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    Thursday
    Oct112018

    Reminder: The European Club Cup Starts Tomorrow (Friday)

    It's not quite as strong as the Olympiad, but it's a monster event all the same. The 2018 European Club Cup has three 2800+ players, 17 players over 2700, 22 players at or over 2689, and so on. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is playing; likewise Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren.

    Good times for chess fans.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    Well that was a slaughter in the first round - not many draws.

    Must say I'm not a fan of these club team tournaments and leagues - they are rather artificial. At country level OK, as you get an indication of where chess strength is rising/falling. But they do provide a platform for games of course, which I guess is the main thing.

    [DM: That's typical of first rounds in Swisses; subsequent rounds should be considerably more interesting. I'm with you about the artificiality when teams not only have foreign players but even non-Europeans participating. With events like this and the Bundesliga I ignore the team aspect and just look for good games, and it sounds like that's your conclusion as well.]

    October 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarc

    Just what is the point of having tough teams play weak teams in the very first round, in these Swiss-system events---such as the Olympiads ? All it seems to result in, is Fischer-like shutouts all over the place.

    Why not, for example, pair up tough teams against semi-tough (RIP, Burt Reynolds!) ones in the first round?

    [DM: Er, for the same reason they do it in individual tournaments? The point of a tournament is to determine a winner, not to have close games/matches in every single round. And by setting it up in this way, one ensures that practically everyone is playing a manageable opponent after a round or two.]

    October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

    For Howard Sample:

    In the Swiss System the top half is paired against the bottom half in every round, in perfect sequential rating order. Typically the top half mows down the bottom half for a few rounds until things start to equalize out.

    [DM: I assume he knew that, and just thought a better system was possible. But maybe I'm wrong.]

    Then the top powers beat on each other towards the end of the event while the lesser lights battle among themselves. When you win, you get progressively tougher opponents until you no longer win. Lose, and keep playing other losers until you stop losing. Those who win and lose alternatively, or draw, muddle along in the middle and finish that way. Everything comes out in the wash at the end, provided that the tournament is long enough. Pairing tough teams against semi-tough teams? In chess Swiss system events that sometimes does happen in very short tournaments via what's known as "accelerated pairings," but this is for those tournaments where its somehow decided that playing decent opposition is more important that getting perfectly equitable pairings to determine a tournament winner. In accelerated pairings, the top quarter is paired against the second quarter, and the third quarter vs. the fourth quarter, at least for one or two rounds. Using the regular pairing system in a very short event tends to lead to big ties for first without the top players playing each other at the end because the event is (typically) one round too short. This happens from time to time in four round tournaments with too many players when five rounds would be needed to have a chance of producing a clear winner.

    For a another example of the same idea in a different format (single elimination) used in other sports, if one is familiar with NCAA basketball (and wrestling) tournament brackets, the top 16 teams in each bracket are spread out evenly across the brackets with the unseeded teams paired against the seeded teams in the first round. 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, etc. until 8 vs. 9. The top seeds are kept away from each other deliberately so that no top seed gets eliminated prematurely without losing to another top seed toward the end of the tournament. Thus, at the end of the tournament the top seeds will finish in roughly the same pecking order as their seeds, assuming they perform to their seed without getting upset. What wouldn't be fair is a high seed getting knocked out early against another high seed, with the result that some undeserving lower seed skated through that early round beating another lower seed.

    The alternative to all of the above is random draw, where anything can happen, and the risk of misaligned and unbalanced brackets produce early lucky winners and undeserving early losers. This happens in the postseason of high school sports all the time due to lack of seeding.

    Hope this helps.

    October 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Steele

    I realize now that I may have explained the obvious to someone who has been posting on the blog for awhile - sorry about that! It could be that he is more familiar with the American big swiss tendency of having tournaments with several sections - open, reserve, etc.,- mini-tournaments essentially, where the rating disparities aren't so great. The only big American tournament that is all one big event is the U.S. Open, where there are big rating gaps every round. Win or lose, the rating swing of your next opponents is huge, especially for the players in the middle near the wallchart cutoff (typically 1800-2000).

    I remember in the 1970s post-Fischer boom tournaments in Indiana, tournaments were typically run as one big swiss, and it was common for a board one 2200 to be paired down to a 1500 for round one. The rating cutoff was so low because of the influx of new players due to Fischer (today it is the scholastics!). It was the 1980s when the big tourneys went to multi-sections, especially the big money tour events like the ones Bill Goichberg ran all over the country. In Indiana now the open section cutoff is 1800, with the reserve section below that. Sounds fair, right? The problem here is the high 1700s player winning a big reserve section prize, above and beyond what a normal class B section would be, while A players play for the chump change of a class prize for under 2000, if it exists, while being pounded on by masters. It sucks to be a low 1800 player almost everywhere in the U.S. They are the artificially created fish of the open section, while "professional" Class B players abound - some of these guys have been winning big reserve section "first" prizes for years and yet they somehow don't stay over 1800. I know Goichberg had an anti-sandbagging rule about no one winning the same big prize more than once without moving up a class next time but that has no impact on the many smaller events not on the tour.

    October 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Steele

    Regarding your response, it still seems like a rather "drastic" way of doing the first round pairings. In the case of Swiss system events involving players (rather than teams), I just don't understand the point of having first-round slaughters all over the place. Semi-slaughters (that is, where the lower rated players have at least a chance of winning) seems more appropriate.

    [DM: If you (generic you, not you personally) want to be immune from slaughter, don't enter a tournament where you're much weaker than your opponents. If there's a tournament with both wheat and chaff, the chaff has to winnowed, and the sooner the better so the best players/teams will have time to determine who's the best. Again, the point of a tournament is to see who is the best, not to artificially create situations where players have a chance in every game. That only serves to keep relatively weak players in the mix longer than they ought to be.]

    October 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

    Look at the bright side - in a Swiss system, the bottom player isn't paired all the way up to the top player on board one. The bottom player is paired up only to the bottom player of the top half of the wall chart, e.g., in a 100 player event, it is 1 vs. 51, 2 vs. 52, 3 vs. 53, 25 vs. 75, etc., down to 50 vs. 100. This is an "improvement" on a seeded single elimination bracket where indeed it is the very strongest vs. the very weakest at every step.

    Another bright side is that it is only for the first round or maybe two, before pairings become more competitive. It can also be looked at as a huge plus from the standpoint of occasionally having the opportunity of a lifetime to get paired way, way up and play on a top board against a big name at a big event. One gets to go "behind the ropes" and play a famous titled player while sharing the stage with a bunch of other big names you only see in the magazines or online. The payoff, of course, is the chance for a big upset.

    I know for myself that the biggest event of my so-called competitive "career" came in 1995 in the first round of a very large Indiana Open, the state championship, and with my lowly 2018 rating I was lucky enough to be just above the cutoff of the open section, and got paired as black with 1992 U.S. Championship invitee and Soviet emigre Boris Men (2582) on board 1 - and I won! The game I'll never forget, I can still replay it from memory to this day. And the result mattered to the Indiana senior masters on boards 2 and 3 - Emory Tate and Dennis Gogel, plus Mike Wiseman on board 4, who were playing while watching my game due to the impact on the prize money. (Of course, results reverted to the mean and I lost in round two to a high expert, and I wound up outside of any prize money. What a letdown!) The flip side is that had I been one place down on the wall chart, just below the cutoff, rather than being on board 1 I would have been the top player in the bottom half playing the very bottom guy in the open section, at the far end of the other side of the tournament hall, and it wouldn't have mattered.

    Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. There are no participation trophies in the jungle! The right mindset is not to think of oneself as cannon fodder, but rather as a giantslayer. Go get 'em!

    October 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Steele

    Thanks for all the feedback, to both Dennis and also Greg Steele. I don't have time right now to digest it, but I will later.

    This might make a good article for the Chessbase website.

    October 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

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