Masters and Experts: Opinions on the “Candidates Matches?”

  • ChessMarkstheSpot
  • | May 23, 2011

Written by: ChessMarkstheSpot and RookedonChess  

   For those who have been following my blogs about the “Candidates Matches” tournament, you know I haven’t hidden my feelings about the fact that I’ve found this event a disgrace, and following it—an absolute bore. I’m going to sum up my observations and opinions here, in the hopes of sparking intelligent, serious discussion. Along with the comments from interested members, let’s hear from the Masters and Experts whose opinions we value and would very much appreciate concerning the events transpiring in Kazan.

   We have eight of the best players in the world “fighting” for a chance to face the World Champion next year and what do we get for the time we have invested (and wasted, in my opinion) as a chess community?  We get a total of two wins in the classical part of the event (not counting the tie-breakers.)  To me, there’s an element of disrespect for the integrity of chess, the organizers, the sponsors and the World Champion Vishy Anand.

   In respect to this aspect of the match, one of the key targets has been Alexander Grischuk, the replacement for Magnus Carlsen. Grischuk has taken out both tournament favorites:  Levon Aronian in Round 1 and Vladimir Kramnik in Round 2. And how did he take them out? With what methods?  With draw after draw, sometimes offering draws before the 10th or 15th move of the game! Then, once the tie-breakers come, he wins and eliminates them. Games 1 and 3 of the first round were almost 7-hour games against Aronian with Grischuk as White. At least they were fighting draws in tense situations, but once he faced Kramnik and Gelfand, things changed.

   Some people view this as his strategy while others feel this is an outrage—me included. Recently, his last few games ended at 14 moves, then 12, and then 8. Game 4 of the finals ended at 15 moves, after Gelfand (as White) offered a draw, so it’s not just Grischuk guilty of an “early” draw, but it is he who’s catching the flak. Why? Because here he is, in the final match to determine a challenger for Anand, and continues doing the same thing. Naturally, the question arises (and please post your comments): Is this Grischuk’s “strategy” or should he be faulted for it?

   If you haven’t witnessed the games for yourself, below are a few PGNs of games Grischuk has “played” as White, most of which are the “short draw” offers:








   Now, once again, I am not putting “blame,” if any, squarely on Grischuk as it takes two people to agree to a draw; the blame sits with everyone involved in this tournament who doesn’t seem to have the guts or moxie to play through a position to the end. The majority of us agree this appears as “cowardice” on some level—no willingness to take risks. Are we wrong in our interpretation? It’s not that we expect every game to be a nail-biter, but because these players are top-level professionals, and a few are former World Champions (like Kramnik and Topalov), naturally we expect—not demand—more from them.

   Each day I take great joy in following tournaments and matches, then writing about them for anyone in our community who’s interested. But as an aspiring chess journalist I am supposed to report with objectivity; it’s the thing I struggle with most. How—when one of the most looked-forward-to events turns out to be a snore-fest—can one report it objectively? It makes me wonder what can be done about it. Better yet, should FIDE do something about it? Which chess rules should be followed?

   If anyone has an opinion, please comment! And let’s keep things civil, OK? I, and I hope you, are looking forward to hearing what has to be said in some intelligent discussion by all.


  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess


    i agree they are really good, but still, they are totally capable of being beaten despite that, if an opponent really tried hard to win. Heck, even if they just played out boring drawn positions for 60 moves, there would be an occasional win or loss. but more than whether or not the games would end in draws or wins, the shortness of the games is a problem here. if people are bored, it's bad for chess; the blame can be parcelled out in various ways, but we can agree this is bad for the status of chess.

  • 6 years ago


    Maybe a solution is to pay players for scoring a win not only for finishing 1,2,3ed.. Something like snoockers top breaks on air bonus 

  • 6 years ago


    Well, think about this: Both guys are not here to piss us off, they're here to win their match, right? So anything they do will be in that effort -- whether these draws are because they want to rest or whatever, if they are in a comfortable enough situation (which could pertain to either on or off the board!) that they can have a draw accepted, then it's their right to choose that path.

    To be annoyed at an opponent who seems to be able to draw against everything is, really, to be annoyed against a, frankly, competent player! It's a testament to their ability that they can get draws, i.e., not lose, with so much ease; not many people can do that! So again, if they can do so, then it's their right.

    Moreover, it's impossible to keep people from wanting draws anyway -- make some rule that you have to make it to rule 60 then maybe two players seeking a draw will just repeat moves 60 times? What will we do then? Get a TD involved to "judge" when it's "clear you guys aren't really playing?" Then it will just get 20 times hairier.

    What I think we should do, is to appreciate the strength of these players; that they are so good that wins are now so remarkably valuable -- especially as black!

  • 6 years ago


    @infinite19; Perhaps, but remember Karpov - Kasparov 1984. 

  • 6 years ago


    Honestly i think that they should implement Fischer's idea of first to 10 wins, draws don't count, with an unlimited number of games. That would totally cripple Grischuk "strategy" of just playing for draws as well as any other candidate. It would force the players to play for wins because there isn't a limited number of games.

  • 6 years ago


    Sofia rules or 3p per win... or Topalov rule (play for win). Cause that's what I saw, the one that play for win with the unluck lost, with no chance to recover. Also hello FIDE - games are way too little as a number. Round Robin or Swiss like the Europen Women Championship is faaaar better option. Ofc it would not suit some people but then we would have had Magnus Carlsen playing in it maybe.

    And Grischuk that is why I do not like him even from before, draw, draw, draw. He maybe in the top players list, but that is all he is. His chess is dead boring mechanical play, no pain no gain, or no risk no lose. And yes, do not say they are top players etc. There are top players that play for the win as well. Kasparov would squeeze every last posibility before splitting the point...

    And since is about money in the end for them (as pro players) the sponsors should have a reward for best Tal-like-risk it all-attack and it should be given by the public.


    Just to calrify and put as an ending to this rant :)

    This elimination system is baloney!

  • 6 years ago


    Well, so far not a single titled player has responded.  Sad.

    I say apply Sophia rules for all international events.

  • 6 years ago


    Some fascinating games, but a lot of disapointment too... Watching Shirov playing in Lublin was much more fun !!!

  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess

    a lot of people will already know my opinion, but i'll repeat it anyway in this forum:

    this event has been boring. i guess that's ok for anyone who doesn't want to see chess grow, and for any chess professionals who don't want to be payed. for anyone who contributed to the money being used to run this event, they could be upset about being scammed.

    foolishly, i actually was looking forward to these candidates matches for months and months. now i don't even watch the games.

  • 6 years ago


    I didn't think much about it, until I played in a tournament where there was a good amount of money (600 dollars to first prize). I was in the open section, scored 2/4, which was reasonable. The final round, it was a 2200 versus a 2250 (near the highest rated in colorado), so it was looking like it would be exciting, but after 15 moves they just called a draw, which I thought was pretty disappointing (if smart on their side). 


    I think it's a strategy. I really dislike it as a viewer, but chess is first and foremost a game for the competitor. So I think it has a right to stay.

  • 6 years ago


    I think the problem isn't the result but the way that some of the games are drawn. A rule for playing at least 20 moves (to say a number) would force them to play some chess (not only to memorize an opening). If after that they want to play through the game or they want to agree a draw it's ok, not every game can finish with a win. It's like in sports they were allowed to agree draws before the time is over. That's why i think there should be a 'minimum game length'

  • 6 years ago


    I like the idea of counting only wins.

  • 6 years ago


    Todays game was great ... there is more depth involved here than simple win vs draw tactics, don't forget Anand is watching and probably analyzing these openings ... so unless they have something different planned for the championships they are in a big disadvantage.

    This is why I think Gelfland chose this line - its the same as a Kramnik vs Grishland draw, perhaps he is testing Grishnuk or trying to show him how he will only be able to draw against Anand - even if black plays passively it looks as though white can't bust a solid defensive setup - is that really the case? I am sure Anand might find out !!!

    And of course if Grishnuk becomes demoralized by the strong defense he might give up ... and maybe he is saving the best to last.

    So there is a possibility of Grishy vs Vishy for the championship - the challenger should have the white pieces every time!

    I actually can't decide what would be the best match - Gelfland or Grishnuk - at least we will see whether Anand can come prepared!

  • 6 years ago


       At least today they showed some fighting spirit and it was one of the better games I have seen over the last couple of rounds. I do smell tie-breakers in the air for Thursday.


    PS: Keep up the good discussion everyone. I'll join you a little later on

  • 6 years ago


    msoewulff: no you don't understand, the end result is the same ... +2 for player who wins, or whatever ... but ... there is nothing in the result to say that the match wasn't the best from 3 games, the winner winning the first 2 games having a 100% score, and therefore a 100% likeliehood of stronger chess ... get the picture?

    If you hear the score 16.0/14.0 then you can tell that they were evenly matched apart from 2 points, and that the match is over since 16+14=30.

  • 6 years ago


    It's great that everyone is following the Candidates matches, but we need to remember their purpose. They are not being played for our entertainment. They are being played to win, to determine a challenger to Anand for the world title. The candidates will, and should, employ whatever strategy they think will lead them to victory. It seems here that the players are equally confident in their ability to win in rapid. If you had one player who preferred classical to rapid time controls, then they would avoid the quick draws.

  • 6 years ago


    You just showed how the current scoring system is perfect for match play. The mentioned change would not affect the ultimate result. In your example the match would be scored 2-0. You are correct in saying that this poorly relflect what took place in the match. 

    I am not a proponent of this change. My point is the change will not effect the affect draws have on the result of a match.

  • 6 years ago


    So if there was a 30 game match with 2 wins, the winner taking 2 and the loser taking 0, how can you tell when the match is finished ? There is a big effect on how you interpret the result.

    It means when you print the information you have to say 30 games, with 2 wins to "NN" etc instead of just printing the score. The score is relative also - its part of what affects players ratings. A simple loss of 2 out of 30 games does not prove that you would lose 4 out of 60, in fact if you could draw that many times you would stand a good chance of winning a few games if the match continued ... again its important to note that the 1/2 result proves that a game was a draw and is easier for statistics than saying 0 points for draws.

  • 6 years ago


    Unfortunately it isn't useful to introduce the "30-move-rule" again (not drawing before the 30th move), because some draws are really drawn after 25 moves, and playing through would be worse for one of them...
  • 6 years ago


    Vacuous, did you even read my post?

    What I said applie to the candidates MATCHES! I specifically mention how said scoring systems would affect tournaments. 

    You mean to say that the candidate should be decided in a tournament format with a cockamamie score scheme.

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