Monday, January 4, 2016


People over 60 ask me sometimes why I don't play more often. In their best years they played chess in the same weekend on Fridayevening, Saturday and Sunday. My response that I have young children is always countered by stating that I have a wife for taking care of them. The emancipation of the woman in the Western world hasn't stopped in the last decade which I strongly support. Besides I really like spending time with my children so I don't complain.

Social movements but also a bigger flexibility requested by the employers, a much larger choice of leisure activities,... make our schedule very hectic. I assume that the closed double round championship of the Roeselaarse Torrewachters is a likely winner for being proclaimed the largest living dinosaur in Belgium. 12 players in the highest class are battling for 22 rounds on a slow interclubtempo (compared with the tempo used in most tournaments). The lower groups even use a slower tempo of 2 hours for 40 moves and 1 hour K.O. It is not a coincidence that only (?) youth, retired or (eternal) bachelors are participating.

10 years ago when I got acquainted with the faster fide tempo (1h30 minutes with 30 seconds increment) in the Bruges masters, people were still questioning the seriousness of such quick games. Today the question is rather how we can save further time. Double rounds on play-days are getting more and more popular. The new initiative of Wachtebeke pushes this to the limit by scheduling both rounds in the afternoon. The disadvantage of this format is that after a play-day players need to drive home in the middle of the night which can be dangerous.

The initiative launched by the organizers of the Zurich Chess Challenge organisatoren may have as goal to make professional chess more attractive but their solution can also help amateurs with their shrinking leisure time. However further speeding up the pace also contains certain dangers. The faster the tempo, the more we get closer to chess played online. Playing online avoids the (long) (noctural) drives. You don't have to wait to start a new game. You avoid the big jumps in ratings of opponents which is standard in a lot of Suisse tournaments as you can select yourself the opponent. So I am not surprised when I see clubplayers cancelling their subscription because they find online chess much easier and more attractive.

The only missing aspect of online chess is maybe a reliable rating. In fide-tournaments we have a much better control about the identity of our opponents. A funny recent anecdote was fides decision to gather the players on 1 location for the 1st fide world online ladies blitz championship. A first price of 3000$ is of course much more than what we see normally at stake for online chess.

Anyway few players really care about a reliable online rating. The quicker pace generates big osculations in the rating and chess is reduced to mainly a game. Fide has created more than 3 years ago official rapid and blitz ratings but a majority of the Belgian players still has none.
Ratings standard/rapid/blitz
We see a big difference between the top 20 players and the others. 12 of the top 20 have a rapidrating and 14 of the top 20 have a blitzrating. If we look at the top 100 then only 33 have a rapidrating and only 39 have a blitzrating. A topplayer wins of course easier prizes so that maybe explains why they are more interested.

Rapid and blitz tournaments are today only sporadically sent to fide for elo-calculation but that does not explain why a majority still has no rapid/ blitz rating after 3 years. If people were really interested then it is not difficult to find and play a tournament with rating-calculations. Even ignoring the rating-calculation I see little rapid or blitz activities in the clubs. In Deurne only 7 players played in the last couple of months more than 3 clubdays out of 13 in the Deurnse superblitzer while 21 participants played already 6 official games in the clubchampionship.

Maybe the most democratic system is TSM Open. Players can choose the tempo and are paired accordingly. Except the (slower) fide-tempo we can also choose for 1 hour K.O. However of the 14 players still 8 players preferred the (slower) fide tempo, 4 players didn't have any preference and only 2 players chose a quicker (newer) 1 hour K.O. system.

Everybody understands that quicker means losing quality of play. I fear if organizers will switch solely to a quicker tempo (let us assume fide allows those quick games for standard elo-calculation ) then a drop of memberships can be expected. Players are visiting the clubs to play a game of which afterwards can be stated that luck didn't play a role and creativity could be shown. So I believe a quicker tempo can only be an expansion of the supply and not a firm solution to solve the lack of time.

Even a game of 1 hour K.O. per player is already a different type of chess compared of what we play today in the interclub. This doesn't mean that there won't be funny games as some players will use the reduced time to take extra risks. This season I played in Open TSM a sharp game with 1 hour K.O. We were only able to start our game after 9 PM because of the annual meeting and I was not willing to play till 2 AM as I had to get up already at 7 AM.

Jan had some bad luck as I knew a few things about this Goringgambiet. Anyway I don't have the impression that he took the game as serious as in our other official games. Therefore I do think we need this extra competitiveness to keep the games interesting.  I rather miss that element when playing rapid or blitzchess. This was once more confirmed when I simply logged off my PC just before the finale tiebreak rapids between Magnus and Maxime. Even topplayers don't seem to care much about such games as can be detected in a funny response of Anand published on Chessbase: "I wake up in the morning and read about it." You can call me (us) old and conservative but I am not interested in quicker.


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