Sunday, 8 May 2011

Short matches = long playoffs?

Due to my habit of posting once a day (meaning I need to squeeze this post in before midnight), I won't be able to cover the finish of the regular games in the FIDE Candidates matches. And of course by the time most people read this post (in the morning), the games will have been decided. However 3 games have been finished (one just seconds ago). In the only decisive match so far, Gelfand goes through to the next round have beaten Mamedyraov 2.5-1.5. Grischuk v Aronian and Radjabov v Kramnik are both headed to playoff matches, with both matches seeing 4 draws. The only game still going is Topalov v Kamsky, with Topalov needing to win the stay alive.
While the Radjabov v Kramnik game had some fight in it, the 17 move draw between Aronian and Grischuk makes me wonder if both players decided to save some energy and head for the playoff matches instead. Is this an effect of short matches (2 or 4 games), where if there isn't a decisive lead going into the final game, then a draw is good for players? My reasoning is that rather than risk it all on one game, players prefer to risk it over more games, even if the time limits are faster. Certainly when the players are evenly matched (as we have here) this might make sense. And when the players aren't evenly matched, the stronger player would be favoured over more games (rather than risk a single game upset). So while short game matches may be a necessity due to financial reasons they almost guarantee that the faster games count more than the longer ones.

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