Chess is a very unfair sport: My thoughts about it

Jan 20, 2017, 10:53 AM |

In the beginnings of chess this didn't use to be a problem. But as humanity advances and as it has finally hit 20th and 21th century, it has finally reached the point where different moral philosophies are created.

Feminism, peace, killing... Whether things are good or bad... You could name virtually anything and still find someone questioning whether it's good/bad, right/wrong, who speaks the truth, which way of thinking is the true one or truly the best one,... Etc.

This philosophy has been greatly enhanced with easy access to internet. I am not here to discuss whether internet is good or bad (It must definitely be good though, since the amount of beautiful girls has increased considerably - if you don't understand what I mean, look at facebook - every girl I find there is beautiful, at least according to majority of the people commenting). 

What has the internet brought us are, among lots of other things, many moralistic clashes. For example so called grammar nazis, haters, etc. It's not so hard to find a moralistic discussion, youtube is full of them. Even though I love these clashes sometimes, since it's a nice relaxation reading them, I try to avoid them most of the time, because they are pointless.

But unfortunately, they weren't able to avoid the beautiful world of chess. And therefore it has became harder to avoid them.

Lately I have been encountering this fairly often. People accusing the world of chess of being unfair, namely because of the fact that one bad move can ruin 80 good moves... And you don't get good credit for these 80 moves, even though you should from the moral point of view, but you get only the bad credit for the one bad move. In other words good play is no different from lousy play when you win or lose.

I am not so sure how credible this statement is though. Because yeah, it definitely sucks when you make 80 good moves and then ruin it by silly blunder... And see the lousy zero in the scoreboard. But has anyone ever thought about this problem? Let's take a look at it.

Chess on the grandmaster level has been a bit boring with computer chess. Grandmasters taking no risks and playing safe, positional chess... I can't remember when I last saw an interesting sacrifice that made the game unclear on the battlefield. The reason is simple... Grandmasters don't want to lose. But since they are among the best classes of players in chess, let's take their games in general. But before I start, I have to think about the most important thing... Points.

I don't know how these moralists think it should be. There are several options, one more silly than the other. First one is that one point will be distributed to the players respectively, based on the result (0 for loss, 0.5 for draw and 1 for win) with alterations based on how well they played so that the resulting points add to 1 in total, which means you could get 0-0.4 for loss, 0.1-0.9 for draw and 0.6-1 for win... Or the second thing is, the players will have their points altered based on how well they plyed, but 1 isn't the limit, so you could get for example more than 1 point for a win for great play.

I am sure there are many more systems of point distribution, but many are just derivations of this basic scheme, so I will stop here. Because the practical side of such a system is a different story, because there are just too many problems with these systems.

1. How do you intend to evaluate how well which player played?

The most critical question of whole fairness. How do you determine that?

The easiest answer employs by itself. Engine analysis. But engine doesn'tt\ke into consideration things humans see.

1. Difficulty to find the move in a position

After all, it makes a huge difference in a good play if the moves to find are easy to find or hard to find.

2. The player's style

Some players go for simpler wins. To a human a win is a win, but the computer tries to always find the most accurate approach, which could greatly harm the players who play in style "Keep it simple" and when the best move is evaluated as +20, but the move made is evaluated at +11, it sees it as a blunder.

3. Game as a whole

The  chess world is filled with boring draws coming from mere cautious positional approach. But there are also attacking finesses that end with a draw due to great defence.

 Taking this into account, we could create people who would supervise the games and serve as a human factor in this. But can you imagine, to make it completely fair, each and every tournament covered by people who are there to check games afterwards? Although actually, even if we take only those huge 2000+ rated opens into account, it would still be crazy. Because even a revision of 40 games would require a great deal of time... Or dedicated people, preferably 2000+ rated. Good luck in your search I guess.


To sum it up. It definitely sucks to lose a really great game on time... Or let an opponent escape with half a point. But it is difficult to actually build a system that would reward players for their good game that would make sense.

But don't worry, the whole world of sports is unfair, not just chess. One slip in a 100m sprint can cost you a win. One slipped soccer ball can cause your team a loss, even if you played well otherwise. For f1 fans there has been recently a huge discussion of who deserved the 2016 world championship... Rosberg, who won by points, or Hamilton, who was a better driver, but got unlucky? In other words Rosberg, who won according to the rules, or Hamilton due to human factors?

I don't think any of these questions are relevant though. Because while there are rules you can break (after all, we chess players do it all day), there are rules you can't break even through human factors. And winning and losing have always been strictly separated. And I think it should stay that way. 

Because human factors are what makes particular things different from those many others. What makes them... Special.