Kasimdzhanov's proposal – our readers react

8/3/2011 – Two weeks ago former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov made a startling proposal, designed to lift chess out of what he perceives to be a crisis: eliminate draws by playing rapid and then blitz games if there is no decisive result. Naturally our readers commented on this idea with vigor – and many with interesting counter-proposals. Here is a (very large) selection of letters.

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Kasimdzhanov: Open letter to FIDE – with a proposal

"If we want success, sponsors, public and the rest of the parcel," Kasimdzhanov wrote in his original open letter to FIDE, "we need to abolish those draws in classical tournaments. And not by Sofia rules – tournaments with Sofia rules produced as many draws as any other; and not by 30 move rule, where players are often just waiting for move 30. We need something entirely different. Like a tie-break in tennis. We need a result. Every single day. And here is how it works. We play classical chess, say with a time control of four to five hours. Draw? No problem – change the colours, give us 20 minutes each and replay. Draw again? Ten minutes each, change the colours and replay. Until there is a winner of that day. And the winner wins the game and gets one point and the loser gets zero; and the game is rated accordingly, irrelevant of whether it came in a classical game, rapid or blitz."

In the following we bring you a selection of letters we have recieved as a reaction to Kasimdzhanov's article. The selection process is semi-automatic, so that if your letter is not included it does not imply that we found it less interesting.

Johannes J. Struijk, Terndrup, Denmark
GM Kazimdzhanov notes that chess is in a crisis, a crisis illustrated by expressions of a general dissatisfaction, the loss of a number of traditional tournaments, and the steady lack of public interest. He then goes on to compare the game of chess with tennis and notes that the difference between chess and tennis is that the latter has no draws. His conclusion: we have to abandon draws from chess. He also knows how to get rid of draws: after a draw in the classical game, rapid games and blitz games have to be played until we have a winner. It is his chess version of the tie break in tennis. The best of it all is that suddenly chess will make the headlines because we will have a higher probability of long winning streaks and 100% scores.

Kazimdhzanov's writing deserve a number of comments.

Is chess in a crisis because of the number of draws? Perhaps there are not more (short) draws than in earlier years, but I think that people are getting more upset with them. Times are indeed changing. Sponsors, organizers and audience (be it present or on the internet) feel they deserve a return on investment of their money, efforts and time, and they feel cheated when the players don't deliver. I personally couldn't care less about the final games of the recent Grischuk-Kramnik match, I simply stopped following their games. There is nothing wrong with Grischuk though: he just used the rules to maximize his chances, as he is supposed to do. So there must be something wrong with the rules. So, you are right at this point Mr. Kazimdzhanov!

Chess and tennis. Is tennis more popular because there are no draws? Here Kasimdzhanov makes an enormous jump. In tennis there is activity on the TV screen, in addition it is so simple to understand, and then again there is a decisive action every 20 seconds. How does chess compare to that? Football, by far the world's most popular sport, has a large number of undecided games and only in certain tournaments a decision is forced, because of practical reasons. So Kazimdzhanov's conclusion based on the comparison with tennis is unfounded.

The problem is thus not the draw, the problem is the short draw. Kazimdzhanov is fighting draws instead of short draws. However, his comparison with tennis has a second flaw. The tie break in tennis is still tennis, just like in the main tennis game. His solution, to play rapid/blitz as a tie breaker in chess is just changing the classical game to a different kind of game. Moreover, since most classical games are drawn, automatically most games will be decided in a rapid or blitz game. We are basically going to play rapid/blitz instead of classical. Personally, that will be the end of my membership of my chess club.

Will chess become popular because of "winning streaks". Well, we don't have any data on this, but I sincerely doubt it. Mr. Kazimdzhanov is an optimist. Rapid tournaments don't excite the world , so why would a combined classical/rapid tournament all at a sudden be so interesting for them.

Yes, chess is in a crisis. We are loosing organized chess players in Denmark almost every day. We won't change that by changing drawing rules. But for sponsors, organizers and chess fans it would be good to avoid quick grandmaster draws (although I am not sure that this also should apply for amateur games). How to do this? The Sofia rules have two flaws: first, the arbiter is part of the process to decide for a draw and, second, draw by repetition still make quick draws a possibility.

My proposal is: No draws before the first time control, and repetition of moves is prohibited (just as in the Japanese game of Go). More specifically about the latter: it should be forbidden to play a move that repeats an earlier position. This also implicitly forbids draw by perpetual check. With those two simple rules the number of short draws will become zero (the main objective), and the number of draws will be reduced.

Does this have big impact on the world outside chess? Well, with Kazimdzhanov's optimism, it might avoid scaring sponsors away with whatever sort of positive effects that may have for the future of chess. It will certainly avoid some of the inside irritation in the chess world, a good place to start any improvement.


Aniello Olinto Guimarães Gréco Junior, Brasília, Brazil
Searching in my database I found that the central basis of this proposal from Kasimdzanov has some serious flaws. The percentage of draws among the elite players has not changed in the last 40 years. In my database I have 2,100,000 games. I have almost every game ever played between GMs. So I looked for the frequency of draws draws between players with rating over 2500, and I got the following results:

1971-80:
Matches with both players rated:
Above 2500: 5345 draws in 13343 games: 51.7%
Above 2600: 915 draws in 1679 games: 54.5%
Above 2700: nothing.
Only Fischer and Karpov were rated so high in this time and have never met across the board.

1981-90:
> 2500: 14807 draws in 29,139 games: 50.8%
> 2600: 2667 draws in 4881 games: 54.6%
> 2700: all games would be Kasparov vs Karpov, and I think the style of the players and the psychology of rivalry would create bad results.

1991-2000:
> 2500: 26480 draws in 52011 games: 50.9%
> 2600: 6246 draws in 11989 games: 52.1%
> 2700: 621 draws in 1119 games: 55.5%

2001 - 2005:
> 2500: 18076 draws in 33338 games: 54.2%
> 2600: 4443 draws in 8064 games: 55.1%
> 2700: 734 draws in 1260 games: 58.2%

2006-2008:
> 2500: 15595 draws in 28930 games: 53.9%
> 2600: 4524 draws in 8342 games: 54.2%
> 2700: 1096 draws in 2057 games: 53.2%

2009-2011:
> 2500: 14547 draws in 27674 games: 52.6%
> 2600: 5146 draws on 9678 games: 53.2%
> 2700: 1318 draws on 2513 games: 52.4%

We can see that the period from 2000 to 2005 had a slightly higher draw frequency, with more than 58% in the higher category. What happened in this year? The Kkockout World Championship of FIDE! Too many short matches with rapid tiebreakers.

And if you take only the games between the player with 2700+ played this year, the draw frequency is above 60%. What happened? The Candidates Matches! Another collection of quick matches with rapid tiebreakers. Draws have not become more frequent in the recent years, except when FIDE chooses rapid chess as a tiebreaker. If we adopt the proposal by Kasimdzhanov the frequency of draws in classical chess will RISE.

You guys from Chessbase can check my statistical analysis using Mega Database. I'm using a iMac (no ChessBase products on this machine I'm sad to say) and an average database. Maybe my data was not 100% correct.


Paul Lillebo, Asheville, NC, USA
GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov describes a problem – the lack of general public interest and therefore scarcity of sponsor funds – which is limited to professional chess, though he suggests that it's a crisis for the game as a whole (the amateur game seems to be doing quite well). I applaud his effort to come to a solution to the recurring issue of excessive draws in elite games. As he says, the draw is a natural result in the absence of error, and therefore a common result among players who make few errors, which may reduce the general appeal of top-level chess to the general public. Having more games end decisively seems to be a goal that most chess players support.

But I find the comparison with tennis to be a stretch. While there are unquestionably some similarities (e.g., one-on-one combat), the differences in potential for easy public appeal are too great to merit comparison. Tennis and other physical sports feature action and displays of physical skill that awe the public, even if they don't understand the details of the game. There will never be any point (or thrills) in watching chess unless you understand the game, and that puts a limit on public interest.

RK's specific solution probably deserves to be tried. In fact, I would love to see a series of tournaments that test various ideas (one at a time, of course) for improving the game, with subsequent analysis of the worth of the idea. There are a number of plausible ideas that haven't been tested in tournament play. My reservation about RK's idea is a suspicion that it may lengthen contests a good deal. It would be best suited where the original time control is not very slow.

But here's what I see as a more useful solution than tweaking the tournament rules: I think many organizers have misunderstood what makes a tournament attractive. The common effort by organizers to get the "strongest" tournament possible is exactly the wrong thing to do. What they're doing is inviting the players who will make the fewest errors, i.e., they will play more draws. I will offer a "law": The strongest possible tournament is the dullest possible tournament. I think that most chess players realize that the most fascinating games, and the most brilliant combinations, come when there's a difference in playing strength between the players. And of course this also holds for tournaments. Organizers ought to forget about tournaments with the top eight players in the world playing one another, and give us tournaments that include players from several levels of the rating list. This will result in: 1. Fewer draws! 2. More interesting games, and therefore... 3. More interesting tournaments; 4. A wider spread of scores and fewer ties for first place; and not least 5. More opportunities and exposure for pros outside the narrow world elite.

Mehrshad Sharif, Al Ain
We saw the proposal of Kazimzhanov in action at the Candidates Matchs, where the results were decided by final blitz.

Diogo, Lisbon, Portugal
Changing (accelerating) time controls is not the solution. It will require players to play faster, and therefore worse. Instead of having a first long game and then further shorter games, it would be nice to have an number of games with the same time control. This would guarantee that the playing strength is roughly constant across all games. Perhaps slightly lower than in a classical game, but definitely better than in blitz games. The way to avoid draws would be to keep players playing new games until one wins.

Adriaan van Weije, Kamperland, Netherlands
Excellent! At first I thought it would be no good, since a lot of games could be decided by blitz games and this would give an advantage to strong blitz players. After reading further, Kasim is so right! This will improve the classical chess we see today, brilliant insight, brilliant suggestion! Too bad a certain FIDE person will most likely not go for this.

William Karneges, Prague
To Rustam Kazimdzhanov: Although I too would like to see chess have a more prominent standing among the general public, to compare chess and tennis is not realistic or a fair comparison. First, tennis is not a board game. Second, tennis is a game most anyone can understand simply by watching it and physical activities generally appeal to a wider audience as all people have bodies but fewer have brains. :-) The draw is inherent in the game of chess, for example, the perpetual check, whereas drawing is not possible in tennis, although McEnroe and Borg came close when neither could gain the two game advantage necessary to win the final set at Wimbledon. Also, problematic to chess is the possibility to memorize the best opening moves as far as memory will serve. You cannot memorize a good tennis match. Maybe if chess allowed screaming and cursing at the board, it would do for chess what John McEnroe did for tennis. I agree that having a win/lose outcome is more compelling but even here players could steer their way to a perpetual if both agreed beforehand and regarding having several time controls for the purpose of determining a winner, should we weigh each time control equally? Don't we want to know who the best player is at each time control? Even this would diffuse the impact of a match to the audience. Chess is simply a different sort of sport/game/art. So, the blame, unfortunately, is with chess itself and not the players. Perhaps a good starting point would be to not award the same amount of money to the winner and loser in the world championship. That certainly takes the excitement out of the match to the general public.

Fred Cline, Houston, USA
Best proposal for draws I have seen to date. I think this is a great idea.

Joel Pineda, Olongapo City, Philippines
I agree 110%. Lets make this sports we love more exciting. Time for a chang!

Peter Stephenson, Kempton Park, South Africa
GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov puts the problem very eloquently, but his solution has no appeal to this woodpusher. Since you don't know otherwise consider me a business tycoon wanting to attract wide attention to my business by sponsoring an enthralling combative and esteemed spectacle. Then I don't want to see Federer decide his tennis match by winning a game of ping pong and I don't want to see Magnus Carlsen win a classic chess match by winning a game of snakes and ladders, a game of blitz chess, or a game of tiddly winks. These are all good honourable games but have their specialised devotees. The best classic chess player might not be and shouldn't need to be proficient at these other pursuits. I want to see classic chess at its purest played to an ultimate end but will be perfectly content if that end be a genuine hard fought draw. So, no (tacitly) agreed lazy draws and no blitz deciders - next solution please.

Eugene Briones, Philippines
There were several proposals on how to solve the problem of draws. Today, I thought of an improvement over a scoring used to solve the draw problem (3 for win, 1 for draw, and 0 for loss). I think this scoring is not quite accurate. My proposal is to score 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, and in case of a draw, the player with the white pieces gets 0.4 point while black gets 0.6 point.

Harish Srinivasan, Buffalo, NY, USA
There have been so many of such solutions given for the draw, but FIDE has not tried one of them. Why does not FIDE give this a try. What prevents them? What is the use of hundreds of players suggesting solutions and press publishing it. The solutions are not just for the fans to read, it is for FIDE to read and make efforts to implement it. So here is a fan calling out to FIDE to implement this solution. Be it for good or bad, only if FIDE starts to listen to chess professionals the chess players will get the confidence with FIDE to suggest more improvements. Atleast to begin with FIDE can ask players (say all the GMs and IMs) to vote whether or they will like to see this idea in practice?

Daniel Gormally, Alnwick, England
I find interesting Rustam Kasimdzhanov's proposal to increase the attractiveness of chess to the wider public. However, as I see it, there is a rather large flaw. While chess can be compared to tennis in many ways, it falls short on one key requirement, in that it is much simpler for the average layman to understand tennis than it is for him to understand the complex and rather secluded activity of chess. Even poker is much simpler to understand than chess. And this might explain the difference in popularity and difference in prize money between the two games.

Another problem that might arise with his proposal is the obvious unpopularity this might provoke within the players. For example, say you have a six hour game, it seems you are winning for most of the game, but your opponent defends brilliantly, and at the end he finds a study-like way to draw the game. This is part of chess. The last thing you would want then, exhausted with the combat, is have to play another game, then if that is drawn, another game and so on. A blitz or rapid game in that situation bears no logical connection to the marathon game that went before it. It brings to mind the Greek figure of Sisyphus, where the tragic figure is condemned to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity. I just can't see it being popular.

So how to make chess popular? I just don't think there is an easy solution to this, and "shock and awe" solutions generally don't wash. Trying to do more to attract sponsors to the game, trying to get chess on the television, are ways that should be continued. Who knows, poker had a resurgance, perhaps the same could happen with chess?

Günther van den Bergh, Cape Town, South Africa
Fortunately/unfortunately, draws are part of the game and always will be. There is and most likely will be no satisfactory solution to remedy this situation. Perhaps, and this might not be the best, is to link the total prize pool of a tournament (especially the Round-Robin events) directly to the outcome of games. Not 1st, 2nd, etc. place prizes, prize money is awarded based on a player's results, e.g. $1000 for a win, $10 for a draw and nothing for a loss. The difference between a "win" prize should be significantly larger than the "draw prize". This "might" encourage players to play for a win and produce "spectacular games". And yes, a player not winning the tournament might end up with more prize money than the actual winner. So what! The better you play, the more dollars you get.

Craig Gross, Pennsylvania, USA
Very interesting idea, and something that deserves serious thought and attention. Some will quickly complain about total hours played in a day, others will talk fatigue, but the point is a clear winner. Time is an issue for live television, especially in the United States, however, poker is quite popular right now, and a poker tournament goes on for days. They succeed by editing the footage and not showing it live! Thus the time argument is answered. Fatigue?! So what. That's part of the sport element. Tennis players get fatigued, so do baseball, football, soccer, etc. It's inherent in all sports. It is this aspect that I think makes Kasimdzhanovs' ideas so interesting, along with an eventual clear winner. He introduces our game to the key of all endeavors: the human element. By continuing to play with faster and faster time controls in a single day, each player's individual stamina is put to the test, thus creating more exciting dynamics.

I look forward to the over-all feedback, but I think Kasimdzhanov is onto something.

Pedro F, Hegoburu, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I am afraid GM Kasimdzhanov's proposal is not viable. He says white players will play extra hard to win the game and not be forced to play a second game with Black. But he doesn't consider that black players will (perhaps) play extra solid to draw the game and have a chance in the subsequent game with the white pieces against the same player...

I believe his proposed system favors rapid-control players. This has been a problem since Tripoli 2004, or maybe it is a problem since the nonsensical two-game knock-out system was introduced by FIDE: it is OK for some players to draw the two-game matches and then try to get lucky in the rapid play-offs. This must be eliminated. A tournament/match with classical time controls should not be decided in rapid play-offs. This was common in the recent Kazan Candidates and – in my opinion – was not good.

Also, it is rather misleading to say or think that a player might achieve a "winning streak", certainly not in the sense suggested by GM Kasimdzhanov. GM Fischer obtained long winning streaks and they were "normal" wins, i.e. he sat down with the white or black pieces and won. Can we count a game won in a five-minute play-off as part of a "winning" streak? Say a player draws 100 classical control games but wins all his subsequent rapid games. Can we honestly say he has a "100-game winning streak"?

Additionally, how are we supposed to record these games? For example, X plays Y and makes a draw, then colors are reversed, Y wins, but we are supposed to explain to the public that the original, first game was a draw and the subsequent rapid game was decided? How do we record these games in our chess databases? And in our crosstables?

Even though I find a number of flaws in GM Kasimdzhanov's proposal, I praise his positive attitude in trying to find a solution to the problems chess is facing.

Navin Sawalani, Madison, WI, USA
I love Kasimdzhanov's proposal! It makes perfect sense. Just imagine how many tennis fans would lose interest if they knew there was a chance that Nadal and Federer would show up, play out a draw, and call it a day. Tennis would lose its popularity. This scenario alone should illustrate the unattractiveness of the draw possibility in chess.

Kai Rex, USA
Absolutely brilliant. If such a thing were to be implemented chess may yet make a come-back. It is sad that FIDE being the way it is will likely not even take it into consideration, and if it is considered they will likely rather honor tradition over innovation and evolution. Chess players should control FIDE not bureaucrats.

Ali Razzaq, Edmonton, Canada
Great idea that will gives life to chess at public everywhere. I strongly agree and I hope most or all top players support it and eventually FIDE.

Simon Blome, Germany
I'm just an amateur (Elo 1900) and I feel exactly the same about draws. I appreciate GM Kasimdhzanov's straight opinion and his proposal!

A personal experience: I had a season in which I had every single game drawn! That was not bad but I felt dissatisfied with that season and thought of it as a waste of time. I hardly remember any of the games played. In contrast I had a season in which I had not a single draw! My result was four wins to three losses. Man, I remind all the games of that season. Some were won brilliantly, others were lost terribly, but there was not a single lame game without emotion. It was an inspiring, good feeling. So I think that 'emotion' is a word that GM Kasimdzhanov described but did not name in his open letter. In fact, emotion is a big thing in tennis, but a rarely experienced in (short) draws in chess. Spectators can feel with the players, they share their emotions! Another example is Shogi. In Japan there are live games on TV, with top rated players, professional live commentaries, live reactions of the players – all the things I wish we could have for chess sometime...

Julian Kuan, Hong Kong
The chess world appears to have reached a crossroads. As GM Kasimdzhanov aptly put it, there have been many attempts to stop the "drawing death" of chess, and to launch it into the world of mainstream sports. But all of them, be they the Sofia rules or the 3-1-0 points system, have been unsuccessful. It is therefore clear that more radical solutions are necessary.

GM Kasimdzhanov has proposed a system where a drawn game will be replayed at shorter and shorter time controls until a decisive result is reached. This solution is logical, but does not go as far as it must. It is unsatisfying to have a blitz result and a classical result count the same. However, GM Kasimdzhanov's comparisons between tennis and chess are most apt, and should chess truly wish to be recognised as a mainstream sport, it could do far worse than model itself after tennis.

This, in essences, is the basis of my counter proposal. Perhaps we should eliminate the classical games altogether? Why not play just blitz games? After all, blitz tiebreakers are what provide the greatest excitement among chess fans. I propose that a chess "match" be split into five "sets", with each set consisting of four 3+2 blitz games. Should a set be tied at 2-2, a 6-5 Armageddon game will be played, with black holding draw odds and the winner taking the set. The first player to win three sets wins the match, and there will be no final set tiebreaker, with sets of two games being played until one player has a clear win.

This system of play, modeled after tennis, will bring much excitement into chess. Critics will undoubtedly dismiss the quality of the games, and say that no one will watch such matches. To this I would ask "How many unforced errors did Federer make in his '08 Wimbledon final against Nadal?" To err is perfectly human, and blunders should be a natural part of the game, just as mistakes are part of every sport. The most amazing moments in sport occur when an athlete makes a split second decision, and by virtue of his/her amazing instincts, creates the perfect outcome. In chess we rarely have these moments. We definitely have brilliancies, but they are almost always thought through, slow and meditative. This proposal would increase the value of intuition in the game, and this would make brilliancies shine all the more.

I understand, this is a huge leap to be making, but one that must be made. There is much romance in the traditional forms of chess; I myself yearn for the great world championships of the past, with their human drama and tense battles. But just as the romance of Anderssen had to give way to the logic of Morphy and the technique of Capablanca, the chess world must realise that progress must occur, in order to make the leap into becoming a mainstream sport.

Charles Kayle, Beirut, Lebanon
It is a great idea. Also we can use the tie break game results (rapid and blitz) to update the Elo lists of rapid and blitz chess, after creating of them of course. Also this opens more job opportunities for arbiters (which means more income). Some organisational problems may arise: suppose several (normal) games finish at nearly the same time, should the players wait till the other players finish their (normal) games, in order to use the playing area? As we know it is very disturbing to play a nomal chess game, and near you a blitz game is under way. Will be there enough arbiters available? Any tie-break side playing area available? Can on-line media (like TV broadcasts) follow both types of chess in different playing halls at the same time?

Shaun Bowcaster, Oklahoma City
NO! I understand that everyone wishes that chess could be like tennis or soccer. However, the difference has nothing to do with the draws, it has everything to do with the complexity of the rule set. In soccer you need to understand one thing: get the ball kicked into the net more times than the other team. Tennis: get the ball over the net and in bounds more times. That's all that is required to have a basic understanding. You cannot expect the general public to understand what is happening on the chessboard in the same way that the public understands what is happening on the soccer field. Sometimes even strong players aren't sure what is happening between two GMs, and to expect a person who hardly knows the rules to appreciate what is going on in a blitz game, other than "those guys sure move fast", is completely untenable. Chess much be couched in situations that generate national pride in order to gain sponsorship. If the US says our player has a higher rating than yours because we are a better people, or Russia says the same thing, then motivation will be generated.

Stefan, Lyocsa, Kosice, Slovakia
I think that it is very safe to assume that, unlike tennis, chess (its beauty if you wish) is very difficult for a general public to understand. Many can see and admire nice shots by tenis players, but in chess, even for amateurs it is difficult to understand games played by chess masters. Therefore I don't like the comparison to tenis. I like the general idea of Mr. Kasimdzhanov, as it could design a system where "heroes" could be produced. Generally the public likes heroes. But it does little to solve the problem of how to bring the actually extremely difficult game of chess to a wider audience. I dont even think that it easy or that the chess world could do much about it. The difficulty of the game is one of its attributes.

Bob Luck, Tualatin
I don't know if the more sedentary sport of chess can ever really compete for public favor with more active sports, but I like Kasimdzhanov's idea of no draws in the result column. It would certainly solve the draw problem in chess, and would allow for more meaningful World Championship cycles. It has disturbed me a great deal that the matches, both qualifying and championship, had grown so short that a single win could determine who would advance, or even who would be the champion. Playing for ten wins in ten days of play would both eliminate the organizational nightmare of endless marathons and give us worthy champions.

Harvey Patterson, Ottawa, Canada
Kasimdzhanov makes a compelling argument, but the obvious flaw is that this system benefits rapid players. A strong rapid player can "pull a Grischuk" and try to draw every game in order to go to rapid tiebreaks.

Many solutions to the problem of draws in chess have been proposed over the last few years, and the same solution comes back to me every time. The reason why top players will almost inevitably draw (unless one of them blunders) is that it's nearly impossible to acquire a large enough advantage to checkmate. Barring a situation where the opposing king is trapped behind his own pieces, the minimum amount of material for checkmate is a rook (five points), or two bishops (six points), or a bishop and a knight (six points). Short of a blunder, the only way that a grandmaster is likely to acquire an advantage that large over another grandmaster is if he can promote a pawn. When promotion becomes impossible, a material advantage sometimes as great as six points (two knights) becomes meaningless.

Instead of looking to tennis, maybe chess needs to go back to its roots: reintroduce the Shatranj rule that allows victory if you eliminate all of your opponent's material. If you only need to defeat your opponent's army, it would be worth playing on whenever you have an advantage of any size.

Adding this rule would increase the likelihood that games would be played to victory (though not checkmate), which Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh pointed out would be good for the fans. This would reduce the number of draws, but still would not prevent draws by agreement (those could still be banned or forbidden before a certain move), by repetition, perpetual check, or lack of progress. If we really want to get rid of most draws, let's also add the impasse rule from Shogi: if the game is drawn for any reason, the game is decided by counting the material of both sides. This would make it impossible for a losing player to avoid defeat through perpetual check; threefold repetition would only be worthwhile when both players have the exact same amount of material (threefold repetition could be banned); and it would even cut down on draws through lack of progress, which can easily occur despite one player having a material advantage of at least one point.

The addition of the "baring the king" and "impasse" rules would dramatically reduce the number of draws, and banning threefold repetition and agreed draws would practically eliminate them entirely. The only way a draw could occur would be a situation such as an opposite colored bishop ending where neither king can catch the other player's bishop, or deadlocked pawns in an even-strength game. This ought to make draws rare enough to please the fans, players, and sponsors. It would also allow games to be resolved by actually playing them out, right down to bare kings if necessary, rather than requiring players to start a new game in order to break the draw (though Kasimdzhanov's rule could still be implemented if you abolutely want no draws). It eliminates the possibility of a strong rapid player trying to draw the long game to get to rapid tiebreaks, and allows a classical match to actually be decided by classical games!

Daniel Tapia, Bogotá, Colombia
I think it's a great idea! It's so simple but it could help to win the public over again. Not since Fischer has the general public been interested in chess. It's because he won so often that the people got behind him. I hope ChessBase can continue asking titled players what they think about this solution.

David Levens, Nottingham, England
Kasimdzhanov's idea is interesting, but for me one of the attractions is the fact that we have draws, as we do in cricket, football, rugby, etc! The real problem I believe, is the articles published in newspapers, always written by chess players for chess players. No other sports column is written exclusively for one particular section of the public but for everybody. We need chess columns for everybody, with pictures and details about the personalities. Those of us who take the game seriously can go online or buy specialist magazines. When the public realise that chess players are just like footballers and other sports players, that we have romances, have children like many other sports stars, then the public will become seriously interested in what is going on. My mother lived to be 91 and followed sport all her life, but she never played any! PS: I am a successful professional junior coach, working in the UK.

Gary Roe, Santa Cruz California
I praise Kasimdzhanov for his innovative suggestions in trying to improve the royal game of chess. It's great to see improvements being offered, though sometimes we forget that chess is not tennis, chess is chess. And with that comes short draws, lackluster play, and long drawn out positional draws which don't enthuse the spectator very much. And with that comes brilliant attacking play, creative masterpieces, thrilling time scrambles and champions giving their all in every game. The reason why Kasimdzhanov's solutions are to be commended, while they are not really practical, is: who has the energy to continue another game after a brain draining five-hour classical struggle?

David Kubecka, Prague, Czech Republic
Such a great idea!

Brian Stewart, San Jose, CA
Mr. Kasimdzhanov is not suggesting anything new. Several tournaments use some variation of the classic-rapid-blitz-Armageddon formula to decide a winner. The problem with that idea is that using rapid games to decide a classic tournament is rather like using a 100-meter dash to determine who can run a marathon the fastest.

Romeo Bayot, San Jose, Ca., USA
When reading GM Kasimdzhanov's proposal I was intially skeptical, first due to the many previous proposals before which had been suggested, and sometimes implemented, like the sofia rule; and second his comparison of chess and tennis.But as I continued on I realized that he has a very good point, simple yet effective. In fact this has been being done already in some tournament, like the most recent Candidate's tournament, where GM Gelfand emerge as the winner though in a slightly different manner. I strongly agree with GM Kasimdzhanov's proposal and I hope that FIDE will take note of this, and also everyone else.

Igor Freiberger, Porto Alegre, Brazil
I find Kasim's proposal simply perfect. It preserves the classical games, which will remain being played at standard rates and being registered and analysed as usual. No new pieces, no larger board, no excentric rules. Draws will still happen, but they do not count and a play-off is needed. Simple and effective. Curiously, since '90s we had some tournaments with a similar system here in Southern Brazil. Firstly in Rio Grande and later in Caxias do Sul a number of tournaments prohibited draw as a result in final rounds. If a draw did occurs, a 6x5' play-off defines the result. In 2010, Ivanchuk played under this rule in Caxias do Sul – and won the tournament. Kasimdzhanov proposal uses the same rule, but in a better way. I strongly support his idea and hope to shortly see magistral tournaments organized with this method.

Paul Cox, London, England
I have to disagree with the whole premise of GM Kasimdzhanov's proposal. There are two players, yes, but that's where the similarities between tennis and chess end in my opinion. Tennis is not popular with the public because each game has a winner, it is popular because each game produces drama! The "oooohhs" and "aaaahhs" of the crowd over hard fought rallies and balls narrowly in or out. In short, it is not the destination but the journey that fascinates a spectator. Tennis is a visual game, tennis player or not, the spectator understands and can be drawn into the drama unfolding. Top level chess, like it or not, does not produce visual drama. There is drama, but it's hidden away, locked inside of the position on the board. Understanding that position is difficult for many avid chess fanatics, let alone the uninitiated spectator! There are endless discussions over how to popularise chess with a largely uninterested wider public. Unfortunately, these discussions are all pushing against the immovable truth that chess, by its very nature, is just not suited to being a widely popular spectator sport. Sad but true I'm afraid...

D. Ravindran, Coimbatore, India
Completely agree with Kasim and it is a great idea that will change the whole chess scenario. Fully welcome this fantastic change which should be implemented to make chess a dynamic sport.

B.M. Chandler, Pune, India
Sigh. My opinion of Kasim (and GMs in general) took a nosedive. My guess is that tennis is not popular among blind people because they can't see the beautiful shots grazing the line that have to be played to extract/save a point. Similarly, people who don't know the value of pieces, pawn structures, etc. won't admire chess because they can't see the positional/material sacrifices that need to be made to extract/save a point. If you must introduce the tennis analogy, then the best anti-draw rule is: play till you run out of time or black out due to fatigue. No more three-fold reps or handshakes, only when two kings are left. Play it out till you fall down.
And Kasim's (and any other anti-draw ideas) are just as dumb as mine.

Martin Greenwood, Penang, Malaysia
I don't agree with Rustam. Chess is not popular because it is not a spectator sport and therefore does not appeal to a TV audience (a) because the moves take too long and (b) because most people can't follow the higher levels of the game. If you "speed up" chess by shortening the time limits after each draw to force a win, TV viewers will find it even more difficult to follow the game. In any case. there are many fascinating draws in high level chess (though I agree it is regrettable to see top players concluding quick draws amongst themselves). I think the solution is to educate people more about chess. We need to start a chess education revolution in which we target schools and young people. The more people who learn about chess from an early age and start playing it, the more likely it is that we will knowledgeable crowds attracted to chess as they are in "chess-educated" countries like Cuba, Russia and Argentina. When people who know start clamouring to watch games, TV channels will start to take notice. Let's hope it happens one day soon.

Tony Andrea
Chess will never be as popular as tennis for one reason – I don't have to be a significantly experienced and competent tennis player to enjoy watching a great tennis match. I can see what is happening even if there is no commentary. I have played thousands of blitz games on the Internet – but when I watch a grandmaster chess game I have almost no idea what is happening. Until the majority of the population is rated 2200+ the story of chess in the media will never progress.

IA Naji Alradhi, Dubai, UAE
I will claim that such an idea appeared to me many times before! I'm sure many chess enthusiasts will claim the same. But this is the first time a World Champion and a Super GM puts it officially to FIDE and to the public. Why was this idea never implemented? Simply because of the total time needed to decide the day. Let us say a classical game in a Swiss system tournament was set to Fischer 90min + 30sec. In real-life, the last game in the playing hall might last more than five hours, followed by an average of on hour rapid, 10 min blitz, 10 min Armageddon. That will sum up to about seven hours including rests between these games. In a super tournament, the time control for the classical game alone will be 6-7 hours. The total time needed to decide the game will increase to about eight hours.

Problems: (1) Games would start too early every day. You start at 2:00 p.m. and hope to finish before 10:00 p.m.! This will not work for the majority of chess players around the world; with exception of full time pros. (2) Organizers will not be able to fit two rounds in a single day. (3) Organizers would have to work till late hours to finish pairings for the next day. (4) Both the media and chess fans will not like to stay that long to know who wins the game. (5) The system will encourage younger players to steer the classical games to draws because they believe they have better chances in faster games. We already witnessed this attitude in the late World Championship candidate matches. It was a chess catastrophe!

José Ribeiro, Portugal
Taking on account Kazim proposal, if I work like a lion and make a draw against a stronger player, that will still be meaningless because I will probably lose to him in blitz afterwards. Nice reward for showing fighting spirit! Conversely, the stronger player now has to enter into a shorter timed game that is much more volatile. Errors go up as time goes down in chess, which enables an upset to occur that would all but never occur within classical time controls. For players of equal relative strength in classical, rapid, and blitz formats; an upset between opponents of a greater Elo difference is more likely to occur in blitz than in rapid, and in rapid than in classical. The much stronger player should fear the blitz MORE than the weaker player, not less.

Kazim proposal seems to be a kind of Darwinian law where it is not important who is the stronger, but who is the more adaptable player. In a way they want to eliminate whats called a stronger player. Kazim is Anand's second and maybe he is thinking of Anand winning the next world championship by blitzing the "old" Gelfand!?

This system with the objective to provide "entertainment" (for whom? The people outside chess, who do not understand chess and never will be there no matter what changes chess will do?) which will "benefit?!" the sport. Maybe chess will then gain a few gamblers and loose a few old players who need more stamina to face youngsters in blitz. Tournament directors will need more time in each round or more rest days. I'm not entirely convinced by Kasimdzhanov's suggestion. Chess is an art like painting or music and will always be like that. The masses will never love painting or classical music like football, rock or boxing, but that is not the reason to try to sell chess like fast food. By the way, in some circles the movement towards slow food is growing!

Like Kasparov once said: "Perhaps chess is the wrong game for the times. Poker is now everywhere, as amateurs dream of winning millions and being on television for playing a card game whose complexities can be detailed on a single piece of paper!"
I do not believe that the inclusion of blitz to create decisive results will change anything in chess, like the FIDE increments never did (only served to sell digital clocks). This question of draws is always the old talks about promoting chess and turning chess into football. One thing I am sure, if they create a tournament with classical times of 7 hours in a casino with millions in prizes in Dubai or Las Vegas, I guess it will be a big success with players from all parts of the world!!

The latest qualification for the World Championship was a shame with so few classical games and those blitz decisive games.

Vinny Rai MD, Delhi
The problem with successively reducing time controls is that if players win games more by opponents' errors than by superior playing skill, it robs the game of the adventure. There is nothing called blitz tennis. An even more exciting solution is to allow players to bid for time as black out of one hour by ballot-like system. If a player bids 40 minutes less as black from one hour, he gets 20 minutes as black with white to win with 60 minutes on clock: This is employed in tie-breaks at the US Championship.

Jorge Ramírez, México
If the classical game ends in a draw, both players should recieve a reward. It wouldn't be fair get zero points if you lose in the blitz. My idea is to change the score system. If you win in classical game get 1 point and loser gets nothing, but if you win on rapid tie-break then the score should be lets say 0.80 - 0.20, if draw remains and get to the blitz then the score could be 0.70 - 0.30 and in armaggedon 0.60 - 0.40. The elo calculation should be adapted to this. It's not the same to lose on classical than to lose on armaggedon, in this way each player receives what he deserves in score in the the tournament and in Elo calculation. And the most important thing: we will always have a winner.

Patrick Wilson, England
I think that the real problem at the highest level is the excessive number of closed tournaments and the top ten are playing all the time against each other and know each other very well and play fashion openings all the time. The open tournament warrior knows how tough his life can be and he could loose against the next opponent. When Carlsen went to the Olympiad he lost and the same would happen to weaker GMs if they play again zonals or open tournaments. If Kazim likes to compare chess with tennis, then why not play like in tennis where the number one can face number 100? I do not see in tennis Nadal, Federer and only the top ten playing all the time between them, without chances for others to join. In closed tournaments they protect their rating all the time, thats the problem of modern chess!

Stuart Pink, USA
I agree entirely with Rustam's analysis and love his proposal. It would revolutionise chess. He mentions tennis but not the Japanese boardgame Go. One of the ways I believe Go is currently superior to chess is that a draw is impossible. Rustam's suggestion would change that. At the very least, it would be great to see some tournaments (or matches) played according to his suggestion.

Peter Radovan, Gold Coast, Australia
This is a great suggestion by kasimdzhanov. However, I would refine it a little. There would only be rapid games, not blitz - blitz has no place in deciding classical chess results. The winner of the rapid game would get 1/2 a point and the loser 0 to encourage a classical result and give it the higher status it deserves. To avoid fatigue, every third round would be set aside for rapid games only. These rounds would replace rest days and an extra rest day would be held after every two rapid days. The number of rounds would be reduced to bring it to the same number of days as the old system. The tournament/match would be organized so that all rapid games were completed before the final round to give a clear picture of what was required to acheive a result.

Elmar Bagirov, Baku, Azerbaijan
This is very, very interesting. Unlike other proposals of how to end the draw malaise, this is simple, yet with far-reaching consequences. I can't imagine the kind of a change it would do to the game of chess as we know it. I believe the chess community has to give a serious thought to this proposal...

Daniel Wigley, Port St Lucie, FL, USA
Earlier this year I sent a comment to Chessbase suggesting this idea that Kasimdzhanov mentions. I was looking at scoreboards like those that you used for the recent candidates matches. These scoreboards of course have spaces (R1, R2, etc.) for recording the results of tiebreak games when matches end in ties. It dawned on me, "Why don't they just have tiebreaks after every drawn game?" The problem of drawn games could be solved. Also matches could be the best out of some odd number of games (e.g., 3, 5, or 7). Although I think there is some room for creative thinking about how the tiebreaks should be done, it seems like a surprisingly obvious way to solve the drawn-games problem. One drawback, so to speak, is that players may start opting for quick draws so that they can just play the rapid or blitz tiebreak games. That could result in a bad loss of quality long games. But a good tiebreak scheme could discourage that behavior. For example, perhaps a scheme could be worked out where the players who play shorter draws face longer, more demanding tiebreaks.

Marc DeVincentis, Palo Alto, CA, USA
I very much enjoyed reading GM Kasimdzhanov's open letter. Thank you for publishing it. I have just 1 suggestion for a slight improvement on Mr. K's system: Assign colors at the start of every game according to 50/50 random draw. I am concerned that his system as proposed will discourage players of the black pieces from taking risks. I am concerned that many black players will avoid the King's Indians and Benonis, and play for a solid draw, so that they can try to win with White in the next game. But if there is no guarantee the Black player will actually get white next game, he or she may have more incentive to take risks.


The original article

Kasimdzhanov: Open letter to FIDE – with a proposal
21.07.2011 – Uzbek-born grandmaster and former FIDE knockout world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov, now a permanent second of World Champion Vishy Anand, is a profound thinker, and not just in chess openings. He has now written an open letter to FIDE, describing the current unsatisfactory situation in top professional chess and proposing a startling solution.

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