ALEXANDER KENTLER. CROSSROADS
"I promise you to change everything. To change everything, one has to change nothing. We change the names, not the essences. Psychological analysis, sociological analyses revealed the inconsistency of old delusions. Our new delusion will be invulnerable".
E.Ionesco. Professional killer
The World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk is not far from finish: the semifinals begin today. An the first impression is that, thanks to the organizers and Elo, the knockout system worked OK (although the double knockout is better), and the old and many times criticized rating system proved its validity once more.
The list of the participants according to their current ratings before the start of the Cup looked like that:
1.L.Aronian 2737, 2.E.Bacrot 2725, 3.V.Ivanchuk 2724, 4.A.Grischuk 2719, 5.B.Gelfand 2714, 6.A.Shirov 2710, 7.P.Ponomariov 2706...
And now let us examine the list of the semifinalists. Of four top players, only Ivanchuk did not enter it, but his play is always unstable (the same can be said about Shirov). And the difficulty for Grischuk, who managed to beat Gelfand only in blitz, consisted in the fact that this was a match of two highly and almost equally skilled players. Finally, present seventh place of FIDE ex-world champion R.Ponomariov is mainly caused by his slope after rejecting to play in the world championship. So his qualification to the semifinal with confident play does not provoke amazement. And in order to finish with this topic I will mention that it is extremely pleasant to watch the encounters of the Cup: the opponents are merciless to each other; there are no tactical withdrawals from the struggle. And an utmost important thing is that instead of abstract ideas of the new genii that can appear among young players, we can now talk about the new player of 21st century, Magnus Carlsen. Maybe someone else will appear...
After marvelous victory of the Russian team in Beer Sheva, the authors of the articles in mass media and guestbook speakers were disturbed by the fact that even in case a team wins in all the matches there is still a possibility of not getting the first place. They began to rebel against present regulations and to suggest the ways to solve this problem. So they recalled the USSR Chess Code where there was a clause according to which the team that wins in all the matches but gets the second place according to the score, has a right to play additional match with the team that gets a higher score. In case of a draw the overall result remained the same.
As far as I remember, this clause was applied many times for example in the Leningrad universities championship. There was nothing striking about that: the A group consisted of eight teams, each containing 15 players, and there were 2 or 3 teams fighting for the first place, the remaining teams being absolutely weak. I remember the Leningrad State University team having six victories out of six possible before the last round, but fell far behind two leading teams. Then we found out that one gets no replay match for the third place and did not win in the last round... When the players of the team live and play in same city, there are no reasons to ignore the justice.
Now let us consider the variant with world chess forums. The organizers work out the regulations, give it to the teams beforehand, invite sponsors and other important people to the closing ceremony, provide the participants (that are often in hurry to go to their competitions) with optimal return tickets, etc. So, there is no possibility to hold a normal replay during last playing day, even if it is included in the regulations, maybe only blitz, but do we really need this profanation? And it is useless to include the events that rarely take place with small teams in the agenda. Finally, sometimes one has no luck. And it can console the team that wins in all the matches but does not win the competition because of the worse play with weak teams.
In all the world team championship (in Olympiads, held from 1927, and the world championship from 1985) the winner is determined according to the sum of scores of the team participants. The regulations concerning places are always proclaimed beforehand. There is nothing amusing in that, but there is also nothing amusing in the way people sit in front of each other trying to find the solution for works. It can seem ridiculous to those who do not play chess. It reminds of the Raikin's miniatures (Raikin is a famous Russian satirist) where he suggested to give road-roller to every of 22 players on the football field for them to pave the field with asphalt, and tie a cable to the ballet dancer's leg for her not to spin in vain but to produce electricity. Public roared with laughter...
The system of overall team score (2 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw, 0 for a defeat) can also exist, but it changes things a little. On one hand, the team that wins all the matches will never get the second place, but on the other hand, it allows playing not to full capacity with weak teams, and the result of the competition will depend not on the way team plays during the tournament, but on one or two decisive matches. I will give the results of the world team championship-1997 in Lucerne as an example, where the Russian team became the champion having defeated the Georgian women's team in the last round 4:0 score, and left the American team half a point behind. And in this tournament there were three teams, Russian, American and Armenian, which did not lose a single match during the tournament. Our team had 5 draws, Americans had 3 draws, Armenians had 4 draws.
Let us remember: nobody in our country (but not in America!) questioned the participation of the women's team! The world championship itself was aimed by FIDE to accustom the continents where chess is (or was) badly developed (Africa and Asia) to the game. And women's team, the strongest one in the world, was included with the same aim. It is interesting whose reaction we would hear if the Russian team turned out to be the strongest one (I am sure our team can do it, and with great probability it will be able to do so in the next championship, in four hours!). Would we urge to exclude it, would we be glad if the result of its match with Russian men's team would be different from 0:4, would we try to include someone from the reserve in it in case of the individual match? There are people now who urge to include World women's team in the championship. If this team plays hors concours (non-competitively), nobody will play with it seriously, and if it plays competitively, then there will be people who will call the legitimacy of that in question. There will be dissatisfied people anyway. And what if this team takes the first place? And finally, who will train and finance this team? FIDE will never do it. All the countries together? I cannot believe it: soon the team will consist of the chess players from one country, ready to pay.
Of course, it would be nice if the list of the world championship was revised taking current situation in chess into consideration. However, it is not that bad now. But it is strange at least that a well-known chess player urges to reduce the number of team competitions. It often happens so that a chess player becomes needed only when the time to defend someone's honor (country's, sponsor's) comes.
P.S. In the evening, when Crossroads were published already, I looked through the tables of the majority of world team competitions (from 1927 36 men's Olympiads were held, 21 women's ones and 6 world team championships, 63 competitions in total). In all of them the places were defined by the sum of the scores of the teams' members. In neither of them the second place was given to the team that won in all the matches.