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Sport Express on VT-VK

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Thanks to Yuriy Kleyner for translating a a Sport Express article that includes some more info about the future of the championship. Mexico wants to host the next final championship "tournament of eight," a la San Luis. I really, really hate the use of a round robin after a qualifier and candidates matches. (Where are those candidates matches?) It's like having mac and cheese after a caviar appetizer.

I'm torn between wanting another fighting event with a dominant winner like San Luis - best of a bad situation - or having the inevitable crash and burn with loads of draws, a tie for first and rapids to get it out of the way. Maybe that would get them to consider matches again. The Topalov-Kramnik match being a hit might also help in that regard.

The next moment is very important. The winner of the Kramnik-Topalov match will play in the next FIDE world championship, which will take place in the capital of Mexico. However, the loser -- even if it's the current title holder, Topalov -- will have to start from "scratch" in the World Cup. The "classical" world champion, Kramnik, in turn, in case of victory, will play in the next "Tournament of Eight" and if he loses -- World Cup.

That's a lot of carts ahead of a lot of horses. So far we haven't seen one step made in front of the other. This unification event could be great, but the MIA candidates matches are symbolic of FIDE's credibility gap. But it's good news if Mexico has lined up sponsorship for the final already.


Mac and cheese after a caviar appetizer, yum....

topalov is very brave!.i can hardly believe he put his title in line which others hesitated long to do that .but i cant believe he risks his place in 2007 tourney .why should the loser deprived of from 2007 tourney .why it should be 8 ,why not 9 .nine partcipants .two rounds robin.on the other hand why every one convert it to election story ,i dont believe if kirsan lose ,he will punish chess world by cancelling the match.he is at least chess fan and unification is dream of all chess fans.

Re the status of the Kramnik-Topalov loser:

Kirsan's being cagey. If Topalov loses, Kirsan will find a way to integrate him into the 2007 proceedings. He has either made this promise already or is keeping it in reserve to guarantee Topalov's continuing allegiance/subservience.

Yes, what about the Candidates matches?! While bidding' supposed to have ended several weeks ago, the Presidential Board report talked about all kind of things but not them.

Don't tell me they are in danger of not taking place. Of course there's plenty of time still, but...

Interesting theory, but I think it is more likely that Kirstan wants to minimize the amount of stardom GMs can obtain, the less likely prevous winners and higher-rated players are to win, the more it does for the perception of chess being about FIDE and not participants.

If Topalov loses, Kirstan really won't have to worry about keeping him happy that much. He would be just another high-rated GM, not worth bending over backward for. For that matter, Kramnik agreeing to end of classical championship for half a million is not really any less of an allegiance/subservience either.

I still don't understand the problem with the candidates matches and someone earning the right to play the top dog? what exactly was wrong with that? These Macdonalds, as I call them, Championship matches seem to lessen the title. I see no reason to decide the world championship with speed chess. I don't have a better solution but the way it was done in the past seemed better to me.

Q: if Kramnik wins, was Topolov ever the champ?

Of course, then Topalov was the FIDE World Champion 2005-2006.

I keep finding it amazing that our "economically challenged" neighbors to the south can find ways to keep funding international chess events as of late; while we "affluent" Americans are ecstatic to find a half way decent location for our National Championship every once in a while? It reminds me of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony...PATHETIQUE. Happy Easter Everyone.

FIDE wrapped up all the world's top players. And Kramnik's attempts to negotiate a classical championship succession within FIDE failed.

Kramnik then had a choice
--defend his title outside of FIDE with a lame-ass match against a lower-ranked player or
--rejoin the FIDE structure, defend against the FIDE world champ (who by some miracle also happens to be the world's top-rated player), and hope that at some point that Kirsan or a successor reinstates the long match.

I think most everyone thinks Kramnik made the right call. And it's nice that at least one of the WCC match participants has found a way to take Kirsan's prize money without endorsing Kirsan or his policies.

Let's say you are the head of marketing for the North American Widgets Company, chesstraveler. It's your job to get maximum attention for your product and you have been given a budget of 1.5 million dollars. You have been presented the options of sponsoring an FIDE world championship match or placing the logo of your company on the hood of a racecar for that 1.5 million dollars. Which would you do? The problem with chess is that unless you play it and have studied it for a while, it is 1) hard to understand 2) it is like watching paint dry 3) there seems to be no control by the people that say they govern the game. It looks as if corporate america has found better use for the limited marketing dollars the have and they have found more tried and true methods to maximize those dollars

All we have to say is that the FIDE is doing a great job. It will be a delightfull pleasure to see the last match of all times ending in blitz (because Kramnik-Topalov ending in a draw after 12 games is not unlikely).

Anyway, Bravo Kramnik. Negociating half a million in september and maybe one million in november is good news. Everybody criticizes him, but please don't forget that with his catastrophic results in the last two years, he hasn't made a single penny. And medicine costs a lot !!!

By the way, everybody says that Topalov is the strongest player on Earth. I notice that nobody complains about Anand. Anand has been the stronger player for the last 6 years, and nobody cares a lot to see this reunification match without him.
Anand is the strongest player today, and I wouldn't give a penny on anybody's chances in a match against him now or in a close future. Topalov's 2800 is occasionnal, Anand's 2800 is the result of a continuous presence over 2750 for the last 15 years or so.

Why would Topalov turn down a chance to fight for the lion's share of $1M? Even if he loses, he still probably gets $400K or so. And he'll still be seeded directly into the next World Championship event.

I think Topalov is risking a lot for 500G. Seems that he would make more by just staying safe in the cycle. Don't really think he needs the match. Perhaps he thinks Kramnik is an easy half mil.


I absolutely agree with your overall assessment, especially point #3 and your last sentence. It's a shame, but this country is the quintessential market place for bottom-line economics; and as of now what corporation wants to follow the HB Foundation debacle, economically speaking? Still it's frustrating, but that's life in the little chess city.

At last years National Open, Susan Polgar expressed the opinion that corporations in this country, should like many in Europe and other areas, promote chess for corporate publicity and not necessarily monetary profit. I don't think she liked my response.

It is easy to say that Kramnik had a choice of failure or surrender. But such a conclusion avoids the hard questions.
Why did all the top GMs who were willing to participate in the last classical cycle abandon Kramnik's side and partake in FIDE's tournament? Why, when Brissago was just a year before and there have been four non-FIDE tournaments in the preceeding twelve years would these GMs abandon the classical match structure that the majority of them is in favor of? Why would Kramnik hand a political victory to the man least likely to support classical match cycle a few months before the election? Why are there no concessions towards Kramnik or the idea of classical match cycle built into this agreement? What reason is there to hope that Kirstan will change when he gets everything he wants, on a platter, from this agreement? What more could Kramnik do, aside from a public statement, to endorse Kirstan and his policies? Why, only 1 and a half years after Kramnik-Leko, which is less time than it has been between any two championship matches over the past twenty years, are we acting like we are desperate for a match? Why are the people ,who previously knocked expediency and agreeing to something with Kirstan and rather advocated strictest adherence to the idea of classical chess match cycle in previous years, endorsing this now?

Glenn, I agree with most of what you said, but to me the more interesting thing is not why there is no chess sponsorship in this country (the answer to that is fairly obvious) but rather why there IS chess sponsorship in Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Bulgaria, Germany, etc.? Do the corporations there feel that chess is easy to understand and not like watching paint dry?

It's not so much what Topolov and Kramnik are risking, but what Illyumzhinov is gaining. Re-election and an excellent opportunity to have complete control over the classical world championship. He then can totally dummy-down that once illustrious title, like he has so many other areas of chess and its great legacy.

"I think Topalov is risking a lot for 500G..."

That's actually twice as much as he got for winning San Luis, and he's guaranteed to make the half-million from the match win or lose.

Congratulations to FIDE, they have successfully managed to erode down the rights of the World Chess Champion to almost nothing. Winner to play in tournament of eight? That is a slap in the face.
I am surprised Topaplov or Kramnik agreed to it.

Heck why not let the loser participate in the tournament of 8 in Mexico, and the final winner of this tourney play the winner of Kramnik-Topalov for all the marbles in a traditional match, with NO rapid tie-breaks, just real classical time control games. Kirsan's idea of doing away with head to head matches is digusting.

The winner of the September match will have a valuable franchise, which will not disappear if he fails to win in Mexico City. Will FIDE wish to return so soon to the format of a "World Tournament Champion" and an unofficial but very real "World Match Champion"?

If sponsorship can be found for WC matches they will happen, and I'm sure FIDE would prefer them to be inside the fold than otherwise.

It's fun. Please wait some comments about the match from Topalov side. I don't believe that Topalov signed the contract with these awful conditions.

We heard bla-bla from Kirsan mafia many times a lot of years. Why do we belive him again in the pre-electoral season?

matches r the most dangerous and most intersting way to detrmine champion.we cant forget many aboted and failed matches.

kasparov-short (outside FIDE)
kasparov -ponomariov
kasparov -kasimdzhanov

some great players didnt have match shot of the tiltle like rubenstein, keres and ivanchuck.

we chess fans prefer matches but any side can confuse everything by aborting it

why some doubts about kramnik-topa match to take place ,while we all sure of 2007 tournament?!

thus,tournament has little risk than match, even the champion didnt participate the winner can easily regarded as legal champion , but in match
if the champion forfeited every thing cnfused.


It took me awhile to get a convincing answer to the key question raised by the post that started this thread and that continues throughout this thread: "What's the point of holding Candidates Matches if they only lead to a tournament to determine the World Champion? Isn't that doing things ass-backwards?"

In aesthetic terms, I think everyone pretty much agrees the answer is yes. So the reason behind the structure FIDE has chosen is clearly not aesthetic (meaning chess-driven).

BUT, NEITHER is it ENTIRELY explainable as a structure to maximize Kirsan's chances of staying in power. That's part of the reason, surely. But there is a more significant, purely economic reason that someone posted on another Dirt thread several months ago. I found that to be the most compelling comment I ever saw here, because it answered a question that had been nagging at me for the past 10 years or so without a satisfactory answer. To wit: How was it that the classical cycle worked like clockwork for 40 years or so -- even smoothly surviving a champion's abdication -- then suddenly vaporized and has been unable to reassert itself?

The very counter-intuitive answer given in that old comment was this: The much-reviled Soviet system is what made the classical cycle economically practical. And the "good news" over the past 20 years or so -- Communism's collapse, growing world prosperity, and the chess world's concommitant success in attracting big-league public interest and big-league corporate sponsorship (mainly in Europe; also I'm guessing there has been increased governmental sponsorship elsewhere, such as China, and even Africa, Mexico, etc.; just about everywhere but the U.S.) -- those very positive developments, are exactly what made the classical cycle economically obsolete.

The Communist system made it easy for those who ruled both chess and real life to keep the professional chess-playing class, up to and including the world champion (as long as he was from the USSR or a "satellite" country), under firm control. Communist governments provided the players' sustenance and assured them a relatively comfortable lifestyle, but in return they were not allowed to enrich themselves on their own. Knowing this, organizers had no need to provide large prize funds (until Fischer came along).

Unlike today's provincial, tin-pot dictator Kirsan, true dictators like Brezhnev never had to fear a strong, well-known, respected World Champion. Controlling the champion was no more complicated than controlling any old C-player; if either got out of line, they could be checkmated by a bullet in the back of the neck (or sending their son to Siberia, as was done with Korchnoi).

What changes when you open things up, when you make every player (at least theoretically) an economic free agent with full rein to travel where he pleases, live where he pleases, and pursue his own economic interests to the fullest? The critical change springs from the marketability of a World Championship title and a World Championship match -- which stands in stark contrast to a LACK of marketability of individual Candidates' matches.

It's pretty clear that the publicity value that just about any sponsor sees in a World Championship match, is at least an order of magnitude greater than what a sponsor would see in a mere Candidates' match. So, Candidates' matches in general are money-losing propositions, from the standpoint of FIDE or whoever organizes them. Economically speaking, the payoff from putting on a candidates' series comes only later, from the big sponsorship bucks that roll in for the Championship match.

That's where the weak link is found. When capitalistic conditions prevail, once the champion and challenger are determined, there is nothing to stop them from exploiting their popularity and legitimacy to maximize their own economic advantage -- by shopping for match sponsors on their own, and grabbing the best deal they can get. There is no compelling way to force them to share any of the bounty with FIDE. And that would be true even if FIDE had already invested piles of money to sponsor a series of money-losing candidates matches to determine a challenger.

In essence, the comment I read some months ago said this was how and why Kasparov, Short, et al, "hijacked" the championship away from FIDE and (probably contrary to their own expectations and desires at the time) wound up destroying the classical cycle.

I realize that the "hijacking" description might not fit all the actual details of how the dual cycles came into being a little over a decade ago. Still I think it represents a good, big-picture view.

And although I've used loaded words (like "hijack"), my intention is not to blame Kasparov, neither to support or absolve previous FIDE authorities, or Kirsan. Nor, of course, do I mean to praise or absolve the Soviet system when I say it was more compatible with the classical, match-based championship cycle. I am simply presenting a view of things that incorporates a crucial factor, economics, which seems to be missing from most discussion I've seen of the WCC match vs WCC tournament conundrum.


Wow what a great post. It certainly makes sense though I don't know if it's true. People always talk about chess sponsorship, but how many of us know if it works? I don't know what percentage of money for FIDE's cycles was provided by the Soviet government and I don't know how and why the modern sponsorship process works. Do GMs go around soliciting potential sponsors or is there also a reverse movement? Are success stories result of GM convincing the sponsors or an equivalent of successfully sticking your finger in the sky to find somebody who is interested in helping chess or getting some publicity? Is chess sponsorship largely philanthropical or materialistic? (that is, do people who sponsor these tournaments do so because they think publicity will really help them that much or do they sponsor it because they feel benevolent)

I think your summary is true. God bless Dortmund for being willing to host the tournament in 2002, but the rest of competiton has been either championship, non-cycle tournaments or matches with a different promotional angle (Ukraine wanting to have the Ponomariov match, Deep Fritz competitions, etc.).

The best solution I can come up with is counting points for tournament accomplishments through a system similar to tennis's WTA/ATP. At the end of the final cycle year, the four GMs with the best record could hold a brief tournament, first round of 8 games and final of 8 or 10. This tournament if conducted in a single step in one city perhaps could find sponsorship, as it would be a single step with a prestigious winner. A single match of 8 or 10 games between the two top-rated GMs is also not that bad--sure it hurts 3 through 8 but it is still pretty good.

This solves one aspect of the World Championship, reunification. It does not solve the problem of a round robin determining the champion. Last year we got lucky. Lucky in the sense that because Kramnik did not play in San Luis, we had a tournament where people played to win. We wont always have that. Next years Mexico tournament (or whatever Latin country ponies up the dough for the tournament) may be dull, and filled with draws, and won by Leko. Who wants that?

The only way to solve the match problem is for an American to emerge as the strongest player in the world. I know this sounds "arrogant", but the only way changes can happen at FIDE is if a strong American (we're talking Kasparov like in personality and playing strength) forces changes down the throad of the Kalmyk dictator, and brings in corporate dollars simply because he is a star. Star status brings in money, not good organization. Sorry, but that is the reality. So how do we do this? Chess in schools my friends. The US is filled with young people, more than ever before, obsessed with the game. It is a matter of probability that one emerges that will become an elite player.

Chess started to go downhill (A la, FIDE got more control) with the defaulting of Fischer, only an American can right the situation. I hope we see it sooner than later.



It's not a matter of Soviet government providing money for FIDE matches in the past; there simply wasn't need for much money, because all the East-bloc players themselves were personally supported as chess professionals by the Soviet and satellite governments. So the prizes, even for World Championship and candidates matches, were puny (again, pre-Fischer).

Most chess pros were from the East bloc, so they did not require prize money for their own support. Indeed I believe they were required to return to their governments any prize money they won. Just recently I read an old Chess Life article by Larsen from the 1960s where he mentioned that either he or his opponent in the game he was annotating (Geller? Keres?) had just won a Candidates match and the prize was a mere $2,000.

So, FIDE could have met the expenses of putting on matches out of its own resources, which came from various dues and fees paid by all member federations. Even then, the final WCC match itself offered broader sponsorship opportunities for FIDE to replenish the resources it had expended in putting on the Candidates' matches.

Jon's post is deep enough to evoke a lot of debate. My comments are:

1. It is not the case that Soviet system was compatible with classical cycles. Simply soviet system was compatible with COORDINATION. That is a main characteristic of central planning anyway, so without putting any moral or value considerations on the way, the fastest way to deceide something is to be deceided by few ones. So Soviet union controlled the majority of top players and subsequently it was very easy to force them playing classical cycles, wcc tournaments or whatever the party liked..

2. Jon , as i have understood , presented us something like a "time-inconsistency" problem. Players have motive to play in the candidate matches but if someone becomes challenger then he has a clear motive to renegotiate for even better terms which can be found in an sponsor different than who organized the candidate matches. The former sponsor anticipates this kind of behaviour thus he would not have any motives to organize the money-losing-candidate matches.

How can this be treated? I will answer ,maybe a bit naively, to just force players to sign strict contracts with legal penalties if they renege on their initial promises. Then it could be optimal for a sponsor (a private or FIDE or both)to organize the event. But to do that ,you have firstly to realize what is going on...


I just read your post to "All". It's one of the most interesting and thoughtful pieces I've ever read on this or any other chess blog. Excellent!

chesstraveler, christos and Yuriy,

Thanks for your kudos. Just want to reiterate that the idea wasn't mine. I read it in someone else's post here some months back, and I too was struck by the feeling, "Why didn't I think of that!" I don't recall the guy's handle, but I do remember seeing few if any other comments before or since from the same handle.

Below the link to the post from "bondegnasker" JJ might be referring to. I remembered it immediately for it's one of the rare good ones among the usual rants ;)



I don't know that I agree that chess sponsorship was not necessary because players had other means of support. The money that goes into production of a chess championship is more than just prize fund. And even if you have a tiny prize fund what about all the non-Soviet players? If it takes money to make them come now, it took money to make them come then. Do not make Fischer seem like he was the only Western GM to play in those cycles, both tournament and match.

I don't buy the idea of a major competition, whether cycle or non-cycle, being held with a small prize fund, out of hope that no Westerner will win it. Actually, Westerners wouldn't have to even win it, as I am sure today's players don't only get payed if they win the tournament either.

When I get home, I will post an interesting story from Taimanov about the Soviet GM prize acceptance policy.

Another component, which we haven't considered is that chess has become a much more time consuming endeavor. It now takes month of non-stop preparation. I remember reading stories about Tal as a school teacher--today's GMs have to dedicate virtually all of their time to preparation and make a living through chess.

TWIC is reporting (http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/twic.html#news454) that there will be Rapid games, then blitz, then an armegeddon game to determine the title if the 12 games are tied.



Poisoned pawn,

That sounds a great deal like the one. I thought I'd it a few months earlier than the Jan 2006 date in the thread you linked, but my memory probably is wrong, since "bondegnasker"s comment you linked does have all the ideas that were in the one I was thinking about. (And he managed to express them without killing anywhere near as many electronic "trees" as I did!)

Matt aka (Globular),

Once again, all part of Ilyumzhinov's process of dummying down the classical world championship. If you think this is bad, wait until he has complete control of it after Kramnik's loss. Another legitimate reason for Kok to be elected the new FIDE President.


Maybe it is dumbing down, but it probably just as effective as a No-Draw rule. The players hold their fate in their hands. If they want to go to rapids or blitz, then that is their prerogative. If not, then play for an outright win.


"No-Draw" rule and similar incentives apply to individual games; such injunctions have zero bearing on the outcome of a title match decided by numerous games. A 12-game match can just as easily end in a tie after 12 wins, 6 wins, or no wins (i.e. 12 draws).

So the tie-break rules have nothing whatever do with trying to prevent draws. In fact, the old-style Candidates Matches that had decisive results, and even World Championship matches, often consisted of a single decisive game plus 9 or 11 or 23 draws. (One reason Fischer prevailed with his demand that only decisive games count in the score of both Candidates and Championship match; it was done that way in the 1974-5 cycle, even though he abdicated.) As soon as either side won a game, that player then strove mightily to "run out the clock" a la NFL, by drawing all the rest.

But not counting draws and having no pre-set maximum number of games (to avoid having to let the champ keep his title, or else flip a coin, in the event the score is tied after a fixed number of games) have problems of their own. The reductio ad absurdum was seen in the first Karpov-Kasparov match.

Perhaps Fischer foresaw that possibility, when he insisted on retaining a "tie goes to the champion" provision (i.e. match ends and champ keeps title if each player wins 9). That solution proved unacceptable to the public.

So what other logical possibilities are there? I assume that purists (chesstraveler?) prefer the tie-break take the form of an unlimited number of classical games. If so, just say so. But then, to keep it fair, you'd probably have to equalize colors -- meaning someone would have to either win by 2 points (a la Fischer's now-discredited demand), or else would have to win by 1 point after playing black more times than white. Doesn't that present problems too -- both practical (sponsors supposedly won't go for an undetermined match length) and in terms of fairness to the players?

So, the menu seems to consist of:

a) No tiebreaker (the way they used to do it in the old classical cycle). This is equivalent to giving the champion draw odds, which however may be diminished somewhat by allowing the challenger enjoying a future rematch option in case of a tie;

b) Break ties by adding more classical games (presumably an even number of them, to equalize colors) -- potentially resulting in an unlimited-length match;

c) Using rapids or some other method to break ties in a limited time.

I carry no brief for Kirsan, but if people don't want (c), then what is it they DO want? Both (a) and (b) have been used in the past, and were rejected due to problems of their own. Is there another, better alternative I am missing?

In any case, (a) above does not apply here because there is no defending champion. That's the only way the match could have happened. And if the players had both wanted (b) I assume they would have got it. Maybe with no additional pay for the extra days. So, (c) it is, and I would be amazed if Kirsan had much to do with it.

Total number of decisive games/Total number of games played for each candidates/championship match between the start of FIDE cycle and Fischer's demand:

Bronstein-Boleslavsky 5/14
Botvinnik-Bronstein 10/24
Botvinnik-Smyslov 14/24
Botvinnik-Smyslov 2 12/23
Botvinnik-Smyslov 3 9/22
Botvinnik-Tal 8/21
Botvinnik-Tal 2 15/21
Bovtinnik-Petrosian 7/22
1966 cycle quarterfinals: 19/34 (18/32 without tiebreak)
1966 cycle semifinals: 8/18 (6/15 without tiebreak)
Spassky-Tal 5/11
Petrosian-Spassky 7/24
1969 cycle quarterfinals: 15/35 (13/32 without tiebreak)
1969 cycle semifinals: 8/18
Spassky-Korchnoi: 5/10
Petrosian-Spassky 2 10/23
1972 cycle quarters and semis:
Fischer games: 12/12
Petrosian games: 2/17
Others: 11/17
Fischer-Petrosian: 6/9
Spassky-Fischer: 10/21 (or 9/20 if you prefer)

Both of the decisive games in Petrosian's case came late in the match, one last, one next to last. It is ridiculous to argue he was trying to draw out the clock.

Does that look drawish to you? Does it look like a cycle in need of change of rules to prevent drawish situations? At least 1/3 and often 1/2 of the games are decisive! If lack of decisive games was in fact Fischer's reasoning in 1975, he was full of it.

The Fischer rule of "X wins for A and X wins for B goes to the champion" does nothing for a match with an infinite number of draws in which neither neither candidate reaches the X number of wins. It, however, does a lot for a match in which a challenger reaches X and has now to achieve X+1 to win, whereas champion only has to get to X. For that was the rule Fischer was proposing. Challenger has to get to 10 wins before the champion gets to 9 to get the title.

Taimanov story I promised earlier:

4th of July, 1955: American embassy reception in Moscow, after a USA-USSR chess match.
Khruschev, familiar with Taimanov, approached him and said: "Listen, you, Soviet chess players are often abroad, play there. Do you get payed for this?" "Oh of course not, Nikita Sergeyevich," explained Taimanov "we represent our country, our ideology, our accomplishments--all of this is done selflessly." "And when you perform at home?" "How else are we going to earn a living?"--automatically reacted Taimanov. Khruschev paused for a second. "Listen, this is wrong. These capitalists, who are made out of money, you get nothing from, and you take money from us, who are not particularly rich. This is wrong! Take from them and as much as you can!" A few days later the USSR Sportskomittee issued "Statement about Foreign Visits of Soviet Chessplayers" which established the idea of monetary reward for Soviet chess players abroad.

That's the way Mark Evgenyevich tells it.

Jon Jacobs: A limited series of classical tie-break games is possible. Say, first 4, and if necessary then 2, and if still no decision THEN rapids.

Just an example. It might still lead to this rapid garbage, but the risk would lessen considerably.

Acirce : Yes, but the point is, would the players demand extra pay for extra play? I guess they would, otherwise this solution would be happening.

I believe that under current FIDE regulations, the current Champion (in this case, Topalov) is required to play this kind of match as long as FIDE has approved and the opponent is rated 2700 and above, or forfeit his/her title. So I don't think Topalov had a choice.

Regarding Jon's post, yes, very well stated. Elsewhere (not on this site), Garry Kasparov has previously discussed in detail the impact of the Soviet system on the evolution of chess as a sport. (I remember seeing one interview with him on German television about it, for example.)

He felt that one of the most important factors was that most other sports became heavily commercialized (in a good way, with regard to sponsorship) in the 70s and early 80s, but that chess was isolated from these developments because of continuing government involvement in the Soviet and East European regions.

So neither the individual players nor the various chess organizations learned how to attract or work with corporate sponsors. Thus by the 90s, chess was still where, say, tennis had been in the 1960s, but without the same level of government support.



In fact, the tiebreak rules can have alot to do with preventing draws. A Nakamura has more incentive to settle a match with rapids or blitz then alot of GMs. Weaker rapid players will have to make sure the match doesn't get that far. To say that such tiebreakers don't influence a player's overall strategy is kind of naive.

Back to the point, however. No matter, the player's still hold their own fate in their hands, especially with a pre-determined number of games and tiebreakers. If they want to play draws, then go on to rapids, then who are we to criticize that strategical decision. It's not our title, not our professional reputation, and definitely not our future earnings.

It's pretty much the same way I feel about Kramnik. If other players don't want to push and challenge him for a decisive game, then who am I criticize his draws. It sucks, but it takes two players for a game.

On WCC/Candidates match history (re: draw percentage): I stand corrected. Thanks, Yuriy. I was going by memory, which starts with the 1968/69 cycle (when I began playing myself). Even there, my memory evidently was wrong. I must have overestimated the representativeness of the Petrosian-Korchnoi match from the '72 cycle (which I clearly remembered having just one decisive game -- although even there I evidently erred in assuming it came early, rather than late in the match). Moreover, I never would have dreamed that all Botvinnik's matches had such a high proportion of decisive games.

Soviet players and Western prizes: I would be surprised if USSR didn't change the rules again on their GM's keeping foreign prize money, subsequent to the 1955 story that Yuriy quotes. Kruschev was gone by 1963, and the USSR existed for close to 30 years after that. Those decades saw the USSR, the West, and the economics of sports (on a worldwide basis) go through many major changes.

Even the story itself sounds fishy -- or at least, out of tune with the posture of strength and independence that the USSR leadership tried to exude during the Brezhnev years. (The story does align with Kruschev's peasant/"populist" sensibility.)

From what I know, the Brezhnev-era leadership would have been far more interested in maximizing control over "their" chess masters by visibly wielding the purse strings, than in relying on the West to provide part of those players' income. (For instance, if the Party had feared that depriving GMs of prize money they earned abroad would raise the risk of defection, they could simply reward successful players with domestic, Party-dispensed honors and cash awards in recognition of their foreign triumphs -- thereby maintaining the image that the Soviet state, rather than Western organizers, were bestowing the goodies.)

Acirce: For a classical tie-breaker to have a meaningful number of games (4 or 6, as you suggest), would still lengthen the match to a point that would give a sponsor nightmares, I think. It's one thing to say the match might be over either on Saturday or Sunday; maybe even Monday. To say it might not end until a week after the scheduled "final" game if no tiebreak were needed, is another matter entirely. (If it were me playing in the WCC, I'd make the sponsors happy by agreeing to play 2 games each day. :)

Babar: I never questioned that tiebreak method can influence a player's overall match strategy. Rather, I believe that in a 12-game match, even a player who's aiming for a 6-6 result (hoping to fight it out in rapid tiebreaker) isn't likely to try to draw ALL 12 games as his preferred route to drawing the MATCH. Note the high proportion of decisive games in just about all candidates' matches during the classical cycle from 1950 through 1972 (Yuriy's comment).

Playing to draw each classical game to get to the tiebreaker is an entirly viable strategy when dealing with 2-game matches, as we saw in last year's FIDE World Cup, or 4-game matches. But when playing 12 classical games against a world-class GM, it is very poor strategy to rest all your hopes in playing only defense, and hope to get through it with zero losses. You've gotta put some points on the board.

Being each player a free agent, why not go back to Candidates' Tournament, and a final match?

The is no longer risk of collusion a la Soviet gang.

Easier to attract sponsors for tourneys than for (non-WC) matches.


It may not be our "title, reputation or earnings", but it is our interest and that does matter. Without it, on a worldwide basis, chess would most likely would have been relegated to the status of checkers, scrabble, backgammon or even go; all interesting and challenging games, but pale in comparison to the popularity of chess.

This is why I keep stressing the dummying down of the game to the point of ad nauseam. Jon is probably right in his assessment of my being a "purist", and I doubt if I will ever see the return of true classical chess, Steintz thru Kasparov; I omit Kramnik only because of the length of that particular contest. What is being offered today, I see as a mockery of what was achieved during what now can probably be considered the golden era of chess. It's my personal opinion that Kasparov, Short and Ilyumzhinov are the main reasons the chess world presently finds itself in such a divisive situation.

Ideal would be to use a World Cup process to seed a San Luis style qualifier to challenge the current champion in a 16-20 game long match. If it was me:

Champion: Seeded into the match.

8- player DRR:

3 World Cup qualifiers
1 Loser of prior year's WC match seeded to the tournament.
3 Rating Qualifiers (Highest 3 on the FIDE list not already invited)
1 Sponsor's Choice (To allow Judit/Garry/someone else attractive who wants to play)

Regading the upcoming re-unification match, in case of a tie after the prescibed 12 games, of course there has to be additional games to determine the champion. Once this match is finilized then in the future, world championship matches should be played to a certain amount of games between champion and challenger.

Hypothetically, let's say 20 games possible. Draws count, but no 9-9 score with the champion retaining his title. The first one to 10 wins the title period. If the score is 10-9 in favor of either player, he's the champion. If the score is 9-9 then play continues until 10 is reached. If the last two games are drawn and the score is 10-10, the world champion does retain his title because the challenger did not prove his mettle so-to-speak.

With this format, no long drawn matches, sponsor's can rest assured that cost will be minimalized, and most importantly, quick chess, blitz, etc. to determine the outcome is no longer needed.

Not a terrible idea, but if 9-9 were followed by a White win you know there would be dissatisfaction. Anyway, the concept of the champion having tie odds remains, even in a reduced form, and that would be unacceptable to some.

The fact is, no perfect solution exists.

Chesstraveler's proposal is what was used in the WCC matches from 1950s through 1969. The match was pure best-of-24.

Chesstraveler's only innovation is making it an ODD NUMBER: in effect he's saying best-of-19, not best-of-20, since the 20th game would only arise as a "single-game tie-breaker" if the opponents were tied after 19.

That, surely, represents a NEGATIVE innovation, since it needlessly eliminates the equalization of colors that's inherent in a "best-of-even-number" match format -- thereby introducing an entirely new source of unfairness -- WITHOUT eliminating the old unfair feature, the champion's draw odds.

As to whether giving the champ draw odds if the match ends in a tie with draws counting, I believe that Fischer's team (if I may again call upon my sometimes faulty memory, that team included Charles Kalme, who I believe was a professor of statistics) proved mathematically that a 9-9 tie provision with draws NOT counting actually REDUCED the champion's advantage, relative to what it had been under the system practiced until then (i.e., only +1 needed to win the match, BUT draws DO count). I also recall that even Larry Evans (who turned from a Fischer defender into a Fischer critic as a result of Bobby's title-defense demands) eventually acknowledged the mathematical correctness of Fischer's argument (but said it didn't matter, because Fischer in any case was still abandoning the principle he'd long advocated, of giving the champion NO advantage).

No one believed Fischer and Kalme, because it sounded so counter-intuitive that winning by 2 points could be less of a hurdle than winning by 1 point. But, given historical experience (the cumulative odds of various scores being reached after x number of games with draws counting toward the match limit), he did prove the point mathematically.

I knew that the color combination would present a problem. Not being a statistician or even an "applied mathematician", I was presenting an idea that others could hopefully find reason to expound on with better solutions, while keeping my main motives of doing away with long drawn out matches, cost to the sponsor(s) and crap chess to determine the outcome. I also know that Nick is right in stating that "no perfect solution exists".

Considering the amount of crazy theories that has come out of Camp Bobby through the years I am going to have to see some statistical analysis of the proposal by scientists who are not part of Camp Bobby. Without it, the situation looks like this:

1. The cycle had a lot of decisive games under the old rules.
2. The new rules made the cycle into a contest of stamina, filled with draws (1975 drawish cycle, 1978 final, 1984 K-K).
3. The person Fischer was scheduled to face was known to have tendency to get ill in longer matches (witness Karpov-Korchnoi I and II, plus Karpos-Kasparov I).
4. Fischer flat-out refused to negotiate match conditions.
5. Fischer refused to play under the rules, which, according to his camp, gave him greater odds of retaining (I believe Fischer to be an idealist, but not that much of one :) ).

To respond to the other comment about Taimanov story. I think Taimanov does exaggerate it--but it's probably his cleverness and involvement that he is stretching. Such is the tendency of his book. It is his autobiography so I doubt he would mention this incident, which he calls very significant to his future as a chess player without mentioning that the situation was radically changed later. I do know that Soviet GMs relied on trips out West for ways to make money. In fact, it is precisely through denying the players the abilities to make these trips that USSR put pressure on Korchnoi in the 70s, Bronstein in the 50s and Spassky whenever he was being Spassky.

I agree that the theory clashes with the image Soviet Union was trying to portray. However, there are other examples of USSR relyiing on the West, such as in the industries that relied on export/import. This is easily explained when you realize that we are dealing with the USSR and twentieth century, where access of its citizens to such information was very limited.
There are other examples of this, such as for example the omission of information on US aid during WWII. What my parents and their generation didn't know could not have affected their perception and such control is easy to do when you are dealing with a country where all press is state-controlled and you can't really Google anything :)

I was, almost two years ago, amongst the most FIDE-unsatisfied people.

Now, after the San-Luis championship, after the ex-fide world championship becoming a world cup and qualifier for the WC cycle, with Topalov-Kramnik coming in a next future, with everything done by FIDE today, I have to say that they're doing a good job. Probably all this is linked with the upcoming elections. But this changes little to the fact that right now the FIDE is doing a good job (if not the right move !!!).

The 8-player double robin format is not so bad to my eyes, it will grant suspense in the future. To gather sponsors, you need to organize not too long events (and apart from GMs I don't know who can care today about 6 month matches).

Now we're living in the Internet era : we can follow any game at home, and soon on our mobiles. Everything needs to be faster. And chess needs to be more spectacular as well. What's wrong about semi rapid matches if it brings sponsors willing to pay dozen million dollars ?

You're all (we're all) saying that matches are a the best way to tell who's the real world champion. But first it's just false : Keres clearly deserved to be world champion. Reshevsky as well, as Anand, as maybe 20 other players who dominated chess for a while without being world champions.

Second point : let's look at football (soccer, for US readers). In football, we have the world cup. The world cup is held every 4 years. It lasts for a full month. And the world title can be won in the world cup at the penalty phase, which means that a single penalty, lasting half a second, will say which country will be world champion for 4 years. That's part of the reasons why football (soccer) is so dramatic, and therefore valuable as a spectacle.

So even if from our point of view (let's say, from the chess lover point of view), a match formula is by far better, for the newcomer, looking at chess on TV can become interesting as soon as there is some immediate suspense. A world crown passing from hand to hand for a single blunder, that's what can give a lot of popularity to chess, and bring tons of cash as well.

So yes, Mig, I agree with you that I'd much rather the match system. But it's not with us (let's say ... with the 50000 players rated above 2000 on this planet) that you'll create a spectacle for the masses. Because there's just not enough of us.

The only possible way to sell chess to TVs is to play blitz world championships. You need to show chess players playing 5 moves per second. And you need, after the zeitnot, to analyze the moves they played. If you do that, you'll show to newcomers how agile their arms are, and how fast are their brains, and then you have a (tiny) chance to catch people's attention. But not in classical chess, neither for a 6 month match.

By the way, why are we all giving so much value to the match formula? That's a big question. Do you REALLY think that the match results are linked, and 100% linked only with chess qualities? I don't think so. Matches are won most of the times by the most resilient person (physically and morally).

To express my ideas differently, I believe that a lot of 2400+ players would be able to win a 50 games match against Korchnoi (2 games per day, no day off). The value of a chess player is given by the elo, nothing more, nothing less (which, of course, can be, and should be better calculated).

Even if Kramnik is "classical world champion" for the 2000-2006 period, I think that any reasonnable person would agree to say that the strongest player for the 2000-2005 period was Kasparov, and that Topalov is the strongest player from the moment Kasparov quit (and that Anand has been Nr 2 in the world during almost all this period).

Great comment, Ruslan. It's nice to see that you have quite a lot to say, when you're not obsessing about players' ethnic backgrounds.

"The only possible way to sell chess to TVs is to play blitz world championships." I shuddered at that thought the first time I saw it expressed -- which was done in some depth in a Chessbase interview by GM Tkachiev, a young Russian with an in-your-face persona. (I think he's also the guy behind the gross "Chess Beauty Contest" Web site. Most readers of this blog probably realize that phrase does NOT refer to beautiful chess moves.) Perhaps someone can post the link to that interview, much of which was devoted to promoting top-level blitz tournaments that Tkachiev has organized in Russia.

I shuddered because I couldn't help thinking he was probably right; ultimately if chess does "sell", it won't be in any form I'd want to participate in, or even recognize as chess.

In a similar vein, someone else (Stern, I think) once posted here, "Be careful what you wish for." If chess ever becomes a big TV spectator sport, he wrote, the pre-game (and half-time?) shows more likely would feature people doing what you might call "stupid chess tricks" like spinning a rook on its side, juggling 8 pieces at a time, etc., rather than analysis of chess games.

Obviously you're right about Korchnoi, so it's a good thing pros don't have to play 2 games a day.

I've often had the same thought about a part-time pro I know. I've entertained the idea that I might beat him in a match, even 1 game a day, despite the fact that I know from direct experience that his chess knowledge is clearly and substantially superior to mine at all levels and all phases of the game. In practical competition, though, I think his physical problems and emotional issues would undermine his play.

On a point of detail, I think the above posts are 180 degrees wrong about Korchnoi. Not so long ago he was heard to say that he likes to play long games against young players "because they get tired". He backed this up with excellent results in such games.

It's true that he hasn't adapted very well to FIDE's 90+30 nonsense, but he's in good company there.

I agree with most of Ruslan's comments, with a couple of exceptions:

1. "apart from GMs I don't know who today can care about 6 month matches"

The fans on this board and others have been abuzz with excitement over Kramnik-Topalov match as well as Kramnik-Leko. On the other hand, when Libya was announced, it mostly resulted in a collective sigh. I am not sure if you mean 6 month match or 6 month cycle?

2. Penalty phase is if anything one of the parts of World Cup people get least excited about. Nobody ever says: "Man, I hope this game goes down to penalty kicks," or "Sure is a good thing the winner will be decided by whether or not this last penalty kick goes in." Some of the stronger teams in past years getting eliminated in early rounds resulted in changes to rules, such as golden goal rather than overtime.

3. I can not imagine a casual fan being able to follow or to watch a blitz game or becoming interested in following chess by watching a rapid series of inexplicable moves. I agree that classical chess is only televisable in a situation where the general population already strongly cares about the outcome.

4. Match results are not a pure indicator of relative chess ability. However, they certainly are a strong measurement of chess skills, along with other qualities: such as ability to focus, dedication to training, mental toughness--qualities we call CHAMPIONSHIP qualities. Some of the more brilliant minds such as Ivanchuk and Anand, for example, seem to lack those qualities more and as result never gained the title. On the other hand players like Botvinnik and Petrosian, who were not necessarily the most talented for their eras, had what it took to win in chess.

However, and here is the interesting thing, most of the GMs who were at the top of their game usually ended up becoming world champion. Those who didn't had their reasons. Keres, Korchnoi, Bronstein, were all handicapped by the fact that the Party was against them. And that's format-independent. Anand unfortunately played in Kasparov era. It would be fair if he was a champion at some point, but perhaps one can fairly say that he was never really the top player, great talent as he is.

If you look at Jeff Sonas analysis here:
you will be amazed at how few GMs that were ever #1 for the year never became world champions. You were also see that out of post-war ear only Korchnoi, Anand and Keres were in top three for more than five years and never gained the title. That's pretty impressive for nearly 60 years of a system.

The match system has actually endured as an amazingly good barometer of chess players' strength. I very much agree with you, however, that people should remember that chess match results are not an absolute judgement bell.

"I think that any reasonable person would agree to say that the strongest player for the 2000-2005 period was Kasparov..."

Reasonable people might disagree about who was the strongest player from 2003-2005 in view of the following:

1) Classical Chess Results:
--10 wins, 4 losses--Anand
-- 6 wins, 2 losses--Kasparov
--20 wins, 2 losses--Anand
-- 8 wins, 1 loss----Kasparov

2) Chess Oscar:

3) In 2005 Kasparov played one tournament, sharing first place with Topalov. Topalov defeated Kasparov in the last game of that event. Topalov then went on to have a great year while Kasparov watched from the sidelines.

Well Yuriy,

let's have a look at Jeff sonas website, www.chessmetrics.com and let's go to the summary feature. And please have a look at the world best players from 1900 till today.

From 1903 to 1904, the best player is Pillsbury
From 1904 to 1905, best player Janowsky
From 1905 to 1907, best player Maroczy
In 1908 for half the year, best player Rubinstein
From 1912 to 1914, best player Rubinstein
In 1927, best player Bogoljubov
In 1940, best players are Fine and Reshevsky
In 1943, best player Reshevsky
50 to 52, best player Bronstein
52 to 54, best player Reshevsky
66, best player Korchnoi
mid 2004 to mid 2005, best player Anand

None of them is world champion. What's more, just have a look at how unimpressive are Euwe's, Spassky's, Smyslov's and Petrosian's "domination", and compare it with Anand, or Korchnoi and Keres spending 40 years at the very top level... Therefore I guess it's easy to say that the match system has failed to pick up the best players.

Who cares about Topalov vs Kramnik? I'm much more interested in the long-awaited rematch of World "Braingames" Chess Champion Nikolai Titov versus Classical Champion Vladimir Dobrynin:


I prefer my own tiebreak idea for world championship matches, and have stated it before. Personally I don't know why no one else seems to like it, as it solves the problem of incentive to draw, and does everything with classical games only. I would have a normal match of, say, 12 or 14 games. If this ends in a draw, then play a 4 game classical set. If that still ends in a draw, play one more 4 game classical set. If it is still drawn at that point then simply realize that NO ONE managed to demonstrate superiority over the other, so there is NO reason to call one player a "World Champion"! Both players would have to start the next cycle at the level of the loser of a world title match, and the actual title would be vacant for this period. Talk about an incentive to actually win a match!

Well, Rouslan,

There was no match championship cycle before late 40s. The ratings during the war years are largely meaningless as a lot of GMs had no ability to play. Bronstein and Reshevsky are both number one for less than 2 years. These are also years of candidates tournament rather than match. Bronstein lost one match, to Botvinnik, who at the moment was right behind him in the ratings. Korchnoi was #1 for four months. Whoopee! http://db.chessmetrics.com/CM2/PlayerProfile.asp?Params=195530SSSSS3S067916000000111000000000000010100 (and all in 1965)
Additionally, all 3 of these guys are severely handicapped by their personal views/national origins.
Anand's reign comes at a point when there is no cycle set up. He doesn't play in Dortmund in 2002 and the next cycle after that is a round-robin tournament.
Smyslov was in top 3 throughout the 50's and #1 for a total of 59 months! Petrosian was in top 3 for 5 years and #1 for 33 months! And I will agree with you that Spassky was second to Fischer throughout late 60's and early 70s as long as you tell me what MATCH Fischer lost in those years that prevented him from getting to #1?
Nobody is suggesting that the match system could reward every player who ever was #1 in Sonas rankings with a world title. And it shouldn't reward every player who was ever NEAR the top of the rankings with a title. The record of only three GMs who were consistently near the top without seizing the crowd, the record of most winners being on top of the sport during their reign is much more convincing than the idea that a few more ratings point in a given year may indicate relative strength better than a face-to-face match.

Knight Tour,

Although highly unlikely, what if one match after another for a 10-20 year span all ended in draws? No world champion for that period of time?Not much press or good publicity for the promotion of the game. Besides, I doubt if a current world champion would accept its implementation and we don't need another Fischer forfeiture. It also doesn't solve the additional costs to the sponsor(s).

I know very few people agree with me. However, I still feel that the only way to eliminate all these problems is to change the rules of chess so that every game ends in a winner and loser.

then simply have an odd number of games in the match. just like in baseball. best of 7 in the world series.

In fact a few hundred years ago most of these rules were actually a part of the game. so there need be no problems with a return to tradition.

I would like to say that all through the 70's 80's 90's etc. I always felt that the Match System was very unfair to those not champion. It was a system that was used to keep the champion in place. The system was a way to stop other players from rising to the top. all kinds of blocks were set up to stop players from becoming world champion.

One of the problems was the 3 year cycle. that is just too long a peroid over which to have a championship match. A different player could rise up and not get the title shot simply because of a simple mistake in one game somewhere along the line. it was really rediculous. then he had to wait a long 3 years for another try. Meanwhile the champion maintained his title even though he was not the number one best playing player. not my way of choosing a champion.

Now everyone seems to want to defend that old system. I want to see a new champion or the present champion have to defend his title at least once a year.

However, I do like the idea of the Champion being determined by a match between challenger and old champion. that is a good system.

To become a chess master you have to beat some masters. to become a GM you have to beat some GM's. so to become WC you have to beat the WC. easy logic.

Tommy, it's not easy logic, it's cheap logic. By the way, you can become a GM without defeating any GM. And about changing the rules of chess to please your ego, well there are a few million people who will disagree ... not even taking about the elementary fact that chess did exist as a game with this rules 500 years ago, and will exist with this rules after your death.

Yuriy, on the whole I agree with you, I prefer matches as well. My main point was about economic realities. Which changes little, if not nothing, to the fact that for instance Anand, Keres, Korchnoi, Nimzowitch and half a dozen other players deserved to be world chess champion more than, let's say, Max Euwe or Boris Spassky.

Since you give value to Jeff Sonas work, then please consider, for instance, that whatever the period (span) you may consider, Anand, Korchnoi and Ivanchuk are way above Euwe or Spassky.

Saying that the match formula didn't necessarily bring the best players to the title is just a reality.

And finally, most of you are saying, on the whole, that the match formula is better than a round-robin one. Well, from what I could see in San-Luis, the best player has won, and the second best player was on second place.

The only element that is 100% obvious is that the FIDE is able to find sponsors for those round-robins without any problem. It was easier to host the 2007 tournament than to find sponsors for the qualifier matches to come...

Tommy, it's not easy logic, it's cheap logic. By the way, you can become a GM without defeating any GM. And about changing the rules of chess to please your ego, well there are a few million people who will disagree ... not even taking about the elementary fact that chess did exist as a game with this rules 500 years ago, and will exist with this rules after your death.

Yuriy, on the whole I agree with you, I prefer matches as well. My main point was about economic realities. Which changes little, if not nothing, to the fact that for instance Anand, Keres, Korchnoi, Nimzowitch and half a dozen other players deserved to be world chess champion more than, let's say, Max Euwe or Boris Spassky.

Since you give value to Jeff Sonas work, then please consider, for instance, that whatever the period (span) you may consider, Anand, Korchnoi and Ivanchuk are way above Euwe or Spassky.

Saying that the match formula didn't necessarily bring the best players to the title is just a reality.

And finally, most of you are saying, on the whole, that the match formula is better than a round-robin one. Well, from what I could see in San-Luis, the best player has won, and the second best player was on second place.

The only element that is 100% obvious is that the FIDE is able to find sponsors for those round-robins without any problem. It was easier to host the 2007 tournament than to find sponsors for the qualifier matches to come...

I think Ruslan makes very good points when he is not concerned with the ethnic origin of the players.


are you trying to say that the GM title can be purchased for money?

and Ruslan, I did not expect you to agree to change the rules of chess. I dont expect anyone to change the rules of chess. but read what I wrote. I made a simple statement. I said that I feel a certain way. that is a true statement about my feelings.

I said

I still feel that the only way to eliminate all these problems is to change the rules of chess so as that every game ends in a winner or a loser.

Now are you trying to say I dont feel that way?

Would you like to tell me how you propose to "eliminate all these problems" ?

I am simply maintaining that the discussion will continue and never end under the present set of rules with frequent draws. I dont believe we can have draws and not have the problems associated with draws. we can not have our cake and eat it also.

But Ruslan I am open to your suggestion. How can we have draws and not have the problems associated with draws. Remember one of the problems with draws is all the discussion on the way to solve the problem. I say if there are no draws possible then there will not be a discussion on how to handle draws. it seems obvious to me that if draws are impossible and no longer are part of the game, then we can go on to discussing other things about chess instead of all the problems associated with the draws.

So you now have the floor Ruslan. Give us your solution to how to have draws, but no discussion or problems about draws. I say it is impossible.

Simple problem ~ draws

Simple solution ~ no draws.

Now before you get all excited and try to tell me that implementing the rules for no draws is not easy. I will tell you that I am well aware of that fact. implementing the required rule changes to eliminate draws is no easy solution. it is a simple solution but not an easy solution to implement.

And I will add that I do not in any way expect to see these changes in my lifetime.


You can score a GM Norm by scoring 6/9 in a tourney with 3 GMs, but still losing to all GMS.

I doubt Ruslan meant anything more sinister than that.


Euwe and Spassky were both valid world champions. Euwe was the only player to beat Alekhine in a match (he conceived a way to beat a more fancied player and stuck to it, just like Kramnik) and his results during his reign were not bad at all.

Spassky also fought his way through 2 candidates cycles (and almost a 3rd) and found a way to beat Petrosian at the 2nd attempt and thus deserved his title.

His problem was that he was a reasonable man caught between the Fischer's offensive behaviour and the offensive Soviet system (whose "help" he didn't want and was ultimately counter - productive).

All non-world champions missed that something - in Rubinstein's case it was an opportunity, for Keres & Anand it was bottle (Anand is my favourite contemporary player, so it pains me to say this) & Korchnoi, it was the inability to overcome the might of the Soviet machine with an opponent who welcomed the help (Kasparov managed it and became a very worthy world champion).



I agree that we agree in general. What I take issue with is your statement that matches are won most of the time by the more resilient person rather than more talented. The truth of the matter I think is that as long as you have a certain level of chess talent, your training, your mental toughness, your ability to endure the pressure of chess and willingness to prepare for it, shortly, is what brings you ahead of the others. Capablanca and Fischer, for example probably are two of the biggest talents in chess ever. Tal was amazing to watch. So why did they only retain title for one cycle? Lack of focus, lack of health and whatever you want to call Bobby Fischer. These components are a legitimate part of one's evaluation as a chess player. We admire Karpov and Kasparov not just because they were great chess talents, but because they were willing to put forth the effort it took to gain and maintain the title.
Had Anand been more driven or Ivanchuk more focused they probably would have held the title by now or at least came closer.

BTW, your statement about Spassky and Korchnoi is incorrect. Spassky is ranked above him in late 50's, most of first half of 60s and early 70's including most of the period when Boris was the world champion. Spassky is also above Keres from sixties on. The rest of the guys rather come in a different era timewise...it's hard to make a fair comparison of where Chucky and Anand were rating-wise with GMs from a completely different era.

BTW, a few facts about sponsors:

1993 Kasparov-Short--success
1995 Kasparov-Anand--success
1998 Kasparov-Shirov--fails
2000 Kasparov-Kramnik--sponsor found
2003 Kasparov-Ponomariov--sponsor found, but Ruslan goes nuts (for a good reason or not)
2004 Kramnik-Leko--sponsor found
2005 Kasparov-Kazimdzhanov--Sponsor found. Kasparov finds an alternate sponsor.
2006 Kramnik-Topalov--German sponsor offers to finance the match, plus Kirstan is also able to find a sponsor.

So why are we so sure that sponsors can not be found for a match? It seems to me that most matches were able to find the sponsor and those that collapsed did so for other reasons.


You don't speak as a serious chess player. Draws are NOT a problem in chess. They are somewhat a problem in terms of sponsorship (like a 0-0 score at soccer), but I don't know any GM who has problems with the general principles of a lost, drawn or won game.

A draw is an honnest result when the playing level is almost equal. Life's not 100% black or 100% white, it's grey most of the times, and chess reflects this reality.

A draw isn't a problem. Shall we talk about this because you feel that draws are a problem? If anybody else comes in saying that he dislikes the walk of the knight, or that he finds that castling is unelegant, shall we discuss those points as well?

If you aren't happy to follow a game with draws, then I have a solution : quit chess, and start playing Go. But please leave the chess players in peace.


I was not only talking about sponsors, but about chess development. You're talking about sponsors willing to put a few bucks on the table, I'm talking about ways to bring ten times that money to chess.

For Topalov-Kramnik, even if you may feel that one million dollar is a lot, then please consider first that each player will get 400.000 dollars (half of 1.000.000 - 20 %); second that this money pays their team (a top GM coming for 4 or 5 months, giving all his opening novelties and his energy is more expensive than you may imagine), accomodation, plane tickets, restaurants, almost one year of homework ...

Only Kasparov managed to make money out of chess, because he had some business talent. The problem is : today, how much a 2800, a 2700, a 2600 and a 2500 can make in chess. Do you have an idea? I know a bunch of 2500+ players who are playing a lot, traveling a lot, and getting more or less just enough to pay their train/plane tickets, food and accomodation. They are pros, talented, and ... poor.

In french league, 2 or 3 years ago, Adams was playing for 800 dollars per game (in Monaco). If you consider that he can play no more than 100 games per year, that's a potential 80000 $ yearly income. Not much for a guy rated up to 2750, regularly in the top 10, don't you think so?

Hey Ruslan :

You forget one thing - the most important thing - Topalov and Kramnik have to pay taxes on their income of $400,000 each.


Your analysis sounds fairly accurate though I don't know that these GMs are actaully poor--just maybe not rich?

I said what I said not because I think that GMs today ARE rich, but because you and others have said that there are major problems finding a match sponsor and it's easy to find a tournament sponsor. I was trying to point out that historical evidence indicates that attempts to find a sponsor for chess match in recent history have actually been largely successful.


do I have to explain everything to you. I assumed that everyone including you were intelligent enought to understand the problems that draws cause to finding a winner in a match.

You have read it all here many times. the Match ends in a 6-6 tie and it goes into faster games like a 4 game rapid playoff. then if it is still tied it goes into blitz playoffs and if still tied we try an armageddon game.

all the while the sponsor does not know his costs to hold the tournament because he does not know when the tournament will end.

Ruslan I really dont think you are this stupid. I think you just like to argue with me. But I am not going to argue with you.

Go find someone else to mess around with. If you dont understand chess then go to discussions on football. you dont need to be too bright to discuss with them. But everyone is not here to educate you. stop posting and read all the threads here for a year. by then you should understand something of the issues that chess faces.

Ruslan forgot about taxes, but he and everyone else forgot to include income other than prize money.

Most chess pros, like most pros in other pursuits that involve head-to-head competitions (all niche sports, and even poetry and photography), get less income from prizes and tournament/match appearance fees, than from selling their knowledge and public image in a bevy of other ways: private students, books, lectures, DVDs, articles, consulting fees, and even commercial endorsements, etc. So the $800-per-game, 100-games-per-year method of estimating Adams' income, is bogus.

"You have read it all here many times. the Match ends in a 6-6 tie and it goes into faster games like a 4 game rapid playoff. then if it is still tied it goes into blitz playoffs and if still tied we try an armageddon game."

I haven't read this here many times. This is the first match in recent history in which even score would require a tiebreak. Most complaints have been either:

1) "Too many draws in chess"--what Ruslan is talking about
2) "Need for better tiebreak"--elimination of draws not really necessary or effective. Unnecessary because rapid/blitz/armageddon system takes two days to play and that's not really a whole lot more for sponsor to worry about and ineffective, because in case of no draws, you are far more likely to end up with an even score between two evenly matched GMs.

Top GMs achieve about one decisive result per five games played. In Kasparov-Kramnik there were 2/15; in Kramnik-Leko 4/14. We should thus expect only 2-3 decisive games in Kramnik-Topalov. I'd like to see Jeff Sonas' estimate of the probability of a drawn match.

If the long match WCC continues it's only a matter of time until we see a match with no decisive games. Let's hope it's not this one.


That was my feeling about the way WCC and Candidates' matches went in the past. But my recalled impressions (of classical match cycle historical draw %) were COMPLETELY WRONG, according to stats given by Yuriy in a comment way, way up this thread (April 17 19:29).

Of course Yuriy's stats (covering Botvinnik thru Fischer) predated the reign of the "draw-meisters" Leko and Kramnik. So it's certainly conceivable that the next classical WCC might have a draw-percentage more like the two latest matches (the two you quoted), than like the prior history of the classical WCC cycle.

Still, if you're going to build your forecast of decisive games around historical precedent, I think logic dictates that you at least consider the full historical record -- not just the most recent 5% or 10% of that record.

The stats presented by Yuriy in his earlier comment indicated that, with surprising consistency, the Candidates' and WCC matches since the end of WWII produced about 40% decisive games; in Fischer's matches, of course, the decisive proportion was far above that.


Kramnik achieved four won positions in his first five games as white against the world's greatest player in London 2000; not bad for a "drawmeister".

The WCC historical record since 1886 shows that the proportion of drawn games has risen hand-in-hand with the players' skill level. Which makes sense in a game where perfect play on both sides produces a draw.

No one would argue that computers and the internet, with opening preparation now stretching deep into the middle game, have tremendously accelerated the march toward perfection, and have similarly increased the number of drawn games. Comparing the proportion of drawn WCC games pre and post computer/internet is comparing apples and oranges.

In Kasparov-Kramnik, the percentage is 13, under one fifth, in Kramnik-Leko, the percentage is 29, almost one-third. This, if anything suggests that it is foolish to estimate the percentage of draws on the basis of just a few games.

You think that if long match WCC continues that will be more drawish than tournament play? Interesting.

"If today's Leko-Kasparov game was part of a Candidates match, the player needing a win would have fought on. "
--Greg Koster 02/23/05 on Linares


The idea that computers have improved play during the past 10 years so dramatically that comparing the present with statistics from any pre-computer/internet historical era represents "apples and oranges," represents an interesting conjecture, but is far from self-evident.

For one thing, you are assuming that computer-aided opening preparation has a "leveling" impact, not only in terms of weaker players vis-a-vis professionals (a trend that several pros complained about in a widely quoted NY Times article last year), but also in terms of the two sides' chances in any given game.

The latter is not what one would conclude after perusing the recent anecdotal evidence. Most recent top-level, publicized games I'm aware of that reportedly hinged on "preparation," ended not in draws, but in wins for one side or the other.

I could reel off several examples, but I think it would be redundant because most of them were already discussed here in previous threads; Kazimjanov-Anand from San Luis (the English Attack with 6.Be3 Ng4) is the first one that comes to mind. Also, someone in an early round of the recent U.S. Championship (ok, not exactly "top-level") spoke of winning his game with a TN without having to play a single "original" move that originated in his own synapses, rather than his computer's circuits.

I'm deliberately sidestepping the issue of whether chess is "solvable", and whether the ultimate "solution" is more likely to be a draw or a win (for Black, according to Daaim Shabazz ;). The byte-heads already have had their say on Dirt this past week; I think the rest of us can resolve our debates by arguing from practice, avoiding the ultra-abstract, computation-theory arguments that would all but invite that crowd to jump into this one.


You were perusing anecdotal evidence? In the wide wide world of chess you can find examples of just about anything.

Kazimjanov? US Championship? I thought we were talking about games played between opponents at the highest level. Like the world championship:

% of Classical WCC games ending in a win

84 1880's
71 1890's
61 1900's
48 1910's
40 1920's
52 1930's
48 1950's
50 1960's
30 1970's (includes Karpov-Korchnoi 1974)
30 1980's
31 1990's
21 2000's

% decrease in decisive WCC games from previous decade:

15 1890's
14 1900's
21 1910's
17 1920's
(30) 1930's
8 1950's
4 1960's
40 1970's
0 1980's
3 1990's
32 2000's

Thus, the percentage of decisive WCC games took a 40% drop in the 1970's, stabilized at that level in the 1980's and 1990's, then took another 32% drop in the present decade.

Let's hope will have several more long WCC matches this decade to provide a better sample.

Jon, One thing that I would say is that when preparation ends in a win it is highly publicized but when it ends in a draw not necessarily. To say that preparation produces more wins then draws seems interesting because in order to win you need to make some music or tactics, which is right up the computer's alley. To make a draw you often just need to steer clear of such nonsense. Greg, I think it is unfair to do your type of stats at in the case of the 30% draws dropping to 21% representing a statistically significant "32$ decrease". Afterall the reportedly hyper drawish Leko-Kramnik produced a healthy 28%. In the Kramnik-Kasparov case, the low percentage was due to the stock market approach that Kramnik took. The point is that you are basing the stat on 2 matches. I don't think chess now has become more drawish then in the 70's, 80's or 90's. If anything it has become more fighting and complex, but the fighters are better able to handle complications, making for attractive, correct chess.


The 30s 60s and 90s delta from the previous decade is a positive, correct? And you are referring to percentage of change is taken as a percent of the previous decade's number, right? If so, it doesn't take much math knowledge to point out that as the percentage gets smaller, a smaller overall change will look bigger. A more scientific evaluation of the data is to take it as an overall change in percentage of wins. Otherwise you could claim an extraordinary 50 percent cut if you get only 2 wins in the matches this decade and 1 in the next. So:

1960s: +2%
1970s: -20%
1980s: 0 change
1990s: +1%
2000s: -10%

Which suggests not a steadily decreasing percentage of wins but rather two sharp changes in percentage of wins. And if you look at the cycles individually (I will try to post the data later--sorry, busy week) you will also see that the changes roughly coincide with Fischer rules of 1975 (must have X wins to advance) and Kramnik winning the crown.

The averages are also heavily weighed by Kasparov-Karpov I and Karpov-Korchnoi's first two battles, each of which is not indicative of how chess was played at the time in matches/tournaments that did not have an infinite draw possibility.

To reach a decisive result, there has to be a mistake.

--The cumulative advance of chess knowledge,
--Improved training methods,
--Computer analysis, and
--Instantaneous transmission of chess knowledge through the internet

all lead to fewer mistakes...and thus fewer chances for a decisive result.

The decline in the number of decisive games DOES get more significant as the number of decisive games gets smaller. Back in the 1880's, three or four fewer decisive games per WCC match would be insignificant. In our decade, three or four fewer decisive games per WCC match would result in a terribly significant event: matches played with NO decisive games.

Karpov-Korchnoi, Karpov-Kasparov and, for that matter, Kasparov-Kramnik and Capablanca-Alekhine were not indicative of the way chess was played at the time because those gentlemen were better than the other players of their time, made fewer mistakes against each other, and thus achieved fewer decisive results.

In our game, maximizing your opportunities and limiting those of your opponent is commonly known as "chess", except by disgruntled losers and their fans, who refer to this approach as "stock market chess."

Largely, I think we agree.

"instantaneous transmission of chess knowledge through the internet"

You really think top-level GMs can find material online that is absent from their preparation? Somehow I don't see Kramnik googling Sveshnikov or asking Bareev if he could e-mail him analysis of rook vs rook and pawn endings. This is more important for people our level and IM-type players.

"The decline in the number of decisive games DOES get more significant as the number of decisive games get smaller."

Of course. But to change from 3 wins in a match to 2 wins in a match does not really indicate a drastic change in the way chess has been played. The difference in percentage between 2/3 and 3/3 is huge and evaluating change in those terms is misleading.

"Karpov-Korchnoi, Karpov-Kasparov and, for that matter, Kasparov-Kramnik and Capablanca-Alekhine were not indicative of the way chess was played at the time because those gentlemen were better than the other players of their time, made fewer mistakes against each other, and thus achieved fewer decisive results."

Each of the Karpov-Korchnoi matches took place under the X wins necessary rule. This resulted in a drastic change in level of wins from the percentage of the 1972 and all previous cycles to 1975. When the cycle went back to "best of" in 1978, the percentage of wins both by and against Korchnoi in candidates again increased. The decisive percentage in 1975 final was atrocious. It was low in 1978 until you got to a point where both GMs were tired. In 1982 Korchnoi was no longer Korchnoi and the level of draws in that cycle is much higher than in the final. However, the matches in each of these cycles with the highest percentage of draws is not at the top level, but rather at the quarterfinals, where there are sometimes 1-2 win a match.
Karpov-Kasparov I had 1/8 decisive games. The rest of their matches had respectively 1/3, 3/8, 1/3 and 7/24. This is consistent with decisive percentages in championship matches prior to 1975. Did they suddenly forget to e-mail each other or stop preparing for the matches? Did their level of play suffer between the first match and the second? Or is the change in rules which coincides with the level of draws responsible? The ultra long first match between these two has a lot more to do with the percentage in the eighties being what it is than anything else.
Capablanca-Alekhine is not that far in percentage from Capa-Lasker (28.5 vs 26.4), in which ageing Lasker was admittedly outclassed. It is different from other matches of the 20's-30's because in those matches Alekhine fought second-rate opponents, such as Bogoljubow and Euwe. It would be interesting to see results of Alekhine-Botvinnik, Nimzowitch or Flohr but we shan't.

"In our game, maximizing your opportunities and limiting those of your opponent is commonly known as "chess"".

Sure. Two drunks playing for money in a food court is also chess. However, we are talking about "minimizing your opportunities with the idea of minimizing those of your opponents". There is nothing immoral about such an approach and in fact many teams in other sports employ it. But this approach, of choosing lines that lead to positions void of tactical opportunities for either side and openings that are more likely to lead to a draw, is in no way a compliment to one's skill as a chess player. This approach, which seeks minimal complications and least dynamic gameplay, is also one we employ when facing an opponent with greater skill.

Maybe 2 drunks playing over the internet is more fashionable.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 15, 2006 11:47 PM.

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