point. That professionals in other sports might not owe anything but when the spectators who paid sometimes a high price ticket are sickened of the way a player is playing at one point (the point of no-return) the managers have a decision to take and oftenly a trade is not far away.

Chess fans are unbelievable. They expect these GM's to fight 30 moves + rapid games at 4 in the morning with the world cup on the line (a big potential payoff). Are all of you insane? Have you truly lost all reason? If the road to victory is to pressure Needleman(the weak link) then it makes sense to do it. Tough luck for him. I am sure he will get another shot. Yes, of course it is clear that Llardo was simply trying to paint a nationalist picture. There is nothing wrong with the approach taken by the GMs, it is just sensible.

I've been following top-flight chess for about 40 years, and the gnashing of teeth over short draws has always been a concern. You could easily take the discussion on this thread and transport it back to the 70's or 80's. In fact, I find the quality of play in present-day elite events (Wijk, Linares) to be far more exciting than it was during the Karpov era, for example. Sure, there are still some short draws, but you don't have participants who go through entire events without breaking a sweat, as the likes of Ribli, Parma, and Bilek used to do.

I don't hate or criticize the GMs in this; again, I agree w/ what Mig & many others have said.

Amateur players seem to think of the objective in chess being to win every game; professional players think of the objective being to achieve the most lucrative result. This seems to be the lens that colors how people view the Needleman event. (Kind of reminds me of the neverending discussion w/ my wife about spending money on furniture :) The underlying systems of value are different so we will never agree!)

However, as lwolf123 noted way up above, the nastiness seems to go both ways. Many of the masters in these Needleman threads insult the "patzers and fish" just as much as the amateurs denigrate the pros.

In fact, John -- a couple of the most vitriolic comments I see in here are yours. "Get a flipping life", "you aren't good enough?" etc etc. So if you're looking for a little respect from the weakies, maybe consider offering a little yourself.

Anyone that scrolls this page up will se that the first insults, as always, came from the so called “strong” players to the weaker players. I’m a weak player and I don’t hate strong players; otherwise I wouldn’t pay for see them play. (I do hate their more and more common arrogance, though).

I would only agree that these “professional” players don’t owe me anything as a chess fan if ALL of the necessary money to organize such events came from the players’ pockets. If that’s the case, I really don’t care how, when, what or with which clothes they play, though you can’t really call it professional chess.

But this is almost never the case, and the tournament organizers here know it better than anyone. As a rule, they (organizers and players) owe me (chess fan – 99% made out of weak players).

If there are tickets for sale, they owe it to me. If there is internet broadcast, relayed in chessbase, ICC, etc, they owe me. If there is a single company logo anywhere to be seen on the tournament, they owe me.

To stick to the topic, I’m not saying the players in the continental did wrong while playing in outrageous conditions. In fact, I would go as far as saying they should just simply refuse to play in such conditions.

I’m just saying that the chess world should consider the idea that such short draws might be changing from consequence to cause of such bad conditions.

Ideally, the pros don't play so that you enjoy watching, but you enjoy watching cause the pros are playing. They are not there, ultimately and ideally, to please the audience. They are there to do what they do for a living, and hopefully what they are driven to do because of passion.
i think there indeed is a problem when the audience starts telling what they should do because "we are paying this". You are paying to see them play, that's it.
And i don't mean to defend GM draws in general at all, it's just that the chess players are not there to perform tricks like some juggling men and clowns.
i think i've said this before but it would be best if chess was considered as part of high culture and it would receive some government funding, too.

No problem with that, Sacateca, but then you better just forget about the "professional" part of it. No more complains about bad conditions, small prizes and the likes.

To me complaining about a quick draw between GMs is a lot like complaining about professional golfer laying up on the final hole to secure a tournament victory or a football team running down the clock when they have the lead in the last few minutes (or running the clock out at the half when they don't want to risk a turnover). These are all part of the strategy of the event. As for suggestions to use tie-breaks for money, I would like to know what profession the person that suggested this is. This is the equivalent in sales as the company who sells the most cars (even if just by 1 car) gets 75% of the total profit of all car sales. Or even more like they sold the same number of cars, but they brought in a total of $1 more so they get 75% of the profit for all car sales. Seems a little rediculous? I hope so. It's not like most GMs are filthy rich from playing chess where they can afford huge fluctuations in their income.

"If there are tickets for sale, they owe it to me. If there is internet broadcast, relayed in chessbase, ICC, etc, they owe me. If there is a single company logo anywhere to be seen on the tournament, they owe me."
I would argue that in those cases the organizers, internet broadcast, chessbase, ICC, and the tournament organizers owe you respectively, not the GMs. The money was offered to the GMs to get them to show up in the first place, it is the organizers who are trying to profit off of a service they are only indirectly providing (chess games). What if a few GMs just played every game e4 e5 nf3 nc6 Bb5 a5 Ba4 Nf6 0-0 Ne4 d4 b5 Bb3 ed Re1 d5 Nd4 Bd6 Nc6 Bh2 Kh2 Qh4 Kg1 Qf2 and draw by repetition? Are you somehow happier because the GMs played some less than best moves but got to a draw by repetition? The GMs are there to play for the money that is offered, if they are forced to risk walking away with nothing, then they might not show up in the first place. If you want to provide the GMs with appearace fees then you can require that they fight because you have something to contract. However, the more money you give as appearance fees, the less money in the prize pool and the less desireability there is for other players to play, so there's always give and take.

On a lighter note: Someone mentioned that GMs are "risk-averse" because they choose to draw when the money difference between draw and loss is larger than the money difference between draw and win. This is not being risk averse, if they believe the chances to win and lose that game are roughly the same this is called being rational. Being risk averse would be if the money difference between draw and loss was smaller than the difference between draw and win and they believed their chances of winning and losing were about the same and they still chose to draw. So actually while being risk-averse makes sense in many situations (since most people have a concave down utility of money) the criticizm for taking draws is actually criticizing rational behavior.


If the players are being paid – even indirectly - by me, they owe me something. Chess as a profession wouldn’t be feasible (it hardly is, by the way) if it wasn’t for us, weaker players. So amusing us should play some role on show as well, even if secondary.

Of course I wouldn’t be happy with a short draw for repetition, unless it was obviously forced in order to either side not to lose. But that’s not the case. I do understand many draws as perfectly valid outcomes, but I think we all know of which kind of draws we’re talking here.

I know people often refer to chess as so hard to understand that you can’t possibly have a huge fan base that allows big prizes and stuff, but ironically the thing I usually have the most trouble explaining to all my non-chess friends is the draw agreement.

I think it might behoove some of my fellow amateurs to study some heavily annotated GM games by one of the participants to understand the mysteries of draws better. A good starting point might be Korchnoi's 50 best games as black. It's not easy at high levels to obtain chances for a win my friends..I've learned that much by cracking the books. I respectfully suggest my fellow amateurs usually have no idea how far theory extends into a game..I know I rarely do. The draw is a mis-understood strategic tournament/match tool that the big boys learn to use wisely to better their long run chances. If sponsors are unhappy with draws perhaps they can increase the "brilliancy prize" money for each round.

When I see that this idea in my previous post apparently went unnoticed...

"I've always wondered why in those sections the prizes were not something like lessons from a titled player and the money given as a sallary for the titled players. I think that would be a win-win for everyone."

... I feel there is not much hope that things (like pros playing conditions) will improve in the not too far future. Looks like we will be arguing, bashing, denigrating... forever. Those nice ways of behaving nothing like that! Maybe taking a couple of steps back would enable us to something behing our belly-button. ;-)

Do not we all share something? Love for chess! ;-)

I meant "Maybe taking a couple of steps back would enable us to see something behind our belly-button?"

Eddie, I would agree with your point that they owe you something because you pay indirectly for their prizes when you enter into a lower section if the lower sections didn't have prizes of their own, but this is clearly not the case. So let's say out of a $300 entry even $100 of your money is going towards the Open section and other tournament expenses (it's not that much, it's normally around 30% of the total prize pool and 20% of the players come from there and organizers/site take most of the extra money), so a GM has to play 6 4-hour+ games to appease you for your money? for $100 you could only get probably a 2-hour lesson (or less) from most GMs, yet they have to play 4 extra hours in a game to appease you? If the GMs were drawing all their games and just chopping up the money this would be a different story, but there are a fair share of games that are played out. Plus, the idea is this has to be not equally profitable to the GM than teaching chess, it has to be more profitable (additionally so because there is risk). As for sponsorship, those donations are usually tiny, let's say maybe $500 from a sponsor, so that's like maybe $2, $3 per person. Well, the fact that you get to watch the game at all seems to be about that.
Aha! Really what you are upset about is draws in late rounds when everybody watches (since in other rounds there are like at most 10-20 spectators when in last round of a big tournament there can be like 100). Well this is really when it makes no sense for them to fight, just like it makes no sense for a golfer to go for the green in 2 on a tough par 5 when he has a 2 stroke lead if it is going to risk his tournament. I like canuck's idea of lessons being prizes, unfortunately this is incredibly hard in national events (plus like for a tournament like world open, even if you cut the value in half, you're going to give the winner $5,000 in lessons?). Why do you assume the value you contribute to the tournament entitles you to something extra? I believe it barely qualifies you for what you already get. Yet another point: When GMs take draws in early rounds it's normally not to secure money as much as it is to try to get some rest to play a great game the next day (remember, in most US swiss tournaments, the ones you "contribute" to, there are 2 games a day, this takes a lot of energy to concentrate for up to 12 hours. Again to prove my point: If you didn't feel you were getting your value out of attending, watching, or playing in a tournament you'd stop going.


I agree that for tourneys like the world open it does not make sense to give lessons as prizes.

But for a player below expert level I think this is purely ridiculous to win such amount of money. It would be better if this money was going to a IGM or IM working as a pro like they have with golf clubs or coaching a team going to national or international championships.

Maybe someday I'll go to world open. If I win a class price - which I doubt will ever happen anyway - I would probably spend the money in chess books and or software. But sadly in that case not enough money goes back to the author (IM, IGM...).


From your last post, I might have expressed me in a wrong way, what wouldn’t be something really new.

When I say “me”, I’m obviously referring to me as a part of the weaker players who pay some money to watch GM games/take GM lessons. If you’re saying my little contribution doesn’t make much of a difference seems like you’re not looking at the big picture. So, yes, my (weaker player) money plays a big role in the scheme, because it represents all the money that’s not coming directly from the GM’s pockets. Even the sponsors’ money, as small as it is (can you wonder why is it so small?), is paid because the company’s logo will be exposed so _I_ can see it.

Unless ALL the money comes from the GM’s pocket, I play some role in the picture. The smaller the GM’s share is, the bigger my share is. Even if we mix our arguments – the players in small-paying tournaments are not obliged to give me as decent games (not decisive – just decent), but the bigger my share is, the more responsible they are to show some chess, one could conclude that in super-GM tournaments, where big money is paid and almost no money comes from the GM’s pocket (apart from preparation), there should be much less short and meaningless draw. Now is that what’s happening?

Either the super-GMs didn’t adapt to their new obligations, or their bad behavior is infecting the smaller GMs. Another option is they just don’t give a damn, without realizing fans pay for their living.

i may have started some of this conversation, but i think my post was a little misunderstood. im not bashing GMs for short draws. i love chess and will play and watch no matter what. i was simply referring to the issue that players (GMs and others) want conditions for them to improve. im not insisting that they fight like crazy or entertain the fans because its what i want. i was thinking of what might improve conditions for those players.

am i wrong in saying that for conditions to improve more sponsorhip (ie, money) is needed? well, how does chess attract more big name companies to sponsor its events? with assurance that 10s of thousands (or millions, but it aint gonna happen in chess any time soon) of fans will watch the event and thus the company's logos plastered all over. so, it is obvious that the current fan base is not attractive enough for more companies to dish out big $. the question then is how to increase the fan base in order to attract sponsorship.

i alone know at least a dozen people who showed an interest in chess who were turned off by 5 or 10 move draws by GMs at super tournaments and at national tournaments. and as i said before, where playing conditions were great for the players (not bad like continental). im a tiny spec in the corner of the world. imagine how many others have been turned off by this. at the same time i also know people who were not chess fans, but knew how to play simpley cuz they played with their grandads or whatever, who were amazed with some great games involving sacrifices, or slowly strangling of opponents, or even draws which were fought hard to the end.

im not bashing anyone or claim to know the answers, but i do know that anything exciting attracts more fans, players, and sponsors which were not previously fans, players, or sponsors. i also know that if there is no change to the way things are currently, the situation will also not change?

i dont think this is a chicken and egg situation. the situation is that chess needs to change somehow to attract sponsors, its not that sponsors will give big $ to chess in its current form and then chess will improve. its no secret that if you seek sponsorship, or a grant, or whatever, you have to give them reason. the sponsor isnt asking what they can do to give you money.

the easiest way to make GM's fight in the last round is to stagger the prizes properly. the "sensational" prizes ruins this. At MN, the winner got 50k, second place got 5k. World Open winner gets 11k, second is less than 2k. When every prize from 1st to 2nd to 3rd etc drops so dramatically, the players start thinking about how it would be nice to eat for the next week or so and take draws. Only wacky Weikel in Reno seems to get this- if you come in the top 10 there you have a chance to cover expenses.

Seems to me the problem is that people are confusing two things: trying to win a chess game and trying to win a chess tournament. They are two very different things. As Jegutman points out, to win a tournament you sometimes need to play a short draw so you can rest and restore your energy; you also try to follow strategies like playing aggressively to beat weaker players and playing conservatively to draw against stronger players. In the end it's not number of games won that determines who wins the tournament, it's total number of points -- and your objective should be to maximize your number of points.

To win an individual chess game, on the other hand, is something different. You simply play the best chess you can, and try to pursue strategies that maximize the chance of a decisive game rather than a draw.

I think a lot of people are demanding that GMs should try to win chess *games*. Sorry, GMs are trying to win chess *tournaments*.

This is a very good way of putting it fluffy, I never thought of it quite like that. And reno clearly cares about high level chess players too as $1 of every entry fee every year goes to the foundation for professionalizing chess or some crazy name like that. Rarely do players in a large swiss get clear 2nd, but clear or 2-way tie for first happens often enough, but that 8 way tie for second kind of kills the prize (that is what happened to you at the US Open right?). So the only players who get a real pay day are those that finish in first. Also weikel provide free entry to all IMs and GMs I believe which seems to be the way it should be. I would say the most rediculous thing at HB Global was not that the players in the open had to play 30 moves, but that the GMs had to pay their own entry or perform "services".

the US Open 1st-2nd were $4500, 3rd-7th were $860. This is an example yes, but the US Open is never a big prize tournament-it's supposed to be a kind of vacation, so I won't complain. But yes, only Benjamin and Milov covered expenses there... I was also told that the prizes have dropped there while the entries have gone up.

If an organizer wants to boast about the prizes, use the TOTAL prize fund and then stagger the prizes so that more than the 1st place guys cover expenses. This is not difficult. Weikel has some quirks, but he does this effectively and runs a nice tournament. He experimented with a 30 move rule too. Maybe this should be reserved for the last round. Now he just has to give the bulletins away. He also gives free coffee (!!) and entry to GM/IM. Goichberg only give free entry to Gm and FOREIGN IM's! Come on Bill...

Again, USCF membership should be free to GM/IM/FM/WGM/WIM - the best players, who, incidentally, get the least from a USCF membership...

Well, I believe if weikel wants to make GMs and IMs play 30 moves he has the right to, he is giving them free entry, your suggestion of using htis in the last round only is a good one. However, this seems to be contrary to the point is that players need draws in the last round to secure money so they can eat for the next money. As for prizes, yes the US Open sucks, but remember that paying for 9 rounds of hotel use is expensive (especially when you have a traditional schedule) and that money just gets sucked right out of the prize fund. It's possible up the cost up/ prizes same (I believe the pool has been exactly $40,000 for the last 3 years +- a few hundred for best game prizes) has to do with increased costs of hotels. 2 years ago at the US Open in LA I believe they only managed to turn a profit when sold back one of the ballrooms they were using on the last day (and squeezed everybody into the other one). And here we could easily get back into the point as to why you got $860 for your amazing tournament yet some kid who got clear first class D got $1500, you're higher rated and payed the same entry fee, but were both theoretically and practially eligible for less prize money since you could only win Open money (whereas he could win Open, Master, Expert, A, B, C, and D money) and being underrated doesn't really help you win the open in front of strong GMs.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 22, 2005 8:04 AM.

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