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    Friday
    Nov302018

    Should the World Championship Be Changed?

    There are many ways in which the world championship can be changed, and in fact has already been changed over the past 132 years since the first official championship in 1886. Most of the time it has been contested in a match, but the rules have varied greatly. For starters, some have been first to n wins, and some have been best-of-n games, and n has varied in each case. I think, but might be mistaken, that the two subtypes have been combined before: first to n wins, but with a cap on the total number of games. (Which was the case in the Candidates final between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in 1974 that wound up as the de facto world championship match, but I think it happened in at least one official match as well.)

    There's also the question of tied matches. Many world championship matches have finished their official course in a tie, with some ending there leaving the champion as champion, while others have gone on to a playoff. And there too there have been differences. The 1892 match between Wilhelm Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin continued with classical games played at the same time control (though its rules were different enough that the parallel is imperfect), but recent playoffs have gone to rapid games, and had they been tied would have continued with blitz. This may be an improvement on giving the champion draw odds (indeed, this is a big plus in my opinion), but it does raise a question: does the winner of such a match deserve the title of classical world champion? If not, what exactly is the nature of the winner's championship title?

    Another format is a round-robin event; this was used in 1948 after Alexander Alekhine's death in 1946 left the champion's title vacant, and then again in 2007 as part of the reunification process bringing the Garry Kasparov-Vladimir Kramnik legacy portion of the title back under the auspices of FIDE. Still another format is the knockout tournament, used five times by FIDE during the divided era to determine a champion. Those too would mix time controls, and indeed the first final in that format required a rapid playoff between Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand to determine a champion. (Karpov won that playoff 2-0.)

    Many questions and proposals can come to mind, but I want to focus on two. First, what does it mean to say that someone is the world champion? Second, how can one arrange for this particular championship title to be fairly and appropriately contested? Let's consider each in turn.

    What does it mean, or should it mean, to be the world champion? Does it mean that the person is the strongest player in all forms of chess? If so, why is there a world correspondence championship, a world rapid championship, and a world blitz championship? No doubt a world bullet championship would find lots of interested parties as well. There's little doubt that Magnus Carlsen would be great at all of these other disciplines (and that he is is already well-known in the case of rapid and blitz, where he has won world championships, and in bullet too he has proven to be a beast in online competitions), but those titles are kept distinct anyway. "The" world championship really seems to be the classical world championship. This is fine--but then why is it being settled with rapid games?

    So to turn to the second question, I'll propose a series of ways this situation can be resolved, noting difficulties with each. (That there are difficulties doesn't mean that any option is fatally flawed, only that it has its own distinctive problems.)

    1. Co-Champions!

    There are competitions that allow for this; why not the world championship? If the match comes to its natural terminus without a winner, then instead of arbitrarily allowing the champion to keep the title or switching to a non-classical time control, declare both players champion.

    Problems: It's unlikely to be a fan favorite - we tend to want winners and losers. For many chess players, draws are a bane even when they are rare, hard-fought, exciting, well-played and full of content. Calling the world championship match a draw will be even worse in their eyes. Nor will the outside media think much of it, and so it's bad for publicizing the game. Another difficulty is that it's ahistorical: we haven't done things this way in the past. We like having the totemic figure of a single world chess champion ruling over the chess world. Still another problem, even more serious than the foregoing: what happens in the next cycle? Will there be a three player match-tournament, and if they finish in a tie a four-way event, a five-way event, and so on ad infinitum? Or will the co-champions get thrown back into the pool?

    About this latter idea: while the suggestion of co-champs is unlikely to find many if any takers (well, maybe Mikhail Chigorin, Karl Schlechter, David Bronstein, Vasily Smyslov, Anatoly Karpov, Peter Leko, Boris Gelfand, Sergey Karjakin, and Fabiano Caruana would like it, if retroactively applied), the reductio ad absurdum of bigger and bigger world championship match-tournaments could be mitigated if the title is no longer determined by head-to-head matches but round-robins, knockout events, or even a sort of grand prix system. More on that later.

    2. The Champion Keeps The Title

    This is entirely arbitrary and has nothing to do with chess skill. It may reflect nothing more than the greater age of the incumbent champion. Suppose players X and Y follow the exact same trajectory in their careers, but player X is older and thus peaked first. Upon reaching the age of X's peak, Y hits that same peak, and both players remain alone on that plateau for years to come. How would it make any sense for X to be the world champion that whole time despite never being stronger than Y, and never defeating Y? There is no chess-based justice to incumbency for its own sake. While the co-championship idea is the least practical solution, this one seems the most morally problematic. (Incidentally, I put my money where my mouth is on this one. I won a king-of-the-hill competition, toppling an incumbent who had draw odds in our match, and immediately renounced that privilege for any future title defenses as well as one other built-in advantage held by the reigning champion. The prestige of the champion's title, and the fact that there's no need to qualify for the next championship event, are enough. The aim shouldn't be to turn a championship title into a tenure track position.)

    3. Unlimited Matches!

    This may have been a good idea a long time ago, when top players were weaker than they are today and, more to the point, knew an awful lot less. Nowadays we might all die of old age before such a match finished, if the players don't die of exhaustion first. There are also logistical problems with venues - do organizers want to commit to a venue for six months? That's how long the first, unfinished match between Karpov and Kasparov went before it was abandoned, replaced by a 24-game rematch.

    4. Best-of-X Games, Followed by Two-Game Mini-Matches

    Carlsen and Caruana are tied after 12 games? No problem: they play two more classical games. Still tied? Two more games, and so on. This is a version of the previous solution, but a much more practicable one. The earth may be swallowed by the sun before one of them managed to win six games, but the first to win one? That's doable. There could still be a logistics issue, but it's a lot easier to see this approach resulting in a winner in a manageable time frame. It's not guaranteed, but it's reasonable. By the way, I think this was the policy in the world championship match between Steinitz and Chigorin back in 1892, so it wouldn't even be a novelty.

    5. Other Classical Formats.

    I'll mention three options here. First, a tournament (like Mexico City in 2007); second, a knockout event (like the ones FIDE used during the split era, and which live on as the World Cup); finally, a Grand Prix system (a series of classical tournaments followed by a final with fewer players, whether just two or a greater number).

    5a. Regarding the first, the strength is that more players are involved, and the world champion's advantages as the incumbent are greatly reduced. It's nice for the fans, too, as there are likely to be more exciting games than in a one-on-one match, and more openings will be tested. A drawback is that this becomes just one more tournament. We've already got the Grand Chess Tour and other round-robins for the super-elite; this would only be one more event of a very familiar kind. It also undermines the glamour of the world championship title, for what that's worth to us as chess fans and to the outside world when it comes to attracting interest from the mass media.

    5b. Regarding the second, this really makes for an exciting and dramatic event. There will be tons of games, so until the very end chess fans will have loads of games to look at and loads of interesting openings to examine. But it also devalues the title by turning the event into a semi-random crap shoot. The event is almost certain to be won by an elite player, but it's also almost certain to see many elite players flame out very early on. (Remember Carlsen's early exit from the last World Cup, in round 3, at the hands of Bu Xiangzhi.)

    5c. The third system would be new - or at least new to chess - as a way to determine the champion. This method has the virtues of 5a and 5b while avoiding their vices. A fair number of players will be involved up until the final event, which makes for more games and more spectator interest, and because the Grand Prix system involves multiple preliminary tournaments before the final it avoids the randomness of the World Cup-style event. And because it ends in a small final - four players, or maybe just two - the final maintains at least something of its traditional gravitas. (If it is a final four, is it all-play-all or a knockout to reach the final two?) There are still some questions: will the final be long enough? And what if it finishes in a tie? There's something to be said for this method, but it may not be a full answer in itself when it comes to the problem that motivated this post.

    6. A Broader Format: The All-Around World Championship.

    That label is not quite correct, as correspondence and (perhaps?) bullet won't be included, but as the people behind the Grand Chess Tour have introduced a universal rating system that incorporates one's classical, rapid, and blitz results in some weighted fashion, perhaps it's time to conduct a world championship that explicitly and intentionally turns the event into a kind of triathlon. All sorts of options are available for choosing the number of games and how to weight them, but I'll offer the following to get ball rolling.

    Classical games: 12 (as now), with a 4x weight. (In other words, they are scored on a 4-2-0 system.)

    Rapid games: 12, with a 2x weight (i.e. a 2-1-0 system).

    Blitz games: 24, weighted normally (i.e. on the traditional 1-½-0 system).

    To sum up: the blitz games are each worth half of what rapid games are worth, but because there are twice as many that segment counts for as much as the rapid segment, and the blitz and rapid segments together are worth as much as the classical portion: 48 points are up for grabs in each.

    The strengths of this system are that it takes all three time controls into account, and since rapid and blitz events are common these days, no longer limited to training games and mere recreation, skill at each will be rewarded and considered part of what it is to be a total player. It will be more exciting for the fans and the general media, at least once the faster games are underway. It also reduces the pressure for any one particular game while creating a greater sense of urgency for the player who is comparatively weak at one of the disciplines.

    There are drawbacks, but most are easily managed. For instance, one might complain that my version will take too long: the 2½-3 weeks for the classical games, and then another week or so for the rapid, and then a couple more days for the blitz - not counting rest days. Fair enough; the event could be shortened a little, or we might just say that it's a world championship and you're playing for a million dollar prize fund. Tough it out!

    Another objection: All these proposals, including this radical one, have been offered because the specter of a tied match is such a terror. Well, this format could also result in a tie, though it's admittedly rather unlikely. But since it is possible, how is this a good solution? In reply I would first emphasize the unlikeliness of a tied finish, especially compared to what we have at present. Still, the tie is possible, so what then? Here I think an Armageddon game would make sense--but I'm not sure what time control would be best for it. I'm inclined to think that something like the "bid Armageddon" game used in some U.S. Championships a few years back could work nicely. Those were rapid games, and since that's the intermediate time control it seems fairer than a blitz Armageddon battle. The way the bid version works is that both players say how much - or rather, how little - time they're willing to take with Black, together with draw odds, against White's full hour (or whatever amount is decided upon). The low bidder then gets Black, draw odds, and exactly the amount of time on the bid.

    Still another objection: This is too radical. The current system also gives some, limited weight to one's rapid and blitz abilities, but the proposal here weights it far more heavily. Indeed, even if, say, Caruana had won the classical portion of the match by a game or two, it's very possible, given the disparity in their rapid ratings and especially their blitz ratings that Carlsen would have come back in the second and third parts of the match and still managed to win going away. I'm ambivalent about this criticism. On the one hand, I'm sympathetic to it; on the other, I'm inclined to think that if Carlsen (or someone else someday) is so much better than his peers in shorter time control games then that's just how it is. His challengers will have to step up their game. Still, one can argue about how much weight should be given to each time control; my suggestion above was meant only to get the ball rolling.

    Let's bring this long post to an end. I trust you'll have some feedback on all of this, and will have thought of (or know of) some alternative systems of your own that might be even as good or even better. There may well be other games, sports, and other game theory scenarios that face similar problems, and better solutions are already known but haven't been implemented or even considered for chess. So have at it, especially you mathematician types out there!

    Tl;dr version: If the world championship match is really the classical world championship match, it shouldn't be settled by rapid and blitz games. But it should be settled in some way. I proposed a wide variety of options, and the three I found most interesting and palatable were these: (1) A Conservative Approach: Two-game classical mini-matches after the tie until there's a winner; (2) A Grand Prix Format with preliminary tournaments followed by a final four and/or a final two (possibly needing to incorporate (1) in case of a tie); (3) change the world championship to an all-around world championship with classical, rapid, and blitz segments, with a rapid bid-Armageddon game in the very unlikely event that a playoff is needed.

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    Reader Comments (26)

    Other suggestions that have been put forward:

    (1) Play the rapid/blitz "tiebreaks" before the classical games, with the winner having draw odds for the match.
    (2) Play an odd number of classical games with match draw odds going to the player with more blacks (Karjakin's proposal).

    There are clear difficulties with these too, but they've been publicized enough to merit discussion.

    [DM: I think (1) suffers from the same drawback I mentioned at the start: a classical world championship is being determined in part by something other than classical chess. The second one is a variation on the Armageddon theme, except that Black doesn't even have to start with less time. It's better than the champion keeping his title in case of a drawn match, and it does stick to classical games. But as things stand nowadays, it seems to give Black too big an edge, and one that will based on the luck of the drawing of lots rather than skill. (Unless a page is taken out of (1) and they play rapid/blitz games for the right to choose whether or not to take the extra black game.)]

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

    DM: "How would it make any sense for X to be the world champion that whole time despite never being stronger than Y, and never defeating Y? There is no chess-based justice to incumbency for its own sake. While the co-championship idea is the least practical solution, this one seems the most morally problematic. ... The prestige of the champion's title, and the fact that there's no need to qualify for the next championship event, are enough. The aim shouldn't be to turn a championship title into a tenure track position."

    The first sentence is a stronger reason why round-robin tournaments, knockout tournaments, etc. are so bad, far worse than matches with draw odds will ever be, so even if you worry about it, it should not make draw-odds matches "the most morally problematic".

    If tenure involved having to barely meet some hard standard periodically, it would not be tenure at all.

    [DM: I'm not sure I understand your argument. You can't advance in a knockout tournament without defeating your match opponent (leaving aside the draw with Black = a win in Armageddon complication, but even there one must accomplish something that's at least in theory more difficult than maintaining an even score in a pair of games with a peer), so I don't see how that's more morally problematic than giving the champion draw odds in a regular one-on-one match.

    I'm not certain that I'm following you about round-robin tournaments either. Is this what you mean: In a round-robin, X might win the tournament, but have a minus score against Y? If so, yes, that's correct, and so a more precise formulation that covers both the one-on-one match and round-robins (and knockouts too, for that matter, including the Armageddon issue) is that X must outperform Y to be morally justified in obtaining or retaining the title.]

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    This is an excellent overview of the situation. But personally I prefer more radical solutions: abolish stalemate and make bid-Armageddon with Fischer random the standard. I would love to see an experimental tournament under that system.

    [DM: I assume you don't mean to abolish stalemate, but to redefine it. Is that an arbitrary rule change, or because you find stalemate unrealistic? It strikes me that if we want something approaching realism, we should distinguish between different stalemate situations. For instance, when one side is up a ton of material but careless (by the standards of the current rules) calling it a win for the strong side makes sense from the realistic point of view.

    On the other hand, a situation where White has a king on a8 and a pawn on a7 (and for fun, let's add a-pawns all the way down) and is stalemated by a Black king on c7 seems less plausibly counted as a win for Black, for two reasons. First, the material situation; second, the oddity of the non-reciprocality of attacks in chess. Why, if we're talking about realism, is White's king martially inert when it moves to b7, such that Black's king can capture it in total safety? Think of two boxers in the ring. There's a space between them such that neither can land a punch on the other given their current distance. When one enters that space, he's vulnerable, sure, but so is the other fighter.

    Anyway, it's a possibility, and maybe someday it will come to that...but it's a very radical change that devalues huge chunks of our chess history, as tons of current endgame theory will immediately become useless and games based on that theory will become pointless from an instructional point of view.]

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Dabrowski

    The WC and former challenger should both play the Candidates tournament.

    The top two of the Candidates should be determined by good tiebreaks so there is a position 1 and 2.

    They play a best of 16. If tied the winner is the winner of the Candidates.

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChessdude

    So Fabiano Caruana fails to win the world championship and now the format should change? Would we be having this discussion if Fabiano had won?

    [DM: Yes. I wanted Caruana to win, but I'm not broken up about it. He had his chances! The motivation for the post was the realization that the world chess championship is really or at least implicitly the world classical chess championship, and it's rather silly to have a classical event determined by rapid (and potentially, blitz) games.]

    Well, OK, rapidplay tiebreaks favour Magnus Carlsen, at the moment, as he also defeated Sergey Karjakin in a similar manner (but Carlsen had the [DM: guts...please keep things kid-friendly] to come back from one down in the classical chess). If Nakamura was the challenger then blitz might favour him and maybe he'd have done better in the rapidplay (though, against Carlsen, he probably would have lost in the classical games). As regards the draws, I found the classical portion fascinating, both psychologically and in the games themselves (this kind of deep psychological engagement with the narrative of probing openings, in this case the Sveshnikov, would be entirely lacking from most of your alternatives, such as knock-out, round robin etc.). If I was to choose one of your options, the two-game classical mini-matches at the end would be my preference. However, the fact is the challenger has to produce something special to unseat the incumbent and Fabiano failed to produce the magic.

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOliver Dunne

    I completely agree with your statement that "if the world championship match is really the classical world championship match, it shouldn't be settled by rapid and blitz games. But it should be settled in some way." Of the options you propose, I think I prefer the "Conservative Approach." Even better would be the unlimited match, though I agree that it is unfeasible today.

    Also, I think that, since a draw in classical chess cannot, or at least should not, be broken by rapid/blitz games, in the absence of any other way to break the tie, the champion should keep the title. I agree that this is not ideal, but otherwise, the champion is not really the classical world champion. I cannot agree with your statements that (1) the champion retaining the title in the event of a tie "is entirely arbitrary and has nothing to do with chess skill" and that (2) "there is no chess-based justice to incumbency for its own sake." It seems to me that, so long as the champion plays by the rules and plays the challenger as required in a sanctioned match, that he/she reigns until defeated. I don't find this arbitrary or incumbency for its own sake. If a new champion is to be crowned, the new champion should defeat the incumbent champion in classical chess. If the challenger can't defeat the champion, the champion stays is place.

    In the final analysis though, I agree with you that something should be done to make a drawn match far less likely.

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTEF

    A good expose which failed to mention the elephant in the room.. The role computers have played in transforming the Classical World Championship, first by abolishing adjournment than turning the World Championship into a form of Advanced Chess where computer prep and processing power loom large. The current format has evolved into a de facto All Around World Championship to solve the resulting Fake Draw Issue. Note that Draw has yet to be a problem in Computer Chess Championships which makes me believe a next leap into advanced chess is possible for humans before Chess can be solved.

    [DM: I agree that computers play a big role, but I think it's overstated, as computer world championships see Stockfish, Komodo, and Houdini having no problem beating the chips out other programs that are themselves strong enough to beat the best humans 95-100% of the time. By the standard of perfection, even the best humans play pretty badly.]

    The only improvement needed in the current format is to speed up the regular time control with some forms of increment as it has been tried in Monaco.

    [DM: Monaco? I'm not sure what event or time control you're referring to. There are lots of time controls in play that are still classical...ish, many with increments.]

    The next improvement would be to submit draw offer via an arbiter.

    [DM: Sofia rules were already in effect, and most of the games were played to a logical conclusion - the one bizarre exception being game 12. The Sofia rules have worked well in a general way, while still allowing players who want a draw and/or those who recognize that the game will be a draw and don't feel like beating a dead horse to get out by engineering a repetition.]

    I would also like to see the Armaggeddon game eliminated which would be an atrocious way to decide a World Championship. I have no qualms with a "World Champion by Tenure" as long as goes thru rigorous exams at various time controls.
    It is time for chess fans to let go of their romantic attachment to the classical format lest we destroy chess trying to fix something that requires only minor tweaking with far fetched solutions like introducing a chess variant like Fischer Random or tie-breaks before the match.

    December 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

    [DM: I'm not sure I understand your argument. You can't advance in a knockout tournament without defeating your match opponent (leaving aside the draw with Black = a win in Armageddon complication, but even there one must accomplish something that's at least in theory more difficult than maintaining an even score in a pair of games with a peer), so I don't see how that's more morally problematic than giving the champion draw odds in a regular one-on-one match.]

    Knockout tournaments have so few games,that it's common to defeat your match opponent in the rapid/blitz/armageddon after drawing the classical games. If it's the rapid/blitz that bothers one, it hasn't been avoided. It's more common because there are so few classical games.

    But what I was referring to is that though you defeat your mini-match opponent, you don't have to and probably won't defeat the world champion. The world champion will probably be knocked out for you by some other opponent, who then will probably be knocked out before facing you too. You haven't shown you're stronger than or even equal to the world champion.

    [DM: I disagree. Or rather, I think that you have, or if you haven't, then you haven't in a match, either. If I win a knockout event, while the reigning world champion is knocked out in an earlier round, then I've certainly shown myself superior to the world champion. But wait, you say; all I've done is shown that I was better in that one tournament. Fine: but then the same could be said about a match, too. Let's say Karjakin had eked out a one-point victory against Carlsen in 2016. Would anyone in the world, except for Karjakin himself - maybe, believe that he had shown himself superior to Carlsen? I don't think so. He still would have been much lower-rated and far less accomplished overall. I suspect though that we're getting at the same problem. The degree of randomness is much higher in a knockout event than in the long cycle we have now. So while there's no guarantee that the "right" person will win even in the long cycle, the odds are much better that this will happen.]

    We see this a lot in tennis, where the Grand Slams are knockout format, but it's a lot worse in chess, because of the draws..

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    Greg Shahade suggests at his blog:
    "You play one game at 90 minutes plus a 20 second increment. The winner gets 10 points the loser gets 0

    If that game is drawn you reverse colors and play one game at 20 minutes plus a 10 second increment. The winner gets 7 points and the loser gets 3

    If that game is drawn you keep the same colors as the rapid game and play one game at 5 minutes plus a 3 second increment. The winner gets 6 points and the loser gets 4. If this game is drawn, both players get 5 points."

    [DM: It may be a great solution to the problems he sees with the world championship, but it doesn't address my concern.]

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    Shame we can't go back to adjournments and the sealed move - computers have put paid to that. I always enjoyed the analysis of good and bad sealed moves and that the analysis teams didn't always get it right despite looking at the position all night.

    [DM: There have been a couple of experimental tournaments where they used adjournments, but I think the participants agreed not to use engines in their analysis. I had a handful of adjourned games in my youth, and I can testify to their value - they were incredibly value from an instructive point of view, and dramatic, too!]

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarc

    I'd vote for "Tl;dr version: #1" - in case of a tie 2 additional Classical games followed by 2 more etc. Simple, Historical and retains Classical time controls.

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRon Fenton

    The above suggestion of playing rapid games before the start of the classical games (with the rapid winner having the draw odds) has been suggested frequently at various sites online. I would suggest that we effectively had that already (Carlsen having draw odds) in the just concluded match, as well as in the previous one. Everyone expected him to have a significant advantage in the rapid tie-breaks against both Caruana and Karjakin, and the games turned out as anticipated.

    [DM: Also, de facto, in Anand-Topalov in 2010. Topalov went berserk in the final game to avoid the playoff.]

    Playing the rapid portion first (with similar results) might simply have led to the challengers being psychologically devastated before the initial classical games even took place. Regardless of when the tie-breaks were played, in these two matches both Caruana and Karjakin had to know that drawing the classical portion was the same as losing the match. Rather than blame Carlsen for not trying to win game 12, perhaps Caruana deserves some criticism for not going all-in with his last White.

    [DM: I kind of think he did. He just got outprepared and outplayed.]

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBill

    I'm surprised you don't mention the most obvious partial solution - make the match 18 games long. 12 is absurdly short. That in itself would much reduce the likelihood of a drawn match.

    [DM: I'd like a longer match, but as I noted, plenty of 24-game matches were drawn or almost drawn, and the 14-game Kramnik-Leko match also finished in a tie. So what then?]

    I certainly agree that the Champion should not be given draw odds. Neither player should be given any advantage whatsoever.
    If there is still a drawn match, then continuing with pairs of classical games (or perhaps a set of 4 to start with) is certainly objectively the best. If there are logistical problems with this, play it off later at FIDE Headquarters at little cost.
    Second best is a Rapid playoff. After the first 4, then pairs until decisive. NEVER faster than Rapid. Again, play off later at FIDE Headquarters if logistical problems. With an 18 game match, this Rapid portion is diluted enough to be able to say the Champion is more or less the Classical one; not so with a 12 game match.
    Rapid and Blitz already have Champions in those disciplines, so why should the playing for the Classical Championship be seriously compromised with those forms? Having a big mix of all three, as in some of the suggestions, means a different sort of Champion altogether. Maybe that could be done as well, but you certainly couldn't call the winner the CLASSICAL Champion. {And, by the way, this also applies to the qualification process for the Classical Championship; the KO with its big Rapid and Blitz component is glaringly incompatible with this and it absolutely should be discontinued as a qualifier to the Candidates.}

    {I agree with the suggestion to get rid of stalemate as a draw. If your position is so bad that you cannot move (you just simply shouldn't get into that situation in the first place, no matter what the material count), you deserve to lose. (Just make it the rule that the King can be taken and that is what ends the game; and moving into check is legal.) This would considerably increase the winnability of chess, eg positions where one side is a pawn up, but all pawns are on one side of the board - the number of these that degenerate into a draw - they shouldn't!
    Another draw rule to get rid of is three-move repetition. Make it second player must vary or lose.

    [DM: You might want to think that one through more carefully...I'll leave that as an exercise.]

    That would sort out these guys who use it to circumvent no draw offers rules! (which in themselves should be no draw offers allowed before move 42 if Sofia Rules are not applied). As well as getting rid of a number of theoretical forced drawing lines.
    Winning at chess is now extremely difficult at the top level. Let's make it winnable again.}

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    I'm an old guy so I prefer the conservative approach with a couple amendments.

    First, the match should be 24 games. Part of what has made the World Championship special is its grueling nature.

    Second, if draws continue to be the norm, perhaps a mercy condition should be added where +3 wins the match, in the unlikely case that one player outmatches the other.

    Third, co-champions for drawn matches is logical, but only one can posses the crown and that is the current champion (who historically has had such privilege). The challenger, in the event of a drawn match, is seeded into a 12 game match against the winner of the "Candidates," however that might be determined. The previous challenger advances to play the world champion in the event of a Candidates Final drawn match.

    I think there is a place for rapid play if draws continue to increase in frequency between the chess elite, but the blitz and Armageddon games make for a circus. Between that and how much computers have replaced human judgment in making "sense" of chess, I personally have lost quite a bit of interest in chess.

    December 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGoboh

    I agree with the aim of deciding the championship at classical time controls, which would certainly be great. And there are suggestions like your "Conservative approach", which is good but still not guaranteed to find a winner within a reasonable time. And might lose people's attention if it goes on too long.

    But what about just a single, "classical" bid-Armageddon game tie breaker? White starts with 100 minutes (or thereabouts), and players can bid to take less time with black. People seem to be circling around this option, but I don't think it's been suggested.

    Surely that's sufficiently "classical" to address most of the objections, and it's also guaranteed to find a winner in one day's tiebreak play.

    [DM: It's an interesting idea. The funny thing is that because the likelihood of a draw is pretty high at classical time controls, Black might have to make such a low bid that while White is playing classical chess, Black is playing rapid. I'd probably prefer to throw in one or two pairs of classical games first, but I have to admit that I like your solution better than quite a few others, including the current policy or the champion keeping the title in case of a tie.]

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

    [DM: I disagree. Or rather, I think that you have, or if you haven't, then you haven't in a match, either. If I win a knockout event, while the reigning world champion is knocked out in an earlier round, then I've certainly shown myself superior to the world champion. But wait, you say; all I've done is shown that I was better in that one tournament. Fine: but then the same could be said about a match, too.]

    I disagree. It's just the nature of knockout events to introduce too much randomness.

    [DM: But I agreed about that.]

    By its nature, there will be no favorite over the rest of the field meaning no one will be anywhere close to being 50% or more chance of winning the tournament., though there may be someone (the worthy world champion) who is far more likely to win than any other individual competitor. That means the format is just bad. It's largely luck.

    You certainly have not shown yourself to be superior to the World Champion. Not even in that one tournament, because you did not play the same opponents.

    [DM: The players might have played one common opponent, but if the question is proving that one played better it can't be guaranteed in a knockout event. But it can't be proved in a match, either. Player A might have a better IPR, a better TPR, and dominate the play. But it might be that the drawishness of chess kept Player B alive, and it was Player B's good luck that his one chance was convertible. (Or maybe he drew an Armageddon game with Black.) It seems clearly wrong to think that one can't justly compare the performance of two different players in a knockout event. The problem isn't that comparison is impossible, but that the randomness is too high.]

    We've seen this repeatedly with the FIDE knockout championship and now the World Cup.

    That is simply not true of matches.

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    After a drawn game, KI could help to decide whether one player had outplayed his opponent significantly, or more often than the other way around.

    [DM: What is "KI"?]

    Here an example how that could be implemented:
    After a drawn game, hand out Alphazero's analysis to both players. Then, half an hour later, every contestant has the right to choose one position of the game, from where the game will be replayed in rapid chess. Let's say, a position after n opening moves, because the idea is to discuss that very game, trying to get closer to a logical result, rather than to decide, who is better in rapid. Every won rapid game scores as a tiebreak point, in case a drawn match situation, after 12 classical games.
    This example is from the scratch and can certainly be implemented completely different and better. The idea is, just to decide, who had the better winning chances in a draw, for using draws as possible tiebreakers.

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterralph

    Dennis:

    "[DM: I'd like a longer match, but as I noted, plenty of 24-game matches were drawn or almost drawn, and the 14-game Kramnik-Leko match also finished in a tie."
    Well, let's see. Kramnik-Leko was only 14 games, which is also far too short, so that shouldn't count.
    Of the 12 game matches, fully half (50%) were drawn.
    There were fourteen 24-game matches from 1951 to 1990. Of these, just 3 were drawn - 21%.
    Throw in Alekhine-Euwe 1935, Alekhine-Euwe 1937, Kasparov-Short 1993, Kasparov-Anand 1995. Kasparov-Kramnik 2000, all of which were decisive, and the percentage is just 16%.
    So I think I am justified in my comment: "That in itself would much reduce the likelihood of a drawn match."

    [DM: First, I already wrote that Kramnik-Leko was 14 games. That's too short for you, but you're okay with the 20-game Kasparov-Anand match and the 16-game Kasparov-Kramnik match? (Both matches had a leader at the 12-game mark, by the way.) That's cherry-picking. Alekhine-Euwe 1935 was decisive, yes, but it came down to the last game - game 30. And there have been several other one-point matches, too, going back to the era of 24+ game contests, and if we include matches decided in the final game the difference is even less impressive. Still, I'm inclined to agree that 12 games is pretty short, possibly too short. (On the other hand, if Carlsen and Caruana had played 14 or 16 or 18 straight draws, we'd all quit chess.)]

    "So what then?" I gave the answer below. And having looked at all the comments, I am even more convinced that the correct answer is pairs of Classical games, played off at FIDE Headquarters if needs be. It is a nearly perfect solution which ticks all the boxes. And with 18-game matches, it wouldn't happen all that often anyway.

    "Another draw rule to get rid of is three-move repetition. Make it second player must vary or lose.
    [DM: You might want to think that one through more carefully...I'll leave that as an exercise.]"
    Sure, a perpetual check would be a win to the guy who starts the perpetual. But that simply means you need to play to the new rules and avoid getting into a situation where you would be perpetually checked in the first place. It would actually be a good thing as attacking play would be strengthened. And chess could certainly do with more of that. And of course, that would make chess more winnable.
    Make chess winnable (great) again! (like America).

    [DM: It's worse than that. Chess is more winnable alright, because almost every game can be played to a win on your rules, including king vs. king. You're Black and have a king on a8, I'm White and play Kxa6. My lone king will chase your lone king horizontally until you eventually get three-timed. The only way to draw a chess game on the board, if I grasp your anti-repetition, anti-stalemate rules correctly, is by the 50-move rule, being stupendously diligent to avoid stumbling into the losing end of a repetition. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't look forward to the 200-move endings that would become commonplace under this system. (There are some players I've encountered over the years who would love that, but thankfully they're in the minority.)]

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    I can't understand why nobody else has come up with the obvious solution: a panel of celebrity judges and a phone vote. It works for all the most popular competitions.

    [DM: Ding ding ding!!! We have a winner!]

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris Lear

    Dennis:

    I suggested 18-game matches, so why wouldn't I be ok with Kasparov-Anand at 20 games? As for Kasparov-Kramnik at 16, I could live with that - 16 is closer to 18 than 12. I don't understand your cherry-picking comment.

    [DM: I had in Kasparov-Kramnik in mind: it looked as if you were fine with a 16-game match (which finished in 15 games and had Kramnik up two after just 10 games) as evidence for your thesis, but the barely shorter (14-game) Kramnik-Leko match was unacceptable because it finished in a draw.]

    I'm also a bit puzzled with your problem with "nearly drawn" matches. If two opponents are of nearly equal strength, the result is naturally likely to be close. You could equally argue that the three drawn matches shouldn't have been drawn.

    [DM: Again, it's cherry-picking. There's nothing about the 12-game match that makes it disproportionately likely to finish in a draw relative to a 24-game match. And since there were no playoffs in the days of the 24-game matches, it's apples and oranges. The only clear, meaningful difference I see is that the length of the match makes it harder for older, less fit players to maintain their strength at the end.]

    To me, you have to go with what actually happens. And the reality is that 12-game matches have a draw rate of 50%, and that matches of 16 games or longer had a draw rate of 16%.That's a huge difference.

    [DM: I disagree that one has to accept only tied 24-game matches, as if there's some sort of magic to it. (If you flip a coin a billion times and it comes up 500 million and one heads, 500 million minus-one tails, I'm not going to conclude that flipping a coin a billion times is a meaningfully better test than flipping it a million times with 500 thousand heads and tails each, on the dot. And comparing 12-game and 24-game matches is further complicated in three ways. First, the very small sample size. Second, the different eras, which is especially relevant because players know an awful lot more now (especially and most relevantly about the opening and the resulting middlegames). Third, the psychology was different, because in the 24-game matches the champion had draw odds.]

    If the matches were of 18 games, I would expect the draw rate to be about 25%, but not significantly more. That's still a reduction by half, which is still very significant. Thus the biggest factor in causing the whole problem is the shortness of the matches. Make the matches 18 games instead of 12 and the problem is immediately halved.
    I would think it unlikely that Carlsen and Caruana would have drawn all games in an 18-game match. There's a good chance Game 12 wouldn't have been drawn to start with, plus they would have been able to play with greater freedom in the earlier games.

    Good point re the 3-move repetition rule. I think it could be modified in ways to make my suggestion viable (a commission could study this). eg, it only applies up to move 40 (or whatever). Or does not apply in pawnless endings. At any rate, I would like to see this rule eliminated for opening and general middlegame play - I think it's a curse.
    As re stalemate, why not just treat the King legally as any other piece? What could be more simple and logical than that? Stalemate is an utterly illogical rule which considerably increases the drawishness of chess. It may have been ok in olden times, when draws were relatively rare, as being "gentlemanly", but things have greatly changed in that respect and it's just helping to draw-death chess. It should definitely be eliminated.

    [DM: What is this draw death of which you speak? :) It's only a disease in the world championship match. How many draws do you have in your games, even your tournament games? I just looked up my games against 2200+ opposition, and the drawing percentage was 35.8%. (Against sub-2200s that figure dropped to around 10%.) With GMs, and certainly super-GMs, the number increases, but it's not as bad as you might think. The supposedly super-drawish Giri has 55% draws against 2500+ opposition for his career (at least the part of his career where he too was at least 2500), while for Carlsen the same search gets 42% draws. Kicking it up to 2600, it's still 42% for Carlsen, and still just 45% when he and his opponents are 2700+. And for Giri, it's still 56% draws at 2600 and 55% draws at 2700. Fewer draws would be nice, but if the range is between the low-40s and the mid-50s it's not a draw death.

    Btw, even if we take a high drawing percentage of 75% as our baseline for the Carlsen-Caruana match, the odds against a 12-draw match are still 31.6 to 1.

    Anyhow, let's limit this to one more go-round. We are both for somewhat longer matches (if for somewhat different reasons), and we're probably running out of fundamentally new arguments.]

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterobserver

    The "extra innings" option (#4) is perfect, and addresses all concerns. It's the only way to keep things within a reasonable timeframe, and make the event purely about classical chess. It also encourages players to go for wins, as drawing forever will do you no good (see Game 12, 2018). The very small chance of a months-long match is not enough downside. This approach is the way to go.

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Matros

    In the game of Kings You have to dethrone the King to become King. There is no need for democratic principles in the Game of Kings.

    [DM: This begs the question. Also, they're not literal kings. Also, it's the "game of kings" either because kings played the game, or because the most important piece on the board is the king. It's not because its best practitioners are kings.]

    There will be no need for a solution in search of a problem if we accept this long held tradition to give the champ draw odds.

    [DM: It's not that long a tradition. Chess goes back in (more or less) its current form for about 500 years or so, and there have only been world championship matches since 1886. For a good chunk of that time draw odds were included, but from 1978 to 1985 it disappeared, and then has again been gone since 2008. In what sport, other than boxing (which is known for its fishy judging), does the champion have this sort of extra advantage?]

    My other point in fewer words was that speeding up the time control in the classical phase of the match will reduce the reliance on rapid games for a decisive result. Currently three time control is out of step with the reality that less time is needed in the opening phase of the game due to computer preparation.

    [DM: Wait, I thought you were a traditionalist! :) Why not 40/150, 16/60 repeating thereafter? Kings move at a stately, regal pace after all. The current world championship time control is slow compared to many other events, but it's fast compared to historical time controls. Speeding up the time control is an option, but depending on how much we can't pretend any longer that it's the traditional world championship.]

    December 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

    I also think most or all of the other suggestions are far worse than giving the defending champion draw odds.

    I'm rather surprised that Dennis thinks there's a moral problem with that. No one is automatically entitled to the title of world champion. What does morality have to do with it?

    [DM: So you're surprised? That's me, full of surprises. :) Obvious no one is "automatically entitled to the title world champion" - including the champion. It must be earned, not inherited based on what he did two years earlier. It's not morality in the sense of crimes or sins, but it is an injustice to be given what you didn't earn when someone else has an equally valid claim to the same good, which is only available to one.]

    What's more important is what is good for the game. If you look at history and those who drew title matches, the list is long and far less prestigious. The title of world champion would just be devalued if that were the list of world champions.

    [DM: Hmm? I didn't endorse co-champions, either.]

    December 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    [DM: So you're surprised? That's me, full of surprises. :) Obvious no one is "automatically entitled to the title world champion" - including the champion. It must be earned, not inherited based on what he did two years earlier. It's not morality in the sense of crimes or sins, but it is an injustice to be given what you didn't earn when someone else has an equally valid claim to the same good, which is only available to one.]

    First, an "unfairly" long reign as world champion is far less important than the list of world champions. People can argue how long Anand was world champion, but that matters less than whether he was.

    The someone else does not have an equally valid claim. You are being too absolutist in claiming "It must be earned, not inherited based on what he did two years earlier." It's partially based on what he did now (draw the match) and what he did two years earlier (beat the champion). (All this in the hypothetical scenario where draw odds are still given to the champion.) The challenger's merits are also partially based on what he did now (draw the match) and what he did earlier (win a candidates tournament). Especially now, it's quite possible that many players would have drawn the match. Who's to say Karjakin would not have done so again if he had been playing. He does not have "an equally valid claim to the same good".

    So here's a wild idea. The challenger has no valid claim to the same good. You believe the defending champion has no valid claim either. (Again, in the hypothetical scenario where a title match is drawn and there is no tie-breaker.) We can both be happy if FIDE simply declares there is no title-holder in the event of a tie. What happens after, e.g. re-matches, next cycles, prize money, etc., can remain exactly the same, but officially the title is vacant now.

    [DM: I don't see an argument here, just an assertion that the challenger isn't equally deserving. Why not? What relevance does what happened two years earlier have to the current match? That's how the champion qualified for the title match; that's all. Carlsen qualified by beating Karjakin two years ago, and Caruana qualified by winning the Candidates earlier in the year. That's it.

    I also haven't seen a response to my thought experiment where the challenger is two years younger than the champion and exactly as talented, but never becomes the champion because he matured two years later and all their matches (with the champion getting draw odds) are in fact drawn. Still further, no other sport that I'm aware of gives the champion draw odds, and generally the champion doesn't get *any* advantage from incumbency. The winners of the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the NBA Championship, any Olympic event, the World Series, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, and so on ad infinitum all have to start from scratch or nearly from scratch, just like the runners-up and even the last-place finishers. (Sometimes there's a slight benefit to the champion and highly-placed finishers, e.g. in golf and tennis tournaments where they don't have to qualify for the event. But that's not just for the champion, and they still have to start where all the other participants do.)]

    December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

    [DM:
    I also haven't seen a response to my thought experiment where the challenger is two years younger than the champion and exactly as talented, but never becomes the champion because he matured two years later and all their matches (with the champion getting draw odds) are in fact drawn. Still further, no other sport that I'm aware of gives the champion draw odds, and generally the champion doesn't get *any* advantage from incumbency. The winners of the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the NBA Championship, any Olympic event, the World Series, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, and so on ad infinitum all have to start from scratch or nearly from scratch, just like the runners-up and even the last-place finishers. (Sometimes there's a slight benefit to the champion and highly-placed finishers, e.g. in golf and tennis tournaments where they don't have to qualify for the event. But that's not just for the champion, and they still have to start where all the other participants do.)]


    On the thought experiment: too bad! Players are there to serve the game, not the game to serve them.

    [DM: Nonsense: the game doesn't exist as a thing in it's own right. Chess is for chess players.]

    The game is better served by a prestigious list of world champions than by a huge Mickey Mouse list. The thought experiment may sound fine, but is there any example of it in the history of chess?

    [DM: The guy with the third highest-rating of all time is a Mickey Mouse player? Okay... Not too many players would consider Bronstein a Mickey Mouse player, either. As for the thought experiment, it doesn't need an actual example. All that's needed is that the supposition be a legitimate conceptual possibility. That's the point of a thought experiment. No one had to pluck a living chicken to show that defining man as a featherless biped was a poor definition, or to stick a cat in a box to test the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.]

    The same thing does happen in Olympics, World Cups, etc. (all those where the most coveted prize is available once every 4 years). It's very common for teams to peak out of synch, in the middle of the cycle. That's just bad luck. They end up without no Gold Medals, etc. That's just life.

    [DM: True, but I'm not sure how this is relevant...unless you think I brought up those sports in the context of draw odds. I didn't - see the next comment.]

    You haven't come close to listing all sports. The most obvious example of "must beat the champion to be champion" is boxing, which once upon a time was a respectable sport and whose diminished status now is not due to that rule but to other unfortunate circumstances. It's easier for the sports you list, because in those sports it's easy to avoid draws. If by "World Cup" you meant the football (soccer) World Cup, then that is one example where the artificial means of resolving draws have been changed a lot and are not really satisfactory.

    [DM: My point with the list (and yes, I meant the football/soccer World Cup) wasn't about draw odds but that champions had to start from scratch like everyone else. I didn't list every sport, no, but I listed six major sports, plus the Olympics. I could add hockey, badminton, table tennis, cricket, and rugby off the top of my head as well. You've given one - and by the way, in Olympic boxing the defending champ has to start over, too. In boxing there's some justification for it: lots of fights equals lots of physical damage, especially brain damage, and there can't be indefinite tiebreak rounds for the same reason. This doesn't apply to chess, so there's no obvious reason why the now 11-sport list, plus the Olympics, doesn't take precedence over your one example.

    Anyway, I was only interested in one more round, and now there have been two. This subthread is closed, no doubt to be revisited if FIDE does anything new and interesting.]

    December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    [DM: The guy with the third highest-rating of all time is a Mickey Mouse player? Okay... Not too many players would consider Bronstein a Mickey Mouse player, either.]

    No, the entire list would include less worthy players by the standards of world champions. The best on that list had/have/will have a fine reputation even without a world title. It's the worst on that list that are the problem. "Third highest rating of all time" means less than you imply, even if there is no ratings inflation. The ratings will always favor people now over those of the past, just like athletic times will.

    [New DM: This ignores the Bronstein argument, ratings don't always favor contemporary players (Fischer's rating wasn't passed for more than a decade and a half, Kasparov's peak rating wasn't passed by Kramnik or Anand, etc.), and I never said that Caruana should have been the world champion, but only that the defending champion shouldn't keep his title with a drawn match.]

    [DM: Nonsense: the game doesn't exist as a thing in it's own right. Chess is for chess players.]

    Chess players meaning all followers of chess, whose interests are best served by having a prestigious world championship list.
    So "the game is better served" = "the whole body of chess enthusiasts is better served".

    [New DM: That's an assertion, but not obvious. You'd like it, and I think winning by drawing is bad for the game. From what I've read about chess in the 1950s, Botvinnik's "drawn-out" reign (pun intended) wasn't viewed as especially good for the game.]


    [DM: My point with the list (and yes, I meant the football/soccer World Cup) wasn't about draw odds but that champions had to start from scratch like everyone else.]

    Okay, but it's not true in that sense either. e.g. In the football World Cup, the defending champion gets a free passage to the finals while every other country except the host has to get through qualifiers.

    [New DM: Yes, I said this the first time I mentioned the World Cup. There is some incumbency advantage, which there is already in chess: Caruana had to qualify for the Candidates and win the Candidates. But once the actual world championship event begins, there's no further advantage held by the previous World Cup winner.]

    The qualifiers are not equally difficult, but for the most difficult regions very strong countries can miss out e.g. Italy, Netherlands (and every football power other than Germany). The cricket World Cup is not in the highest form of the game, because logistically it's not easy to make a world cup for that form. (The defending champion gets automatic passage to the finals, but that's not difficult.) Golf and tennis tournaments are not world championships any more than Linares is a world championship. Domestic leagues are different in lots of ways. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    [New DM: Yes, chess players don't use rackets or clubs. But what is relevant is that there is no sport but boxing - and there the reasons make sense but are inapplicable to chess - in which a defending champion has anything like draw odds in the championship competition. This is true even if we restrict the sample to events with a world championship.]


    Old comment: The same thing does happen in Olympics, World Cups, etc. (all those where the most coveted prize is available once every 4 years). It's very common for teams to peak out of synch, in the middle of the cycle. That's just bad luck. They end up without no Gold Medals, etc. That's just life.

    [DM: True, but I'm not sure how this is relevant...unless you think I brought up those sports in the context of draw odds. I didn't ]

    My point is that Olympics & World Cups are real-life examples same or similar to your thought experiment. If you are convinced that your thought experiment means it's an injustice to the challenger, then you should also be convinced that Olympics & World Cups are an injustice being only every 4 years and should be changed to every 2 years to fix the injustice.

    [New DM: I have no idea how that's supposed to follow. There's nothing I said that would suggest this. If it's unjust for the challenger to "lose" a match because of draw odds, it's unjust even if he gets a rematch a week later. And if it's justified, then to that extent it doesn't matter if the next world championship is two years later, or three, or four, or whatever.

    Finally, I've asked twice to stop. Next post on this topic will be deleted sight-unseen. I appreciate that you disagree, and that's fine, but I'm moving on. Thank you for the discussion!]

    December 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

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