Grandmasters

6/19/2002 – On the first days of June there was a special meeting of Grandmasters to discuss issues that impact the lives of professional chess players – mainly subjects that are of concern to the top 100 players in the world. American GM Yasser Seirawan, who attended all the sessions, sent us a detailed report.

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GM Steering Committee

Moscow Meeting (June 1-3, 2002)

Meeting Report

On June 1-3, 2002 the following grandmasters met in Moscow at various times to discuss the business of the GM Steering Committee:

Zurab Azmaiparashvili
Jaan Ehlvest
Kiril Georgiev
Mikhail Gurevich
Alexander Khalifman
Joel Lautier
Predrag Nikolic
Yasser Seirawan

Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Mikhail Gurevich and Yasser Seirawan, attended all the meetings.

The discussions covered a large number of topics. The Committee decided to focus solely upon issues that impact the lives of professional chess players, concentrating upon subjects most important to the top 100 ranked players in the world.

In no particular order, the topics discussed over the three days included:

Committee Status
Committee Powers
Possible Committee Members
Time-Controls
Format for Professional World Championship Cycle
Format for Rapid Grand Prix
Chess Calendar
Chess Ratings
Women's Chess
FIDE Chess Olympiad
Titles
Drug Testing
Electronic PC/control

Of particular importance was how to constitute the Committee itself:

Status of the Committee

How are we "elected?"
How many members?
How many meetings?
What is a quorum for a meeting?
Who are the voters that elect the Committee members?
Can every over-the-board grandmaster vote or just the top 100 players?
How long are the Committee members' terms?

Powers of the Committee

Are we an autonomous Committee?
Are we financed by FIDE?
Are we financed by Bessel Kok's Professional Management Group?
Are our decisions "final"?
Should our decisions be ratified by a majority of grandmasters?
Must the FIDE General Assembly ratify all our decisions?

These are a lot of questions and we did not satisfactorily answer them.

The Committee felt that its work will become important and that we should just make our best efforts for the time being. Hopefully, we will lay the foundations for the Committee's future work. Zurab Azmaiparashvili and Yasser Seirawan agreed to Chair the Committee jointly for the interim period of time and to take responsibility for arranging meetings and preparing reports. The Committee agreed that its meetings should be open to all over-the-board grandmasters and that it should endeavor to publish reports of its meetings as broadly as possible.

The Committee noted, with interest, the open letter of the grandmasters. This open letter addressed two issues: the unity agreement signed in Prague and the GM Steering Committee. We were hopeful that the authors of the open letter would tell the Committee how it should be constituted. This was not the case. While the open letter was critical, no concrete solution was offered to either issue raised. The Committee encourages open letters and especially those that offer constructive solutions to the problems that professional chess players face.

Possible Committee Members

The Committee spent a lot of time discussing possible committee members. A large number of candidates were mentioned. The Committee was guided by several considerations; geographical diversity; grandmasters who have taken active roles; grandmasters who would work well together as a team and so on. It was felt that players such as Ruslan Ponomariov, Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov should be ineligible to become Committee members due to their vested interest in the various cycles.

While there are many truly excellent candidates, it wasn't clear to the Committee that all the players considered would wish to join the Committee. The Committee settled upon the following grandmasters and invitations will be issued to them to stand for election:

Predrag Nikolic
Zurab Azmaiparashvili
Artur Yusupov
Gilberto Milos
Jun Xie
Adianto Utut
Judit Polgár
Alex Khalifman
Mikhail Gurevich
Yasser Seirawan
Joel Lautier

It is hoped that these players will accept an invitation to be members of the Committee and that they would stand for election as a block of candidates. Other grandmaster players are eligible for election and would run as an independent candidate. Elections should be held during the Bled Olympiad.

Time-Controls

The Committee strongly supported three distinct time-controls for professional players:

"7-hour chess," which we called "Professional Chess." (We made this distinction because to use the term "Classical Chess," which is a common way of describing the slowest type of chess competition, would be inaccurate. Classical Chess as played before adjournments were abolished was much slower then the proposed 7-hour time-controls.)

Rapid Chess and "5-minute" or Blitz Chess.

Time-controls are crucial to every chess competition and are therefore regarded by the Committee as a defining issue.

We made the following decisions:

We should decide on two types of official time-controls: One for mechanical clocks and a second official time-control for digital clocks. (Because digital clocks are still not widely available.)

Our decision for the three time-controls for mechanical clocks was straightforward:

Professional Chess: 40 moves in two hours, followed by 20 moves in one hour, followed by all moves in thirty minutes (40/2; 20/1; All/30)

Rapid Chess: All moves in thirty minutes (All/30)

Blitz Chess: All moves in five minutes (All/5)

The Committee decided that the official time-control for digital time-controls should be determined by the majority decision of the world's top one hundred grandmasters.

Our inability to make a unanimous decision was due to our discussions of the "guillotine finish" for all the mechanical clock time-controls. The guillotine finish to a game invites the intercession of an arbiter. For instance, if a player has a King and a Rook versus a King and a Knight, normally the game is a draw, but the superior side has the right to continue play to test the defender. The question is; at what point is the defender justified in asking the arbiter to declare the game drawn? In a guillotine finish, a player may be simply playing for a win on time, making moves as quickly as possible in order to push the opponent over the time-limit. At what point should an arbiter intervene and declare such guillotine finishes a drawn?

Such guillotine finishes are quite common in chess competitions throughout the world. The Committee agreed that a guillotine finish must not be used for the Professional Chess World Championship and its cycle.

The advantages of digital chess clocks are clear and the Committee would urge professional players to use them whenever possible.

  • Digital clocks are more precise than mechanical clocks;
  • The digital display of the remaining amounts of time eliminate the need for the players and the spectators to guess how much time is on a player's clock;
  • Digital clocks allow for a time-control to avoid a guillotine finish.

In principle there are two methods for avoiding a guillotine finish: adding time increments to a player's remaining time or by a time-delay feature. While either method prevents the possible abuse of a guillotine finish, a preference was expressed for adding time increments to a player's clock for moves made.

Deciding the official time-controls for digital clocks was complicated by the fact that while the Committee felt that a guillotine had to be absolutely avoided for Professional Chess, there did not exist such a feeling where Blitz Chess was concerned. Indeed, just the opposite. Blitz chess is universal and is perhaps the single most played time-control in the world. If the official time-control for digital clocks were changed to "three minutes plus two seconds bonus per move" (3+2/All) or "four minutes plus one second bonus per move" (4+1/All) the fundamental nature of blitz chess would be changed.

The Committee therefore agreed that the Digital Clock time-control for Blitz Chess should remain at five minutes per player for all moves (5/All). The Committee requests the top one hundred rated players to approve this decision by a majority vote.

The Committee approved the Digital Clock time-control for Rapid Chess be twenty-five minutes per player with a ten second bonus increment added to a player's time for each move made (25+10/All). The Committee requests the top one hundred rated players to approve this decision by a majority vote.

The Committee considered many digital clock time-controls for Professional Chess but could not select a clear favorite. The discussions began with the idea that, as with Rapid Chess, a time increment would be used (as opposed to a time delay) in order to avoid a guillotine finish. The Committee is not certain of the players' preference; delay or increment?

If a time increment is to be approved, should it be awarded for every move made or for moves made during the "final time-control" only?

This was a key question as it influenced the time-controls that we considered.

Another major point was that while we are interested in avoiding a guillotine finish, we didn't want to award such large time increments that would lengthen the duration of a game well beyond a seven-hour playing limit.

The following time-controls for Digital Clocks where the ones given the most consideration:

  • 150 minutes plus 30 seconds for all moves (All/150+30)

  • 40 moves in 100 minutes plus 30 seconds and 60 minutes plus 30 seconds for all moves (40/100+30, All/60 + 30)

  • 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 20 moves in one hour, followed by 15 minutes plus 30 seconds for all moves (40/2, 20/1, 15+30/All)

The idea behind the first suggested time-control, (All/150+30), is that the player has two and a half hours to begin the game and can use the allotted time however he or she desired. The additional 30 seconds means that a player would have to make 120 moves before obtaining an additional one-hour of thinking time, keeping the game well within the seven-hour period.

The second time-control, (100+30 & 60 + 30/All) keeps a more constant rate of play. Unlike the first time-control (150+30/All), it is unlikely that the two players will consume a great deal of time on a given move and on the reply to it. The time-control, (100+30 & 60 + 30/All) is slightly slower than the first time-control (150+30/All).

The third suggested time-control (40/2, 20/1, 15+30/All) is the most conventional. The first two time-controls are exactly the same as those used for the mechanical clock. The third time-control of 15 minutes plus the 30-second bonus increment avoids the guillotine finish. However, this time-control is the slowest. It would mean that games that last beyond move 90 would likely breach the seven-hour playing session.

These time-controls were the ones most discussed. The Committee welcomes suggestions for other Professional Chess time-controls for the Digital Clock. Following the listing of the most favored time-controls, the Committee requests the top one hundred rated players to approve the digital clock time-control for Professional Chess by a majority vote.

(Readers should note that for the Dortmund Candidates' tournament the playing session will be 7 hours: 40 moves in the first two hours followed by 20 moves in one hour, followed by all the moves in 30 minutes. The games shall be played using the DGT clocks.)

A Pause During Play

The Committee felt that eating at the board should be forbidden but that the novel idea of a fifteen-minute nutrition break during a game deserved further discussion. During such breaks, players are forbidden to consult persons, books, computers, etc. about their unfinished games. This idea certainly has merit and input from professional players is encouraged.

Format For the Professional Chess World Championship Cycle (PCWC)

The Committee expressed some confusion with respect to the Professional Chess World Championship Cycle. While expecting to be able to make the rules for the matches based upon the Prague Agreement, it noted FIDE's plans to make a triangular match event. The Committee therefore delayed giving its opinion on the first Cycle of the PCWC until such a request is made by the parties.

With regard to the second cycle, the Committee approved a cycle which would feature:

A double elimination world qualifier tournament; (See Prague Agreement Annex B)
8-game Quarter-Final Matches;
12-game Semi-Final Matches;
16-game Final/Championship Match.

In case of a tied match, for the Quarter-Finals or subsequently, the Committee felt that all the tiebreak regulations should be the same for these matches. Tiebreaks should be played on their own day; there should be four Rapid Games (25+10/All) and in case of a tie a Shootout game (5 v 4 minutes, draw odds for Black). The Committee requests the top one hundred rated players to approve the second cycle for Professional Chess by a majority vote.

Format for the Rapid Chess Grand Prix Tournaments

The Committee agreed that the current format for the Rapid Chess Grand Prix is inappropriate. While encouraging the maintenance of 32 players in each of the five grand prix events, the Committee approved a double elimination match format. Those players who lose one match are still eligible to compete for the third prize.

Avoiding Clashes of Major Events

The Committee strongly agreed that clashes between major events in the tournament calendar should be avoided as much as possible. It urged FIDE to work with major chess organizers to avoid clashes. Organizers are urged to give FIDE the dates for their events as far in advance as possible. FIDE should appoint a person responsible for arranging the chess calendar and to publish the calendar with constant updates.

Ratings

The Committee anticipates that chess ratings will have a major impact on players' invitations to the world chess championships and tournaments. It is therefore of vital importance that the ratings and their calculations be as open and transparent as possible. The rating agencies should endeavor to list the events that have been rated as well as those events intended for rating in a simple, easy to understand manner.

World Blitz Chess Championship

The Committee strongly encourages the creation of an annual four day long World Blitz Chess Championship. While possible formats were discussed, no decision was made.

Women's Professional Chess

In considering the situation of the Women's Professional Chess Championship, the Committee felt that the "double elimination" world qualifier would be most inappropriate for determining the Women's Professional World Chess Champion. (Note that this would not have been the case if the World Qualifier tournament had been a Swiss; in that case, Men and Women players could have played together.) It was agreed that the Women's PCWC competition would have to be a separate event. The Committee felt that it would be best to seek the lengthy and extensive feedback from Professional Women chess players concerning how best to regulate the Women's cycle.

The Committee agreed that places should be made for Women players for the Blitz and Rapid Chess championships.

FIDE Chess Olympiads

The Committee also considered the time-control for the 14-round FIDE Chess Olympiad. It was felt that by deciding on three time-controls only, the Olympiad should become a Rapid Chess event featuring seven playing days of two rounds a day with two free days, making for a nine day long event. The drawback of this suggestion would mean that title norms would not be offered during the Olympiad. On the other hand, such a shortened Olympiad schedule would greatly reduce the staging costs of these events. The FIDE World Team Championships, a ten team round robin, should be played at a professional chess time-control.

Titles

The Committee noted that Grandmaster titles continue to be issued at increasingly worrying rates. The Committee urges FIDE to raise the standards necessary to achieve a Grandmaster title else the title will have less meaning.

Drug Testing

The Committee noted the interest and importance that FIDE has attached to receiving recognition from the IOC that chess is a sport and that as a sport, chess may one day be a part of the International Olympic Games. Whether these goals are achievable or not, it is clear that FIDE has taken the position that it must implement a drug testing program for its players. The Committee calls for a greater spirit of openness and discussion on the topic of drug testing. It would like to know if every effort has been made to convince IOC officials that chess is not a sport that suffers from drug abuse and that exemptions to IOC drug testing would be the most sensible way forward.

Electronic PC/ Control

The Committee noted that unlike drug testing, a rational concern is the potential use of PC electronics. Receiving advice during a game, whether from a coach or a PC, is illegal. Players should be forbidden from using their mobile phones, PDA or other electronic devices that would raise suspicions.

Next Meeting

There was agreement to try to hold the Committee's next meeting in August, just after the Lost Boys tournament in Amsterdam.

Although there were other topics discussed, this report of the meetings faithfully reflects most of the discussions.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Committee,

Yasser Seirawan


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