Thursday, 5 April 2007

Mad Gamescore Disease

I see that there has been a nasty outbreak of 'Mad Gamescore Disease' at the 2007 European Individual Championship in Dresden. Here's an example from round one:

Gashimov,V (2644) - Handke,F (2459) [C92]
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0–0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 0–0 9 h3 Bb7 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bf8 12 a4 h6 13 Bc2 exd4 14 cxd4 Nb4 15 Bb1 c5 16 d5 Nd7 17 Ra3 c4 18 axb5 axb5 19 Nd4 Rxa3 20 bxa3 Nd3 21 Bxd3 cxd3 22 Re3 Nc5 23 N4b3 f5 24 Qh5 Bxd5 25 exd5 Nxb3 26 Nxb3 Re5 27 Rf3 Qc7 28 Rxf5 Rxf5 29 Qd1 Qc3 30 Nd2 Qe5 31 Nf1 Qe2 32 Ne3 Be7 33 f3 Bf6 34 g3 Bb2 35 Bd2 Bd4 36 Qxe2 dxe2 37 Kf2 Ba7 38 Bb4 Kh7 39 g4 Bxe3+ 40 Ke1 Bd2+ 41 Bxd2 Kg6 42 h4 h5 43 gxf5+ 0–1

If you run that through the games software of your choice, you'll see what I mean. The score goes off the rails around move 23 or 24 and thereafter it is utter nonsense.

I used to pride myself on being able to find a cure for most ailing gamescores but this one is way beyond my surgical faculties. In the old days it used to be a case of looking for a 'wrong rook' going to (say) d8 - it is amazing how many highly rated players don't bother to record which rook is to move - or perhaps the inputter had mistaken a letter 'c' for an 'e' (or vice versa). But these days, the automation provided by DGT electronic boards or Monroi electronic scorepads can sometimes produce an absolute train-wreck of a score which defies all attempts at repair.

That is not a criticism of either product. Both are excellent - when used with care. However, some organisers seem to think that they can buy or hire a whole heap of electronic gadgets and the task of getting accurate scores then looks after itself. The big mistake is that they don't bother to hire operators with good chess skills whose job it is to vet the scores before they are published. In business terms, the organisational blunder comes down to one of two things at the budgeting stage: either (a) factoring in the costs of the tools needed to do the job, but forgetting to add in the running costs of skilled operators needed to man them; or perhaps (b) underestimating the skill level of the operators needed.

I suppose organisers may consider that some of the fault also lies with us, the consumers. We grumble when tournament websites are tardy with the gamescores, but also when they publish them quickly but in a poor state (as at Dresden). However, I don't think this is an unreasonable demand. Automation is useful, but only when it is properly implemented and overseen by skilled operatives. Before making games available for download, it is surely possible to get a couple of 2000+ rated players to run through the gamescores using Fritz, checking for score errors.

I've been in bed with a stomach bug for the past couple of days, so haven't been following it live. But I've been told that live coverage has also been a bit dodgy. Anyone care to comment?


  1. Hi John,

    I don't disagree with any of your comments (in fact, I have had no experience with DGT boards or electronic scorepads, so I'll have to take your word for the problems that arise), but I ran the gamescore you provided in your post into my Fritz 10 and it had no trouble with it.

    Is the move 23.N4b3 the one which is supposed to cause a problem? I've always found Fritz to be very forgiving of different game notations. :)

  2. Hi Ryan,

    The point I was making is not that the gamescore doesn't show legal chess moves, but that some of the moves are unthinkably bad for two strong grandmasters to have made. There is just no way that either of them could have made moves like 24...Bxd5?? or 26 Nxb3?? (26 Rxe8 is crushing) or 41...Kg6?? etc. Nor does it look like a manual scoring error. Something has gone radically wrong somewhere.