Peter Zhdanov: "GET YOUR HANDS OFF CLASSICAL CHESS!"

Пятница, 22.07.2011 19:04

Lately we have been hearing a lot about suggestions to decrease the time control at official events and gradually switch to rapid and blitz; replay the games that ended in a draw to determine a winner in every encounter. Such measures are predictably popular among some grandmasters, who want to earn as much as the top players without investing the same amount of time into studying. They treat chess like a game, form of entertainment, and would like to turn the analytical process into a show with an unpredictable outcome. Indeed, the shorter the time control, the less important is the mastery of the player, and the more vital are certain practical skills. If we accept the proposal and agree to the scheme where a drawn classical game will be followed by rapid, then blitz, Armageddon, we will see not the strongest player win, but the one who is more endurable and proficient in wood-pushing.

The FIDE knock-out events were infamous for the fact that players with ratings below 2700, who were not viewed as potential contenders, prevailed. Obviously, some grandmasters would like to implement this model at all events and thus potentially give their income a quick boost by redistributing the money from leading players to themselves. Butdoesthechesscommunitywantthat?

Now let’s consider the main arguments proposed by advocates of decreasing the time control and replaying games:

1)      Sponsors don’t hold provide money of tournaments as they are afraid of draws. This claim is not supported by empirical evidence. Who stopped sponsoring events due to this reason? Supporters of chess usually like the game and respect the traditions. The  number of draws doesn’t significantly affect the prize fund, unless, of course, the tournament director keeps bugging the sponsor: “Your tournament is dull since there are too many draws!”.  Anyway, short draws are easy to deal with using Sophia rules. One might argue that grandmasters can always come to an agreement before the game and make the moves up. This is a different issue that can be dealt with by: a) a verbal warning b) if there is proof, both players must be forfeited for having played a fixed game c) those that play boring chess and make fixed draws with their friends simply don’t get invitations in top events anymore. It’s a sort of natural selection.

2)      The public is tired of draws. First of all, we should try to increase the chess level of the general public and comment on the events in an adequate way. If a grim-looking and bored grandmaster tells everyone he is the undertaker of classical chess, this creates a similar mood among chess fans. On the contrary, when the players are excited about the game and are commentating enthusiastically, then a peaceful result of the game doesn’t bother anyone. Secondly, no one has proved that we are living in a period when draws became abundant all of a sudden. The most cited example is the World Candidates Matches’11, but that’s just one event.  

3)      Chess needs publicity, and draws and long games hinder it. Of course, we all want chess to be a popular and exciting sport. However, there are fundamental values of chess which one can’t go against. If most GMs agree that chess is a draw, then why try to ruin the harmony of the game? Chess is not football, go-go or a Hollywood movie. It should stick to its own cultural, educational and sport niche and avoid trying to be like something else. Chess is positioned like a game for the elite – noble, smart, successful people. If we try to be here and there, it will ruin the image of chess as the #1 intellectual game in the world and lead to oblivion.

Steps to take that are associated with the aforementioned problems:

1)      Change the way we look at fundraising. Nowadays people either don’t contact the sponsors at all and wait for them to appear out of the sky, or assign chess players to this challenge. The former don’t have any experience, negotiating skills or connections, and thus often fail miserably.  

2)      Rapid and blitz tournaments that complement classical chess, not replace it.  Amateurs want to be able to complete the tournament during a weekend. Professionals can afford to play beautiful and deep games that last longer. Weneedtosatisfytheinterestsofeveryone.

3)      Publicity:

·         Create an attractive format of an online chess show (or a way of commentating on tournaments). Ifitbecomespopular, probablytakeittoTV.

·         Hold different exciting and fun chess events (pair vs pair, men against women, gigantic outdoors chess, GM X vs the World, blindfold chess, strip-chess, etc.). Naturally, these events should serve not as replacements of traditional ones, but as a means of spicing up the game and attracting more public attention. Thereisnoneedinexperimentingonofficialchampionships.

·         Pay special attention to relationships with the media and support our own chess projects – websites, magazines, TV programs, etc.

·         Promote top players. They should be stars widely known among the public and sponsors. This would lead to increase of earnings and popularize the game.

Last but not least, we should believe in our own powers and get going. While some people are busy redistributing resources, others are creating the future of chess.


Peter Zhdanov,  Editor of http//pogonina.com