Tie-break system decides Olympiad

by Johannes Fischer
9/14/2016 – After the US team had won the Olympiad in Baku on tie-break Hikaru Nakamura congratulated German Grandmaster Matthias Blübaum via twitter for "the win of the tournament" and thanked "Germany" for helping the USA to win gold. Blübaum, indeed, had played the game that was crucial for the, as Daniel King put it in his video report about the last round, "arcane" tie-break system, and decided the Olympiad in favor of the USA. But why exactly?

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After the last round of the Olympiad the USA and Ukraine shared first place. With nine wins and two draws the USA had 20 match points, the same number of match points as Ukraine with 10 wins and one loss. However, the USA had half a game point more than Ukraine - 31.5 vs 31. But the decisive tie-breaker was not the number of points the players scored but the Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break without lowest result.

The happy winners (Photo: Maria Emelianova)

This means that the match points of the teams against which the USA and Ukraine (or any other team) had played during the Olympiad are multiplied with the number of team points the USA or Ukraine (or other teams) scored in the match against that team. One example: In round nine of the Olympiad the USA won 3-1 against Norway. Norway finished the Olympiad with 16 match points and therefore the USA gained 3x16=48 Sonneborn-Berger points for that win.

Germany (right) vs Estonia - the match that turned out to decide the Olympiad (Photo: Paul Truong)

German grandmaster Matthias Blübaum (Photo: Pascal Simon)

But how then could a win by Matthias Blübaum that helped the German team to a 2.5-1.5 victory against Estonia decide the Olympiad in favor of the USA and against Ukraine? After all, Ukraine had won 2.5-1.5 against Germany in round three whereas the US team had not played Germany. If anything, Ukraine should profit from a German win.

True - if it were not for the fact that the Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break without lowest result applied. This means that the team with the lowest result is not considered for the tie-break. As the crosstable below shows, the team with the lowest result against which Ukraine had played was the team of Jordan, which finished 70th with 12 match points and 25.00 team points. The second-lowest team against which Ukraine had played was Germany.

Rk. Team 1.Rd 2.Rd 3.Rd 4.Rd 5.Rd 6.Rd 7.Rd 8.Rd 9.Rd 10.Rd 11.Rd  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 USA 103w4 69b3½ 32w3 29w2 38b3 2w2½ 4b3½ 3b2 5w3 24b2½ 11w2½ 20 413,5 31,5 152,00
2 Ukraine 70w4 57b3½ 37b2½ 3w2½ 13w2½ 1b1½ 11w2½ 24b3 4w2½ 29b3 20w3½ 20 404,5 31,0 153,00
3 Russia 73b4 50w4 35b3 2b1½ 62w3 37b3 29w3½ 1w2 12b3 4b2 22w3 18 419,0 32,0 151,00
4 India 72b4 56w4 26b3 25w2½ 12b3 36w2½ 1w½ 9b2½ 2b1½ 3w2 5w2 16 350,5 27,5 158,00
5 Norway 85w3 76w2½ 33b1½ 30b2½ 53w3 58w2 6b2½ 10w3 1b1 16w3½ 4b2 16 344,5 26,5 147,00
6 Turkey 106b4 74w4 22b1½ 69w4 51b3 60b2 5w1½ 33w2½ 18b2 65w3 24w2½ 16 341,5 30,0 135,00
7 Poland 93b4 86w4 25b1½ 47w3 35b2 19w2 30b3 29b1½ 63w3 60b2½ 31w3 16 331,0 29,5 132,00
8 France 144w4 81b3½ 31w2 18b2 19b1½ 140w4 43b2 37w3 14w2 30b3 29w3 16 326,5 30,0 131,00
9 England 88w4 52b2½ 11w2½ 36w½ 42b3 44b3 13w3 4w1½ 16b2 12w2½ 10b2 16 323,0 26,5 144,00
10 Peru 121w4 54b3½ 47w2 31b½ 67w3½ 38w2½ 19b2½ 5b1 27w2½ 44b2½ 9w2 16 306,0 26,5 139,00

Source: chess-results

Germany finished 37th with 13 match points and 25 team points. If Germany had drawn its match against Estonia in the last round they would have had 12 match points and 24.5 team points and would have finished behind Jordan - and the Ukrainians who had won 4-0 against Jordan in round one would have had 15.5 tie-break 2 points more - enough to win gold. To put it differently: The Germans scored badly but not badly enough for the Ukrainians.

Final standings

Rk. SNo   Team Team Games   +    =    -   TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 2
 
United States of America USA 11 9 2 0 20 413,5 31,5 152,00
2 5
 
Ukraine UKR 11 10 0 1 20 404,5 31,0 153,00
3 1
 
Russia RUS 11 8 2 1 18 419,0 32,0 151,00
4 9
 
India IND 11 7 2 2 16 350,5 27,5 158,00
5 12
 
Norway NOR 11 7 2 2 16 344,5 26,5 147,00
6 19
 
Turkey TUR 11 7 2 2 16 341,5 30,0 135,00
7 7
 
Poland POL 11 7 2 2 16 331,0 29,5 132,00
8 8
 
France FRA 11 6 4 1 16 326,5 30,0 131,00
9 6
 
England ENG 11 7 2 2 16 323,0 26,5 144,00
10 34
 
Peru PER 11 7 2 2 16 306,0 26,5 139,00
11 25
 
Canada CAN 11 7 1 3 15 368,5 30,5 148,00
12 4
 
Azerbaijan 1 AZE 11 7 1 3 15 352,0 28,5 149,00
13 3
 
China CHN 11 7 1 3 15 348,0 29,0 146,00
14 23
 
Belarus BLR 11 6 3 2 15 332,0 27,5 142,00
15 10
 
Hungary HUN 11 7 1 3 15 329,0 29,0 136,00
16 46
 
Iran IRI 11 6 3 2 15 318,0 28,0 138,00
17 21
 
Latvia LAT 11 7 1 3 15 316,0 26,5 140,00
18 27
 
Greece GRE 11 4 7 0 15 309,5 25,5 142,00
19 39
 
Paraguay PAR 11 7 1 3 15 298,5 26,5 135,00
20 29
 
Slovenia SLO 11 6 3 2 15 294,0 27,0 137,00
21 18
 
Croatia CRO 11 7 1 3 15 292,0 26,0 132,00
22 36
 
Italy ITA 11 6 3 2 15 284,5 26,0 135,00
23 33
 
Brazil BRA 11 7 1 3 15 266,5 26,0 126,00
24 20
 
Georgia GEO 11 6 2 3 14 332,5 26,5 152,00
25 15
 
Cuba CUB 11 6 2 3 14 314,0 27,5 135,00
26 28
 
Azerbaijan 2 AZE2 11 6 2 3 14 313,0 28,5 129,00
27 16
 
Israel ISR 11 6 2 3 14 312,5 28,5 129,00
28 37
 
Kazakhstan KAZ 11 6 2 3 14 308,0 29,0 127,00
29 17
 
Czech Republic CZE 11 6 2 3 14 305,5 24,0 157,00
30 45
 
Australia AUS 11 7 0 4 14 291,0 26,0 139,00
31 14
 
Spain ESP 11 6 2 3 14 288,5 24,0 142,00
32 26
 
Argentina ARG 11 6 2 3 14 287,0 25,0 139,00
33 30
 
Romania ROU 11 6 2 3 14 279,5 25,0 137,00
34 41
 
Bosnia & Herzegovina BIH 11 7 0 4 14 273,0 28,0 116,00
35 35
 
Moldova MDA 11 6 1 4 13 326,0 27,5 139,00
36 11
 
Netherlands NED 11 6 1 4 13 313,5 26,5 142,00
37 13
 
Germany GER 11 6 1 4 13 292,5 25,0 144,00
38 24
 
Serbia SRB 11 5 3 3 13 289,0 25,0 139,00
39 31
 
Uzbekistan UZB 11 6 1 4 13 286,0 29,5 122,00
40 48
 
Switzerland SUI 11 6 1 4 13 282,0 27,0 128,00
41 60
 
Portugal POR 11 5 3 3 13 277,0 26,5 127,00
42 32
 
Vietnam VIE 11 6 1 4 13 271,0 25,0 133,00
43 40
 
Austria AUT 11 6 1 4 13 266,5 27,5 121,00
44 47
 
Chile CHI 11 6 1 4 13 266,0 27,0 128,00
45 42
 
Denmark DEN 11 6 1 4 13 262,0 26,0 127,00
46 56
 
Venezuela VEN 11 6 1 4 13 261,0 27,0 118,00
47 50
 
Montenegro MNE 11 5 3 3 13 247,5 22,5 131,00
48 55
 
Qatar QAT 11 5 3 3 13 245,5 24,5 119,00
49 76
 
Azerbaijan 3 AZE3 11 6 1 4 13 241,5 27,5 111,00
50 62
 
Turkmenistan TKM 11 6 1 4 13 237,5 23,0 135,00
51 57
 
Mongolia MGL 11 6 1 4 13 236,0 22,0 132,00
52 67
 
Indonesia INA 11 6 1 4 13 234,5 27,5 112,00
53 64
 
Belgium BEL 11 5 3 3 13 234,0 25,0 120,00
54 82
 
Ecuador ECU 11 6 1 4 13 232,0 26,5 109,00
55 54
 
Finland FIN 11 6 1 4 13 227,0 24,0 115,00
56 70
 
Costa Rica CRC 11 6 1 4 13 223,0 25,0 113,00
57 66
 
Albania ALB 11 5 3 3 13 219,5 25,0 118,00
58 53
 
Philippines PHI 11 5 2 4 12 308,0 28,0 134,00
59 38
 
Sweden SWE 11 6 0 5 12 266,5 27,0 125,00
60 44
 
Iceland ISL 11 5 2 4 12 266,0 25,5 130,00
61 49
 
Slovakia SVK 11 5 2 4 12 263,5 27,0 121,00
62 43
 
Egypt EGY 11 6 0 5 12 260,5 28,5 117,00
63 59
 
Singapore SIN 11 6 0 5 12 253,5 25,5 125,00
64 83
 
Zambia ZAM 11 5 2 4 12 243,0 26,5 107,00
65 51
 
Lithuania LTU 11 6 0 5 12 243,0 25,5 126,00
66 22
 
Bulgaria BUL 11 5 2 4 12 235,0 21,5 130,00
67 65
 
FYROM MKD 11 5 2 4 12 215,0 24,5 117,00
68 97
 
Japan JPN 11 5 2 4 12 212,5 22,5 110,00
69 63
 
Scotland SCO 11 6 0 5 12 212,0 24,0 123,00
70 91
 
Jordan JOR 11 6 0 5 12 211,5 25,0 115,00

Source: chess-results


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Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".

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