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Chess on the Internets

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Whoo-hoo, really picking up the pace around here. This week marks the Dos Hermanas tournament, which has become an online-only affair. The decrepit among you may recall that this used to be a flesh-and-blood tournament in Spain, one that deserved the overused "super" appellation in its heyday. The 1993 edition included Polgar, Adams, and a pre-bloat Karpov, who won the event by a full point with 7.5/9. 1994 was even stronger, with Topalov and winner Gelfand entering at the expense of jettisoning a few more of the local Spanish players. By 1995 the only local boy was Illescas. (I don't think Shirov played for Spain until 1996, but he may have already changed federations.) Kamsky tied for first with Karpov and Adams in a powerful category 18 event, stronger than that year's Linares event. It got even tougher in the next few years, reaching category 19 (2700 elo) in 1996, 97, and 99. Kramnik, Anand, Ivanchuk, and Svidler joined the impressive list of participants.

1999, won by Adams, was the end of the elite round-robin under the Dos Hermanas name. In a radical move, starting in 2000 the tournament took place as an online KO blitz event on the Internet Chess Club. The system has been refined over the years to its current format: a 12-round Swiss qualifier that puts 32 players into the KO final of mini-matches. The first prize is two thousand euros, which, by the time you read this, should be roughly three million dollars. There are various side prizes for ICC members and special gifts from the Spanish magazine "Péon de Rey".

There is still an OTB event in Dos Hermanas, however. On April 18-20, a quadrangular rapid event takes place with Topalov, Shirov, Polgar, and Vallejo. The last big Dos Hermanas Open was in 2006.

The time control for the online event is three minutes with no increment, which has become the de facto standard of choice by the GM community for online blitz. They believe it is the best compromise between quality and not giving enough time to cheat, although this has been exposed as wishful thinking any number of times. A quick and sloppy study I did years ago on the games of this event showed that they were often more "computer accurate" than those played at classical time controls, occasionally scoring 80%+ agreement with Fritz. Several titled players have been disqualified in the past for getting caught cheating and others have confessed to playing improvised advanced chess. It would be interesting to see if the "Fritz Agreement Index" has dropped, although that could just mean the players have gotten savvier about it. Note that this sort of broad statistical comparison has only a superficial commonality with Danailov's attempt to use such numbers to slander an opponent.

The list of players this year, ironically or perhaps not, includes former Dos Hermanas supertournament participant Illescas, though Kamsky seems to be giving it a miss this time. Blitz maniac Hikaru Nakamura is another hot favorite. Last year's surprise winner, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (the artist formerly known as Jorge Zamora), is back and is again showing fine form. He won his qualifier with 11/12, as did Nakamura, Tigran Petrosian, and Baadur Jobava.


How uninteresting is chess life between world chess championships :o)

I'm playing in a qualifier right now that just broke the record for most in an ICC tourney (previous was 553)

While we're talking about chess in between world championships...In terms of generating casual fan interest (even of the most casual type), are there websites anywhere for the Grand Prix and the Grand Slam? I know where I can find the various bits and pieces of information, but are there sites I could send a friend (or journalist) to for an overview?


By the way, now that we talk about the lack of interest of chess between world championships and major tournaments (that is Linares, Corus, Dortmund, World Cup and world championship matches and tournaments to sum it up), here we can introduce a new idea about how many games the top GMs do have to play yearly.

It's more or less accepted by everybody in our community that playing 30 to 50 games per year is perfectly acceptable for top players. But if you look at lower rated players, I mean those who make their living by playing tournaments, you'll see that those players frequently play 150 to 200 games per year (Ivanchuk is the only top player who plays that much, and the fact that he recently reached his best rating ever, at almost 40, should lead some top level players to think about the best way to improve their level as much as possible, but this is another discussion).

If you look at tennis, pro players are playing 200 matches per year. And now, please think about it honnestly : do you really believe that a chess game takes much more energy than a tennis match? I've played both, at an amateur level of course, am rated 2200 at chess and have a decent tennis level, and honnestly it's much more difficult to play one tennis match per day during a tournament than one chess game a day during a tournament.

The mediatic presence of such sports like football (soccer for US readers) or tennis is - at least partly - due to the fact that top players are active all year long, and that you'll have events all year long involving most top players - with grand slam events on the top of it all.

At chess, between Linars and Dortmund (that is 3 months) you'll get NOTHING. How can you expect to create major media coverage with nothing? Why do we always cry that our game is so poorly recognized worldwide when our top players spend most of their year at home?

So here's a concrete proposition : take all the cash available for prizes in the main events (Dortmund, Wijk, Linares, World Cup) and create a "pro circuit" of at least 13 or 14 tournaments per year. That will open 10 spots for new tournaments, which of course will not be able to generate much cash for prizes at their start, but situation would change over years.

And here would come the main rule : all top 12 players would be forced to take part in all tournaments (and would be authorized to withdraw from two of them). Time controls would be the sames (2 hours/40 moves), and any top player who wouldn't play his mandatory 11 or 12 tournaments per year wouldn't get a single penny-cent-kopeika (pick up your choice) of it all, including world championship matches and tournaments.

All this would be under the responsibility of FIDE and organized by Kok (since developing top chess media coverage is his official task).

I'm sure that it wouldn't be too difficult to find ten spots for top tournaments in the world today, especially if the money prizes don't have to be huge since the players would have to attend anyway.

It isn't even necessary to create new events : sometimes picking up an existing open or tournament may be just enough (aeroflot in Moscow for instance).

The outcome would be great for chess : our top players would be playing everywhere, all year long, generating much more media coverage (don't you believe that you'd see much more journalists at Moscow during aeroflot with Kramnik, Anand, Topalov, Moro, Aronian, Carlsen, Mamedyarov and Radjabov playing in the open?)

Our top players would play 120 games per year, and honnestly, apart from top players, top matches, we have NOTHING else to propose to make chess more popular.

Just a last though : how many times did Nadal and Federer did battle together for the outcome of a major tennis tournament those last 4 years? And how many times have you seen Kramnik and Anand playing together those last 4 years?

Furthermore, when Nadal and Federer are playing together, in most cases they play for a grand slam title. Last time Anand and Kramnik did play together, it was a zero intensity encounter at Corus this year.

In tennis, the media and public come because of the DRAMA, and the random part of the cup system is compensated by the fact that they have such cups, called tournaments, one week after another, so that on the end of the year the Nr 1 is really the Nr 1.

The main problem with chess is that it does not appeal to the large public. On top of that, in many cases it does not appeal to chess players themselves!

Let me give you an example I have informally discussed with other chess players of varying strenght: a game between Anand & Kramnik at classical time controls will always draw chess players' attention. because we can expect hi-caliber performances and there is always the possibility of a jewel being played.

All that's is fine and dandy.

Now, take a game Yermolinski-Fedorowicz at classical time controls. Who would really care about that lackluster game between two no-name, generic GM's? Nobody. Chances are an irrelevant game will be played. Chances for a jewel are practically nil.

Solution: shorten time controls for most tournaments and enforce playoff games at progressively shorter time controls until a decisive result can be reached. We won't get better quality from Yermolinski-Fedorowicz. But several benefits become readily apparent:

1. A decisive result is guaranteed.
2. If no good game is played, at least the time wasted will be less.
3. Organizers, players and spectators (on site/online) will have an easier time incorporating the event into their busy schedule
4. Prizes can be lower, with a more dynamic tournament schedule. Players will play with a more informal, dynamic style knowing that they must produce a decisive result.
5. Plyers will be more rested, and can thus play more tournaments more frequently to try to maximize their income.

Chess has become too f**king boring at all levels that don't involve the top 6-8 players. Most players outside the top 6 should be smart enough to see the writing on the wall.

I think Ruslan is grossly overestimating the number of games top tennis players play. To play 200 games a year would mean playing a tournament every week, and getting to at least the semis every week !

The top guys take plenty of time off between the big tournaments, they get injured, they even occasionally lose early on ( even Federer has lost twice in the 1st round this year ). I'd be surprised if they play many more than 100 matches a year.

As for Irv's comment, both the players he refers to have played very interesting games in the past and I see no reason why they shouldn't in the future. Jewels are not restricted to the top guys - in fact you could argue that to produce a jewel someone needs to make a mistake, and that's much more likely to occur at a lower level...

Irv's premise is plain silly. Just look at the past year's top USCL games, for example - they're available on uschess.org and many other places, sometimes annotated. A great many fascinating and brilliant games, played by GMs (and in some cases IMs) of the Yermo / Fed level.


YOU are part of the problem with the chess public in that you have some high-flying concept of chess perfection that does not exist.

No chess game is irrelevent to the players playing it. Just because it *may* not meet your lofty standard of play (and, I'd be surprised to find out if you were even an Expert level player), this does not make it *boring*. Your 'lackluster' comment only shows you do not appreciate chess for the game itself.

When is the last time you replayed 20 games from an informant by no-name GM's? You've probably never done it. You're missing out on some real 'gems'. You probably routinely skip over any GM game in print/on the web that does not contain the names "Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Carlsen" to name a few. You've been weaned on the internet and are most likely part of the 'I want it all and I want it now' generation.

If chess has "become too F**king boring at all levels" for you, perhaps you should find that Stratego set and go beat up on 5th-graders.

Completely tired of this attitude towards chess. Go play "Go" or something.

Mark wrote:

"YOU are part of the problem with the chess public in that you have some high-flying concept of chess perfection that does not exist. "

It's the total opposite: I'd love to see the lower-rated players playing exciting, if flawed, chess.
I'd be thrilled to see Yermolinski duking it out against Fedorowicz and other GM's of similar strenght at, say, 1 hour per game, with all the compromises it entails.

I just can't stomach watching run-of-the-mill GM's play meaningless games for seven hours at a time. They have every right to play under those conditions. I have every right to not care.

Judging by the number of spectators, I think most people share my view.

"When is the last time you replayed 20 games from an informant by no-name GM's? You've probably never done it."

to be completely honest with you, I never even owned an Informant. So, yes, I have never done that, even though I'm a rated (run-of-the-mill, lowly) master.

I have played over many of the exciting and very flawed jewels (like Morphy against the Duke or whatever) of chess history.

Perhaps my perspective is easily explained by the fact that chess, to me, is nothing more and nothing less than a beautiful game. Another form of entertainment. So, yes, I want excitement, I want quick and easy gratification.

"You've been weaned on the internet and are most likely part of the 'I want it all and I want it now' generation"

Well, I was a master before the internet, but I must confess that I enjoy the pleasures of internet chess. And when it comes to chess, yes, I expect the game to give me pleasure NOW. Is there anything wrong with that? It's just a game, after all...and games are supposed to be entertaining, exciting and inconsequential.

Yes, we agonize over the fate of our favorite team, player or game, but in the end, it does not matter much. It was a quick fix and when the game ends, we are ready to move on. Chess is only a game to normal people.

The interesting thing is that most sports can be used as promotional tools to reach people who know very little about the details of the games.

I did a tiny bit of work with both the PGA and the NBA in online merchandising. NBA products sell very well, and over half the people who buy NBA items have never seen a complete game, even on television! It's not the finesse points that interest them. It's the iconic power of the image.

Chess is already used, all the time, in merchandising and promotion. You'll see images of chess pieces and hands reaching over chessboards promoting everything from stockbrokers to ADHD medications.

What you don't see is individual pro players. (But then it's almost impossible to get information on individual pro players.)

Maybe it's because the games are so widely available that we don't bother to promote the players? Or maybe it's part of a chess culture that says we want to be judged on objective performance, not who does a good interview.

In any case, chess organizations promote the game, and not the players. I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Advertisers will still go on using anonymous hands over anonymous chessboards, because the icon still works.

The very very top players will still make good money, because there are educated fans to support those efforts.

And the lowest ranked LPGA golfer will still make more money in endorsements than the US Chess Champion, because their culture is set up to encourage sponsorship of individual players.

So pro chessplayers don't show up in magazine articles and advertisements. Does it really matter to us as fans? Chess is already part of the popular culture, we get new players every year, and there are a lot of great games to follow.

Of course I'd like to see the "working pros" make more money, but that's because a lot of them are my friends. Speaking just as a fan, though, perhaps what we have now is enough. It would take such a shift in culture to value individual sponsor relationships the way golf does that I just don't know if it's worth it to the chess community as a whole.



I'm also supportive to the idea of a "chess-tour", in some ways similar to the tours of tennis and golf. But you are exaggerating wildly, let me give you a tiny little bit of a tennis-lesson:
Pro tennis players do not even come close to playing 200 matches a year. In fact only once, out of (I would say) a fairly reasonable number of individual tennis-seasons I found natural to check, did a player play a full 100 matches(and that was Connors '76. He also played 28 double matches that year, raching 2. place on my check-list for overall played matches. (But not since the day of McEnroe have any player on the male side of tennis been dominant in both singles and doubles allthough Lendl also played a lot of doubles.))
Let's look at some of the greatest individual tennis-seasons ever:
Connors '76: 100s/28d=128 overall
McEnroe '84: 85/44=129
Lendl '86: 81/24=105 (he played 127 in '85)
Wilander '88: 66/12=78
Becker '89: 73/24=97)
Edberg '90: 82/19=101
Sampras '94: 91/2=93
Agassi '99: 77/5=82
Federer '06: 97/7=104
I could't find any stats from before 1973.(Connors btw played 128(88/40) matches in '75.)

Federer has only played more than 100 matches overall one time while he's been world no.1. (He played 116(81/35) and 121(96/25) in '02 and '03 when he had doubles expert Mirnyi as a partner in some tournaments and did well.)
Last year: Federer 87(78/9), Nadal 105(86/19), Djokovic 104(87/17). The very best maybe doesn't have to play that many tournaments to stay on top, but it seems "average" top 10-players doesn't play more matches, because they don't reach that far in the tourneys. Consistent top 10-player Davydenko, known to play as many tournaments as he possibly can, played 88(85/3) last year and 111(97/14) the year before. Blake played 94(81/13) and 104(85/19) the same years. Ferrer played 99(84/15) last year and Roddick 76(70/6), while 109(91/18) and 99(92/7) at his peak in '03 and '04.

That was a lot of writing just to prove a small and unimportant point! I just had to :-)
[Stats gathered from www.atptennis.com]

And the answer to your question of how many times Federer and Nadal has met, is 14. "Only" 4 has been Grand Slam finals, but 6 more has been finals in other big tournaments.
More than Kramnik and Anad maybe, but not that much more. You didn't find Melody Amber worth mentioning at all, I noticed. But isn't this kind of tournament, fun for players and public alike, actually good chess publicity? And great chess being produced at the same time.

13 or 14 top category tournaments a year in chess, of which they (top ranked players) have to play at least say 10, is way to many. Don't forget that tennis and golf don't have a world champion in the same way as chess have. Or at least should have, according to the tradition of our beloved game, I believe I speak for a majority of chess fans when I say that. In those sports the majors (aka Grand Slam events in tennis) are the world championships in some regards, but they come 4 times a year, so the world champion is the one on top of the ranking list in other regards. Maybe similar to chess, but the world ranking is even more important in tennis and golf, not having a world champion per se.

I think it should be possible to (re-)establish a reliable world championship-cycle in chess and at the same time establish a tour, a circuit of chess, it just needs to be fuged together. Maybe that's what FIDE is trying to do now, but I think the cycle should be lasting only two years and that it should at the same time be possible to protect the interests of the hosts of the instistutionalized (by history) chess events (Wijk an Zee, Linares, Dortmung, Moscow/Aeroflot and others.) Co-operation is of the importance.

The first year could be a qualification-tour, open to 'everybody', to the second year, which would be the closed World Championship-tour.
The first year would include super-tournaments, where players would be picked from ranking (set at a specified date of course, i.e. January first). Say Chorus, Linares, Dortmund, maybe Sofia, say 14 players in each. A given number of players qualifies to the second year from these tournaments.
This would also be the year of the World Cup, a 128-player tournament like now, where a World Cup victor is crowned, a title that could live side by side with the World Champion, but not having the same prestige. A given number of players qualifies also from this World Cup to the second year tour.
I also think that a couple of open swiss tournaments could have the winner qualified to the second year tour. This would open up the the cycle in many ways, give more players a chance to qualify, and create great publicity for chess.
Now, let's say a total of 14 players should qualify for the closed second year World Championship tour. 8 players from the super-tournaments, for instance the 4 winners and 4 more from the overall standings of these super-events. 3 from the World Cup. 2 from open Swisses, for instance Moscow/Aeroflot and New York. That is 13. The last place in the closed circuit could go to the winner of a "last chance saloon-tournament", which consists of say 20 players who have qualified to that event from other, smaller tournaments in this first year of the cycle, open swisses and closed tournaments alike, where players rated outside top 14 could try their luck (which they also would have a chance to do in the World Cup and the Aeroflot and New York-swiss, of course).

The second year could start off with a double round robin tournament (let's call it Chorus). The winner would qualify directly to the last four. The three bottom players would be out of the race. This should create lots of fighting chess.
Next time around, let's call it Linares: 10 remaining players, double round robin, the top three qualifies to the last four.
Sofia: No 3 from Linares meets the winner if Chorus in a match, nos 1 and 2 from Linares face off in the other semi-final. Let's say 8 game-matches.
Dortmund: The winners from Sofia face off in a 12 game-match.
And then, the great match for the World
Championship! The winner from Dortmund plays the current World Champion in a 24 game-match.

No, I don't have all the technicalities for this thing ready and solved. Of course, almost any number in this scheme could be discussed and altered. Number of tournaments, participants, qualifiers from this and that event and the number of games in the matches. The places of the events likewise. It doesn't necessarily have to be the same locations for second year as the first, or the same locations every new cycle.
And what should the World Champion do in the mean time? I think he (or she) should be allowed to participate in any of the tournaments he pleases to, at least in the first year cycle. If he should qualify, his place would simply go to the next on the list. And he could play a match against the worlds best chess-computer.

But I think something like this would be in the interest of chess. The interests of the ranking-list, and thereby the highest ranked players, is taken care of. Same with the interests of before mentioned instistutionalized super chess tournaments. Also players ranked outside the very best would have a fair chance. Players, fans and sponsors would all be happy in this utopia :-)

P.S. I would like classic time control in all events in the second year and at least the four tournaments I have refered to as Chorus, Linares, Sofia and Dortmund and the "last chance saloon-tournament" in the first year.

Thank you for your time, ladies and gentlemen.

Always enjoyable reading these tight, crisp posts where not a word could be deleted without distorting the message.

I've been following the thread closely, and I'm in total agreement with Irv: watching Yermo and Fed play tennis is no fun.

Oh man, the monkeys are flinging the poo all over again. You know, monkeys, flinging even larger amounts of poo doesn't impress anyone, it just means you stink that much more...

"Oh man, the monkeys are flinging the poo all over again"

says the "bitch" man...

ok, the April fools joke on Chessbase had me going for at least 12 mts. If they had only resisted the urge to make it too good.

noyb, your silly joke is quite old, and just repeating something doesnt make it more funny. So please, just stop. You're only looking sadder with each post.

Agree with d_tal on making it too good. I can't imagine Fischer using compuserve!?

Btw, April fools or not, I doubt that Gary will see the funny side of being told that he played like a child and lost an ending somebody's mythical sister could hold!

Well, the April's fool joke in chessbase was quite trivial to spot ...

Honestly, when it starts with an email dated 1978, it can't be that convincing :-)

Ofcourse, maybe we are so used to emails, that people would believe the "new discovery of archeologists that found an email Socrates sent to his student Plato" :-)

The Chessbase April Fools joke was pretty funny and displayed a lot of chess knowledge--but somehow, this soon after Fischer's death, it seemed a little bit in poor taste.

The Chessbase April Fools joke was pretty funny and displayed a lot of chess knowledge--but somehow, this soon after Fischer's death, it seemed a little bit in poor taste.

this soon after Fischer's death,
it's a little bit in poor taste.

At the recent US Amateur Team championsip East, there were at least 3 teams with Bobby Fischer in the name.

There is a prize for "Best Team Name," and I think the one that won it was called, "No Longer Searching For Bobby Fischer."

There was even a team called, "Digging For Bobby Fischer." Someone on another blog observed that there is a tradition of not giving the best name prize to names that are in extremely bad taste.

On the latest official world ranking published today, Judit Polgar seems to be missing.

What, is this the April Fools joke from FIDE?

Hi Randowan,

Hit a nerve, did I, eh? LOL

I'm far more interested in slow time control games between two 2600's than in a rapid game between Anand and Aronian.

When I see stupid mistakes in a game between the world's best, the proceedings lose their magic and I realize I may as well be watching my 1700-rated club kibitzer.

So, speeding up time controls, so that strong GMs too make plenty of mistakes--that would cause me to lose my interest in chess (or rather, in following chess tournaments).

The Fischer april fool post was a red herring...

"Honestly, when it starts with an email dated 1978, it can't be that convincing :-)"
Umm, e-mail has existed since the 60's, and was available through ARPANET since 1971.

Yes, but that paticular form of e-mail address (now normal) implies DNS, which is from early 80's

Chess Life Online also had a very funny and rather sophisticated April 1 news story - a new "Gender and Tactics study" revealed that women solved puzzles involving pawn-promotion tactics significantly faster than men, while men outperformed women on checkmate-focused puzzles.

Quoted academicians like a psychology professor from University of Paris, Texas (note to non-Americans: Texas does have a city called Paris, but there's no university there) explained the findings like this: nurturing a pawn to promotion is like birthing and rearing a child, while checkmate is like hunting prey.

Chess Life Online joke seem more funny to me than the Chassbase one.

Follow up to Dos Hermanas: Sammour-Hasbun won for the second year in a row, crushing Ronen Har-Zvi in the final.

There were the usual allegations of cheating flying around (not focused solely on Jorge). But no complaints came from Ronen. He was a model of sportsmanship, complimenting Jorge after losing the final match, saying that the last person who played blitz against Ronen like that was Kramnik!

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 30, 2008 11:29 AM.

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