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    Thursday
    Aug022012

    Biel 2012: Wang Hao Wins (Thanks, Fake Scoring)

    Magnus Carlsen came close to winning the tournament and threatened Garry Kasparov's all-time rating record for a while, but in the end he was second on both counts. Wang Hao quickly defeated Anish Giri in a Gruenfeld, and then waited while Carlsen tried to grind Bacrot down in a Spanish torture. Bacrot held firm, and the result was that although Carlsen outscored Wang Hao on normal scoring (7 vs. 6.5 [out of 10]) and beat him 2-0 in their head-to-head battles, Wang Hao won Biel thanks to the ridiculous 3-1-0 scoring system. The difference was that although Carlsen went +4, he had six draws, while Wang Hao only drew one game while winning six (and losing three). (Mind you, I'm not complaining about the result. Wang Hao seems like a nice, humble person who plays very exciting chess, and I think it's good that Carlsen not win every tournament he plays in. It's just that this seems a ridiculous outcome.)

    A little more about Wang Hao - Giri. The line of the Russian System Gruenfeld they chose had previously seemed like an instant draw. In particular, the position after 17.0-0 had been played in 13 GM games since 2009 (and only in GM games!), with an overall score of +1 -1 =11. Yawn, right? Except it didn't work out that way. Giri's 19th move was new, but he didn't follow it up in the right way. After White's slightly inaccurate 22.Bc5, Giri would have equalized (with chances for more) with 22...Rfd8. Then if 23.Rfd1 e6 looks slightly better for Black after 24.dxe6 Rxd1+ (24...Qxc6 is fine too) 25.Qxd1 Qxc6 26.exf7+ Kh8.

    Giri first played 22...Bh6, and after 23.Rc2 continued 23...Rfd8 24.Rc2 e6. This time it doesn't work: after 25.dxe6 Rxd1+ 26.Qxd1 Black cannot play 26...Qxc6 on account of 27.exf7+ Kh8 28.Bd4 (or 28.Be7), when it's time for him to resign. 22...Bh6 was an okay move, but not in conjunction with the (here) mistaken 24...e6(?). Giri played 26...fxe6, but the damage had been done. After 27.Ba4 material was even, but White's bishops were monsters and the e6 pawn was a big weakness. Giri was in trouble, and further errors on moves 27 and especially 29 led to a speedy finish. Down the exchange with the worse position, Giri gave up on move 32.

    Finally, just as it was Bacrot's lot to repeatedly lose with the King's Indian, Viktor Bologan's bane was the Benko. In fact he wasn't in too much trouble in the middlegame and early endgame against Hikaru Nakamura, but couldn't quite manage to hold the rook and knight ending a pawn down. One of the curious aspects of the game was the seeming "immortality" of White's a-pawn. Starting from around move 22 it looked for all the world like the pawn would be rounded up, but there was always some trick that kept it alive. Eventually it perished as a b-pawn, but by that point Black was suffering in a clearly lost knight ending. Maybe Bologan could have kept some drawing chances with 33...e4 or some other 34th move, though it would have been difficult. Once the rooks came off, it was a "mathematical" forced win.

    With the win, Nakamura finished tied for third-fourth with Giri (both on normal and fake scoring) and has come within 1.6 rating points of Bobby Fischer's American record of 2785. (If you think there has been rating inflation, then he still has a ways to go to "really" catch him, but it's still a very impressive figure in any case.)

    Final Standings (3-1-0 scoring first, 1-.5-0 scoring in parenthesis):

    1. Wang Hao 19 (6.5)
    2. Carlsen 18 (7)
    3-4. Giri, Nakamura 16 (6)
    5. Bacrot 7 (3)
    6. Bologan 4 (1.5 out of 8 games, with Morozevich 0 for 2 before that)

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    Reader Comments (18)

    The difference was the six games that Carlsen and Wang Hao each played against Giri, Nakamura, and Bacrot.

    In those 6 games, Carlsen won zero(!) times: +0 =6 -0
    In those 6 games, Wang Hao won 5(!) times: +5 =1 -0

    In particular, note that Wang Hao *demolished* Nakamura and Giri 4-0(!!!), while Carlsen only managed 4 draws.

    [DM: He won 4-0 against them, but "demolished" is an exaggeration, considering especially that Nakamura had outplayed him with Black in their first game before missing a nice but relatively simple tactic for 2700-level chess.]

    And since 3-0-1 football scoring puts a premium on winning games, not avoiding losses, Wang Hao is the deserved winner of Biel 2012.

    [DM: Just because something happens doesn't automatically mean that it was "deserved". 3-1-0 scoring rewards risk and volatility, not necessarily excellence or effort. Carlsen's draws averaged 46 moves, and it wasn't because Carlsen was avoiding losses.]

    Is Wang Hao the first Chinese to win a super-tournament?

    [DM: I think so!]

    The Biel crosstable even if you discount the Bolozevich enigma is one of the most bizarre of all time with people blanking 2-0 each other in odd permutations.

    August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    Jai, I hadn't really looked at the crosstable until you mentioned that. The most peculiar thing to me was that there was only one 1-0 mini-match, and that was between the first place finisher and the last place finisher. There were only two 1-0.5 matches, too. But there were four 0.5-0.5 matches and eight 1-1 matches. Nice progression, 1, 2, 4, 8....

    August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    I generally share Dennis' skepticism towards, and maybe dislike of the football scoring system. But all players knew the rules beforehand, and I would say that all players but Carlsen played accordingly - taking more risks to win games even if it means losing some. Wang Hao, Nakamura and Bologan always play like this. Bacrot is normally a solid positional player who this time played the KID (it didn't work but he tried); Giri played a - for him at the highest level - rare Sicilian (it worked but could have backfired). It is an understatement to call Carlsen's openings and play comparatively unambitious!?

    [DM: I don't agree that Carlsen or his openings were unambitious, comparatively or otherwise. Just because he didn't play like his hair was on fire didn't mean he wasn't ambitious! In fact, some people play chess that is very risky, but not necessarily because they're concerned primarily with sporting results but because they find such play interesting or beautiful as well as what they do best. Others, like Carlsen, tend to play a bit more technically because that's how they can best rack up the points. Of course, I agree that the players knew that soccer scoring was in effect, and I'm not blaming them for it - least of all Wang Hao. My criticism is only of the scoring system itself.]

    Was Biel 2012 the first time that football scoring had a major effect on the entire tournament, and not just because it led to a different winner? In London it may have affected some individual games, e.g. one loss of Kramnik against Nakamura.

    It's speculative, but maybe without football scoring Wang Hao would have taken a forced draw in his second game against Carlsen (which still made sense at least in hindsight with the given tournament situation). It's odd to reduce a tournament to a single game, but it would have been sort of justified if Carlsen had won in the end?

    As to Bologan's Benko gambit, like Bacrot's KID it may have been lack of experience. According to chessgames.com, Bologan had only seven previous games in this opening with a rather bad score (losses against Wang Yue, Fressinet and Gabrielian, draws against Markos and Erdos, wins against a certain C Vernay and a blitz win against Le Quang Liem). But maybe the Benko gambit also isn't quite playable at the highest level, when was the last time that someone played it successfully?

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    "The difference was the six games that Carlsen and Wang Hao each played against Giri, Nakamura, and Bacrot.

    In those 6 games, Carlsen won zero(!) times: +0 =6 -0
    In those 6 games, Wang Hao won 5(!) times: +5 =1 -0"

    another difference was the carlsen beat Bologan 2-0 while Wang only managed a 1-1 split. oh, also Carlsen beat Wang 2-0, scored a half point more, and didn't lose a game. The organizers can call it whatever they like, but Carlsen won the tournament. He just didn't come in "first"!

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterclassical

    Fully agree with the nonsense of the ‘fake’ (dixit Dennis) football scoring system; this has become a pet hate of mine and this is now the first elite tournament where the #1 and 2 of the final crosstable are reversed depending on the scoring system used.
    Chess is a game of logic and intellect and it hurts to see the scoring trivialised and randomised in this manner. When there is no winner of a given game, logic dictates that both players receive half of the winner’s share. To accentuate the silliness, the football scoring system could as well be modified into 2.5-1-0 or 4-1-0, all equally random; it’s just that Danailov happened to copy the football scoring system already in use (in soccer).
    On the other hand I applaud the Sofia rules (or a mitigated version, like no draws before move 40) as they prevent players from offering draws as an easy way out in (looming) time trouble and thus guarantee played-out (though not necessarily interesting) games. There are a couple of minor drawbacks (e.g. both players going for a repetition at the first opportunity because they fear getting ‘stuck’ for 6-plus hours), but these do not outweigh the benefits.
    I also find it remarkable that none of the high-profile events in Russia (Tal memorial , Russian championship; or Wijk aan Zee for that matter) has adopted the football scoring system; I wonder whether tradition and (maybe) love of the game has got something to do with it.

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWim M

    While I prefer the traditional scoring (not the 3-1-0), I have to say that all the players knew in advance how this tournament
    would be scored and that knowledge might well have influenced how some of them approached their games.
    Both Wang Hao and Anish Giri had incentives to take more risks to play for a win in the final round because the 3-1-0 scoring
    gave them a greater opportunity to overtake Magnus Carlsen. The tournament's organizers chose a way of scoring that
    encouraged taking greater risks to win games, so it's a rational strategy for a player to take greater risks in pursuing wins.

    As for luck, I would say that Wang Hao experienced both sides of it, with both some "undeserved" wins and losses.
    By the way, did anyone else notice that Wang Hao (another Chinese) just won his third consecutive Olympic silver medal
    in men's singles table tennis? If chess / table tennis ever becomes a sport like chess / boxing...

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYak

    I would argue that the win is deserved - 6 victories is a lot - if the football scoring rewards that - so be it. The field was level for all players. Wang won in a fair fight playing by the rules. with all respect to DM, I think calling it "fake" is too strong. Football scoring, etc. is ok - but why fake?

    [DM: I'm not obliged to like it just because it's used in soccer, am I? :) And I never criticized Wang Hao; as I wrote, that was a result I rather enjoyed. I've offered reasons in the past why I dislike 3-1-0 scoring, and you've been reading my blog long enough to see them! But to add something new, the soccer parallel seems to me inapt, because a draw is the normal result of a chess game while that's not at all the case in soccer. So it makes sense to give soccer teams a disincentive to play for the tie; in chess, players who play well are being penalized.]

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdev anand

    Do the players say they play more enterprisingly under the 3-1-0 system? Anyway, players play to the rules in force.

    My full-analysis run should finish tomorrow, and I expect Carlsen will have the higher "Intrinsic Performance Rating" because he had fewer losses. But if Hao has it, it will be a nice plus.

    Any idea whether Biel was assigned a FIDE category? Average is 2749.17 with Bologan; it was over 2750 with Morozevich (and with Carlsen not Dominguez Perez) and that accounts for Category 21 references dated just before it began.

    August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth Regan

    It seems needless to regret that Biel's chosen scoring system (3-1-0) produces a different result than the standard method (1-1/2-0) considering that this is the whole point! Kudos to yet another very strong young player: Wang Hao. There are others who play good chess than the so-called Number Ones only, be it in rating or in title - David Bronstein, for one, tried to make that clear...

    [DM: The whole point is to produce a different result? In that case, it has been a terrible failure, as in most cases the winner would have won on classical scoring as well. Anyway, it strikes me as a strange response to the objection. Consider these snappy retort: It seems needless to regret that totalitarianism produces a different result than democracy considering that this is the whole point! The issue is of course whether the outcomes produced are just ones. As for the "others who play good chess" comment, yes, obviously, but who thought or wrote that the 2739-rated Wang Hao doesn't play good chess? (It also seems odd to use Bronstein as an example, as he drew a world championship match and was among the world's absolute elite for well over a decade.)]

    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCreolemaster

    The IPRs come out with Carlsen over Wang as I expected (but didn't desire). The last digit is not significant---really I should round to the nearest 10---while the second figure is the IPR of the player's opponents collectively.

    Bacrot 2444, facing 2774
    Bolozevich 2458, facing 2708 (Bologan 2580 facing 2766; Morozevich 1965 facing 2413)
    Carlsen 2855, facing 2644
    Giri 2672, facing 2605
    Nakamura 2644, facing 2534
    Wang 2730, facing 2509

    There are two ways to view this: (a) Carlsen not only played better than Wang but faced steadier opposition, (b) Carlsen made his opponents look better by allowing six draws. Hopefully soon I'll be able to explore statistical formulations of "Swing Ability" and "Challenge Created" that will reward enterprise more than accuracy.

    Anyway, the figures match various opinions of the quality of the play, including from certain players. The 1965 also gives some credence to Moro's plight.

    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth Regan

    Carlsen was benefactor of this system in London 2010, here he is at disadvantage. So its OK personally for him. As for the bigger picture, I agree that draw is natural outcome, specially at high level, I think at high level losing should be penalized little more than reward for winning. Soccer way of scoring is exactly opposite, so I don't like it. But if you consider organizers and sponsors point of view it may be justified. So at the end, if its not too irrational, then let the money speak as without it chess wont survive.

    [DM: London 2010 isn't a perfect example, as Carlsen, McShane and Anand were all +2. Number of wins is sometimes a tiebreaker anyway, so there the only difference would be one of prize money (which may or may not have been substantial - it depends on how they divvied things up with prizes vs. honorariums.]

    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpyada

    The two big problems with soccer (football) scoring in chess are (a) it changes the fundamental scoring of the game and (b) it will change the significance of ratings.

    In a traditional chess game, one point is available. Being a zero sum game, the point is awarded wholly or partially to the players depending on outcome. In soccer scoring, three points are available, but only for a victory. In the case of a tie, a point diappears. Where did it go? Into the ether? To Kirsan's bank account? Fuel for flying saucers? We want our ten days back! Ur, missing points....

    And how does one account for ratings now? Draws are now losing events for both players, so how is a rating system supposed to account for that? Carlsen should perhaps be losing rating point for this result because of all the draws. Under traditional scoring, by going 7.0 / 10.0, he missed out on 30% of possible points. Under the soccer scoring system he missed out on 40% of his potential point total! He scored 33.3% worse under one system than the other, but his rating will not be adjusted accordingly. (If he had scored 6.0/10.0, would his rating be stagnant or going down for this event? Looking at the Live Rating site I believe he would have probably lost ground with that result.)

    August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    Wow! Goodwin's Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law) is nearly proven true after 1/2 an iteration! Anyway, there is no need arguing if one postulates that Carlsen is a demi-god, that Elo ratings are sacrosanct, or that the traditional system is best. Otherwise, my point is simply that the so-called soccer-scoring-system is meant to push people to play for the win and to reward those who do. It certainly goes against the Schlechter-Petrosian philosophy of "a correct game is a draw" (I love those 2 players, mind you). As for the reference to Bronstein, it was merely to say that every patzer deserves respect, as he seemd to think according to Tom Fuerstenberg et al., and to claim that Wang Hao's win is a sham strikes me as "not very nice". Best,

    [DM: Of course I didn't refer to the person involved in Godwin's law, but even if I had that wouldn't be even minimally relevant as a counter-argument. The relevant issue is whether an argument of the form "such-and-such a procedure should not be blamed for producing result R, because R is the natural result of that procedure" is a reasonable one, and I offered an example that demonstrates that such an argument form sanctions awful procedures.

    I said nothing about Carlsen being a demi-god (for the hard of reading, I wrote that I liked the tournament result) or about rating points (though other commentators have). However, Carlsen pushed very hard in every game, as he does in tournaments with normal scoring as well. (For that matter, Wang Hao plays super-sharp chess in 1-.5-0 tournaments too. With respect to the top two players at least, I don't think the scoring system made any difference at all in terms of how they played.)

    The Schlechter/Petrosian quip is intellectually unworthy, as if thinking draws are normal implies that someone is a fan of short, bloodless draws. (Which is a somewhat unfair stereotype of those players, but then why else invoke them in particular?)

    Next, your explanation of the Bronstein quote is even stranger, as even someone who thinks Wang Hao isn't in Carlsen's class or even a "true" member of the elite (which I didn't say), no one would seriously call him a "patzer"!

    Wang Hao had a great result, but lacking any reason to think that 3-1-0 scoring better represents the real value of wins vs. draws, it seems to me absurd that Wang Hao's tournament can be considered better than Carlsen's. That's not his fault; rather, it's a reductio ad absurdum of the scoring system.] Where did this "sham" comment come from? I've repeatedly praised Wang Hao and his performance.]

    August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCreolemaster

    @Ken Regan: Another way to look at your data might be that tournament chess isn't primarily about playing perfectly, but about playing better than the opponent. In that respect, Wang Hao and Carlsen had near-identical "Delta" performances (Wang 2730-2509=221, Carlsen 2855-2644=211, the difference seems insignificant).
    There may be two reasons why Carlsen faced "stronger" opposition - it almost looks as if he played a supertournament, and Wang Hao a strong Swiss open (though Wang Hao faced a higher rating average):
    - Everyone is fully concentrated and strives to do his very best against Carlsen, because nothing less will do (arguably unfair, but that's Carlsen's fate).
    - Wang Hao aimed for and obtained positions where it's hard to play perfectly, and easier for both sides(!) to make mistakes.

    @Dennis responding to Creolemaster's first comment: I see your reasons for being snappy, but your totalitarianism analogy has one flaw or shortcoming. People generally don't choose to live in a totalitarian country, but the players chose to play a tournament with football scoring. I wouldn't want football scoring in all events, but it's acceptable in some events. It encourages fighting play because there is always the possibility of "fake" final standings, even if it hardly happens in the end.

    [DM: The analogy is only an analogy, but it's only flawed if the dissimilarity occurs at the point of comparison. C. argued only that it is was mistaken to complain about the result because that's what the system was designed to do. So as long as the analogy uses that same principle, it works. So a better defense of soccer scoring would involve a more sophisticated version of the principle, or perhaps an entirely different line of argument.]

    And I wouldn't want a dictator (a semi- or pseudo-democratically elected FIDE president) to impose it for official FIDE events.

    August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    I think the point that is being missed here by C is that one can A) appreciate the chess games from Biel & B) Appreciate Wang Hao & C) Call Wang Hao's victory deserved & D) Acknowledge Wang Hao is a strong player without somehow endorsing the awful soccer scoring system.

    C's arguments are somehow based in the unprovable fact that the games were more 'fighting' because of the scoring system used.
    This line of reasoning is specious at best based on 2 problems.
    1) You can not in any way prove that the scoring system is the reason there was more 'fighting.'
    2) In fact, you can not even prove there was more 'fighting.' As this term is entirely subjective, there are fighting draws. All you can prove is there was more decisive games than your average tournament. But for this one data point to have any meaning would require a statistical sample size.

    At the end of the day, how are you going to construct a regression formula model that proves the scoring system had more cause for those decisive games than the players you specifically invited (the level difference, fighting spirit difference etc).

    I would wager that tournaments with Leko will have more draws than tournaments with Shirov, Ivanchuk, Bologan, Morozevich etc.

    At the end of the day, I don't like the soccer scoring system. HOWEVER, I firmly believe it is the sponsor's right (as the one's fronting the money) to decide what playing conditions they want the players to play under. From that point, all that is left is for the players to decide whether they will agree or decline those conditions. I know most GMs do not like the soccer scoring system from my conversations with them during last year's London Chess Classic but they still acknowledged the organizer's right to pick.

    August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

    We could also say with a 3-1-0 score system you get better paid for your opponents blunders.

    What is most fair? You play 3 strong opponents, you play weak and lose 2 games, in the third your opponent blunders badly in a winning position and you win. For those 3 games you get 3 points, is that because you played strong?

    Or you play 3 strong opponents , but this time you play very good and achieve 3 fighting draws (a strong oppnonet would not give you a draw you have to fight for it) and get 3 points.

    Using the 1- 0.5 -0 system you would get 1 point in the first case and 1.5p in the second.

    I would prefer to play 3 draws against stronger players compared to 2 losses and 1 win just because my opponent blundered.

    [DM: That's one possible scenario, but the 3-1-0 fans would suggest that a likelier scenario, especially for top players, is this: if you (and your opponent) play solid, correct chess the likeliest result will be three draws. If you play sharper, more dangerous chess, then you're likelier to win and lose games. As risky chess doesn't mean bad chess, then all else being equal you're still likely to score around 50%, but there will be more decisive games. So you don't do any worse here than there, and the fans and organizers get more fight. Everyone wins!

    The key question is whether all else really is equal. In the normal course of things, players with more volatile styles will have an advantage relative to the more solid, technically-based players. Should they be? In a way, this is similar to the debate between tournaments and matches. Who is better, a player who almost never loses and averages 55% against everyone, or a second player who only scores 45% against the first player but wins lots of games and averages 60% against everyone else? Player 1 is unbeatable in a match but will often fall behind player 2 in tournaments; similarly, someone with a player 1-like profile will often succeed in regular tournaments but come behind player 2-types in 3-1-0 tournaments.]

    August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNCP

    consider a round robin event with this football scoring with the following results for 2 players
    0/0/3/1
    1/1/1/1
    4 rounds and they both finish with the same score with football scoring or 1.5-2.5 standard, is it so hard to say who has the better result?

    even better
    0/0/0/3/3/3
    3/3/0/1/1/1

    August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkevin

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