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Monday, December 5, 2016

Susan Polgar's Suggested Changes to World Championship

     Ms Polgar has long been persona non grata with the United States Chess Federation because of a dispute dating back to 2008. 
     Also, in February 1996, Polgar won the Women's World Championship for the fourth time, but FIDE had difficulty finding a sponsor for her title defense in 1998 and in 1999 arranged it under conditions to which she objected. 
     She requested six months to recuperate and prepare after having her first child.  She also objected to the match was to be held entirely in China, the home country of her challenger Xie Jun. That last condition was against FIDE rules. 
     When she refused to play under those conditions, FIDE illegally stripped her of her title. Polgar sued in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, for monetary damages and the restoration of her title. In March of 2001 the court ruled in favor of Polgar, ordering FIDE to pay her $25,000 in damages. However, since a new World Champion was crowned, FIDE could not restore her title. She then retired from competitive chess. 
     As a result, as she herself, stated on he blog, "Without being involved with any national federation or FIDE, I am able to raise $1.5 – $2 million per year for many years for SPICE and Susan Polgar Foundation projects. Therefore, it is obvious that chess is marketable if it is being done the right way!" Speaking of the current world championship situation she says, "The current system is boring and does not attract adequate sponsorship." 
    Even the current champ, Magnus Carlsen, has long believed there should be a new system for the world championship except he proposed a knockout system.  I can't agree with that proposal because it's been done before and the result was a disaster. Alexander Khalifman took the title in 1999, Anand in 2000, Ruslan Ponomariov in 2002 and Rustam Kasimdzhanov won the event in 2004.   Three of those guys, while they are strong players, just can't be mentioned in the same breath as Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Tahl, Spassky and Fischer.
     Polgar's suggested changes calls for 24 games: 

8 games with a classical time limit where each win would result in 3 points (1.5 point for a draw) 
8 games with rapid time limit where each win would results in 2 points (1 point for a draw) 
8 games with a blitz time limit where each win would result in 1 point (.5 point for a draw) 

The total points for the match would be 48 and one needs 24.5 points to win and in the event of a tie, an Armageddon game will be employed immediately after the blitz format to decide the winner. 

     This last was match was probably the most boring I have ever seen. Carlsen and Karjakin are probably the first world championship players who have been born out of the computer era. Today's GMs have grown up with most of their training done with computers and as a result, their play is very objective...and boring. Spectacular play has all but been eliminated in favor of engine driven evaluations. As Murray Campbell so aptly put it, “If you’re interested in winning, then you play the right move, even if it’s an ugly move or a computer move.” He also added that the computer leads to preparation that can lead to draws.
     Campbell's observations are right on target and while Polgar's suggestions are distasteful, they seem to be the only way of spicing up the matches and at least making them interesting again. Besides, as Polgar says, she knows how to raise money for chess. I doubt the people running FIDE will be interested though.

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