FIDE's odds

ArnieChipmunk
ArnieChipmunk
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0 | Chess Event Coverage
Kamsky-TopalovOne of the strangest news items concerning the upcoming World Chess Challenge match Topalov-Kamsky was published not on some obscure chess blog, but on the main page of the FIDE.com site. Its headline runs 'The chances of Topalov and Kamsky are fifty fifty'. I was instantly curious, since it seemed clear to me that Topalov was the absolute favorite.

Sure enough, the article on the FIDE site (which was first published on the Chessdom website) starts with the following observation:
(...) More and more news sources and chess fans put Topalov as the clear favorite. The rating difference, the strong play by Topalov in Nanjing and Bilbao, and the host city being Sofia provide a first impression that everything is going to be fine for Topalov. All around the internet he is being pointed as the heavy favorite, even Levon Aronian stated for Armenia media that he is sure in the Bulgarian GM success.
A recent ChessVibes poll shows the same trend: more than 70% of the voters thinks Topalov will win the match. Clearly, FIDE has to come up with some pretty strong arguments to call the odds 50-50. Strangely, though, the article doesn't mention any. FIDE notes that Kamsky has a good match record - but so does Topalov. Furthermore, they acknowledge the match format also fits both players. The same, FIDE reasons, goes for any psychological factors and recent results by both players.

All these things being equal, you'd think FIDE would conclude their article by saying that the current ELO difference is more than 85 points in Topalov's advantage and that Topalov has a crushing 6-2 record against Kamsky, making him clear favorite. Instead, FIDE prefers to ignore these factors stating 'it is not possible to point out a favorite before the start of the event.' By this rationale, of course, it is never possible to make any predictions or odds at all. Clearly, FIDE has a pretty strange way of looking at probability theory. I am no trained statistician, or a gambler, but I'm quite sure Topalov is the clear bookmaker's favorite.

Perhaps FIDE simply doesn't want to pronounce any preference at all, even if this preference is backed up by solid data. Here at ChessVibes, we also don't have any preference for either Topalov of Kamsky. But what we can do is look at the numbers and draw our own conclusions. And yes, numbers don't mean everything - but they don't mean nothing, either. Or perhaps, for publicity reasons, FIDE really wants the public to believe this is going to be an equal fight - even if it's against all odds. This, too, would be praiseworthy enough - if it didn't look so silly. Just because the facts don't suit you doesn't mean you can ignore them.
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