Thursday, 30 October 2008

Congratulations to Vishy Anand

What a fantastic match! I'm simply in awe of Anand for the great job he did. Much respect to Kramnik as well for scoring a win when all seemed lost and for hanging in there as long as he did.

It was my pleasure to live blog the entire match at After relaying every single move of every single game I feel like I played Anand and Kramnik myself! I have a new respect for how tough it must be mentally and physically for the players.

If you would like to congratulate both players on the match, then why not leave a message on the e-cards for both players that have been sponsored by

I think either Topalov or Kamsky will have a tough job parting Anand with his title!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Chess Ratings: A Necessary Evil?

Rating (noun): a classification according to order, rank or value ... an estimated value of a person's position (From Chambers 21st Century Dictionary).

Why do we have chess ratings? Shouldn't arguments over who is the best player be settled by direct competition across the board, not by a statistical calculation of probabilities (and I say that as a mathematics graduate).

I would not want to take anything away from Magnus Carlsen, but does the fact that his current live rating of 2791.6 is fractionally higher than Vishy Anand's of 2790.6 actually mean anything?

Arpad EloThe official "Elo" rating system, named after it's inventor, the Hungarian professor Arpad Elo (pictured), is a relatively recent phenomenon, only being officially adopted by FIDE in 1970. The chess world managed perfectly well without ratings before then, so why have them at all?

Of course, I'm partly playing devil's advocate here. Ratings are obviously useful to provide a benchmark to compare players' relative strengths, especially if they have never played one another before. But in a one-on-one adversarial contest like chess, surely ratings are wholly inadequate to describe the multitude of factors that come into play when two individuals with a variety of strengths and weaknesses face each other in combat?

It is my contention that chess ratings are being overused, misused and even sometimes abused, when they represent nothing more than a mathematical statement about players' past results. They assuredly do not prove that one player is better than another - only the estimated probability of the outcome of a game between them.

To contrast chess with another one-on-one contest, no-one cares if a boxer is ranked more highly than his adversary. It all comes down to what happens on the night. When standing toe-to-toe in the ring, 'rankings' count for nothing. So why are chess ratings given so much significance in comparison? In 1974, George Foreman would undoubtedly have been 'ranked' the best boxer in the world, but when Muhammed Ali floored Foreman in the eighth round of the Rumble In The Jungle, no-one questioned Ali's right to be known as the world champion.

Perhaps the answer is that being the 'world champion' and 'ranked the best in the world' are not always the same thing depending on the sport or game in question. Does it matter if the 'world champion' is not ranked number 1 in the world? If ratings matter so much in chess, why do we even have a World Chess Championship at all? Why not just declare the highest ranked player to be the world champion and save FIDE the expense of organising a world championship cycle?

This should never happen and with good reason. When Anand and Kramnik face each other in Bonn in October, they will be continuing a long chess tradition stretching back over a century with few interruptions, whereby a new champion must overthrow the old champion in a direct contest to prove his worth. Good luck to both players, and may the best (and not necessarily highest rated) man win!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

What is the best form of tie-break?

Sometimes things are just too close to call...

The US Women's Chess Championship in May this year ended in controversy as the title was decided in an 'Armageddon' tie-break match.

The Chief Organiser of the event, Tom Braunlich, recently posted an interesting examination of the different types of tie-breaks possible and suggested firming up the guidance regarding tie-breaks in the FIDE (and USCF and other national) regulations, which are presently pretty thin. His article is here.

I generally like the ideas presented, but I must admit to being baffled by one suggestion:

Two-Game Sudden Death - The entire time available for the playoff is used to play no more than two playoff games. One player is given white (by any method of chance). If the first game is decisive, the winner wins the playoff. If it is drawn, another game is played, using the same colors, in which black will have draw odds.

Why would anyone want to be Black in these games? I find it hard to believe him when he says that when he canvassed opinion among GM's they were evenly split on whether they would prefer to be White or Black under these circumstances.

However, it's a well thought out article and worth a read (although he's clearly touchy about the criticism that the US championships received as a result of the Krush-Zatonskih playoff).

What do YOU think is the best method?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Making chess friends

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with many fellow chess players, both in the blogosphere and at specific chess sites, but today was the first time I actually got to meet one of them in the flesh.

Waldemar is from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and is currently visiting my country, Wales. He was kind enough to take time out of his holiday with his friend Erik to meet up with my wife and myself in Cardiff for a chat and a drink. He is a qualified chess teacher and it was fascinating to hear what he had to say about the game. If you are interested, then check out his Chessedelic blog!

It was great to be able to make a friend through chess, and it got me wondering how many other chess bloggers have met up as a result of first discovering one another online?

Tell me your stories... :)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Moved home...

Hello world! Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated! My blog here has been dormant for a number of months, but I'm still posting semi-regularly at my blog which you can find here.

I also play correspondence games at and contribute regular news items. It's free to join, so if you're not already a member what are you waiting for? :)

If my ramblings are not frequent or hardcore enough to satisfy your chess urges, then try visiting, which is an excellent blog with improvement tips and video reviews of top chess games!

Also well worth a visit is GM Boris Alterman's blog which can be found here.

That's all for now, but watch out for more posts here - I might not abandon this blog completely after all!