Friday, 14 December 2007

New Olympiad Rules

At it's most recent meeting FIDE approved a number of changes to the rules for the 2008 Olympiad. Indeed there had already been some changes passed at the 2006 Congress, and most of the recent changes were already well known to most players officials.
The 2008 Olympiad will only be 11 rounds. There has been an on going push to shorten the duration of the Olympiad, either by introducing 2 rounds a day, or by reducing the number of rounds. One of the big movers in this area is FIDE Secretary Ignateous Leong. Personally I'm not in favour of either proposal, and when FIDE asked the Federations about shortening the 2006 Olympiad to 13 rounds (from 14), the PNGCF voted no (as did the ACF). The move to shorter Olympiads is favoured by FIDE because it makes the tournament more attractive to potential organisers. However it should be noted that the winning bidders for the 2010 Olympiad promised as part of their bid to restore the number of rounds to 14. Whether this promise is remembered closer to the time is another question.
Consequently the pairings for the 2008 Olympiad will be accelerated for the first 2 rounds. I'm actually in favour of this, and not just because it helps the PNG team avoid it's ritual 4-0 beating in Round 1. Normally the Olympiad splits up into 4 groups after 3/4 rounds, with the big boys fighting it out at the top, and the minnows playing for pride at the bottom. Accelerated pairings should sort out the groups a little quicker.
Team sizes have changed with both Womens and Open teams consisting of 5 players, with 4 players per match and 1 reserve. Again I feel this is to benefit the organisers, as there will be about 100 less players in the Open to house and feed, while there may only be an extra 70 players in the Womens. And while the PNG team has only fielded the minimum 4 players over the last 2 olympiads it does make selections harder as we have a couple of players keen to play this time. While I'm in favour of increasing the size of the Womens teams, I'm not in favour of cutting the Open Teams.
The final change (and probably the most radical) is the change from gamour e points to match point scoring. This means that you get 2 points if you win your match, whether you win 4-0 or 2.5-1.5. Again I don't like this change, for a number of reasons. Firstly I think it will disadvantage the really good teams, as often the winning team got there by crushing a close rival 4-0. Instead you'll get to see a lot more grinding chess with one team winning on one board, and then trying to draw on the others. Also the spectre of "match fixing" will raise its head, as a team only needs to fix 1 game to benefit a rival rather than 3 or 4.
So I'm not in favour of most of the changes, although there is nothing that can be done about that now. Only after the next Olympiad will it be clear whether the changes were good or bad for the tournament, and its players.

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