Carlsen on the Grand Prix
02 December 2008, 21:32h – Written by Henrik Carlsen
What really stole the attention of Magnus and many others during the latter
part of the Olympiad was of course the news from FIDE about changes to the Grand
Henrik and Magnus Carlsen
First came the short notice cancellation of Doha (about two weeks after we
had been told everything was all right and could go ahead and buy plane tickets
(which we did). Going to the new venue Elista in wintertime and over Christmas
was not something Magnus wanted to do, and later we got oral confirmation that
this issue has been resolved. (I don't know how and do hope it was done without
any harm to other GP participants.)
Later the really big issue came up. Without proper prior notice, and on the
last day of the FIDE congress, a proposal was approved by the (people still
left in the) General Assembly to degrade the Grand Prix midway by introducing
a new qualifying layer, an eight-player Candidate tournament replacing the match
between GP and World Cup winners as qualification for the 2011 World Championship
On Thursday November 27th I wrote an e-mail letter of protest to the FIDE
office on Magnus' behalf, and on Monday December 1st they reacted, promising
a response to the letter by today (which we have not received yet).
What we want from FIDE are transparent processes, fairness and predictability.
Significantly changing the GP regulations to the detriment of the GP players
in the middle of the cycle is clearly unacceptable, and the reactions we are
considering include legal action and withdrawal from the cycle.
It is understandable that the FIDE board is unhappy about the fact that several
top players decided against taking part in the Grand Prix. But, this should
not have come as a big surprise and was anyhow known before the start of the
GP cycle. Subsequently giving privileges to the players involved in the current
World Championship cycle is obviously not the right way to solve their problem.
In the (unfortunately) lopsided GP regulations, there's a clause (1.4) stating
that "The body responsible for any changes to these Regulations is the
FIDE Presidential Board." I am not a lawyer, but to me this passively oriented
wording describing the role of the FPB would typically apply to the resolution
of uncertainties or conflicts pertaining to the GP regulations and not as a
basis for completely changing the purpose of the cycle midway.
On the FIDE cycle, Shirov's letter, the doping scandal
Mig Greengard, Daily
Dirt chess blog
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced a change to the current WCh cycle, the
one in which the Grand Prix and World Cup winners would play a match to face
the world champion. But Ilyumzhinov isn't happy unless he's doing something
to something and staying the center of attention. So he has created a candidate's
tournament out of thin air, instantly reducing the value of the Grand Prix and
World Cup. The invitees: 2 World Cup finalists; top 2 Grand Prix scorers; loser
of Kamsky-Topalov; loser of Anand vs Kamsky/Topalov; world #1; and, best of
all, a 2700+ organizer invitee.
Whew, thank goodness. FIDE was in danger of coming close to a transparent and
honest system after the last of the corrupt special matches finished in February
with Kamsky-Topalov. But no! The favoritism safety nets are back, with a revenue-generating
wildcard spot too. Stability and transparency are back out the window. Topalov
is a fabulous player, no question. Love him. But criminy, was San Luis 2005
a lifetime pass? I suspect that Ilyumzhinov wouldn't have added this event if
it weren't already close to a done deal somewhere. (It won't shock if that place
is Russia and the wildcard is Kramnik.) Perhaps someone could risk His Majesty's
displeasure and ask the simple question: "Why?" The short answer would
be "we can't have the players deciding who gets to be world champion, can
Femi Oyekan, Minneapolis, MN
It was hilarious to read the FIDE's latest excuse for breaking their contractual
obligations. Whereas the withdrawal of the guarantee of the Lvov prize fund
was explained away as being the result of "an abuse of right to invoke
my guarantee" (truly an original idea), we are lead to believe that the
withdrawal of the Grand Prix sponsorship in Doho necessitates the creation of...
a more expensive event that will need to be sponsored in addition to the Grand
Prix series. It would be better if they stopped insulting our intelligence and
told us the simply truth, if they are indeed able to do so: someone who would
have a great deal of trouble fighting for the title in the original plan complained
and this change is designed to shut them up.
Robert Luck, Tualatin, USA
Why a four-game knockout as an option? This is much too short for a knockout
match. Perhaps four wins, but if the duration of the tournament is an issue,
why do a knockout tournament at all? It doesn't take much longer to run a double
round robin with eight players; or even better would be to reduce the number
of players to six and let them play four game matches with their total score
being counted. This would give enough games to produce a meaningful result without
taking too much extra time.
Charles Hall, Orlando, USA
I was just about to write something crude to the live rating site when the more
civilized part of me prevailed. The next cycle is two years away -- that is
the reality of things. Hans, we are grateful for your services, but please don't
try to use it for leverage you don't have. FIDE could give a toss about what
you think, and the only losers are the visitors of your site. Your service is,
and has been, separate from FIDE's and should stay such.
Susan Grumer, USA
GM Alexei Shirov, I agree wholeheartedly with you concerning the possibility
of banning Vasily Ivanchuk from playing FIDE rated chess and for annulling his
games in the World Chess Olympiad. It is yet another blight on the organization
which claims as its motto, "We are One Family."
I feel the World Chess Family should stick together, as you suggest, and that
we should all rely on the ratings of Hans-Arild Runde (should he agree to continue
calculating them) and Organizers and Players alike should continue on as though
FIDE does not exist, until this matter is solved sensibly. I say this even though
I have in the past been a Permanent Delegate to the General Assembly. I still
have FIDE in my blood, and hope to be active in the future in several commissions
and committees. It makes me feel guilty to see my FIDE punishing such a high
caliber player as GM Ivanchuk.
I do feel it is important to continue an association with the IOC, since this
provides financial assistance to many small Federations in FIDE. However, since
chess is NOT an Olympic sport, there should be no reason to fear sending a report
that allows GM Ivanchuk an excuse for refusing the testing. Since doping tests
make no sense for chess, I feel it should be done as peacefully as possible.
Perhaps the Medical Commission can direct that all doping be done on one of
the free days, and the teams (not individuals) to undergo such tests be selected
in a blind lottery. They can also select twice the number of teams necessary
for the testing, so if one player on a team refuses, there are already more
than enough to fill in. All the IOC needs is a written report with a sufficient
number of participants tested.
Graeme Cree, Austin, USA
Punishing a team for breaking the rules (doping rules or others) makes sense.
Punishing their opponents is nonsensical. Imagine a hypthetical situation. At
the next Olympiad Israel finishes first. An Arab team which lost to Israel 4-zip,
but which split 2-2 with the second place team doesn't like it, so they deliberately
refuse a doping test in order to have their own results anulled, and have a
different country be awarded the Gold. Wouldn't happen, you say? Maybe not.
But the potential for abuse with rules that allow a country to anull its own
defeats at will is too obvious to ignore.
Shirov's press release is nothing but a tantrum. "FIDE is being unfair,
FIDE is being unreasonable, FIDE is destroying our sport. Let's ban FIDE."
He admits that it's habitual and chronic behavior on their part, but makes no
positive suggestions other than the totally symbolic gesture of having the unofficial
Chess Live Ratings site rate Ivanchuk's games. Complaining about the absurdity
and unfairness of FIDE's policies has never done any good and never will. If
he's not going to try to organize a mass movement to have countries withdraw
from FIDE entirely (and nothing he says suggests that), then he's preaching
to the choir and wasting our time.
Sivakumar, Los Angeles
It shows that FIDE wants to threaten and show the world that it has all the
power by all means. It is silly to do a dope/drug test for chess players, who
are able to move Qa8-Qh1 in fractions of a second with and without drug. Even
our Chess champion Anand gave his opinion in Germany that these tests are silly.
We do not need FIDE to keep the ratings, it is the software that does these
ratings, which is integrated with a large database systems.
Matthew David Nelson, Lexington, Kentucky
I must agree with GM Shirov's recent public criticism of FIDE. In my opinion,
FIDE has not been good for Chess for some time now. Surely, an organization
comprising the organizers of the major world-class tournaments could be formed
at minimal cost to replace FIDE. Of course, the organizers would have have a
vested interest in public opinion and that of the top players, whereas FIDE
seems largely be a political sham concerned with neither.
I am well aware that an organization founded by the players was tried and failed.
This is why I think the better alternative is one built by the people who provide
the bread and butter top-flight chess. If they can organize the major tournaments,
surely an umbrella, chess-qua-chess organization is well within their proven
James Jennings, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
First, I think testing chess players for drugs is silly. If a player takes drugs
he most likely is hurting his performance, not improving it. Do drunk chess
players get better results than sober ones? Nevertheless, Ivanchuk's refusal
to give a urine sample is an admission of guilt. He has been an adult for a
long time. He has lost many chess games. Why suddenly act like an infant throwing
a tantrum. Had he won the game, what would have been his reason for refusing
the test? That he was so elated at winning that he wanted to celebrate instead?
Michael Allard, Bowie, Maryland, USA
GM Ivanchuk is (and has been for some time) the most creative top level player.
I follow each of his games with intense interest. Not being a party to the doping
"non-test", I trust FIDE officials will follow through and enforce
"all" Olympiad rules and not make exceptions. Too frequently rules
pertaining to tournament participation (at all levels) are unclear, loosely
enforced, or not enforced at all. If chess is to be publicly construed as an
"intellectual" endeavor, then it needs to demonstrate itself as a
paradigm not only of cognitive rigor but also ethical scruplousness and psychological
Laurentiu Grigorescu, Windsor, Canada
Before going into the politics of this situation, I would like to know if there
is scientific evidence that shows improved performance of a chess player that
uses a drug on the IOC list of banned substances. Than we can discuss further
details of the Ivanchuk case and the future of our game as a possible Olympic
"sport". By the way, I would like to know the opinion of my chess
colleagues - from the elite to the under 2000 rated player - on the idea of
giving away our tradition and uniqness - our own Olympiad - in favour of being
part of a media global event such as Summer Olympics.
Allyn Streeter, Brooklyn, NY
Strange phraseology in the ChessBase report, to describe chess drug-testing
as "fairly nonsensical" instead of "completely nonsensical".
Ken Calitri, Mahwah USA
Ivanchuk should fall on the sword and plead temporary loss of judgement due
to his emotional state after the game. Let him submit to a test if he is willing
- even after the fact - the drugs would still be in his system even now. My
guess the test would be nagative. Or FIDE can just take the step to give him
a ban of 2-4 weeks that he can't take part in a fide tournament. Of course the
length of time should coincide with a lull in Ivanchuk's schedule so that he
doesn't miss any work. That should satisfy everybody.
Mark Warriner, Richmond, Virginia USA
I agree with Shirov: Ban FIDE! The USA, Russia and the European Union have absolutely
no need for FIDE or the weak third world countries who make no significant contribution
to chess. BAN FIDE NOW! It's time to leave the failed institution far behind
and start a new world organization.
Vincent Torres, New Jersey, USA
I sympathize with Ivanchuk, but Shirov's letter smacks of spoilt brats (i.e.
top GMs) crying about rules that should not be enforced upon them. IVANCHUK
WAS AFTER ALL PLAYING IN CHESS OLYMPIAD. He knew the rules before he participated
in the tourney, no one forced him to play. If Shirov or Ivanchuk doesn't like
the rules, just don't play. Had a no name guy got suspended or banned for the
same offense, would Shirov have written this letter? I think not.
Philip Feeley, Vancouver, Canada
I don't have to read your article to express an opinion on it: the idea of drug
testing in chess is absolutely ludicrous and should be dropped immediately.
If that tweaks the IOC's nose then so be it. Call the Chess Olympiad something
else. They'll never make it an official sport anyway so stop coddling them!
Lee Bradbury, Kinston, NC, USA
I've looked over all the information you've provided, and I've decided in favor
of Ivanchuk, but not because he deserves it. Chess deserves a lack of punishment
for him. It doesn't bother me that he threw a tantrum; that just makes the game
more colorful. At least the guy was courteous enough to go outside first, and
only blame himself. But the letter of the law states that he shouldn't have
turned down the dope-test request.
On the other hand, Shirov is right. Chess doesn't warrant anti-doping regulations.
Steroids don't help us. What in the world would we take? Gingko biloba? Ginseng?
No law against them. Nothing really helps the brain play a game of chess better,
except practice. It uses up a lot of sugar in the process; maybe honey-buns
should be banned. FIDE's intent to institute anti-doping regulations is only
being done to paint FIDE (NOT chess) in a more favorable appearance for the
Olympics Committees. Ilyumzhinov, in particular, likes the idea that chess could
make it into the Olympics, not because he cares about chess's future, but because
he'd make a lot more money and stroke himself with the thought that he's a hero.
I'm a student of Ancient Greek, the language and the culture, and the Greeks
intended the Olympics as a display of humanity's PHYSICAL prowess. Chess is
NOT physical. It doesn't belong in the Olympics. Its Olympiads should never
have been called Olympiads. They're team tournaments, and let the chess players
be happy with that. As such, it's better for chess in general, its players and
fans, that Ivanchuk not be punished, his record remain, and FIDE's anti-doping
intentions be abolished, now, finally, for good and all.
Phil Bourke, Blayney, NSW, Australia
Ivanchuk cannot escape penalty if FIDE is adamant about pursuing OIC recognition.
He was told what was required and chose to ignore it in a fit of pique that
would have done a six year old proud. FIDE has to bear some responsibility for
this shambles. In most other sports, they test the placegetters, people who
have more to gain by their co-operation with the incumberence of this obligation.
So I do sympathise with Ivanchuk a little, but would remind him that as much
as it hurts to lose, one has to be able to lose with dignity.
Hans J. Lassen, Anholt, Denmark
FIDE is simply ridiculous. It does not make sense at all to test chess players
for drugs. I fully support Ivanchuk and anyone else who refuses to participate
in this charade.
I can't understand how chess players can submit to some thing like a dope control
test. It just shows the extent to which people are willing to go for money.
Besides most chess players probably follow the philosophy "obey the stupid
powerful men so we can continue playing chess". The best way is to simply
not agree to the dope control; especially established rich players who can afford
to not play should do this. This is an ideal situation for a Gandhian protest.
"I won't submit to dope control. You may do as you please". Once FIDE
has banned the top ten players it will have to rethink its policy.
On the Nunn Plan for the World Championship cycle
Peter Ballard, Adelaide, Australia
Nunn's plan is an improvement on the current arrangement, but still gives too
much advantage to the incumbent champion. Also, even without collusion, the
winner of a tournament is not necessarily the best player, but the one who is
best at beating up the weaker players.
It is possible to use matches, without giving the incumbent too much advantage:
put 8 players into a series of matches - the champion plus 7 others (probably
the top 6 rated plus a qualifier). This eliminates the chance factor of tournaments,
removes the incumbent's advantage, and virtually guarantees 3 rounds of top
This would require three rounds of matches at three different times (quarter
finals, semi finals and final), and will probably be harder to get sponsorship
for than the Nunn plan. But the FIDE Grand Prix, and other major tournaments
out there, show that sponsorship can be found if the best players play.
Thomas Black, London, England
John Nunn's proposal makes imminent sense. It's most important features are
(1) it is easily understood by players and public alike; (2) it frees the World
Championship cycle from dependency on a large number of heterogeneous sponsors
and organisers, who are prone to cancelling events at short notice; (3) it gives
everybody a chance to participate in the original sense of the zonals, interzonals
and Candidates -- they simply play successfully in national and then international
tournaments; (4) it insures that only top players -- true candidates and not
chance winners of knockout events -- are participating in the final phase (according
to the current system, if it were not for the favour match Kamsky-Topalov the
World Champion Anand would be and maybe still will be playing the world's 16th
highest ranked player -- 18th on the live rankings -- for the title in 2009);
(5) it does not bestow favours on any players, give free passes for past achievements
or honour deals made in back rooms; (6) it encourages top players to become
more active in many different international tournaments. FIDE's current Grand
Prix vs World Cup qualification system was patched together for purely historical
reasons: the winner of the origial knockout world championship tournament plays
the winner of the new circuit they subsequently put together. In fact Nunn's
plan is so sensible it has little chance of being adopted by the World Chess
Mig Greengard, Daily
Dirt chess blog
GM John Nunn has revamped his proposal for a WCh system. Match
final, great. But I'm not sure why he assumes nationality is the only motive
for collusion in a candidates tournament. Money is a good one, too. Candidates
matches! And while I think it's okay to include an "inactivity penalty"
in rating, an activity bonus looks deeply unsatisfactory and vulnerable to manipulation.
We don't need even more numbers to distract us. We don't need to reward the
guy who plays more, just make sure everyone plays enough. Make the world championship
about winning when it matters. Not about what you did three years ago,
or how many points you got beating weaker players, or anything else.
Kenneth Calitri, Mahwah, USA
GM Nunn makes a sensible proposal, although I do not understand why we are limiting
the candidates tournament to 8 players. The last two WC Tournaments were fairly
drawish affairs and lacked drama overall. Also 14 games is rather small and
Anand's win with +3 was not what champions are made of. I would propose at least
10 players or 12 players (double round). This is a real tournament and a true
test. I would also consider using my revised scoring system: 2pts for a win,
0 for a draw and -1 for a loss. Let the winner be a true winner of games.
Tom Winslow, United States
The Chess World Championship cycle needs to be greatly streamlined. Even once
every two years is too long. Nunn's idea is good, but let's take it a step further.
We already have "candidates matches" -- they're called "super
GM tournaments". Take the results of the already existing Super GM tounaments
and then play a World Championship one-on-one match between the overall top
two players of the year from these tournaments. I leave the details for the
Chess World to hammer out.
Greg Koster, Chicago, USA
Holding a TOURNAMENT to choose the world's best MATCH player makes no sense.
The world champion is the guy who can beat #2, #3, and #4. Not the guy who can
beat up on #6, #7, and #8. Larsen was not better than Petrosian. A WCC TOURNAMENT
is a Curacao-fracas waiting to happen.
Gene Milener, Renton, WA, USA
John Nunn (2008/11/24) is right that the world chess championship cycle needs
to be made more stable, and that the only way to make it more stable is to make
it less burdensome, both logistically and financially. Nunn recommends that
the challenger for the title of match World Chess Champion be determined bi-annually
by a single eight player tournament. The participants would the first eight
names listed on FIDE's Elo rating report. Nunn includes a very important adjustment
to reward more active players.
An improved version of Nunn's proposal would be to nominate perhaps four major
tournaments as "cycle" tournaments. The winners of each cycle tournament
earn a slot in Nunn's eight player candidates' tournament. The remaining slots
are filled from FIDE's Elo report. The cycle tournaments would likely be Morelia-Linares,
Corus, Dortmund, and maybe another. This plan honors Nunn's proscription against
extra cost or complexity. These tournaments already exist, so FIDE only needs
to announce their nominations. There is no extra cost of any kind.
The cycle tournaments would gain in importance, prestige and drama. They would
finally matter to something bigger than themselves. Leveraging these tournaments
would also increase the legitimacy of the world championship cycle. Concrete
victories in tournaments carry more weight than any calculated number. We in
the USA see this issue fester every year with the lambasted BCS system for determining
our champion college football team based on a complex computer-calculated number,
instead of by direct victories on the field. Elo ratings have their place, but
let us keep them in their place.
Mark Goodwin, Boston, MA USA
If by 'radical' you mean 'a reasonable, sane approach to fixing the Kirsan World
Championship' then, yes.
Jerry Olsen, Los Angeles, CA, USA
I think Nunn's proposal, while imperfect, is far better than this circus of
'Grand Prix' tournaments. FIDE is trying too hard, and the result is that interest
in the Grand Prix is flagging. What people want is a cycle that is fair, simple
to understand, and free from grumbling discontent that is pervasive the Grand
My own view is that the World Champion should demonstrate skill in BOTH tournament
and match play. This is important because each format seems to favor different
styles of play. We don't want the World Championship to be biased toward any
particular style. Furthermore, I think that a World Champion should demonstrate
this skill in both formats in every cycle, not just the first cycle in which
he or she wins the championship. So, I would make the following revisions to
- Have ten players (instead of eight) participate, but one of them would be
the reigning champion. Each player would be seeded, with the reigning champ
given seed #1.
- The ten players participate in a double round robin tournament. The top
four players in the tournament qualify for the championship match. If there
are any ties, the tie is resolved by taking the higher-seeded player. (This
rewards a player for coming into the tournament with a higher seed value).
- Stage a knockout match tournament (each match being ten games, perhaps).
The winners of the semi-final matches go on to the final round. Again, if
any match ends in a tie, then the winner is the higher seeded player. This
avoids those silly rapid or blitz tie-breakers, which everyone hates.
- Finally, the two remaining players play the championship match. 10 or 12
This makes it quite a bit harder for a player to repeat as champion, but it
also makes the championship much more convincing.
Jerry Snitselaar, Phoenix, USA
Hopefully FIDE will give it serious consideration as it seems to make good sense.
What is really needed though is for someone of GM Nunn's caliber to become the
president of FIDE. I say start a Nunn for President campaign.
Didier Achermann, Wolfratshausen, Germany
I fully support Nunn's plan for the world championship.
Gabor Szots, Szentendre, Hungary
I think the activity bonus points, which are a bit arbitrary anyway, are not
necessary. If a player decides to sit on his Elo points at home, he will inevitably
lose his strength and thus decrease his chances to compete successfully. For
a current example, look at Judit Polgar's performance at the Olympiiad.
Martin Isaac, London, England
Dr John Nunn's proposals on the future of the World Championship cycle are to
be commended, if only because they guarantee that the subject will be debated
once again. On the detail, I believe there is one element lacking - the opportunity
for those outside of the very elite to compete. The best competitions allow
for the underdog: imagine if Wimbledon was competed for by the world's top eight
players, or if only the top eight in the Premier League were allowed to enter
the FA Cup, or - perish the thought - only the 8 highest FIFA ranked countries
competed the World Cup every four years. I believe such a closed tournament
would be less interesting for chess enthusiasts and ultimately less interesting
to sponsors and broadcasters.
Further drawbacks of selecting the top eight on Elo alone (with activity bonus)
are that the high-ELO club has an element of self-sustaining exclusivity built
in, since you have to have a super-GM Elo to be invited to the top tournaments;
the arbitrariness of it: how much difference in strength is there really between
the player who is 8th and those in 9th or 10th, where the Elo difference is
likely to be a few points at most; and lastly the insiduous impact on tournament
performance as players start to pay even more regard to their Elo rather than
the demands of the tournament at hand.
I believe the proposed structure is sound but the majority of the eight competitors
in the candidates tournament should compete to be there rather than qualify
via Elo. I would propose that, if there is a deposed champion, they should have
automatic entry to the candidates as a nod to the age-old principle of right
of re-match. Further, the next highest rated on the ELO scale should qualify
automatically. This would leave six places to be fought over.
These six places would be earnt by winning through a seeded qualification tournament
or tournaments, where higher rated players gain later entry.
Idealistically I would like every GM to be entitled to enter. I have just sketched
out a knockout model with 9 rounds, which accommodates 868 players in total,
with the world's #51-100 seeded into R4, #20-50 into R5, #10-19 into R7 and
#4-9 into R8 (assuming for sake of argument #1-3 are the World champion and
the two pre-qualified for the candidates tournament). To my mind this sort of
cycle combines the best of all worlds: open to (relatively) all, minimising
the commitment of the top GMs, generating excitement and uncertainty through
knockout competition in the qualifying rounds, whilst by using Dr Nunn's final
structure, maintaining the seriousness and thoroughness that the Chess World
With no experience in the real world of managing a world chess championship
cycle I have no idea whether such large qualification efforts are feasible,
but I maintain that some sort of dedicated open qualification tournament is
preferable to the more closed-set of Elo only qualification.
Kevin Cotreau, Nashua, NH
While I like much of Dr. Nunn's plan, the idea of only one Candidate's tournament
still makes who becomes the challenger a bit of a crap shoot. Any 2700 can have
a great tournament and win, and with 30+ 2700 players now, I am not sure that
number 30 should be playing for the championship, assuming they have the tournament
of a lifetime.
I think there should be two preliminary round robins, and take the top two
from each event and have them play matches: Two semi-final matches and then
a final match. This is less random and would probably choose a more worthy challenger.
It may also be necessary to make the cycle every three years to allow for the
Tom Zaja, Sydney, Australia
I agree with Dr Nunn that the world championship cycle should be two years.
However I believe that only two tournaments per two years is not enough. In
addition to the candidates tourament and the one-on-one match, I propose that
we employ the existing "Chess World Cup" as part of the qualifying
cycle too, offering a spot (or two) to the candidates match.
This ensures that:
a) There are now 3 high profile events per 2 years
b) It is possible for anyone to win the World Chess Championship, even if their
rating would not normally qualify them into the candidates match for whatever
c) We keep the fun and entertaining World Cup, and add the significance of qualification
d) Only 6 or 7 players can now rely on their ratings for automatic qualification
(as opposed to 8)
Danos Prakakis, Athens, Greece
I think Dr Nunn's proposal is totally in the wrong direction. In my opinion,
everyone should have a chance at the World Championship. The players with the
higher ratings should qualify by beating lower rated opponents, not automatically
by their ratings alone. See for example the last World Cup in Khanty-Mansyisk
2007. Kamsky won a 128-player KO tournament. From the 128 players competing,
many qualified for the tournament after participation in the championships of
their Continents. Kamsky's victory has great value and he is a very legitimate
challenger, because very many players had the chance to be in his place if they
had shown a high level of chess, and because he knocked out strong players like
Svidler, Ponomariov, Carlsen and Shirov. With Nunn's system he would not have
a chance, because he is not in the top nine. The proposed system gives far too
much value to elo ratings, and they already are too higly regarded.
Emmanuel Voyiakis, London, UK
Overall, a very plausible plan for the cycle. A potential sticking point: Nunn's
proposal adds to whatever incentives top rated players already have to participate
in tournaments with weak opposition. This may not be much of a problem now,
but it would probably be wise to prevent that practice from spreading during
the run-up to the rating list that decides who participates in the Candidates'
tournament. Perhaps it could be specified that only games played against the
top 20 players will count as a performance indicator for qualification purposes.
Levon Aronian's interview on women and computers
Ben New Jersey USA
I read your interview with Mr. Aronian and there is not doubt that this GM is
very smart but I think that he made a mistake by throwing a blank statement
saying that woman cannot play chess. I think he would had been better off saying
that men do have better disposition or approach to problem solving than woman,
since our brain is wired differently. But even saying this we have to be very
careful since there are exceptions to all rules in life. I just want to mention
one, Judith Polgar. I just checked her personal record against Mr. Aronian:
they played 4 games, 2 draw and 2 wins for Polgar, 0 for Aronian. I hope you
can see the problem with the blank statement. Judith is one of my heroes in
chess, is a woman and beat Aronian 2-0. Awesome!
There are some incongruencies as well when he is talking about computers. Chess
is very logical, and this is not a myth as he said. And the best way to prove
it is that computer software can play chess and beat the best of the best like
the Anand, Kasparov, etc. If chess were not logic and mathematical, computers
would not be able to play since the foundation of any computer software is pure
logic. So computers just follow the pure logic describe by the software engineer
in the software program and combining this with its powerful machine data processing
and memorization, they can beat the best GMs on the planet.
He said as well that computer software are our enemies. No, they are not. Chess
is much better now than 30, 50 or 100 year ago, and this is due to computers.
So computers are not enemies but our friends to improve human chess. Chess always
is going to be chess, and the beauty, romance, love for the game always is going
to be there, even in 3,000 years into the future. Why? And when? When it is
played by human and without the assistance of computers. Why? Because the element
"mistake" always is going to be there since we human are not machines.
On the other hand Aronian may be right saying that we will reach a computer
era where everything in chess is already calculated, but not for the human brain.
And where in the world we are going to find that human that can remember all
the computer calculations or positions in order to be unbeaten, impossible!
In conclusion, no blank statements regarding woman chess, and computers are
our friends not our enemies.
Paul Rachlin, Tarrytown, New York
Aronian's interview in the Berlinger Zeitung about the inability of women to
play chess because they are too emotional is borish, male chauvenistic drivel.
For him the intriguing paradox of his character is that emotions make him strong
and inspire his creativity. But, alas, for Aronian, emotions are what make women
weak and unable to execute like a machine when necessary. I sincerely hope Judith
Polgar thrashes Aronian the next time she meets him. I keep forgetting that
top level chess capabilities says nothing of one's position on the pathway to
Sunita Ramnani, Mumbai, India
This guy has lost it completely. Women are outperforming men in many so called
Ferman Smith, Houston, Texas, USA
Aronian's comments I believe are quite inaccurate. I believe that women will
one day prove to be as strong as men in the chess arena. In some sports endeavors
women cannot compete with men due to physiological and anatomical differences.
For instance, weightlifting, track and field. However, in sports such as bowling
there have been times in history where women actually exceeded their male counterparts.
As more and more women compete in "integrated" chess competitions
their strength will grow. It will no longer be uncommon to find a Hou Yifan
or Judit Polgar in these events. I am a male chessplayer. It is my belief that
it is the segregated nature of women chess that limits their strength NOT physiological,
emotional or psychological considerations. Of course , this is only my opinion.
Marko Nissinen, Helsinki, Finland
Very interesting and personal opinions by Mr. Aronjan. Good interview. Thank
Steve Stepak, Cambridge MA UWA
Lev Aronian has always been my favorite chess player. Yet, when Lev speaks:
"chess is war and not something for women" or "...in general
women are too emotional for chess," then I feel that these kinds of remarks
are not only incorrect on all counts but they jeopardize the attraction and
appeal of chess for women, if only as an educational tool, which is my angle
for teaching and playing chess.
Women (girls and grown up females) have come a long way since the time of Vera
Menchik. People like Susan Polgar have advanced the cause of chess both as a
confidence builder and an educational tool for girls. This is a wonderful effort.
As far as women being more emotional than men: well, one only has to look at
the highways and bi-ways of the world's roads to see "road rage",
which is like fist fights between men over when one or the other thought was
a violation of their pride. Emotional? In my recreational playing of chess I
see mostly boys and men playing. And all the arguments and fights are among
men. The girls and women who play are wonderful, studious, serious people who
think quietly and politely, never showing emotion, either in their bodies or
reflecting their moves.
So I hope that Lev Aronian was having a bad day when he said these things about
women and chess. Otherwise, if he really meant them, I think chess masters of
authority and expertise should scold Lev for his remarks.
Ferdy Rojas, Santiago-de-Chile
I agree with the general view of GM Levon Aronian. As for his statement regarding
that women cannot play chess, that is misogyny. Some women have become warriors
-- think of Judith in the Bible, Jean d'Arc -- so now there are Amazones in
chess. Women can practice any sport, cannot they, Mr. Aronian?
Jeff Melton, Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Lev Aronian is a sexist.