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Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Hated Round Robin

     For those that do not know, GM Greg Serper regularly writes very interesting articles for Chess.com under the username Gserper. His current FIDE rating is 2522 and he has played no rated games since 2008. His USCF rating is 2592 and his last rated event was when he won an open tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, also in 2008. He currently lives in the state of Washington. 
     Serper (September 14, 1969) was born in Tashkent in the former USSR republic of Uzbek and learned to play chess at the age 6 from his grandfather. In 1985, at age 16, he started studies at Moscow's famous Botvinnik-Kasparov Chess School. During his military service he played in the 27th World Junior Championship held in 1988 in Adelaide, Australia where Joel Lautier emerged victorious ahead of Vassily Ivanchuk, Serper and Boris Gelfand on tie-breaks. 
     In January 1996 he moved with his family to the United States. In 1999, Serper played in the US Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah. That tournament was an odd one...Group A consisted of Boris Gulko, Alex Yermolinsky, Dmitry Gurevich, Larry Christiansen, John Fedorowicz, Sergey Kudrin, Igor Shliperman and Alex Shabalov. 
     Group B was made up of: Greg Serper, Yasser Seirawan, Joel Benjamin, Alexander Ivanov, Nick de Firmian, Gregory Kaidanov, Roman Dzindzichashvili and Ben Finegold. 
     In the semi-finals Seirawan defeated Gulko and Serper defeated Yermolinsky. In the finals Gulko defeated Serper. 
     But, none of that is the point, except to show that in his day Serper was a strong GM and is well qualified to speak on matters pertaining to chess. When I came across one of his recent articles (September 30, 2019) at Chess,com titled “Round-Robin Chess Tournaments Are Dead!‎” I was somewhat astounded. I did not know that. 
     Serper quoted GM Vladislav Tkachiev who was Kateryna Lagno’s second in the 2019 women's Candidates Tournament. It was a round robin and Lagno tied for third place, but lost any real chances of winning halfway through. This prompted Tkachiev to write on Facebook, “This format for the Candidates' Tournament doesn’t have any right to exist. It is an inhuman and sadistic experiment over the participants and all others included.” 
    I don’t think round robins are an “experiment”, and am not sure why players feel this way about them. If I had to travel to Europe for a knockout tournament and got eliminated in the first round, it would seem like a wasted trip. On the other hand, if it was a round robin and I spent 2-3 weeks mired in last place I guess that would be bad, too. One advantage I see in favor of the knockout format is that it avoids all the draws and there will be a clear winner. 
     Draws have always been part of chess and they certainly have their place, but nobody likes short GM draws, non-games if you will. If however, you are a pro they have their place because making a living playing chess is a struggle. If a quick draw guarantees paying some bills then you can’t blame a player for taking it. It’s no fun for the spectators or organizers, but understandable from the players’ point of view. 
    There’s no real point to this post. I just thought the GM’s opinions on round robins was interesting. 

Further reading…  
Something Old, Something New‎ by Batgirl
Articles by Greg Serper

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