Sunday, 5 February 2012

Top competition makes top players

The title of this post comes from the sport of Rugby Union, specifically New Zealand Rugby Union. It was said as part of a debate about whether it was better to have restricted competitions, where the very best players did not play. The comment was an observation on where those same "best" players came from. It seems the stronger the competition the stronger everyone is, not just the best players. This isn't normally an issue in chess, where almost all competitions are open, or if they are restricted, restricted at the bottom, rather than the top. However I had a conversation yesterday that brought this issue to mind (NB I'll leave names out of it, although I'm pretty sure they read this blog and would even recognise themselves). It was about reasons for not playing in an event which you are likely to win. The reason given was that by doing so, you might deprive regular players of a change to win the event, and this may not be looked upon favourably by the regulars. While this is generous sentiment, if it was me I wouldn't be so worried. What might be taken away in prizes is more than compensated by the opportunity of the regulars to play chess at a higher level. Given the choice between easy prize money or a chance to be a better player I'd guess at least 90% would want to be a better player. And if popularity is the measure your looking for, I'm sure that playing is going to generate more kudos than staying away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From my experience I strongly disagree with your claim. People care about money much more than improvement. One of many examples is my recent experience of playing in the Spanish club in Sydney. I was coming there to play lightning because of my son, but given I was there I was playing as well. There was no much competition for me, the strongest player was probably about 2200. Every time I played I got the first prize, which was probably more than six times. The first couple times it was ok. Then people started complaining both to me directly and indirectly to organizers. I had at least 6 people telling me that I should not be playing in this competition because I am too strong, while only 1 was encouraging me to come. Note that organizers were pretty neutral, but general feeling of negativity was not encouraging. It is like you come and observe that a few people dropped out because they are just not ready to compete against stronger opposition. Recently we stopped coming.

A few years ago I played in the Russian club in Sydney. Again it was only because of my son. They were running a lightning competition where the first prize was a bottle of wine. The strongest player there was probably about 1800, which means it was very easy for me. First few times, they clearly did not know me, and were making comments like “how could you loose to this weak player”. Then it suddenly changed to “he should not be allowed to play”. The organizers started making special rules for me and at that point I decided that I had enough.

In some sense it was a repetition to what happened in Canberra when I played in the street chess. One of the regulars, who used to win most of the time, did not like me coming and winning the prizes. I do not want to go into details what kind of dirty tactics he used, I am sure you remember all this.

I hope you reconsider your claim. Imagine you do not really care too much about the money and just want to have a nice day. You come and play in a competition and suddenly you observe all this human behaviour. You got everything spoiled; your day is just ruined. Do you really want it?