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    « Happy Birthday, TWIC! | Main | Baku Olympiad, Round 6 Updated »
    Saturday
    Sep172016

    Olympic Controversy?

    That's what Leonard Barden says, or at least that's how his headline writer chooses to portray it. (HT: Marc Beishon.) Barden himself downplays the supposed controversy, which seems more a case of the whines than anything else. And who's going to complain? Russia, who benefits from Sergey Karjakin's move from Ukraine several years ago, a move made, like Wesley So's to the U.S., at least in part to further his career prospects? Or Ukraine, who recently got native-born Anna Muzychuk back from Slovenia, analogous to Fabiano Caruana's return to the U.S. from Italy? Could Azerbaijan complain, having recently recruited the Latvian-born Arkadij Naiditsch from Germany, or Germany, who obtained Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu from Romania? And on it goes.

    Barden also addresses an interesting incident involving Nigel Short. Apparently there was some sort of in-game electronic anti-cheating test that Short refused, and Short's defense against being forfeited was a reminder that "he had played a world title match long before computers became strong." Well, okay, but isn't this the same Nigel Short who at least entertained the possibility that Veselin Topalov might have received illict assistance? This, even though Topalov is a player whose world championship performance exceeded Short's, and whose peak rating was 104 points higher than Short's. If there's more to the story than this, perhaps a reader will let us know in the comments.

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    Reader Comments (19)

    The biggest controversy could have been a hushed cheating situation.

    http://www.alexcolovic.com/2016/09/anti-cheating-in-baku.html

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    The way I read the Barden article, he considers the tiebreak system controversial: "They [USA] duly captured the gold medals and the Hamilton-Russell Cup but it was a close call which almost ended in disaster and controversy." - followed by pointing out that USA and Ukraine were tied on match points, and a paragraph on tiebreak regulations pointing out that the match Germany-Estonia mattered, and was decided by an Estonian endgame blunder (not mentioned: wrong attempt to give perpetual check in a queen endgame).

    Why controversy, let alone disaster? Would only silver for the USA have been a disaster? Apparently it isn't controversial that the game (Bluebaum-Seeman) was decided by a black (Estonian) blunder - blunders do happen in chess, but here a blunder on table 28.3 affected gold and silver for other teams. An odd situation, not elaborated upon by Barden, would have occurred if this game and the match Germania-Estonian had been drawn, with then Germany and Jordan tied on match points. The Olympiad pairing regulations https://www.fide.com/component/handbook/?id=95&view=article (Article 14) specify the tiebreak as "match points of each opponent, excluding the opponent who scored the lowest number of match points, multiplied by the number of game points achieved against this opponent" (not that complicated in the sense of "difficult to understand this rule") but do NOT specify what happens if two opponents finish on the same number of match points. Common sense would imply that Jordan (far worse tiebreak than Germany) would still be considered Ukraine's weakest opponent. But apparently the other interpretation is that then Ukraine's 4-0 against Jordan would have included in tiebreak calculations, with their 2.5-1.5 against Germany omitted.

    I don't quite understand why there is a lot of "fuzz" about tiebreak regulations this time, also at chess24 - "The tiebreak system needs to be changed" (embedding a tweet by Lawrence Trent saying the same) - Chessbase and in a Dutch newspaper column by IM Ligterink. The same temporary confusion occurred in 2012 (gold and silver between Russia and Armenia) and 2014 (2nd to 5th place between Hungary, India, Russia and Azerbaijan). Ironically, an underperforming German team also influenced the medal distributions in 2014: Their 2-2 in the final round against Australia (against Elo odds) meant silver for Hungary and bronze for India - ith Germany beating Australia it would have been the other way around (India played Germany earlier in the event, Hungary didn't).

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Yep, I believe it was during their match with China, which England won 3:1, including a big win for Short against Li Chao. Apparently, Short was asked to submit for the check, DURING the game and when he was while in time pressure. Short apparently used expletives while refusing the check, and I don't really blame him. There is every chance that midgame interruptions ruin your focus and the course of the game turns due to them - there must surely be a better way?

    [DM: I agree with you about the "during the game" point - that's crazy, especially in time pressure leading up to the time control.]

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterragstorooks

    I read the controversy as mainly about the switch to match points etc.

    As Barden says about the nationality issue:

    "There are much worse examples of Olympiad teams winning gold through nationality changes. The Soviet Union dominated the Olympiad for 40 years with the aid of an Armenian, a Latvian, and an Estonian, Paul Keres, who had tried to escape to the West. And Germany won in 1939 a year after annexing Austria, with that nation’s Erich Eliskases on top board."

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    There is an interview with Short about this on chess24. His issue is that the interruption was during play. He says he is okay with checks before or after a game but not during. That seems correct to me.

    [DM: Agreed.]

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJay

    Readers interested in getting Short's side of the story might want to read the article "Short calls anti-cheating rule anti chess." Just found it on another website.

    [DM: Link?]

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

    To be honest: Barden's article doesn't look impressive to me.

    Regarding tie breaks: The match USA - Ukraine (won by the former) was part of the advantageous for the US tie break.
    In swiss events you want not only count board points, but also the strength of the opposition, which is exactly, what Sonneborn Berger does and board points do not. SB is not perfect, but the best tie break system by some margin for this kind of tournament imho.

    Regarding Russia's poor selection: This is so much writing in hindsight. They did better than last time, when Peter Svidler - whom I absolutely admire - scored 4/8. Maybe they did the wrong selection at key points amongst the players they had in Baku. But also this is very hard to say now or even foresee.

    Regarding Short: I'm not the biggest Nigel fan and he might have expressed his bewilderment about the new rule in an emotional way. But imho he is absolutely right in principle. Disturbing a player during the game is fundamentally wrong. Not sitting at the board, because you are walking, going to the toilet or just thinking about the position away from the board, doesn't mean you don't want to keep your concentration. He did say btw. that cheating is an issue and appropriate anti cheating measures before and after are important.

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    The Short issue was more to do with the timing of the request and the overall perception of how badly concieved rules in general (i.e., can I please go to the bathroom sir?). When they wanted to test Nigel, it was towards the end of the game in a tense position with low time for both sides.

    I presume, possibly wrongly so, that

    [DM: I didn't cut this off!]

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss

    I think the 'controversy' the headline is referring to is tie-breaker method (not the federation switches), suggesting that the complicated mathematical formula wasn't appropriate - ie the result shouldn't come down to an Estonian blundering against a German (did it really? The SB score looks more clear than that...)

    Although I don't think this makes any more sense. The article says that "the natural tiebreak should have been game points or the individual match between the tied teams," but as far as I can tell, the US would have won both of those tie-breakers over the Ukraine anyway. Maybe that's why Barden says the event only "almost" ended in controversy.

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

    I think Short's complaint had to do with the organizers hassling the players in mid-game. In that case, I fully sympathize with Nigel. Naturally, he phased his complaint in a silly and provocative manner, but I agree that disturbing the players in mid-game is unacceptable.

    [DM: Yep, agreed.]

    September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Gottlieb

    Here's a youtube post of Nigel talking about the incident:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldAYecXObPA

    [DM: Excellent link. For those who are interested, the discussion of the incident begins around the 1:36 mark and runs about five minutes.]

    September 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Snow

    The whole point of Short refusing the test was that he was in the middle of a game. The organizers obviously did not appreciate the fact this 'inconvenience' could have a huge effect on the result of the game. I would like to know who England were playing that round.

    [DM: It was his game with Li Chao of China. (See the link to a video of Short discussing this, provided elsewhere in the comment thread.)]

    September 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKris

    Nothing to hide nothing to fear....I think regardless of GM Nigel Short's comment around computers in his day he should have been obliged to comply or suffer the consequences. He now has a cloud hanging over him as far as I'm concerned plus he is not setting a good example for younger players.

    [DM: That was my initial concern as well, but it turns out that the issue was when the check was attempted; namely, in the middle of the game, and with Short in time pressure.]

    September 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

    @Steve: The mathematical formula to calculate tiebreaks isn't THAT complicated (expert knowledge required to understand it), nor is the SB edge of the USA (413.5 vs. 404.5) that clear. The tiebreak formula is sum of (per round) [game points * final match points of the other team], excluding (and this could have played a role) the result against the weakest (lowest-ranked) opponent. If Germany had lost against Estonia, they (not Jordan) would have become Ukraine's weakest opponent, and Ukraine-Jordan 4-0 would have been added to their tiebreak score (with Ukraine-Germany 2.5-1.5 omitted). Ukraine would have gotten 15.5 extra tiebreak points (difference between 4*12=48 and 2.5*13=32.5) to finish ahead of the USA. Germany losing against Estonia seemed unlikely, but - as I already wrote - Germany had influenced the medal distribution with an unlikely last-round result in 2014.

    BTW, less widely mentioned at the time, something similar had happened in 2012: Bangladesh-Bosnia 2.5-1.5 on table 22 had given gold (on tiebreak) to Armenia, a different result would have meant gold for Russia. This match between teams seeded 48th and 50th could "on paper" have gone either way.

    As Reyk and I had suggested (also in comments at chess24), Sonneborn-Berger still seems the fairest tiebreaker. True, some luck may be involved - it can also play a role in games of the medal candidates decided over the/their board(s).

    September 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    As to federation changes affecting team compositions: Fact is that the US lineup was much stronger this time, and not because players who did or were eligible to represent the country at earlier occasions improved a lot. Also Shankland in an interview during the Olympiad expressed "mixed feelings" on how this was achieved - not specifying which federation change (So's and/or Caruana's) was slightly controversial also in his opinion. Other recent federation changes mentioned by Dennis didn't have nearly the same effect (and not just because Naiditsch had a disappointing Olympiad).

    Barden considering it "worse" that players from Armenia, Latvia and Estonia played for the Soviet Union seems quite strange to me - at the time it was a "Union" just like the USA are the "United States of America".

    [DM: Well no, not "just like". There's a pretty big difference between the states having ratified the U.S. Constitution to compose a nation and having your country annexed. If you're talking about Native Americans then it's a different story, but by the time any of the territories achieved statehood they had long since been controlled by non-Native American populations. So a better analogy would be if Russia had moved into the lands of the other SSRs 100-300 years earlier and had become ethnically dominant throughout the regions.]

    I exaggerate a bit for the sake of argument: Is it "bad" that players from California and Florida are on the US team? These states also weren't always part of the USA, joined (not that familiar with US history) under "controversial circumstances" and might theoretically become independent in the future - "future history" can't be predicted, who expected the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1960s when Keres last played for URS? As to "Keres tried to escape to the West": So did Korchnoi who managed, and Naiditsch managed to escape to the east. Players who want to change countries/federations are eligible to play for their current country until that's no longer the case.

    September 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    The main problem with the tiebreak system is that it's very complicated to work out on the fly, and other last-round results way down the table can have an effect on the placement of the top teams. The simplest way to resolve this is to not count the last round in the "opponent match points" part of the tiebreak calculation. This way, the tiebreak scenarios can easily be worked out prior to the last round,

    With this small change to the tiebreak, everyone would have known prior to the final round what was necessary for gold: If USA scored 2.5, UKR would need 4.0 for gold; if USA scored 3.0, they win gold regardless of other results. Much simpler, and no need to try to track dozens of other results around the tournament.

    September 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

    " The simplest way to resolve this is to not count the last round in the "opponent match points" part of the tiebreak calculation. This way, the tiebreak scenarios can easily be worked out prior to the last round"

    It's just that you would get a less clear picture of the strength of your opposition and I don't see the need of making tie breaks clear beforehand. As others pointed out elsewhere you might have foto finish or video review in other sports.
    Allow me to repost my comment from chess24:

    Btw, Ukrainians seemed to have quite good knowledge about how to calculate tie breaks as far as I know the story. If it was totally unclear to them they probably wouldn't have celebrated. As far as I know a result in the Germany - Estonia match was given wrong, making Ukrainians believe they had won. This might bring up another well known problem: the awkward way of recording results with dgt boards - many times resulting in dubious last king moves, and maybe sometimes in wrong results after all.

    Btw I don't see an easy to calculate and crystal clear tie breaker as an inherently better solution. There might be less drama and it would be easier to prearrange draws.

    September 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    "The biggest controversy could have been a hushed cheating situation.

    http://www.alexcolovic.com/2016/09/anti-cheating-in-baku.html"

    @Brian Karen: This wasn't exactly cheating. See comments section at your link.

    "Nothing to hide nothing to fear...."
    @Michael: This is a very strange argument, when we are speaking about disturbing a player during a competitive game and btw a prominent argument in general when it comes to cutting democratic rights and freedom.
    I'd like to point out that Nigel is absolutely right imho, when he says: in the middle of the game and during time trouble it's unaccectable to disturb the players. And if they would have done it 5 seconds after the start of the game it would be also wrong.

    September 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    "I don't see the need of making tie breaks clear beforehand. As others pointed out elsewhere you might have foto finish or video review in other sports."

    But that's a silly comparison isn't it. Say in the 100m sprint, people run as fast as they can. Maybe if the final Olympic 100m standings were "results in 12 races added together" or something (akin to a chess tournament) then people would know if they needed to win, to come 6th, or better than 4th, or beat So-and-so, or whatever, to win. And if they found it difficult or impossible to work out, that would be a problem. They wouldn't know how well they needed to do, would be flying blind. As we know, in chess, people often lose in a tournament's last round if they have to play to win at all costs, whereas if a draw is good enough, they can play it safe. This all seems obvious to me. I'm not sure how the comparison with foto finishes (in running or horse racing or something, I guess) has seemed an appropriate one to anyone, maybe I'm missing something.

    September 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAdamP

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