ECU rejects Nielsen's protest

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ECU rejects Nielsen's protestThe European Chess Union (ECU) has rejected the protest of Peter Heine Nielsen about the way the performance ratings were calculated at this year's European Championship in Aix les Bains. Admitting that their calculations were flawed, the ECU's main argument for rejecting is that the Danish grandmaster should have protested 'in due time'.On April 12th we published GM Peter Heine Nielsen's official protest against the way the performance ratings were calculated at this year's European Championship in Aix les Bains. As a result of these calculations, Nielsen missed a qualification for the upcoming World Cup in August-September in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The best 23 players in Aix-les-Bains would qualify for Khanty-Mansyisk. However, the final standings had 29 players finishing on 7.5/11, occupying places 16-44. Which 8 of these 29 players would qualify? To refresh your memory, here's the relevant quote from the tournament regulations:

The order of players that finish with the same number of points shall be determined by application of the following tie-breaking procedures in sequence, proceeding from (a) to (b) to (c) to (d) the extent required: (a) Performance Rating; (b) Median-Buchholz 1, the highest number wins; (c) Buchholz, the highest number wins; (d) Number of wins, the highest number wins. In case of (a) the highest and the lowest rated opponent will be deleted and the maximum rating difference of two players shall be 400 points. In the case of unplayed games for the calculation of (a), (b) and (c) the current FIDE Tournament Rules shall be applied.

The crucial point is the interpretation of "the highest and the lowest rated opponent will be deleted". The organizers decided to not only remove the ratings, but also the points scored against these opponents, which led to some strange situations. For example, GM Parligras did not qualify for the World Cup because he lost it to a high rated opponent: reigning champion Ian Nepomniachtchi. Peter Heine Nielsen also missed qualification because of the ECU's calculation. We repeat the main points from his protest here:

Primary: The Performance Rating for players with the same number of points in the 2011 European Individual Championship must be recalculated in such a way, that the highest and lowest opponent’s Elo-rating is excluded when calculating the opponents’ average rating, but points achieved against these two players are included when calculating the percentage score. The final standing must be corrected in accordance to the recalculated tie-break. Secondary: Proper compensation given to me and other participants of this ECU tournament, who have been harmed by the implementation of the Performance Rating.

ECU: protest rejected

The ECU rejected the protest from Nielsen. Here's the reply that was sent to him in full:

ECU: protest rejectedApril 29th 2011 To: GM Haine Peter Nielsen [sic] SUBJECT: The decision of the ECU Board on the Protest of GM Nielesen from April 10th, 2011 Dear Mr. Nielsen, We acknowledged the receipt of your e-mail ("Protest" and "Enclosure") dated from 10th of April 2011. We read both documents very carefully, and here is our answer. The regulations were published well in advance, and every player could have checked and tested them during (and even before) the tournament - their validity, logic and accuracy, as well as the way they were interpreted to calculate the standings after each round. We have to distinguish between criticizing the regulations (which is a legitimate procedure) and claiming against the interpretation of these regulations given by the arbiters/organizers. We agree with your principal ("academic") claims that the new regulations for tie- breaking in the Individual European Championships are an unsuccessful combination (to say the least) of Performance Rating (PR) and Median-Buchholz. ("Median Performance Rating" (MPR) as you defined it in your Enclosure). However, any appeal against the interpretation of the regulations should have been presented in due time to the EICC 2011 Appeal Committee, giving the latter at least the chance to clarify this point before the last round at the latest. Rule 6.2 (Tie-breaking in individual competitions) , approved by ECU GA in Novi Sad 2009 says: The order of players that finish with the same number of points shall be determined by application of the following tie-breaking procedures in sequence, proceeding from (a) to (b) to (c) to (d) the extent required: (a) Performance Rating; (b) Median-Buchholz 1, the highest number wins; (c) Buchholz, the highest number wins; (d) Number of wins, the highest number wins. In case of (a) the highest and the lowest rated opponent will be deleted and the maximum rating difference of two players shall be 400 points. In the case of unplayed games for the calculation of (a), (b) and (c) the current FIDE Tournament Rules shall be applied. A Performance Rating is a number derived from both the results and the ratings of the opponents. Reading (a) together with the last sentence means, to our knowledge, that the PR should be based in this case on only 9 results (against the "median" opponents) and 9 ratings (of the same "median" opponents) while ignoring two games (against the "extreme" opponents) as if they were not played (for tie-breaking purposes). If we pay more attention to your claim, we come to a conclusion that it is not necessary at all to calculate performance rating, given that all the players sharing the same place have the same percentage. According to your interpretation, it is enough just to calculate the average rating of each player's opponents (after the opponents with the highest and lowest rating are discarded). Now, even if we accept your claims that these regulations are illogical, unfair and that they do not solve all the possible situations etc, these are still the regulations and you will probably agree with us that we cannot change the rules during the games. Consequently, Dear Mr. Nielsen, the ECU Board decided to reject both of your claims (a) to retroactively change the final standing of the EICC 2011 and (b) to give compensation to anyone for this. Sincerely, ECU Board

The ECU does admit that the situation is far from ideal, but rejected anyway. Their main argument is that Nielsen's protest came too late. One could counter-argue that only after the last round it became clear how the ECU interpreted their own regulations, therefore making it impossible to protest earlier. It seems that the ECU does have a point in pointing out that players could have known the way the regulations were interpreted, by looking at the standings after each round. However, later they state that they "cannot change the rules during the games". This means that even if Nielsen would have protested after, say, five rounds, it would have been rejected on the same grounds. Therefore, the protest would only have had a chance if it was sent before the start the tournament, when it wasn't clear yet how the regulations would be interpreted. A nice Catch-22, we say.

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