Monday, 28 May 2012

Fairness versus Entertainment

The final (regular) game of the 2012 World Championship is underway, and I suspect the post mortems are already underway. Not so much about the result, but about the format. In the live commentary box, Vladimir Kramnik has made a number of suggestions in this regard, some of which I agree with, and some that may require more thought.
Kramnik suggested a 14 game match, instead of 12, although I do not think that goes far enough. In my opinion one of the main reasons for so many draws is that both sided opening preparation has been fairly matched. However, in a longer match (at least 16 games and preferably 24), there would be more opportunity to find a flaw in the opponents repertoire which would result in a wider choice of openings, at least in the second half. The other obvious reason for a longer match is that the players may be more inclined to take risks, knowing that there is more time to recover from a loss.
One local player suggested to me last week that giving black 2 points for a win would also encourage the players to take risks, but I'm not sure it has quite come to that.
The other issue is the players actually taking part. I'm not criticising either player, or their play, but in the back of their mind their may be thoughts concerning what the match represents. On the one hand it is for the World Championship, but on the other, it isn't a match to decide the best player in the world. This realisation may have taken the edge off the contest, as the match seems to have the feel of an exhibition, rather than a bitterly fought contest.
Of course this is all just speculation on my part, and the players themselves may tell a different story. The test of this may well be in the position that the players have now reached (around move 22). According to the commentators White has a small edge, and Anand of a previous age would very well try and push for a win.
Having just typed the previous paragraph, Anand offered a draw, which was of course accepted. So it looks as though both players are happy to go to rapidplay, which raises issues about what the match was really about.


Garvin said...

I think one idea that deserves consideration is that the match is a minimum of 16 games and then if the players are tied after 16 games, they play 2 game matches until there is a winner.

Obviously if someone has won the match before game 16, the remaining games are not played.

I think this has some benefits, the main one being is that it reduces the draw games till you win the title component, which can be an issue in 24 game matches.

But this idea, and many others, really do not address the main issue, which is why the matches are so short in the first place?

Shaun Press said...

The obvious answer is money. The shorter the match, the lower the overheads.
However I believe (based on other evidence I've seen), that the players themselves prefer shorter matches. Certainly when the length of the Olympiad is being discussed, players from lower ranked countries want more rounds, but the professional players favour fewer rounds. This is so they have the opportunity to play in more events, and have longer breaks between those events.
The same may be true here.