The Kasimdzhanov/Shipov draw proposals – readers' feedback

by ChessBase
8/19/2011 – Former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov recently proposed that there were too many draws in chess, and that eliminating them from top-level chess would greatly enhance the popularity of the game. After him GM Sergei Shipov made a similar proposal, involving tie-break rapid or blitz games to be played immediately after draws. Here a selection of reactions from our readers.

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Before we start here are the articles that led to the current debate.

Kasimdzhanov: Open letter to FIDE – with a proposal
21.07.2011 – Uzbek-born grandmaster and former FIDE knockout world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov, now a permanent second of World Champion Vishy Anand, is a profound thinker, and not just in chess openings. He has now written an open letter to FIDE, describing the current unsatisfactory situation in top professional chess and proposing a startling solution.
Kasimdzhanov's proposal – our readers react
03.08.2011 – Two weeks ago former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov made a startling proposal, designed to lift chess out of what he perceives to be a crisis: eliminate draws by playing rapid and then blitz games if there is no decisive result. Naturally our readers commented on this idea with vigor – and many with interesting counter-proposals. Here is a (very large) selection of letters.
Shipov: Chess as a sport and the three-point system
07.08.2011 – Sergei Shipov is a Russian grandmaster (peak Elo 2662), trainer of many top players and talented juniors, journalist and author. His web site Crestbook is well appreciated by Russian fans, as is his live commentary in top events. Sergei sent us the following article, in which he weighs in on our recent debate, initiated by GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, on draws in chess.

Note that at the end of this feedback page we ask you not to send in further letters, as we are planning to publish a new article which will point to a different, in our opinion far simpler solution.

Reader feedback

Dustan Straub, San Jose, California
After centuries, it's time for a change to the rules of the game itself. Make stalemate a victory for the side inflicting the stalemate on the theory that to compel ones enemy to finally throw himself upon the sword is, indeed, a victory. To keep this consistent with move rules, if a players inadvertently moves into check - it is now a legal move resulting in immediate loss of the game. Admittedly this is a radical solution, but this is no time for the deadening affect of ultra-conservatism. Our beloved game is in danger.

Ashwin Jayaram, Bangalore, India
This is in reply to Kasimdzhanovs suggestion. Chess can never be compared with tennis. Any person can appreciate Federer's technique, while only a chessplayer can cheer after watching Bh3 from Topalov-Shirov 1998. And another key difference between tennis and chess is that in chess the elite only play amongst themselves, while in tennis, it is very possible to meet a monster across the court. I find Kasimdzhanovs idea to be quite absurd, there is nothing wrong with a draw. Many of the epic clashes in chess have ended in draws. The evil in chess is simply that a person will pay an amount to witness a tournament and everybody has finished with empty games.

I have a very simple idea (which im fairly sure has been used before). Why dont organizers simply stop paying appearance fees, and instead use that amount to boost the prize fund. A player can calmly take a quiet draw as he is already getting paid. But if a draw or a win is the difference between paying the rent or not, then there will be an honest attempt at fighting. Also, Federer would never even consider missing a grand slam if it wasnt for a very important reason.

Scott Cohen, Hobart, Australia
This is the equivalent of making two marathon runners race over a 100 metre sprint if they cannot be separated at the finish line. This will not and should not ever happen. Kasimdzhanov has this so wrong!

Carl Reynolds, Christchurch, New Zealand
Many proposals have now been given to reduce the prevalence of draws, some good some bad. Any chance of constructing a poll for the readers on which they prefer? Choices might be something like:

  • Rapid, then blitz tie breaks for draws (Kazimdzhanov)
  • No draw offers (Sofia rule)
  • Draw offers only after the first time control (modified Sofia)
  • No repetition of positions permitted with the same player to move (Go rules)
  • No repetition of positions permitted with the same player to move until the first time control (modified Go rules)
  • 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss
  • 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, a lesser (eg. 0.4 or 0.45) score for a win with white, with the score for a draw with black being the balance (1 minus the score for the white draw)
  • financial incentives for wins
  • some other solution
  • it's not a problem, no solution is needed

Johannes Struijk's proposal for reducing short draws (no draw offers or move repetitions permitted before the first time control) is very appealing. The resurrection of lines that are currently unused because of possible forced perpetual checks by the defender would change the assessments of some variations, but a tournament needs to be played under those rules to reveal how much that might affect the game and upset the purists. I certainly think it worthwhile to try in order to eradicate short draws.

One point, the New Zealand Go rules specify that the move that would cause repetition is only forbidden if the position would be replicated AND it would be the same player to move. I propose adding that extra clause, and perhaps Johannes could clarify whether he intended that a twofold (but not threefold) repetition of position should still be permitted, as is currently the case?

Andrew Morabito, Hawthorne, NJ USA
I have a few suggestions as to how chess can move forward without resorting to the more radical ideas such as Fischer Random etc. If the extent of opening knowledge is as bad for the game as people seem to think, why not do away with the openings entirely? What I mean is, why not start tournament or match games from known theoretical positions selected at random so that neither competitor can "book up" prior to the game? Wouldn't it be a truer test of ability to start from middle or near middle game positions that are only revealed to the players at the moment they sit down to play? Naturally the positions would have to be those judged as even to begin with. Secondly, there's got to be some sort of score posted throughout the game so that even wood pushers can have some idea of who's "ahead" at any given time – at least as considered by a computer. And lastly, time limits would have to be adjusted so that games do not run too long. Without personalities like Fischer and Kasparov or Karpov to "drive the engine" so to speak, the game itself has to take center stage. It can only do this at faster time limits that can create excitement independently of the players. Chess has got to come to TV – it's the only way to grow the sport. And the only way to get such an intellectual pursuit accepted by the general public is to somehow cram the game into maybe a two hour window so that it becomes more watcher friendly.

Bill, Coyle, Canon City USA
Just a note: I believe as similar plan has actually been tried. I believe it was a proviso in Fischer/Spassky II that a draw agree before 25 moves would result in colors switched and a new game to begin after a 30 thirty minute break. When in (one of the games) an early draw was agreed, Fischer invoked the rule. Spassky, according the story I remember, had forgotten the proviso and protested. I believe Fischer didn't force the issue and the draw was allowed to stand.

Jonathan Tan, Manila, Philippines
Chess is not the only sport that experiences a decline in public interest. I think it is not due to the nature of the game not being physical, nor about the draws. Take for example the case of boxing, the interest has declined significantly throughout the years, even if it is a physical contact sport. I think the most important factor for popularity in any sport is having charismatic athletes. Like in boxing, the reason why it was so popular in the 70's and 80's is because of Ali, Sugar Ray, and all those very charismatic and colorful athletes. They fight with spirit and not only for paychecks. And the fans feel the energy and become very interested. Same with chess. It is players with too much pride and spirit (like Fischer) that brought chess to worldwide success and interest. I strongly feel that whatever rules you put on tournaments, it will not change anything. The spirit of the old timers must come back to the new generation. Football is a very special sport. The mind of the players are not corrupted with just treating their game as "work". There is still a lot of pride in football players that's why it is still successful to this day. It is not the result that the people is most interested at, but its about the fight. The end are just numbers. But the fight is an experience. You reap what you sow. If chess professionals don't play with a lot of heart, there is not much to expect. People are animals also. Fans feel the energy and the attitude of the players. The players must change from within, or the sport they love will suffer.

Guillaume Wüthrich, France
The problem is not the tournaments, but the tournament offer by the organisers. Let's organise tournaments with different time controls, i.e. blitz and 20 (25) minutes, for exemple, along with the classical ones. The public can then choose its thrill and learn to enjoy them all in the end most probably. After all, if sponsors choose to organise tournaments, if players can make money in those tournaments, it is because the public demands it. It's time to spread the offer. For those who are still here, I would want to note that it's not possible to change the rules so that 3 times repetitions, perpetuals and so on are no longer possible. This would radically change the game in itself. Just like stalemate – okay, in a way it's strange, but without it you win with king and bishop against king, and then chess is not chess anymore. Let's not change any rules of the game itself – otherwise, juste play Chinese chess, where short draws do not exist.

David Webb, Beirut, Lebanon
I don't think eliminating the draws is the solution to make chess more popular, it's just wrong diagnosis. Draw are part of chess, and always should be. The solution is twofold: first is to have more open tournaments where players of different strength can match up, that they don't know each other very well. It would make fighting chess, and more diverse openings, than when we have the same players each time facing each others. The second suggestion is to have more televised chess. It shouldn't be just online, we should have a TV chanel just specialized for chess 24/7. It is the one thing that would greatly popularize chess and expose it to many different people who have wrong idea or no idea about chess.

Didier Achermann, Munich, Germany
It's a good idea if you want to kill the beauty in chess. You would get many more draws, forced by blitz specialists. A better idea would be a beauty prize, e.g. the winner of a tournament gets 5000 Euros, the winner of beauty prize gets 3000 Euros. Why try to punish everyone by beauty-killing blitz games? And let's not forget that there are beautiful draws.

Kenneth Calitri, Reston VA USA
While well intended this RK's proposal is not feasible. I believe the solution is quite simple in top flight tournament chess: 2 points for a win, 0 points for a draw, –1 points for a loss. This eliminates players coasting with draws – no points for a draw. It rewards the player who wins. And having a point deducted for a loss provides more dramatic point shifts. This system favors those who play to win, and for aggressive players who have a mixutre of wins and losses it is a rock'em sock'em format. The point system I am proposing could be used in one tournament a year on the professional golf tour to promote aggressive play. They aptly reward a birdie with +2, give nothing for a par, and deduct for a bogey.

Marc Schroeder, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Kasimdzhanov takes it for granted that chess is losing momentum because of the high number of draws. This highly speculative assumption is in bad need of proof. My feeling is that chess is gowing down to the extent that chess is solved by the computer. The final analysis of many games is ready for publication even before the game is finished. Is this the world where human blunderchess will have room for expansion? My answer is: no. I do not want to speculate any further about the reasons of the "chess crisis", but issue the warning that Kasimdzhanov's assumption might be completely wrong. In that case his medicine could kill the patient.

Piyush Ranjan, Bangalore, India
I did not like Kasim's proposal of necessarily settling each game as a win or loss. Here is a fancy tournament in my mind. The players present in the hall play online chess amongst each other, using a computer. The precise opponent however is not known at the start of the round. For N players, may be we can have N-2 rounds so that even in the last round an element of uncertainty remains. OR may be N rounds, or some other variant. I feel that not knowing the precise opponent may lead to more "solid chess" but at least we won't complain of opponent specific preparation. Initially such a tournament might have more draw peercentage, but eventually people will adapt to this style and we might get more results. I would also suggest a slightly larger elo variance in such tournaments.

Daniel José, Andorra
One way I can think to make chess more popular would be that it can be possible to bet in real time to ascertain what is the next move of a player. This can be done easily. It could be a limit to the amount to bet per game, have a few buttons to select a percentage of the amount you wish to wager each time, and so on. Even there should be no problem in using analysis modules. Another way would be to give random prizes for wins in one day. All who had won in the day could get a prize.

Another way would be to organize tournaments for people without Elo. There are only a few just because they are considered less attractive from the standpoint of the players, who are the most likely to end up organizing tournaments. Another option is to organize things that are absurd but curious to see, as a tournament on top of a mountain, floating in the middle of a lake, in a nightclub with noise, etc. simply to increase the presence of chess in the media. Obviously must not be abused because they would ignore this thinks in the end.

It will be much easier to get sponsors if chess is more integrated in society, and the best way is to expand the base, not necessarily by the schools. May be people can take free lessons in the town square; also introducing custom lessons for people who normally plays at home but would not go further, and so on. Surely it would be nice to spend some efforts to promote chess among people who play it occasionally, especially without asking for any commitment because they do for fun. Many people are curious but they not develop their chess because they see it as a compromise, they do not know who to ask.

You can organize painting competitions or other similar with chess motives, a competition to quickly count the number of moves that are in a position (suitable for many more people), tournaments where the board may be smaller or simplified (king, pawns and all other rooks). Why not hire publicists? No doubt they can find ways to promote chess.

Chris Marciano, Houston, USA
I'm surprised that readers didn't mentioned the success of the 3-1-0 points system used at Biel. The draws dropped dramatically. I don't think people mind draws as long as the game is hard fought. Sofia rules can't prevent a boring game where pieces are quickly exchanges. The 3-1-0 system provides the players with the proper incentives to fight for a win when they have a small edge.

Ugur Yuvarlak, Istanbul, Turkey
Everybody is wondering how to raise the popularity of the game. I have a bad news: chess will never be popular. Unless we create a pseudo cold war and pit the best players of both sides for the world championship crown, no it won't. Actually we may wait for the "world versus cosmos" games as well, I bet chess will be as popular as any game, people will simply wonder whether we are "smarter" than aliens. Chess has such beauty that you need to be so close; like a blind man close enough to a woman to fall in love. There is no possibility of falling in love with chess in a chance meeting. You need to have more or less an intimate contact with it, otherwise you have no way of becoming enchanted.

Rolf Espenes, Norway
Shipov's scheme on eliminating draws in chess is by far the best I have seen so far.

Aniello Olinto Guimarães Gréco Junior, Brasília, Brazil
I am an amateur chess player, passionate about the game since 1989. Perhaps because of this, not being an elite player, to be closer to the general public, maybe I can see the current crisis of competitive chess from a different point of view of the GMs Kasimdzhanov and Shipov.

First we will establish a very simple thing: chess is not losing popularity. Just look the growth of sites like ICC or PlayChess, with more and more members each years. What is losing popularity are the high level tournaments. At the time of Fischer or Kasparov the fight for the world championship was featured in major newspapers. I remember seeing a full page story about the Kasparov vs Short match in the main newspaper in my town. And this in Brazil, a country with little tradition chess. It seems unthinkable today. What has changed?

One of the most common answer to that question is that there are too many draws or draws without dispute in elite chess. No doubt the recent disputes as Candidate matches was not exactly the most exciting thing in the world; and yes, it alienates the general public and also the sponsors. But is this the main cause of the current crisis?

It seems not. The first thing to note is that we have no evidence that the number of draws in chess elite has increased in recent decades. It seems that today the draw frequency is the same as at the time of Fischer. But is the public today less tolerant to draws? I really do not think so.

This may seem odd at a time when most sports are updating their rules to make the draws more rare or nonexistent. But we understand that each competition has a different target audience, and what works for football may not work for tennis. What works for boxing can not work for basketball. And chess is a very different kind of competition and the motivations that lead someone to follow chess news are quite different.

Even at the time of Fischer, a time when chess was very popular, we did not have chess games being broadcast by TV or radio, like football or tennis. The success, the popularity of chess was not because the drama or excitement of a game, nor the spectators follow with tension the fate of the passed pawn of his idol player. There was never a game by game follow-up in chess, not by the common viewer. Instead, there was a general follow-up on who won this or that famous tournament and who was the World Champion, who was a candidate, etc. And sometimes some brilliant game ran the world.

And I do not believe that today is different. The spectator who is only interested in who won or lost is not the same viewer who is watching the matches live PlayChess and watching with interest the analysis off the experts. This viewer is not interested in fine strategy or good chess figth, but is interested in drama, emotion and myths of the board be created and destroyed. And that's where we find problems.

One of the main attractions of chess to the general public is in its relationship to intelligence. The chess champion, in the popular imagination, is an eccentric genius with an unusual intelligence. Just look at the works of fiction. And at the time of the Cold War this was reinforced by the invincible aura of the great Soviet masters, or the troubled genius of Fischer. Chess was a pure intellectual dispute, and therefore thrilling. With the end of the Soviet Union also ended an era in chess, an era when chess had geopolitical importance. But fortunately we had two heroes in the popular imagination, the heirs of the Soviet school. Karpov and Kasparov. It was then that I started really interested in the chess elite, and I must say, it was exciting. And one of the most exciting things was the belief that the outcome of great tournaments and matches were decided primarily by the quality of players.

But we viewers knew little of the crisis that chess was already living. Not a crisis of popularity, but a crisis create by the vacuum left by the Soviet Union, an organizational crisis. Crisis that culminated with the match Kasparov Short X and the creation of PCA. And that is the staring point when I begin to see the the fall in popularity of chess to the general public.

We had a decade in which the world title was split up chess. It is somewhat complicated for a layperson to understand how there could be two simultaneous world champions, and the viewer inevitably wonders: Who is the true champion? Who plays better chess? And these simple questions (at least for a layman) are becoming increasingly complex, and not for chess reasons, but political and bureaucratic.

Moreover we have the changing of the world title race by FIDE, trying to make it more dynamic, more suited to television and internet, with the creation of the worlds KO But the general public does not want to see chess on TV, does not care much whether chess is in the Olympics or not. They want to know who are the actual chess myths, the great incomprehensible geniuses, the great heroes and villains to cheer for or against. And the rules become increasingly confused, dispute systems change all the time.

For several years the general public tries to cope with change. We have two champions, one official and another whos says he is the best player by having more rating. And why are they talking about new champions who I do not know every two years? Besides, I know a champion lost to a computer but said everything was rigged. An agreement was made to unify the title, and a known champion will face someone new. But wait, this is not the first opponent, now is another. And the contest will be in three months. No, sorry, next year. Maybe. But that champion had not lost the title too his student? Oh, now they managed to unify the title. Two "new names" (for lay people) plays and one of them won, but it seems that the other player says he used computers in the bathroom!!!

There were so many rule changes in the way, so many pranks and scandals, that the average viewer simply could not understand the half of it. And one confused spectator is a disinterested spectator. The solution is not create in every game a winner, but create any form of dispute to produce a clear winner. Whether this dispute is a match, a tournament or a match, doesn't matter. But from 1993 to 2005 it was very confusing to the general public, was never very clear who had won what from whom, and if the dispute was correct or rigged.

And finally when we things start to get in order, when the dust begins to drop, we begin to want to change the few things that still understandable by the common spectator? This is the time to take advantage of the advances achieved with great difficulty and stopped to change the rules. We have big names that can easily re-appear in the popular imagination as geniuses and heroes. Now the viewer wants to see is nothing more than a good fight made in order to produce results that he understands, so he can have an opinion about who is better, and for those who cheer. This is not about to produce more or less draws, but to create the impression that chess and chess only decides who wins the dispute. But this is not what chess is showning to the public in the last decade.

I.A. Naji Alradhi, Dubai, UAE
Great idea. But besides the noise and disturbance of the blitz game to other classical games around, these is another issue: I guess many players will still play for a draw in the classical game so that both players benefit and guarantee at least one point, and then decide with blitz. An improvement to the suggested system could be in two parts:

1) To play the blitz at the beginning of the round. In this case we avoid disturbing other players if the classical game finished quickly. All blitz games will start at the same time, like a celebration or a festival, which is very good for the media and spectators.

2) The scores system. Let us assume that White won the blitz game. If he wins the classical game he wins (2-0). If he draws, the score shall be (1-0). If he loses, the score shall be (0-1). Therefore, one of the two players will always get a zero. There can be no compromising.

We can also consider a direct Armageddon without blitz. therefore reduce the time lost before the start of the classical game.

Johnny Myrbeg, Kristianstad, Sweden
Being an club player in Sweden, I have followed your articles with suggestions from top world players, how to make chess more popularnd interesting. One obvious thing that I have not yet read, though the scoring system, have been suggested to be incooperated from football (soccer), is that football and other popular sports are used in organized betting systems. For instance in Sweden we are able to weekly try to get 13 football matches right with 1, X or 2. Adopt the same principle in chess. Let FIDE organize a similar betting system with at least 10 games between top players from on going top events, so that ordinary people have the chance to win (and lose) money om our "sport". They tic in the 1 box for white win, X box for a draw and 2 if they think black will win the game. At the same time FIDE will get some money to their events. I think that football has became very popular partly becaurse of different betting systems are involved in the sport.

Vahik Ovanessian, Glendale, USA
I think the solution to the problem of draws and the declining popularity of chess is to abandon classic chess as we know it and replace it with chess 960. All the pre-digested moves and the opening lines that have been analyzed ad nauseum contribute to draws. I would like to also suggest that classic chess is very undemocratic. Only those who have the time and perhaps have self-punishing dispositios can afford to learn all the openings anointed with those battlefield names. There is something masochistic in learning all the openings and their nuances. Classic chess tends to create an inner circle of elite players. Chess, and sports in general, should allow vast numbers of people to compete, even though competition is a human malady. Chess 960 will allow many undiscovered talents to break through the barriers of exclusion and elitism. Chess 960 will also recreate chess as fun rather than science and a data behemoth. Let's have fun!

Craig Gross, Pennsylvania, USA
Kasimdzhanov is onto something, and Shipov attempts to refine the idea. It is important to note that it is rare for the first iteration of an idea to be correct, it generally needs refinement, as Shipov proposes. Shipov also points out a key word that the chess world should learn to understand, and that is "Reform". All the great sports in the USA have gone through reform at one time or another. As a matter of fact, many if not all, continue to look for new ways to improve their game. Take the NFL. They not only have changed drastically over the years, but they actually spend every year proposing new rules, and possible changes to their game.

I am slightly off topic, but reform is the key. We cannot sit back and worry about the traditionalist. If the game is to thrive, then we must look at other possibilities. Kasimdzhanov, and Shipov are presenting ideas that may resonate with the outside world from chess. Shipov presents good improvements from Kasimdzhanov's original idea, and he too mentions that these may need refinement. That is progress, if we implement them. The human element is still presented, an improved scoring system to encourage a win during standard time controls, with fewer points coming from blitz. It took the NFL around seven years to figure out how to implement instant replay correctly within their game. They were criticized over the years, until the correct formula was found. It's hard to imagine that they ever played the game without it. The same may be said some day about chess, but if the powers that be do not attempt significant reform, then the game will remain nothing more than an extravagant hobby for those who love it the most.

Bob Luck, Tualatin
I still prefer Kasimdzhanov's suggestion better. Blitz tends to favor the more experienced (higher rated) player, who probably doesn't need the handicap to defeat a weaker opponent; rapid chess levels that out a little as there is more time for planning. Also, the prospect of the following games when one is tired would be incentive to press any advantage for a win in the first place. Players used to risk losing in order to win more often, and that style deserves to be rewarded.

Daniel Tapia, Bogotá, Colombia
Once again, by reading Sergey Shipov's suggestion, I was reminded how intelligent grandmasters can be. Kasim came up with a radical yet logical idea, and Shipov has improved it. I see that some grandmasters are in favor of it. I urge ChessBase to do a massive survey to find out what grandmasters think (not patzers!). It pains me to see people opposing the idea of bettering chess as a spectator sport. It's like they don't want grandmasters to make money?! Why are people so cruel? Can't they see that if the public supports chess then there will be more money and more players will be attracted to the game. It's a snowball effect and chess will benefit because of these radical ideas. I thank ChessBase for publishing Kasim and Shipov's ideas on garnering more public attention for chess.

Daniel Wigley, Port St Lucie, FL, USA
I like GM Shipov's 3-point system, but there is still room for thinking about what sorts of games will be played for the tiebreaks. It isn't good to follow every drawn game, not matter how long it is, with short blitz games, as he suggests. The length of the tiebreak games should vary. One way to do this would be to make the time of the drawn game determine how long the tiebreak games will be. For illustration, a scheme might go like this:

Draw less than Tiebreak games
30 minutes 50 minutes (or replay)
1 hour 45 minutes
1.5 hours 35 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
2.5 hours 20 minutes
3 hours 15 minutes
3.5 hours 10 minutes
4 hours 5 minutes

So, for instance, players who draw in 1 hour and 15 minutes will face a tiebreak of two 35-minute games. A three hour and 30 minute draw will result in two 5-minute blitz games. The Armageddon games should also differ depending on how quick the tiebreak games were played. Why do this? First, it goes much further to discourage draws, especially drawing for the purpose of saving energy. Second, spectators will see significantly more competition from players who draw. Third, if time is available for longer tiebreak games, then it should be utilized, because longer games makes for higher quality games; they make better tests for determining who is the better player, and they make for better spectating. Fourth, the such a scheme could eliminate the need for anti-draw rules or Sophia rules. An objection could be that it is unfair to subject players to longer tiebreaks simply because of the shorter length of their drawn game. But there is some advantage to be gained from playing a shorter game. The scheme will make drawn games more equal in terms of energy consumption. The scheme tries to make it so that every player who draws will tend to face at least nearly 4 hours of the best competition that is possible in practice. That's good for the game.

Jeff Akron, OH, USA
I am a National Expert here in the USA (a rating of ~2050). I have always been fastinated with the idea of how to avoid the result of a draw and what kind of incentive to give a chess player to play for the win. I like the idea of 3 points for a win, 2 points for winning a tie-break and 1 point for losing. No one has mentioned that this would make it nearly impossible for players to figure out, "if they draw and he/she loses, then all I need to do is draw to win something" thinking. I would like to add a suggestion. If the tiebreaker goes to an Armagedon match, before starting the clocks, White should have to move e4 or d4, and Black could then have a choice of a few variations pre-determined weeks before the event. Example: if White plays e4, then maybe the five choices for this event after e4 would be a Yugoslav Dragon Sicilian, a French Winawer Qxg7/h7, an Archangle Ruy, a Panov Botvinnik Caro, and a 4-pawn Alekhine. This would have the added element of necessary preparation and in my opinion, an added incentive for white to push hard to win the main game. Sure, if the tiebreak made it to the armagedon match, White would have the first choice, but the advantage for Black to choose which defense of five sways the armagedon match even more in Black's favor.

Wade Caughlin, Canada
There has been a lot of discussion on this topic of late and would like to offer some thoughts. To start I would like to point out that in other individual sports, it is common to have two formats in order to satisfy different tastes, goals, or priorities. Examples would be tournament poker vs. heads up poker, or tournament golf vs match play golf. Golf offers another format that chess might find interesting, which is the skins game. I propose that chess could benefit from a Skins Tournament Circut.

The format in mind looks like this: A series of say five or six major cites around the world (or Europe to start) would host a big round robin with top local talent in order to peak local interest, vs. a mix of top players from around the world. The old scoring and rating system would still be used, but the money would be awarded for wins only! People have two motivations in chess: 1) Elo points, and 2) prize money. So let's make the motivation for money big enough that the Elo points don't matter as much. Imagine a ten player round robin where the prize was $5000/win, but only paid to the top five players! I believe a tournament like this would motive all players to try and win no matter what. A player with 9/9 would take home a handsome $45,000! You could even add a perfect score bonus to increase the fighting mood. With five or six of these tournaments in a row, a player could make some good money.

Another side effect is that we would then see more winning streaks instead of undefeated streaks. Which one is better is really a matter of taste. I personally would rather see a player win 20 games in a row and win $100,000 than not lose for 40 games and maybe win some cash.

In closing I'd like to say that I know this format is not perfect. It really address's the issue of short draws only, but probably would not work for a world championship format. I do think a tournament like this would be very entertaining and have o shortage of sponsors.

Paul Lillebo, Oslo, Norway
The dialectic works. Someone suggests a method, someone else counters with an improvement on the method. GM Shipov has taken GM Kasimdzhanov's interesting idea of playoffs after every draw (giving every game a decisive result) and improved it with two simple changes that could make all the difference: 1. Skip rapid games in the playoff of a draw and go directly to blitz, and 2. Modify the "3 points for a win" system to make the draw as valuable as a decisive game. (In effect, Shipov gives the players 1 point each for the drawn game, then gives the blitz playoff winner 1 additional point, for a total of 3 points for the game.)

Shipov's idea has several advantages over traditional and proposed systems:

  1. All games are decided W or L, as in Kasimdzhanov's suggestion.
  2. A draw is valued as much as a won game: 3 points are given for a win, and 3 points will be divided among the players in a draw. Shipov makes a good argument that we should not value a draw less than a decisive game.
  3. The players cannot agree to split the point. That's no longer an option.
  4. The playoff is quicker than in Kasimdzhanov's proposal.
  5. This system is also meaningful in a match. It would make the endless series of draws that has plagued such matches a thing of the past, and one couldn't sit on a lead by drawing . (The "Grischuk maneuvre" - intentionally leading the games into blitz - could still be an issue.)
  6. A minor advantage is that Shipov's system reduces slightly the potential number of ties in a tournament score table, by increasing the number of possible scores by one. (Follow the reasoning at the end, if you're inclined.)

But Shipov's system seems to have the glaring drawback that half or more of the games of a tournament or match would be decided by blitz games. He acknowledges this, and offers the novel idea that GMs must get used to this and must hone their skill at blitz, just as they train every other aspect of their game. I think that acceptance of his method hinges on this point. For some, this seems a huge, even fatal, drawback. But that's with our current mind-set. Can we get used to the idea that blitz is an integral part of the normal game (in elite GM play)? Shipov is saying that this is necessary in the future, and he may be right. Blitz is just time pressure play, which is already a part of the game. By spending time on the skills needed in blitz play, GMs will improve that aspect of their game, and we must admit that it's entertaining. I, for one, would love to see this variant tested in some tournaments. I'll add that this discussion relates only to GM games. Amateur tournaments don't seem to have any need for any such adjustment.

I'll also add that the most interesting anti-draw suggestion I saw in the recent "readers' comments" was the proposal from J.J. Struijk to ban the repetition of a position, as in the game of Go. I would limit that to only prohibit the immediate repetition of a position, since it could be tedious to check each position against all previous positions. (I would leave the 3-time repetition rule in place to cover previous positions.) So I would suggest that if A makes a move, B makes a response, and A moves the same piece back, then B cannot move the same piece back. This limitation actually adds great complexity, since many moves might carry the threat of moving the piece back, thus denying the opponent what may be a favorable response. And, as Struijk said, it's the end of "perpetual check".

Kostas Oreopoulos, Thessaloni, Greece
I am writing because I was really upset by what I read in mr Shipov's open letter. Let me please state a couple of reasons why a blitz game that would resolve the result is a very bad idea.

  1. Player A 2600 and play B 2200 play. Player B fights and manages to draw. What Mr Shipov says is that at any point in the tournament he has to actually beat player A??? This is really unfortunate
  2. Player A and player B have the same rating. Does that mean that they are equally good at blitz? Not at all. Mr Shipov is a very good blitz player, so he doesn't notice that, but a player's strength can be really altered with a different time scheme.
  3. What will happen is that people good at speed chess, will try to play dull positions and get the full point in the blitz games.
  4. I really do not think there is a need for a definite result. There is a need for fighting games. Does anyone bother when a soccer game is tied? It depends. If its a dull 0-0 everyone goes home disappointed, but if its a 2-2 draw with many exiting moments then everyone is satisfied.
  5. I guess the draw-issue exists just in top level tournaments AND in open tournaments in last round draws where money are at stake. In that later case, sofia rules can help, although in that case the 3-1-0 system can help a lot too.

Yes a draw is not valued that way, and yes it could be a masterpiece, but do we value it when we say that the players should play another game after they draw?

Bruce Warring, Nellysford, USA
Shipov's ideas on how to score games is the best I have seen so far: a brilliant compromise of competing ideas.

Andrej Krivda, Wettingen
Very sensible proposal - so what do the top 200 players say about it? One should finally create a website where such polls would be published and available to general public not only behind the scenes opinions of players known only to the elite or their friends. The top players could anonymously submit their opinions on these matters - if they are interested of course ...

Ben Olden-Cooligan, Toronto, Canada
I agree with both Kasimdzhanov and Shipov that eliminating draws will definitely increase spectator and sponsor interest in chess. I also believe that Shipov's suggestion is a good refinement of the original proposal, for several reasons: Firstly, winning in blitz/rapid should not be equally valued as a win in classical. I also like that a single blitz win won't immediately decide the winner. Additionally, in Kasimdzhanov's proposal, if the later games keep being drawn the match could potentially go on for a very long time. However, there are two conditions I have for Shipov's proposal that I believe are important:

  1. The blitz games should have an increment; for example, 3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move. I find the idea of fighting to make near-perfect moves to draw a classical game and then losing in a time scramble quite ridiculous.
  2. With its increased importance, the Armageddon game should not have arbitrary time limits like in most FIDE events. There should be some base time control, including increment (maybe the same as the blitz games). Players should then bid on how much time they are willing to sacrifice in order to choose their colour (they will almost always choose black with draw odds). The player with the winning bid then plays their chosen colour with the amount of time they bid deducted from their clock. In the case of a tie, a coin flip determines who wins the bid. This way the players, rather than the organizers, determine what a fair time difference is.

Brian Theismann, Inver Grove Heights, MN USA
If you are still taking letters about the Kasimdzhanov proposal, I wish to respond to three of the objections to faster play. All involve fallacies.

Many of the opponents of Rustam Kasimdzhanov's proposal argued that high-level chess is inherently more difficult to understand than tennis. I disagree. The reason tennis seems easier to understand is because each encounter is composed of short, independent skirmishes with concrete results. These skirmishes, called "serves", are grouped into points, games, sets, and matches. As a result, to find out what is happening in a tennis match, spectators can look at the score board to see how many sets each player has won, how many games each player has won in the current set, how many points each player has won in the current game, and whether the current serve is the second serve. By shortening the duration of chess games and increasing the number of games played, spectators would know who was winning based on the accumulated wins of prior games. Faster games would also make games easier to understand because the lines analyzed by the players during the game would be shorter, and therefore more transparent to the typical viewer. Chess games may be more complex, but that property also makes them more exciting, provided the complexity is distilled by commentators. That distillation could be accomplished by pre-taping the games and having grandmasters provide carefully-constructed commentary based on thorough, computer-assisted analysis.

Another common objection to faster games is that, because more errors occur, the quality is lower. This implication is a non sequitur. The greater number of errors in shorter games results from the greater complexity of such games – and therefore the greater difficulty. The addition of more stringent time controls adds an additional dimension to the game – it turns it into "three dimensional chess", if you will. As a result, a equivalent level of play will result in more errors. Note that nobody in the tennis world is arguing that the game should be simplified by lowering the net or increasing the playing area. That is because they do not confuse frequency of errors with low quality play.

Another interesting point made by the opponents is that some European sports have high draw rates. Perhaps Europeans will tolerate draws, but North Americans will not. If you want chess to be an international game rather than a European game, a ninety percent draw rate is not acceptable. Americans will neither play nor watch such a game.

All three of these objections, then, can be shown to be sophistry.

Oscar Maldonado, Hollywood, FL, USA
I am a NM in the US. I think if the game was scored 3 points per win 1.4 for drawing with White and 1.6 points for drawing with black, we would have less short draws. A tremendous change in the result will happen favoring the player that pushes harder to win with either color. I have tried this in several occasions and it seems that in all the cases the winner is always the best player of the event.

Zhichao Li, Guangzhou, China
My suggestion: Win = 3 points, Lost = 0 points, Draw as White = 1 points, Draw as Black = 2 points. Good things: 1. No rapid tiebreak, 2. Encourage White to take risks, 3. It not only works in Round Robin or Swiss, it also works in matches. Example: If you play two White games, if you don't take risks, you can draw both games but only gets two points. If you take a 50-50 risk, you may end up winning one and losing one, but still get three points, better than two draws. So White will be willing to take more risks.

Matt Hollai
When will the stupid stalemate rule be abolished? The goal of chess is to capture the king. If the opponent is in a zugzwang, where his only move will lead to the capture of the king why on earth is that stalemate? Its very strange. (Even more strange is the top level players unquestioning of this rule!) The stalemate rule we have is very silly and needs to be changed.

Note: Please do not send any comments to this feedback page or the subject of eliminating draws until our next article on this subject has been published. It contains some interesting new material and a very simple proposal to solve the problem, if it indeed exists. The proposal leaves tournament chess in its current form intact and does not change the flavour of the game at all. It is also trivially easy to implement – you just add one line to the tournament rules (if you wish). The article will appear in the coming week.

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