Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Tiebroken

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The item on the Continental Championship has already started buzzing about the tiebreak round robin held to find the six FIDE world cup qualifiers from the seven players who tied with eight points. Six strong GMs and 15-year-old Argentine Gaston Needleman played 15-minute games to find a single loser, bizarre to say the least.

The final crosstable looks somewhat predictable. Needleman was giving up 400 points in every game and got hammered while the GMs drew almost all their games with each other. There was only ONE decisive game that didn't involve Needleman. In his report at the Spanish ChessBase site, Carlos A. Ilardo paints a nastier picture, saying that there was a conspiracy from the start to draw quickly while playing hard against the underdog kid, who was obviously the crowd favorite at my dear old Club Argentino where the tiebreak took place. He says that some of the GM games were drawn in as few as five moves.

I surely sympathize, and that crosstable is undoubtedly cruel, but I can't get worked up about this. The system lent itself to such behavior because as soon as anyone lost a game, everyone else could just draw and be guaranteed qualification. If the huge rating underdog lost early it became a foregone conclusion that the GMs weren't going to bash each other up when the only point of this was to settle the qualification spots. It was midnight on the same day as the tough final round, one player was outrated by 400 points, and it wasn't necessary to conspire against him. Had Needleman won his first game things would have been different [He actually did! See comments.], but again, as soon as ANY game was decisive, you were guaranteed qualification by drawing all your games unless you were that loser. Playing to beat the 2240 player would also make sense, but it was Needleman knowing he had to win to come back that led to the four losses, not the GMs refusing his draw offers.

I constantly push for anti-draw rules and fighting chess, but this format was a train-wreck and a formality gone awry. In this case I find it hard to blame the players for just trying to get it over with and get some sleep instead of providing an extra show with nothing at all to gain. It's a sad example of "professional chess" for Needleman, but at the end of the day this was a professional situation and, let us not forget, he DID lose four games.

[Update: msc spoke with Needleman on the ICC and he doesn't think there was any conspiracy. He even won his first game, against Milos in the second round. Felgaer lost then to Granda and had to play hard in his games. Kamsky and Granda played a hard game early. Anyway, it all seems like yet another overblown example of Ilardo's "reporting" in La Nacion newspaper. More in my summary comment.]

125 Comments

Mig,
do you think the crosstable would be quite so strange had it been, say, Gata Kamsky who was the first unfortunate player to lose. Surely not.

Ironically, Needleman had the white pieces against his father in an early round of the tournament and accepted a draw after 10 moves.

I can see that this series of events might have unfolded without a conspiracy, and in that case, it would be understandable. However, if most of the GMs did in fact agree to draw amongst themselves and playing out their games against Needleman, before the tiebreak had started, then this whole thing is a disgrace. Yes, Needleman could of course have smoked them all and qualified that way, but if everyone else made quick draws in the other games and saved all their energy for their game with him (were draw offers made in his games?), while he had to play out all his games, then it's no surprise that he lost four games. I'm not sure a regular GM would fare much better under those conditions.

Yeah, the format of the tie-break invited collusion, but the players were not, by an stretch, compelled to accept the (admittedly tempting) invitation. In my opinion the players are not above reproach here. And while their behavior was certainly practical, even understandable, it sends a very poor message to the average chessplayer: If possible exploit the system, and (perhaps more to the point) win at all costs!

This wasn't a situation the average player, or just about any player, is going to be in. It was a wholly contrived mini-event solely designed to eliminate someone quickly. Done.

It certainly would have been different had Kamsky lost in the first round because he would have come back and stomped a few people, throwing it into chaos. There would be a need for the guys he beat to play to win. And others could expect that he would do just that, so everyone but the guy who beat him would probably at least play to win with white, although taking undue risks would still be foolish.

That's really the point, that Needleman was a huge underdog everyone could more or less expect to beat and after he was down a game or two it was obvious to one and all that the only way you could fail to qualify would be to lose a few games. With everyone in that position, playing became everything to lose, nothing to gain. This is because of the system and the number of spots.

I guess it depends on whether or not the players colluded prior to the event, something we will most likely never know with any degree of certainty. I agree that if the collusion was merely implicit, a practical and mutually understood decision based upon Needleman's first round loss, then the behavior is understandable though hardly worthy of praise.

Here's my opinion on short draw rules (I think, just for the sake of parity we should state ratings when we talk about our opinion on short draws). (USCF 2035, FIDE 2080)
So you can't just tell a player with no advance notice that draw offers will not be allowed, if this rule is to be implemented it needed to be done before the tournament even began. Also, players must be compensated.... In sofia, players got appearance fees and signed contracts to play in the tournament. Since this tournament in Argentina was an open tournament, I highly doubt players had to sign no-draw contracts. I don't believe what happened at HB Global was correct nor did it do anything special. If two GMs want to draw, it's really hard to stop them from drawing and when a 1200 says otherwise and make some rediculous rule like (win 1, draw 0, lose 0....) or something absolutely rediculous like that, he is just making a fool of himself by showing how he doesn't understand that a lot of the draws reached in chess games are played out draws for 40+ moves and that a draw is a very natural result of a well-played game. The situation in the tie-break may have looked shady, but as long as there was no talking between the player to agree upon this and the draws were all first offered and accepted at the board, there is nothing you can claim is wrong with this. To me I see this like a case of Anti-trust. As long as two companies never exchange and conversations about price fixing, there's nothing wrong with it, but the second they discuss it, it's illegal. I think what happened here was "obviously" good for the GMs involved and didn't need to be discussed between them. Does this whole thing suck for Needleman? Of course. Should the GMs be punished? Not if there was no explicit collusion. One way of fixing the draws in tie-breaks is have them determine standing for money, however, this is nto a GOOD solution, it is in fact, horrible. I don't believe it's right to ask a GM to potentially play a 5-minute game for $25,000 like they were prepared to do at HB Global. Why don't all the lawyers and doctors out there at the end of the year play a single hand of poker where they all force-bet half of their earnings.

If these draws are acceptable, it becomes practically impossible to criticize any sort of draw (5-move draws included). After all, anyone could invoke the blogmeister's defense: "We were just trying to get it over with and get some sleep instead of providing an extra show with nothing at all to gain".

I'd have to wonder, though, what the commentary would be had Kramnik been a protagonist in the the tasteless incident...

Brazilian GM Milos lost to Needleman but he qualified because he drew the rest of his games. This is natural except in case these were not fighting draws but the result of the short draw agreements. As things turned out, these practical and reasonably-agreed draws had the effect of granting Milos a qualification spot. The players must have been aware of this but shrugged it off by saying something like "in the end, the kid is going to lose anyway". This tacit understanding amounts to a conspiracy even if some feel that it is too small to even deserve comment.

How does Mig or anyone else know that Needleman lost his first game in the tie break as he assumes he did? The crosstable does not tell us which games were played first. The chronology is important to determining what happened. If a number of the GMs were agreeing to four move draws before Needleman had lost a game, then suspicion of collusion is reasonable and should be investigated. If the four move draws followed a first round loss by Needleman, then their behavior is understandable, and there is no reason to suspect pre-game collusion.

Thanks to bacan, I now scroll down to find the posters name first, so I dont waste any time reading her/his rants. Please address the host of the most "inside" chess blog on the net as Mig Greengard, Mig, or Mr. Greengard. Really is getting quite old. Its still amazing how childish people can get when they know they can't get there nose punched.
Mig, keep up the great work!
Brian Lucas

Hmmm, I wonder if it was the tie that was broken?! ;-)

First of all, I think it's quite clear that the format used for the playoff might be quite good for choosing a few qualifying spots, but never when more than half of the players will qualify, since then it will often produce odd situations, for example as soon as one loses a game. A much better idea might be a KO or some other system.
As for this particular situation, there's no knowledge that the GM attitude started as a result of one of Gaston's losses, at least that I know of, and if it started from the first round it's quite likely some prearragement was made, and it might be studied by some FIDE commitee, though I know I'm asking for too much. But along with short draws, all kinds of arrangements are one of the major dangers for chess nowadays, if not at the very top level, yes in all kind of swiss and other events, in which they're far too widespread.
Finally, congratulate Gaston on his incredible tournament, and hope next time he will be luckier, as he has a great future awaiting.

You can't collude against Needleman unless he loses, period. They couldn't decide anything beforehand, nor would they need to. And even if Needleman didn't lose his first game or games, the plan of drawing all your games and beating the (by far) weakest player is hardly novel. Conspiracy and collusion weren't required here.

This wasn't a classical tournament or a real tournament at all. It was an annoying formality that could have been handled by tiebreak formula to avoid such a travesty. Trying to extend what happened here to make comparisons to a regular event is silly. You can't say you want players to fight to the death any time they sit down, no matter how contrived the situation or how unnecessary or self-injuring it may be. As I've said many times, I'm for removing the option to do this by eliminating draws by agreement entirely. That would have been senseless, even cruel, in this situation considering the hour and circumstances.

Given that

Carlos A. Ilardo wrote:
"Only Rubén Felgaer fought for every point in every game, but did not get them all. The spectators became very restless and started booing and whistling at the players. Some of the GMs turned red and stammered excuses."

I have hard time with this

Mig wrote:
"The system lent itself to such behavior because as soon as anyone lost a game, everyone else could just draw and be guaranteed qualification. That the huge rating underdog lost early made it a foregone conclusion that the GMs weren't going to bash each other up when the only point of this was to settle the qualification spots."

Mig maybe you should explain it to señor Felgaer? ;-)

I understand Mig's point in the latest posting, but this is what he wrote earlier: "That the huge rating underdog lost early made it a foregone conclusion that the GMs weren't going to bash each other up when the only point of this was to settle the qualification spots." Now it may be that he did not lose early, which makes the situation somewhat different. Would it have been a foregone conclusion to draw if Needleman's first game was his sole win? I still think it is important to know the order of the games and when the super-quick draws occured to understand what happened. If someone would find out that information, I would appreciate it.

Shame on the GMs there!

Credit some intelligence to the players. As I said, making short draws made sense all the way through unless you lost, regardless of who else lost or won. Had Needleman won his first game that might have changed things a tiny bit, but it would still make sense for everyone but Milos to make short draws.

I'd also love to have the games, but it seems they weren't recorded, which is strange considering it was a FIDE qualification event. But from the looks of the playing area there weren't people at each board taking down the moves.

As for Felgaer, I can imagine him playing a little harder in front of the home crowd for himself and for his compatriot Needleman. I can also imagine the correspondent being quick to credit his countrymen. But note that Felgaer lost a game. If that happened fairly early he would feel more pressure to play in his other games, as discussed.

The games would illuminate things - or not - a little bit, but I don't see anything bizarre in this at all. Hammering the weakie is as old as the round-robin. Sad about the draws, yes. I agree it's a shame. But I don't expect professionals to risk slitting their own throats if they have another option.

Hey, how about asking Needleman himself what happened? His ICC handle is "ClicandLose." I messaged him, but he has not responded. Perhaps he would respond to you, Mig? I am sure your readers would appreciate Needleman's first hand account.

While I conceed that msc`'s post says a lot: "Ironically, Needleman had the white pieces against his father in an early round of the tournament and accepted a draw after 10 moves.",
this whole affair is shameful. You can say whatever you want, it was within the laws, it was badly thought from the start, etc. , but you can't hide it's shameful, completely unethical and speaks very poorly of the human condition, and...well, I just feel like puking :)

And for once, I agree with Bacan, I too wonder what the commentary would be had someone more well-known been a protagonist in the tasteless incident...

Yah, good idea, thanks. I have his dad's email address and have also asked one of the organizers for the round by round scores. I'm not sure he was at the tiebreak but I'm sure he can get them eventually.

Btw, I'm not claiming any moral high ground by excusing the players in this unusual case. In a perfect world everyone would play like Topalov crossed with a rottweiler. I just think the many extenuating circumanstances - 6/7 qualifying, one low-rated player being down (even if by some incredible coincidence he won and drew his first two games he was down for the last few rounds), s much as stake with nothing to gain by playing - make this one deserving of more than quick condemnation.

Better known than Kamsky, sanferra? All of the players are well known for that matter. That said, I can see making a case for the super-elite to protect the image of the game in a headline event, while such standards don't necessarily apply everywhere. I've always thought the top players should be held to higher standards because they are examples. That's probably the worst thing about this, as others have mentioned.

I entirely agree that quick condemnations are not in order. Let me add that knowing the chronology of the games and super quick draws could also bring an end to any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Most conspiracy theories are discredited when the full story becomes known and uncertainty is thereby dissipated.

Another quick idea...
Why didn't this little tiebreak tournament work out as one suppose it should? If everybody played as they were supposed to, there would have been no problem, right? Well, let's ask the experts:

"In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous."
Tacitus

I think Bacan was being sarcastic and was instead referring to the match between Kramnik and Leko where many people thought there were too many short draws. I don't understand people's frustration with late round draws, they act like this doesn't happen in other sports, but it does if you give it the right context. If you consider a whole tournament to be a single event. Look at a basketball game where in the last quarter one team has an large lead. Do you expect to see the starters in for both teams? No. More likely the bench players for BOTH teams will be in as to save their players for another game. So if a player is willing to take a draw to guarantee to reach his goal for a mini-tournament, what's wrong with that? If you don't want to allow this you have to make the rules different and/or provide compensation for the players. Actually, there were multiple mentions of Needleman taking a quick draw against his father, but isn't his father higher rated? Wouldn't this be in the Junior Neeleman's interest? And as his father was higher rated and he had black, this was a reasonable result. He was not yet having a 2600 performance and could not expect himself by tournament standings to have a 2600 performance. I believe the problem with chess is that there aren't enough fans that can appreciate what a good game actually is. So many people praised Nakamura's last round victory of Ibragimov as some wonderful display of fighting chess and what a great game it was when in fact Nakamura was lost from the early middle-game up until almost the very end and got incredibly lucky to win this mess. It was a last round game that mattered for the championship so fans add this extra influence to it, but in last round games are supposed to get messy when both players want to win, this is nothing extraordinary. If a player had a 2 point lead going into the last round over the rest of the field, few "fans" would care to watch because it doesn't mean something for the tournament, but if both players are fighting, there is potential for an even higher-quality game because nerves can only be a problem on one side. I'm not claiming that all players would ignore this game, but the same 1200's that would criticize them if they made a quick draw wouldn't follow this game live if it was available. If it was an absolute masterpiece it might get some credit in some later analysis, but look at the Nakamura-Ibragimov game, nothing special in terms of quality, in fact quite messy as white was completely lost quite early, but still a game in which the white player is recognized for fighting when if he had really played a great game, there would be no need for all this fighting to begin with.

Just for the record, the writer of that piece, Ilardo, is a sob-story specialist who wouldn't think of letting anything get in the way of a good tragic story. Readers of La Nacion have suffered his overwrought, error-ridden stuff for years. Just in this tournament alone his article on Gata Kamsky made Gata sound like a combination of Oliver Twist and Mozart, almost as tortured as his own prose:

"Afortunadamente, todavía algunos oídos son capaces de recoger los gritos de auxilio que dan los silencios." Barf.

Mig,

You make some valid arguments for not blowing this out of proportion given the unusual circumstance under which this whole thing occurred but the stakes are not zero here, these guys are getting their passes to the FIDE world cup. As someone who is a real advocate for chess and wishes to see it gain in popularity, I’d argue that you ought to take a stronger stance. Anticompetitive behavior (or the appearance if it) is bad for the game and must be aggressively condemned at every opportunity. Someone who may or may not have earned it, is going to the FIDE world cup. This is not trivial and this kind of press has the potential to do real harm to the popularity of the game. To put it in some kind of perspective, in a recent post you put forward a proposal to alter the ratings system in order to make them more dynamic with the thought that this dynamism would increase the popularity of chess. Any potential benefit from tweaking the rating is insignificant relative to the how big a turnoff what seems to have happened in Argentina is to most people.

It does seem like some kind of collusion did occur (whether the agreements occurred before or only arose during the games makes no difference). These games were played late after a long day for all of these players. This fact and the short time controls would seem to favor blunder prone chess and more decisive games. That final crosstable just looks wrong.

amstar

"I believe the problem with chess is that there aren't enough fans that can appreciate what a good game actually is...."


Um, yes, clearly the problem. Dumb fans who get excited about the sporting aspects of chess. Such dopes. Right.

I'm just learning the basics of chess now, and I understand only about half of the article I just read, but it seems to me that the article only hints at the ugly, politically twisted world that professional chess really is.

And hot damn is it interesting.

Mig,

Have e-mailed some of your friends in Argentina? It would be nice to have feedback from them.

Of course I meant have you e-mailed

I didn't say nothing was at stake, quite the opposite. It's that they had nothing to gain by playing and everything to lose with so much at stake. Recipe for disaster.

It's absurd to think that the Peruvian, Brazilians and Americans concocted a conspiracy before the event. It makes a big difference. Agreeing to a draw after it's offered vs before the game is played. These guys are pros, they would realize the math in play immediately and wouldn't need some secret pact.

Well,

Why spectators were so upset then? Is it true that they were booing or whistling? Is it true that some some of the GMs turned red? This is why if I had argentinian friends involved in chess I would surely ask them.

This situation reminds me of teams´ strategy during World Cup (I am talking about soccer). Favorite teams play closed against each other, not to risk to lose and face elimination; and play more open against underdogs, which only chance of survival is eventually beat someone big. That´s why games amonst England, Germany, Brazil and Argentina suck in early stages and have few scores, and games with ex. Cameron have plenty. It is rational for the big teams to minimize the risk of elimination and not always play for a win. You don´t need to claim conspiracy or lack of professionalism to explain this. It is just the rules of the competition that make such strategy profitable.

Derek, my point was that there is no incentive for these professionals to spend their time to try to play great games when it's only the sporting games that get remembered. A positional masterpiece gets praise in maybe a few books, an attacking/tactical masterpiece gets published by every fish on the web. Well, most well-played GM games are the former and not the latter in modern chess and while a fish can appreciate a player being down a knight for an attack (and by appreciate I mean ooh and ahh for no reason), might not be able to appreciate a pawn sacrifice for long-term positional compensation. So these players who are not getting paid by the fans almost at all (they are paid by other players who have no chance at winning money essentially) are supposed to put out hard fought games when the difference between a draw and a win to their pocket-books in this tie-break was nothing? This makes no sense. This is like a player who has a full point lead in the last round not taking a draw because he "likes to fight". There are very few GMs who wouldn't have taken draws in the situation in the tie-break. Whether or not the GMs did anything wrong to Needleman, the fans have no right to complain about not gettign to see games that weren't guaranteed to happen to begin with.

I'm sure they weren't happy. They are Argentine and Needleman was the young hero. And it's not like fans enjoy short draws. But as I said, Ilardo can't be much relied upon for things like "red faced" et al.

Well, I talked about this scenario allready when they started to play with the no-draw rule in Sofia. It was a few people(not many) that were critical of the new no-draw rule and came up with the most ridiculus arguments on why the no-draw-rule wasn´t fair.

Then I clearly said that the thing that is not fair is when the top-ranked players take easy draws beetween each other and then go all out for a win against the lower ranked for example against Kasimdhzanov in Linares. I don´t agree with Kasparov that the no-draw rule isn´t the solution to the problem.

I think everybody saw that the rule worked really well in Sofia and the only modification to the rule that is needed, to make it really work is how to forbid the players to take repetition-draws when the position is equal but there isn´t an obvious or teoretical draw that the players can acclaim.

I don´t now how this rule should be defined but it would absolutely be possible to come up with a rule on that. If the repetition-draw is forbidden I don´t really see how the players can come across the no-draw rule unless they talk to each other before the game and tell each other what moves they will play(which would in other words be cheating). The same also goes without forbidding the repetition-draw but to a lesser deegre because the players can easily find paths to make a repetition if both players really want the draw so here Kasparov has a point but this is clearly better than no draw-rule at all.

Mig: "You can't collude against Needleman unless he loses, period."

Of course you can. Agree to play hard against him and easy against everybody else. What's impossible about that?

"Derek, my point was that there is no incentive for these professionals to spend their time to try to play great games when it's only the sporting games that get remembered."

I appreciate some of the points you make in the context of the Needleman game; I just thought it was funny that your previous post seems to extend this argument to the general. It's okay for fans to enjoy a sloppy mess because of its competitive nature, and quite possible for the same fans (in many cases, though obviously not all) to also recognize and appreciate beauty and accuracy and skill and technique. It's not an either-or proposition.

More centrally, anybody who bothers to get enthusiastic about almost any aspect of chess, whether they're a master or a "fish", is not "the problem with chess." We have bigger problems than that, IMHO. ("IMHO" being an anagram for "FIDE" here.)

But regarding the outcome of this tiebreaker, from what I can tell it was unfortunate for Needleman, unfortunate for the spectators, not any more or less immoral than what goes on generally in professional chess, and nearly inevitable under those particular rules.

Okay, you can't collude and have it mean anything, how's that? Such literalists around here. If he wins a couple of games to start, or even one game, any conspiracy against him - assuming one had been arranged - would be suicidal. He would then need to be beaten down to -2 while the guy or guys he beat to start were drawing everyone else and praying they would beat Needleman for them? Crazy.

I think a better way to conduct a tie-break would be that if any of the lower slots are not filled and require tie-breaks (e.g., in this case there was only first slot that was taken by Bruzon) then in addition to the players with 8 points, the organizer(FIDE) should include players with 7.5 also (i.e., players with half a point less than the other tie-break competitors and if there is a need then they can include players with 7.0 point to increase the no. of players), but their points tally should start with -0.5. The immediate effect will be that all the 7.5-players will be forced to play for win to gain the points and any player that loses (in any round) will be forced to win more and more! This scenario will open up the tie-break beyond any conspiracy! And also give another chance to players who might have lost any unfortunate points during the main tournament!

I think mig is right in the sense that we shdnt blame the players of conspiring before we have independent corroboration of what happened.

I think msc's idea of looking at the order of play and the moves is the best way to clear this up.

"Had Needleman won his first game that might have changed things a tiny bit, but it would still make sense for everyone but Milos to make short draws."

Mig makes this valid point, but we need to know how long were Milos' draws when he was trailing? Was he really fighting or taking 4 move draws? That will tell us if there was collusion or not. And was Needleman offered any short draws and turned it down if and when he was leading?

Regardless, it is a black mark for chess and Needleman deserves to be in the KO.

I still disagree Mig: You can collude against him even if he wins a few. With 6 games, you can still wear him down. Even if you do collude and Needleman wins, unless you are the GM who blew it with a few losses, it worked for the other 5 GMs. Most GMs would trust enough in themselves to believe that if a GM were to lose to Needleman, their ego would dictate that it probably wouldn't be them.

I still think that it was a scumbag way to play it. Cheers to Frelgaer for his integrity.

"I think msc's idea of looking at the order of play and the moves is the best way to clear this up."

After all, with the number of moves played, the .pgn for the whole tiebreak will only be like 1kB :)

You would have to be an idiot to agree to draws if you were running last, which someone would be if Needleman started with a win or two. Ganging up on one other player in this situation would be far too risky.

And Milos's games don't help much either. It could still make sense for him to draw if Needleman is down two or three. Without the games, or at least the round-by-round scores, we shouldn't be cheering anyone. Ilardo is going to make the local boys look good, period. If Felgaer lost in the first round he had little choice but to play harder, etc. Even with the round-by-round and the games we don't know what was in people's minds.

"to make it really work is how to forbid the players to take repetition-draws when the position is equal but there isn´t an obvious or theoretical draw that the players can acclaim." -centerman
I think this idea is absolutely rediculous. First of all, don't forget that in sofia the players got appearance fees and in most swiss tournaments players don't get appearance fees. Secondly your conditions are impossible to verify. In sofia they were allowed draws in table-base positions which are definitely accurate, in your situation there is no way to know for sure that a position is in fact equal if played out with some other path. There are cetainly threefold positions where veering from the repetition for either player is losing, but by definition this position is "equal" since this repetition is available. You cannot force a player to make one move over another.

Amit, as for your idea, this is possibly the most rediculous suggestion to encourage fighting I have ever seen. This puts more weight on quick tie-break games than on the actual tournament itself. A player who fought in the last round to get an extra point has to play the same tie-break with a player who took a quick draw in the last round? Why not qualify all players for this tie-break? Why even have a tie-break at all? Why not just play rock-paper-scissors for the tie-break? Or why even play the original tournament at all, turn it into a rock-paper-scissors tournament. Why would you sacrifice decisive games in the tournament to get more decisive games in the tie-break? If you break a finger do you cut off your hand to stop the pain?

Here you have the explanation of what happened from Gaston Needleman himself. I just finished kibitzing with him on the ICC. In short, no conspiracy. He started off well. Kamsky and Granda played a long one the first round.

Tell ClicandLose Viste el articulo de La Nacion? Es correcto lo que dicen? Hubo una conspiracion en tu contra?
ClicandLose tells you: no yo no creo eso
ClicandLose tells you: solo que al periodista y a mucha gente le parecio eso
ClicandLose tells you: porque hacian tablas rapidas algunas
ClicandLose tells you: pero a mi me parece q no era nada en mi contra
ClicandLose tells you: cada uno hacia lo que le convenia
tell ClicandLose Como fue la secuencia de los juegos? Que paso al principio?
ClicandLose tells you: quede libre la primera ronda
ClicandLose tells you: las tres tablas
ClicandLose tells you: pero kamsky con granda jugaron toda la partida
ClicandLose tells you: despues en la segunda
ClicandLose tells you: yo gane a milos
ClicandLose tells you: y granda a felgaer
ClicandLose tells you: y tablas la otra
ClicandLose tells you: despues perdi con kamsky despues contra felgaer despues tablas con onischyuck despues perdi con granda y con vescovi

Cool, the DDD (Daily Dirt Detective) force on the case. I hope you congratulated him for us! First, he said he didn't believe there was any conspiracy against him.

So from that we know the sequence of all the decisive games. He had the bye in the first round, beat Milos in the second round, then lost to Kamsky, lost to Felgaer, drew with Onischuk, lost to Granda and Vescovi. And as we could have suspected, Felgaer lost to Granda in the second round, meaning he was in last place with Needleman until beating him in the fourth round. So it wasn't absolutely clear until Needleman lost in the penultimate round.

Basically, since Needleman had +1 after two rounds, any conspiracy against him in particular would have already fallen apart by force. It's Milos and Felgaer who needed to worry. If Milos was playing short draws at that point he was risking his life.

He doesn't comment much on the other games, but points out that Granda and Kamsky "played the entire game."

Insert tempest, close teacup.

Now, of course, the inevitable question has to be raised about chess journalism. How and why would Chessbase translate and give credence to the Ilardo's Nacion article without any apparent attempt to verify his conspiracy theory? After all it only takes an email or ICC kibitz or two to figure this out. Eyebrows should have been raised by the thinness of Ilardo's account.

Unfortunately, Chessbase will probably not correct the story, and even if it does its irresponsible reporting will give chess fans the wrong impression of this tournament.

If chess suffers from an image problem, it is in part due to the shortcomings of chess journalism. [To all flamers: this is not meant to be either an attack or an endorsement of MIG's journalism.]

Well, I'm a part-time editor at ChessBase so that's easily handled, and the full-time editor is a regular reader here. I'll add an addendum to the story on ChessBase.

But people assume that a first-hand account from a major paper is going to be accurate. I don't blame them for taking Ilardo's article at face value, since the reader can pick up on the purple prose himself.

And don't confuse most of what I do with journalism, especially not the fictional ideal of objectivity that many assume that entails. While I put on a journo hat sometimes, it's rarely here.

I understand your desire to protect Chessbase, which is after all the best source of chess information out there, but you yourself saw from the beginning that there was in all likelihood no conspiracy here. So, why did Chessbase give credence to the report? Is the reputation of a Buenos Aires daily greater than that of Kamsky and the other first-rate players at the tournament? Should not Chessbase and other chess news outlets protect the game from unsubstantiated accusations like this? At the very minimum the headline should not have said: "it seems that the other GMs ganged up against the boy to force him out." Rather, it should have read something like the following: "Controversy at the American Continental Championship. A major Argentine daily claims that GMs unfairly gang up on local hero."

Okay, go through every story at ChessBase and see how many would stay up if each one had to first be verified by talking to the principals. It's a news clearinghouse, it brings in reports from all over the world. They have neither the resources nor the responsibility to cross-check or cross-examine anything but the most scandalous items, if even those. Assumptions are made, more information comes out, etc. That's why the word "seems" has so much work. They are usually happy to print follow-ups when more information, or opposing opinions, come out. As with most news sources, including La Nacion in this case, an interesting story will get out.

I added this to the ChessBase report and changed the headline a bit.

Before the somewhat dramatized account that follows, a quick update. In a brief conversation with young Gastón he said he didn't believe there was any conspiracy against him. We also found out from him that the progression of the tiebreak tournament makes any such collusion very unlikely. Needleman had the bye in the first round and beat Milos in the second round while Felgaer lost to Granda. It would have been crazy to agree to short draws while behind. Gastón added that Kamsky and Granda played a full game at the start. We thank him for his honesty and congratulate him on his tremendous result.

I linked to msc's conversation with Needleman and removed a single word from the paragraph above my paragraph. See if you can figure out what word it was, jeje.

"See if you can figure out what word it was, jeje."

I think I did. Starts with 'r', right?

Sounds like you all have the situation straightened out already, but here's another account, this one from Kevin Spraggett, a Canadian player who was present (and finished quite well) at the tournament.

http://www.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?action=read&id=1124473892&user=ottawachessclub

Spraggett, as you can read, points out that if the blitz tiebreaks had ended still with a tie, the next tiebreak in place had Needleman as the loser anyway. Thus, in fact, even before anyone lost a match, it was still to the advantage of everyone there except young, ill-fated Gaston to play for draws. That this didn't happen (as evidenced by Needleman's account of long games in Kamsky v. Granda and of course Granda v. Felgaer) seems to be a testament to the players' willingness to play fighting chess despite not being required to do so.

Moral here? Never underestimate the power of sob-story journalism.

David and the six Goliath
(Continental shame)

The sport practice of chess offers the players things that other sports regulations not even are encouraged to consider. The players can agree the draw with their rival at the same beginning of the game without the authorities can carry out a gesture in opposition.
This is something accepted and common in the environment, especially, in the last rounds. But in the night from the 16 to the early morning of the 17 of this month, in the tie-break for the 6 places for the next Cup of the World that offered the Continental Championship of The Americas, this right, to be used as exception, was transformed into norm. It be applied systematically by the GMs: Kamsky, Onischuk, Granda, Vescovi, Milos and the argentine Felgaer in the games that disputed among them, playing all to the limit when they play against the other competitor: Gastón Needleman.
We understand that in this occasion the sports thing has been left absolutely sideways and that with that conduct –the one that probably would be able to fit in as illicit association– was damaged to Needleman, who had to dispute its six complete games, near 3 hours and a half of play, before GMs in form continued. Meanwhile his opponents only played against him and among them fixed boards in 4 ó 6 moved, in the term of a minute when a lot. Of some way the young Needleman offered a novel form of simultaneous against an average of ELO FIDE close to the 2.650 points. We keep in mind that he has 2242. Until the 6th round (when Gastón has a good game against Granda) there was some great American player with paleness in his face, but a paleness product of the fear not of the shame.
In the history of the chess there is a milestone, the Candidates Tournament of Curazao 1962. After this tournament –of which the retador left al world championship–, Robert James “Bobby” Fischer declared that was not going to participate again in the career by the world title to so much the “Russian” not to stopped manipulating the chess. Fischer blamed its opponents in that fast event to fix draws among them –and even to favor to some, if were necessary– to play fresh before him. Years later, attending to this complaint, the FIDE modified the regulation and beginning to cycles of candidates disputed was given by means of matches. Fischer returned to the fight and came be the westerner that broke the Soviet predominance.

We return to our history. In the tournament –where should remain 6 of 7 players– carried out in the Club Argentino de Ajedrez, it was arrengement –with the consent of the regulation– an integral event, not two or three games.

We consider that this tie-break was inappropriate. The organizators –especially the Confederacy Argentina (FADA)– should achieve the place that lacked by means of fast contacts with the FIDE and, of prosper not this, the participating chess players –all, less Needelman, GMs– to opt for being behaved sports or not to be sat down none at the table and to elevate a joint order.

Nothing of this was done, was resolved the simpler. Gastón Needleman was the unique one that in the early morning of August 17 was carried the applauses, was the unique one that disputed all the games, was the unique one that remained out of the next World Cup.

There are occasions in which one feels shame to be an adult, shame to belong to a community, horror before the own impotence to see to commit a public abuse and not to have form to stop it. In most that night we feel shame to be chess players and of to be represented by this type of players. The meanness exposed only they justify it vile end. The capable only gesture to remedy, partly, this shame would be an invitation of the FIDE to Gastón Needleman. Ourselves hopes that Caissa have a day of life remain her!

FM Fernando Pedró – NM Héctor Alvarez Castillo

Shame on these GMs!!!!!

The idea that the GMs were trying to "wear down" Needleman is ridiculous. How can a young professional player be worn down by 6 quick games?

Kamsky has posted a fairly testy response in his finger notes at ICC.

So now the worst they can come up with is that the GMs played harder against the guy they outrated by 400 points? Doh.

The only player's games I'm interested in now are Milov's. If he was agreeing to short draws for the three rounds he was tied at -1 with Needleman, that's rather bizarre. Other than that, a non-story other than a very bad idea for a tiebreak system.

Probably a stupid question, but did Needleman at least pick up a GM norm?

Milov didn't play in the playoffs. In fact he didn't play in this tournament..... ;)

"It would have been crazy to agree to short draws while behind"
Well, that seems to be what happened. How can anyone otherwise explain the 14 draws out of 15 games not involving Needleman, considering those were rapid games played after a tough day (as amstar points out)?
It wasn't at all suicidal to save energy to try to "hammer the weakie" (using Mig's words), even if he was incidentally first (only for one round). But was it fair?
True, it would be rather cruel to force them to play "to death" each game considering the circumstances. But how cruel was it then for Needleman, who had to fight a fresh opponent every round?
Between the fight to death and the systematic draws there's a middle ground, and precisely because they are professionals they should show some respect for the public who pay their bills.
In my view the law that allows a draw by mutual agreement is being object of abuse by some players and should be changed. 10-move draws should disappear from chess practice, and the professionals themselves would be the most profitted in the long run.

I generally like Chessbase, but describing it as a "news clearinghouse" as an excuse for not being careful in their headlines is just that - an excuse.

Any outlet that *knows* it doesn't have the resources to check out news reports should also know it has to be more careful in its reporting.

"to make it really work is how to forbid the players to take repetition-draws when the position is equal but there isn´t an obvious or theoretical draw that the players can acclaim." -centerman

I think this idea is absolutely rediculous. First of all, don't forget that in sofia the players got appearance fees and in most swiss tournaments players don't get appearance fees. Secondly your conditions are impossible to verify. In sofia they were allowed draws in table-base positions which are definitely accurate, in your situation there is no way to know for sure that a position is in fact equal if played out with some other path. There are cetainly threefold positions where veering from the repetition for either player is losing, but by definition this position is "equal" since this repetition is available. You cannot force a player to make one move over another. -jegutman

You havn´t thought about this for a second I hear. First of all when I talk about the no draw rule I talk about implementing it in all top grand-master tournaments and make it part of the FIDE chess-rules. Of course now when players are used to play tournaments where they can take easy draws in a few moves they can demand appearance-fee in a tournament like Sofia which would not be the case if this was the standard-rules that every tournament used.
Maybe the players could demand more in the beginning from the tournament-organisers but in the end it would be up to the organisers. They could easily find players that wouldn´t have these demands and finally the players would realise that it´s up to them wether they wanted to play chess or complaining about the salary.

Maybe it is difficult to do anything against the threefold repetition and Maybe the players should still have the opportunity to make it. I´m not against just having the Sofia-rule and maybe it is to much of an alteration of the game to take away the threefold repetition but at least I think the players shouldn´t have the opportunity to offer a draw after any given number of moves.

As for the threefold-repetition I clearly sad that it would be easily to come up with a rule to prevent it but I never gave you one. Therefore I will try to give you a few suggestions on how the threefold repetition could be prevented:

1. The easiest thing would be to say that the one who first reapets the position for the third time with equal material on the board loses the game. Okey I can agree that this would be a little bit hard if it is an endgame where the scenario that you described if one player or the other makes an other move than the repetitionmove loses. Therefore you could maybe say that after 30 or 40 moves your allowed to take a repetition without losing or when it is just a total of x+x pices left. I think that the positions where either player is forced to make a repetition mainly occurs in the endgame where most pices is off and there is a closed position with bare kings and the one who makes an other move then the repetition-move loses the opposition and the game. Of course this could happen also in the middlegame(but I think very seldom and then with not so many pices left) but here the rules could just mean that if you play a certain move-order and you come to a position where you have to repeat the position for a third time for not losing, you just have to count with that and therefor you must chose an other move to avoid the position. You just have to count moves which is really the case of chess. With material imballance though I think you should always have the opportunity to take the three-fold repetition at any stage of the game.

The reason to that I think a player should have the opportunity to take the repetition in an end-game when an other move obviously loses is because this positions can often not be awoided and in the endgame there is often a limited number of moves. Of course this is just suggestions that could be refined and better worked out.

2. The other thing you could do to awoid threefold repetition is to say that a player loses if he first makes it, but has the right to call on a referee and say that if I make the threefold repetition in this position I loses. Then the referee has the right to acclaim the game drawn if he agrees or tell the player to play another move if he disagrees and maybe give his opponent more time or the opportunity to change side or something. Of course this maybe calls for some Fritz-engines and probably a strong GM in place to be judge but I don´t think it would be impossible in big super-tournaments.

I wouldn´t say that it is impossible to do something about the threefold repetition. I think both of these suggestions could work, maybe refined or both combined a little bit altered by experts.

Centerman, I am not sure it you realuze that your suggestion (whoever repeats first loses) may overturn much of the opening theory in chess. There are plenty of opening variations that end up in a perpetual check, which are avoided now by those who want to fight. However, if this would mean a win for one of the sides, the other side may have to avoid a whole big line because of this one variation. In other words, that would be a very significant alteration of chess rules, almost like declaring a stalemate a win.

Al, it's not boxing or running we are talking about here. Why would Needleman be tired and his opponent fresh, just because the former had to play a 15-minute game or two hard? It's not nearly enough to make anybody tired, let alone a young guy like Needleman. If it was someone like Gulko, I could probably agree.

Slightly warping an idea that centerman left us en passant, what about a rule that if a player repeats a position [i.e., the position arises a SECOND time (with the same blah blah)], then the opponent has the right to "Pivot", that is, switch colours and make the player move again? That would put a mild damper on early repetition draws, but more importantly it would remove all those repetitions in games where one side has a persistent advantage and wants to gain time on the clock.

The existing three-fold repetition draw rule would remain in effect.

Back on topic, no matter what happened in the playoff, I think it is a poor idea to have an event which somebody can "win" by making a few quick draws. It "brings the administration of chess into disrepute" and opens the players to criticism for following a logical strategy. I haven't thought of a 100% fair way to do this (the original playoff wasn't fair either, because in the event of 21 draws the lowest tiebreak would be eliminated). But here's something: reverse elimination (only the loser advances) matches with the player having the lowest tiebreak given a bye. The player who lost three matches (two in the case of the low tiebreak player) would be eliminated. The six players who qualified for the FIDE World Cup would have to win one match each. Other cases could be devised under the same principle: to "win", you must win. Oh yes, length of event. Assuming 2-game mini-matches at the same time control, plus a shootout Blitz game in the event of a tie match, you'll get 6 rounds plus at most 3 shootout rounds, or about the same as 7 rounds. And infinitely better for the spectators and the image of chess.

sk- "Centerman, I am not sure it you realuze that your suggestion (whoever repeats first loses) may overturn much of the opening theory in chess. There are plenty of opening variations that end up in a perpetual check, which are avoided now by those who want to fight. However, if this would mean a win for one of the sides, the other side may have to avoid a whole big line because of this one variation. In other words, that would be a very significant alteration of chess rules, almost like declaring a stalemate a win."

Well, first of all I want to say that perpetual check doesn´t have to be the same as threefold repetition and therefor you can easily make an exception when it comes to a perpetual check that involves a repetition of moves. With other words let them take the draw if they want with perpetual check. There is nothing to do against it.

Jonathan Berry- "Slightly warping an idea that centerman left us en passant, what about a rule that if a player repeats a position [i.e., the position arises a SECOND time (with the same blah blah)], then the opponent has the right to "Pivot", that is, switch colours and make the player move again? That would put a mild damper on early repetition draws, but more importantly it would remove all those repetitions in games where one side has a persistent advantage and wants to gain time on the clock.
The existing three-fold repetition draw rule would remain in effect."

This is not a bad idea at all and this would clearly work better for the really conservative no-sayers although there would still be repetition-draws in perfectly playable positions although not so many.

natural selection specifies the weakest link or point must be left behind so that the strongest survives and moves forward. the strongest in this case is the combined effort of the bunch--the solidarity front.

Can anyone post the Kamsky response (supposely in his finger notes) here please ?

wondering if hiding the results from the players, during the tie breaker, would have the effect of getting players to carefully consider taking draws?... might also add some drama...

Its really absurd, how the blogmeister without having any evidence in this case, is absolutely sure about that there is no conspiracy, while on the other hand saying its a shame for making short draws. Please tell me, if there is no conspiracy, why would they agree for short draws?
The flaw in the system was systematically exploited by these GMs. I think everyone would like to know the truth. The only way to clear the case is having an independent group investigate the matter.

I don't see why you need a conspiracy when short draws were obviously beneficial to the individuals in question. By the third round, Felgaer and Milos were the only players other than Needleman who would have felt any need whatsoever to win a game. By the fourth round, only Milos. GMs aren't idiots, they can figure out the math without colluding.

Morally there is a big difference between short draws from self-interest and short draws as a result of a pre-arranged agreement. It's clear that the latter was unnecessary. And unless someone is going to say that this is the first time in history stronger players tried harder to beat a weaker one, that's another BS argument about conspiracy. You'd have to be an idiot not to try harder to beat someone rated 400 points lower than you and all the other participants.

What happened was ugly, if indeed there were more than a few games that ended in just a minute or two (and the report we have by Ilardo has already been discredited in various ways). But that's because non-game tactical draws are always ugly. Before anyone says conspiracy you'll have to make a case as to why one was required for what happened to happen.

I dont see anything 'professional' about this. Its just more bad PR for chess and rightly so. A tougher arbiter would have double defaulted fixed draws, and no one could seriously say a five move draw is not a fix. A solution might be to have all games played in seperate rooms and to completely forbid players from informing one another how they are doing round by round. This way early draws could be dangerous if you dont know there is a backmarker. Well done to the kid and I hope he gets a wildcard into the next WC stage.

A tangential thought: I think that when people discuss whether what happened was moral or not, it's useful to make the distinction between different moral camps. I think that, assuming that there was no illegal collusion, most people would agree that the GMs would not have a moral -duty- to play hard against each other, not gang up on the kid, etc. On the other hand, I think that a lot of people are at least intuitively taking a line that's based on virtue... namely, that even though there was no specific duty as such to play a certain way, the GMs displayed a wicked character by doing what they did.

To put it more bluntly, "okay, you didn't break the rules and you were logical, but you were still an ass".

Personally, I don't really buy into that line myself, because IMO a player that enters a tournament implicitely accepts that all other participants will do everything legally possible to achieve their own aims. Since (again, IMO) everyone agrees to this from the getgo, the virtue ethics position wouldn't denounce those that adhere to this agreement... if everyone agrees that anything legal goes, no one gets blindsided. I'm not holding on to this opinion with an iron grip, though.

blogmeister:
"You'd have to be an idiot not to try harder to beat someone rated 400 points lower than you and all the other participants."

I think only a idiot would try to beat the young Needleman who was in great form and showed great Chess coming equal second among many GMs.

well, we can argue late into the night without reaching any agreement. May be there was a conspiracy, may be there was none at all. Unfortunately, we have no record of game scores. But the report says that the GMs agreed for short 5-move draws. Fischer was right actually. The result was painful to lot of chess fans. The best thing is to cancel the result and let them play again without short draws. My money is on the young Master.

You want to see good games then schedule the tournaments better. You just don't make people start a tie-break at midnight after they have played their regular games already. Labor laws, anyone?
I saw the same thing 4 years ago in Cali, when 11 guys played for 1 last remaining spot till 4 am. I felt sick just watching it, cause I knew next time it could be me out there.
Bored? Wanna rip somebody? Well, in today's chess the only people open to criticism should be the elite 2700's who get paid upfront and still play short draws. As for my colleagues who paid their own freight to Argentina, they owe you nothing. They went there to get the job done, not to entertain you or please the Argentine media.
The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Needelman tired? at 15? How many games on ICC does he play a session, a hundred?
Mig, you turned this board into a GM bashing sabbath. Anybody who's over 25 and still has the nerve to stand in the way of Nakamuras and Nedelmans should just rool over and die, is that what you want?
Time for you to start banning people for being obnoxious morons.

The result should be cancelled in spite of no laws of chess being violated, because "the result was painful to lot of chess fans"?

Argue for a change of the rules if you want, but not retroactively.

"Time for you to start banning people for being obnoxious morons."
lol ;-)

I suggest that those shouting "conspiracy" learn about Occam's Razor. The simple explanation is the right explanation, and that is that six draws would be good enough to qualify. Blame the (tiebreak) system. Blame the system. Think about it, then change the system. Change the system.

I hope all those who want to legislate a swashbuckling style of chess are living up to those principles in their own games. I think quite a few of the finger pointing fans would suddenly become very pragmatic and careful and drawish if enrolled in a similar post-tournament midnight tiebreak "insanity" rapid. Is this a case of "conspiracy"?? or "sour grapes" because a young phenom didn't advance??

Those following this story will be interested to know that Argentine GM Pablo Zarnicki has a opinion piece in the Argentine daily Clarin in which he discusses Needleman's performance and does not even mention the controversy over the tiebreak round. Zarnicki, like Needleman himself, must not believe that anything underhanded occurred. He appropriately focuses on the emergence of Needleman as a true chess talent. This is, after all, THE story of the Continental. Zarnicki suggests that the President of Fide give Needleman one of his discretionary spots in the world championship. Why? Not because the GMs “stole” his ticket, but rather because of the great chess that he played.

For the story see: http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/08/20/deportes/d-08604.htm

I agree with whiskey here. If Milos or Granda had been the eliminated player, Ilardo would have nothing but good things to say about the tiebreak system.

Peace...

Well, quite frankly, ideas on penalizing for repetition are just stupid, stupid, stupid. It makes absolutely NO sense to turn one of the historical ways to draw a game into a loss. This is another one of those foolish ideas by people who think that draws are the bain of chess and should be disallowed at all cost. Blatant ridiculousness such as 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. Ng1 Ng8 3. Nf3 is unlikely to be played and is, in any case, easy enough to penalyze without question or incident. That does not necessitate the extreme measure of turning a perpetual into a loss. When I was a young scholastic player, teachers who did not really understand chess would adjudicate our games by counting points to determine a winner. This assured that even deadlocked games would have a winner, and also stunted out chess growth significantly by not allowing us to recognize both that a draw is a legitimate result and that chess is not a point-counting contest. Your proposal that a perpetual check be turned into a loss for one side or the other is the equivalent of this move by teachers who did not understand chess, and it makes just about as much sense as their idea did.

Hotep,

Maliq

Maliq: your post brings back junior chess memories from long ago...the worst of which was the time a tournament director (who was a bull headed type of class "D" strength") adjudicated a position in my opponents favor that was clearly a win for me as pointed out by several strong players (including a master). There was an ugly scene. Eventually, we replayed the game (an odd solution!) after the final round was over and I won the tournament anyway eventually. Adjudications are a distortion of serious chess...and so is the idea of doing away with perpetual check draws. While I'm at it, I don't even like the idea of a classic chess event prize being solved by a blitz game (or games) either. It discriminates against the many players who don't focus on blitz skills on all levels.

Dear msc,

Zarnicki's column can hardly be proof of anything. It's a lousy column, unworthy of the high-circulation paper Clarín and unworthy of the former Junior World Champion. It was much better when Najdorf wrote it a decade ago. He had one full page on Saturday, now it's a meaningless two-column article...

Zarnicki had the benefit of receiving a grant from a Provincial Government after winning the Junior World Championship. And the gossip many here repeat is that the pairings in that Junior World Championship were adulterated so that he had to play the last round against his closest competitor with the White pieces...
Apparently, the "normal" pairings gave Zarnicki the Black pieces, but someone changes a pairing in an earlier round so that he ended up playing the White pieces, in a must-win situation (he won the game and therefore won the championship). If this is true, he certainly has no moral authority to condemn any plot as the fiasco in this Continental event... :-P

I am surprised by how ungenerous people are in this blog. Why do so many people assume that chess victories are illegitimate? Is this the Fischer legacy for the chess world? And why does everyone believe Ilardo on this? His article is vague and shows no knowledge of chess. Finally, note that Zarnicki issues no condemnation of the conspiracy theory. He simply does not mention it. Are the rewards and opportunities so few in the chess world that resentment runs rampant of those few who are successful? [I'll say more on this if I find some time later. Note for now that even Yermo gets in his shot at the 2700s.] Or is it that the lack of transparency in the chess world provides ample food for conspiracy theories? [Even now, days after the event, nobody can give us a detailed account of what happened at the tiebreak.] These, and probably not the continental tiebreak, are the real problems facing professional chess. They urgently need discussing.

I see by the info published in the Blog that there is missing information about the tiebreak. I was at Club Argentino de Ajedrez that night. (I'm not going to give further info about my identity...I don't want any trouble) I don't remember all player's numbers, but Nedleman was player number 1, so in a 7 players-Round Robin he had a Bye in the first round. He won his 1st match against Milos on 2nd round, and lost to Kamsky and Felgaer on 3rd and 4th. So my question is the following: after finishing 2nd round, who were the "weaker players" if the other results were draw? The answer is quite simple: Milos and Felgaer, (who had lost to Granda on the 2nd,and played seriously against every single opponent and 'rescued' himself in further rounds).
I think that this info shows that the 'GM's strategy' was to play against the kid from the beginning, not against the weaker player after any particulary round. The quick draws of 4th,5th and 6th round 'rescued' Milos and Felgaer, who also beated Nedleman on one of those rounds (I don't remember exactly wich one it was...)
I wish to express that I don't see any ilegal stuff arround this strategy. Nobody broke the rules, but I'm totally sure that the GM's did that way because they saw "the eye of the tiger" in Nedleman's face after beating Milos in his 1st match...I saw it too and I saw Kamsky's face looking at Onischuk when that ocurred...
This Kid is not a 2243 ELO player, and I don't know if he's yet the 2655 ELO performance that he made or he has broke this mark already...in fact, nobody knows what the real strenght of this kid is...That's why I think that the GM's fear (what generated the following quick draws) was not caused by the kid itself, it was caused by this question jumping on their heads : "-Ok, the kid crushed Milos, who's next? me? who's this kid really?"
Last thing: for those who says in the Blog that seven 15 minutes game in a row cannot finish with a kid.....First of all, it was 15+10, and every round took almost an hour because of this. The match started about 21:45 and finished about 4:00 am (considering that 11th round of the Tournament took from 14:00 to 18:30). In the conditions that were described: (quick draws and everybody playing exclusively against the kid), does anybody might consider that the kid could have been just a little tired?...I'm not justifying his performance, but they started to attack him with this strategy in a particular moment of the tournament when he was not the weaker one according to his situation on the scoreboard...

Maliq Soter wrote-
"Peace...
Well, quite frankly, ideas on penalizing for repetition are just stupid, stupid, stupid. It makes absolutely NO sense to turn one of the historical ways to draw a game into a loss. This is another one of those foolish ideas by people who think that draws are the bain of chess and should be disallowed at all cost. Blatant ridiculousness such as 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. Ng1 Ng8 3. Nf3 is unlikely to be played and is, in any case, easy enough to penalyze without question or incident."

I was the one who came up with the proposal of take away the threefold repetition draw so I see I have to defend my case. First of all, the idea behind taking away threefold repetition is not to ban draws. Of course a draw must always be there as a result in chess. The problem with threefold repetition is when players take the draw although there is a perfectly playable position on the board for either side just because they want it. For me the Sofia-rules were clearly a step in the right direction and we saw much more fighting-chess than usual but the players found that they could have a pretty easy draw instead by playing some opening that led to threefold repetition. I think the Sofia-rules can be enough but if there is a good way in fighting the threefold repetition I don´t see a problem of doing something about it. I gave some examples on how it could be done but I never said that this is the right way or this is the best way to do it. I gave a few examples that could be bettered, changed or altered with something else.

Your arguments are very onesided and conservative. When they inforced to football the rule that you would not be allowed to play the ball home to the goalkeeper many like you said, oh what will happen to our old game. But today everybody see that this has really worked for the better in football. Historically neither chess or football have always been what it is today so this is no argument to talk about .

As for your examle:1. Nf3 Nf6 2. Ng1 Ng8 3. Nf3.
This is ridiculous. No GM-player would be so stupid that they couldn´t find a less obvious path to repetition if the draw was what they wanted. I mean strong GM-players that earn their living on chess at least know thousand of openings and if both wanted a draw they could easily play some opening that ended in repetition 20 or 30 moves in to the game.

Maliq Soter also wrote-
"That does not necessitate the extreme measure of turning a perpetual into a loss. When I was a young scholastic player, teachers who did not really understand chess would adjudicate our games by counting points to determine a winner. This assured that even deadlocked games would have a winner, and also stunted out chess growth significantly by not allowing us to recognize both that a draw is a legitimate result and that chess is not a point-counting contest. Your proposal that a perpetual check be turned into a loss for one side or the other is the equivalent of this move by teachers who did not understand chess, and it makes just about as much sense as their idea did."

whiskeyrebel wrote-
" Adjudications are a distortion of serious chess...and so is the idea of doing away with perpetual check draws."

Obviously neither of you have read what I said about the perpetuals so I will repeat it one more time and I must say that I don´t can see what adjudication has to do with perpetual chess.

"Well, first of all I want to say that perpetual check doesn´t have to be the same as threefold repetition and therefor you can easily make an exception when it comes to a perpetual check that involves a repetition of moves. With other words let them take the draw if they want with perpetual check. There is nothing to do against it."

whiskeyrebel wrote-
"While I'm at it, I don't even like the idea of a classic chess event prize being solved by a blitz game."

Well here I agree totally. For me the only timecontrols that count is the classical chess control and the longer the better.

Prozac's contribution helps us understand the situation, but still does not prove anything. From his account it appears that the quick draws began on the 4th round, at the beginning of which Needleman was even and Granda and Kamsky were up. Who was doing the quick draws? If Kamsky offered a quick draw at that point, it would hardly be unusual because by then he was ahead of the field. And, who would refuse a draw from Kamsky, the highest rated player in the tournament with a glorious past behind him? Now, after round four, Needleman was -1, a position he shared with Milos, but everyone else was ahead of him. So, who except Milos did not have good reason to accept a draw? And even Milos had a reason because if he ended tied with Needleman, the tiebreak rules were such that he would have qualified, and not Needleman.

In any case, to figure this out completely we need to know the order of all games and we need to know which games were quick draws. Is it so hard to find out this information?

I think we have enough information. Only Milos's games would be interesting. If he agreed to short draws when at -1, especially if he did so with white, he was taking a gamble, at least for a round or two.

The most important things are that the system was ill-suited because only eliminating one player meant drawing all your games, even if you had an even score, qualified you. (We know from the system that if all the games were drawn, Needleman was out.) No incentive to play, period. Two, as Prozac posted, it started at 9:45pm and ran till four in the morning. That, to coin a phrase, is totally unacceptable.

Lastly, as Yermo points out, these guys were paying their own way to Buenos Aires to qualify. They weren't being paid to put on a show for the audience at 4am. They paid and then were forced to jump through this extra hoop and had no obligation to provide entertainment. It would only have been more twisted had there only been four spots and they'd had to play hard under inhuman conditions.

There was no need whatsoever for a conspiracy. Every action we've had verified is explained by blatantly obvious self-interest. With three rounds to play, everyone was guaranteed qualification with all draws except for Needleman. He was forced to play to win and lost to stronger players. Note, that HE was forced to play for a win, not the big bad GMs torturing the poor child. As for his first three games, he won his first, lost to Kamsky, and then lost to Felgaer, who had lost earlier and needed to win.

So the ONLY remaining aspect of the "they were out to get him" storyline is the loss to Kamsky, as if a single game matters in this context. Or are people going to say that Kamsky should have offered a quick draw to a player rated 450 points lower? And note Needleman himself said that Kamsky played a full game with Granda earlier. So Gata got to +1 and coasted till 4am. Others coasted on equal scores they knew meant qualification. Not a story.

Mig,

I agree with you that we have enough information for a reasonable, dispassionate person to agree that there was no conspiracy. But the problem here is the difficulty obtaining complete information. This allows distrustful people to construct all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. If the information were available, in other words, if there were transparency, then the conspiracy theorists would have little opportunity to weave their tales of misdeeds.

Oh, they don't let facts get in the way of a conspiracy theory, by definition! Take Ilardo, to start... But yes, it's ridiculous not to have the games of a FIDE qualification event.

MSC wrote:

>>>I am surprised by how ungenerous people are in this blog. Why do so many people assume that chess victories are illegitimate? Is this the Fischer legacy for the chess world? And why does everyone believe Ilardo on this? His article is vague and shows no knowledge of chess. >>>

Well, that's a good question. I'll improve on it:

Why did thew blogmeister, knowing how bad a writer Ilardo is ("Just for the record, the writer of that piece, Ilardo, is a sob-story specialist who wouldn't think of letting anything get in the way of a good tragic story. Readers of La Nacion have suffered his overwrought, error-ridden stuff for years.") choose to honor his conspiracy theory article?

Answer is simple: it has entertainment value and was sure to generate a lot of comments.

I also think that a lot of the mistrust you allude to comes from our experience with the average chessplayer (regardless of playing strnght or title): he/she would do ANYTHING to win. Even an all-time great like Kasparov is not adverse to cheating, if necessary: he did it against Judith Polgar and was trying to do it again when he asked to be inserted into the elimination finals for the World Championship! (not that he's the only one: Karpov cheated against Kasparov by forcing stoppage of their first match and Fischer wanted a shameful 2-point advantage in his proposed match against Karpov).

So, while it's not very clear it actually happened (after reading all the reports that surfaced after the initial post), it shouldn't shock anyone if some cheating indeed occurred.

Honor it? You mean, debunk it? I linked to it and subsequently ripped it apart. Even my original post, before other information came out, says "it wasn't necessary to conspire against him." Bacan says black equals white, what a shock. Liar. Take your uninformed, malicious BS elsewhere.

Of course you're a liar L. Bacan, already proven countless times, including above. You lied, as shown, so you are a liar. That's how it works. So, of course you try to change the subject, just like every troll caught in his lies and lack of knowledge. Ooh, attack me for a 15-year-old USCF rating, oooh! Original, almost Sam Sloan level. As I've gone into when attacked on this BS from other morons, my old 2310 rating was confirmed by the USCF for pairing purposes by TD Doyle several years ago when I played in my first USCF tournament after 10 years out of the country. And I rather doubt I would have been allowed to prepare training material with a group of IMs and GMs for KasparovChess had I been 1800.

Now, back to you being a liar and fool and to the story at hand, at least until your next pathetic attempt to distract, which will of course be deleted unless it's on topic. And am I getting paid per comment? More comments = more bandwidth, which actually costs me money. ChessBase, and now TWIC, are acting as though Ilardo's story was gospel truth and I certainly didn't see anyone else going after it critically, now to the point of refuting it entirely.

The "draw show" began on 4th round, when Nedleman and Felgaer had to play each other. I don't remember who was the player that had a bye on that round, but the other 2 tables agreed draw in few minutes (I could say seconds...). That situation put both argentinian players in zugzwang, why? Nedleman had 50% (won against Milos and lost to Kamsky) Felgaer drew the 1st and lost to Granda; so with a draw by the two argentinian players, Felgaer still would have had -1. Instead of that if Nedleman would have beaten Felgaer, Felgaer would have had -2; but with the victory of Felgaer they only changed positions because after 4rd round the kid was -1 and Felager acomplished 50%.
It was an easy strategy: 'Marvel kid' is out or 'brand new 2618' is out...that's why I think they decided to save Milos instead of the other two.
I repeat, I think that there were NO conspiracy at all. It was pure and simple statistics. Two player had to demonstrate that they deserved to be there and only one could survive after that match. We can talk for hours about FIDE rules, pairings, moral issues and real tiebreak systems; but at this point I agree with Mig "it's the law of the jungle"...

The Bacan exchange with Mig just confirms my earlier posting about the nastiness of the chess world. Just as the earlier poster tried to discredit Zarnicki by bringing up rumors about him not winning the world junior title legitimately, Bacan tries to discredit Mig by questioning his rating. Yuck!

ranking

Interesting...

But Prozac, you still say "they decided." Who and how? I don't think anyone decided to save Milos at all, how could they? After that loss to Felgaer, Needleman was forced to play his remaining three games to win, and he lost two of them to stronger players. Milos was out of the picture by that time since he could only worry about Needleman winning. He should have still played to win, but he apparently gambled that Needleman wouldn't make a plus score against Onischuk, Granda, and Vescovi. Not a bad bet and it paid off. It would have served him right had Needleman done it, of course.

msc's thought I agree with you that we have enough information for a reasonable, dispassionate person to agree that there was no conspiracy. But the problem here is the difficulty obtaining complete information. This allows distrustful people to construct all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories.

is one of the reasons i reckoned hiding the tie breaker result information from the players would be effective at undermining collusion ... if indeed it exists...there would always a little germ of distrust that someone in the cabal wasn't living up to the bargain... adds a little shakespeare to the game.

In some sports they hold the playoff games between rivals at the exact same hour to make it tougher to calculate a tactical result. The last games of the first round of the World Cup, for example. But having the players in boxes and forbidden to speak to each other isn't very practical. I don't think you want to eliminate all tactical results anyway. You remove much of the sporting element, doing away with "must win" and "can't lose" games at the same time you get rid of games that are okay to draw.

Mig wrote:- But Prozac, you still say "they decided." Who and how?

I'll try to explain it in my poor english: Needleman was player number 1 and Milos number 2 in the pairing order, so that's why they've faced each other on the 2nd round and the kid had a bye on 1st round. Assuming that Milos was player number 2, he had a bye on 3rd round, so on the 4th round he was one of the players that started with the "draw show", letting Needleman and Felgaer destroy each other no matter the result was. I don't know who was exactly the opponent of Milos on 4th round because I don't remember other players' pairing number. But he (I mean Milos' opponent on 4th round) decided to save Milos in a way offering or accepting draw after 3 or 4 moves...It's my point of view clear? If Milos' opponent on 4th round would have decided to play on, considering that Milos was -1 at this point, things could have been different, or not...who knows...The rest of the tournament is history.

I don't see any compelling reason why young Needleman couldn't take from this experience many different lessons that could ultimately make him a much better player. What is done is done and it is up to him and those who are assisting his development to apply the events of this tournament to his growth as a chessplayer. Personally, I'd like to see him take the experiences and use them to focus a white hot will to gain enough in playing strength so he can batter those same players in the future.

msc,

I'm not trying to discredit Zarnicki: the gossip is publicly know down here in Argentina. In any case, Zarnicki discredits himself through his play.
Last year he was disqualified from an ICC event for cheating with computers (he later published a letter explaining he did not cheat...).

You are completely ignorant of Argentine OTB circumstances, I'd say you should get information first and then write whatever stupidity you want. Unless you're Zarnicki or his lover, you shouldn't be offended by "my" discrediting him...

Kogi,

Thanks for providing further proof of the nastiness of the chess world with your comments. No, I do not know Zarnicki, the precise circumstances of Argentine OTB chess, nor even the size of his member, but I do know that there were two articles in major Argentine dailies about the tournament. One was written by Ilardo, who shows no knowledge of chess and writes of conspiracies without evidence. Another was written by a GM who may have done this, that, or the other thing, but still knows enough about chess to obtain the GM title. Now the GM said nothing about the supposed scandal and as far as I know has no reason to cover up a conspiracy. I thought that this was interesting and worth informing an English-speaking audience about. That is it. Why this leads you to focus on telling the world all the bad rumors about Zarnicki I can't understand... unless you are his scorned former lover. :)

Herewith, the pairing numbers and order of play, as reconstructed from info earlier in this thread and from standard pairing tables (thanks to CFC for the latter).

1. Needleman
2. Milos
3. Kamsky
4. Felgaer
5. Onischuk
6. Granda
7. Vescovi
8. Bye

____________1_____2_____3_____4_____5_____6_____7
7_Players_1-Bye_5-Bye_2-Bye_6-Bye_3-Bye_7-Bye_4-Bye
7_rounds___2x7___6x4___3x1___7x5___4x2___1x6___5x3
___________3x6___7x3___4x7___1x4___5x1___2x5___6x2
___________4x5___1x2___5x6___2x3___6x7___3x4___7x1

MSC

I don´t understand why you believe Zarnicki silence and don´t believe to Ilardo.
Ilardo is a serius journalist that works, no only in La Nacion, buy Radio Continental too.
The Zarnicki column is a very bad one. He isn´t a journalist and don´t put his "chess knowledge" in it. You can read his articles at Clarin site to comprobe it (www.clarin.com.ar)
One more thing: Ilardo WAS at the Club Argentino that night (and he was inside the tournament room). I don´t know where was Zarnicki that night, but he wasn´t there. The only GM -beside the SIX- was Gilberto Hernández and you know for the Ilardo article´s his opinion. His wife, WGM Claudia Amura says. Thaey all play Big Brother. They save Milos and Gast{on was the nominated.

(excuse for my english)

Gaston had the chance and lost. That is it. The GMs are better than him.
Don' t cry for him Argentina.

Jonathan, :-)

Was the CFC paying aiplane tickets and others fees for canadian players? As it was said more than once here that GMs paid (travelling expenses) for playing there I wonder it this is true only for some players.

P.S. I hope that GMs will tell FIDE it was not fair to have such conditions imposed (playing 'till late in the nite). And I guess that having to work so hard in order to find information tells us how seriously it was planned by FIDE. This was not local chess club championship, right? ;-)

Canada was represented by three players. IMs Zugic and Lawson qualified by their high finishes in the 2004 Canadian Closed / Zonal. They had expenses paid by the CFC. GM Spraggett, however, went on his own hook; he paid his own expenses. Yes, Spraggett did play in the 2004 Canadian Closed.

Canada is one of the "poorer" chess federations. Inevitably, some players will go at their own expense; after all, it is an open tournament. But if ALL the players from a country have to pay their own expenses, that saddens me.

I would have considered playing, but found out about it late. On the negative side, it's not much of an attraction to play chess in the middle of winter; we have enough of that in Canada already, and Argentina has been famed in recent years for being expensive, though that might have changed.

Thanks! Jonathan :-)

I see a great lack of consistency in many of the posts above denying the possibility of collusion. I agree with the premise that all draws guarantees one a spot. Why then, didn't any agree to a quick draw with Needleman?! If Milos and Felgaer were minus, the other 4 should have been itching to draw with anyone/everyone, including Needleman. In a 15 minute game, it's not unusual to see enormous blunders. Were the players 100% sure they'd beat Needleman? To play for a win against Needleman when 2 other players already had negative scores suggests one of 2 possibilites:
1. The players who showed no inclination for fighting chess and were guaranteed spots with all draws suddenly found a fighting spirit in their games against Needleman and his 2650 performance rating, and risked losing to him for the sake of a half point they didn't need.
2. There was in fact an implicit or explicit agreement to play out all games against Needleman in an effort to wear him down.

Now, you don't have to agree with my view that #2 is more likely, but I don't think it should be dismissed as irrational.

Is it possible that after Needleman had a few losses he was the one that couldn't take the draw anymore? This tie-break wasn't for rating, it was to qualify for the world championships. I'm not saying this is definitely what happened, but you can't deny the significant possibility? In the early rounds this would have been possible, but at this point the GMs if they weren't colluding would have no guarantee of a draw against the other GMs if the other ones had a minus score if they drew against Needleman, then once Needleman started losing, it was he who couldn't take the draws with the GMs.

Steve: Needleman was the one playing for the win against them.

Steve: Remember, it takes two to draw, and Needleman was the one playing for the win against them.

To all:

Funny to read about Gms complaining about having to play another event right after the last round and up to 2 AM. Didn't they notice that before the whole event started? Didn't they foresee tying for a qualifying place and having to endure this torture?
If they remained silent about it, then they shouldn't complain later.
If they didn't foresee it, it speaks loads about their (lack of) ability... :-P

To (ICCF GM) Jonathan Berry:

Trust the financial sites next time you decide not to visit a country based on your idea of "expensiveness". Argentina suffered a devaluation of the US Dollar in January 2002 and the rate went from being 1 Pero = 1 USD to 3 Pesos = 1 USD.
In short, we're probably the cheapest place around on the globe. ;-)

Kogi, I imagine that the GMs, if they knew about the playoff being right after the round, reasoned, either:
1. Maybe this is a FIDE rule so it is pointless to argue;
2. This has been announced and presumably some entrants in the tournament have bought air tickets requiring them to leave the next morning, so it will be impossible to change;
3. It won't happen to me;
4. I hope that it does happen to me, because that means my tournament will have been a success;
5. Don't expect high levels of creativity from this.

Or several of the above. In short, they put this into practice:
"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other"
Reinhold Niebuhr (American theologian, 1892-1971)
and saved their energy for the chess games.

Curious that nobody has considered the possibility that Needleman might have had computer assistance by some means. Nothing in his previous experience would have predicted this kind of result for him. Players his age have been known to improve by huge leaps, but Needleman's rating curve for the last several years was fairly flat. The biggest surprise may have been his late-round draw with black vs. Kamsky, when Kamsky needed to win - as he did in the playoff.

Frank, do you write the story? I'm sure Chessbase will publish it. Surely doesn't seem fair that Needleman alone will be able to escape the lynch mob.

I think someone ought to give credit to young Needleman, not just for his play but for his honesty, maturity and coolheadedness; many other, and older, players, I think, would have complained had they been eliminated as he originally was; yet he didn't, even though he could have certainly gotten away with it, or at least gotten some "sympathy votes." The decision to grant him the right to qualify was a fitting reward for this.

Since the FIDE dictator has decreed that Needleman will be in the World Cup, Gaston will have the opportunity to prove that he is for real. Interesting either way.

I enjoy reading about chess - but computers that play as well as the best humans, plus FIDE's lack of integrity have made it less interesting. The lack of a credible world championship process since 1985 is extremely regrettable.

It would have been nice to see a more mature Anand get a second chance vs. Kasparov, instead of the lazy Kramnik, who slipped in the back door. Anand really NEEDS the challenge of preparing for a great opponent as an incentive for him to take his talent to the next level. He was sucker-punched by the Dragon just as Kasparov was confused by Kramnik's Berlin Defense. It has been too easy for Anand to hang in at #2, but the process didn't leave him any headroom.

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