Monday, 18 April 2011

Championship Formats

It is fair to say a Round Robin event is the best format to decide a champion. Some may argue that a Double Round Robin is fairer still, while Quadruple and even Quintuple RR's have been used in the past. But while this may be the 'fairest', it may not be the most exciting.
If one player takes a big lead by the middle stages, the final rounds may be filled with quick draws at the top, and non-significant games at the bottom. This not only happens in chess of course, and is part of the reason why Australian (and US) sports have play-offs after the end of the regular season.
Therefore it makes sense (kind of) that the US Chess Championship has once again used a divisional round robin system to guarantee an exciting finish. Instead of one big RR, there are 2 8 player groups, with the top 2 finishers from each group qualifying for the play off stage. This way the final games will be the ones to determine the champion. Of course the drawback of this system is that it shifts the problem of 'nothing' games to the start of the tournament. It also increases the risks of quick draws in the preliminary rounds as players concentrate on qualifying, rather than winning.
So far 3 rounds have been played in this event, with Group A (headed by Kamsky) being fairly tight, while Group B (Sam Shankland leading this one) being a little more open. Full coverage can be found at the always excellent St Louis Chess Club site.

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