Saturday, October 29, 2011

The World Championship Cycle

Here is an interesting read on Seirawan's comeback into chess.
What does Yasser Seirawan think about World Championship cycle and matches?

I don’t like the FIDE cycle at all. I think it is foolish, without sense, which is negative for sponsors, the public and for the players.

Let us start with the obvious, chess does not have a “Premiere League,” a “Grand Prix” or a “World Cup.” We are without a ‘season’, which exists in most sports. What we do have is a “World Chess Championship.” In my view, this should be an annual event. Full stop! Once you think about this and reach the same conclusion, questions start popping into mind, such as “how would an annual cycle work?” As well as other questions.

So let us step back and think of how would we create an ‘annual cycle’ with the ‘tools’ that we have in hand today? First we come to the obvious question, “What would the final competition look like?” Should we have a traditional one-on-one match? Or should the final competition feature a tournament with a double round robin or quadruple round robin final? If you stop and choose one or the other, there will be complaints from one set of fans who prefer one type (strongly) over the other. Once that awareness seeps in, the answer is obvious, you have both.

Today, we have a strange cycle, to say the least. Let us be generous, and say that today’s cycle is a fixed two year cycle where we have ‘continental championships’ bringing ‘qualifiers’ who compete in a 128 player knockout event, the World Cup. The top three players qualify for a Candidates Tournament, alongside three highest rated players (other than the existing World Champion), the runner-up to the previous Championship match and a nominee ‘wildcard’ from the Candidate’s Tournament organizer. From the Candidate’s Tournament a ‘Challenger’ emerges and then a match is played. All of these events are staged in a two year cycle (or so). It is what it is, and these are the tools we have today. I think the cycle is stupid. Why?

First of all, let us think about the role of the World Champion. Let us presume that the World Champion is the strongest, most interesting chess player in the world. That the fans, the public, the media all love him/her and thrill to their every contest! How exciting! Well guess what, in this entire ‘two year’ cycle the World Champion does nothing! He/she does not play. Not in the National Championship, the Continentals, not in the Knockout, not in the Candidates. The World Champion waits. When a Challenger is ‘born’ at long last, the World Champion comes out of the cocoon to play a twelve-game match. Doesn’t that strike you as a silly system? It certainly does me!

Imagine, if Barcelona won the Premiere League in Spain and was declared so good, they wouldn’t have to play in the League anymore. No, the team would wait for a challenger, and Barcelona would play a ‘match’ against the challenger. That’s all. The public would be confused. It is with a similar confusion as this example that I, a professional player, look at the world of chess. We have a stupid system for determining the World Champion. If it makes no sense to me, then how can I sell the system to a sponsor? For chess it gets even worse!

Let us look at the World Chess Championship and the elite world of chess today. We all know and love Viswanathand Anand. We couldn’t ask for a better chess ambassador. Vishy is a prince and a deserved World Champion! No questions. But is he head and shoulders above his colleagues and nearest rivals? I don’t think that even Vishy would make such a claim. Rather the contrary, that he does feel that he is an elite player with a few very close rivals. Yet Vishy is separated out of this elite group and put on a pedestal and removed from playing.
My sentiments exactly. Go to Chessbase for more.

1 comment:

  1. i missed the ol' zonal, interzonal, candidates format. Thanks Kasparov! :(