Sunday, 16 September 2007

Dunderheads in the East, Dunderheads in the West

I shall start by admitting that we all make typos, all of the time, but there are times when you simply have to check, double-check and make sure you get it right. It's Sunday morning and, as the vicar of St. BCM's, my sermon today is on the subject of getting it right when it matters...

Exhibit A: the pairings page at the official website for the world championship. I had a look at this to check when various people were due to play each other and was appalled to find that the pairings for the second half of the tournament were all over the place. In most cases they replicate the pairings of the first half, so that players are shown playing the same opponents with the same colours. For example, round eight looks OK but in round nine the same guys play each other again with the colours reversed. The first free day is listed as Sept 11 when it should be September 17. In short, muchos problemas. Anyway, I tried to be helpful and email the webmaster. I found the contacts page, which had a contact email address for the webmaster, so I penned him a quick line, in English and rusty Spanish, indicating the errors. But - as you've probably already guessed - the email bounced back to me, recipient unknown. Mas problemas... I wonder, could it happen... could one of the world championship contenders rely on what he found on the website, prepare for the game and then turn up to find himself facing someone entirely different. It couldn't - could it? Anyway, I have just extracted 'Speckled Jim' from my pigeon loft, attached a message to his claw and sent him on his way to Mexico City.

Exhibit B: the ACP proposal for the standardization of time controls. Now, for once, I shall not go banging on about how idiotic I think modern time controls are, how I loathe it when they are described as 'classical', etc, etc: I will merely draw your attention to section 1 of this document where the writer (Polish GM Macieja) lists the so-called 'long classical' option. He first lists it in time limit gobbledegook as (100'/40+50'/20+G-15')+30" ("the longer") and then attempts to decode as
[90 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for remaining moves, with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move 1]. Unfortunately it has become garbled in translation since the first talks about 100 minutes and the second 90 minutes: a typo which might be forgivable in many contexts, but here it goes to the heart of the matter. As lawyers like to say, time is of the essence. It seems to me that this failure to get it right completely undermines any confidence we can have in this entire proposal and the thought that has gone into it. Together with the vague generalisations about who wants new/fast and who wants old/slow time controls, it looks like a botched job.

P.S. Sorry to be so cynical on this bright and sunny Sunday morning but it is hard not to presume that the ACP has agreed to roll over and have its tummy tickled in this way in return for some FIDE bribe or other.


  1. I agree about the mess with regards to Time Controls. Alas I think we're going to see more of the 40/90 +30s/ 30 +30s in tournaments. It appears ACP has consumed the FIDE kool-aid and the wonderful one round a day swisses are soon to go the way of the dinosaur. I'm constantly amazed how these people can really believe that speeding up games is going to get them on T-V. To the layman and even to many chessplayers, people moving a bunch of wooden pieces around a board quickly is just as boring as it is watching them move it slowly. Chess is a wonderful activity, but it's not a spectator sport to those who aren't really into it. Next they'll suggest that Michaelangelo should have painted the Sistine chapel in G/5 time limits. Blitz-art I think they call it. |Steve Fairbairn

  2. A possible problem for the ACP may be that they have to try and please all their members all the time, which is hard when people want different things. In a normal trade union, it would be udnerstood that if you're in a minority on a given issue, that's just the way it goes and maybe you'll be in the majority in another. But that may not be the way chessplayers' minds work.

    Macieja does tend to go on a bit and in a convoluted way, if anybody recalls the piece he wrote on Chessbase during the 2006 match. I'd say what the piece was about but to be honest, I never worked it out...

    On pairings - I'm sure I read once that Graham Kelly (or it may have been Ted Croker) devised a way, when young, to have a whole fixture list for a 22-team division operate so that all teams played consecutively home and away. Is this right? If so, why are players playing with three blacks (or whites) in the first four games?

    Oh, si quieres que te ayuda, John, puedo intentar, pero mi castellano todavía está un poco limitado....

  3. You can have every team play alternately home and away in a 22-team division, but not if you also insist that all 11 games in one round are played simultaneously. The latter is an unimportant point for team sports where every team has its own stadium; it is vital for chess events in which a venue is hired for a fixed time.

  4. You're right - I wonder if I mis-stated the problem? It's not so much that you need to have consecutive home and aways but that you don't want anybody to have had two more homes than aways (or vice versa). I don't understand why this happens.

  5. Next they'll suggest that Michaelangelo should have painted the Sistine chapel in G/5 time limits

    Incidentally I should point out that this is a very poor example, as the Sistine Chapel - because it was painted on drying plaster - was, in fact, painted extremely quickly.

  6. But I think it took a little longer than the FIDE time controls