Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Draw Issue in Chess Rears its Head Again: No Armageddon Playoff or Modern Point System Results in 4 Spice Cup 2008 Champions

At the 2008 Spice Cup Grandmasters Onischuk, Pentala, Kritz, and Akobian all tied for 1st place with 5.5 points each. By order of tie-breaks the co-champions were listed in the following order:

Pentala, Harikrishna g IND 2668 5½
Onischuk, Alexander g USA 2670 5½
Kritz, Leonid g GER 2610 5½
Akobian, Varuzhan g USA 2610 5½

On the header reads "GM Harikrishna Pentala of India won the 2008 SPICE Cup!" yet all things considered, each of the 4 are considered co-champions and are listed as so on many notable blogs.

Out of 45 total games, 27 were draws over 9 rounds - which is a staggering 60% of all games played. Results like this really emphasize the point that draws in tournament play need to be managed better, either through Armageddon blitz or a point system like the one used at the recent Bilbao 2008 chess tournament where players were awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.

While there was just over 50% of draws at Bilbao in terms of total games, there was definitely a clear winner as the players who could win were rewarded for doing so. Players who drew many games were punished in the total points pool, which is how it should be. Even having a controversial Armageddon blitz is much better in my opinion than having 4 people all sharing first place. A 9 day tournament needs a clear champion!

I don't mean any disrespect to the GM's involved - obviously they were only playing under the rules of the tournament, and for the 4 who tied for first that's a good job on their end - but the tournament organizers themselves need to seriously re-think the rules they have people compete under next time around if they want to maintain public interest in the tournament.

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