Reactions to the Nunn Plan

by ChessBase
7/1/2005 – Three weeks ago we published a comprehensive plan, drawn up by mathematician, chess grandmaster and publisher Dr John Nunn, to provide the game with an attractive world championship cycle. The letters – some in the form of veritable articles – poured in. We bring you a selection of the most interesting reactions, and a reply to the main points by John Nunn.

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The number of letters we received in reaction to John Nunn's original suggestions was again quite overwhelming. Normally in such cases we make a somewhat haphazard selection and publish only excerpts from the longer missives. However, in the present case it seemed important that we do not allow any random factors to influence our choice – either of the letters we publish or the contents thereof.

So we have put almost all the reactions we received in unabbreviated form on this feedback page. That of course means that the text is very extensive, far longer than people are willing to read on an Internet page. In spite of this we urge you to at least scan them for the many heartfelt opinions they contain. You may also be interested to spot some of the prominent players or experts who have sent in their views.

The page is also an archive that document the opinions of chess fans at a time when the World Chess Championship cycle is at a very critical junction. At the end of the feedback section, at the bottom of this page, John Nunn replies to the main points contained in the letters.

Feedback from our readers

Sartaj Hans, Sydney, Australia
Absolutely right about not losing rating points for inactivity. Excellent idea about activity points for determining contenders. However, the actual format of the event is a shame. The Chess world championship has been traditionally a match. Lets try and keep up the tradition. The problem with the Prague agreement was getting funds for inconsequential matches. People will pay for Kasparov-Kramnik. So perhaps GM Nunn's tournament finds a challenger who plays the reigning champion for the title in three months time....

Brian Carson, Toronto, Canada
The best suggestion yet. Need I elaborate? OK, it is simply designed to give us a fighting world champion! No more frightened, scared, insecure champions, who, since obtaining the title, fear loosing it more than they enjoy winning games of chess. Here it is, play to be number one! Period.

Keith Taylor, Hampton Park, Australia
Make John Nunn president of FIDE you will get a World Championship cycle worthy of the game. Maybe Kasparov will come out of retirement then.

Jeff Sonas, California, USA
I would like to suggest an improvement to the specific qualifying system suggested by Dr. Nunn. Instead of an award merely for activity (which might just be lots of games against weaker opponents), or a penalty for inactive periods (which would encourage high-rated players to play the bare minimum of games, just to avoid the penalty), I suggest using "padded" performance ratings, as in the following scheme:

Players would qualify for the tournament based upon their overall performance rating against FIDE-rated opponents in the previous 24 months (two years). However, a raw performance rating measure would provide no incentive to play strong opponents, or to play a lot of games. Fortunately, my Chessmetrics performance rating formula, which I developed scientifically in order to maximize the predictive power of the ratings, handles both of these concerns. The idea is to introduce a fixed number of additional "artificial" draws into a player's overall results: four artificial draws against the same level of average opposition that the player actually faced, plus three artificial draws against a 2300-rated hypothetical opponent. The former will motivate you to face stronger opponents (so that those four draws will count as being against higher-rated players) whereas the latter will motivate you to play a lot of games (so those three draws against weaker hypothetical opponents have less impact on your overall average).

I think the race to reach the top-eight would indeed be extremely exciting. Because the rankings are based on performance ratings over a certain span of time, everyone would start out from scratch each cycle. Even the best players need to maintain top form or they risk failing to qualify. As an example, let's say this tournament had been scheduled for April 2005, and so the performance ratings would have covered the period from January 2003 through December 2004. Despite being #1 on the FIDE rating list going into the Russian championships in November 2004, the relatively inactive Garry Kasparov would have been tied with Michael Adams for the eighth spot on the "recent performance" rating list, and only Kasparov's fine performance in Moscow would have bumped him up to #3 on the list and secured Kasparov a spot in the world championship tournament.

Gata Kamsky, Brooklyn, NY
As I'm obviously one of the "inactive" players, I would have to agree with Dr. Nunn's reasoning and share my concern behind the ACP's proposal to deduct rating points for "inactivity" (potentially mine). In my view, there are already enough safeguards built into FIDE's regulations that prevent any potential abuse by the inactive folks as many qualification tournaments require anywhere from one up to three years of active play to be qualified by rating. Hence, I don't see a reason why the proposed draconian measure should be implemented.

Jerry Olsen, Los Angeles, USA
I like Nunn's proposal overall, but I would change a few things: I agree that it should occur every two years; I agree that it players should be rewarded for activity (and not punished for inactivity); I agree that Elo ratings should be a factor in determining the contestants. Things I would do differently:

Type of tournament:

  • Instead of a double round robin, I would suggest a knock-out tournament, which is more similar to the way most other professional sports determine their championships. This, perhaps would allow more players to be included in the inital selection. I think a knockout tournament provides more drama and a clearer winner.
  • We could start with 16 players, which means that there would be four rounds of knockouts to determine the champion.
  • All games played with classical chess rules and times.

Player Selection:

  • Select the top 16 players based on Elo for the past 12 months, plus any activity bonuses. (Perhaps the Sonas rating system should be used?)
  • The players should be 'seeded' according to their rating. (The top rated player has the #1 seed, etc.)
  • If two or more players have the same rating, the tie could be broken by seeing who has the highest rating for the past 18 months, 2 years, etc.

Game Assignments:

  • In the first round, the #1 seed plays the #16 seed, the #2 seed plays #15, and so on until #8 plays #9.
  • In subsequent rounds, the players are reseeded #1 through #N, where N is the number of remaining players.
  • In the first two rounds, 'match' will consist of 4 games.
  • In the third round, each match will have 6 games.
  • In the fourth and final round, the match will have 8 games. (The finalists will play, at most, 22 games).
  • A match can end early if it is decided before the final game (e.g. if one player earns 2.5 points in a 4 game match).

Handling ties

  • This will be controversial, but I would handle ties by simply awarding the match to the higher seeded player. That is, the lower seeded player will need 2.5 points to win a 4-game match, while the higher seeded player needs only 2 points. This may seem unfair, but it rewards high ratings, and forces the challenger to clearly dispute the seeding. It avoids the wearisome and blunder-prone extra rapid and blitz games, and allows the tournament to proceed according to a uniform schedule, and based solely on classical chess.


Assuming the (same) prize fund of 1.5 million dollars, I distribute it to the players as follows:

  • 1 Winner of final match (champion): $600,000
  • 1 Loser of final match: $260,000
  • 2 Losers of semi-final match: $100,000
  • 4 Losers of quarter-final match: $50,000
  • 8 Losers of first round match: $30,000 (and a quick trip back home)

Harvey Patterson, Ottawa, Canada
I think Mr. Nunn has proposed a reasonable alternative to the massive FIDE knockout championships which have produced a world champion who was not in the top 10 in three of the last four championships. The degree of chance created by this format has meant that, since the practice of seeding the current champion to the final was abolished in 1999, no one has ever made it to the final round twice! Khalifman vs. Akopian, Shirov vs. Anand, Ponomariov vs. Ivanchuk, Adams vs. Kasimdzhanov. No repeats. The champion doesn’t need to be at the top of the ratings, or have ever won a tournament before. The title of FIDE World Chess Champion is no longer taken. In what other sport can the world governing body declare a world champion to the sound of laughter and dismissal? This must change.

Having a single tournament certainly simplifies the old system of having a series of qualifying zonals and interzonals, though it does eliminate some of the mystique of a tradition that created, for the most part, an unbroken chain of champions who became champion by defeating the champion. It seems that most people are agreeable to abolishing the traditional system of succession, which I suppose we may have to accept. Who needs tradition anyway, right?

The major problem, though, is that it lacks the exciting finale. People don't want the champion to be determined in a round robin tournament. We already have Corus and Linares and Dortmund for that. The world championship should be a clash of two titans, the greatest players in the world taking each other on in a one-on-one battle of minds. A round robin tournament is fine for determining candidates for such a match, but don't deprive the world of a definitive final.

If you want to pick both candidates for the final based on 1-2 standings in the tournament instead of forcing the winner to defeat the current champion, that's fine. Just don't turn the championship into a competition to see who can lose the fewest games, drawing their way to the top of the standings. Can you imagine declaring a champion who failed to defeat any of the top 4 players, but outscored them by having no losses? All hail the new world champion! He didn't win, but at least he didn't lose! Furthermore, the winner could be guaranteed before the tournament is over, rendering the final round or rounds meaningless. Does the tournament end as soon as someone has clinched the title?

This is a great solution to achieve the end goal of an undisputed champion, but don’t lose sight of what the people want to see. However you get there, make sure that two people have to play each other in some kind of match before someone is declared the winner.

The FIDE Champiobship 2005 is great. For the first time in 15 years the world is going to see a worthy champion. Please keep any further ideas to yourself.

Joseph McCarron, Bloomington, Illinois USA
Tournament “champions” and blitz tie-breaks have all the glitz and razzle dazzle of “new coke” and the XFL. The only problem is no one buys it. Dr. Nunn proposes that we essentially take a tournament like Linares, Corus, or Dortmund and just label it “World Championship.” This is the opposite of what we need in chess. World Championship matches are, have been, and always will be the biggest chess events possible. The problem with chess is not that we need fewer matches but more of them. If you ask anyone to name the three biggest chess events they will probably name 3 matches (assuming they can even name 3 events).

The problem is that thanks to FIDE’s ridiculous KO lottery format tournament “champions”, people are actually starting to question whether a world chess championship cycle should be tailored to find the best chess player in the world. It should, and it did for many years.

Bobby Fischer may have had a higher rating before his match, but he was not considered the best player until he beat Spassky in a world championship match. The proof was also the world championship match for Spassky, Petrosian, Kramnik, Smyslov, Tal and even Kasparov. I love, but this website did not prove to me that any of these 7 players was the best player in the world. I already knew it because they won their championship matches.

Calling Linares a “world championship” won’t fool anyone. Leko won Corus, Kasparov won Linares and Topalov won Sophia all in the same year. People know that these tournaments are not a good way to really show who is better at chess. Ratings have their flaws as well. The best way is, was and always will be to have the players play a match against each other.

Don’t tell me people don’t want to watch matches. In tournaments the top players take quick draws against each other to save their energy. They then try to beat up the lower rated players. Every chess fan I know would rather have the top 6, or so players, battle in one on one matches and really sort out who is better. Playing one or two short games against each other every 3 months in a tournament sorts nothing out. . I also don ’t believe that sponsors are so adamant not to sponsor events that are actually of interest to fans, instead of what FIDE claims everyone wants. As a general rule I have found sponsors want fans interested in the event they sponsor.

The candidate’s matches and the world championship match were like the play-offs and World Series of chess. If anyone was thinking of canceling the playoffs and World Series in baseball they should look at the chess world. They would then see, how canceling the main event in a sport kills interest in that sport. In chess we have one regular season game after another, after another, after another. You can call one of those regular season games a “world championship” but your not going to fool anyone.

Bring back the candidates matches and our world championship matches. No one can climb to the top of chess until they have a legitimate structure to climb.

Chris Major, Mountain View, USA
Chess professionals and organizers are loosing their minds. "From 1948-1990 the World Chess Championship was organised by FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the International Chess Federation. During this period, the FIDE World Championship was universally recognised as the legitimate world chess championship." That's a quote from Dr. Nunn himself. So why does he have to invent a new wheel? The solution is to go back to the situation that prevailed from 1948 to 1990. However, the interzonal concept wasn't fair to the players in the strongest countries; their should be no quota per country.

I think the solution is pretty obvious: let's go with the Buenos Aires FIDE WC, but let's not forget about the classical world champion Kramnik. He can legitimately claim to be the true world champion. So the winner of Buenos Aires should then face Kramnik for the unified title. And then we forget about all this mess, and we go back to the 1948-1990 tradition. Unfortunately, I understand that Makropoulos would be opposed to a match between the FIDE world champion and the true world champion Kramnik. Decidedly, we'll never get out of this mess.

Regarding the ACP proposal on ELO ratings, I agrees with Dr. Nunn. These guys are nuts. They are self-inflicting pain for no reason at all, and they are jeopardizing the mathematical foundations behind Dr. Elo's beautiful invention. What are they trying to fix? I just don't see. They want more reactive ratings?! Duh!

Alejandro Nogueira, Montevideo, Uruguay
Another great contribution by Nunn to reorganize the messy "planet" of chess world championship. Clear, fundamented, well rooted, rationale and possible. I always had the feeling that a The Hague 1948 tournament type of solution was the only way out after 1993, but this is much much better! A clear and serious project that may bring sponsors attention and deals with sometimes selfish positions of top chessplayers. No wonder why Nunn is world champion on problem-solving chess! Now he makes a great contribution to solving problems in the world of chess!

Hector Salas, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
I am a professor in the Department of Mathematics in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I read ChessBase quite often and there are always some articles that are very interesting.

I found the proposal of Dr. John Nunn very sensible and if the championship were played every two years as he suggests everybody (or almost everybody) would be happy. I like his idea about giving incentives to players to be active, but not penalizing them unjustly.

It seems to me there is no perfect way to determine the world champion. Although in his system is very difficult that there could be collusion among some players, still in theory one can have the champion who has won all his-her games except two lost to the runner up, so the champion obtained 12 points. The runner up could have won all his-her indivual matches by one point and a half plus two times against the winner. So the runner up would have 11 points. It makes sense to think that the runner up is actually the stronger player. In a sense knock-out matches are better. But here "luck" could also help one of the players in the sense that his-her difficult opponent is eliminated by somebody else.

One year ago, as a response to one of your columnists who asked for a feedback, I sent the following proposal. I never got an acknowlegment of my letter. By the way I was born in San Luis, Argentina. It would be wonderful if I could go visit my native city during the world championship.

Perhaps the cycle with 128 players could be reduced to 64 or even 32, but in any event it would give a lot of motivation to a lot of good players. Dr. Nunn's observation about activity is particular relevant to the third cycle in my proposal. Former F.I.D.E champion Khalifman's idea of double knock-out is reincarnated in going for the first cycle to the second one.

A possible format, a sort of a three way cycle is the following: First Cycle: A 128 players knock out tournament like the F.I.D.E format in which the winner becomes the world champion, but with the following variant: for determining the final eight for the second cycle the 64 losers in the first round go on to play a knock out tournament among themselves so that there is a unique winner among them. The 32 players that lose in the second round of the main tournament again, instead of being eliminated, go on to play a knock out tournament among themselves. This process is repeated with the 16 players that lose in the third round, the 8 players that lose in the fourth round and the 4 players that lose in the fifth round of the main tournament. The next player chosen would be the winner of a match between the two losers in the semifinal. The last two players to be chosen are, of course, the finalists.

Note that among the eight players so chosen, seven of them have lost only one of their matches. The prize money could be such the winner of the sub-tournament of the 64 players who lost in the first round get less money that any of the players who won in the first round. The same would be true for the winners of the subsequent side tournaments, i.e. they would receive less money than those who actually won in the round they were eliminated. The real prize for the winner of each sub-tournament would be the participation in the Second Cycle.

Second Cycle: The eight chosen players play a knock out tournament. The winner is the new world champion, and the two finalists are seeded for the Third Cycle. The two semifinalists who are not finalists play a match, and the winner is seeded for the following First Cycle. Because of the smaller number of players, the matches between them could be longer. (Perhaps 4 games in the first round, 6 games in the second round and 8 games in the final.)

Third Cycle: The two finalists of the Second Cycle and the two top rated players in the world besides the two finalists play a knock out tournament, the winner of which is the new world champion.

If such a system were implemented, only time would tell which of the cycles is better in choosing a champion. Probably the question of which cycle is better doesn’t have a clear answer and all are equally valuable. The participation of all (or almost all) the top players in the First Cycle is the real key.

The three cycles could be completed in three years. The First Cycle has a democratic spirit; there are wild cards and the birth and / or confirmation of new talents. The Second Cycle gives a second opportunity to one-time losers in the First Cycle. The Third Cycle might be considered by the purist as the real thing. It is certainly real, but so are the other cycles.

Daniel Tapia, Charlotte, USA
Dr.Nunn's plan is very similar to FIDE's, but I think FIDE has a better qualifying process. Dr. Nunn doesn't give much on his long-term qualifying process which leaves me to believe he plans to use ELO ratings only. This is unfair and also untraditional; many players would be left out as a result of a skewed rating infrastructure. FIDE's proposal includes all players and gives strong players reasonable chances of qualifying for the WCC. There are inactivity problems with ELOs, but the problems do not stop there which is why FIDE's system is user-friendly.

Paul V. Allen, Cambridge, MA
I fundamentally disagree with Nunn's proposal, except as a way to break the logjam from the collapsed Prague agreement. He states other sports don't have the feature of the prior winner having any special status. This is false. Let us consider a number of sports which, like chess, involve a battle between two individuals (as opposed to team events). The following come to mind: Go, checkers, boxing, tennis. Of these, the mind sports (Go and checkers) have long had the same model as the historic Chess model -the prior champion must be defeated (in Go this is the case for each major title; there is no single world championship). Boxing follows the same model as the traditional chess model (yes, of course there is now a split, but each organization follows the traditional model). Tennis does not follow this model, but it has NO concept of a champion at all, so it is not comparable.

Thus tradition, the idea of having meaningful reigns of championships, with historic comparability, plus the example of most similar sports with any history of champions all favors a return to something like the pre 1990 practice.

Now, I agree there were problems with these. However, one proposal discussed with the Prague discussions seemed to solve most problems and was popular with players: a qualifier using Khalifman's double knockout concept, followed by a shor series of matches. The final qualifier would play the reigning world champion for e.g. a 16 game match. Rather than draw odds favoring the current champion, I would go to a rapid chess tiebreak system (NOT blitz).

Merlijn van Veen, Arnhem, Netherlands
I think Dr. Nunn has a very strong point here. The activity bonus system for qualification should work just fine. As far as the psychological part in the last sentence is concerned: the nature of the world is in essence predatory, only humans have the capability to compromise for the sake of solidarity within society, and of course for the sake of personal honour if one shows solidarity as a good gentleman. This means social behaviour in the human sense, but only if there is certainty in ones existence (a house, a fine job, family and plenty of food).

Chess is a game that creates a little world of its own, which is totally predatory because there is no certainty to be attained here: not only because the depth of this world cannot fathomed fully, but also because it is literally an open battle, with even rules for both sides, in which nothing can be private or can be conceiled. Hence the ongoing uncertainty and anxiety, and hence the varnish of solidarity, which is charactarized by certainty, may well be lost. No wonder that the proposition, of stripping grandmasters from their title if their elo rating should fall below 2500, came from players themselves! So if a player supports this proposition, my guess is that this player is very uncertain about his own playing strength and behaves 'predatory' accordingly. But in a sense this is archetypal behaviour. He/she should however be careful that this anxiety becomes a reality on the chess board instead of only an imagened mirage based upon self-doubt.

The question arises why a player supports the proposition (of stripping a grandmaster from his title if etc.) out of self-doubt or uncertainty, if this seems a confident way in expressing the loss of respect for the play of the grandmaster involved. It may well be that this supporting player has a higher rating, let's say 2600.

The answer to this would be two-sided:

1. An Elo rating of the player (2600) is higher than that of the grandmaster, so as a result one would expect more confidence of the higher ranked player. The player, being of higher ranking, often feels he should express his own higher position to the chess society. This in order to find recognition from the outside world as well as profiling his own authority in chess, thereby creating a duality between him and the grandmaster. It is about loss of status and gaining status in the chess society, and personal influence (gaining certainty) in this process.

What we see is that the uncertainty shifts from the chess board to the chess society - after all the rankings and ratings in society reflect the results of the predatory chess games. Status and behaviour according status... gaining or losing status. Status itself is an uncertainty, and hence the predatory behaviour in chess society.

2. the grandmaster below 2500 is still considered as a 'threat' on the chess board, and losing from him would mean a sturdy bite of the player's rating. That is nasty, and maybe it is felt as losing face by the player. As a result the player might favour any policy that looks like a sanction to the threat involved.

It all seems like a confidence in behaviour of the higher ranked player, but in essence it remains overcompensating of personal anxieties.

Larry S. Tamarkin, Levittown, NY
I love John Nunn's proposal/idea - There is just one overwhelming incontrovertable thing wrong with it, which I'm afraid will make it completely impossible to happen - it is too simple!! So - there will probably be no solving of the World Championship problem in this decade... Perhaps when mankind is ready to go back to the moon we will have a 'real' world chess champion again - Like in the days of Karpov.

Kaissah Gutierrez, Houston, USA
I am a event organizer with many years of experience. I have read Nunn's idea and seemed a little bit incomplete in some matters, but perhaps it does take care of another areas where I have left forgotten. I do encourage you to read my post on the FIDE forum while ago, I am sure it will be of your truly interest since it was discussed for a while, by people with strong and valid opinions. The URL is:

Josh Franz, Prior Lake Minnesota USA
I love the ideas proposed by Dr. Nunn. I am wondering does the activity bonus apply to any activity? for example is ther a minimum catagory tournament one must play in to gain the bonus or can they get the bonus by playing in any event? That was the only part of his plan that I felt was un clear the rest was good and also any small adjustments wouldn't hurt this plann for example prizes could be increased if funds were more available etc.

Alexander Wahl, Pincourt, Canada
Mr. Nunn, with all respect intended, I must say this is not the ideal way to do things. I do not wish to be arrogant, and I hope you take this criticism merely as suggestive.

First of all: the timing for the world championship. I doubt even if throughout history each world championship were two years apart, e.g. Botvinnik-Bronstein 1953 Botvinnik-Smyslov 1953 Botvinnik-Smyslov 1955 Botvinnik-Smyslov 1957 Botvinnik-Petrosian 1959, or whatever, I would accept the idea of this. 2 years is simply too short of a space. Remember the players must prepare for other events as well, they have other obligations, and again, just in principle, two years is ridiculously short. Ideally it might be something like four years.

I do however fully agree that activity is important. Good job.

But again, a problem: the tie-breaks. I am against them completely, and rightfully so. There is a logical reason. Chess is a game of thought. So, hell, what is decided by a rapid game? I will bring up two quotes here. Alexei Shirov in 2000: "The fact that seven hours allows us to play a high quality chess game is not of interest to mass media". Obviously I am also against "crowd pleasers" as opposed to playing what one wants, but there you have it.

I realize what Kasparov sais also: "My matches with Karpov have proven unlimited matches can be excessive and boring". Well, perhaps I have a mental disorder of some horrible extent, but I always squirm in displeasure whenever I hear things such as "exciting games only, boring games no"... but in any case, that's another issue. Anyways, I realize that, but in this case it isn't the whole match, it's only tiebreaks. It's like overtime really. The first game won in *classical* time controls should be the winner. Not some rapid or even worse, blitz, nonsense.

Should it occur (and I hope it does) that the first won wins it, the games should be farther spaced out. 3 games 3 days in a row... is a bit too much. Why not 1 game one day, rest, 1, rest, 1... we tend to forget that we're looking for a REAL world championship match, not nonsense. It is strange those seeking peace offer war. The spacing would obviously have to be done for proper breaks.

There you have it, my edits. You'll hate me for it, but I'm sure there are 2500 other readers who you can sweep by anyhow.

Jorge Vega, Costa Rica
I agree with several points quoted by GM Nunn. I strongly consider to stop the chaos in the World Championship and also am against of some wording as "Classic Chess Champion" or "FIDe Champion" that goes to nowhere. All this wording undermine the chess itself.

As Continental President for America I stongly reject the comments made by GM Lautier in a FIDE-ACP meeting concerning the Zonal structure. Europe as a continent can choice the qualificatory way they want, but can not rule on other continents. The idea that only the recognized top players ought to have the opportunity is against the development (may we think of Sultan Khan?). I consider that the World Championship to be held at San Luis, argentina is a step forward to what all want in chess.

David Lopez, Yuma, United States
I believe that is a very ineteresting proposal. Since the FIDE does nothing and just tries to get a lot of money from every tournament they make. I believe that FIDE should be more with the players and stop their big interest in sponsors. I hope that Dr. Nunn's proposal gets approved by FIDE.

Amit Godbole, Mumbai, India
I am an IT professional and lover of this great game. Also one of the many who played a good quality of amature chess at school and college level but didn't persue it enough due to education and other work related reasons. Thanks to ChessBase for an excellent website and to Dr. Nunn for his initiative. Dr. John Nunn has a good standing amongst the chess community and his proposal seems a very good one. I particulary subscribe to following points:

1) No direct entry to current title holder.

2) Inactivity should result in some penalty and activity leading to more chances of participation in the title race. This will definitly result in top players remaining active and also MORE imporatantly give a boost to chess in general and attract more money and coverage to the title cycle. Of course the actual numerics of rules can be adjusted after healthy dicussions between officials and players.

3) The title cycle has brought in element of tournament play which I think is required. The tournament schedule also looks good. Tie-breaks rules -my suggestion below will have some impact on them. So if this suggestion is to be accepted we can have a true WC who has proved himself/herself in all aspects viz. top ELO points while remaning active, Tournament skills and ability to win a tough match.

Some critisism/suggestion:

1) The one-on-one match play (more that reasons of tradition) has its own merits. It stands for the mettle, the psychological warfare, level of confidence between the two top contenders. Chess is a mental game and apart from pure chess talent, these aspects of human psyche bring out the flavour of intellectual struggle. Also, it will definitly galvanize and boost money from the sponsers, media, chess fans.

However, chess is not a spectatore sports and to make it worse, very heavy on the 'time as a resource'. Thus the question of actually finding ENOUGH money (in the opinion of the players wrt to the time they would spend on tournament+the match) and practical problems the officials could face could make it diffcult to organize tournament followed by a match.

My suggestion is purely from a fan's perspective. The active players and top level organizers should be trusted to take a final call on it.

As in other aspects of life we are having less and less trust on our colleagues and even friends. The chess community needs it more than other sports and if we can overcome this BIG hurdle, finding a good and long term cycle is a smaller problem.

What we all should understand is there can not be an 'all-pleased-perfect' solution. So stress should be on mutual trust resulting in some sacrifice for the greater good, forgoing a little bit of ego and a FRESH START.

Luca, Radice, Monza, Italy
I think that John 'Doc' Nunn has always great ideas not only on chessboard! I will like very much a World Champ organised in this manner, and also hope to see The Doc playing for qualyfing in it.

Peter Ballard, Adelaide, Australia
I don't really like Nunn's idea of deciding the World Championship in a double round robin tournament. But if they're going to... how is that tournament different from Linares, Sofia or Dortmund? Why not just award the tournament to the highest bidder of those three?

Dominique Pelle, Brest, France
I agree that with Dr Nunn that the Elo rating should not be reduced when players are inactive. The Elo rating is a statistical measure of the strength of a player. From the ratings of two players, one should be able to assess the outcome of a match (percentage of victories/losses). Being inactive for a while does not necessarily mean the player becomes weaker, as Dr Nunn explains well. What it means though, is that his rating becomes more "uncertain".

I believe that the Glicko rating system used by FICS (Free Internet Chess Server) solves very well this problem. Players have Glicko rating similar to Elo, plus a RD value (Rating Deviation). A low RD means that the player plays often and his rating is thus well established. A high RD means that the player does not play often or has not played many rated games yet, so his rating is somewhat uncertain. When a player becomes inactive for a while, his rating (Elo or Glicko) remains unchanged but his RD increases over time. One could imagine that beyond a certain RD (or inactivity period) the player can be removed from the rating list.

I believe that this system is better than what ACP proposes. Statisticians would be able to expand more on this. Participation to the world championship could require a rating greater than X (to include only best players in the world) and a RD less than Y (to rule out inactive players even if their rating is still high).

Philipp Hillebrand, Osnabruck, Germany
In my view the "good old" way to find out the real champ has become old-fashioned. So its a good thing that there are players like John Nunn who really thinks about that problem to make a World Championship attractive and reliable again! Especially the time conrol is important. Recent tries to make chess attractive for the TV (especially lesser time controls...)were doomed to fail as people who are not able to play chess at least are not going to play it just seeing it on the TV screen. Thanks to tecnical progress thers (now) the internet, which was discoverd to be the idle medium to promote chess!

The ideas proposed by John Nunn are really good, but one point might be raise problems, in the event of o tie there should be a series of blitzgames, where the first win is decisive. But i can imagine, that the player who lose the very first game with black would complain. What about 4 blitzgames 5+1 and after that a sudden death?

IM Can Arduman, Istanbul, Turkey
I found Dr. Nunn's suggestion very logical and right.The World Championship should be reorganised in such a way that chess world SHALL NOT have any single doubt of the future WORLD CHAMPÝON OF CHESS. Therefore the plan of GM Dr. Nunn looks like a perfect plan to me. Thank you Dr. Nunn!

Jan, Lagrain, Belgium
I have some doubts with mister Nunns system, although the basic ideas are not bad (actually it's a bit like the tennis system)

- Encouraging players to be active is very good, but giving bonusses for playing much isn't. Then you get a situation where some players, who get ill or something, have to play very lot at the end. They will get no time for recovery if they get at the WC (look at kramnik, WC needs a lot of prep and lots of recovery before the tourny starts). Maybe one can pose a limit of necessary played games, for example 60 rated games in the twoyearperiod. That's reasonable, also for them who have some bad luck. But of course this can be adjusted. You can also use the bigger tournaments to qualify, for example: the winners of Wijk, Dortmund, Linares, Sofia, ... (you can select some toptournaments in a cycle also: 10 tournaments for the WC, then adjusting the tennissystem with an extra ranking system: 100 points if you win wijk, 80 if youre second... , at the end of the ten tournaments you count them up and the first 8 or 6 qualified).

- The world champion should be allowed to play the final. Mr. Nunn sais that there are no sports where this happens, but this is not really true. soccer is just one example where the WC can defend his title without qualifying, but you can find much more (like boxing). A title should be defended. But this is just an idea, maybe it's not so bad that a WC should also qualify.

- Concerning the selection of players I think the 8 players are good. But maybe you can go for the best 6, the world champion and a qualifier (for example the winner of the Fide Knockout). Then you keep one open door for good players who had bad luck or weren't able to qualify. That gives one extra really tense tournament and maybe one outsider!

- They shoudn't start a new rating system, but they can start with decreasing Elo points when a player is, for example, three rating periods inactive without no obvious reason (if Judit is pregnant, you can keep her rating).

Bent, Hestad, Trondheim
I like Dr. Nunn`s schedule for the finals, but I would suggest only four players qualify from the elo/ activity formula. The other four should be the winners of four knock-out qualifiers. I think it is highly important that young talents are given a chance to move forward, or older ones for that matter. Let`s say we have a 18 year old with a rating of 2600 from a country with no privileges,for him to collect the necessary 140 elopoints from open tournaments is a nearly impossible task. Chess ought to learn from tennis; if you continue to win matches you will move on up, all the way to the summit. A player ranked 500 this june , may be 1st next june . And players like Agassi are not seeded in to the quarters.

Diego Rodríguez-Vila, Madrid, Spain
I think it is a brilliant proposal and I support it enthusiastically

Gourlaouen, Guillaume, Brest, France
This plan is very interesting but I think each player meeting twice each other is too less, to my mind it is important to give a chance to equalize the score with a few more games. In this way the player's win will be appreciated more for his quality play than his lucky win in first game and draw in next game. It is the second year that I play chess and I am iritated and a little sad to see a chess world like that, and I congratulate everybody working to solve all this problem. Thank you for reading this little commentary.

Graham, Philips, Ely, UK
I think this is an outstanding idea. It has a one event championship which I think is vital from a sponsorship point of view, it encourages the top players to play a lot of games, and it doesn't use the often unfair method of single or double knockouts. The only problem of course is getting players such as Kramnik to participate, but hopefully this can be achieved now that the Prague agreement has lost most of its meaning with Kasparov's retirement. Thank you GM Nunn for your attempts to add the reunification of World Chess, let's hope it gets somewhere this time!

Carl Bicknell, London
I can't understand why ChessBase think this guy is such a genius. ANYONE can have big ideas the difficult part is implimenting them.

Søren, Sorring, Denmark
This is by far the most sensible suggestion I've heard/read about, as a solution to the current chaos in the chess world. One can obviously have ones doubt, that this wouls ever happen, to many different interest is on the line. We can only hopevail at last.

Mihaly Berkics, Budapest, Hungary
It is very good idea, and if the World Championship is to be organised as a single event, why not hold it every year instead of just every two? However, there is a major problem with the round robin concept:

In a round robin event it is more likely that players throw games on purpose or form 'coalitions' - playing prearranged draws between them and concentrating their full power on the rest of the field. Even if no such abuse occurs, accusations of this kind may come up, which is a possibility also quite disturbing on its own.

You might say we have not seen anything like that recently - e.g. at Wijk aan Zee or Linares tournaments in the past few years. However, the stakes were not as high in these events as they might be at a World Championship. Indeed, game-fixing - or the accusation thereof - cast a shadow on some previous round robin World Championship events (1950 Budapest; 1953 Zurich; 1962 Curacao, but some even suspect the 1948 match-tournament), a fact which eventually led to FIDE abolishing round robin candidates' events and replacing them with KO matches.

So, I think some strong incentive is needed for players not to fix games in any way. This could be achieved e.g. by assigning very different outcomes to each place in the crosstable, so that whether you finish, say, 5th or 6th still matter a lot. Players standing lower in the crosstable may also lose games due to loss of motivation, if outcomes associated with lower places are not differentiated enough.

Perhaps the result could have an effect on the player's qualification to the next cycle. A league-system could be established on a yearly basis: the top 3 finishers of the previous year are automatically qualified to the next year's event (or begin qualification at a later stage, or are given some bonus), while the last 2 or 3 are excluded from next year's qualification cycle. This would make players struggle until the end of the tournament for lesser places as well, even if by then they have long lost the chance to finish 1st and get the title.

Jon Braund, Canterbury, UK
In reference to Dr John Nunn's proposed format for the chess world championship I have to say I either disagree or don't understand! As far as I can see the proposal (like the current FIDE championship seems to be) ends the the tradition of the title being decided by match play (and if I'm wrong I apologise for my stupidity), and an end to what is in my view the most important apect of the world championship - lineage. Altering the championship to be a mere tournament result like all the other tournaments that the super-GMs already participate in seriously effects it's appeal.

One of the reasons chess and boxing are considered to have some similarities is not because boxing is a deep science, or because chess is a bloody gladiatorial setting, but because the champions have always fought each other head to head for the title, and the rich history of epic battles this gives us is far more compelling than a double round robin. The importance of lineage can be seen easily in boxing. There are always multiple organisations wiling to give out championship belts, but even when a fighter doesn't hold the undisputed title everyone knows who the true champion in a weight division is, it's the guy who beat the last champion of the division! Lennox Lewis wasn't really seen to have cemented his place as real champion for years until he beat a fading Tyson, but that's how important lineage is. When Lewis retired at the top the division was thrown into chaos, but that isn't the case in chess. Kramnik beat Kasparov and Leko and holds the world title - the same world title you can trace back to Stenitz in a direct line champion to champion, with the only exception being due to death.

You just have to glance at the current Kasparov books on the world champions to see the importance of this lineage, and with it the importance of match play. Where would the Fischer legend be without his incredible performances in matches, and what games could have taken place under more pressure and at a higher level of play than the series of Kasparov - Kaprov battles?

Match play is a different skill than tournament play, where chess come closest to a viceral spectacle, where sheer force of will can be enough to claim victory in a contest between two evenly matched opponents. It's where a chess player can give everything.

I understand that the older systems of match qualification may need modification, and that a qualifier tournament to determine the next championship challenger could work, but that wouldn't select the strongest match player and wouldn't guarantee the best final. I would rather see a rapid play final match than abandon the final match altogether. Regarding a number of the other points made I'm happy for the champion to be completely inactive between championships - he is the champion, it's his right to be seen and treated differently.

Obviously the current situation puts FIDE in a difficult position as the title holder is outside their auspices, but realistically they have to understand that whatever Kramnik's failings he is the man to beat and no amount of political rangling can change that fact. Until a match is played with Kramnik he is the champion (despite some recent shocking blunders!). Their stance is ridiculous, and insulting both to Kramnik and to ordinary chess watchers.

I'm not a political or cultural conservative in any way, but I believe very strongly that chess's current problems don't stem either from the slow speed of play, or from a basic lack of appeal, and that doing away with the lineage of the champions is a serious mistake. One thing chess and boxing don't share is that to see an old match I don't have to put up with grainy newsreel footage of a fight, I can sit down with my own board and play through a match in perfect clarity anytime I want. Chess history is very strong, let's not forget that.

I don't want to transform this into a general diabtribe about FIDE but none of these proposals will solve the problems with chess's public image, or with funding or any of the other topics that are permanently at the top of the agenda. It doesn't take an elephant to remember that Fischer-Spassky was the most popular chess event in the west in the 20th century, a true cold war battle, and would not have had the same appeal if it wasn't a match. Chess authorities failure to capitalise on these events is purely their own. As mentioned in a previous excellent article on chessbase the media want stories and not being able to create something given the great history of chess and the great game it is only sais something about the organisers and the publicists. Let's be sensible, stop the bull, and let the best players get on with battling it out as they do best.

Ruggero, Milan, Italy
It seems to me that this would be just another Super Tournament with then name World Championship attached to it, but there would be nothing special to make it such. In my opinion a World Championship should see one-to-one matches since preliminary phases as it was in the old days. Maybe they could be shortened and maybe the Champion should be denied the right to just sit and wait for his opponent but be put in the pool every cycle at, say, quarter-finals level. Solutions can be found if looked for but I really see no reason to add another Super Tournament and surreptitiously call it World Champioship. To me the winner of this year's Buenos Aires will be just the winner of Buenos Aires, as Kasparov was the winner of this year's Linares.

Matthew D. Nelson, Lexington, Kentucky (USA)
Why seek an "offical" world chess champion at all? In the past, the Chess Champion was the best match-chess player under varying, arcane, and often biased rules. But, let us face facts. Match-style chess, while having its proper place, is not what most chess afficianados consider "real chess."

Practically speaking, "real chess" occurs in the familiar series of super-GM tournaments held each year throughout the world. And the title of "world's stongest or best chess player" is usually determined by popular acclamation based on the result from these torunaments.

Indeed, by regularly winning the world's strongest super-GM tournaments, Karpov legitimated his status as Champion despite controversy regardng his victories in the FIDE match-chess cycles. Likewise, by domnating the same tournaments in his turn, Kasparov letigimated his claim to world's strongest chess player when a unified match-chess championship cycle failed altogether.

So why fix what is not broken? Despite the political shenanigans in the post-Fischer FIDE match-chess cycles and the break down of a unified championship system, the chess world still knew who the Champion was at all times: Karpove, then Kasporov. Each proved it over the board in torunament play in ways that the pretenders have not.

In sum, I propose abandoning any organized attempt to proclaim a "World Chess Champion" through either a single periodic tournament or through a match-chess cycle. Rather, let the stronger players duke it out in the traditional super-GM tournaments and let us see if any one of them rises to such a level as to acheive "strongest player" status by ELO rating, results, and popular acclamation.

With Kasparov's retirement, the claim to strongest player is open, and several strong players will via for it. But as of now, no player can ceditably claim to be the sole World Champion based on playing strength. Furthermore, no pre-designated cycle of matches or tournaments can produce such a result either. Rather, the players have to play and the spectators must wait and see if any one player emerges dominant. After all, is not the strongest or most dominant professional player the only menaingful accolade? Who cares about FIDE or PCA labels.

In sum, ditch the Nunn plan, the Seirawan plan, all the plans. Let the best play chess and let the chips fall as they may. Indeed, the best chess player cannot be determined by a legalistic (usually political) process but only by substantive and tangible over-the-board results. The lack of credibility for the FIDE series in the past 10 years simply proves my point.

So, let all the chess/political organizations get out of the way and let Kramnik, Anand, Leko, Topolav, Adams, Polgar, Ponomarov, etc. go at it in the tournaments. Right now, none stands out sufficiently to claim to be the clear-cut strongest player in the world, though a vague heirarchy exists. But in another year or two or super-GM tournaments, that may all change.

Michael Mkpadi, Bristol, England
Dear Dr Nunn, well done for trying to find a plan to get the chess championships back to the previous glory it enjoyed in years gone by. As a weekend chess player, I am always having to defend the chaotic situation when friends ask me who the champion of my sport. Is it Kasparov (maybe not since he has now retired), Kramnik, or Kasimdzhanov or Leko or Anand. Well your plan would tackle that issue. Where I think the plan is weak is that it may dis-hearten many professional players who are well outside the top 10 (or eight for qualification). They would have to play the "ratings game" pretty well to move into contention. Anyway that's my opinion.

Edward Davies, Hampshire, UK
I agree with most of John Nunn's suggestions for a world championship cycle, and in particular I agree with the concept of a positive rating bonus given for activity, and I also agree that deducting points through inactivity is not the same thing and is a very negative idea. I would prefer if there was a system whereby the challenger to the world champion was decided by a tournament just like the one described, but that then a classical head to head match would occur between this challenger and the reigning champion. I would like to see a two year cycle where one year a championship challenger tournament is held - the winner of which qualifies for the world championship match - and the following year the world championship match occurs between this challenger and the current world champion, and then the following year the next challenger tournament, and so on. I believe that a match between challenger and champion is required to make any world champion seem legitimate, in the same style as was used from Steinitz vs Anderssen right up to Kramnik vs Kasparov, (I don't view the Kramnik vs Leko match as a legitimate world championship defence any more than I consider any of the FIDE knockout events legitimate world championship events). So in summary I think there should be a two year cycle where one year there is a tournament to decide the challenger to the world champion, and the next year a match between champion and challenger. I think John Nunn's model for a championship tournament would work well as the tournament to determine the challenger to the world champion.

David Lenhart, Wichita, USA
Garbage!! a world championship system must have a program for qualification. Rating is just too stifiling. Sure most winners would be the highest rated but, dark-horses and underdogs do happen. Ratings are an excuse to eliminate players of certain styles that don't tend toward top rating spots. These same players though, maybe very effective in a match situation. All players need a chance to qualify and the old system did just that. This is what the chess public wants. Chess deserves better than the lets do it on the cheap champion ship that FIDE has sailed now for over a decade.

As far as the current FIDE tournament goes without it's winner playing Kramnik for unification the FIDE title will have no legitamacy. I also read that FIDE was going to have the players sign a legal document stating they will not play in other events not yet conceived. That is like slavery and chess players owe FIDE nothing. I have to ask a question since FIDE is an organization with member National Federations as its membership base, by what right do they have to make players sign individually agreements which limit their right to earn an income?

Eric Wegner, France
First, I would like to say that I LOOOVE John Nunn, his games and especially his style and commitment when he plays, and all he does outside the chessboard. I like the idea of playing with a time increment, even in a 5 minutes game (a increment of 1 second per move), just to ensure that we REALLY play chess and not a curious kind of game when you can lost on time despite having an elementary winning position-1 second just suffice to eliminate such possibilities. This is a little detail of great importance that shows us that the guy has a certain idea of what chess is all about. I vote for J.Nunn for FIDE president , we really need a new Max Euwe! And long life to the KID! (I apologize for my english.)

Michal Slovak, Prague
I think that this article hits the nail on head. Such a tournament would be a wise choise and should dismiss such "weak" players as Kasimdzanov even to participate in World Ch. The phenomenon of punishing other chessplayers is caused by two main reasons: 1) there are too many FMs,IMs and GMs and many players (even beginners studying chess history) are calling back the situation, when only several players in the world had the right to catch the honorable title of GM. Maybe we should establish some SGM (Super GM) title for people, who get among the world top 5 FIDE ELO during their life.

Dr. Julio E. Guzman, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Dr. Nunn, your hammer hit the nail. Simple, fair,encourages playing and ensures an incentive for all to participate. Any commitments (tentative) for the $2.5 million? The chess community appreciates your collaboration.

Francois Vandamme, Ostend, Belgium
I think this is a very good solution probably the best and only solution. a match between two players is not the best solution because if your opponents style is not convenient to you you may lose although you are a much higher ranked player, e.g. Kramnik-Kasparov, Khasimdanov-Adams.

Jerry Conicello, Conshohocken, United States
To think that we do not have a system in place which rewards activity and play for a world championship is ludicrous. Mr. Nunn has given us a formula for success by clearly giving us a step by step procedure that seems far to all participants, and gives sponsors a timeline to procure monies for the event. What more could you ask for?

H. Paul Lillebom Oslo,Norway/Asheville, NC, USA
I support John Nunn's idea for a World Championship tournament of eight top candidates every other year, though I think that every third year would be at least as satisfactory. I disagree only with his idea that the current World Champion should not be seeded into the tournament. Nunn says that such deference to an existing champion "does not happen in other sports and a free place would only encourage inactivity." But it has been a tradition for well over a hundred years in chess that a challenger for the World Championship should overcome the existing Champion, if not in a match then at least in a tournament, as proposed. It doesn't matter what other sports do; there is no good reason why we should deviate from our tradition on this point. I think the World Championship will be more meaningful, will show more continuity, and will draw more interest if we continue to think in terms of an existing World Champion facing his challengers, to vanquish or be vanquished. Nunn's point about this system encouraging inactivity is a stretch. There is no evidence that this has happened with previous World Champions. (The Fischer hiatus had nothing to do with this issue.)

Finally, I completely agree with Nunn that the FIDE/ACP proposal to reduce a player's rating points during periods of inactivity is noxious and misunderstands the nature and purpose of the rating system. FIDE/ACP appear to view a player's rating as a reward, like points in a Grand Prix race, so that a player can be punished by reducing his points. This is nonsense. The Elo rating is a measure of the player's success, and thus of his playing strength. The only event that should reduce a player's rating is reduced success in actual play, and the system already takes care of that.

Straver, Robert, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Great idea. Just one remark. Wouldn't it become more attractive if seven players qualify according to the system described and the 8th player is a wild card entry? By this the organisation (sponsor/country/ committee) has the possibility to add a national hero or a returning former champ who decided that his withdrawal was only temporarily...!

Fernando Semprun, Madrid, Spain
Although Dr. Nunn proposal seems to come across as well thought and fair, I fail to see the winner of such tournament as the World Champion. I also fail to see why the previous Candidate Matches plus the World Championship (events that generated much publicity and attention) cannot continue. No one could argue that the winner of such cycles was an unfair one.

Regarding the costs, How much does it cost to organise the currently crappy FIDE championships? Why all this money could not go into a proper Candidates Cycle? And as usual, the World Championship used (and surely will do) generate large sums of money for the Organizing Body.... (FIDE in the past) Even Kasparov single handedly was able to organize the PCA Championships. NO one doubted ANAND as the appropiate challenger, just somewhat unlucky that the match was not the classic we all hoped it would be. The real problems for FIDE started when they had/choose to pick up strange players (Karpov-Timman in 1993, Karpov-Kamsky in 1996 (?), Karpov-Anand without giving Anand ANY rest, etc.)

Andrew Martin, Sandhurst, England
The game of Chess simply has to adapt to current economic and social circumstances. In my view Nunn's proposals are eminently fair, workable and tempting for a sponsor. Change is drastically needed to make the World Championship workable again. FIDE should scrutinise these ideas closely and try to put them into practice.

Helio Luchtenberg Junior, Florianopolis, Brazil
I like your ideas, they are acceptable and logical. But I prefer to be honest: I don't care anymore about the world championship cycle now that the best player of all times came to the conclusion that it's better NOT to play chess because of the FIDE/World Championship cycle mess! I like CHESS, not world championships rules! I like to see people trying to win a chess game, just like Kramnik is NOT doing since he won over Kasparov! I am a CHESS fan. Chess, got it?! I play chess everyday and would like to see the best players of the world matching each other, no matter what name you put on it. Congratulations for the great site and the initiative, I am very glad to have such an opportunity to tell you my opinions! Thank you!

Bart Karstens, Utrecht, Netherlands
I think this is a good idea but as a qualification tournament for the worldchampionship match. Why deprive the chess world of worldchampionship matches? Tehy have proved the most interesting and most valuable for the development of the game.

Sam Kleinplatz (FM), Montreal, Canada
I think John Nunn's ideas are excellent! I would be curious to see the exact details of the activity bonuses. I do have one idea of my own: It seems to me that 14 rounds is short for a World Championship (in that case Linares and Hoogoven would be other "World Championships" almost). If one looks at past Candidates Tournaments there were some very long ones, and the race remained exciting. Even though the organizer's expense is greater, I think it would be worth it to extend to 21 rounds. I know that means an odd number of games (3) between players, and therefore 2 whites and a black or vice versa, but drawing of lots before the tournament makes it fair. A 21 round tournament would make it FEEL like a real World Championship and would lend prestige and respectability to the event.

Brian Gallagher, Dublin, Ireland
I dont like the proposal at all. A tournament made up of very active young players taking the place of establisghed stars would be a sham. To regain the integrity of the title i think the best players regardless of activity should be there. there shud be a match for the title and the winner of the previous cycle shud receive automatic placement in the next cycle. Say Radjubov or Karjakin were very active and replaced Kramnik the title would be greatly devalued.

V.J. Brahmaiah, Bangalore, India
Re. Mr Nunn's plan. It is nunn of his business.

Jim Larsen, West Chester, PA, USA
I think John Nunn is a flat-out, big-brained stud.

Marcello, New York, USA
With regard to tie-breaks, it reminds me of deciding the World Cup by using penalty kicks to decide the winner. Deciding a World Cup champion by penalty kicks leaves the loser and winner with a feeling that they both don't deserve their outcome ( can the winner really believe they were the better players of the game instead of winners of penalty kicks). Tie-breaks should be decided by the same game. If that means there is a series of games, then so be it. I understand that this affects scheduling, so either plan for it or allow 2 winners to share the title.

Grega Ogradi, Kamnik, Slovenia
The system proposed by Dr. John Nunn might just be the right solution, as nowadays (in the era of turbo capitalism and fast life)long candidate matches and zonal tournaments dont come into account as it would be hard to find sponsors for such events. I agree with Dr. Nunn on the prize fund as players would really be interested to qualify for such a tournament(we can remember what were the numbers-a little exagerating- lost by Kasparov and Ponomariov for preparations for the match that never took place). Also the system for qualification for this tournament seems good(I didnt put any time into studying it thoroughly)as even young players who progress a lot in one year would have a chance to qualify. The only downside in the whole idea is the first tournament and its credibility. Kramnik already announced that he is not playing this tournament, which is totally understandable as Kramnik is considerably stronger in matches than in tournaments where he hardly wins if the best players are present. So if they just cut Kramnik off, the tournament and the whole title just losses on credibility instantly (Kramnik beat Kasparov,...he was never beaten,...). So this tournament is a good solution if Kramnik plays(I am not a particular fan of Kramnik, but the credibility of tournament is lost greatly.)

So maybe if this would be a qualification tournament for match against Kramnik, but this just seems unfair for the GMs playing this tournament. If the participants of the tournament agree to play Kramnik afterwards we might just have the solution, but if the winner is the World champ the title is just not totally credible.

Vincent Michael, Wahington, USA
I generally like it, but with 2 modifications. 1) I don't think there is any harm in reserving a seat for the last champion, since making sure s/he is included ensures that the old champion is dethroned over the board - no claims of "Well I am still the champion because the new 'champion' never faced me." While ensuring that a champion will have an opportunity to defend his title increases the value of being champion, it hardly seems like an unfair advantage over the board - since selection is done three months ahead of time anyway, those players wishing to rest before the event will have an opportunity to do so. 2) There should be a seat reserved for folk who work through qualifying matches such as quarter-finals, semi-finals etc., to allow an under-dog or a recent up-and-comer a shot at greatness. This would either bring the total number of seats to 10 or reduce the number of seats chosen by activity-weighted ELOs to 6.

Konstantin Orfenov, London, UK
I agree with John on everything apart from one little thing - his proposal is an ideal process to select the fairest candidate to challenge the World Champion. The World Champion should also have an automatic right to participate in the next candidate selection tournament. Kramnik has all the rights to defend his World title. He has defended it from Peter Leko last year, and should be playing whoever wins the Argentinean challenge this autumn.

Tim McMurphy, Calgary, Canada
I think the best way is to do it like they do it now for the Chess960 championships in Germany. The tournament is to pick the challenger for next years match with the defending champion. The defending champion does not have to play at all until the next year. If he can't, or doesn't want to, play then the previous year's tournament champ and 2cd place play the match.

I like a match to decide the champion not just a tournament. The double round robin is already done at several highly rated tournaments. Once a year is the correct timing between championships not once every 2 years. What other sport is on a 2 year schedule? None.

Davide Chiocca, Staranzano, Italy
In general, I agree with GM John Nunn. In particular, about his opinion against the odd proposal to diminish the ELO, because of inactivity. I disagree only on the method of resolving ties, that I judge too complicated. I suggest instead that the 1st and 2nd classified on the double round robin tournament will play a match between them (similar to the old match system) to decide the champion. In case of a tie in the final match, then the 1st classified (in the previous tournament) simply takes the title. An alternative method could be: extend the tournament to the first 16 players (instead of 8) and after the tournament, the first 4 classified, participate to a mini-playoff series, with semifinals and finals, like many other sports are yet doing, with success. Each series should have an odd number of games, and the better classified on the previous tournament should have the White most (e.g. 4 times on 7 games)

Eric Weeks, Salt Lake City, USA
This proposal looks fair, reasonable, and almost certainly won't be implemented. I like it very much, and it is similar to an scheme I wrote up a few months ago for my own amusement, but has the benefit of a significant chess figure as an author. One idea I'd like to see added: out of the 8 players, 6 spots should be selected as described. One spot would go to the reigning champion (provided he has remained active), and one spot would be filled by the sponsor. This is similar to the World Cup in soccer, where the champion gets a slot in the next tournament, and the host country also gets a slot. Giving the champion a spot would quiet the detractors who want a continuous line, and giving the sponsor a spot should really create some interest outside the chess community. Imagine if a Carlson or a Polgar were chosen, there'd be all kinds of positive press. Not to mention that it might be easier to find a sponsor. A corporation or government might choose the national champion to create local interest. Some eligibility requirements could be placed on the choice. Still, with or without my suggestion, I'd love to see this proposal implemented. It would return some much needed legitimacy to the chess title.

Jeff Miller, Kennesaw, GA
The Nunn plan allows the possibility of cheating. This is almost certain to have taken place during the 1948 championship and the 1962 Candidates. Any cycle should be classical elimination match based, similar to the FIDE cycle from 1965 on. If such matches prove to be logistically too challenging to organize, than the tournament should be a candidates tournament, followed by a classical match (whose format can be debated) with the champion. The lineage of the championship should not be ignored in the process. Thus Kramnik needs to sign on to any reformation.

Vlad Kosulin, USA
This proposal would not differentiate much a WC winner from, say, Linares or Sofia 2005 winner. More sophisticated structure is required, and FIDE proposal is much more attractive for me while being overloaded. The best way would be to simplify the old proven schema with zonals, with only 2 interzonals, winners play the candidates match (16 or 24 games), and the match winner becomes an official Challenger. Another idea is to add the previous Challenger (or ex-Champion) and the FIDE Cup (current FIDE WC) winner to the pair of interzonal winners. But in this case we'll have to replace the final candidates match with match-tournament or with 3 matches, which can be hard to implement.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada
I was hoping for another of Dr. Nunn's patented and inimitable excursions into humour. It probably would have elicited greater jubilation and applause. Instead, I find this very serious, very able, and very unworkable scheme, similar to all the others. Why should such a logical and pragmatic plan be unworkable? Because we live in an age of illogic and anarchical commotion. Because the necessary good will is lacking. Because enlightened self-interest has been replaced by indulgent ego-gratification, among the chess fraternity as much as outside of it. There is something in the scriptures about casting pearls. Here is one of them.

Graeme Cree, Austin, TX
In essence, FIDE is doing what was done to the US Championship in 1936; converting it from a match title to a tournament title. The big difference is that in 1936 this was done with the consent of the existing title-holder, Frank Marshall, who resigned his title so that this could be done. Trying to do it without such consent robs FIDE's tournament of legitimacy, and hearkens back to Max Judd's attempts to hijack the US Title from Harry Pillsbury in 1904. In the end, due to negative press, Judd's tournament was said to be for "the United States Tourney Championship", a title expressly stated to have nothing to do with the United States Championship held by Pillsbury. FIDE will end up doing the same thing. They may find a successor to Tarrasch's World Tournament Championship, but their title will not be the World Championship as long as the previous champion remains unretired and undefeated.

Vincent Gerusz, Paris, France
Just a few words to mention how reserved I am about "The Solution" of John Nunn. A World Chess Championship should be quite a valuable event in my opinion, a bit like the Olympic Games or the Soccer World Cup. Understandably, the more frequent these events are organized, the less valuable they become. Why not therefore having a 4 year lapse between them just like the other events aforementioned? Besides, Chess has developed a peculiar tradition of its own: in the "game of kings", to become king of the world you ought to kill the previous king. This is what is commonly called the "classical chess tradition". It should not be too difficult to find an arrangement that would honor the past by preserving this great tradition which adds value and prestige to the title!

Chris Falter, Columbia, SC, USA
Let's take some ideas from the world's most popular championship series in sports, like the football World Cup and the (American) NFL playoffs:

1. It should not take much more than a month. When it's short, the media and the fans can get "geared up," enjoy the event immensely, then move on to other activities until the next time. Nunn is correct to identify a years-long process as being too difficult.

2. It should involve knock-out competition. In a knock-out competition, every game of every match is critical. It's compelling sport to watch 2 top competitors duel to advance, whereas the early rounds of a tournament will not be nearly so compelling, especially for the media. And head-to-head competition is compelling right to the finish--whereas a tournament may not be. Imagine this scenario in the final round:

#1, leading by a point, plays #7. #7 cannot improve his placement or prize money by winning instead of drawing. #2 plays #5, who is desperate not to lose in order to avoid dropping to #6. This is definitely not compelling. It's too complex, and the chief combatants are not going head-to-head. No story here. The media needs a story! The sponsor wants a story! Imagine the football World Cup being settled by a tournament result instead of head-to-head competition. Imagine the NFL without a Super Bowl. That's what Nunn is proposing for chess: no playoffs.

The activity bonus is a terrific idea, though. No sport allows a competitor or team to skip playing in the regular season in order to guarantee playoff qualification.

Gerard Snitselaar, Tempe, AZ, USA
Overall Nunn's proposal is a decent one, but I think I disagree with the current champion not automatically getting an invite to the next event. There is a sport where the champion is required to take part in the next event, boxing. The classical championship is more similar to that than other sports. Nunn's proposal would probably be the best way to ensure that the championship doesn't splinter again though.

Chris Becker, North Prairie, WI, USA
Dr. Nunn's plan for the World Championship would be an excellent plan for selecting the CHALLENGER for the World Champion, however I do not like the winner of his tournament to be the champion.

While I would agree with his statement that winner's are not automatically seeded into the next event, virtually every other sport determines its champion by winning a match for the title. In Baseball they play a 7 game series (or match), in Boxing and Football (American), they play one game but at least it's a head to head competition. Hard to imagine a football or boxing match being any more than one event due to the physical nature of the sport. In Basketball they play a 7 game series or match.

It's hard to fathom a legacy that goes back to Steinitz being terminated in favor of having a player win a single tournament to become world champion in any other scenario than a incumbant champion being beaten in a fair match, passing away, or quite simply, refusing to play under any reasonable circumstance.

If Dr. Nunn's proposal as it stand would have stated that was the selection tournament for a challenger, and that the champtionship would pit the incumbant champion against the winner of that tourney in a 12-16 game match, I am all for it.

Don Brooks, Anchorage, USA
I agree with Mr. Nunn regarding GM's losing points for inactivity. This is punitive and ridiculus. I believe it originates from a misguided belief, and perhaps jealousy, that Garry Kasparov was undeserving of his long standing 2800+ rating. Chess players of all levels strive for rating points and enjoy the security that whatever occurs in their life and chess involvement, their rating remains. Why punish the best of the best?

Chess politics are a nightmare. Granted, unifying the world of chess is no easy task. The championship situation must get settled. The most protected champion is the chess champion. It is a new era and past practices are no longer possible. I appreciate that Mr. Kramnik has worked hard to achieve his title. But his one defence since 2000 and current play certainly begs the question. He appears to be more interested in keeping the title than in helping the championship to become for chess all that it can be and used to be. FIDE is not much help either.

Self-interest seems to be the true champion of chess these days.

Abhijeet Joshi, Pune, Maharashtra, India
It has been complete mess for a unique WORLD CHAMPION more than a decade now. As a chess player I understand the problems at the highest level. But there has to be unique WORLD CHAMPION and its unique cycle. I think FIDE has failed to continue their image of Worlds Controlling Body for Chess. How can it be possible in Chess, their were two world champions at the same time! I think FIDE should consider the latest NUNN WCC and proceed.

Carl Berg, Lakewood, Colorado
I have long been an admirer of your games and am pleased to see that you are making an effort to fix the deplorable mess that top level chess seems to be in. I suppose my only reservation is the financial backing of this much needed undertaking. And is there a players union, or the like, to give it some clout? FIDE must be replaced, or chess will die a slow death at the championship level.

Don Aldrich, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
The biggest problem with Dr. Nunn's proposal is the very reason the Candidates Tournament was replaced by match play over forty years ago -- any time you have a tournament format rather than a knockout event, there is going to be temptation to try and 'rig' or 'fix' the outcome. Granted the Soviet Bloc is now gone, and the fomer state supported players are now flourishing in the wonderful world of capitalism. However, there is nothing preventing two players from, say agreeing to draw their individual games and split their prize money equally. The danger of the fix being in is always there for a contest between two humans, but it can be minmized by by knockouts rather than round robins.

I do not advocate the FIDE abomination used the last several years, but it seems it could be fairly easily modified. If one starts with eight, then only three matches are needed to whittle it down to one. The matches could certainly be played as four or six game affairs at slow time control, and the whole business taken care of in less than a month. For instance -- first round, 4 games/six days; 2nd round 6 games/9 days, Championship 12 games/18 days. That gives you 7 serious matches of sufficient length to be interesting, and would certainly fit within Dr. Nunn's economic framework. and never more than 2 games w/o a rest day. I certainly hope someone comes up with a workable plan!

J. P. Couch, Mesquite, Texas, USA
I am in agreement with all the details except the bonus should be limited to 50 points. The top most players of necessity need more time and preparation for playing at their level, thus it would seem unfair to push them to play more than what would fit an already stressful schedule. First place should pay more.

Peter Uebele, München, Germany
I think that the idea of an eight-player tournament for the title of the world champion, which is repeated every two years, is excellent. After all, there has to be some kind of repeating cycle if the title should have any value. However, I'm not sure if it's good to have the players selected only by their Elo points, even with the activity bonus, because it's takes so much time until the player's Elo is changed noticeably. Maybe the players should, at least partly, be selected by qualifying tournaments, which can be any strong tournament before, just something like Sofia or Lineares, it doesn't have to be an additional one.

Robert Offinger, Magdeburg, Germany
Quote: "The winner of one tournament would not be given an automatic place in the following one. This does not happen in other sports and a free place would only encourage inactivity." This DOES/DID happen in other sports and I just want to hint to Liverpool and the ongoing discussion whether to allow the Champions League winners to defend their title next season or not (okay, this is no World Championship but...). I think this is an debatable subject. Another idea not uncommon in other sports is a wildcard/place for the organizer of the tournament and this would encourage bids which had been a problem in the past in my view. But with just 8 places in the final this would be problematic, too.

Aleš Malnar, Ljubljana, Slovenia
My first reaction to having seen Dr Nunn's proposal was "Oh no, not another version of chess reunification chaos..." - but after I have actually read his ideas about chess championships and (especially!) stimulating activity (instead of punishing inactivity), I can only say "At last a concise and comprehensive presentation of a simple yet practical plan..." Well done! (The fact that I am not a professional GM level chess player does not bother me at all...)

James Demery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This is a very sensible and fair proposal, but will Kramnik agree to take part? Hopefully Chessbase can use its influence to bring this proposal to the forefront with the powers that be.

Leonard Augsburger, IL, USA
I like the idea presented, the only problem is that it does not deal with the continuity of the classical title. That, of course, is a one-time problem which in theory goes away after reunification. The current claim to the classical title is strong and will continue to dilute the attention of sponsors until it is reconciled with the present proposal. It is possible that the plan presented here will supercede any such claims, especially if FIDE can consistently execute. But that is for the public to decide in time - we'll have a better idea of this after the fall event.

The most positive aspect of this plan is, of course the idea that only one event needs to be arranged rather than a series of matches, all of which are dependent on each other and on a series of the usual vagaries involving match arrangement. The plan will also have a high degree of legitimacy with the public since the invitation process is quite democratic and only the strongest candidates will be involved. And, by compressing a long series of matches into one exciting event for all the marbles, public appeal will be increased.

Torrecillas Antonio, Barcelona, Spain
A third option. A WCC (world chess champioship) cycle based in ELO can induce high rated players to not to play much chess. ACP proposes that inactivity should produce losing ELO points. Mr Nunn proposes an activity bonus to encourage players to be active. Well, ... a third option could be to organize a WCC cycle based in ELO system only for "active players". A condition to be able to participate in WCC could be to play more than X games in the 2-years period of that cycle. The value of X can be stablished in 60 games but that is argueable.

David Sharpnova, Austin, TX, USA
You can't judge the merit of a players inclusion into a world championship cycle by a dumb little (ELO + activity bonus) equation. Give me a break. You should base it on their performance in tournaments that year. ELO does not mean anything.

If you just pop on an activity bonus, you either weight activity too greatly which will give an advantage to the SECOND tier of players who are very active. And a disadvantage to those who are truly in the first tier but not very active. You can't just ASSUME that since someone is not very active that they don't belong in a world championship cycle.

Obviously Kramnik belongs in the championship cycle and yet the activity bonus would destroy him, right? Wrong. Kramnik's performance has been so horrible due to whatever illnesses he claims to have (I never saw Kasparov crying for a year after serious matches with Karpov or short or whoever) that he doesn't even belong in a cycle. And he is spitting in the face of reunification by not showing up to FIDE's tournament anyways. Would you take THAT into account?

I would take the average performance rating of all the top players, and based on their standings in that include them in a cycle.

And why is the WORLD CHAMPION not automatically included in next year's event? Your argument was because they don't do this in other sports. this isn't a sport. It's a competitive game. FIDE can institute all the ridiculous drug testing it wants, chess is never going to make it into the olympics. FIDE needs to realize this. It needs to realize chess is not a sport so that it can stop catering to the demands of the top players. they are not professional athletes watched by hundreds of millions of viewers. Everyone was so excited that ratings were higher during Kasparov vs. X3D Fritz than football. Were they really too dense to realize this was only because all the football fans thinking that football would be on tuned in plus the chess fans? you don't count ratings caused by people being tricked.

My point is that chess is not a sport. maybe in sports, there is no world champion who automatically qualifies for some yearly cycle. But in CHESS the chess we've all known all our lives, the world champion gets included automatically. Why are you trying to diminish the value of world championship? He shouldn't get qualified by his own demand, but by our innate respect for the world champion, something you seem to lack.

Nick Clive, Sussex England
I think Dr Nunns idea's are so radical that FIDE may just find it a little hard to swallow. I have always felt that FIDE and their system's for choosing a World Champion were ignorent of the fact that most chess players take hardly no interest at all in the FIDE title holder and have always considered Kasparov's lineage to be the true champion of World Chess. An organisation with such blinkered trust in itself can surely never accept such an eye-opening idea.

David Campbell, Webster, New York, United States
I personally feel that Dr. Nunn's plan is decisively brilliant and should be used to end the current debacle in the world championship.

Steve Goodman, Falls Church, Virginia, USA
Dr. Nunn's proposal is very logical, except for one thing: who could take seriously a world championship decided by blitz or even rapid games? If it is no longer possible to find sponsors for an extended series of tournaments and/or matches, such as were organized by FIDE between 1948 and 1990, then perhaps it is time to forget about having a "world champion." Sports like golf and tennis do quite well without formal world championships. Perhaps the chess world should follow suit by settling for a series of tournaments, a few of which are recognized as "major;" maintaining the Elo ranking list; and letting the public decide for itself who is the world's best player. In other words, pretty much the system that we have now.

Charlie Robbins, Boston, ma USA
I dont like your ideas on the world championship. What you propose is simply the winner of a tournament. That is not a world champion. To become the world champion you must beat the previous world champion. When Fischer did not play Karpov had great difficulty being accepted by everyone as the world champion. It was not until Kasparov beat Karpov that the world began to have a new world champion. Sorry what you have is simply a tournament with a tournament winner. plain and simple. why not simply designate the winner of Linares or Corus as the world champion. It is all the same as what you are doing.

IM Kim Commons, Westlake, USA
John's thoughts on a WC cycle make a lot sense. I would urge all chess players to support this very well thought proposal as a way to bring order into the hideous mess that we currently have.

Steve Kernohan, Melbourne, Australia
There are aspects of John Nunn's idea that I like. I still however enjoy the struggle for supremacy in a match over 16 games or more. Here's a suggest improvement over the proposal.

The winner and runner up in the 8 player tournament then play, after an interval of say 3 to 6 months, a 16 game match for the WCC. In the event of a final score of 8 points each in the match, the title is awarded to the player placed first in the tournament. This means that the match for the WCC will not descend into rapid or blitz games to separate the players.

What if two or more players finishing the tournament in first place? Maybe it's here that rapid games (6 games total) could be used to finally achieve clear first and second places. Not entirely satisfactory but at least the tournament schedule could accommodate an extra 2 days of play to break the tie.

What does the chess playing public get out of this? We get to see a Super GM tournament of 14 rounds (with a possibility of 6 rapid games as tie breakers) PLUS a 16 game match between the two highest finishers in the tournament...a real feast for the fans and great opportunities for securing sponsors for the organisers. Yes it will amount to a gruelling test for the players who make it through to the match but isn't the prize worthy of such a test?

Vincent Matis, Braine L'Alleud
Like you said, I'd start with a 8-player double round-robin tournament. If at the end of the tournament, the first place is shared, there is a (rapid) tie-break. Later (2-4 months later) a 14 game match between the first 2 players will crown the World Champion. In case of a tie at the end of this Final match, the player who finished first during the tournament is the new World Champion (I don't want the WC to be crown after winning a 5 minute blitz game !!). The idea is for everybody (the players, the sponsors, the audience) to know before Game1 of the Final who wins in case of a 7-7 final score...

Harish Kini, Mumbai, India
The proposal is very comprehensive and seems well though through. The only suggestion I would like to do is that the top4 finishers of the tmt should play a match (semis and finals), as a World Champion shd not only be good in tmt play, but match play as well. This will also keep 'traditionalists' in good humour. We can't afford to have any more disputed World Champions. Also, a World Champion title should come with an expiry date.

Emil W. Kiss, Budapest, Hungary
Matches between TWO players, like Fisher-Spassky, Karpov-Kasparov, Kramnik-Leko contributed enormously to the popularity, and also to the theory of chess. Eliminating them completely from the WC process, which, according to some new suggestions, seems to be based entirely on round robin turnaments, would make chess poorer in my opinion. (I understand the difficulties in financing such matches.)

Marcel Luternauer, Sursee, Switzerland
Currently there is a big mess to accomplish world championships. It will not be easy to solve this problem. There are several parties, all claming their are right: Kramnik the current world champion, Kasparov who never got the promised matches with the FIDE world chamoions Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov and finally the FIDE itself. Yes ... Kasparov is retired from chess, but who knows what happened if he were able to play against a FIDE world champion? Therefore a unification is more than necessary. The current situation is bad for the reputatioin of chess at all. The proposal from Dr. Nunn could be a way to achieve the unification. The idea with the bonuspoint for active players is interesting and could enhance the public interest. But I also agree with Dr. Nunn to not influence the ELO rating if players are inactive for a certain period of time. The only problem I see is the fact, that Kramnik will probably not play such an event as he do also not agree to play the FIDE world championship in Argentina. At the end we will have still two chess world champions - Kramnik and the winner of this tournament. Kramnik wants a knock out tournament and this solution is a round robin tournament. Therefore it is not possible to do it right for all parties.

Jamie Flynn, Tipperary, Ireland
Hello. I am a young chess player in Ireland aged 13. I have represented Ireland numerous times since 2001 playing my first international game board 1 on the under-12 tri-nations team against Scotland and Wales. I should have been selected last year to play for the Glorney team but was done out of my place, and my mother, who contributed very, very heavily to chess and is regarded as one of the key organisers who broght chess in Ireland to a level it had never been at before (when we first got involved in tournament chess, the U-12 champion was rated 1200, now there 5+ players rated between 1500 and 2000). Anyway, I was done out of my place and my mother was accused of favourtism and nepotism. I saw it as unacceptable but here I was in my house in Tipperary and a player who I should have qualified ahead of was in Scotland. So what I want to know, is, in respect to qualification will the rules be upheld fully and players who could be regarded as 'chess celebrities' have to qualify like everyone else. After all, what all chess players like to see is the best of the best battling it out on the board. I hope you will read this comment and thank you. I feel the system is the best that there has been for a long time.

Jon Maybery, Chester UK
The World Politics of chess has for sometime become a joke, which must give other sports great amusement at the thought of an intellectual sport run by intellectuals, being unable to organise or agree on its own championship structure. Dr. Nunn is a respected, level headed individual who generally talks common sense instead of politics. His ideas are certainly reasonable and are no worse than anything FIDE have suggested. They should therefore should be given some consideration before our sport degenerates to a state of the champion being determined by a lighning tournament with participant exclusions being at the discretion of the sponsor. I may have missed it in JDN's article, but it didn't seem to mention any proposals for the time rates to be applied. This to me seems an important point - Improvements in chess cannot be advanced in 30 minute games - only in games where thought is applied.

Peter Doggers, Amsterdam
It sounds like a good idea. I wonder what Dr. Nunn thinks about: 1. The fact that Kramnik does not want to play, cause if he did, the match against Leko was played for nothing. How do we get Kramnik back into the WCC cycle?? 2. What would be Dr. Nunn's solution for the fact that nowadays there are too many IM's and GM's. It's evident that becoming a GM is worth much much less than it used to be (and should be?). Personally, I think a new title like ISGM (International Super Grand Master) for e.g. 2650+ is an idea, but obviously there are drawbacks as well.

Dr Bo Eriksson, Eskilstuna, Sweden
Dr Nunn's proposal is an excellent one. It is important for the rank and file, like me, that the chess world unites again and that a decent way is found to restore the World Championship to its former status. It seems to me, however, that 8 is a small number. Why not try to go back to the old format of, say 18, or even 20 players in the tournament - still double-round?

Zukertot Zabava, USA
I'm for you GM Nunn. But I like a knock-out system a lot better. Really i think there should be a world chess summit say 100 or more chess players where this can be agreed upon. Democracy can solve most of the problems, to have ACP and FIDE make decisions for players is ludicrous. All those players in the ACP do not repreesnt the desires of all the chess players in the world. If only the chess world could vote for what they want and the majority pass then we can have peace and tranquility in the chess world. The world champion should not be glorified as it is right now. In other sports like for instance Tennis, the wimbledon, the the champions start playing from the very beginning of a tournament and they have to qualify for the finals.So i'd like to see a tournament where the world champion plays from the beginning with 8 people and prove his dominance.

In chess, world champions are so glorified that they make senseless demands and some abuse the system. Kramnik comes to mind. I say the world champion should be nothing but a world champion. No ludacris powers. The world champ should know that after a certain period,not decided by them, they have to defend their world title, and stop making demands.

Douglas Cheng, Bellevue, Washington, USA
Your one tournament format certainly seems to simplify things. I suppose that it would, as in most other sports, be as valid as a match between a defending world champion and a challenger. My initial feeling, though, is that it just reduces the world championship to just another event, albeit one with a title and more money. I fear it would lack the tension, psychological turns, technical innovations (geared to the opponant's play) and excitement that have accompanied one-on-one matches in the past. It would be possible for a second tier player (Kasimzanov, for example) to attain the title on a series of good days, which then begs the question as to what the term "world champion" means.

John Harrison, Wymondham, Norfolk, England
I like Nunn's idea but he is not quite accurate in saying no other sport gives the holder a free entry eg Boxing. Liverpool may also get a free entry.

Giovani di Gesu, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Dr. Nunn, Congratulations! Simple, pragmatic & clear.

Costas Koliopoulos, Athens, Greece
(1) The world chess championship traditionally has been decided by a match (the exceptional cases of 1948 and 1975 notwithstanding). In my opinion, one cannot get away with it. (2) A tournament format, despite its numerous advantages, is always open to allegations (or practice) of collusion. However, since a series of matches seems financially unsustainable for the time being, using the tournament format to select the world champion's opponent (basically what Kramnik says vis a vis the forthcoming Argentine tournament) should not be a bad idea.

Orlando Cano, Alpharetta, Ga. USA
I think Dr Nunn Idea is very similar to the FIDE plans. Good proposal of "activity bonus".But there is too much consideration to the Elite players.Why we do not increse the number to the final 8 with two more players and will have 18 games in total.Where these two players come from? The two best qualifiers in a tournament that will include the next 12 players in the FIDE rating from 10th to the 20th place,single round with also significant monetary incentive and with the same time controles of the fide final. In this way if you are in the first 20 of the Fide list at least your name and your efforts will be taken in consideration.A player that miss the elite number for one or two points or even for more points year after year need also to be considerate. Now in this way if the player qualified in the 20th position happen to win the final FIDE phase he deserve to be World champion of the world. The same way if the number one rating in the Fide list may not be the winner. It is a matter of glorios moment in your entire carrer.Why not.Shirov and Aronian probable now will not be happy beacuse they were exclude after years to be in the first 20. Chess results are very narrow and that explain why Leko win in Nederlands and Topalov in Sofia.

German de Leon, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
I read all of Dr. Nunn's document. It is the real solution of the problem, and
if he designing these inteligent rules, clear and easy of undestand, he
has the right to copyright them, and not the poeple of chess Organisation FIDE, for the
good all chess lovers and club players. Conratulations, Dr. John Nunn, from Mexico, un saludo AMIGO¡¡

Renzo Moran, Lima, Peru
I fully support Dr. Nunn's ideas for the organization of a World Chess Championship - and this include the excellent idea of "activity bonus" instead of "inactivity rating punishment"! Moreover, draw offers could be eliminated and draws would be allowed only in forced situations (like perpetual checks and threefold repetition or a theoretical drawn position).

However, I would encourage this type of round-robin tournaments to take place only the first time to select the world champion. After this first time, the tournament would become a candidates tournament, which winner would have a match with the world champion, with no right of return match. Sponsorship and funding could be the issues of this approach. A little to think about, but still I believe that Dr. Nunn's approach is a great idea and good enough to ensure a fair and universally-recongnized world championship.

Duane Petersen, Minneapolis, MN. USA
I agree that something needs to be done to unify the world championship. This proposal seems to be the most realistic option that I have heard, I especially agree with the activity bonus and how it could create enough drama to keep the media and fans interested. The idea that a player should lose rating points for inactivity is ridiculous and could only jeopardize an otherwise great opportunity to resolve this issue! Every chess player I know would love to see a resolution that would identify a single world champion. And SOON!

Javier Rubio Ortín, Zaragoza
En mi opinión se omite en este asunto el Ajedrez Cibernético. Pienso qué a los ocho jugadores humanos, de alguna manera qué no concreto, se debería "sumar" el programa de Ajedrez "campeón" del año. Éste debería de hacer de "juéz imparcial" de alguna manera qué nó esplicito en estas breves líneas.

Serguem Trott, Brazil
I think that this model for choose the world champion is very nice for now, the first time after the confusion!! After we have a name, the next time need to be a match like the old times!! This kind of tornment with 8 best ranked players could be nice to find the challanger for the champion, that will have to win the match with the actual world champion to get the title! Sorry for the poor English.

Marcelo Pagano, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Coincido plenamente con la opinión y plan del Dr. John Nunn. Es obvio que su propuesta atenta contra la creación inevitable de intereses que giran alrededor de una campeonato mundial. Pero esto deberá acabar de una buena vez. Ser campeón del mundo debe ser para el mejor y debe demostrarlo en todos los torneos, como en la época de las viejas glorias o de Karpov y Kasparov. Debe ser itinerante y regular su tiempo entre sus torneos y su obligación moral como campeón del mundo de beneficiar a la mayoría con su rol. Todos ansiamos jugar una simultánea con él, o aun que sea, verlo desde una sala explicando una apertura. Ser el mejor en ajedrez, obliga a ser el mejor en la vida. Deseo ver un campeón mundial activo, como aún lo sigue haciendo Tolia. Felicitaciones y adelante!!

Thomas Kyrimis, San Francisco, USA
Excellent idea! Simple and to the point - it leaves it to the players to decide the issue of the championship.

Ryan, Emmett, Pontypridd, Wales
I respect the Doctor as an intelligent man and a talented chessplayer but I disagree with many aspects of his proposals.

The most problematic is the suggestion of an 'activity bonus' to help determine the qualifiers for the World Championship tournament. In order to maintain legitimacy the tournament must have the best players competing in it. The best players are those at the top of the rating list - period. I cannot see the benefit in introducing an artificial and arbitrarily designed 'activity bonus'.

I also do not believe that such a bonus would ensure 'additional publicity' in the race for qualification. The race would already exist -the race to play well enough to have a good enough rating to qualify. This is surely a more attractive race than one which simply rewards those who manage to play a potentially exhausting 150 games in two years (I presume these must be at regular time controls), just to attain 75 bonus points in an attempt to qualify. How does this serve the interest of chessplayers?

Clearly there needs to be a way of ensuring that a player doesn't play very few games, or stops playing altogether in order to protect his rating and ensure qualification. A far simpler way to do this would be to have a minimum number of games per year (or two years) that each potential participant must have played in order to be eligible. This requirement is much easier to understand and justify than an 'activity bonus'. It is also easier to set a limit for a minimum number of games required per year (20 perhaps?), than it is to estimate how much to award as an 'activity bonus'.

However, all of this is a sideshow compared to the main issue - the fundamental structure proposed is one where the World Champion is determined by being the winner of a tournament, not a series of matches, where the incumbent Champion must be dethroned.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. I agree that such a tournament would most likely be an attractive proposition for sponsors. However, I have two concerns: Firstly, chess has a great lineage of Champions stretching back for over a century - and I believe that the fact that the new Champion had to defeat the previous Champion to wrest the ultimate prize away from him added great value to the title (I know that this hasn't always happened, but those occasions were aberrations, not the norm).

Secondly, a tournament allows the possibility of collusion between players. Note that I say the 'possibility'. I am not suggesting that any current players would do such a thing. However, any system that allows the possibility of collusion, or even simply the suspicion that it has or could occur, is surely a flawed one. There have been oft voiced concerns regarding certain tournaments in the past - do we really want this to happen in a World Championship?

I believe that once the title is finally re-unified (by whatever means necessary) the cycle that is established to determine future Champions should culminate in a series of matches - not a tournament. As a unified and universally recognized title, sponsorship should be achievable for such a cycle of events.

Ed Gaillard, New York, NY
The Nunn/FIDE "system" is Just Another Supertournament, and there's no reason anyone would regard the winner as any more of a World Chamion than the winner of Dortmund or Linares. The only board game other than chess that gets a lot of sponsorship money is Go. In Go, titles are determined by a system of qualifying tournaments leading up to a match with the current titleholder. What physical sports have an individual who is called "Champion of the World? Boxing does; no others come to mind. How is the boxing championship decided? By a fight between the title-holder and a challenger. What people want is a head-to-head match. Two guys trying to bash each other's heads in. No mere tournament can replace that, especially one whose structure is obviously inspired by a dislike of Kramnik as World Champion.

Alessandro Bonanno, Heswall, UK
The world championship is a match between TWO players, one of which is the World Champion. Your idea would be a nice one to select the challenger, but not to run a world championship (though of course would still be 1000000 times better that what FIDE calls world championship ... but no one really believes that anyway).

Richard Ehrman, Cambridge, USA
My only disagreement with the proposal is the tie-break. Deciding the world champ after a 14 round tournament by a rapid game is foolish, some provision for more games as same time control should be included.

Jesus Cuevas, México
La propuesta del Dr. Nunn me parece sumamente correcta, aún y cuando se debería considerar que para que realmente sea campeonato del mundo debrían representarlo jugadores de todo el mundo , quizá a los jugadores de élite no les parezca adecuado , ¿pero que se le va ha hacer? el jugador fuerte deb de demostrarlo ante todos , no sólo entre el muy cerrado círculo de jugadores de élite.... En fin a falta de algo esta propuesta es la más correcta y srs. jugadores de élite: demuestren que los dólares que cobran realmente los sudan en el tablero y la mente.

Vishnu Warrier, Redmond, Washington
Even though I am not an experienced player, I agree with Mr. Nunn that the World Championship should be 14 rounds and same day schedule and between 8 players. However, I think it would be more sensible to have a Candidates tournament to enter the World Championship. The previous world champion and the top 3 in the world should automatically be seeded in and the rest who wish to enter (top 25 in the world) should have a Candidates match for 2 weeks and they should play 11 rounds. The top four winners in this Candidates match qualify for the World Championship.

Donald Misquitta, Ohio, USA
The proposal is very interesting, but I am not sure about the idea of the previous World Champion not being seeded into the next event. Since this player is the best in the world, we are potentially losing many fine games by not forcing the new world champion to defeat the previous one in an event. In addition, if only eight players qualify, the majority of the world's countries are not going to have any representatives, and this isn't going to create much excitement in those places. If there was a way to qualify through national events, everyone would have a shot, and there would still be a signficant impetus for players to gain activity points since the odds of qualifying would be so small that no one could rest on a national/international event. There could be a North American champion, a champion of Asia, etc, and these players would get seeded along with the other 8 into the qualifying event for the World Championship. This would also increase the world's ambassadors for chess.

Vieito Luis María, Spain
Es un sistema injusto, pues el campeonato del mundo se jugaría exclusivamente por la élite. En el antiguo sistema, cualquier jugador podía llegar hasta el final. Creo que sería más justo que la final fuese entre 14 jugadores, a dos vueltas, y que las 6 plazas que se añaden, se dejaran para jugadores que viniesen de unos torneos previos, en los que pudiese participar cualquier jugador.

Jonathan Soriano, Spain
Me parece una buena propuesta para realizar el campeonato del mundo ya que exige más de los jugadores de élite y por tanto, se podrá ver más lucha y menos tablas de "20 jugadas".

Antonio Di Paola, Milano, Italy
I completely agree with the Nunn's ideas for the champioship.

Blas Caba, Republica Dominicana
Me parece muy bien la propuesta del Dr. Nunn pero lo que no me gusta es que se decida los jugadores por Elo. Tampoco se aclara en que quedaran los zonales e interzonales, que son digamos la unica via para los jugadores latinoamericanos de llegar a formar parte por la lucha del campeonato del mundo. Se dira que si el jugador es lo suficientemente bueno de una u otra manera conseguira los puntos Elo y podra participar. Pero sabemos lo dificil que resulta para muchos jugadores participar en torneos y mas aun que se registre su Elo. Pero tambien puede suceder no solo con los latinoamericanos, aun con jugadores en franca ascension. Por ejemplo la meteorica carrera de Mijail Tal hacia el titulo mundial fue posible por la existencia de los torneos zonales e interzonales. Al ganar el titulo de campeon de la URSS (por entonces valido como interzonal) era a la sazon Maestro internacional!, en nuestros dias aun demostrando talento no se si seria posible alcanzar los puntos Elo requeridos. Creo que los zonales e interzonales deben mantenerse porque incentiva a todos los jugadores del mundo, ya que , por lo menos en teoria todos tenemos oportunidad de participar en el campeonato del mundo!. Para algunos paises es un logro enviar a un jugador a un zonal y todavia mas significativo un interzonal, y esto sirve de incentivo para estos. Creo que es buena la propuesta del tiempo de Nunn. Cuando la Fide tomo la decision de cambiar drasticamente el tiempo de reflexion se aludia a que se queria llevar el ajedrez a la television... hasta ahora no he visto la primera partida por algun canal deportivo!. Creo que deberia volverse, sino al tiempo de reflexion de antes, por lo menos acoger propuestas como la del Dr. Nunn.

Florenz Plassmann, Muenster, Germany
Dr. Nunn is right! Bravo for his attempt to put the World Championship in order.

Leonardo Fusco, Argentina
Me parece exelente la idea de Nunn,habria q tenerla muy en cuenta.

John Parker, Coventry, United Kingdom
The world of chess has been in darkness for over a decade. I know of no other sport that has shot itself in the foot as much as chess. It is a disgrace. I am 35 years old and I have rarely seen chess on TV. I would love to see the top players playing regularly and Im sure Im not the only one.

John Nunn's ideas would certainly work. However, the 'rules' for time limits etc. while understandable should be made simpler to make the game more accessible to the general public.

I believe a marketing manger should be hired for Chess, and his customers are the top players and the public. Like Bernie Ecclestone in F1, he should set the future in place for the sport to follow. Chess is bigger than any current player yet the players and FIDE cannot agree over anything. Perhaps a Players Chess Committee should be established with the Chairman the appointed Chess Marketeer.

Ultimately, I want to see the top players play each other head to head every two years. Having one event is correct, but I would prefer to see qualifying groups that go into a cup round, just like the football world cup.

- Absolutely NO ties, Previous 12 month ELO rating wins.
- Seeded groups
- Top 32 ranked players by Previous 12 month ELO
- 8 groups of four, all play all, Black and White, 6 matches
- Top two into 2nd Round.
- All matches then knockout, 2 as White and 2 as Black.
16 - 2nd Round
8 - Quarters
4 - Semi
2 - Final
World Chess Champion

Keeping it like Football (the most successful game on the planet, would make it instanly recognisable to every man)

Also this means the top 32 players in the world can win the World Championship and this seems fairer than the previous candidates as well as only top 8. It also increases exposure in more countries and makes the 32-50 rankings a lot more competitive. It should be open to men and women, just think of that kudos, a female World Chess Champion.

I prefer leagues to ko cups but the general consensus is that cups are more exciting and that has to be the way to go, to appeal to the consensus.

A deal with Sky should be struck if possible. They know how many people want to watch Chess. They would invest money in this and it would be successful.

Anyways those are my thoughts and thanks for a great article. It doesnt matter what, I only hope that something is done for the good of the game.

Jaime Gallegos, Peru
I disagree with the The Nunn Plan for the World Chess Championship (NPWCC). I guess it´s quite good only to the top-ten chess players ... The NPWCC didn't think on the chessplayers who cannot improve their ELO because they don´t play easily in strong tournaments ! For example on the 2004 FIDE World Championship in Tripoli, only two of the top-ten chessplayers played there ( Topalov and Adams, according to the FIDE April 2004 ranking ). Then, this tournament was not the strongest possible. If we recall the quarterfinals ( round five ) the players were: Kharlov , Dominguez, Kasimdzhanov, Radjabov , Akopian, Grischuk ,Adams , and Topalov. " Stronger " players than Kasimdzhanov were defeated before! ( among others: Ivanchuk, Short, Malakhov, Nisipeanu, Sokolov, Dreev, etc ). Kharlov was not on the first 100 chess players and Lenier Dominguez was 92th on the April 2004 FIDE ranking ! Why these players could reach the quarterfinals ? I guess it was not only good luck ... I quote this because to use the FIDE ranking ( with or without the bonus ) could be a good idea to get the best World Chess Tournament but is not completely fair to others who cannot play frequently in Europe ... It wouldn´t be better to return to the Interzonals ?

José María Ávalos, España
Estimados señores : Bajo mi punto de vista -aficionado al ajedrez y periodista de profesión-, nunca debería proclamarse un campeón del mundo en enfrentamientos de torneo con la participacíón de varios jugadores. Creo que la fórmula más correcta es la de los enfrentamietnos individuales. La vieja fórmula de zonales, interzonales y matches eliminatorios me parece la más adecuada. Entiendo que tiene entre sus inconvenientes la longitud del ciclo, pero con los necesarios ajustes debería recuperarse. Pero si lo que queremos es más "espectáculo" y divertirnos todos, entonces propongo una competición mundial cada año, que podría recibir el nombre de "Copa del Mundo". Para no extenderme, estas serían en esencia sus reglas : -Participarían, al menos, los 100 mejores según la clasificación "elo" de la Fide. -Sería por matches eliminatorios, de partidas de 25´, ó de 25+10. -Cada match se jugaría al mejor de 5 partidas. No habría partidas de desempate; en caso de igualdad a 2´5 se proclamaría vencedor el jugador que hubiera conducido tres veces las piezas negras. -Cada encuentro individual se jugaría en una sóla sesión. -Se haría un cuadro de enfrentamientos tipo torneo de tenis ATP, con cabezas de serie.

Esta forma de enfrentamiento daría mucha espectacularidad al juego, y con seguridad sería más atractiva para los medios de comunicación, especialmente para la televisión.

Eduardo Benazzi, Porto Alegre, Brazil
John: Kramnik has two arguments not to participate in the FIDE tournament in San Luis: 1) No other world champion in history would accept to put the title on the line in an 8-players tournament, instead of a direct match against a challenger; 2) If he participated in San Luis, then the Brissago match was for nothing? How do you answer to these arguments?

Mark Byerly, Newark, Delaware, USA
Mr. Nunn, your system is probably just about flawless and should be adopted by FIDE immediately. I would only suggest that every 2 years is too frequent, but only slightly. It's importance is diminished with greater frequency. Historically the Chess World Championship has not changed hands so often and I think there is something to be said for this. However, every 2 years is certainly better than every 4 years. The fans lose interest and the top players will feel that their "prime" is passing them by if they can only contend for the World Championship twice every decade. Every 3 years would be ideal I think.

Martin van Essen, Netherlands
On the proposal to deny automatic qualification of the World Champion for the next championship: It is not at all uncommon in a lot of other sports that a champion is always allowed to defend his title. For example: UEFA even (re-)changed its reglementations in order to seed current soccer champion Liverpool into the Champions League main event. The chess champion should not lose all of his activity in order only to stay in shape, for he has to shake off seven other hungry dogs.

Furthermore, I would like to inform the reader's opinion on Jeff Sonas' dynamic elo system ( Personally I find the system hard to evaluate, but it includes a mechanism that punishes inactivity. I know that it is practically next to impossible to replace the current ELO-system by a new one, and also I recognize that according to John Nunn's article this system of 'inactivity punishment' may discourage inactive players to resume playing.

Rafael Altamirano, Cádiz, Spain
Voy ha resumir un plan es seis puntos:

1ºEn primer lugar hay que tener en cuenta que aunque siempre haya grandes jugadores que pongan objecciones al campeonato y éstos sean muy buenos(no serán más de cuatro), estos no representan nada más que a una infinitesimal parte del global de los jugadores profesionales. Por lo tanto me parece que ésta gente no podrá hacer la guerra por su cuenta por mucho tiempo si el resto hace caso omiso y la FIDE los sanciona.

2ºNo me parece que haya otro cauce para unificar el título, que el contar con la FIDE, no hay organismos ni empresas que sostengan a largo plazo el ajedrez, ni siquiera para unos pocos oportunistas que piensen sólo en sus beneficios.

3ºLa FIDE no debería permitir que algunos jugadores jueguen a dos bandas, si no se está en la FIDE se está fuera, así de contudente, las sanciones(desposeer de ELO FIDE, no computar los torneos en que intervengan la federación o quizá tomando medidas tímidas al principio y endurecerlas paulatinamente), harán perjudicar al jugador disidente, lo marginarán ahora en un tiempo en el que no juega Kasparov y no hay jugador indispensable, que pueda vivir del ajedrez privado.

4ºMe parece importante, primero, hacer unas elecciones presidenciales FIDE democráticas en cuanto se tenga oportunidad, en la que partipen todos los ajedrecistas, que acaben con las diferencias y la corrupción interna, (sería bueno que haya una asamblea de jugadores en consulta permanente).

5ºUna vez elegida la presidencia la organización debe plantear las condiciones del futuro campeonato, no importan cuales sean sólo que se hagan, (pero muy importante es que deban estar involucrados los jugadores profesionales).

6ºAsí se aceptará definitivamente un modelo de campeonato del mundo. Y para evitar disidencias mano dura, sanciones, expulsiones, tomadas estas medidas tanto por la clase política como por una asamblea de jugadores perjudicados.

Espero no haber sido tan largo, pero creo que el futuro del ajedrez está mas en crear una masa de aficionados, que en preocuparse por la participación de tres o cuatro estrellas, eso sólo es ajedrez de casapuerta que además no tiene futuro al margen del resto.

Si nadie me ha leido al menos me he divertido. (un aficionado).

Robert Andersson, Göteborg, Sweden
Dear Dr. Nunn, I think you are on the wrong track. To me and many others the chess world championship is a question of the guy who beat the guy who beat the guy and so on. Kind of like the system the professional boxing is using. The games of the matches played in the past by players like, McDonell, LaBourdannais, Morphy, Steinitz, Andersen, and Zukertort are still a pleasure to play through, because they display the struggle between two minds. Each of them showing different aspects of geniousity and determination. This also goes for matches played in our days, however rare. Kramniks lovely Berlin wall surprise vs Kasparov and The imaginative agressive but unsuccesful play of Shorts vs Kasparov. The problem of a double round robin is that you may lose both of your games to an undefeated second prize winner and still end up first. To me that is a disgusting way to declare someone as world champion.

Kenny Harman, Ashford, England
Dear Dr. Nunn, I have read your proposals for The World Chess Championship and very good they are too. However, I feel that we are witnessing the end of the classical chess era. I also feel we are witnessing the end of the club chess era, particularly in Western countries with a high GNP.

I feel your proposals although excellent theoretically may be at variance with the way chess is being played by players today. I agree there is a crisis with the organisation in top level chess, but chess is now played a lot on the players individual computer, via Internet Chess Clubs. Postal chess is veirtually dead, whereas webserver chess is thriving.

With the tremendous improvement in recent years in computer analysis engines - Deep Blue and Hydra - the time when a computer beats a man seems imminent to me. I believe the future of the world chess championship may become devalued both because of this and sponsors can find new ways to advertise their sponsorship. A man versus a man is not so interesting today as it was say 40 years ago.

To organise a top level GM tournament on the Internet is much cheaper for the sponsor as well. Chess on tv is practically dead, and there is even talk that tv itself is on the way out because of the internet.

Chess will go the same way. I think it will survive on the Internet but I see a day when The World Chess Championship will also be held on the world wide web, because you can reach a much bigger audience that way.

Although I am not a chess professional, I am a strong amateur player and having been playing for 46 years. I think the time has come when even a very strong chess junior player once he has reached 18, should think about taking up poker if he wants to survive professionally.

I am sorry to be so pessimistic and also I have digressed considerably from your World Championship Proposals which are admirable in themselves. But I have to say that I think as chess moves more into the realm of sport, not so many players will care who is the world chess champion. Professional chessplayers who are ready to diversify and be realistic will survive economically, but would-be sponsors for the World Chess Championship will be increasingly more difficult to find because of the reasons I have outlined. As life speeds up so will chess - this way chess could have a future as a spectator - sport especially on the internet.

But I am pessimistic about the future survival of the World Chess Championship despite your excellent proposals.

Valeri Fumero, Havana, Cuba
I liked very much the way that existed before 1990 or something like that. Candidate tournaments and individual matches (quarter finals, semifinals and final). This method ensures that a player not rated in the top 10, if he plays well, can achieve the World Champion title. History has proved that, in most cases, the winner has been the best player in that moment. In my opinion it is very exciting that people can enjoy, step by step, following matches (let's say the well-known 24 games). The cycle could last 3 or 4 years, but in 24-games long matches we minimize the chance that a player couldn't win the title due to a given momentaneous problem or mistake.

Pat McKillen, Belfast N. Ireland
As an average club player I can only agree that something seriously needs to be done to sort out the current mess in chess. If it continues to go on in this manner, it could soon end up like boxing with 2 or more people claiming to be world champions. I would really like to see chess sort this out as it needs an official world champion.

John Nunn replies

I would like to thank the large number of players who responded to my proposals for the World Championship. The majority supported the general principles of my suggestion, although of course many people proposed variations on the system (10 players instead of 8, refinements to the ‘activity points’ system, etc.). Many of these suggestions are worth serious consideration, but clearly the basic structure is the most important thing; if that is accepted, then the details can be refined at a later stage.

The ACP/FIDE suggestion for deducting Elo points for inactivity attracted no support at all. I hope that the widespread condemnation for this idea causes it to be dropped forthwith.

The number of responses is so great that I cannot respond to all the points individually, but I would like to comment on those which were raised most frequently. The following questions and answers therefore represent an amalgamation of points raised by several readers.

Q: Your proposed tournament sounds like a super-tournament, such as Linares or Dortmund. Why not make one of the super-tournaments your World Championship?

A: Bids would be invited for the proposed World Championship. Traditional venues such as Wijk aan Zee or Linares might want to bid for the World Championship, but it is equally possible that a sponsor would prefer to have the World Championship in a major venue such as London or New York. There is no reason to deny such cities the chance of hosting the World Championship by simply giving the event to, say, Linares. It would be good for chess to have a such an important event staged in a major city. Although Linares and Wijk aan Zee have their undoubted charms, I suspect that world media coverage would be greater if the event were held in a less out-of-the-way venue.

Q: I don’t like the idea of a tournament to decide the World Championship at all. Isn’t it fairer to have a series of knock-out matches, as in the FIDE system before 1993?

A: All systems have their pros and cons. There is no special reason to suppose that a tournament would be less fair than a series of matches. With matches, a lot depends on whom you are paired against, which is a matter of chance. If you have to meet an opponent you find especially difficult, then you may go out early on – chess is full of cases in which A regularly beats B, B regularly beats C and C regularly beats A. Also, with matches, if A beats B 6-0 and C beats D 3.5-2.5, then A and C meet each other on level terms in the next round, although it is likely that A has performed better than C thus far. A may then lose 3.5-2.5 to C and go out, although his performance rating for the whole event is higher than C’s.

There are also practical reasons for preferring a tournament. A series of knock-out matches is likely to last longer than a tournament if the matches are long enough to be fair (at least six games), the problem of tie-breaks is more likely to arise than with a tournament and, in the final, if there is a quick draw then the spectators can take an early trip home as there is nothing else to watch. While no system is perfect, I think that a tournament is to be preferred.

Q: The candidates tournament was changed to knock-out matches in the 1960s because of suspected collusion between the players. Won’t that happen again if you have a tournament?

A: There are various reasons for thinking this is unlikely to be a problem. The accusation in the 1960s was that the Soviet players operated as a team, agreeing quick draws with each other and trying hard to beat non-Soviet players such as Fischer. The effectiveness of this strategy is somewhat in doubt, as if players agree draws with each other then this only gives a third player the chance to go ahead of them by winning. Moreover, the chess world is different now. The leading chess talent is spread over many different countries, and there is no obvious power bloc as there was in the old Soviet Union days.

It would be more serious if one player deliberately lost to another, but players should be warned that similar stunts in other sports have led to criminal prosecutions (see the following round-up of famous sporting scandals involving match-fixing). It is difficult to totally prevent cheating in any sport, and there has to be a certain measure of trust involved.

Q: I like your tournament, but only to qualify someone to challenge the current champion. The World Championship itself should always be decided by a match. Why do you want to throw away the long tradition of World Championship matches?

This is a fair question, since the tradition of the world championship has been mostly based on head-to-head matches (the most notable exception being the 1948 match-tournament). My main reasons for preferring to have the championship decided in a single tournament were practical. To raise a large sum of sponsorship for an event which is only a qualifier for the World Championship is going to be difficult, especially as it is an event in which the incumbent champion is guaranteed not to participate.

Then there is the question of what happens if the qualifier and the champion are unable to agree terms, or a sponsor cannot be found. In recent years there have been a number of events (such as the Shirov-Kramnik match) which qualified a player for a match which then did not take place. The incumbent champion can prove ‘awkward’ when it comes to risking his title, and put all sorts of obstacles in the way of a match. Of course, you can then declare the qualifier champion by default (as Karpov was) but this would be a thoroughly unsatisfactory conclusion.

In addition, the system of an arduous qualifier leading up to the ‘real’ match is not without problems. The qualifier may be exhausted by the effort involved in reaching the title match, while the champion can sit at home preparing nasty opening surprises. In the past the world championship operated on a more leisurely three-year cycle; the proposed two-year cycle makes this problem more serious.
While it is break with tradition to decide the world championship by a tournament, sometimes change has to be accepted if progress is to be made. The challenge is to make chess more media-friendly and attractive to sponsors, without sacrificing fairness or the fundamental principles of the game.

Dr John Nunn

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