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World championship system irregularities

  • #1

    So I've been looking through the last 2 decades of world chess championship history, and there are a lot of weird little things that crop up. There are, of course, the small, or at least well known things, like:

    -in 1996, Karpov gets seeded into the semifinals of the FIDE championship for being the incumbent, instead of the final.

    -the 2000 shemozzle with picking a challenger for Kasparov, of course

    -the silly knockout tournaments that FIDE held from 1999-2004

    -the 1993 craziness that started all this split title business in the first place

    But the big things are really pretty worrysome, all things considered. Here are the big things:

    So, Topalov won the first FIDE championship since the knockout tournaments, in a double round robin in 2005. That's all great, it's better than a knockout at least, and when Kramnik offered a reunification match and Topalov accepted, it made it into a candidates tournament, of sorts. This was a good way to finally reunite the titles.

    Why, then, why oh why oh why, did some clowns in FIDE:

    1. Make another double round roin tournament and call it the world championship. I get that the organisation was all in place, and everything, and that the tournament needed to go ahead, but since it turned out to be, in effect, a candidates tournament to work out a challenger to Kramnik, why not just call it that?

    2. Decide that if Kramnik beat Topalov in 2006, that Kramnik would take Topalov's spot in the 2007 world championship, and Topalov would actually be excluded? I mean, let's review who got to be in the tournament:

    Kramnik, since he was world champ

    Leko, Gelfand, Aronian and Grischuk, through some weird qualification process.

    Anand, Svidler and Morozevich, since they were in the top 4 places for FIDE 2005 (which Topalov WON).

    So Topalov couldn't be part of this tournament, despite the people who did worse than him getting into it. What??? I don't even like Topalov, and think this is pretty weird.

    So since he wasn't part of this tournament, and couldn't be part of the 2008 one either, he got special seeding for the most recent 2010 championship, getting to play a semifinal match against Gata Kamsky, who won the 2007 chess world cup (which was a knockout one. Again. But at least it was only to decide a semifinal spot, rather than an overall winner...). It's kinda weird that someone having won a tournament in 2005, lost a match in 2006, and having been weirdly excluded from a tournament in 2007 should earn him a match in 2009, but whatever.

    But a bit more weirdness happens. The next world championship features a candidates tournament of 8 players.

    Topalov and Kamsky get spots as the runner-up and semifinalist. So Kamsky's win in the chess world cup in 2007 earns him a spot in a 2009 semifinal and a 2011 (I guess?) candidates tournament? Seems a weird stretch, but ok. Topalov though? This doesn't make a lot of sense. Topalov, since he won a tournament in 2005, lost a match in 2006 and was weirdly excluded from a tournament in 2007, got a semifinal in 2009 and a candidates spot in 2011. That's a stretch of 6 years of consequences.

    The other spots go to Gelfand, who won the 2009 chess world cup (his reward for this is much less lucrative than Kamsky's, but whatever. And yeah, still a knockout tournament deciding places, but this time it's only a quarterfinal place. I kinda thought FIDE had gotten so much criticism about knockout formats that they might have abandoned them altogether), Aronian and Radjabov, after winning and getting second respectively in the chess grand prix, some weird, 6 tournament long, best-3-results, 2 year long affair (2008-2010), but I guess they had to find some way to qualify people, Carlsen and Kramnik based only on rating, and whoever FIDE chooses as the last spot.

    It's an interesting try for a system of candidacy, but it still seems sorta insane. Ignoring Topalov as an anomaly, Kamsky getting a spot in 2011 because he won a tournament 4 years before is still a little weird, as is the grand prix system, for results 1-3 years before the candidates.

    What would I do?

    Well, world championship candidacy systems have to be a compromise between speed and effectiveness. If you go for pure speed, you get situations like in the knockout championships of 1999-2004, mostly won by outside chances, and widely criticised. If you go for as much care as possible, making sure upsets, if they do happen, are at least thoroughly earned, then you run the risk of the qualification process going on for too long, and missing a bright new spark. Consider that Carlsen, a top contender for a couple of years now, missed the 2010 championship despite being #1 at the time of it because the last chances for him to be a part of it were in 2007, when he was only just climbing past #20.

    I think that, specifically for bright very new sparks, at least one spot in a candidates tournament should go to the winner (and possibly runner-up) of a knockout tournament, but specifically, one held as late as reasonable. Knockout tournaments are, despite their flaws, a quick way to sort through many many people, and gives all of those people a chance. A spot in 2011 going to the winner of a knockout tournament in 2009 misses that point, it could have been held a lot later.

    I think the grand prix events are on the track to a good idea. but 6 tournaments held from one year to 3 years before the event seems a little crazy. I would have thought the interzonal system of yesteryear would be better, with certain zonal qualifiers etc.

    Adding a few spots for highly rated and otherwise unqualified players makes sense, but the spots they give are based on the average of July 2009 and January 2010, instead ratings of, say, 2011. I mean, what is this, the 2012 championship, or the 2010?

    So yeah, one or two spots for knockout winners, a few spots for interzonal winners from the longer but more accurate process that allows (or from some other similar longer accurate process), maybe one special tournament organiser's invitee, and the rest based on rating not long before the tournament.


  • #2


  • #3

    Topalov got way too many chances, yeah he is a good player, but it really gets too much after a point. Kamsky's inclution in the candidates tournament is also insane. If Kramnik hadn't managed to get in via rating, the picture would be absolutely stupid: Kramnik not having a second chance after losing a final while Kamsky having a chance after losing a semi-final.

    With all this being said, except for Kamsky, all the current players seem like the best candidates anyway, so yes it was all very funny but somehow didn't end up too badly.

  • #4
    SchuBomb wrote:

    ...clowns in FIDE...

    Your post was pretty long, so I've condensed it down to the part where you answered all of your own questions with one phrase. 

  • #5
    TheGrobe wrote:
    SchuBomb wrote:

    ...clowns in FIDE...

    Your post was pretty long, so I've condensed it down to the part where you answered all of your own questions with one phrase.


  • #6
    ivandh wrote:
    TheGrobe wrote:
    SchuBomb wrote:

    ...clowns in FIDE...

    Your post was pretty long, so I've condensed it down to the part where you answered all of your own questions with one phrase.


    Much appreciated :)

  • #7

    Wow! Great work, SchuBomb! Ever since Kasparov and, I think Short, called it a day on FIDE in the mid-90's, reading how the championship cycle goes is almost incomprehensible. I read Derrida, and Foucault for christsakes, but the World Chess Championship is so recondite as to make those two guys seem like the Philosophy of Common SenseLaughing


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