Greengard's ChessNinja.com

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

| Permalink | 53 comments

And even the mice are stirring. We got great games from Ivanchuk and Morozevich, better than any sugarplum vision I've ever had. How about your chess wishlist for Santa? How about a real new book from Fischer, updated to 150 games? He wouldn't even have to computer-check many of them himself since that's all been done deeply in the Kasparov Predecessor IV book on Fischer. Speaking of, the first book on all the Kasparov-Karpov games will be coming out early next year. It starts with their simul game from 1975 and ends with Garry taking the title in 1985.

Garry is doing a sort of 2007 in review + 2008 preview column for New In Chess and he'll talk about his book projects more there. What would you consider to be the highlights and lowlights of 2007? What will be the big stories in 2008? Carlsen in the top 10? Kamsky completing his climb back to a WCh match?

Next on my fantasy Christmas list would be a Spassky collection. He's never gotten off his tanned butt to put one together. His old joke, "I'm still working on game two from the Reykjavik match" is past its expiration date. So many great games. The problem is that what makes a player's own annotations so valuable is the insight and sense of place only he can provide. And, good memory or no, those things become clouded as the years pass. I would love to see more contemporary game collections with notes. New In Chess comes close to achieving this on the fly, but that's still only a dozen games with the sort of chatty notes I'm thinking about.

By the way, I won't have time for all the web work until I get back, but there will at last be some product posts and a new review element for y'all. Books, software, even sets and clocks if you like. Old or new, although being in print is a bonus. Start stocking up on ideas now. The only book I've really read lately is the Bareev & Levitov book on Kramnik's three WCh matches. Rambling in parts but full of choice tidbits, provocative discussion, real wit, and insight both on and off the board. But I'll leave the reading and the reviews up to you guys.


Something better than one 12-game match every three years and a handful of 4 to 8-game abortions to maintain the "great match tradition legacy," or whatever they are calling it these days.
The rest of it is all personal stuff about who I would like to see win which match and tournament.

Merry Christmas, Mig! And the same to all the posters here.

My Christmas wish list would start with a wish for a return to thematic tournaments (particularly at the GM/IM level). With no Elo at stake, I'd love to see what the great players of today could do with some of the infrequently played openings.

I want 24-game world championships.


So do I, but I doubt if either of us would want to finance one.

I'll make it more challenging for Santa: I want a 24-game world championships match AND a reasonable qualification cycle (ideally also consisting of matches...)!

Supertournaments like Linares, Corus, Mexico, etc... are all interesting, but who really cares about them in the long run. The only thing that matters historically are those long, titanic WC matches, and in absence of those, chess is only half as much fun to watch (or even less!). I truly wish FIDE (and the players) came to their senses...

My Xmas wish is to become the undisputed world chess champion in 2010. I'm currently rated 2043 so only 800 points or so to go.

Hopla, Your template bug appeared again. Sorry I'm not able to tell you why.

for chessmas i would like the fide bureaucracy to be replaced by people from the planet earth. all necessary reforms will follow thusly.

Easy Christmas wishlist:

- The riddance of all these FIDE Politicos from the game (take Danailov with you please)
- Two very good matches (Kramnik-Anand, Topalov-Kamsky)
- A real world championship system

That you would send the 'weekly' daily dirt issues that your subscribers purchased or respond to your member's emails and posts on your message board http://www.chessninja.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=000129.

A Christmas wishlist come true:

Kamsky upsets Topolov and Danailov leaves the chess scene.

Kamsky upsets Kramnik (sorry Anand, but better Kramnik than Kamsky) and the World Chess Champion Crown is returned to its most prominent place in chess history...the U.S.A.

Kamsky retires and keeps the crown. Fischer is "absolved" by the Huckabee administration (Huckabee has a great track record for that sort of thing) and returns to the U.S.A. and America has two undisputed World Chess Champions and we all live happily ever after!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Is Fischer an undisputed world champion? when? how?

The big story of 2007 was Kramnik (unfortunately) agreeing to put his title on the line in Mexico tournament and Anand winning it.

Hmm, what do I wish for in 2008? How about a sensible FIDE president. Maybe aliens can take Kirsan away with them or something.

Another chess book by Kasparov is good news. I prefer Kasparov the chess author to Kasparov the politician or Kasparov the chess politician.

But, of course, the chess thing I most look forward to is the Kramnik-Anand match late next year. My wish is that it doesn't end in a draw, because rapid tie-breaks would be bad no matter which way they go.


It's too long of a story for Christmas. So in the meantime Merry Christmas!

I wish peace and happiness for chessplayers everywhere, without exception, even ones who play the Petroff.

Came across an interesting quote from Alexandre LeSiege, about what it's like for a normal GM to face a super-GM:

"I once played against Alexei Shirov, who's seeded fourth in the world, and it was amazing. This guy had a bubble of energy around him, and it surrounds you and suffocates you. He's so self-confident, you can just tell he knows he's better than you, he knows he's more experienced, and he knows he's going to beat you bad. I mean, he's confined to that chess board just like everyone else--he can't move the pieces any differently than any other player. But I was totally destabilized, and I made an error I would otherwise never have made. He provoked it with that tension."

The whole interview, from 1998, is here: http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1998/010898/nm6.html

Mig wrote: "Next on my fantasy Christmas list would be ..."

My Christmas fantasy is for...
A 2008 consensus that the high draw rate among grandmasters is 'intolerable'.

Any draw rate above 20% is awful.
In the 152 games of the latest five Wolrd or FIDE title matches or tournaments, 95 were drawn, which is a whopping suffocating 63%.

Maybe next season the New York Yankees will have a record of 33 wins, 27 losses, and 102 ties.

The Sofia rule does not work: Sofia 2005 had a 60% draw rate.
I estimate that Fischer Random Chess would reduce the draw rate from 60% to 50%: nice but a long way from 20%.
More change is needed.

'Intolerable' means a rule change would be the lesser of evils.

It would be fantastic for fans if 10 of the 12 games in Kramnik-Anand 2008 (October) are decisive! But it will more likely be 10 of 12 as draws.

Dear Santa,

I've been a very good boy this year. I think you owe me several things:

1) Unretirement of Kasparov now that his political ambitions have been Putinized.

2) Kamsky's continued advancement in the WCC.

3) A reasonable rules change to alleviate the high draw rate.

Also, I'd like to get my rating fixed. I believe you owe me 400 points or so?


Merry Christmas!

Wait, I forgot one.

Another of my wishes for 2008 is: I wish people stopped complaining about draws.

I'll second that.

I'll third it.

Also me fourthermore.

Amen and also add discussions on scoring systems (2 points for win, none for draw) to the list. please not those interminable discussions again!

I think it's confusing to most of us when someone is more concerned with the final score of a game than what happens between the first and last moves.

That I will one day get to play a queen sac like Tomashevsky's in the Russian champeenship.

my wish is that Kramnik AND Anand come up with really good white novelties in their match. A brialliant black novelty usually just secures a quick draw.....

I know maybe I should post this somewhere else, but I'm too excited to do that. I want everyone to follow Russian superfinal which is taking place in Moscow these days.
Morozevich is in a brilliant killer mode and literally destroys everybody including Grischuk and Svidler in a row, and he does this with an amazing ease which is really unique in this top level. Just check his latest victory over Peter the great here http://www.russiachess.org/online/

Moro started with 0.5 out of 2 and then won 6 in row!!!

What I would really like to see is Kasparov appear on The Simpsons. He knows chess has a poor image in the west so why doesn't he try to change it?

RB: I wish people stopped complaining about draws.

Well, then let's say nice things about the decisive games. At the
Russian Superfinal, 8 rounds so far, the percentage of decisive games
in the Women's sector is 67% (32/48)!!! That's a whopping number. The
men are not doing too bad either, at 54%!!


Nice game by Moro with his rook sacrifice.

Also, when was the last time someone won 6 in a row in a tournament of this caliber? I recall Fischer doing it in match play for WC qualification, but tournament?

i think Garry did 7 in a row a few years back at Corus amd I think Anand had a (not as) good winning strak in the same tournament

Where do you get that 20% figure? Is there a number of wins with black that are intollerable as well?

MY Christmas wish was for the USCF forums to no longer be filled with threats of lawsuits, recall petitions and the like. I guess Santa didn't get my letter in time...

"I recall Fischer doing it in match play for WC qualification, but tournament".

In fact, in Buenos Aires 1970, Fischer won his first six games, and in the Palma da Majorca Interzonal, he won his last seven (although one of these doesn't really count, since it was by default).

I would like Inside Chess to magically spring back to life. It had plenty of the "insider" annotations that Mig likes, and actually included games that were less than 3 months old.

I wish for:

1. world peace
2. Garry comeback to chess
3. Kramnik loss in match vs Anand
4. ...did I mention world peace?

Speaking of peace - I wish my 2 fav players Moro and Topa would shake hands again.

Karpov won six in a row at Linares in 94.

What I find intolerable is a class player who wrote a book about increasing chess strength constantly writing about how a draw means boring chess. Give me a hard-fought draw between GMs over a decisive game between 1300s any day. Good chess is good chess regardless of the outcome. Go suffocate on that.

There is a very interesting debate at chessbase at the moment on various proposals to reduce draws. One of the most interesting being to give 0.45 points for a draw rather thn 0.5.

I would like to suggest a profound rule change that would redice draws in chess and make it a much more rational game. At present it seems very likely that chess is a drawn game with perfect play. On of the reasons that this appears so is the presence of "asymetric draws" ie where one side has a material advantage sometimes very great but cannot force mate. Many of these rely on stalemate: for eaxample (some) K+P v K, K+B+P v K, K+R+P V K+R, K+N+N v K and many others.

I propose that one side wins when the other side resigns OR when the other side cannot make a move which does not lead to his king being placed in a position where it can be taken by the opponent. This is mate of which there would be 2 versions which merely describe the prelude to the mate ie checkmate the king is facing attack and can only move into a position where it would be captured or the king is not under attack but can only move into a position where it can be captured.

In short stalemate is a loss for the side who cannot avoid his king being captured on the next move. Its just a form of mate with the same consequence.

I have never heard any explanation of why stale mate should be regarded as a draw which makes sense. The side who has the material advantage has generally gained this by dint of superior play or a blunder by the opponent and the object of a game of chess is to capture the opponents king right? This would dramatically alter (and simplify) endgame theory but would definitely eliminate some, perhaps a lot, of draws. It might even change the evaluation of some openings. I realise it would do nothing to reduce short agreed draws. Stale mate as a draw seems anomolous and a rule change here is not like changing the way peices move or the size of the board or even the starting position of the pieces I would argue its modernising the game and making it more understandable to outsiders. more akin to abolshing adjournamnets. The defence of this rule is essentially it is because it is, its always been tht way or it adds to the beauty/subtlety of the game. My answer is that it is an absurd rule that often devalues the game and deprives a player of the fruit of much good play. Jut a thought ..........

If "stalemate is a loss for the side who cannot avoid his king being captured on the next move." as Andy suggested above, the game of chess would become completely boring!!! Instead of adding excitement, the above mentioned rule would force the extinction of all gambits and sacrifices. Who would give up a pawn when beeing a pawn down would be a theoritical loss from the middlegame? All endgame play would be vanished, the side with material plus, exchanges everything and wins trivialy. Just think about it, modern GMs have allready stopped playing risky moves, adding this rule for stalemate, would make them risk even less.

I suggest that everyone who feels bored with draws, study the game of chess. It's as simple as that! Study the game and maybe you will understand the majority of drawn games.

And now on to the solution.

If we really want to combat short draws, without changing the rules, without changing how the game is scored (1, ½, 0) and without affecting the ratings calculation, then there is an easy solution.

Make a new tie-breaking calculation, which should be the first tie-breaker used.

Draws over 40 moves (or whatever number people agree on) have a value of 0, draws in 39 have a value of 1, draws in 38 a value of 2 and so on. The combined value for all drawn games is used to break ties.

So if there is a tie for first (or second or whatever) the winner is the one with the lowest combined value. This is of course important that the money not is split evenly in case of ties, but are split according to the tiebreaking value, i.e., if 5 people are tied for third, the third place and the money for third place goes to the one with the lowest number.

This is a simple solution, which surely will have quite an effect.



If the number of moves in drawn games is used as the tie-break then what keeps the players from just moving around for 300+ moves before agreeing to a draw? After all, even the 50 move rule doesn't make a draw unless someone claims it. And the same applies to repetition. The idea is simply bad.

And furthermore there is no need to combat draws. Nowadays chess is really a fighting game, so all this talk about draws is simply nonsense. Majority of the people concerned about draws are people that don't understand chess at all or - like some GMs (they're supposed to 'understand') - just want to go with the dumb crowd and be popular and whine about draws.

To Mr X

It would be nice and be appreciated if you could use your superior understanding of the game to explain what is so good about a 13 move draw without any new move.

Anyway, it seems to me that the "crowd" is the people who don’t want any changes.



I think manadarin is exaggerating magnificently. A lot of drawn endings result from perpetual or blockades (opposite coloured bishops etc)or simply compensating activity on the part of the player who has sacrificed material. Stalemate never arises here because material cannot be exchanged down so the effect would be nowhere near as dramatic if the stale mate rule was modified to mean mate like checkmate. It would have no effect(IMO) on sound gambits like the Benko or potent drawing weapons like the Petroff (although its nowhere near as easy as Kramnik makes it look!) I am not even sure it would effect the Marshall.Actually in the long run this rule change may extend the life of chess because it may just be a matter of time before certain black lines are completely worked out to drawn endings. Most material sacrifices are not played to get down to one of these stalemate dependent asymetric draws so it would not make chess anymore boring. Anyway personally I found that draw by Carlsen in the world cup where he gave up a pawn to go straight from the opening into a pawn down double rook ending to be boring anti chess. Now that I would like to get rid of!

Mr X I think its mainly short agreed draws that people object to which is sleeping not fighting chess. Doesn't happen to much in Rapid or blitz of course!

I don't consider 'some' draws to be a problem. A fact is that if two players want to draw a game they will. What is the point to have them play a fake game just because people want to see a big number of moves? Even the Sofia rules are completely dumb. The players can talk before the game and come to agreement that the game will be drawn and it surely will. The only way to stop draws by any kind of agreement is to stop players from communicating and talking completely and I don't want to live in such a world - do you?

Prearranged draws is cheating, and I don’t think so many people are cheating.

I am not against draws, and I won’t change any rules. People can offer draws and take draws as they please. I’m just suggesting a new tie-breaker, that will depend upon draws under a certain limit, which could be 30 moves (or 40).

You seems to think, that all games which are drawn, are so because the position have been played completely out, so any extra move would be utterly waste of time, but it not necessary so. I just want that the player bring another mindset to the game, that they know that a short draw maybe not is so convenient.



Dear God, will you please all shut up with your bleating about draws? If you don't like it, there's some ice hockey or something you can go watch.

The best answer is Bareev's: you are trying to cure a disease that can't be cured. One beautiful day, when the sponsors finally turn away from classical chess, it'll become extinct of its own accord.

Right rdh, if you think you can’t succeed, you better not try.

Anyway, you forgot to make you wish. You can wish that all who doesn’t think like you will be stuck by lightning.



I'm going to stun everybody: I actually like Pbdsnrfct's idea.

Now, I still feel that there is no "draw problem" that needs to be "solved." However, if at some point the powers that be decide there is a problem and seek to impose a "solution," I would much rather it be a solution that preserves the game of chess and its values of beauty, economy and hard work - as opposed to any of the innumerable, breathtakingly idiotic "destroy the village to save it" rule-change schemes that people like Andy are forever dredging up.

Tie-breaks could use some shaking up; nobody, player, fan or sponsor, likes them. The chess industry seems to have settled on rapids/armageddon as the emerging standard for breaking ties. I find that at least as arbitrary a method as old-fashioned tie-break systems. Basing tie-breaks on the cumulative length of a player's draws below a certain threshold move number, on the other hand, clearly relates to fairness (if, that is, one believes that the guy who fought hardest among players finishing with the identical point score "deserves" to win). So there's a real logic to it.

Yes, that tie-break system could be "gamed," just as every other rule and system gets "gamed" by the pros (and sometimes even by us amateurs.;) But I agree with the earlier commenter who said that pre-arranged draws are relatively rare. Most short draws, I think, result not from collusion but from both players having little incentive to take risks from the get-go, then quickly reaching the type of position where the risk-reward ratio is even worse than at the outset - so they call it a draw. If they knew they'd be penalized (indirectly, via tie-breaks) unless the game went a certain length, they'd play somewhat differently, I think.

So all in all, it seems to me that such a tie-break system would at the margin lead to fewer short draws and possibly, more decisive results. (Whether that's a good thing is another matter.)

My own wish list...

1. Someone needs to give SPASSKY a monster contract to write a truly great book. You are so right, Mig: so many great games...The stuff on Fischer alone would make it a best seller. Get the guy someone to help him put it all together (like, look in the mirror!), give him a Mont Blanc pen or, if he prefers, a laptop, and get those memroies down!

2. Can Simon and Schuster re-issue MY SIXTY MEMORABLE GAMES?

3. A wish list might as well include the very very unlikely: a new book by Bobby, devoid of anti-Jewish diatribes. Just chess and his sense of place and time...Reykjavik 1972...

4. A 24 game world championship again. No more wondering about whether the modern champs can hack it or not. Bring back classical chess!

5. Digital clocks that don't require a Ph.D to figur eout.

6. A ban on weird-colored chess pieces being sold by reputable dealers, as if we would actually have to play with them or protest. Also, no more blue and buff, or black and buff, floppy boards.

7. An etiquette course for Korchnoi. It's never too late to learn how to lose with dignity!

It's not a wish, but a prediction:
two final grandmaster norms for my chess teacher, Irina Krush!

The number of moves as tie-break for draws is just too easy to game. Imagine a final round where all you need is a 180 move draw to get first ...

gg, you got the tie-break proposal wrong. Go back and read the original post by the guy whose handle looks like it should be followed by ".exe" (You can tell I'm having problems with viruses lately: the filenames of malware programs that show up in your system folders often consist of long strings of random letters.)

As he explained it, a 180-move draw affects tiebreaks no more than a 41-move draw; but is better than a 29-move draw.

To Brenan (and others concerned with the pros and cons of different clocks): take a look at my article in the current Chess Life, http://main.uschess.org/content/view/8043/365/
, and (especially) the vigorous debate in the comment thread that follows it (http://main.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=5840).

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 24, 2007 6:34 PM.

    Ivanchuk Conquers America, Again was the previous entry in this blog.

    The Trouble with Time is the next entry in this blog.

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