Carlsen on the Grand Prix + readers' feedback

12/3/2008 – The cauldron is on the boil, FIDE has changed the World Championship qualification regulations, Alexei Shirov has lodged a protest. Now Magnus Carlsen, represented by his father Henrik, hints at legal action and withdrawal from the cycle. We bring you a report from his blog and feedback from readers on this and other subjects (including Aronian on women and computers!). A long, interesting read.

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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 Prix cycle.


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 match.

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 we?"

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 abilities.

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 maturity.

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.

K. Srinath
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 class matches.

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 Federation.

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 Prix.

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 Nunn's plan:

  • 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 games.

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 Championship deserves.

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 proper time.

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 reason
c) We keep the fun and entertaining World Cup, and add the significance of qualification to it
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 genuine enlightenment.

Sunita Ramnani, Mumbai, India
This guy has lost it completely. Women are outperforming men in many so called male bastions

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 you!

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.



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