Monday, December 7, 2015

Risks

Looking at the rules of our centuries-old game we notice a lot has changed during the last decades. Some changes were heavily criticized but we also realize that many adaptations were necessary to safeguard the future of chess. Many organizers are grateful of being able to use quicker timetcontrols to keep their tournaments not only attractive but also cost-efficient. The organizers of the top-tournament of Zurich even recently asked fide to allow faster controls to be accepted for standard chess.

A daring commercial concept is the millionaire tournament of Las Vegas in which big prizes were given partly sponsored by the high subscriptions. In US the tournament got a lot of publicity also by the mainstream-media so it definitely was a success. Today chess seldom gets positively in the news so maybe it makes sense to elaborate this model. Although I fear this will be more difficult in our conservative Europe.

Popularizing (again) chess to the general public is already for a longtime an objective in chess-politics. Allowing sofia rules and applying them in tournaments, naturally is part of this strategy. Nevertheless despite all the efforts we have no guarantee to see entertaining chess as in the crucial 7th round of the Millionaire tournament there was a lot of controversy after the game Luke McShane - Hikaru Nakamura which ended already after 9 disappointing moves in a repetition.

Chessplayers are very individualistic. I repeat myself but sometimes I have to as the recently published interview with Harika Dronova writes "But all the top players have different skills and I respect them for the hard work they put in it to entertain viewers with beautiful games". It is nonsense to claim that players choose moves to entertain the public. Now the whole interview doesn't please me.

Riskmanagement is a very important facet of chess which simultaneously also restricts players of playing real chess. We already saw an extremely negative example in the earlier mentioned game but it can also be more subtle. In my game against Marc Ghysels I chose for a long theoretical line which ended in a rather dry endgame.

I didn't want to play unprepared the sharpest lines and I just hoped that he didn't know very well this sideline. Marc had played in our previous encounters a Scheveningen, Pirc and French opening so I didn't find it unreasonable to make this small gamble.

It doesn't need to be long theoretical lines to see boring games. In the next interclub-game we left theory very early and still the game never became interesting as none was willing to take risks.

I and Philippe had several opportunities to sharpen the game but we just played it safe and swapped off most pieces. Above games will never entertain the general public.

Players can be convinced to take risks if there is an incentive. A good motivation is when there is a big ratinggap as the highest rated player is obliged to win not to lose many points. In the past I already showed a few examples of this in my article playing ad hominem. More recently I made a remarkable choice in my game of Open Gent against Hendrik Westerweele.

I correctly judged that taking back with the c-pawn was strong but you can clearly see from my next moves that I am not used to play this type of positions. So I am aware that a different game from my opponent could've produced an upset.

This article is not about if risks are healthy or not for your rating. Risks increase the entertainment value. This quality is necessary to please the public and attract sponsors. A big ratinggap only exists in a limited amount of games so for the majority we need extra support. An adapted rewarding mechanism, special tiebrake-systems, beauty-prizes, sofia rules... help but don't bring absolute success. On the other hand we have to avoid that a well fought draw is punished (too hard). Organizers don't have it easy with the very limited goodwill of the participants.

Brabo

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