Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Early Draw Offer

| Permalink | 98 comments

In his latest annotations for Black Belt, US champ Hikaru Nakamura comments his tournament-clinching final-round win against GM Nikola Mitkov from the North American Open in Las Vegas last December. He starts with a paragraph that catches the eye as much as any of the moves in the game.

Being as I had the higher rating, Ibragimov was dropped to another 5, Perelshteyn, while I got White against Mitkov. I was surprised by this pairing because my dad and I had calculated that I would, in all likelihood, be playing Akobian. Strangely enough, before the round an intermediary asked me if I would "give Nikola a draw for compensation!" I promptly replied by saying "no, I play straight chess!"

You can see from the crosstable link above what good financial sense it would have made for Mitkov to be guaranteed a draw. Hikaru was clearly the agent of karma in this one. I'd heard this sad tale second-hand and there was some float among organizers about banning Mitkov from their events. Dunno if anything has or will come of that.


This seems like the best place to ask: Is it possible to obtain the games from the North American Open anywhere?

Excellent. I applaud Nakamura's fighting spirit. This is the best way to deal with such behavior -- publicise early draw offers to embarrass the culprits, and perhaps get them banned from tournaments by these organisers.

Its great to fight the early draws. I dont know if how about the US, but in open tournaments in Europe this happens nearly every time, really! Among groups of GMs from eastern countries this is completely normal, even the one with best buchholz will win. Look at the upcoming Aeroflot open, it will happen again...

It seems to me there is a difference between an early draw in the game, and a pre-arranged draw "for compensation".

We've all had days when we don't want to fight; hopefully, we haven't all had days when we want to cheat.

[sigh] Chess has to be one of the few activities in which a top player (in the US, at least) can allegedly make such a blatantly illegal offer, and not be investigated due to lack of policing activity.

the boxing scene in the U.S. has a long history of unsavory offers too..but I'd suspect they come from 3rd parties. I'm glad we have a champion who will step forward with a tidbit like that.

Uuhh..by "3rd parties" I'm referring to gamblers as opposed to representatives of competitors. Sorry to be so unclear.

I think a possible solution to this type of issue (pre-arranged draws in a big swiss to guarantee money) is to *not* split the prize money among those who are tied for it, but to come up with a reasonable list of tiebreaks; e.g. number of wins, number of wins with black, Buchholtz, etc. well publicized ahead of time.

I don't think blitz tiebreaks will work.


Question: If we're not going to help out professionals in any way, why should we attempt to limit how they can make money?

Obviously Mitkov, if he made such an offer, isn't doing so because he's a bad guy, or a cheater, or someone who strangles puppies in his spare time, but someone who is trying to put food on the table. And he made a decision to see if he could maximize his equity. I really don't see a problem here.

"Cynical" got it right. Matt, your comment is not directly relevant to the specific problem being discussed here (bribing an opponent to lose or draw a late-round game), because tiebreaks were not involved -- a draw would have given Mitkov CLEAR first.

Again, "cynical" got it exactly right. The funny thing is that, as "cynical" said, just about every other activity (whether sports/recreation or business), does in fact have detailed, written rules of conduct that participants are required to know, and has policing systems and disciplinary procedures to enforce those rules.

Yet, whenever I mention this fact, chess people simply ignore it and go on touting whatever happens to be their favorite fear-fetish: either they see a Bush storm trooper under every bed; or else they see a fire-breathing, sharp-fanged lawyer under every bed. So, like Stern on another thread, all that chess people seem interested in is dreaming up reasons why our sport can't do what bridge, golf, medicine, finance, baseball/football/basketball, ad infinitum, do to preserve their integrity as a matter of course.

This fear of success (I guess "fear of achieving legitimacy" is a more precise description) that chess people have, really is more tragicomic than funny. It's a nasty reflection on the majority of people who post here and on just about all the other chess blogs I've seen.

I was present when the draw offer was made. The intermediary (sorry I don’t know who he was but if I remember correctly he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt) had the audacity to make the proposal in the crowded pairings room right before the last round.

It was unclear to me what was happening at the time. I thought the guy had said, “I would be agreeable to a short draw” or something to that effect, when I guess he must have said, “So-and-so would be agreeable to a short draw.” Again, I was standing a few feet away in a crowded room, so what I thought I saw and heard might have been slightly incorrect.

GM Nakamura then became visibly upset and did the correct thing: he went straight to the tournament director Bill Goishberg. GM Nakamura gained a lot of respect in my eyes for that action. The tournament director apparently did nothing.

J.A. Topfke

Nakamura doesn't strike me as a good target for this kind of a proposal--the guy has too much going for him to want to compromise his career to make a little bit of money. Not to mention that he is a fighter.

It would be of great curiosity what dis-interested third party (not Naka or Sunil) was present during the alleged bribe/kick-back. My guess is that there was no dis-interested third party available that could confirm or deny the bribe/kick-back allegation.

Would I put it past Mitkov or his intermediary to offer a pre-game draw or a professional GM draw - no. Does this happen all of the time? Yup. No player is immune to this.

Example - World Open 2004 - Akobian vs Nakamura Round 8 - Naka plays the Albin Counter Gambit against Akobian and a draw ensues in 10 moves. While not the money round still a questionable draw. This is the event where Akobian took first place and Naka was in a 9-way tie for 2 second place. Naka also drew the last round but don't know how quick or long of a draw it was (don't have MegaDatabase handy to find the actual game and not posted on chessgames.com).

So before someone begins to make 'I'm such a honest chessplayer' claim make sure your house is clean.

Prearranged draws in big swisses are commonplace and sort of expected. They don't even need to be strictly prearranged; play the Slav exchange variation or some stupid opening like the Albin.

If you can draw into clear first, you SHOULD play for the draw.

To be honest I do not understand the general hostility to draws among the chess watching community. Some of the better games are draws. (Any Anand-Kasparov game from Linares is going to be interesting regardless of the result).

Nakamura went to Goichberg because he wanted a forfeit win, probably, which to my mind is bad sportsmanship rather than good.

If you don't want a quick draw, Hikaru, play chess...

I am confused.

I have been under the impression that draw offers at the end of tournaments to split prize money etc were legal. That if the 2 participants want to make a draw and take home some money that it was perfectly ok to do that.

I agree with John Fernandez above. That players need to pay the bills. Let's say first prize is $10,000 and 2nd prize is $5,000 and the two players decide to draw and each takes home $7,500. Where is the problem. I dont see it.

Young people like teenagers usually dont want to agree to a draw. they would rather fight the game and lose and take home nothing. their parents support them at home. the married guy with children whats to ensure some good take home to the wife and kids. great. each has his choice.

But I will not agree that the teenager is somehow morally better than the married guy with wife and kids. Maybe the married guy has a moral obligation to not gamble with the rent money and to bring home an average good winning to pay the rent.

That is correct. I am saying that maybe some players have a moral obligation to offer the draw.

Please let us not condemn anyone for choosing the choices they make in their life.

It's good that this incident is being publicized here. Not, mainly, because it tells people to watch out for Mitkov. But because one case like this in which the offer to buy half a point comes out in the open will give the next fifty people second thoughts about trying it: "Buying the draw would be good, but having the whole world read about it would be bad." I'm sure we can never make this sort of thing disappear, but I'm also sure that if people are afraid they are running a real risk of getting talked about, the incidence of it will drop significantly, compared to what we have when nobody talks about it at all.

To J. Fernandez: what kind of argument is that about equity maximization? Isn't that the motive for just about every incident of cheating in every sport? How does it work out that a guy who tries to buy a half a point is "not a cheater"? Maximizing equity by playing drawishly and hoping the opponent goes for it is one thing, but isn't it another thing, being a cheater in fact, to maximize equity by flat-out buying the draw (which is how I am interpreting the words "for compensation")? Would you make the same argument about some guy who was buying the whole point, or two or three, or a norm?


Tommy, if there is really nothing wrong with splitting the points and the money, then let's bring it all out in the open and make it part of the tournament rules and define when and how it is cheating and when and how it is not, and let's legalize the draw before move 1, without any fake game.

When did you ever hear of anyone boast about their skillful point-buying in writing about their own successful tournaments, like financiers bragging about their successful deals? People do it, but why don't they ever brag about it?

The fact that people hide this kind of conduct, and don't write about doing it themselves, and go to the trouble of playing 20 moves of some drawish line to cover up the deal, is proof that in fact they know it's bad, or at any rate they know that most people in the chess community think it's bad, and so they don't want it to come out!


I totally agree with GMC (except calling the Albin a stupid opening - Moro has proven he can play it at the Super-GM level so it can't be that stupid huh) that Naka was hoping for a forfeit win.

If we want to look at bad sportsmanship further we can look at how Naka acted at the SuperNationals. He was invited to Supernationals to sign autographs thinking that since he was young and such a chess success he would be a good role model / example for the kids. Polgar and Seriwan (sp?) were there signing away on their books. Now Naka had no book in his hand to sign and got upset at this. So he wanted to sell raffle tickets and asked for a table but tables were all sold out months in advance. When he wasn't given a table he began to verbally assault Diane Reese IN FRONT OF CHILDREN to the tune of "You are nothing, you are s***. do you know who I am? I'm the US Champion" and so forth.

Shall we discuss his cheating on ICC when he was making the run for highest rating? He was alternating with Kamsky to keep fresh. This came straight from Sunil during the national K-12 event.

So Naka isn't a true sportsman. Once his youth runs out Naka won't be a draw anymore. There are just as talented players that are respectable and good natured.

One thing that separates this incident from some others is that no other player's prize would have been affected by this early draw if Nakamura accepted. Then Mitkov would have taken clear first and Nakamura would have been second (along with other players), and everybody else would have gotten exactly the same prize. While Mitkov's offer may not be strictly ethical, it is not nearly as bad as someone losing on purpose and letting someone else win a big prize at the expense of other participants.

Even the single individual that says he was present at the draw offer says he couldn't make out what was being said because it was too noisy and he was standing at a distance. It is pure conjecture that a bribe was offered so we shouldn't be constantly bringing up what cannot be verified.

Naka was banking on using his stature as US Champion and Mitkov being an immigrant GM in an attempt to get a forfeit win.


You are correct that I heard no bribe offer or offer of compensation. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, of course, it just means I didn’t hear it. I know my story would never hold up in a court of law because, as you pointed out it was noisy and crowded, but I am just relating what I saw.

I don’t think Nakamura was trying to get a cheapo forfeit win. I think he was genuinely upset at the violation of ethics. He wasn’t jumping up and down and screaming or anything, just ticked off. I am not a mind-reader so I can’t say for sure, but I think he was just trying to do the right thing by reporting the incident to the tournament director. At least that was my impression.

J.A. Topfke

I agree with John Fernandez that people who don't do anything for chess professionals don't have much of a right to criticize decisions that the professionals make to make their incomes. If you want to sponsor a tournament for GMs and have certain draw rules, then that's great! That's what Maurice Ashley does when he wants to put forth his opinion, and it makes the chess world a better place. But people who hate draws and don't do anything to help chess players are really not helping anyone. And paying for an ICC membership to watch the live broadcasts does NOT count as helping the players! (Not that I don't think it's a good thing to do, or else I wouldn't be an ICC member.)

Again I doubt a bribe was made. Naka may have been ticked off but I doubt because of a bribe. More along the lines of - 'You're 100 points lower rated that me and you have the nerve to ask for a draw to ME - THE US CHAMP! How dare you!'

Anon: well, it's not "pure conjecture" - it's an accusation made by Nakamura, who would know. If it's false and defamatory, Mitkov can say so. By the way, what's your source for your accusation that Nakamura was trying to get a forfeit win, and for the version you present of the Supernationals incident? Are you an eyewitness?


Firstly, let me start by saying that I DID NOT share my account with Kamsky during the ICC rating wars which occurred from Sept-Dec of 2004. I always played under my account of Smallville while Kamsky used the account Talion.

Secondly, Anon, were you at the super nationals when this event "supposedly" happened?

Thirdly, a draw would have left me with 5.5/7 while Mitkov would have 6/7, thus leaving him as the clear winner.

Lastly, chess is a game and challenge, where one strives to outplay or outsmart his opponents rather than obtain "cheap" forfeit wins.

It saddens me that some people like Anon seem to feel that one's past must always be held against him. There isn't any one person who hasn't done something which he regrets in his lifetime.

Now I must go and focus on my tournament in Mexico.

Hikaru Nakamura

To your answer regarding Supernationals - yes I was there and saw it.

Ok I'll concede that it is an accusation and not 'pure conjecture'. Just as my statement is accusatory in nature and not 'pure conjecture'.

I doubt Mitkov reads this blog however if I find his email address I will forward it to him so he has the chance to make a comment (though I doubt he would - from what I have seen of him at tournaments he is a quiet and reserved individual that keeps to his own circle).

"I agree with John Fernandez that people who don't do anything for chess professionals don't have much of a right to criticize decisions that the professionals make to make their incomes."

Really?? So I can't ever someone's criticize unethical behavior unless I'm somehow actively involved in supporting them?

What a strange rule.

I think that petrel is the clearest thinker on this thread. His analogy of buying full points and norms is right on.

I think the reason that so many people have a negative gut reaction to "fake games" is the deceit. In a pre-arranged game, two players are pretending to represent their skills against each other. Why should the chess community respectfully accept being lied to by two player acting out a charade? Wanting a draw (often very understandable and warranted goal) and agreeing to give a draw without honest representation of ideas are two entirely different issues. It is not the result, but the way to the result that is a problem.

Unfortunately draws will occur no matter what is done.

Even at events where there are no draw rules or no draw prior to X # of moves rules if the two players want the half point they will get it whether be to get into a stalemate position, no mating material position, trading down to king vs king, a book draw, or a draw based on 50 moves with no pawn push or piece being taken.

It is unfortunate that is occurs but you can't change the rules of the game to exclude the above variations for forcing the 1/2 point.

Actually, we already support chess professionals. GM and IM fees are routinely waived at tournaments, while they get to share in the prize pool donated by us rank-and-filers.

To Nakamura - the public can have a long memory, which is a good thing, because it keeps people in the public eye honest.

Instead of talking about morality, let's talk rules. It is explicitly against USCF rules for competitors in the last round to even discuss their upcoming game (rule 20J). Nevermind whether "compensation" was offered. Nevermind even if a draw was offered. The fact that an alleged agent of GM Mitkov spoke to GM Nakamura would, in fact, be a violation of this rule.

Let the games be played on the 64 squares. I applaud GM Nakamura's fighting spirit. Clearly he is interested in learning and improving. Nobody learns anything from a 10 move draw (or even a forfeit win)! I'm sure that GM Nakamura also was interested in a pay day, which is commendable. Bobby Fischer (in the 1960s) would have been proud.

Michael Aigner

So let's see. Let's say Leko sees that Topalov needs to beat him in order to win Corus. Leko offers to lose in return for some of Topalov's winnings, and oh yeah, also places some bets on Topalov before the last round. They've maximized their earnings! Yay Peter! Yay Veselin!

And some of you don't see a problem with that?

And we can't recognize it's a problem unless we sent the organizers a check?

Or the example's bad because there's something wrong with gambling (but nothing wrong with buying a result)?

John Fernandez and ComplexZeta,

Aside from moral issues that obviously have zero meaning to either of you (paying bribes to fix the result of any sporting or business competition is a bad thing -- a basic statement that most humans understand, but a few simply can't relate to), there is another critical factor you both overlook when you state that "professionals" should not be criticized for doing whatever it takes to get their hands on some dough.

What you're missing is, in the majority of such instances, the money they are dividing up by cheating ISN'T THEIRS. Usually people fix games so as to maximize their collective share of prize money that otherwise would belong to OTHER PROFESSIONALS competing (honestly, one hopes) in the same event. In other words, you speak of buy-a-result/buy-a-prize as if it's a victimless crime. But in reality, it is not.

It's true that in this particular instance (as Kriventsov points out on this thread), the prize distribution to the remaining players (the large group tied with 5.5) would have been the same regardless whether Mitkov drew or lost -- so in this case, Mitkov would not have deprived other players of their rightful winnings had he succeeded in purchasing 1/2 point for his final round.

It seems to me that situation is exceptional, though. I think it's probably much more common that, when a bribe buys a result that guarantees a top finish, the remaining prize distribution is affected -- reducing the total prize money that goes to players other than the one making and the one accepting the bribe.

So, John and ComplexZeta, while one or two "professionals" may put more food on their family table through their corrupt behavior, other, equally hard-working professional players who did equally well in the same event (in terms of their competitive results, as opposed to their deal-making skills), end up with LESS money on THEIR family table as a result.

Nor are professionals always the victims. I believe I myself was victimized recently in this way -- though less directly and less obviously than the simple example I laid out above.

Moreover, if it's an open tournament (as the North American Open was), then we amateurs EVEN MORE THAN THE PROS have every right to complain about cheating of any kind that results in improper distribution of prize money. Who do you think is PAYING FOR THE PRIZE FUND in open tournaments? In many cases the pros don't even pay at all (they get free entry, to compete for MY entry fee money).

So, guys, the next time, think a moment before you type away and post. If you do, maybe you won't sound so clueless.

Very fine lines are being debated here. There's nothing at all wrong with a player deciding for himself that he wants to play for a draw. That's his own decision, with which the opponent may or may not cooperate. However, it is wrong for players to agree in advance what the outcome will be.

There's an analogy in other sports. In baseball, a team that has already clinched a spot in the playoffs may rest its best players in a meaningless game at the end of the season. No one claims that there is anything underhanded about this, as long as the manager is making an uninfluenced decision. But if the opposing manager *asks him* to rest his players, it's a whole other story.

'Alleged' is the key here, Michael.

Let's say you were Goichberg. Not the most pleasant of thoughts, but bear with me. A player comes up to you with the story Nakamura gave. You look around and look for Mitkov to get his side of it. Unless Mitkov is a prize idiot, he will:

1) Deny it.
2) Deny some more.

This is true even if hooded-guy was an acquaintance of Mitkov, and had impartial witnesses overhear his proposal. After all, he can quite legitimately claim that his friend was off his rocker.

The USCF rules regarding prearranged results are written for an amateur system, not a professional one. As people have pointed out earlier in the post, it is nigh-unenforceable, and clever people can toss the spirit of the rules in the trash while finessing the letter. And don't even get me started on enforcement...short version: enforcement punishes only the most naive would-be cheaters--and is a laughingstock to the rest.

Is there a fix for the current system? Honestly, I don't think so. We can stick to our high moral ground and rail impotently at the people to whom the ends justify the means, or get off our high horse and figure out a way to make prearranged results work with the game.

Such a system may reduce the value of draws, put paid to ratings-based sections, require separate rating systems for 'professional' players, or even more dramatic changes. Many people will hate it; some may even stop playing tournament chess because of it.

But I'd take all of that than to have my kids learn that you can cheat at chess and get away with it--and try to apply that to the rest of life.

It is definitely the perogative of the players at the board to agree to a draw. If the organizers don't want short draws, then they need to build that into the rules, like the MTel/Sofia tournament.

However. there are two seemingly different issues being debated here:
1. Is it ethical to pre-arrange a draw?
2. Is it ethical to pre-arrange a draw for compensation?

Clearly FIDE has taken a stand in regards to financially compensated results by declining applications for titles. There is precedent to indicate that this behavior is not only frowned upon in the chess world, but also not to be tolerated.

The pre-arrangement of draws can be viewed in the same light as the compensated pre-arrangement. Usually a pre-arranged draw is based upon sharing prize money, or guaranteeing prize money for each player.

Thus, the fine line dividing the two types of pre-arranged draws is nearly, if not completely, blurred. A decision that the compensated draw is unethical necessitates the same conclusion for the uncompensated draw.

Ammend my last sentence to read:

A decision that the compensated pre-arranged draw is unethical, necessitates the same conclusion for the uncompensated pre-arranged draw, especially in the case where both players win prize moeny.

yeah I have no problem with pre-arraged draw. After all they are there to make a living.

A bribe however crosses the line

Why are we still talking about this infamous supernationals event that most say wasn't anything like what you say it was. Knowing Hikaru's calm disposition and seeing the way he interacts with even normal players, I imagine that even if it was the way you describe, the TD would have done something pretty egregious to get him so mad. This is a side issue. The fact is you are being ridiculous in taking what is clearly a mildly to severely offensive action on Mitkov's part(in violation of the rules of the USCF at the very least) and turning it against Nakamura. Why? The central issue is what constitutes cheating and what should be done about it,not Nakamura's decision to tell the TD( which I consider admirable since it is never easy to be the taddletale). Just for reference, I've heard other cheating claims about Mitkov(and the person I presume to be the intermediary Georgiev). One instance, ok, maybe it didn't happen or whatever. However, if someone manages to build up a track record, there should definitely be consequences.

While Mitkov could not defend publicly I do not believe that any affirmation brings over him be valid. We have only the word of Nakamura and of a spectator who is not sure about what he saw or listened.

Yeah I have heard other claims as well. And they are just that - claims. It is obvious you are a Naka supporter and will say anything to defend him and deflect from his actions. While the other topics of cheating on ICC, his immature and unprofessional actions at Supernationals, or his cheapo draw with Akobian in 10 moves were not directly applicable to the topic, they help establish a context to discuss that he is not such a saint.

I do not care either way about either player but I do not like it when someone is bashed for bribery when there is no proof of it occurring.

If the USCF is to take action agsinst Mitkov for breaking rules of offering pre-game draws (but most likely it be not to Mitkov but to the intermediary) then so be it, but they have to do it with proof, not just the word of his opponent and a family member. And the proof has to be solid, not just 'I think this is what I heard from a distance in a noisy room'.

Your hypocrisy is too much. You claim to not like it when someone is bashed without proof. Your first paragraph is full of unproven claims against the US Champion--claims that he addressed earlier. I am a Hikaru supporter even though I know that he is young and capable of stupid things just as all his age are. Your opinions are not those of a balanced person although you feel the need to over-explain your apathy toward both players. You cannot simply dismiss the accusations of a person with first-hand experience on the ground of unproven accusations against him. It's hypocritical. If you are going to be fair, then disbelieve all accusations against both players unless you see something for yourself (but then accept that no one else will believe you unless they were there too.)

I believe it is philosophers who are trained to think very carefully about issues like this. I dont think we have any philosophers here today discussing this issue.

2nd. I would help the discussion immensely if we do not make judgements of other people. it is best to simply discuss the issues without any judgements like saying a certain action is immoral.

3rd we have to be very careful when reading the words of others to get the correct meaning that the person was trying to convey. For example I did not say it was ok to make agreements but I said I did not see what was wrong in a certain situation. I was hoping to call forth from the readers to tell us all where the ethical line should be drawn. It was an attempt to get the discussion under control. and I might add that I liked 2 ideas it brought forth.

the first idea was to make the draw offers legal. that sounds like a reasonable solution. lets assume that everything is legal for the discussion. Mitov goes to Nakamura and offers a draw in the last round. they agree and go to the tournament director half hour before game time to inform him. the tournament director makes note of this and the game is not played. the players get the same as a 1/2 point bye. So the question now is this. is this acceptable or do we need to make rules to stop this.

The 2nd idea I liked was in the opposite camp. Derek pointed out so well how the system could then be abused in gambling off the side. However, lets say again that the draw agreement was legal and ok. they make it half hour before game time and the gambling people learn in enough time to end all bets where this is concerned.

Lastly I want to call for a calm and rational discussion of this issue. I really can go either way. However, I cring when I read someone judging anyone else. Please lets us not judge others.

Please remember everything I have written is not my opinion. it is put out there in the hope it will assist discussion. I will form my opinion at the end of the discussion and after giving it some good careful thought.

Libelous posting by Anonymous people have no place in the discussion. If the person is not willing to say who they are then please say nothing. if you really believe what you say then put your name on it.


I find it mildly offensive to say that I would say anything (as in make up stories) to defend Hikaru. Nakamura may have cheated on ICC (I don't care about ICC). Nakamura may have yelled at someone(who hasn't). He made a 10 move draw with black(who hasn't?). Were Nakamura to cheat in a tournament game, I wouldn't support that. I'm not against Mitkov as a person(how could I be given that I have never spoken with him?) the way you seem to be against Hikaru and neither I nor anyone has been "bashing" him. What I do believe is that credible and especially multiple credible reports of cheating need to be examined. If you say it is just claims, fine. He can defend himself if he likes and I think everyone will more than happily listen. The fact is many, many people witnessed this NAO thing and I have heard about it from at least 5 different people saying they witnessed this(I was even at the tournament but not in the right place).

I was there at Supernationals. So I saw how he acted.

Naturally anyone that calls someone a liar, you would defend themselves. What is Naka going to say: 'Yes I did such and such'? Get real. We know that is not going to happen.

Go back and look at Naka's response. Obviously one of the three things I stated was quite accurate that he defended himself to the effect of 'Yeah I did something in the past, can we not just forget about it?'

Was I there to hear Sunil state to some people that Naka was alternating accounts with Kamksy? No, but my sources are quite accurate and I would trust them with my life over anything that would be spewed forth from Naka's mouth.

So it is not hypocritcal, and I am not condoning the actions of Mitkov and whomever his intermediary was. But if everyone is going to bash Mitkov or any player in that situation, then the one that prompted the bashing session needs to make sure his or her underwear is clean when their pants get pulled down.

If you live in a glass house, do not through rocks.

We can go onto the topic of if Mitkov and his intermediary get banned from playing in these events a large part of their livlihood is affected. If I read a number of other boards out there, Mitkov recently immigrated and his family is supported by his chess activities. Knowing full well what type of repercussions could occur such as banishment from events why did Naka decided to play god? Mitkov was supporting his family. Yes he took a risk in what he was doing but he was also doing what was required to help support his family. And yes what he did was a violation, but what is right and what is wrong here? But let us not discuss this point any further shall we.

RIght, attack attack attack. Where is this flawless god-child you would allow to criticize others? We all have to keep our mouths shut about everything until we achieve perfection in every aspect of our lives? We can all strive to be better people, but having made mistakes in the past doesn't mean we are forever forbidden from speaking up.

No, Anon, you weren't there and didn't see it. Or anything. You weren't at the supernationals. In fact, in these matters you literally don't exist. See how easy this dumb game of yours is? The word of someone anonymous is entirely worthless here unless you have facts that can be backed up. Going on the record as Hikaru has done is quite a different story because he has his own reputation to worry about and nothing to gain by mindlessly slandering someone. It's called credibility. Indeed, as we can see here, it always brings out trolls who can amuse themselves risk-free by repeating a few stories they heard.

Nowhere in the thread was anyone nominating Nakamura for lifetime sainthood, nor was he making such claims. But your BS about not caring about either player is comical after you spent your afternoon running through everything you could think of to criticize Nakamura. As if a short draw with Akobian from 2004 is relevant here. Clearly you care very much, or are just desperate for attention. And if, as a last resort, you want to say this litany is intended to impugn the credibility of Nakamura's story, I can't see how it would. None of it says anything about him making up such stories or why he would do so in this case or why the US champion would suddenly break off from a witnessed conversation to go to Goichberg to say this. What would he have to gain by making it all up?

Attacks and trollery don't mean there is incontrovertible proof of what happened. There will NEVER be such proof. This is exactly why it's important for people with nothing to gain and something to lose to go on the record. Ethics DO matter, or at least they can. Everyone knows this sort of thing is common and it will stay that way as long as nobody talks about it. Perhaps by leading by example a culture where this isn't accepted can be created by marginalizing those who practice it. Peer pressure is at least as strong as legislation, as any anti-smoking advocate can tell you.

Thank you for all of your insightful comments. However I am done with this topic as I have spoken my peace on the matter.

I do feel for Mitkov who needs to provide for his family, but ultimately it is his decision to play chess to that end. I don't buy CDs of artists just because they have a family just like I don't support a chess player on the same grounds. His choices should not be held to a different standard because of his additional personal stresses. If he feels that he is not making enough with upfront (some call this "honest") chess playing, perhaps his lifestyle would better be supported in another field. That would be a loss to the chess community, but it may be the natural result of economics.

David Buck (for the record)

Mig, I'm glad you finally weighed in. I'd like to extend what you said a bit, i.e.,

1) While I agree with everything you said about "anon" and his scurrilous attacks, I don't feel like he is the only one posting here that is anonymous. A small number of people state their real name in their handle or within their body text. Other handles are unrevealing ("DP", "tommy", etc.) -- although some of those individuals may post regularly enough here that their real identities are widely known (not by me, however).
I'm not saying this blog should require everyone to state their real name. I'm only making a point that I think needs to be added to what Mig (and tommy) just said about anonymity.

2) Ethics DO matter. Having well-known rules of behavior and widely accepted, fair procedures for ensuring that those rules are followed (and punishing those who don't) matter even more.
It is sickening to hear self-styled chess fans (tommy and his ilk), and even at least one (former) semi-influential chess tournament organizer, state on the record here that they don't give a flying f* about ethics, anything a "pro" does to put food on his table is okay in their book.
I'm glad Mig has come down against that viewpoint. But I think this needs to be stated more vigorously than Mig just did -- so I'm saying it.

3) As in anything else, DOING is more important than TALKING. That is, if you think you saw or heard behavior that is probably a violation, then complain to the TD about it. Here and now, before the round is over, like Hikaru did.
If you have standing to submit a formal complaint to the USCF Ethics Committee, do that too. Don't wait a week and then send emails or blog comments to people who have no authority to do anything about the problem anyway.
I'm going out of my way to state this point, because a few days ago on USCF Forums (a link on uschess.org), I saw a second-hand comment attributed to a USCF Ethics Committee member, to the effect that he constantly hears and reads people complaining informally (on blogs and elsewhere) about violations, yet almost none of them ever get brought to the Ethics Committee. If all those allegations he's hearing were merely idle chatter, scurrilous gossip, then it's good they didn't go any further. But if a significant portion of them were really worth investigating, then my conclusion is that far too many chess people are lazy, or timid. They like to bitch and moan for their amusement, but when it comes down to trying to do something constructive about the problem they're bitching and moaning about, well, that's just too much trouble for them to be bothered with.
A recent, pertinent example: A friend emailed me about "an outrageous instance of sandbagging." It involved an A-player / Expert named Ogumefun. I looked at the guy's rating history and the tourmanents my friend complained about, and concluded he was right. I sent him some details I'd unearthed, and urged him to complain to the TDs of those tournaments, and look into submitting it all to the USCF Ethics Committee. A few days later I saw this same Ogumefun was the subject for the initial post in a very long thread about sandbagging, on USCF Forums.
Has anyone making these complaints compiled their information into a coherent file and sent it to either the Ethics Committee, or Goichberg, or another organizer whose events the (alleged) sandbagger played in? Beats me.

I was asleep. Still half asleep, which is why something in my post might have made sense.

No one asked the obvious question: how does anyone know that the mysterious "hooded" intermediary was acting on behalf of Mitkov? The fact that he made his "offer" in clear view of many people certainly begs the question if this was someone a scheming GM actually sent to probe for a draw offer. Conjecturing aloud at the wall chart doesn't qualify anyone as an agent of a GM playing on Board 1 -- does it??

I did not think that anything I said was so critical that it needed to be signed in blood or by name or that anyone would even care(In general I thought that this was the pattern for blogs). Nevertheless, if it adds to credibility so much and since I never am trying to say anything I would not say to someone's face, it seems sensible and I'll make it a point from here out.
Best to all including anon

Daniel Pomerleano

Don't sweat it. Opinions and ideas are always valid, anonymous or not. It's statements of witness and personal experience (when controversial) that turn to jello.

Mitkov probably like lots of people does chess on the side and keeps a normal job. Since he is skilled in chess then it may make sense for him to play chess to supplement his income whenever the location and prize fund and date of the tournament align for him. In this instance only Nakurama and Mitkov are affected so if it bothers Nakurama than he has every right to tell the TD to tell Mitkov to stop harassing him, especially since Nakurama is a kid. If Mitkov needed to feed his family then I am not going to think of him like I do the people who cheat to buy expensive cars. That point is important as we can judge his actions wrong but when we try to paint a portrait of the man behind the actions that information is useful.

DP, I wasn't criticizing you or demanding you "out" yourself. It just seemed funny that both Mig and tommy had just slammed Anon for his anonymity -- yet just about everyone posting here is anonymous, when you get down to it. (tommy wrote: "If the person is not willing to say who they are then please say nothing. If you really believe what you say then put your name on it.") Of course I'm not defending Anon either; I agree with the mouse-lashing that Mig gave him.

Also, here is a refutation of a key point made by tommy in his post that begins with "I believe it is philosophers who are trained..."

What follows is indeed a "refutation", as surely as 2...Qh4 is the refutation to 1.f3 e5 2.g4 ... If you think "refutation" is too strong a word, email me and I'll show you where you can find a low-cost class in Thinking 101.

The point of tommy's that I refuted is this one:
"the first idea was to make the draw offers legal. that sounds like a reasonable solution. lets assume that everything is legal for the discussion. Mitov goes to Nakamura and offers a draw in the last round. they agree and go to the tournament director half hour before game time to inform him. the tournament director makes note of this and the game is not played. the players get the same as a 1/2 point bye. So the question now is this. is this acceptable or do we need to make rules to stop this."

Here is the context: Final round, Mitkov leads the rest of the field by 1/2 point. Nakamura, being the highest-rated of the group with 5 points, gets paired against the tournament leader.

Tommy's proposal, which he says "seems like a reasonable solution," is to let them agree out in the open to draw without playing, and, presumably, divide the resulting prize money (either 50-50, or however the two players saw fit). (NOTE: KEEP IN MIND THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED -- Nakamura, to his credit, rejected the offer. I don't want anyone reading this to get the mis-impression I'm linking him to a crooked deal. I am speaking hypothetically here, but applying the hypothetical situation to the actual players because it would be too cumbersome to adopt some no-names formulation like "Player A" and "Player B".)

For simplicity's sake let's say they agreed to split their prizes 50-50. Mitkov with his draw takes clear 1st, $11,716. His opponent is among the 6 people tied for 2nd, which is worth $2,000. So after splitting the loot, they each pocket $6,858.

Now, it's true that (as Kriventsov pointed out earlier on this thread) no one else would have LOST any prize money as a result of this (HYPOTHETICAL) deal. The other 5 people who tied for 2nd-7th with 5.5 points each would still each get $2,000, regardless of whether Mitkov-Nakamura was a draw or a win for Nakamura.

So where lies the unfairness in making Mitkov's bribe offer legal? It lies here: Before the final-round pairing, one person (Mitkov) had 5.5 points and 4 people had 5.0 points. One of those 4 people -- under typical Swiss system pairing rules, the highest-rated among them -- gets paired against the leader.

Now, under the rule change that tommy called "reasonable" (legalizing a prearranged final-round draw WITH SHARING OF PRIZE MONEY), it would be pretty much a sure thing that the one lucky 5.0-point scorer who is paired against Mitkov ends up finishing with 5.5 points AND TAKING HOME $6,858.

The other players who started the round with 5.0 points and drew their final-round games, along with those who started with 4.5 points and won their final round, each take home $2,000.

Now, what is the source of that extra $4,858 that Mitkov's opponent would get (i.e. had the deal been legal and had Nakamura accepted it), over and above the $2,000 earned by the other people who finished with 5.5 points after playing their final round?

Under the conditions I've just stated, it should be rock-solid, indisputably clear that two factors enabled the deal-accepting player to "earn" that additional $4,858:

1) He had the highest rating among the 5.0-point group, going into the finale (that's why he got paired against the tournament leader -- who under the conditions outlined, would almost certainly offer a prize-splitting deal), and

2) He opted not to play his final round, while the others did.

So what it boils down to under tommy's "reasonable" rule change is this: Six people finish tied with 5.5 points each. Five of them take home $2,000 each, one of them takes home $6,858 -- and he alone is the one who didn't have to risk anything by playing the final round.

Also, 4 people have 5.0 points going into the final round. Three of them are looking at a probable $2,000 in prize money if they draw their respective games. And one of them is looking at $6,858 for a pre-arranged, no-play draw, which the TD (again under tommy's "reasonable" rule change) gladly facilitates by giving both him and the tournament leader a "half-point bye" (while letting their pairing stand). Again, this lucky guy "earned" his sweet deal solely by having the highest rating among 4 similarly-situated players coming into the final round.

Of course, in real life, situations will arise where people get lucky with pairings -- sometimes, very lucky. On occasion, a titled (or non-titled) player might wind up playing a final-round "money game" against a 1900 who's having a freakishly good tournament...or maybe even paired against a 1700...or better still, paired against ME ! ("Hallelujah, I'm playing Jacobs! Honey, make us a reservation at the Four Seasons -- we're in the chips!)

Still, I hope the difference between a) winning more money than your similarly-situated rivals because you defeated a low-rated player you faced through a properly made but lucky pairing, and b)winning more money than your rivals because you got paired against someone who was certain to split his bigger prize with you without your even having to begin a game, should be brutally obvious to everyone reading this thread.

Yeah, this comment is frightfully long, and it's stating the obvious. Yet, I get the sense that some people here are so breathtakingly stupid (not to mention morally bankrupt) that it might not be so obvious to them -- so it may be worth pointing out.

Jon, surely there are going to be players who are injured financially when pre-arranged draws are agreed to. Whether we as chess players believe this is ethical or not, I think most of us will agree that it is not in the best interest of the game.

How many sponsors will our glorious game lose when these potential or former sponsors come to realize that the best players won't be "playing" the final round of their prestigious tournament?

More than anything else, whether professional or not, I believe players, not to mention national federations, need to protect the integrity of the game. If this means disallowing short draws, then so be it.

Jon, so it isn't unethical for the other people on 5 to make a deal to draw their games and thus get $2000 for scoring 5.5, but it's unethical for the leader on 5.5 and the highest rated player on 5 to make a deal to draw? Something is clearly fishy. The deal between the leader and the highest rated on 5 allows the other players on 5 to catch the leader with 6 and take home more money than they would have had the leader finished with 6.5. So the others potentially benefit as well. It really doesn't make a lot of sense to criticize the players for uncovering a flaw in the prize structure or pairings of the tournament.

And you aren't going to convince anyone of anything if you insist of insulting everyone who disagrees with you at the ends of your arguments.

Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo

Not entirely convincing Jon(not that I don't believe spiritually in your position) for a couple of reasons. 1)the above one is logical but I didn't really think it through 2) the following which was my natural objection. So what, I am the lucky guy who is playing the leader. One could say that I earned that little tidpit by getting the highest rating in the first place.Or you can think of it as a pure chance. Sometimes I'll be the lucky guy and sometimes you will be. In a way it adds an extra dimension to the tournament dynamics.

Mike Henroid brings up an excellent point.

now I am a very low rated player but lets say I am standing at the open section posted results, as I will do at most tournaments to see how things are going at the top. Now lets suppose I am in my usual smart ass mood. and I look at the results and realize that Mitov will get clear first with a draw. the first thing that pops into my mind is exactly what was said. so Nakamura is standing there looking at the charts and I smart ass say to Nakamura. "I am sure that Mitkov would be willing to agree to a draw with you for some compensation." because that seems to summarize the tournament standings as presented. but I never met Mitov and he knows nothing about my smart ass remark. but people overhear me and they dont realize I was making a joke but take it serious and everything goes out of hand. it still has not died down.

Come on guys. drop the judgements against other people. The world is NOT made up in such a way that God appointed you to judge everyone. just the opposite. He waits for each of you to stop ALL Judgements.

And please I dont want to repeat it again. I am not advocating dishonesty. in fact I am advocating total honesty. but an honesty that keeps the focus on me and does not judge anyone else. If you dont understand then go ask the Dali Lama about his ethics. I propose we all do the same as he does. He lives by an ethics that is much higher than any ethics and honesty that you propose but it comes from a different place. it is hard to explain. You will experience it when you live it. that is the best I can explain it. Hopefully he can explain it better.

Jon Jacobs has some great points. well presented. I love this. a good discussion.

unfortunately we can not copy and past sentences so it makes it tough to respond to items.

what is wrong with any of the 2 people wanting to agree to a draw and spliting their winnings. Everybody in the tournament. give them the freedom to do as they choose.

if there is only one person with a 5.0 that has the opportunity to split with the 5.5 person well that is the breaks of the game. go complain about your pairings not about the fact that someone other than you had a better opportunity to draw.

I have very carefully and slowly read your posting twice. I find you do not make any reason to not allow them to agree to a draw and split the money. You talk about things and use judgement words but say nothing against what I propose.

Let us focus our attention on this problem. look carefully. try to find one simple thing wrong with it. remember we have changed the rules to make it all legal and ok.

I will say so far no one has presented even one idea that shows it is wrong to agree a draw and split the money.

I will tell you now the so called only reason I am not allowed to agree a draw and split the money. and that reason pervades our society to far too deep an extent. it is the idea that you have a right to control me. that you have a right to judge my actions. that you have a right to strip me of my freedom and demand that I live a life according to the ideas that are inside of your mind. and as the ideas flow into and out of your mind I have to conform to anything that you think about that you decide is morally correct for me.

be careful. here. because I am right here.

we do it in the war on drugs
we do it in the wars all around the world.
we do it everywhere.
our president demands that everyone do as he says.
he can even spy on everyone to find those to throw into jail.
we throw everyone into jail in this country.
will you throw me into jail for agreeing a draw.
be careful. you are on a slippery slope.

I will give some hints.

There is NO way anyone can every judge another person. We can and always only judge ourself.

God is love is freedom and god is the answer to everything and therefore love and freedom are the answer.

Putting people into jail is not love and therefore will not work.

Controlling people is the opposite of love which is giving freedom and thus will never work. therefore all the wars we wage we will lose them all. we can not control other people.

here is the deal in a nutshell.

I give you freedom to do as you choose. I do not judge you, but I love you. I gain by having increased spiritual growth for me.

You and I and everyone is ONE. I can only Love myself by loving everyone. I can only love everyone by not judging anyone. thus I come to love myself which is spiritual enlightment which is living in bliss.

so do not assume that I will agree with your judgements and condemnations of others. because I know they are all judgements and condemnations of yourself and I refuse to judge you because I know any judgements of you or others will always be judgements of myself. remember you and I are ONE so judging you is judging me.

So I ask again. can anyone present a reason to not allow people to agree a draw and split the money. but because my mind does not judge, I can not find a reason.

I guess thinking about it. the reason must not have judgement in it. and the reason must not try to control others. why? because that is the highest way for me to live my life. and my life is you. we are ONE.

Peace and Spiritual Love


Right, happens all the time. Strangers casually make such comments. And certainly you could never tell a joke from a serious proposition. C'mon. I can't figure out why a few of you are going to such lengths to disbelieve something that is so routine in the chess world.

As for not judging anyone else, that's difficult when you live in a society. Without shared standards it's anarchy. We must judge thieves, murderers, and people who listen to Maroon 5. And believing what's right can mean doing what's right and saying what you think. Live and let live generally becomes unlivable very quickly.

Prearranging any result for a fee on the side is unethical and, most likely, illegal. It's fixing the result of what is understood to be a fair sporting competition. Prearranging a draw with no under the table action is dubious, but fight-free draws are inevitable when a draw suits both players. Players in an open are there to make money. (Short draws in invitationals are another matter and should be abolished by rule.)

The "I'm here to feed my family" argument isn't a license to lie, cheat, and steal. Cheating other players by fixing games with under the table payoffs is criminal. You may as well say that it's okay for a GM to pay a maid at the hotel for a passkey so he can rob the rooms of the other players. After all, it's for his family. It's not going to stop while everyone justifies it and shrugs shoulders. Snap out of it.

honestly, what the hell are you talking about? did you confuse this for a proselytizing blog? putting someone in jail can't be love? perhaps you are forgetting about the love of society?! anyway, your idea of judging those who judge is funny enough to keep me going for a while.

in the mean time, it seems like we about have all the opinions on this out on the table. some say that chess players have the right to decide if and when they will fully represent their skills and other see non-competition in a tournament as dishonest (regardless of money and official rules). even though i love the debates and props to all who have put it out there, i almost hope that we are done with this one. i'm getting dizzy with the circles we are traveling in.

david [formerly masked as stendec]

ComplexZeta and DP,

Unfortunately, the same sort of muddied thinking that pervades the proposal that I skewered in my lengthy comment, also is evident in each of your replies.

Let's start with DP. DP says "the lucky guy who is playing the leader...earned that little tidbit by getting the highest rating in the first place."

Oh, so now we award money prizes to the guy with the highest rating? Then why limit that practice to Round 7: why play any games at all? Just have everyone show up and pay their entry fees, then dole the prizes out according to rating, and everyone goes home early with no need to waste time playing chess.

Actually, I think a lot of professionals might prefer it that way! Judging from the fans' posts here, the majority would, at least if they were one of the highest-rated guys that showed up.

As for professional players' own posts here on the Dirt, it's clear that GM Nakamura would NOT go for such an arrangement. But I can think of at least one pro, or wannabe-pro, who probably would.

Also, DP is to be devoutly envied by all of us in that he is evidently so wealthy that he sees as a "little tidbit," the sum of $4,858. (That is the difference between finishing tied for 2nd-7th with 5.5 points if you were paired against Mitkov in our hypothetical example, and finishing tied for 2nd-7th with 5.5 points if you were NOT paired against Mitkov. I typed that right, no misprint, it's a prize difference of $4,858 for finishing with the same score in the same tournament).

Now for ComplexZeta. He wrote: "It really doesn't make a lot of sense to criticize the players for uncovering a flaw in the prize structure or the pairings of the tournament."

Whether or not it makes sense to criticize the players, it certainly makes sense to PUNISH individuals who deliberately break the rules of competition for their personal profit.

I guess you don't work for someone else, ComplexZeta. If you did, I can just imagine your boss's reaction to learning that you feel it's okay for anyone who has "uncovered a flaw" in a system meant to encourage honest effort, to exploit that flaw to its fullest, for personal profit (say, by embezzling funds from an employer whose bookkeeping systems aren't entirely airtight).

Indeed, many a Wall Street miscreant offered up just the argument you did. They said all they did was uncover a flaw in the system and exploit it; some even said their crimes made the system stronger, by helping to expose (and then ultimately plug up) such flaws.

Moreover, I don't think I said anywhere in my prior comment that it's okay for the OTHER guys who started the final round with 5 points to "make a deal to draw their game."

Personally, I have a hard time getting worked up over short draws (or even prearranged ones) that do not involve any exchange of money. Clint knows this about me because he has seen my posts on other threads, and I suspect that is why he made his comment right beneath mine.

But since condoning pre-arranged draws with no bribe is NOT integral to my argument above, indeed isn't even explicitly mentioned in my comment, ComplexZeta began HIS comment by knocking down a position I did not even take in my comment that he purports to be responding to.

Deal or not, ComplexZeta, something clearly is VERY "fishy" if a final score of 5.5 points brings one player $6,858 but the identical 5.5 points earns several other players in the same tournament just $2,000 each. (Of course we are talking only about PLACE-prize money here; no class prizes, brilliancy or "fighting chess" prizes, etc.)

And while it's true that the deal on Board 1 makes it possible for another of the 5.0-point group to catch the leader with a final-round win, and thereby share 1st-2nd places, which postion do you think most chess professionals would rather be in:

a) Be paired against the leader, with the option of giving a no-play draw and splitting 1st-prize money LEGALLY and thereby pocketing $6,858 with no risk whatsoever; or

b) Be paired against someone else and take your chances on going all-out for a win (which in this instance I estimate would be worth something like $8,500) -- but making just $2,000 if you draw and $400 if you lose?

Since you, ComplexZeta, were one of those who said much earlier in this thread that professionals will make whatever choice puts food on their table, I think it's pretty clear where you'd have to come down on this particular choice, if being consistent matters to you (hardly a given).

Since even you should agree (again, I'm taking the liberty of assuming you want to be consistent with your own previous comments) that nearly all pros would rather be in position (a) if given the choice, it follows that you cannot have been sincere when implying that the deal on Board 1 could benefit the other players who entered Round 7 having the same score as the one who accepted the deal.

Those players would not perceive themselves as benefiting. And, even though they each get the same $2,000 whether a deal is made on Board 1 or not, those other players would very likely feel aggrieved that they, with the same score as the bribe-taker, were not given the opportunity to prearrange a draw and thereby get $6,858, as opposed to prearranging a draw and getting $2,000 FOR THE IDENTICAL SCORE.


Although you are right in general, in this particular case no one's financial state besides Mitkov's and Nakamura's would have been directly affected by the deal. So at least in this instance Mitkov was not trying to rob anyone.

Deals like that are quite common in big opens, though, and in many cases they do take money away from other players, which supports your point.

Not that it matters at all, but there was no way to know that when the offer was made. Several players could have scored six points and lost a large amount of money by sharing the top prize with a cheater. Plus, it's not right to compare a fixed result with an unknown result. Had they agreed to a quick draw perhaps one of the other players with 5.5 would have played differently to go all out to win. So it's practically impossible to conclusively prove that a fixed game could not affect the other players, meaning it's fraud. Perhaps a lawyer could make a defense case if the two leaders were ahead of the field by 1.5 going into the final round, but there wouldn't be much point then.

Some points:


Stan Kriventsov claims that no other player's "financial state" would have been affected if Nakamura had accepted the deal. I don't believe that is a valid conclusion to make. If they had played a "real" game, then there were actually 3 possible scenerios: 1) a Draw [as was allegedly offered 2) Nakamura wins/Mitkov loses [as actually happened] OR 3) Mitkov wins/Nakamura loses. In the 3rd instance, then Mitkov would still have won clear 1st (by a full point), while Nakamura would have been dropped to a lower scoregroup [at 5.0], thus entailing that fewer players in the 5.5 scoregroups would be splitting up the prize money... which means that they would have stood to take home more $$ in that particular instance. Indeed, the 3rd scenario is not so unlikely, if a fighter like Nakamura opted to "go for broke" in a speculative attack.


Chess players play under USCF and/or FIDE rules. Specifically, USCF rules absolutely prohibit these types of deals. Nobody forces a chess professional to play in USCF or FIDE sanctioned events. If they opt to do so, they are morally obliged to follow the rules.


The Prize funds that Chess Professionals vie for, in the Open sections of large US Swiss system events, is effectively subsidized by the Entry Fees that are paid by the "Class players".

So, even if the support is not derived from the altruistic impulses of the class players, it still exists.


Nevertheless, I think it is absurd to make the claim that only those who have a vested interest in or are materially affected by the outcome of a particular matter have the right to judge the ethics of the actors involved. Jonas got it just right.

Even if there is NO victim who is hurt by another's particular action, it should be everybody's right to both make, and then express, one's ethical judgments.

All very well, but you seem to be doing the fuzzy analysis and then calling my thinking muddied. To avoid muddied thinking I will give the mathematical perspective, behind my "little tidbit" comment which I was hesitant to give before because this is not really a math forum. You only seem to be considering the downside that player B takes a draw and splits the prize or draws or even loses. This guy could actually win! Therefore, the guy could win 11,000 with some probability x (given that Nakamura outrates his opponent by 150 ELO this is a decent bet ) or 2000 (with probability pretty high, approximately 1-x) or 400 (nearly zero probability). Let's say this expectation for Hikaru is USD 5,000 or whatever. Mitkov would be a fool to offer Hikaru the $4,852(Hikaru will also be getting $2000 prize) you are throwing around and probably should offer less than $3,000 for such a position(this is really a pure negotiation). Instead he would discount for risk and would give him, say, $2,500. Therefore the "little tidbit" I was refering to was really the choice between fighting for a higher payoff or getting risk free a slightly lower sum. Doesn't seem to be too much to ask for the US Champ... Of course the dynamics just worked out this way and were really much more complicated what if Ibragimov had won or someone else drew. Again maybe not Ph.D level( a decent coder could probably program the basics 1/2 hour) but nevertheless a dynamical problem which the players could prepare in their rooms before coming to the board(or bargaining table). There is alot more to be said about this game I guess but this is not really the place for such a liturgy, so I'll just leave it to Jon to tell me how I am mistaken.

I am amazed that some feel back room arranged results are ethical.

Name one sport where a pre-arranged result is considered upright. Oh yeah---big time wrestling--at least in those we have a pre-arranged winner!

I heard that the Seahawks were concerned about feeding their families. So, rather than risk the receiving the losers share for the Superbowl, they offered the Steelers a tie. "Just don't score and neither will we". I guess the Steelers turned them down.

I don't like what the Seahawks tried to do, but since I don't "do" anything for them I have no right to evaluate or criticize.

The rationale shared by some is absurd.

Philosphers? We are all philosophers---some better informed than others.

Why are some so quick to rip on Nakamura?

Must I share my very positive experience with him? Then do we all share our personal (not gossip or heresay) experience with him publicly so we can statistically evaluate whether or not he is an acceptable or honest or worthy person?

Oh yes. He is a public figure so it is okay to rip on him all we want . . .

He is who he is. I hope over time he matures and grows . . . just as I hope my own teenagers will in the coming years.

I see John Fernandez is adopting the poker player’s perspective when he’s all about maximizing equity in a given situation. In cash games, I agree with him fully and understand where he is coming from. If he isn’t already a good poker player, he’s probably on his way.

But in tournaments, both poker and chess, I think it is wrong to say that ‘soft-playing’ an opponent that you have a side-deal with only affects the two players in question. In many situations in both games, it directly takes equity away from the other players, particularly a player who need a specific result (say, a 0-1 result in chess or the more obvious situation of a player getting knocked out immediately in poker) in order to move up the pay-scale himself.

There are cases in both games where it benefits two players to soft-play each other and the situation is so obvious that they do not need to speak about it or agree beforehand verbally. This ‘unspoken collusion’ is obvious in chess when both players would benefit greatly by agreeing to a draw on the last round and they both know it, and in poker when a player is all-in and a second and third player in the hand “check-it-down” (do not bet at all) so combined they have a better chance of eliminating the first player by having both their hands see the showdown to try to eliminate player #1, and thus moving up the pay-scale. I do not find this unethical, and think that all players in both examples are doing what is right for their situation (and, yes, maximizing their equity). I do not think that the two chess players should be made to ‘fight it out’ or that the two, non-all-in poker players should have to bet at each other while there is someone else all-in. It’s just smart playing by all involved. Nakamura’s 10-move draw falls under this category, and I do not consider it cheating at all.

However an agreement that would allow someone a clear first place (or any increased prize money when others are contending) without really playing for it is inexcusable. There is a difference between two players realizing a mutually beneficial situation as it happens (and acting upon it on their own) AND fixing a result so that one player benefits greatly at the expense of the other player (who would be paid for his troubles later). This is dumping, as one is willing to sacrifice himself to propel the other instead of both having a mutual interest and a way to obtain it (draw offer). If a player is willing to sacrifice equity WITHIN the tournament structure in order to obtain equity OUTSIDE the tournament structure, that is cheating- in both games.

Despite Jon Jacobs bitterness towards me and insistence in trying to make me some kind of cheating advocate, I’m already on record as saying that such deal-making is terrible and that the perpetrators should be shot and buried. My arguments in the past was in the difficulty of both proving that cheating occurred and the unenforceability of the AF4C in ruling on something that happened in a totally different, Open event (especially since the player in question was not even punished in this initial event). I do find it unethical to try to pre-arrange a result by verbally speaking about it beforehand. But I know it happens in poker, would assume it happens in chess, and still maintain the stance that, if even minimal precautions are taken by the perpetrators, cannot be proved or punished effectively.

I wonder if chess might benefit from ‘above the table’ deal-making that poker tournaments used to have before television got involved. If a few (say three for instance) players were left, they could stop the clock, count up their chips, and then cut a deal for the combined 1st-2nd-3rd prize money that was agreeable to all. This was done in public and announced. They would then play it out for the trophy, with the amounts won already locked in no matter how they finished after making the deal. Sometimes the three would make a deal that split the prize money more evenly but left a good amount up for grabs. If the money was 10K-5K-3K, they might each take 5K and play for the remaining 3K if the chips were close to even.

In chess, we might see some real fighting on the last round if the disparity between money for 1st and 2nd was reduced by ‘above the table’ (announced) deals and the players on top of the leader board split up the cash that made them all happy. Instead of based on chip counts in poker, the split could be made based on points standing (i.e a 0.5 point lead should be worth X% of the combined prize pool in contention) and maybe elo. So for example, if a player is going into the last round with a ½ point lead, and there are two players behind him, and the prize was 25K-10K-5K, maybe the leader can say “I will take 20K and make 2nd place 12.5K and third place 7.5K. Deal?” If so, with each player already “locking in” what money he was going to make if a deal could be cut, the last round could be played fully and arrangement-free (particularly if 1st place was a qualifier for something else). It might be harder in chess with multiple people at the top and needing all of them to agree, but this isn’t a bad situation either. I think that if a player in the lead refused to cut a public deal with the others, it would, like in poker, make all their blood boil for a true fight. It feels insulting to others if it was the person with a ½ point lead who refused to deal with all those a step behind. I’m pretty sure the player playing him would be out for blood if he were one who wanted to deal but was rebuffed. It would be both ‘above board’ and also stimulate some interesting chess for the last round in all events.

(Yes, I know it gets complicated when there are a ton of people in 2nd place and even more just a ½ point behind in 3rd, but the above-the-table deal concept, where leaders pass some equity to those below them in exchange for lesser, but locked-in money, should still be explored).

excuse me but I think there is something wrong in your last post.
Should be something about the application of the mathematics science.
The several players that could have scored six point cannot lost a large amount of money by sharing the top prize with a cheater becouse
the alternative is TO SHARE the SAME AMOUNT with the us champ.
There is another alternative but is even worse for them...if the cheater plays and win they DO NOT SHARE the top prize.
Am I right or is there something I do not get?
Besides I completely agree with Stan Kriventsov point of view.

By the way, all of these calculations about whether other players in the crosstable would have been injured if two players had agreed on a draw in the last round are rather ignoring something. If we are going to look at this from the point of view of economics, we should consider not just how the "pie" of this one tournament is sliced up, but also the effect on the size and flavor of future pies. To me it seems rather obvious that if chess is seen to be a clean sport, it will be better respected and will attract more sponsorship money. On the other hand, if it is seen as full of rigged results, there will be less sponsorship money, and all players on the tour will have a harder time feeding their families. Therefore, everyone in chess has an economic interest in discouraging OTHER players from arranging results. And this is leaving aside the question of how proud you want to feel in telling other people you are a chess professional.



no there's nothing wrong with his math - you disregarded a possible result of Nakamura - Mitkov. They both could have lost ;o))

I'm saying there is a difference, Marcolantini, although I take your point. First, a short agreed draw affects how the other players play. We can't assume all the other results would have been the same had their game ended in 12 moves. There would have been time to play a different opening, for example. (With a long game in progress, the possibility exists of Mitkov winning and putting a tie for first out of reach for some, etc.) Second, in a real game, not a fixed one, all three results are possible. I believe Doug pointed out above why this is relevant to the lower prize groups. Third, depending on format, tiebreaks can matter. We can imagine the result changing the qualifiers for the US championship.

Ok Mig I agree, but let me tell that this is valid when you tell us about the well known short draws problem and "if and how" is right to avoid it with new rules.

In this case the blog thread was different, something like
"Did the cheater do somethingh against chess rules and did the us champion give him a well deserved lesson? Does the cheater deserve a punishment, may be to be banned from next events?"

OK, in my opinion the cheater did not do anything wrong: with the actual rules he was in his right offering a quick draw...

Isn't it? No?...Ahha, the compensation the compensation...
But let's see the difference.
I say
"YOU SELL me a draw and I PAY you for it"
and for the most people I am a cheater.
But if I say
"We AGREE a draw and we'll SHARE our two prizes equally"
for the most people I am a serious chess professional player.

I apologize for my english pizza & maccaroni style, you tell me please what do you think about.

In my last post I mean tell me what do you think about my arguments not about my english pizza & maccaroni

One argument against banning Mitkov from further events is that, in my opinion, there is a theoretical possibility (small but not negligible) that the intermediary did not even discuss the deal with him before approaching Nakamura. I have witnessed at least one such situation in the past. Let's say, the intermediary comes to Nakamura and asks "Would you be willing to give Mitkov a draw for $3500"? If Nakamura says yes, he goes to Mitkov and says "Nakamura is willing to give you a draw for $4000, do you agree?" If Mitkov also agrees, the intermediary makes easy $500 for himself.

We have to deal with what is criminal and what is unethical, not a fantasy in which we can read minds. If two players agree to a draw on move 15 we have no way of knowing if they winked at each other before the game started, or on move two, or on move 15. It's the exchanging of money under the table that turns non-competitive behavior (somewhat unethical and possibly illegal) into fraud. You are fixing or coercing a result. Buying a draw for a title norm or buying a win for a US championship spot are similar.

In other words, of course the money makes a difference. It adds an *external factor* to distort the parameters of the event that is visibly otherwise the same. Let's say you meet a woman at a bar, buy her a drink and take her back to your place for the night. If you buy her breakfast you're a nice guy. If you give her a few hundred bucks you're both criminals. (Just an example. I have never, for the record, bought a woman breakfast.)

Just imagine that instead of a reward, punishment is threatened. Instead of offering a few thousand bucks, it's "give me a draw or my friends and I will beat the hell out of you" or trash your car, or kidnap your cat. Cash is just a more pleasant form of coercion, strictly speaking.

Draws are draws and as long as they are a possible outcome of the game there is never going to be a way to force people who don't want to play to play. Modifying the scoring system or the prize system might work; we don't have enough information. Legislating against short draws preserves appearances, but doesn't make for meaninful change in opens.

Prearranging any result is unethical, no doubt. But a draw is a normal event within the parameters of the competition. If it's good for both it's probably going to happen. (Finding ways to change the system so it isn't good for both is the challenge here.) It's worth complaining about, however, because perception matters. Ethics don't just come from potential punishment.

I second the fact that pre-arranged game result with money exchange can be considered as cheating.

However a pre-arranged result with no money compensation or other compensation could be considered ok, for the following reasons: first, the only worthwhile pre-arranged result, is a "draw" (why agree to lose?), and second, when it is accepted it means that both players are in the situation of having something to win by drawing, and hence they had to deserve it. For instance in the case of Mitkov, he had scored 5.5/6 before last round.

I can't say I'm particularily shocked by a public offer of a draw in this context - however looking at the figures, it appears that, of course, the deal was particularily uninteresting for Nakamura. But if, for instance, all the players that finished shared first or shared second of the tourney were qualified as well for the World Championship, I doubt there would be so much fuss - they both would already have deserved it.

For once, there appears to be a RELATIVELY effortless, low-cost solution to the problem posed by marcolantini.

The solution is the one hinted at in alberlie's comment, to wit: Have all players entering an event sign a statement at the outset, acknowledging the director's right to forfeit BOTH parties to an illegal prize-sharing arrangement, and award the prize money to the other top finishers.

My off-the-cuff impression is that such a rule would pose little if any legal risk for the organizer. (Unlike, say, putting proven violators on a public "cheaters' list" that could lead to banning them from future tournaments -- a solution I advocated elsewhere and that Stern, among others, objected to on the grounds it would be bait for libel suits.)

The only practical problem that would arise in connection with such a rule would be the standard of proof that an arrangement had in fact been made (to fix the result of a final-round, "money game").

It seems to me that when the potential deal-makers facing one another in the final round were relative strangers, or were young Americans, or knew but didn't like or regularly associate with one another, then in any of those cases, either player who was considering offering to pay for a draw or a thrown game, would face a significant risk that his proposal or arrangement could go awry and get exposed, and cause the player to lose ANY prize money he might be in position to make. That, in itself, would create a powerful disincentive to offer a deal, whether directly or through an intermediary.

The fly in the ointment, it seems to me, would be when the potential dealmakers were compatriots who often traveled together and often cooperated in their chess endeavors in a variety of ways (both legitimate and illegitimate). Such a pair could have a prior understanding, with all its details worked out long before and physically far separated from any particular tournament where the opportunity for a last-round deal might arise. In that case, if these two guys met on Board 1 in the final round and shared their winning by prior agreement, it would be impossible to find evidence they had fixed their game and shared the loot, because the ONLY meaningful evidence would lie within their personal bank account statements. (Reachable by a public prosecutor perhaps, if they were suspected of terrorism rather than of fixing a chess tournament; but obviously unreachable by a tournament organizer or even a formal USCF disciplinary committee.)

Still, I see a fully satisfactory remedy even for this type of situation. If you can't PUNISH, then PREVENT.

Given the ecology of the chess world and its plethora of gossip-mongering parasites (that's all of you reading this, and me too), the identity of these cheat-duos would be well known to their fellow professionals -- and, I presume, would therefore be known to other cognoscenti (fans and big-time organizers) as well.

Of course, an organizer could not impose forfeits or withhold prizes based on undocumented rumors that two guys regularly worked as a team and might have fixed the results of previous events. But, a TD COULD simply take this information into account when making PAIRINGS. Simply, modify normal pairing rules so that probable (rumored) members of such a cheat-duo WON'T BE PAIRED AGAINST EACH OTHER, at least in a critical situation.

Operationally, that is quite feasible in Open tournaments, and I can't see any legal obstacles, either.

In fact, when I was a teenager, Goichberg sometimes did just what I'm suggesting. I recall a specific tournament where everyone was joking that Goichberg consciously manipulated the final-round pairings so that all the "corruptibles" who were in contention for prizes (i.e. the guys who were known to throw games for money), got paired against the "uncorruptibles" (i.e. other guys with similar scores, who were known to be honest).

Now, when grown-ups or "professionals" are involved, perhaps there is no such thing as an "uncorruptible." (N.B. It's strange isn't it that many of the earlier commenters on this thread have perhaps unwittingly turned the word, "professional" into a pejorative term when applied to a chess player. Streetwalkers comes to mind as a parallel. But in nearly every field of endeavor other than chess, "professional" is normally a term of approval, whether used as noun or adjective, rather than being in effect a synonym for "whore", as several of you commenters have made it out to be.) So Goichberg's solution would't strictly apply.

Still, for reasons cited earlier in my comment, I think a policy of avoiding pairing known (/rumored) collaborators against one another in a big-money game in an open tournament, would still be effective -- in that opponents who were near-strangers, or were antagonistic to one another, would find it harder and riskier to engineer a deal.

So, have we finally come up with a practical cure for one limited aspect of the fixed-results problem?

You legal-beagles out there -- Stern, jgutman, marcolantini -- what do you think?

For Mig.
I respect your opinion but I find too strict your concept of fraud.
Exchanging of money under the table in my opinion is not fraud if there is no one (like in this case) who can say "I am the victim of your fraud".
I think a crime is a crime when there is a victim.
Even in your example, I agree that you are a nice guy offering brekfast to the woman after the night...but I cannot see what is "criminal" if you add some bucks.
And both are "criminals" ?!?
It looks me too strict: of course I know that in many countries that one is a crime but still not in mine (for now...) and may be this has influence and makes the difference in our opinions.

For Jacobs...I'll give you the answer you asked me when I'll finish to translate your long post...it is too late night now and you write like shakespeare

It was humor. I.e., the definition of prostitution.

So by your loose rule of fraud, Marco, we have to wait until the tournament is over to determine if anyone lost money? Not possible, and also illogical. That's like saying it's okay to steal from a shop if nobody notices it. You have to discourage the behavior.

And influencing the outcome of a sporting contest by coercion isn't my definition, it's a legal one. If a basketball player plays badly and his team loses, that's not a crime. If someone pays him to play badly, that's a crime.

Jon Jacobs the suggestion that in a Swiss tournaments pairings should be manipulated such that 'DUOs who are likely to cheat dont get to play' is just an invitation for the arbiter to make arbitrary, subjective and potentially denigrating decisions which would also seriously skew the tournament one way or the other.How do you determine who is 'likely to collaborate'. Players know how swiss pairings work and hence it will be quickly apparent what manual alterations have been made and I am sure many will take offence at the suggestion that they have been branded as 'potential collaborators'. Since I am a student of law I can tell you that rule which is SUPPOSED to act based upon rumors and operates at the whim of a single individual(the chief arbiter) subjected to no guidelines at all, is a recipe for disaster. I am certain this law cannot be very sound.

Jon Jacobs the suggestion that in a Swiss tournaments pairings should be manipulated such that 'DUOs who are likely to cheat dont get to play' is just an invitation for the arbiter to make arbitrary, subjective and potentially denigrating decisions which would also seriously skew the tournament one way or the other.How do you determine who is 'likely to collaborate'. Players know how swiss pairings work and hence it will be quickly apparent what manual alterations have been made and I am sure many will take offence at the suggestion that they have been branded as 'potential collaborators'. Since I am a student of law I can tell you that rule which is SUPPOSED to act based upon rumors and operates at the whim of a single individual(the chief arbiter) subjected to no guidelines at all, is a recipe for disaster. I am certain this law cannot be very sound.

It also occurs to me that the application of this law will make you answerable to a defamation suit. The implication of applying this law is to suggest that the people involved are likely to wilfully commit illegal and unethical acts. SO unless you have a basis for that suggestion which will stand up in a court you need to watch it. Apart from this some players will be badly hit and others unfairly benefited by the skewed pairings that would result from this law.


First of all, you are wrong to assert that there is some kind of purity about making pairings, such that there will always be a specific set of pairings for a late round, determined in a largely formulaic way.

In real life tournament practice, multiple considerations come into play more often than you might think when making pairings, especially in the late rounds.

To understand this, it helps to actually play in or at least attend rated Swiss system tournaments on a regular basis. Many, perhaps most, people who comment on Dirt don't seem to play tournament chess. They may be good chess players; but I've heard so many say they let their USCF membership lapse years ago, they boycott tournaments as a protest against Bush or Goichberg or some other bogeyman, etc.

The apparent simplicity of pairing people with the same score against one another is complicated by the need to equalize colors, and by the fact that some of the leaders will have already played each other in prior rounds.

Moreover, at times, pairings are even influenced by "external factors" like the desire to match FIDE-rated against non-FIDE-rated opponents, in a Futurity event whose purpose is to gain FIDE ratings for those players who don't already have one.

Because of these multiple factors that go into determining pairings (and which seem to have their greatest effect in the late rounds), one constantly hears players at real-life Swiss system events complain that they can't understand why they got paired with so-and-so in the final round, when they were positive they would be paired with such-and-such. Sometimes, players complain vigorously and voiciferously; sometimes they even storm out and forfeit their final game because they felt they got an unfair pairing.

Have you ever heard of an instance where a player's complaint about a pairing was upheld, and the player was given some kind of redress, or the TD was sanctioned in some way? I haven't.

Given this context, I don't think it would be unreasonable or odd for a TD to account for the possibility of cheating, as one consideration when deciding who to pair against who in the "money round" of an open event. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a TD would get in any kind of hot water, were he to deviate from pairings recommended by his software, in order to maintain the appearance of integrity at his tournament.

Maintaining integrity, after all, is a well-accepted policy objective for TDs and organizers -- in the United States, at least. (Notwithstanding the pro-cheating comments made by many on this blog, including at least one important ex-TD.) In tournament organization, as in law and legislation, it is often necessary to strike a balance between competing policy objectives, both of which may be worthy in their own right. In this case, "pure" pairings, versus reducing the perceived risk of a corrupt, fixed outcome at the top of the wall chart.

So, you are already out on a limb when claiming that anyone other than the globetrotting duo ("the odd couple"??) who were treated as potential collaborators and not paired against each other, would take offense that a TD had tweaked the pairings in such a way. In fact, I rather suspect that everyone else in contention for prize money would be grateful, and quite vocally so, that the TD had acted to head off the possibility of a crooked deal that might shrink the prize-pool for everyone outside the suspect pair.

Then, you climb to the end of the limb and fall off it, when you bring up the possibility of a defamation suit. Are you Stern's brother, or what?

Let me inform you that TDs are never forced to justify their pairing decisions in print. So where is the defamation? You say you are a "student of law." I don't want to insult any country, so I won't guess where you're a law student...but it's obviously not in the United States.

Under the laws of this country, defamation is speech (to be precise, a defamatory statement, by definition, must be "published"). There is no such thing as defamation by implication... let alone your newly-coined tort, "defamation by pairing." Regardless of the considerations that might have gone into it, a pairing is not an accusation.

I've heard people on this blog and elsewhere cringe about the possibility of lawsuits if a suspected cheat is: a) ejected from a tournament; b) named on a "cheaters list"; c)denied admission to a subsequent tournament. Well, maybe; it depends on the quality of the evidence, and the quality of the procedure that was used to weigh the allegations against the guy.

Now, you are saying that TDs are going to get sued because of a pairing they made? Give me a break. Give us all a break.

Firstly I am a FIDE rated player who has played in numerous Swiss tournaments. I will inform you that colour equalization is subordinate to points considerations that is point No.1. No.2 this rated unrated business you raise is in practice dealt with by seedings AND my experience in numerous tournaments tells me that pairings are made through computer programmes nowadays.

Now make up your mind whay you are claiming. Is it a) that because many pairings are possible the "cheats" will never know they were stopped. So essentially arbiters can do whatever they like in a cloak and dagger manner. or b) Are you suddenly going and saying it doesnt matter because everyone will be grateful when it is announced that this supposedly nefarious duo is not allowed to play each other.

Now coming to the next point we are not talking abt unfair pairings. What we are talking abt is the fact that two players are he TDnot allowed to play each other because TD thinks (on the basis of rumors) that they may cheat. First you need to clarify whether all this is done in a cloak and dagger manner by the TD or do they have to announce it when they are acting under this rule proposed by you.

Now legal points a pairing IS an accusation if it is made on the basis that you may be likely to cheat. You are right I am not studying law in the U.S.A. However I know enough about law to know that in the vast majority of countries including U.K where the concept originated, defamation need not be printed. In fact there used to be a distinction between libel(printed) and slander(verbal).The defamation rules also cover actions which are neither printed nor verbal and yes defamation by action is also a tort. I did not invent a new head called 'defamation by pairing' but it is covered under the existing heads. Maybe the nomenclature differs in the USA are you trying to tell me that you can smear a persons reputation anyway you like in the USA so long as it isnt in print? I dont believe that. Maybe it isnt called defamation in the USA but implying clearly that someone is a cheat is I am 100% sure legally actionable. Denying admission to a tournament is a different matter because all you have to do is refuse entry to the premises.


Most likely you don't know this, but most other Dirt readers do. There is a thing called a rating "floor", which is designed as a barrier against sandbagging. The USCF has a formula for assigning players a lifetime minimum rating; it's roughly 300 points beneath the highest rating a player achieved in his career.

However, Goichberg and his Continental Chess Association go further: they maintain AND PUBLISH their own, extensive list of minimum ratings, which in a number of cases are higher than the minimums that the USCF assigns to the identical players.

Goichberg does not use a formula that differs from the USCF's rating "floor" formula. Rather, when he slaps someone with a higher floor, the decision is based on discretion -- typically, because the player in question is thought to have sandbagged in the past.

Of course, Goichberg does not publiclly link his rating floors with sandbagging; in fact, his Web site actually describes rating floors on players as a "reward for outstanding tournament achievement," or some such hilarious (yet crafty, if viewed from a legal angle) verbal formulation.

Now, if your concept of "implied defamation" had even the slightest legal substance, then anyone with a higher rating floor on Goichberg's list than on the USCF list would sue the pants off Goichberg. After all, even though he doesn't call it an anti-sandbagging list, everyone knows damn well that's what it is. So by your logic, being assigned an above-normal rating floor (AND IT'S PUBLISHED, remember, on the CCA site), is equivalent to being publicly defamed as a sandbagger.

Jon Jacobs you are missing the point entirely. A rating floor is only a very vieled and circituous implication. The basis of YOUR proposed rule is that "players who are likely to collaborate" shall not play against each other. Therefore the moment you apply this law, you are by definiton implying that these ppl are likely to be cheaters.
The basis of the rating floor(at least officialy is not cheating) there is a world of difference.

And in case you havent noticed the pairing IS printed. The implication is not. But you dont have to say in words "I think you are a cheat" if it is obvious from what you have said that this is the case than you better prepare to defend a defamation suit.

I was just rereading some of your criticisms of my legal knowledge. I know perfectly well defamation needs to be published. And in this regard all that means is that you have to bring it to the notice of people. The term publication is not restricted to speech or an actual publication {which the pairing list is anyway). The moment you release a pairing on the basis of the rule you have brought it to the attention of people that you think this duo are cheaters. If you dont know what the ambit of the term "publication" is in the definition of defamation than 100% sure you are not a lawyer or if you are you arent a very good one.


You claim to be an authority on law, yet in the same breath admit your studies don't even directly involve the laws in the U.S.A.? Then you go and make pronouncements about what would and wouldn't be legal for a TD to do here?

In terms of your qualification to claim any expertise in what you're talking about, I rest my case.

I said in my comment that TDs don't have to justify their pairing decisions, as long as the decisions bear some relation to reality. So I don't expect a TD would ever make an announcement that they'd ruled out a particular pairing because the opponents were likely to collaborate. (Such an announcement would be wholly unnecessary as well as self-destructive, because it might indeed invite a defamation suit.)

Now think about it from the collaborators' point of view: two guys jet in from Outer Slobovia or wherever, they both have shady reputations, other GMs who regularly encounter them in the Bundesliga and elsewhere are forever swapping stories about how they collaborated to fix this or that event, or maybe sold somebody a norm by throwing a game here and there...

Do you really think such a pair would go out of their way to call attention to their own collaborative relationship, by vigorously asserting their right to be paired with each other when big money was at stake? That would only confirm people's suspicions about them.

No, they would just quietly accept the fact that the TD had called their bet, their final-round gambit didn't work, and would try to make the best of things...Which might mean one or both of them would end up (through a hooded intermediary, of course) offering a few grand to throw their last-round game to the stranger they did get paired against.

So now you have finally quit arguing the legal points and now shifted to attacking my credentials to make them....res ipsa loquitur.

Now finally you clarify that this rule is to be implemented in the cloak and dagger manner.So let me get this straight the purpose of a rule allowing the TD to do this pairing manipulation is simply that the TD doesnt get into hot water with the USCF? Otherwise why have any rule-just tell the TDs to make pairing as they see fit.

And after all this the conclusion is based on your personal psychological assessment about how YOU THINK "two shady characters from outer Slobovia or whatever" would act. What pray do they lose by filing suit? Where is the proof(legal standards) that they chuck games.

Aside from the legal difficulties involved I am sure you would be in the minority if you cannot see the difficulties associated with vesting so much power in the TD.


"What pray do they lose by filing suit?" Apart from confirming for the whole chess world that their reputation for shady collaboration was well deserved (since in publicly demanding compensation for not being paired against each other, they'd be implicitly proclaiming that such a pairing would have enriched them, compared with the alternate pairings they actually received), they would have to convince a plaintiff's lawyer to take their case, on contingency.

I doubt there's a lawyer except you anywhere on earth -- let alone in the U.S. -- who would be willing to take on a case he would only get paid for if he could convince a court or jury to award damages based on your novel concept of "defamation by pairing."

I know you claimed you didn't mean to assert such a new category of defamation, that it was already covered under existing headers...Yet, in a later comment you made it quite clear that defining an alternate pairing as a sufficient condition for a defamation claim, is exactly what you are doing. To wit, you wrote: "The moment you release a pairing on the basis of the rule you have brought it to the attention of people that you think this duo are cheaters."

So, you did say that the mere publication of a pairing alone, without any explict statement or explanation from the TD, can be grounds for a defamation claim.

Just in case you ever are approached by someone who seeks your professional services to litigate such a claim, here is my advice: Run the other way. (Disclaimer: Bear in mind I am NOT a lawyer and have never studied law, so it should not be construed as legal "advice".)

I say that, because I figure anyone who presents themself as a prospective client in such a case, probably hopes to fleece YOU. Such a "client" would have scoped you out in advance, and their real agenda would be to turn around and sue YOU for malpractice (or extract assets from you in some other manner), after their case is (obviously) thrown out of court.

Since you are clearly not a lawyer-let me tell you that a) They will not claim damages for the losses from the prospective enrichment.Nor will they assert their 'right' to be paired together. They will claim damages because you have ruined their reputation by implying without proof that they are cheaters.Which you have done anytime you apply this law.
When I say the pairing itself is ground for a defamation suit I am assuming that the BASIS for the pairing is the fact that they might be cheating. The same pairing without any alterations on that basis would not be defamatory.
There is no concept of defamation by pairing. If you want to know what exactly this thing is called it is innnuendo. Here it is clear as day that IF a pairing is BASED upon this law it is clearly defamatory.What you refer to as "defamation by pairing" is simply one example of innuendo.

Let's be clear.

I think draws for compensation ought to be illegal for purposes of swisses, and for any purpose, taking a loss on purpose ought to be a no-no.

But say I have a headache, and it's the last round, and I don't think much of my chances of playing decent chess, let alone winning. So I play 1. e4 and offer a draw. My opponent has a headache too and accepts.

Exactly what is wrong with that? And why is it different if we just don't like the looks of the middlegame that's shaping up at move 15 rather than that we have headaches?

I think that the draw offer should be for one purpose alone--- you think the position is drawn and you don't want to waste you and your opponents time playing it out. If everyone played by these rules, like in Sofia or in Cuernavaca, then we would not have this problem. The only problem would be tanking and so on. The problem is that in open tournaments there are just too many boards to watch. Having said this, I think that Sofia rules should be applied to the opens anyway and then supervised thoroughly on top boards of opens. Just force players to turn in complete scoresheets and punish anyone who does not follow the rules. That would essentially, although with many, many technical problems solve the type of problems being discussed here(at least in the draw case). The throwing of games seems to me to be a difficult case, precisely because it much more difficult to prove. The draw question is based primarily on the position at hand, whereas determining whether the game has been thrown is much,much more subjective and leads to these type of legalese issues that are being discussed.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 6, 2006 11:28 PM.

    Cuernavaca 2006 r2-3 was the previous entry in this blog.

    Cuernavaca 2006 r5 is the next entry in this blog.

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