31 March 2010

Holding Your Breath

I added the URL of the official site to my page on 2010 Anand - Topalov. Here are some of the most important regulations from the FIDE Handbook: 10. Rules & Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match (FWCM) 2010.
2. Schedule

2.1 Match System: The World Chess Championship Match Anand - Topalov will consist of 12 games and if necessary, tie-break games.

3.4 Drawing of colors

3.4.1 The draw for colors will be conducted during the opening ceremony. The colors shall be reversed after game 6. (The player getting the white color in game 1 shall play game 7 with the black color).

3.4.2 For tie-break games, there shall be a separate drawing of lots conducted by the Chief Arbiter of the match.

3.5 Time control

3.5.1 The time control for each game shall be: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting after move 61 has been made.

3.5.2 The games shall be played using the electronic clocks and boards approved by FIDE.

3.6 Conditions of victory / Replacements

3.6.1 The WCM shall be played over a maximum of twelve (12) games and the winner of the match shall be the first player to score 6.5 points or more. A tie shall be broken according to Article 3.7 below. If the winner scores 6.5 points in less than 12 games then the organizer can re-schedule the Closing Ceremony for an earlier date.

3.6.2 If a player refuses to participate in the World Championship Match, he will be replaced as follows: GM Vladimir Kramnik replaces the World champion Vishy Anand and GM Gata Kamsky replaces challenger GM Veselin Topalov. In case any or both players refuse to participate when invited, the rating list of January 2010 will be used to determine their replacements.

3.7 Tie-breaks

3.7.1.a If the scores are level after the regular twelve (12) games, after a new drawing of colors, four (4) tie-break games shall be played. The games shall be played using the electronic clock starting with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move

3.7.1.b All tie-break games shall be played according to the following: 1. Play is governed by the World Championship Technical Regulations (annex 1), which apply with the exceptions mentioned below in (2), (3) and (4). [...]

3.7.2 If the scores are level after the games in Article 3.7.1a, then, after a new drawing of colors, a match of 2 games shall be played with a time control of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment after each move. In case of a level score, another 2-game match will be played to determine a winner. If still there is no winner after 5 such matches (total 10 games), one sudden-death game will be played as described below in Article 3.7.3.

3.7.3 If the score is still level after five matches as described in Article 3.7.2, the players shall play a one sudden death game. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes whereupon, after the 60th move, both players shall receive an increment of 3 seconds from move 61. In case of a draw the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

13. Prize Fund

13.1 The prize fund of the match, provided by the organizer, should be a minimum of 1,000,000 (one million) euros, net of any applicable taxes. The prize fund will be divided . 60% for the winner and 40% to the loser if the FWCM ends within the 12 regular games. In case the winner is decided by tie-break games, the winner shall receive 55% and the loser 45%.

13.2 The organizer shall pay to FIDE an amount of 20% over and above the total prize fund, net of any applicable taxes.

13.3 If the match is played in the country of one of the players, then the opponent shall receive 100,000 (one hundred thousand) euros from the Prize Fund. The balance of the Prize Fund shall then be shared in accordance to Article 13.1 above.

How much is the prize fund? From the official site, Veselin Topalov: Interview by Yuri Vasiliev for Sport Express:-

Q: I read, that that prize fund sets a record for all World Chess Championship matches, barring the so called 'rematch of the 20th century', Fischer - Spassky [1992], where 5.000.000 US$ were at stake.

A: The prize fund in our match is 2 million Euro – about 3 million US$ - but if Anand would have made even a minor attempt, it could easily go over 5 million. India is a vast market and Anand is very popular in his homeland. But the World Champion preferred that someone else does all the work and even play the victim. 'Well, you see, I prefer not to play in Bulgaria, but there are no other options.' We were prepared to play in India half the games or even the whole match, but Anand didn't make even the slightest effort to arrange anything about this. Even 3 million US$ aren't bad at all, if we remember Kasparov being ready to play his matches – against Shirov, Ponomariov or Kasimdzhanov – for a mere 1 million and no sponsor was found for any of them.

Topalov has been widely criticized for those remarks about Anand and they are certainly inappropriate on the official site. I would have thought that after Kasparov's record with the GMA, PCA, WCC, and Braingames (am I missing any?), top chess players had learned that they should stick to playing, not organizing.

The last World Championship match where Topalov was involved, the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match, aka Toiletgate, left chess with a nasty stench. Let's hope that the Anand - Topalov leaves us holding our collective breath in suspense, not our noses in disgust.

24 March 2010

Botvinnik Rules

Throughout 'My Great Predecessors II', Kasparov was critical of limitations placed on Soviet players in the qualifying cycles of the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote the following in the chapter on Botvinnnik (p.186; I've left out details about individual circumstances).
[In 1958] there began a spell of bad luck and vexing failures in Bronstein's career. The cause of this was largely the Botvinnik initiated limit on the representatives from one country (i.e. the USSR) in the Candidates tournaments: not more than five out of eight were allowed.

In the Interzonal tournament in Portoroz 1958 there were six qualifiers, but the four Soviet grandmasters were fighting for only three places (since Smyslov and Keres were already in the list of Candidates), and willingly or not they were forced to play keeping an eye on one another. Both [Bronstein] and Averbakh missed out by half a step.

He was to suffer an even crueller stroke of fate at the Interzonal in Amsterdam 1964, where five Soviet grandmasters were fighting for the same three places. Another to suffer was Stein, who fell victim to the 'Botvinnik rule' for the second consecutive time.

It was effectively on account of this unjust restriction that two such splendid players as Bronstein and Stein missed out on the battle for the World Championship. Their replacements in the Candidates events were not of equivalent strength and it is clear that, with their participation, things at the top of chess could have turned out differently.

Alas, few now remember these human dramas. But meanwhile they reflected the unnatural situation that existed in chess in the 1950s and 1960s, when many of the best grandmasters, occupying most of the places in the world's top 30, had no opportunity to participate fully in the World Championship qualifying cycle -- for the only reason that they were Soviets.

Some will retort: but with this limit, fighting spirit was strengthened and only the very best made it to the top -- that is by the laws of Darwinism, the strongest survived. But just think how much nervous energy it cost these world-class stars to battle among themselves for the right to squeeze through the eye of a needle. And how it must have been to recognize that you are stronger and have occupied a higher place, but it is another player who will go through. Were not these unhealed spiritual wounds one of the causes of the untimely death of Leonid Stein?

(That last sentence deserves special attention, but it takes me too far from the subject at hand; this is not the right place to address it.) In the same chapter (p.215) Kasparov linked the 'Botvinnik rule' with the right to a return match.

In 1956, soon after Smyslov's second victory in the Candidates tournament, an event occurred that was to have a strong influence on the entire modern history of chess: FIDE granted the World Champion the right to a return match. The decision was adopted together with the aforementioned 'Botvinnik rule', and also not without the participation of [Botvinnik] (I should remind you that his friend Ragozin was a FIDE Vice-President).

Although earlier, in the late 1940s, in his plan for the contesting of the World Championship, he had rejected the idea of the return match, since 'it's organization would disturb the periodicity of the system, and in the interests of chess this must not be allowed', and he had gained the right for a defeated champion to play a match-tournament with the champion and the challenger three years later (this FIDE rule operated in the 1951 and 1954 matches).

The inescapable conclusion is that Botvinnik was behind both the limitation on Soviet players and the return match because these rules gave him better chances to retain his World Championship title. While I have no particular argument with this conclusion, I still wonder to what extent the 'Botvinnik rule' was a consequence of other federations' fears of Soviet collusion, as described in Collusion and Consequences. Perhaps it wasn't really a 'Botvinnik rule', but rather Botvinnik seeing personal advantage in a rule favored by the other chess federations.

In 'Predecessors IV' Kasparov dismissed the idea that Soviet collusion was responsible for Fischer's mediocre showing at Curacao in 1962. 'At that moment Bobby was not yet ready to win such a tournament -- irrespective of whether or not there was such a pact. Averbakh: "If Fischer could have beaten the Soviet grandmasters, as was to happen later in the early 1970s, no amount of draws would have been able to stop him."' (p.300). In other words, to win against collusion, a player had to be significantly better than the Soviet opposition. Tightly contested tournaments would always favor the Soviet bloc.

FIDE implemented matches to eliminate collusion in the Candidate tournaments. Was the primary objective of the earlier 'Botvinnik rule' to eliminate collusion in Interzonals rather than to favor Botvinnik?

17 March 2010

St.Patrick's Day = Maintenance

Today I corrected a number of minor errors which I discovered recently. In the crosstable for the 1959 Yugoslavia Candidates Tournament, I placed Gligoric before Fischer, because the Serb had a better tiebreak than the American (though unofficial). After doing this, I noticed that the 1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament was missing tiebreak completely, so I started a new TODO list.

In the story Vincenzio the Venetian, I mentioned that the name 'Retszch', as spelled in the source, should in fact be 'Retzsch'. Now the page will be found in any search on 'Retzsch'.

After that, I made various PGN corrections brought to made my attention over the past few years. They can be found by looking for the date of this post in Index of /chess/pgn. Thanks to everyone who flagged the PGN errors.

10 March 2010

The Threat of Collusion

In a previous post on the 1952 Interzonal, Collusion and Consequences, I speculated about qualification into the subsequent Candidates event: 'I'm not sure why Reshevsky and Euwe were seeded into the 1953 Candidates Tournament, although it makes sense that it was because of their participation in the 1948 FIDE Title Tournament, won by Botvinnik.' After a little more investigation, I determined that this was indeed the case and then documented the various reasons for qualification on the pages for that cycle: 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal and 1953 Zurich Candidates.

As for any collusion in the 1953 Candidates Tournament, I found the following in Chess Review, November 1953 (p.323):

[Reshevsky] entered the tournament not at all certain that the nine man Russian "syndicate" would be overly concerned with "bourgeois" standards of sportsmanship. At Saltsjobaden there had been undeniable collusion by the Russians in a move to freeze out Western competitors. Might not the same tactics be repeated at some critical stage in the present struggle if it became expedient to throw collective support to the Soviet candidate whose prospects had crystallized above those of his fellow Russians? Regarding this possibility, the Australian Chess World remarked in a pre-tournament issue that "we fear the Russians would put patriotism above the canons of sport, as at Saltsjobaden, and make things a bit easier for the top Russian."

While Chess Review has no evidence that such collusion was either planned or practiced in Switzerland, the ever-present threat operated as a mental hazard that could not but adversely affect the play of the Western group. An indication of the peculiar Russian mentality on this point is seen in the intransigent attitude of Ragozin, official spokesman for the Russian delegation, during an interview with the American journalist and master, George Koltanowski. When George started to ask a question beginning, "If a non-Russian were to win this tournament..." Ragozin brusquely interrupted: "Nyet! Never! Impossible!"

Why players of the calibre of Reshevsky, Najdorf, Gligoric and so forth should be ruled out summarily is difficult to see, even if we grant the undoubted capabilities of the Russian stars. Was Ragozin merely voicing a personal opinion as to the probable outcome? Or was he expounding an official a priori dogma that no non-Communist will ever be alowed to win a challengers' tournament if the Russians, by hook or by crook, can possibly prevent it?

Another ugly (and rather astonishing) blot on the tourney, according to information received from one of Chess Review's observers on the scene was the unabashed consultation by the Russian contingent -- "flagrant coaching from the sidelines ... and tips passed from one Russian player to another during games".

Despite the lack of 'evidence that such collusion was either planned or practiced', the threat was as strong as the execution, at least for the editors of Chess Review. The article went on to mention that Reshevsky played the event without a second, which certainly didn't improve his chances of succeeding.

03 March 2010

Cumulative Scores

In Chigorin Stumbles at Hastings 1895, I developed a new database query that generated a table showing the round-by-round progress of the leaders at Hastings 1895. It's a useful tool to identify the critical games in a round-robin (all-play-all) event.

I liked the concept so much that I used it to generate a similar table -- I call it a 'Cumulative Score' -- for each of the following World Championship events...

...i.e. the first FIDE World Championship and the five candidate events covered by the study that I criticized in Calculating Collusion.

The cumulative score for the 1948 FIDE title event, where play was divided between The Hague and Moscow, is shown on the left. The three character codes at the top of the table are abbreviations for the five players who participated in the event: Botvinnik, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, and Smyslov; the blank cells (e.g. Botvinnik in Rd.1) show who had the bye in a round; and the dark horizontal lines show the end of each round-robin stage and the beginning of the next.

The 1948 event didn't appear to be particularly suspenseful. Botvinnik took the lead during the first stage, never relinquished it, and was assured of first place after the 22nd round. There was, however, a tight battle for second place, where Reshevsky missed his chance by losing in the 24th round (to Botvinnik).

A cumulative score is useful for understanding first person narratives like that by Keres in 'Grandmaster of Chess - The Complete Games of Paul Keres' (p.295). It started,

In the spring of 1948 I went to Holland in order to contest, at long last, the highest chess title in the world. For various reasons Fine declined to participate and so this left five of us to embark on this momentous conflict. From the very first rounds a fierce struggle developed and this continued right to the very last games. I began the tournament with two wins, against Euwe and Smyslov, but then lost in the ensuing rounds against Reshevsky and Botvinnik and at the end of the first tour I stood equal with Smyslov in third and fourth places.

About the third stage he wrote,

I came to within 1.5 points of Botvinnik and now everything hung on our individual encounter. In the event of a win I would come to within half a point of the leader and the issue of the tournament would be once again wide open.

This deciding encounter had a most complicated and exciting course and constituted a stiff test for the nerves of both players. Out of a complicated middlegame I succeeded in evolving a position of the most promising kind. Then, however, I failed to utilize my opportunities to the best advantage and the scales tipped over in Botvinnik's favor. Then there ensued a whole series of inaccuracies committed by both sides and when the game was eventually adjourned a double Rook endgame with an extra Pawn for Botvinnik had arisen.

When play was resumed Botvinnik did not find the best line and a Rook ending resulted that should have been easily drawn. But the vicissitudes of the game were by no means ended. Both sides conducted the game imprecisely and it was I who made the last mistake. By the time the second adjournment came Botvinnik had an easily won position and I suffered a bitter defeat. With this win Botvinnik had in practice ensured for himself victory in the tournament since with only eight more games to be played he already had a lead of 2.5 points.

The cumulative score indicates that this was the game played in round 15. Keres' description of its 'vicissitudes' is hard to reconcile with conspiracy theorists who claim he was under orders to let Botvinnik win the tournament. Keres' account also shows that the event was more suspenseful than the crosstable alone would indicate.