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2009 US Ch Round 9: Nakamura Champion!

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[Posted by 2009 US champion Nakamura in the comments: "Hey everyone, I'll be blogging on my website shortly once I've completely recovered from a very heavy night of partying." Well deserved! His blog is here.]

This is it! Final round, starting at 10am local, 11am EDT. That will leave time for the various rapid playoff possibilities. I'd explain them in detail but I left my abacus in my other pants. They involve armageddon and bidding, sort of like buying Left Behind books on Ebay, but with chess. Nakamura (6) - Friedel (5) and Hess (6) - Akobian (5.5) are the key pairings. Onischuk (5.5) - Robson (4.5) and Ehlvest (4) - Kamsky (5.5) are the others that might decide the top prizes. Robson can get a GM norm with just a draw against his coach Onischuk. Brooks can get one too, but he needs a win with black against Ibragimov. Live here. Updates later.

From the I Know What You Meant, But... Department: "Onischuk and Kamsky drew in a Berlin Opening, which means they have to not only win their games tomorrow, but also hope their opponents lose, in order to get a shot at first place."

Lucky for them it often happens that when you win, your opponents lose! Sorry Jen, I know it's been a very long week...

Nakamura 2009 US Champion!

Nakamura crushes Friedel, Hess draws with Akobian. That gave Hikaru Nakamura clear first place, his second US championship title, and a massive $40,000 payday. It didn't take long for him to do his part. Occasional Nakamura nemesis Josh Friedel collapsed like a Dallas Cowboys training facility against Nakamura's 3.Bc4. Black went with the Two Knights, as in "Two knights walk into a bar and get brutally beaten down." It was over in just 22 moves with Black's queen trapped on the unlikely f4 square. Nakamura finished with three straight wins and a tremendous 7/9 score.

Hess declined to repeat the offbeat French Exchange he used to beat Shulman yesterday against Akobian. It quickly ended up in an opposite-colored bishop endgame with no winning prospects for White. Since Nakamura won so quickly Hess knew he needed to win so he played on for a while just in case Akobian's cell phone went off. But Akobian simply tossed another pawn on the barbie to simplify it down to nothing and with the draw agreed, Nakamura became the clear winner. (And we all thank him for letting us avoid the crazy tiebreak process.) A tremendous result for the 17-year-old Hess, the 17th seed. Kamsky just drew with Ehlvest to finish with six points along with Akobian. In the last game of the tournament to conclude, Onischuk is closing in on a win against his student Robson, which would put him up to 6.5 and equal 2-3 with Hess. That will also mean no norms, since Brooks lost to Ibragimov. [Robson just resigned. So Nakamura 7; Hess, Onischuk 6.5; Kamsky, Akobian 6.]

I'm not sure why some reports are talking so much about the pairings when all of the top finishers faced each other, even if it was relatively early on. This is normal in round robins, if not swisses like this one, and as long as players face similarly tough fields you can only complain about the lack of concluding drama. While a 200-point mismatch in the final round is a little off-putting, Friedel is no slouch and he showed it in St. Louis in case there were doubters. He beat Ehlvest, Benjamin, and Kaidanov. Yes, Nakamura outclassed his last two opponents, but before that he beat Hess and then went +1 against the rest of the US Olympiad team to finish the event undefeated and a full point ahead of Kamsky, the top seed and expected main rival. More later...


Has the playoff rule for the US Championship ever been used in any form before? I have never seen it used, but it sounds intriguing. There is a lot of play in the decision each player makes when bidding for time. It will be fun to observe the procedure in action.


Hah, hah very witty criticism. Obviously opponents refers to competitors for high ranking, not direct game opponents.

Congratulations to Nakamura. He played aggressively and well. Hess played well also, except today, he was very soft. Almost as soft as Onischuk - Robson. Congrats to Robson also.

Jen Shahade's voice: God, please make it stop!

Looks like the Coach is going to make the Student work a little bit for the draw..

you and I are in total agreement.

Congrats to 2009 US Chess Champion: Hikaru Nakamura!

Agree, it's difficult to listen to for long periods of time - but it is fun to listen to strong players comment on a game... gives insight into how a strong player approaches a position.

Thing is, she could be a good media personality with some work and study (kinda like chess!)

Oh, man... Robson looks like he's collapsing... a victim of "playing for the draw"

"Congratulations to Nakamura. He played aggressively and well. Hess played well also, except today, he was very soft. Almost as soft as Onischuk - Robson. Congrats to Robson also."

Agreed. Nakamura is one of the top rapid players, but doesn't play as many international games at classical time controls as Kamsky and Onischuk in my opinion. I may be wrong about that, but I didn't think he could do it. Either way I'm glad I was wrong and it's nice to the top US young gun triumph over such a strong field. 17-year-old Robert Hess may be a future US member of the Olympiad team and it's always nice to see a 14-year-old American (Ray Robson) get a GM norm. I'm back as a fan. Congrats to them and the future of US Chess!

Way to go, Hikaru!

congrats to Nakamura, this was a great tourney to follow.

"Hess knew he needed to win so he played on for a while just in case Akobian's cell phone went off."

great line.

Did the loss to Onischuk cost Robson the norm? If so, it's a bit nasty of Onischuk to press his student with no prospect of ending up in the leader's circle himself. I am sure they talked about it before the game, so I guess it's probably fine, but I would have let him slide.

> Did the loss to Onischuk cost Robson the norm?

When young Robson EARNS his title, as I'm sure he will, he can be proud to know it was done on the up and up.

Congratulations to Nakamura, best in the U.S. in tournament play (Kamsky for matches).

This Hess kid is a beast - it's exciting to see a young American talent like this. I wonder if he'll stick with chess, as it's so hard to make a living at it here, but I hope he does.

> Did the loss to Onischuk cost Robson the norm?
Not to mention the additional $5000.00 Onischuk
earned by beating instead of drawing Robson.

I agree. I would not be happy if my coach let me "slide." I want to earn it.

Still as they said on Chess.fm it is not a matter of IF he will be earning the GM norms only when. Remember he is 14...

Besides for Onischuk that was 5,000 grand at stake for that .5 pt.

Still the position around move 21 looked dead drawn... and had that been move 30 instead of 21 I would have expected Onischuk to give the draw.

$5000 is quite a bit. I didn't realize so much cash was at stake. I just hope that the fact that the position was pretty equal etc doesn't cause any friction in their relationship. I guess most of the frustration with the final round was that Josh didn't play as well as he does most of the time, which highlighted the rating gap. Naka played a random line and was winning in like 6 more moves. Stuff happens, though of course these two have had several epic battles so it is a little bit of a let down.

Naka did not play a random line.... it is one the mainline lines to play 8. Bd3 only more mainline is to play 8. Be2

Yeah but Ng5 was already fringe stuff outside of the kiddy zone, at least when I was playing. Maybe it had a revival.

There is almost nothing Onischuk could do that would be more disgusting than giving Robson a draw in any situation where he wouldn't normally do it. This is the US Championship, not a freaking norm hunt for children. Just the fact that chess fans think it's normal for people to give breaks and make it easier for kids to make norms, especially in our national championship, is absurd. Also the fact that he is his coach should be irrelevant.

Last year's US Championship was already ruined due to the fact that norms existed*(which it really makes me sad that no one seems to care about), I wish the norms would just go away in prestigious tournaments like this, so they can stop artificially messing with results and so chess fans can focus on the point of the tournament, which is to declare the national champion.

* - In the 2008 US Championship Yury Shulman had a full point lead going into the final round. Lo and behold, his opponent needed just a draw for the GM norm. Not surprisingly they agreed to something like a 10 move draw, completely screwing over the two players who were a point back.

Note that in this situation, Shulman's opponent, who was then IM Josh Friedel, would have never in 8 billion years have given Shulman a draw with the white pieces had it not been a GM norm for him. So because of this absurd norm system the history of the US Championship becomes tainted and for reasons that I simply cannot fathom, almost no one said anything negative about the fact that this was allowed to happen. In fact here is the paragraph blurb on the website:

"Shulman’s game was a quick draw because his opponent, Josh Friedel, needed only a draw himself to earn his third and final GM norm. Therefore a draw was a VERY satisfactory result for both. Congratulations to Yury for his first championship. Josh should get the GM title as soon as his rating gets over 2500 (I believe it is 2490 or so now), so that shouldn’t be long."

I mean wtf?!?!?!? Let's make light of and celebrate the idea that a short unplayed draw, which negatively affects those trailing the leader and effectively costs them the US Championship, was made. Let's congratulate both of the players! I mean I love Josh and Yury and don't blame them because they were acting in their own interests, but when you have a US Championship where such a thing is allowed to happen, it's really a problem and I know it's crazy but I don't think any norms should be possible in this event. The prize money and prestige is simply too tremendous to allow a Champion to be determined due to artificial playing conditions.

Something similar could have easily happened this year as well, although I hope that if it did the organizers would have made every attempt to stringently enforce their anti-draw rules.

A fought tournament and a great champion. I'm happy for him.

Bien por Nakamura!

For the record, I ranted about the Friedel-Shulman thing last year. Not about the players, of course, who are simply exploiting the rules to their advantage like any rational competitor. Interesting thought about banning norms. Is that even possible, just by fiat declaring no norms possible? So much effort has gone into preserving norm chances in the Championship over the years it's ironic to think about abolishing them on purpose. It's a good point, since a norm is sort of an alien element that only affects a few competitors. I.e. if someone, say Friedel last year, wants a quick draw because it suits his tournament standing, he's still screwing the guys chasing Shulman by not playing a real game. But motivation matters, I suppose.

I definitely feel that anything short of an all-out effort to win by Onischuk would have been obscene. I'm a little shocked anyone would think otherwise. It would be a little dubious in a generic open with little money or prestige on the line, but nothing that unusual. But to do it in the final round of the US Ch -- by a former champion -- and with $5,000 on the line, no way.

So what do you guys make of Hikaru's chances in San Sebastian in July? Svidler, Movsesian, Ponomariov... He looks set to give it a pretty good run. Time for an international breakthrough at a classical control?

"which negatively affects those trailing the leader and effectively costs them the US Championship, was made."

What happens in the last round is irrelevant if the players have not done enough in the preceding rounds. They have not put themselves in a position where their destiny was in their own hands and that is tough.

Follow your argument to its natural conclusion you could make the first 8 rounds irrelevant and award the title to whoever makes the prettiest or most fighting game in round 9. Hell, why not put it to an audience vote and then the best looking woman would win it.

Well played to those who put themselves in the position where all they needed was a draw from the last round to meet their goals.

Onischuk will have done his charge a favour as well. The lesson learned in the last round will make him a tougher nut in the future.

"Interesting thought about banning norms. Is that even possible, just by fiat declaring no norms possible?"
Hmm, isn't it the other way around? An exception from the general rules was made to allow for title norms at the US (and other national) championships!? Because normally you need a minimum number of foreign opponents to score a norm - wasn't this an issue during the Foxwoods Open?
[I asked this question at Chessmind, Dennis Monokroussos confirmed that norms are/were possible in St. Louis, concluding his answer with "if someone can supply chapter and verse in the FIDE rulebook, that would be even better"]

Anyway, I agree with al that last year, Shulman's competitors should only (or at least mostly) blame themselves for not scoring enough points in the first 8 rounds to keep reasonable chances for the title.
The recent European championship (whatever its present 'a posteriori' status is) was an even more extreme example of 'two tournaments in one': For many players, securing a top23 spot (World Cup qualification) was clearly more important than finishing 1st, hence a flood of short draws in the final rounds .... followed by a tiebreak lottery to determine champion and medal winners.
BTW, "it seems" (it was occasionally, but altogether rarely mentioned in various sources) that the US Ch was also a World Cup qualifier. How many spots were available? And apparently this did not affect the tournament outcome and players' approaches in the final rounds !?

for the record I ranted about the agreed draw too because USCF came out before the round even started and told the participants it was a prearranged draw. The same uscf folked that have had players and tds banned for doing this now allowed the same action. I forget what move they HAD to play on according to the rules (30 like this year?) but they ever waved that like you said. But in the end do you think that game would have been anything but a try? Neither player would have tried anything ambitious. If white wants a draw too it is hard to beat that when you are also happy with a draw.

"So what do you guys make of Hikaru's chances in San Sebastian in July? Svidler, Movsesian, Ponomariov..."

Nakamura is going to waste those turkeys.

Hikaru, post here! We want to hear from you!

I hope Nakamura does well. He's certainly strong enough.

As I read it, national championships are exempt from the foreign federation requirements. Here are the FIDE laws.

"1.43 Federations of opponents.
At least two federations other than that of the title applicant must be included, except for 1.43a-1.43e.
1.43a The finals (but not preliminaries) of national men`s championships and also national women`s championships. See 1.43b1."

As for the 2008 US Championship... Friedel had no chance to win the championship -- the prize money was not high, and his final norm would give him more prestige and more money in the future. Shulman was leading by a full point, and a draw would guarantee him the win. A draw was the best result for both of them.

Hey everyone, I'll be blogging on my website shortly once I've completely recovered from a very heavy night of partying.

All this talk about how the participants didn't do enough to put them in good position in 2008 is total BS. They didn't get paired with someone who would gift them a draw with the white pieces to win a "prize" that no one else was eligible for. They even had a rule in place to prevent such short draws and for some reason decided to waive it at just about the moment when the rule would actually mean something and determine the championship!

Btw please note that I think Michael Brooks should have been penalized for his draw with Benjamin this year, and I didn't see that discussed anywhere. It was completely against the spirit of the rule and shouldn't have been permitted. If the organizers or TD's said it was ok, then they certainly shouldn't have. He had a totally normal position in which he could have done any number of things to try to play on with a slight edge/normal position. Benjamin had a much worse position if he deviated so I understood him repeating.

I think it's very important to pounce the moment such things happen, because it was a clear violation of the rules that were stated in the contract that the players signed. Once you allow someone to get away with it, how can you possibly say to someone in the final round, when a draw perhaps becomes very crucial, that they can't simply accept a draw on move 15? I want to see these anti short draw rules that are actually enforced stringently, instead of just being words on a piece of paper. Even if you don't like the rule, I think it's crappy to have a rule in place and simply ignore it when it becomes messy or may upset someone.

Anyway now for the more positive things:

1. Congratulations and thanks to the St. Louis Chess Center. They ran a great tournament and it was by far the most interesting US Championship to me in a long time. Also it's nice to see some significant money going to our top players. But really I can't say enough about what a tremendous organization they are, and I suspect they will be around for the longterm.

2. Congrats to Hikaru Nakamura, who was IMO the most deserved winner. He really went for the kill in the final 3 rounds, while some of his opposition played a bit more safely at times near the end.

3. Congrats also to Robert Hess for a great result.

"For the record, I ranted about the Friedel-Shulman thing last year. Not about the players, of course, who are simply exploiting the rules to their advantage like any rational competitor."

Eh? It will always be up to the players no matter what anti-draw rule is in place. They could just play a 30 move non-game instead and it would be no different, except it even seems a bit shadier that way because they're trying to conceal their intentions.

I believe there was a rule in place for this tournament that disallowed early draws. I think a certain amount of moves had to be made, discounting a position three-fold rep.

I agree 100 percent with Greg Shahade, that had Onischuk given his student a short (norm-granting) draw...it would have been a scandal.

Thank goodness he didn't.

In the old days, members of the "title club" guarded their titles and actively fought to keep players OUT of the title group. You had to earn your way in. Your best friend would grind you down in an ending to keep you out. It was like a guild card.

Now, it seems the player mores have swung the other way -- young player needs a draw for a norm? Give him a 12 move draw! Organize a norm tourney and make the organizers happy!


And frankly, the way to deal with it (last year) is to FORFEIT the two offenders. That's right -- the arbiter should show some spine and give big goose eggs to those who play "non-games." Guess what -- no do-over, no replay, no NORM with a goose egg.

Should have happened in the final game of the 1995 Anand-Kasparov exhibition match in NY, too.

Hey davay everrybody, I have been drrinkking ruski vodka all night, don't botherr me nomore!

Oh right Greg... I forgot that there was a "no short draw" rule at the 2008 US Champs. You're right -- I agree that the organizers should not have waived that rule for the last round.

Still, since they DID waive that rule, both Friedel and Shulman were well within their rights of taking advantage of it, and would have been fools not to.

Greg, I agree with you that the draw between Brooks and Benjamin was "completely against the spirit of the rule". But, in the given and other similar situations, it is virtually impossible for the arbiter to decide who has to deviate from the repetition:
The player with a very slight advantage? Should a Rybka evaluation of, say, +0.2 be used as a 'tiebreaker'??
Always the one playing white?
Always the higher-rated player? Clearly Benjamin in the present case, hence Brooks was happy with a draw .... .
The only 'reasonable' solution might be to leave it up to the players themselves, stating that the result will be 0-0 if neither of them deviates ... .

And what of a forced drawing line when it's NOT pre-arranged? I had someone pull that on me not long ago: with White, he surprised me by going into the forced drawing line at move 10 or so in a well-known opening. This was a Thursday night rapids, so obviously no limitations on draws were in place. But if they had been - say, if this were the World Open or some other weighty event - should I expect to be penalized because I was the higher-rated player and allowed a drawing line? So that means I'm banned from answering 1.e4 with my former favorite defense 1...d6 when facing a lower-rated opponent, even if I'm willing to risk losing a few rating points if he opts for the draw?

Of course I'm not a pro so this is just hypothetical for me. But wouldn't the same scenario apply to pros in some instances?

Has it stopped being your favourite defence precisely because of this drawing line?

1 .e4 e5
2 .Nf3 Nc6
3 .Bb5 a6
4 .Bxc6 dc6
5 .O-O Bg4
6 .h3 h5
7 .c3 Qd3
8 .hg4 hg4
9 .Nxe5 Bd6

Your move. Don't forfeit by playing 10..Bh2+

No, chesshire, it's not why I moved away from the Pirc. I just discovered something else I enjoyed more.

In many instances I don't mind letting a (somewhat) lower-rated player force a draw against me with White. And I needn't fear penalties, because I don't think any event I ever played in had anti-quick-draw rules. (I don't think even the World Open has them, even though I mentioned the World Open in my earlier comment. I did play in the HB Global Chess Challenge, but in a class section. My memory is that the 30-move draw minimum applied only in the Open section for that event.)

Luke, that Ruy Exchange line you quoted, like the forced drawing line in the Pirc, resulted from a home-cooking discovery that revolutionized a major opening. That's a fair description of Seirawan's Pirc discovery of ...Bxd4: before then, theory had Black allowing 9.exf7+, which at the elite level is verging on a forced win for White. After Seirawan introduced his discovery in some GM game, 9...fxe6 became the main line. Theoretically, had an anti-quick draw provision been in effect, he (or his opponent in that stem game) could have been punished for playing it.

Similarly, I recall the birth of 7...Qd3! It was discovered by James Tarjan and introduced in a game from the U.S. Junior Championship in 1966 or 1967. Until then, 7.c3 may have been White's most common move. Therefater, that move disappeared altogether, and only 7.d3 has been played.

chesspride, I agree with you on all points except that the players shouldn't have been forfeited. The reason for this is that I'm pretty certain they specifically asked the TD's before the round, and the TD's said, "Sure, go ahead and take a quick draw, who cares about the 2 players behind you who still have a chance to catch up".

Bioniclime - I wasn't attacking the players, only the TD's who allowed it.

Thomas: Here is my suggestion:

There should be a committee at each of these tournaments, maybe just of 2 players. I'd love to be on it, and perhaps someone like GM Maurice Ashley would be willing to as well, as he's also a strong proponent of no short draws. When a short draw is agreed, after the round the game would be given to us and we would determine if action would be taken. In unusual circumstances we could ask the players to state their case to us as well. The usual penalty would be something like a 10-20% prize deduction, but in extremely egregious cases, perhaps a forfeit for one player.

I think that the problem with the situation right now, is that the players just ask the TDs, who are much much weaker players than those asking, and the TD's feel that if some GM comes to them and says "hey the position is a draw, can we just agree?", these TD's who may be rated under 2000, just don't feel comfortable telling a strong player what they can and can't do on the fly.

I think the players shouldn't be allowed to even ask the TD's whether they can take a draw, and they should know that there are two or more strong, and reasonable players who will examine the situation. It's clear that we aren't idiots, so if someone simply had to repeat in order to avoid some horrible position, we wouldn't go crazy on them, but if someone like Brooks repeats because he just doesn't feel like playing, there will be a penalty.

Also rating, color, none of that matters in the discussion IMO. The only pertinent factor is whether your position is playable/good if you continue to play. If you have a better position, you shouldn't be allowed to make a quick draw. If you are worse or have any reasonable expectation that your position is clearly worse, then we would understand. It could be a case where we can imagine why both players could feel their positions were bad, and then everything would be ok. However in Brooks case, there is really no way anyone of his chess strength honestly believes he has a bad position.

I agree they need a committee of stronger players for the short draw thing... the TD in question has actually never played a game of chess in her whole life. Rating under 2000? Try rating under 1000.

ahh, memories, I remember when as a very young man I was told I had a rating of 1100. What a lot of points! Over a THOUSAND! I asked someone if that was really a lot and got a polite neutral reply...actually, come to think of it, what's the lowest possible? Lowest I ever saw was 800, if I remember rightly.

I think Mr. Rybka and Mr. Fritz would make a better committee to evaluate positions than Mr. Shahade and his friends.

Greg, the problem with these "subjective analysis" of draws is that there is almost always a sensible argument. I remember Maurice introducing this rule and I hated it, the logical crevasses were way too numerous.

You can say "But why not this variation??" and the player can always respond with "Well, I didn't see it / I misevaluated the resulting position / I had no idea I was better, I thought I was worse." Basically it turns into a lying contest, where you either penalize a player for not seeing various possibilities and being overly pressimistic about a position, or you reward the blatant liars.

Short draws happen, big deal. The penalty is that 1/2 point you gave up. End of story.

@Luke and Jon Jacobs: In such situations (one player sacrificing a queen [a minor piece? a pawn?] to obtain perpetual check) of course (IMO) he, or his opponent, cannot be penalized. Here the only 'reasonable'(?) solution would be to make them play another game. But can one player be forced to play a different opening line, and if so, (again) which one? And what if they produce another book draw? Such lines exist in various openings, e.g. another one in the Queen's Gambit accepted.

@Greg Shahade: Actually I thought about suggesting something similar to your proposal [but wanted to keep my earlier post relatively short ,:)]. However, I see several potential problems:
First, for the US Ch or other American tournaments IMO it would be preferable to have foreign masters on the committee - they do not need to be present at the tournament, but could communicate their decision via Internet.
The reason is that you and GM Ashley probably know some of the players personally. I do not want to suggest that some of your decisions could be biased (but can you completely rule out that you may be _subconciously_ affected?). But I do suggest that players might make such claims - particularly if, in the course of a tournament, you consider one short draw acceptable, and another one worthy of punishment. Many such decisions will be controversial and to some extent subjective.
And, while you limit consulting the players to 'unusual circumstances' (also a vague term), what are the implications? Does the decision depend on the players' eloquence in this "post-mortem"? Which reasons would be acceptable? "I had a headache" (with an accompanying doctor's letter?). "I was afraid of upcoming time-trouble". Specifically, if a player spends 30 minutes before entering a repetition, can you decide if he seriously thought about alternatives or if he was just 'simulating'?
Or, presumably more to the point: If they show some variations where they would end up worse avoiding the repetition, and you come up with 'playable' alternatives: Can you decide if they should have, or indeed did see those lines over the board?

In conclusion: Your suggestion sounds nice and plausible, and indeed might lead to less short draws. On the other hand, it may also lead to some scandals, and that's not what players, chess fans, organizers, sponsors, (journalists?) are waiting for ... .

Final points: For the US Ch, how dramatic are a few short draws, given that it was generally a hard-fought tournament? And, while you recurrently suggest penalizing ONE player (in the specific Brooks-Benjamin as well as hypothetical future cases), under most circumstances I think BOTH (or neither one) should be penalized.

The lowest rating I ever saw was 47. The average US rating is below 700 though so 800 still beats the curve.

Let's go back to the 2009 US Championships results and congratulate Hikaru for a phenomenal win this year !
Not only did he finish with three wins in a row, but the played the top contenders including Hess (with a win), Kamsky,Onischuk,Akobian and Friedel.

I really hope Hikaru will get invited to the top tournaments such as Corus, FIDE grand prix, the December London super-tournament and even Linares. He's shown stability in his results, and maturity in his tournament strategy, opening preparation and overall extraordinary fighting spirit, which is what tournament organizers should be after.

Can't wait to read his own championship diary on his blog.
At super GM level, only Bacrot updates his own website ( http://www.chess22.fr ) from time to time. Am I missing other top GMs frequent contributions ?

Well I added the first part of my opinions on the US Championship to my blog. http://www.hikarunakamura.com/main/Blog/tabid/57/Default.aspx

Sorry, John F....but just giving up a half point really isn't the end of it.

There are several issues mixed together here:

1. Is it legal to agree to a draw before a "real sporting contest" has begun? No, not under the rules. Thus, draws like 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 1/2-1/2 are OUT and definitely should be penalized.

2. Is it ethical to agree to a draw before a "real sporting contest" has begun -- even if other things are gained?

Well, no. Yes, you might get a prize...but the reputation you damage is your own.

Yes, most players have played 10-15 move draws. But are they ethical? No. Should you get a cold chill up your spine when you do it (that feeling of doing something shady)? Yes.

Thus, 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 1/2-1/2 deserves condemnation.

3. Can you use a tricky drawing line to make a short draw by force?

Here, I think it is OK to do this...and it takes two to tango. If your side needs a draw and you play a line that forces a draw, that's OK. I would rather see the forced draws...than the 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 1/2-1/2 games.

4. Could players conspire to 'create' a forcing line draw -- sure, and then I agree it cannot be stopped. But the appearance of the game is not really harmed by 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. 0-0 Nbd7 9. Qb3 a5 10. Na2 Be7 11. Qxb7 Rb8 1/2-1/2

However, the game is harmed by 1. e4 c5 1/2-1/2 or even a 20 mover where there is plenty of play left.

Now what is the appropriate penalty?

I think the penalty is:

For 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 1/2-1/2 games, both players are forfeited. Period.

For games that are non-forcing but only go 10-12 moves...I'd be tempted to forfeith them too, but because it can be hard to judge...I think a prize reduction is appropriate.

For games like the forcing Slav line...no penalty. THAT (and not 1.e4 c5 1/2-1/2) is chess.

So...no more cheering for short draws that grant norms. They are unethical to give...and unethical to take. They are akin to taking a winning lottery ticket from your buddy who works at the gas station -- they are not only wrong, but technically illegal. As a club TD, I have no compunction about forfeiting offenders.

I wish at the national level folks would do the same...but they seem in awe of the cult of personality/title. In baseball, a player can make $40 million and still get tossed out of the game. In chess, he can play 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 1/2-1/2 and get a payday or a norm.

He should get scorn. That's the penalty. SCORN, as in "whisper whisper...he didn't really earn that".

People still think Taimanov bought his vital last point at the interzonal that led to the match with Fischer. That's scorn -- even though I like Taimanov alot.

But to have the federation web site proclaim that the draw rule is "off" so that someone can get a norm? IMHO that type of behavior is not only wrong...it can lead to norms being invalidated.

Another solution to short draws or boring chess in general is only to award points for victories and nothing for a draw. An extreme solution, but likley to to produce extreme results (i.e. extremely exciting and attacking chess).

It would be nice to see a rapid tournament with this scoring system in effect as rating points would also be a non-issue.

Has anyone ever proposed awarding zero points for draws, i.e., you only score one point for a victory?

Sorry, I meant has anyone formally proposed this, i.e., like at the USCF or FIDE?


"At the 1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca, Matulovic was to play Mark Taimanov in the final round, with the Russian GM needing to win the game to advance to the 1971 Candidates matches. Playing Black, Matulovic arrived 20 minutes late, and then read the tournament bulletin before making his first move. He moved slowly in the opening, but then played at "blitz" pace before resigning on the 42nd move. He had used only 64 minutes on the clock. Apparently he received $400 for this dubious display." --Chessville

Taimanov finished the Interzonal with 14 points. A half-point behind were Smyslov and Portisch.

chessplan2 said:
"At super GM level, only Bacrot updates his own website ( http://www.chess22.fr ) from time to time. Am I missing other top GMs frequent contributions ?"

Thank you for that link and the concept.

Nakamura just gave us his link.

I can't think of any nearly as high rated as Bacrot, who update "their own" website or blog, rather than publicists updates or fan sites.

Some chessplayers are also journalists and have chess news websites; I am thinking of Shipov (once a 2640 player).

There is always Ms. Polgar's (rating 2600?) blog.

Tiviakov often writes blog-like articles at Chessbase, visiting the countryside and trying the local foods and herbs.

I hope someone will post others, if they are out there.

I hope not ,IMO is a pretty dumb idea .

@Manu: Well, you are in no way obliged to visit such sites ... . And at least Nakamura's blog seems to interest a few people - presumably the fact that it is frequently updated (and entertaining) is one of the reason why he has numerous fans.

@Guest: Sorry, but IMO your "extreme solution" (zero points for a draw) is plain nonsense. It does not distinguish between a short draw/non-game (where it MAY be acceptable to make the result 0-0), a "correct" draw (the balance was never broken, but one or both players tried) and a spectacular draw (e.g. an attacking game finishing with perpetual check).
It should also be obvious that a draw is a perfectly normal result. If the formula to calculate ELO performances "makes sense", a draw is statistically the most likely result in any single game if the rating difference between the players is less than 200 points.

Regarding Friedel-Shulman (US Ch 2008): Yes it is odd that the rule (no draws before move 30) was explicitly waived. But, in the given situation, otherwise a draw after 31 moves would have been a very likely result ("99% confidence interval"!?), so it didn't affect the outcome of the tournament. And of course Friedel deserved his norm, because the last round game cannot be viewed in isolation but in the context of the entire tournament. With a series of short draws, one does not earn a GM norm (Friedel), become US Ch (Shulman) or world champion/top10 player (guess whom I mean?).

WTF Thomas? , i dont understand what you are talking about...
Why dont u read things through before posting such crap?
Hint: look at the " replied to" text...

Firstly, dimissing zero points for a draw as nonsense shows closed mindedness. I think a trial of such a tournament would interesting. It may well fail but to innovate one must test ideas before dimissing them.

Secondly, I think that the popularity of chess as a spectator sport suffers not only from short-draws but the percentage of draws in general. In terms of creating an event likley to generate maximum spectator interest, I don't see a need to distinguish hard-fought draws from short-draws. In terms of popular spectator sports that have drawing issues football (soccer) comes to mind. The English Premier League had a draw rate of approx 25% (the most drawish team 35%). Compare that to chess were the draw rate is roughly 66% for most super tournments with drawish players (being much worse). As you say a draw is natural result, so if you want to have less of them you need to stop rewarding them with a half point.

Of course there is a risk of backfire, that such a tournament would alienate the current fan base.

And again it depends on what you think the objective of professional chess is? I think it is primarily to entertain, other than that it serves no purpose. Different people will be entertained in different ways. IMO serious observers will probably find a hard fought draw more entertaining than a win that contains a serious blunder. Casual observers will more likley be entertained by any win more than any draw. I suspect catering to casual obsevers would help boost the popularity of chess more than catering towards serious observers, but I might be wrong.

@Manu: I think it was rather clear what I was talking about. It is also clear that I somehow thought you were replying to tjallen's preceding comment, simply missing the "reply to noyb" above your post - so I actually agree with you! Mea culpa, sorry [that being said, you could have replied in a more polite way ,:)]

1) Your comparison with football(soccer) makes limited sense to me. In chess, there are three results - in football, many more scores are possible. Even more odd would be to compare chess with handball (24-24 is a possible, but unlikely result) or other sports such as tennis or running where draws are by definition impossible.
In football, even casual observers will note and appreciate the difference between 0-0 and 4-4 (e.g. a recent Champion's League match between two English teams, don't remember which ones). And "serious observers" can also appreciate a fighting 0-0 [both teams tried hard to score, but faced excellent goalkeepers] as opposed to a safety 0-0 [teams neutralizing each other in midfield, not even getting close to scoring]. At least on German TV, the latter is often called "Rasenschach" (chess on the football field) ,:) .

But if there is an analogy with football, chess players could be awarded 3 points for a win, and 1 for a draw. This has actually been tried (most prominently in the Bilbao Grand Slam final) - but at least it takes into account that drawing is better than losing a game ... .
2) Concerning your distinction between serious and casual observers: Maybe chess already caters to both - rapid, blitz and blindfold chess does offer more action, more drama, more decisive results, more blunders. And as far as classical time controls are concerned, many casual observers may, in any case, not be patient enough to watch the games live - because they often have to wait 5, 10 or more minutes before there is some further action on the board ... .

And something along the lines suggested by Guest has actually been tried ... once: The "GM Slugfest tournament"(Bellevue, Washington, October 2006) used the "BAP (Ballard Anti-draw point) system" - 3 points for a win with black, 2 for a win with white, 1 for a draw with black, 0 for a draw with white, (0 for losing with either color). I will just provide a few links - the two last ones include heated discussion, heavily featuring Chris Ballard who invented that rule:

[credit to Jonathan Berry, that's where I first 'heard' about this tournament]

You know what is really polite ? Reading posts twice before writting anything.

Hikaru's write-up of his championship victory, on his blog, is really great. He's generous about sharing the thoughts and emotions he experienced during the tournament. Good stuff!

Thomas said "If the formula to calculate ELO performances 'makes sense', a draw is statistically the most likely result in any single game [of equally or nearly equally rated opponents]"

Actually, this is wrong, I think.

First is that elo as a statistical measure is not designed to be applied to single games, but to groups of games.

Secondly, consider the example of a ten game match - elo says absolutely nothing about whether that match has five wins for each player, or ten draws. A 5-5 result is what the rating system predicts, and it says nothing about how the five are scored. 5-5-0, 4-4-2, 3-3-4, 2-2-6, 1-1-8 or 0-0-10, elo does not distinguish at all.

I'm willing to be argued out of this view, but at this time, I do not think it is true that the chess rating system says a single game between equals should be a draw. It says, in a large number of games, equal scores will result.

I agree , and i would say that "even performances" would be the accurate way to describe it.

An observation:

Manu & Thomas agree -- AGAIN!!

CO :)

It was indeed a great tournament and the venue is beautiful. There were a lot of fans there and the organization was first class. I don't have anything negative to say about the tournament. It has some pics up, a reflection piece and one on Nakamura.




Not nice, being Thomas´s nemesis would be too painfull for me , i find him the human translation of that famous torture of the drop in the head ,although im not so sure if is water what falls.
Our names must not share sentences , pls dont do that.

Occasional Nakamura nemesis Josh Friedel collapsed like a Dallas Cowboys training facility against Nakamura's..." How can you NOT think that this it totally unacceptable journalism on any level. To try and use a tragedy where a person was partially paralized as some sort of comedy joke routine is disgusting and disturbing. It is what usually happens when a person loses the ability to think clearly and or is without moral tethers or teachers to continue to keep one grounded. By the way, your little girl is cute, mind if i borrow here for a few days. (wasnt that funny too?)

Just for the record, nothing in the preceding note (replied to chess observer) concerns anything applicable to anything said by chess observer.


Just for the record , chess observer might or might not be making sense.

I, too, am deeply disturbed. Can anyone suggest a more appropriate analogy?

--Josh Friedel blew up like the Hindenburg flying through the Chicago fire.

--Josh Friedel got hosed like "You need to" at a NAMBLA convention.

--There were more holes in Josh Friedel's game than in St. Sebastian's shirt.

Manu, you disparaged another poster here recently for not fully reading a thread before responding (note that I conformed to your wishes by not mentioning his name in the same sentence!).

"You need to find new humor" posted comments toward Mig on May 26th at 8:51 AM, but replied to a comment by me to do so. My only intention was to disassociate myself from that conversation.

I understand that English may not be your native language, so no animosity exists.

These are the facts as I know them.


Maybe you should learn to use the ¨replying to ¨ button ,because the way you posted it is confusing.
I understand that forums are sometime dificult to follow , so no animosity exists.
I cannot thx you enough for keeping our names separated, god bless you.
These are the facts as I know them.

And for the record i was just teasing you in a friendly tone , hence the :) at the end of my post.

Some final words:

My post was immediately after the post in question, as is this one replying to you. Further, I referenced it as the 'preceding note.'

Many of my posts have used the 'reply to' button, a fact which you know. Misrepresenting facts should be something we all avoid.

Feel free to repeat my words in another context. My participation in this conversation has ended.


I see , my apologizes then , take it easy.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 17, 2009 5:11 PM.

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