So, the 2nd London Chess Classic that ended yesterday evening appears to have been a great success. Two fellow club members travelled up independently at the weekend, and at the Club last night confirmed that the whole thing had exceeded their expectations, which were already high. Other members had been following the event closely on-line, indicating that the grassroots interest has been high generally.
Not least among the interesting departures of this tournament was the introduction of 3 points for a win in an attempt to address the perennial complaint by the chess fraternity about what is ironically called “the grandmaster draw”. For generations people have moaned about the plethora of drawn games in top tournaments, not so much at the actual result as the anaemic nature of many encounters as, for example, two top players tacitly agree to conserve their energies against their closest opponents to concentrate on crushing weaker players in later rounds; fear of losing being greater than the will to win.
The football authorities tackled this problem by introducing a bonus point for winning a game. This has had the effect of seeing teams in almost every league match, increasing their efforts to win as the final whistle approaches, rather than being content to hang on to the point they have. In terms of points, a win and 2 losses is just as good as 3 draws. In rugby, a bonus point has been introduced for scoring a 4th try, which ensures that even a team winning, for example, by 3 tries to nil, with a hatful of penalty points etc. thrown in, will still be playing all-out for that often crucial extra point.
Now, it seems, it has slowly, very slowly dawned on chess organisers that this might be a good idea in tackling the problem of lazy play. Mike Basman, organiser of the world’s biggest chess competition, the UK Chess Challenge, introduced a version of this system some years ago. In this particular tournament, it is the secret of Magnus Carlsen’s clear 1st win, in spite of 2 early losses. This was more than compensated for by his ability to win 4 of the other games. The new tariff has not eliminated draws, as half the 28 games were drawn, but at least they were not feeble affairs.
Will we now see this idea introduced more widely in chess?
Here is the X-table of the tournament. Note that Nakamura and Kramnik were split on the basis of their individual result, another example of an increased emphasis being put on the win.