ECU decision on Nielsen protest

5/1/2011 – Three weeks ago Danish GM Peter Heine Nielsen protested about the tiebreak system used by the ECU to determine which players in the 2011 European Championship would qualify for the 2011 World Cup. He demanded that the final standings be recalculated, or that the affected players be compensated. Now the ECU, while accepting that the system was flawed, have rejected both demands.

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Background

The 2011 Individual European Championship was also a qualification tournament, with the top 23 finishers getting a seat in the 2011 World Cup. Problem was that behind the first 15 players there were 29 with a tied score. So the performance was used to break the tie. However the system produced some bizarre results. As it turned out, behind the first fifteen players there are 29 vying for eight remaining places in the World Cup. All had 7.5/11 points, and to break the tie the ECU used performance ratings, but calculated them after eliminating the games against opponents with the highest and lowest Elo rating. This method of calculation leads to bizarre results, as GM Peter Heine Nielsen showed in an open letter of protest. Nielsen called for the final standings to be changed, and if they weren't for the ECU to give him and other participants who have been harmed by the EC 2011 implementation of the Performance Rating proper compensation.

Now the ECU has answered Nielsen with the following decision, which is also available as PDF:

April 29th 2011

To: GM Haine Peter Nielsen

SUBJECT: The decision of the ECU Board on the Protest of GM Nielesen from April 10th, 2011

Dear Mr. Nielsen,

We acknowledged the receipt of your e-mail ("Protest" and "Enclosure") dated from 10th of April 2011. We read both documents very carefully, and here is our answer.

The regulations were published well in advance, and every player could have checked and tested them during (and even before) the tournament – their validity, logic and accuracy, as well as the way they were interpreted to calculate the standings after each round.

We have to distinguish between criticizing the regulations (which is a legitimate procedure) and claiming against the interpretation of these regulations given by the arbiters/organizers.

We agree with your principal ("academic") claims that the new regulations for tie-breaking in the Individual European Championships are an unsuccessful combination (to say the least) of Performance Rating (PR) and Median-Buchholz. ("Median Performance Rating" (MPR) as you defined it in your Enclosure).

However, any appeal against the interpretation of the regulations should have been presented in due time to the EICC 2011 Appeal Committee, giving the latter at least the chance to clarify this point before the last round at the latest.

Rule 6.2 (Tie-breaking in individual competitions), approved by ECU GA in Novi Sad
2009 says:

The order of players that finish with the same number of points shall be determined by application of the following tie-breaking procedures in sequence, proceeding from (a) to (b) to (c) to (d) the extent required:
(a) Performance Rating;
(b) Median-Buchholz 1, the highest number wins;
(c) Buchholz, the highest number wins;
(d) Number of wins, the highest number wins.

In case of (a) the highest and the lowest rated opponent will be deleted and the maximum rating difference of two players shall be 400 points. In the case of unplayed games for the calculation of (a), (b) and (c) the current FIDE Tournament Rules shall be applied.

A Performance Rating is a number derived from both the results and the ratings of the opponents. Reading (a) together with the last sentence means, to our knowledge, that the PR should be based in this case on only 9 results (against the "median" opponents) and 9 ratings (of the same "median" opponents) while ignoring two games (against the "extreme" opponents) as if they were not played (for tie-breaking purposes).

If we pay more attention to your claim, we come to a conclusion that it is not necessary at all to calculate performance rating, given that all the players sharing the same place have the same percentage. According to your interpretation, it is enough just to calculate the average rating of each player's opponents (after the opponents with the highest and lowest rating are discarded).

Now, even if we accept your claims that these regulations are illogical, unfair and that they do not solve all the possible situations etc, these are still the regulations and you will probably agree with us that we cannot change the rules during the games.

Consequently, Dear Mr. Nielsen, the ECU Board decided to reject both of your claims (a) to retroactively change the final standing of the EICC 2011 and (b) to give compensation to anyone for this.

Sincerely,
ECU Board

EUROPEAN CHESS UNION
Masarikova 5/19, Palace Beograd. 11000 Belgrade. Serbia
Tel: +381-11-414-2470
Email: office@europechess.org
www.europechess.net


Previous ChessBase reports on the subject

Nielsen protests ECU performance calculations
12.04.2011 – The 2011 Individual European Championship was also a qualification tournament, with the top 23 finishers getting a seat in the 2011 World Cup. Problem was that behind the first 23 players there were 29 with a tied score. So the performance was used to break the tie. However the system produced some bizarre results, as GM Peter Heine Nielsen explains.

Sonas: Assessment of the EU performance calculation
16.04.2011 – The 2011 European Individual Championship left 29 players with a tied score vying for eight places in the next World Cup. To break the tie the ECU used performance ratings, but calculated them in a way that led to some bizarre results – and to a formal protest by at least one player. Jeff Sonas introduces us to other, more logical systems. As usual his report is presented with exceptional clarity.

Opinions and proposals in the ECU performance debate
16.04.2011 – The 2011 European Championship generated controversy owing to the unusual tie-break system used. There was a formal protest by GM Peter Heine Nielsen and a thoughtful article by the statistician Jeff Sonas. Naturally we received a large number of letters, and among them two from GMs David Navara and John Nunn. Their proposals are included in the feedback from our readers.

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