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This week you are the arbiter

May 9th, 2016 32 comments

Last week’s question was: ‘Is it reasonable to award the title of World Champion after a knock-out tournament?’ The readership is of (almost) one mind on this issue: 88% say ‘no’. To be a real World Champion you must win a match. I hope FIDE is paying attention.

Poll-KO-Match

We move on from the World Championship to a blitz game at Jacob’s house-warming on Saturday night.

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In the position above, White was almost out of time (2 or 3 seconds) and stopped the clock, claiming a draw. It was a five-minute game, with no increment. There was a discussion. It was a friendly beer-and-pizza event, so Black sportingly agreed a draw.

But what’s your view? How would you have reacted if you were the arbiter? Is a claim of a draw reasonable here in a blitz game? Would you have awarded the draw, or instead asked the players to play on, which would almost immediately lead to White losing on time?

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Knock-Out World Champions?

May 3rd, 2016 45 comments

Last week’s poll question was ‘How important do you think physical fitness is to your chess performance?’ The readership wisely chose to avoid extremes, with the calm “Somewhat significant, but not a top priority” the winner, followed by “don’t be hungover” in second.

Poll-fitness

This week my topic is about World Championships and how to award them.

In the men’s (Open) side, the knock-out event is called the World Cup, while to be World Champion nowadays, you need to win a match. But the title ‘Women’s World Champion’ is awarded for both the knockout and match events. In a ChessBase interview, Hou Yifan suggested the Women’s format should change to match the Men’s, and only award the title of Women’s World Champion to a match-winner.

In her own words: “The main reason why they want to stick to the current system is the fact that it is easier to find sponsors if you call the knock-out tournament “World Championship”. If you called it “World Cup” it would be extremely difficult to find sponsors.”

That sounds good, but on the other hand, the match format means Hou Yifan is “seeded” into the final, while in a knockout she would start on level terms with 63 other women.

So my question is: Is it reasonable to award the title of World Champion after a knock-out tournament?

Yes, No and Other should cover most people’s views, with the comments box available for explanation. Maybe you prefer neither matches nor knock-outs, and want a tournament as in San Luis 2005?

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Physical Fitness and Chess

April 25th, 2016 37 comments

Last week’s question was: ‘How many Quality Chess books do you have, and do you have more paperbacks or more hardcovers?’ You can see the verdict below. There are many ways to interpret it, but many of you buy many books (thanks!). Also, if you buy more books, it becomes more likely you will go for hardcovers. Or put another way, if you have fewer than 10 books, they will probably be paperbacks.

Poll-QC-paperback

This week, I have been thinking about how significant physical fitness is to chess performance. In the office, we have a range of levels of physical activity. Andrew must be fittest, with his Jiu Jitsu and regular gym training, but Jacob is also highly active, with lots of hours of tennis. My approach is more take-a-healthy-walk, get-a-good-night’s-sleep, and don’t drink too much the night before a game. I suspect even my low-key approach puts me in the healthier half of British chess players – British chess is a boozy culture, with Saturday-night drinking sessions at the 4ncl often lasting until 4 or 5 in the morning. Or so I’m told.

But what’s your approach? How important do you think physical fitness is to your chess performance? With my question and answers, I realise I am dealing with two different topics – how important you think physical fitness is, and what you actually do about it. But as ever, you can explain all in comments.

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Paperback or Hardcover?

April 19th, 2016 44 comments

 
Last week’s poll question asked: “Was it reasonable of Karjakin to withdraw from the Norwegian event?” The readership is split almost down the middle. By a margin of 51%-45% the verdict was that it was not reasonable. I call that a close vote, though no doubt some politicians would call it a landslide.
 
Poll-Karjakin
 
This week I’ll move on from asking for opinions to looking for facts. We’re interested in: How many Quality Chess books do you have, and do you have more paperbacks or more hardcovers?
 
I will create 6 answers which should cover almost every possibility. If you own an exactly equal number of paperbacks and hardcovers, then I admit you don’t fit into any of the 6 categories. But you can solve that problem instantly by buying another book.

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Karjakin’s Retreat

April 11th, 2016 25 comments

Last week’s poll question was ‘What small changes do you want in Candidates qualifying?’ By far the most popular answer was ‘No changes needed’. Not surprising, as the recent Candidates had an exciting finish.

Poll-CandidatesQual

A week tomorrow, an elite event starts in Stavanger – AltiBox Norway Chess 2016. A great field will compete, including Carlsen, Kramnik, Giri and not Karjakin. After his Candidates triumph, Karjakin decided to withdraw from the Norwegian event. So there’s my poll question: Was it reasonable of Karjakin to withdraw from the Norwegian event? Yes, of course – he must be exhausted and preparing for his world title match against Carlsen is the top priority. No, he said he would play, so he should be true to his word.

I could instead have asked who will win the Norwegian event. Presumably Carlsen, but I will say Giri. If I say it often enough, I will be right eventually.

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Candidates Qualifying

April 5th, 2016 18 comments

Last week’s poll question was “Do you think the current system should be remodelled entirely?” There was an overwhelming 83% in favour of NOT remodelling the whole thing, despite Jacob’s attempt to trick you by starting the “No” answer with the word “Yes”.

Poll-WCsystem

Jacob has one final question re the Candidates, just to get an idea of what small changes you had in mind.

The current system is that 8 play in the Candidates: 2 qualify from the Grand Prix, 2 from the World Cup, 2 on rating, the loser of the last World Championship match, and 1 ‘wildcard’, which means the organizers can invite whoever the local hero is.

So what small changes would you like to make up the 8? One more qualifying on rating, one less from the World Cup? Or one more from the Grand Prix?  Leave it alone, it’s fine as it is?

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Nakamura – The Verdict

March 31st, 2016 70 comments

Apologies to those of you who were waiting anxiously for the result of last week’s poll. Perhaps due to the Easter holidays, I forgot all about it.

It’s all ancient history now, but the question was: How do you interpret Nakamura’s “j’adoube”?

Poll-Nakamura

As you can see, by a 59-40 margin, the voters went for ‘dodgy’. I voted for ‘heat-of-the-moment slip’. And in my quiz answers I predicted Nakamura would be first to win a game and finish as top American. So it appears I am 0/3 about Nakamura.

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Happy with the candidates

March 28th, 2016 59 comments

The Candidates ends today and with a very thrilling end indeed. It is 2013 all over again. Back then both Carlsen and Kramnik lost their last round game, after which Carlsen became the Candidate because of more losses (or wins if you insist).
Today we have a number of outcomes possible:
Karjakin or Caruana wins the game and qualifies.
The game is a draw and Anand does not win his game and Karjakin qualifies because of most losses.
The game is a draw and Anand wins his game, after which Caruana qualifies in the three way tie because of his win against Anand!
Some people (Greg Shahade for example) has come with ideas about a better Championship cycle. I am not against this at all, but I want to defend FIDE and say that we have a fantastic cycle as it is.
The World Cup is a really interesting event to follow. Very dramatic. The players qualified from it have not done poorly, historically. Gelfand won and Sergey Karjakin might win today.
The Grand Prix is great too. It involves players from top 25-30 that do not usually get invited to top events. The winner, Caruana, might win today as well.
To top up by rating might be the more dubious solution. Topalov has been a disaster twice, but then last time he qualified by winning the Grand Prix.
The Candidates is very exciting and all the players were conceivable winners in advance. They had 14 games to work out who was best, more than the World Championship match!
The fact that a lot of players are very close in strength (confirmed by rating as well) is a blessing. We have no Djokovic or Germany dominating.
At the end the Candidate has gone through a fantastic cycle to play the World Champion and will have deserved it fully.
Should the World Champion enter earlier. Tradition says no. I think he should be forced to play the World Cup, which would increase in value. And I would like more spots in the Candidates to go to people who qualify. But all in all, this is the best system we have ever had.

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