Wednesday, August 10, 2011




By GM Sergey Shipov – Part 1

For years, the chess world has fought to increase the number of decisive results in tournaments, battled against short draws and striven to promote increase fighting play. There have been isolated successes, but also setbacks.

Take, for example, the three-point system, actively promoted by many tournament organisers, under which three points are awarded for a win and one for a draw. As a professional, who knows the game from the inside, I never cease to be amazed by this attempt to import football values into our game. How can we so belittle the value of all draws? After all, a draw is often the logical outcome of extremely accurate and high-quality play by both sides, play which can hardly be improved upon. Why force players to make second-rate moves, in order to avoid a draw and try to win, risking defeat at the same time? Why destroy the logic of the battle in this way?

A farcical situation can arise: a player who has lost six games and won three ends up with the same score as one who has drawn all nine. Even more than that – the first player gets placed ahead on tie-break, for having won more games! In other words, a result of "minus three" is worth more than a score of 50%. Surely that is too much?

The ChessBase site is an authoritative publication, whose readers know what they are talking about as regards chess. As a result, there is no need to explain to them that the drawing zone in chess is much greater than in football or other types of sport. It is obvious to anyone. The conclusion is also obvious – the 3:1 scoring relationship between wins and draws is simply not appropriate in chess.

On the other hand, chess is clearly losing its position in the world. We are losing the battle against other types of sport, which are usurping the place of chess in the general and specialised sports media. The latter are now only interested in our scandals, whilst the general public do not care about our game and do not even want to support their own players. Even at prestigious tournaments, it is often difficult in many cities to attract a live audience. And one of the reasons for this is the number of draws.

Even logical and well-fought drawn games, which are full of content to a professional player, disappoint the great mass of supporters, who simply want to know who won each encounter. Of course, we can simply dismiss the opinions of such people, saying that they understand nothing of our great game, and we can retreat into our little corner of the world by ourselves. But then, we can forget about ever achieving more than we have now, indeed, we will not even be able to hang on to that.

Clearly, we need to change the philosophy behind our competitions. Chess needs reforms, directed towards improving its reception by the wider public. And the first logical step is to ensure that every pairing results, every evening, in a definite winner, just as happens in other sports. Many of them have also come to this idea gradually. For example, in ice hockey, until recently, many league matches ended in draws. Then overtime and shootouts were adopted, and the play became more interesting to the public. Other sports have adopted similar reforms at different times, and as a rule, they have benefited from the reforms. They have attracted the attention of the public, the press and the TV.

If we chessplayers want world attention, if we want chess to enter world sports bodies (including the IOC), without being a poor relation, then we need to meet the demands of our time. And instead of engaging in the pointless showing-off of doping tests, we need to introduce a system of playoffs, after the main game is drawn. That way, even spectators who understand nothing at all of chess (and these are the people we are fighting for, the ones who in their turn, are the target of the press and TV) can be pleased with or disappointed by the result. They can be emotionally involved.

How should the playoffs be arranged? Rustam Kasimzhanov suggested playing rapid games, after a draw in the main game. But imagine the sad spectacle that would result… We play a serious game, at least five hours, with at least two bouts of time-trouble – and then, already shattered, with virtually no break at all, we sit down to play two rapid games, that is, another hour to an hour and a half of hard work, and two more time-scrambles. Who is going to survive such conditions? Only the young and fit. The rest will simply drop dead! It seems to me we have to find an easier way to arrange the playoffs.

My suggestion is this: in round robin tournaments, after a draw in the main game, play two blitz games, with a time-control of three or four minutes, plus two seconds' increment, and if they do not produce a winner, then you play an Armageddon. Even those who are tired after the main game can manage this, and it also takes little time. The player who wins the main game gets three points, the winner after the blitz gets two points, whilst the player who loses in the blitz gets one point.

At the same time, in the main game, Sofia rules should be retained, or some similar prohibition on draw agreements before a certain number of moves, so that players cannot economise on their strength by agreeing a quick draw in the main game, getting to the blitz, and then heading for home. FIDE rating should only apply to the main games, which would therefore retain their status as the most important element of the battle.

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