April 1st: Forbidden draws or kriegspiel tournament?

4/3/2005 – It happens to us, year after year. We always forget that at the beginning of this month people are celebrating a pagan ritual known as "April Fool". And each time we are tricked by some malicious prankster in the ChessBase news team into publishing an article that is gratuitously false. This year the evil-doer acted in a particularly devious fashion.

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We strongly recommend that you read the entire article. Skimming through just the first part could be misleading and ultimately detrimental to your (mental) health. Also you may end up with egg on your face.

Draws forbidden in Super-GM tournaments?

On the first of April, the yearly anniversary of the aforementioned pagan ritual, at the break of dawn, we published an article describing a new rule instituted in a Super-GM tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. Apparently the organisers were determined to do something about the great number of draws that occur in such top events. Their solution, according to the story, was to simply forbid draws. No draws offers would be allowed during the tournament (featuring Anand, Topalov, Kramnik and co.). Only the arbiter could end the game. In case of perpetual check, threefold repetition or a theoretical drawn position he could intervene and award a draw. The arbiter, it said in the report, would be assisted by a strong grandmaster; in Sofia by GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who is also a FIDE Vice President.

A. Paul Weber: Kasper und Polizist, 1976

The letters started pouring in, and are still coming strong and fast, at the rate of a few dozen a day. With a keen sense of tradition our readers immediately suspected that the story was an April Fool jest. Here's a small selection of the missives we received:

George, Mavridis, Thessaloniki, Greece
Draws forbidden in Super-GM tournaments? A good April Fool's joke. Who knows, maybe someday this will be true. A start could be forbidding short draws. Nice try and a good wishes, guys.

T. Aalbers, Haaksbergen, Netherlands
Aprils foolsday!! We don't buy the item of the banned draw offers! Nice try however.

Derek Grimmell, Clinton, Iowa
If this is your April Fools' story, I hope you realize how cruel it is! To tempt us all with such a wonderful idea, only to snatch it away the next day. Can you imagine? Why, if draw offers were banned, games would be interesting! Sponsors would come! Kramnik would regain relevance! Chess would boom! Peace would come to the world! But it was only a dream.

Tony Asdourian Catonsville, Maryland, USA
How about a tournament without castling or en passant or promoted pawns? Just about as plausible. Nice try, but your past efforts have been more believable!

Terry McCracken, Shelburne
You have to try much harder than this. First private games with Fischer and Karpov – snicker– now this... No, we are not that gullible. Keep trying though. April Fools!

Shaked Netanya, Israel
"Draws forbidden in Super-GM tournaments" I was very glad to see this title, it is something that needed to be changed long ago. Maybe now they will see the benefit of this matter and will enforce it for all tournaments in all categories with all types of chess. The time has come! No more short draws without any spirit of combat. The players today need to see how people once played the game of chess with class. Just two to mention: E. Lasker and Robert (Bobby) James Fischer whom by far were the most inspiration fighters of all time. I just want to say that I'm very happy for Bobby, now that he found a good home and was united with his best friends. Thank you very much! [Shaked believed the story!]

Richard Maclannan, Enfield, United Kingdom
Why don't I believe this article? Hmm, it's April 1st, isn't it? And that means April Fool's Day. Traditionally, Chessbase publish articles without credence on this day. So I'll wait for the usual announcement.

Rajko Vujatovic, London
Disallowing early draw offers til the position is truly dead is an excellent idea, but I propose an equally interesting alternative of having a penalty shoot-out, extending something like the FIDE KO rules to Swiss/American tournaments. If any single long-play game ends in a draw, then the competitors reverse colours and play a rapid time control. If that's a draw once again, then keep on playing blitz games until somebody wins! This will provide the spectator excitement of blitz games whilst also maintaining the purity/quality of the longplay. As well as removing motivation for an early bath, this system would encourage fighting chess as it always has to end in a win! This system is of course only feasible where you have no more than one round a day. [Another reader who believed the story]

Zvi Mendlowitz, Petah Tiqwa, Israel
Ha! no draws allowed! Liked it. Too bad it's April 1st...

Don Aldrich Minneapolis, USA
I am sorry that your joke was just too obvious this year. No one will believe that an elite tournament with no draw offers would ever happen. Nice try though.

Gilbert Vrancken, Maastricht, The Netherlands
No draws based on mutual agreement... sadly I realize it's April 1st. Yet many brilliant ideas started out as a joke. I hope one day this will see the light of day.

Lior Lapid, New York, NY
How about banning the Petroff and the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez? Just as a security measure, of course, but I think it may serve our purpose well.

Miguel Zialcita, Milledgeville, GA, USA
I was brimming with excitement to see a tournament without draws, until I remembered what day it was. I guess this is your April Fools' Day gag this year. Good one! But who knows, maybe that idea may yet have its day. All the best to the Chessbase gang!!

Michalis Kaloumenos, Kallithea, Greece
It is April 1st, guys. But the same joke appeared on other web pages, like the europe-echecs.com news page: "La nulle par accord mutuel sera interdite." If the story is true, it seems that this is a very important change for the game, because, in the first place, the player's psychology has to be different, ready to fight until the end as the Roman gladiators. Seriously: such a "no draw, play on" rule, opens a very important subject for discussion, and I am curious to read the players' comments about it, before and after the event. BUT, if you are joking,... are you? Please, make yourselves clear.

Okay, let's leave it at that – with apologies to the hundreds who are not being quoted here. Actually most will be relieved, because, as it turns out:

The "Draws are banned" story was perfectly true! Every last word of it.
At the Super-GM tournament in Sofia the participants will not be allowed
to offer draws, only the arbiter can do that.

So that article was not an April Fool's prank.

Amber Kriegspiel tournament

Fifteen hours after the "Draws are banned" article a second report appeared on our news site. It was approximately the time of day when people had come to expect the daily reports on the Amber Blindfold and Rapid event in Monaco. After eleven rounds, on the previous evening, Vishy Anand had won the tournament, but now it appeared to be continuing, with kriegspiel being the mode of play. The new report was on rounds twelve and thirteen.

Many readers were somewhat perplexed at the unexpected continuation of the tournament, especially since the there was no mention on the official Amber web site or on other chess news pages. Very mysterious. On the other hand a number of visitors carefully examined the pictures, comparing the positions visible there to the kriegspiel games provided at the end of the report. Everything matched perfectly. "The pictures prove without a doubt that the games were actually played by Leko, Svidler, Shirov and Gelfand," wrote Brad Christensen of Minnesota, "and that they were played in the Grand Hotel in Monaco. Maybe it was an experiment on a free day?"

Others were more firm in their suspicions. Just minutes after we had posted the report we received a letter from Jeff Sonas (who writes statistics articles for us). "I'm very impressed by the slanty pieces on the laptop screens, and the fact that the Shirov picture matches the Shirov game. What a magnificent spoof. I wasn't fooled for a second!"

Letters started trickling in, not as many as those identifying the Draws article as the April prank. A rough check reveals that only about one in ten submissions got it right. " This is obviously an April Fool's day prank," wrote Anand Dhulipala of La Jolla, USA. "Though it is very funny, especially the actual moves, it would fool nobody." Sez you, Anand. Shivkumar Shivaji of Mountain View, CA, wrote: "The kriegspiel article almost had me fooled until I read about the rules of the game! Nice April fool joke!" Apparently ex patriot Indians living in California are particularly critical readers.

"Wow! These look like some of my games," wrote Gabi Julien of Montréal, Québec. "We should add the Fischer rule to this game. By this I mean taking back moves, remember? And then maybe we could add implants to the hypothingy." Obviously Gabi had carefully studied our previous jests (see links below). Flaviu Lepure of Cambridge, Massachusetts took a different analytical approach: "You got me to click on the news item expecting information about the new tournament. You got me reading most of the first paragraph. But: Peter Leko winning a minimatch 2-0?? That was too much! That had to be an April Fool's joke!"

Angelo Mattiello of Veracruz, Mexico wrote in similar vein: "So I log into ChessBase, like every day, and I read about an unannounced chess tournament organized in Monaco by a Dutch billionaire, featuring an extravagant chess variant. I read the report and everything seems normal (except for Anand losing... nah! that can't be right). I check the pictures and, apart from the weird typography used in the words "Black" and "White", they are perfectly fine. I even browse the web, looking for some info about Kriegspiel and find a site where I play a short game of this variant. Yet, there's no report on the official web site of the event. What to do? Mmmmm... how about checking the date? Congratulations on another great April Fool's joke! I keep wondering where do you get your inspiration? PS: I hope this IS a joke, otherwise I really am a fool..." No you ain't, Angelo. And to answer your question: under the shower, on March 31st.

A few more letters: Jonathan O'Connor of Leixlip, Ireland: "Brilliant. Of course we have been getting April 1 tricks all year. First, there was Fischer arrested in Japan, then Kasparov retires, and finally, Fischer gets an Icelandic passport. It's no wonder that it took you a while to put this story up." Ioannis Georgiadis of Athens, Greece: "Of course they did not play Kriegspiel in Amber, but it was really a very nice joke for April fool's day, I am sure many people actually believed it, even me for a moment. Theodore Thomas, Berlin, Germany: "So Amber has a Kriegspiel section! Wow! I almost believed it but there is no mention of it in the official site. Moreover in one of your (superbly) digitally mastered pictures the chess board tilting a little to the left. Nice try though! Better luck next year!"

Yes, Theodore, Jeff and the others: the world has changed completely since Photoshop, Paintshop and the other image processing software have become available. Never again will we be able to believe pictures that we see published on the Internet – or printed in newspapers or magazines for that matter. Here are some of the originals which our April prankster doctored [memo: find the perpetrator and fire him or her on the spot!].

Original picture submitted by Anna Dergacheva

The prankster inserted genuine positions from the kriegspiel games

A tournament notebook before the start of a blindfold game in Monaco

The doctored image

Shirov during the round eleven blindfold game

Transformed into a kriegspiel player struggling against Ivanchuk

Gelfand playing a blindfold game in round eight

The same player facing
a real position from his supposed kriegspiel game

On final remark: the games we supplied were taken from a correspondence kriegspiel chess tournament (yep, there is really such a thing). The link is given below. So the games were genuine and played at a fairly high level – just not by the players in Monaco.

Frederic Friedel


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