How to Defeat Aging

Whenever anyone tells you that you’re going to get worse at something as you get older, it’s bullshit.

I know that sounds simplistic, but for the most part it’s true. Let me explain why:

We are used to seeing famous superstar athletes get worse as they age. Eventually their skills erode to the point where they retire. This happens to everyone, whether it’s Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Roger Federer. For some athletes it happens a little earlier, and for some it’s a bit later, but it’s usually sometime around the age of 35-40.

The same thing happens in chess. Sometime around the age of 40-45, players seem to lose a step. There are exceptions of course, Vishy Anand has been killing it lately, but for the most part this is true. Even in his case it would be true, as while he’s still insanely good, he’s gone from the World Champion and a fixture in the World Top 3, to having to fight to stay in the top 10.

The above seems to disprove everything I’ve said about aging. I’ve just given you some clear cut examples of athletes and sportsmen who aged, and whose skills degraded as a result of their age.

Why is all of it bullshit? The reason that you can get better at ANYTHING is because you are probably not a world class athlete.

I can improve at literally anything. I’m currently 39, and by the time I’m 45, I could be better at any single thing I want to, if I put the energy towards it.

I could be better at chess, all I have to do is work harder. The reason Anand’s skills degrade a little bit is because he has already worked as hard and intelligently as any human can possibly work at chess. Therefore the only thing left is that age will slow him down very slightly. He has nothing left of himself to give. Almost none of us have tapped that much of our potential in any field, and therefore we can still improve.

I’ve spent the last few years studying very little chess. If I wanted to gain 50-100 points of strength in chess, I’d just have to intelligently devote hours every day to that goal. Maybe if I was younger it would be easier, but I could still do it if I really wanted to.

The same thing is true in athletics. I am in the best shape of my life at 39 years old, and I am sure that if I wanted, I could be in even better shape at 45. While I owe CrossFit for my current athletic ability, I have not taken it so seriously that I have reached my peak potential.

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If I wanted to get stronger and more fit, I would just have to work harder. My age might mean that I have to work a little bit harder than if I was 25, but there is absolutely no doubt that I could be better in five years than I am now.

I write this because I see age used as an excuse a lot of the time. I don’t want to speak for people who are significantly older than me, because I don’t have that life experience yet. But I know that at this point, nothing stands in the way of improvement. I could learn languages, I could get better at chess and I could literally learn anything in the world and get much better at it.

For some people it may be that they just don’t have the time to devote to improvement due to work and other commitments, or they could have suffered a major injury that holds them back. But it’s almost certainly not their age stopping them, and it’s not what’s stopping me. When I don’t improve at something it’s always that I don’t want it bad enough.

Unless you are an elite athlete or performer, and have given nearly everything you could have to your art for many years, you can get better at anything if you want it badly enough.

10 Reasons to Watch the 2018 PRO Chess League

The PRO Chess League is about to start again, and the 2018 season is going to be AMAZING! Here are ten reasons why you should definitely call in sick from work on January 18th and stay logged on to chess.com for 14 hours straight:

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  1. Even more of the top players in the World are in the league:

Last year we had 11 players rated above 2700 in the league. This year we have 17, with the potential for more to join throughout the season.

Here’s a list of some of the big stars, and the teams they represent, in 2018:

Magnus Carlsen: Norway Gnomes

Fabiano Caruana: Saint Louis Arch Bishops

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: Marseille Migraines

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: San Jose Hackers

Viswanathan Anand: Mumbai Movers

Hikaru Nakamura: Seattle Sluggers

Hou Yifan: Montreal Chessbrahs

2. We have a brand new website!

Please go check out the new PRO Chess League website! It will have almost anything you could possibly wish to know about the league. You can follow your favorite teams, there will be a live scoreboard at the top and there will be post match recaps. The fans asked for this and we listened.

3. There are fewer teams, which means that every match will be more competitive

Last year the PRO Chess League had 48 teams, with some of the teams being much weaker than the strongest teams. This led to a lot of lopsided and uninteresting matches. It also resulted in too much action for fans to follow.

This year we decided to cut the field down, and also create qualifiers to determine our new teams. This time around it’s very unlikely that you’ll see complete wipeouts, as every team is capable of putting together a lineup near the 2500 rating cap.

The bottom two teams in each division will also be removed from the league and have to qualify again in a very competitive qualification process (we had 40 teams fighting for just 8 spots this year!). That means that even teams who are eliminated from the playoffs, will still have something serious to fight for.

 

4. There are an insane number of GM’s competing

While there are 17 players rated above 2700, we also have more than 150 GM’s on team rosters. It’s an average of nearly 5 GM’s per team!

5. Lots of young stars are competing

Young superstars like Sam Sevian, Awonder Liang, Nihal Sarin, Jeffery Xiong and Kirill Shevchenko are competing this year. It’s going to be great watching them face off against experienced Grandmasters on a weekly basis.

6. The commentary is going to be AWESOME!

We have four new regular commentators in 2018:

IM Danny Rensch

WGM Jenn Shahade

GM Robert Hess

GM Ben Finegold

They will all get their own weekly slots that they will share with a co-host. Check out all of our commentators here.

7. There is going to be a Fantasy Contest EVERY WEEK!

Each week you will have the chance to pick 16 players from that week’s matches. The format will be that you’ll pick one player from each board (1 through 4) from each division. It’ll be quick, easy, but also a really fun way to follow your favorite players, or perhaps make some new favorites during the season.

There will of course be prizes, in the form of premium Chess.com memberships, every week!

8. This year we have an All-Star Game

Using an exciting format, with $5,000 in prizes, fans will be treated to a one of a kind blitz battle to determine which division has the best four players. Read here for more details

9. It will be much easier to follow your favorite players

Last season some fans had difficulty finding the games of their favorite teams. That won’t ever be a problem in 2018, as when you watch the live show on chess.com/tv, there will be links you can click on that will automatically observe the games of any team you wish.

10. We have 5 new teams from our Qualifier

Our PRO Chess Leauge Qualifier welcomed 8 teams into the league. 3 of those teams were already in the league last season (Minnesota Blizzard, Mumbai Movers and Seattle Sluggers), but 5 teams will be getting their first taste of PRO Chess League Action. Those teams are:

Chengdu Pandas: Our first Chinese team, managed by GM Li Chao, and led by 2750 rated Yu Yangyi, and near 2700 players Wang Yue and Ni Hua. They are sure to be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Australia Kangaroos: A well balanced team from Australia with many well known Aussie players. Anton Smirnov is a 17 year old GM and will be getting some great experience for the team. GM Max Illingworth, who has a cool Patreon page, will also be part of the team

Estonia Horses: Perennial U.S. Championship Contender, Alex Onischuk, is playing for the Horses. Also the well known chess announcer and streamer, GM Sergei Shipov is part of the team. They are managed by former World Championship Candidate, GM Jaan Ehlvest.

Armenia Eagles: The Eagles have a whopping 8 GM’s on their roster. With a very motivated manager, Artak Manukyan, they have managed to sign lots of strong Armenian talents.

Oslo TrollsThe Norway Gnomes made the PRO Chess League finals last year, but many of their members jumped ship to join the new Norwegian team. The Trolls are a younger group of players, with lower ratings than their Gnome counterparts, but you can see that they are a hungry and motivated group.

On top of all of these reasons we will have a brand new format of matches held twice per season, called Super Saturday. This will pit teams from different divisions against each other in a sixteen team free for all. We will also have some of the most well known chess streamers taking part in the league, such as Eric Hansen, John Bartholomew, Kevin Bordi, Andrey Ostrovsky, Andrew Tang, and many more.

Stay tuned for even more exciting details to be announced as the season progresses, and tune in on January 18th for the first round of action. Our normal match day will be held on Wednesdays, but our first match is on a Thursday to coordinate with the rest day at Tata Steel.

I Must Crush my Mom at Scrabble

I have no idea why I’m telling this story, but it’s pretty demented so that’s a good reason.

When I lived in Philly with my mom, me and a friend would occasionally play Scrabble (Ben Johnson, host of the International Sensation: Perpetual Chess Podcast).

While we played my mom would be going about her business, but occasionally peek over to make fun of our plebian words and tell us how bad we were. In some families this might be considered child abuse, but in ours it’s another way of showing affection.

Mom: “Did you seriously just use an S to play the word CATS?”

I would ask to play her, and every time the answer was the same “Haha, sorry but it’d just be no fun to play you, you don’t even know the 2 letter words, you wouldn’t stand a chance”.  Of course she was right.

It’s possible she was still mad about a controversial incident from early in my childhood. She was going to play with her friends and asked me to count the tiles for them, probably to give me something to do. I came downstairs and told her 

Me: “There were 98 letters”!

Mom: “are you sure? There should be 100?”

Me: “Oh yeah but two of them didn’t have letters on them so I threw them in the duck.” (Child slang for heating duct).

I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to not just use a simple trash can, but apparently these blank tiles really bothered me. And while my mom found it super amusing and retold the story for years, it also ruined their game.

When I grew older and moved to New York, I happened upon the book “Word Freak”, about a writer who decided to immerse himself in the Scrabble world. It was a pretty awesome read, and I remembered all of the abuse my mom hurled my way and decided I’m going to crush her at Scrabble.

So I did the normal thing and downloaded some software to help me memorize words. I holed myself up in my bedroom for about a week and quickly learned all the 2 letter words, then decided I had to know every 3 letter word. I also learned maybe the top 500-1000 most popular 7 letter words and maybe the top 200-300 8 letter words. I studied a bunch of important words that had key high scoring Scrabble letters in them: J, X, Q, Z. Lastly I played a bunch of training games on the Internet Scrabble Club, and could tell I was at least halfway decent. I was now ready to crush my mother.

I called her up and said “Oh hi mom, I thought I’d come visit for the weekend, are you busy”.

Mom: “No, it’d be great to see you!”

So I got on the train but I was there for one reason and one reason only: for the Ultimate Family Scrabble showdown.

I got home and pretended to just be there to hang out. Maybe we ate dinner, chatted for a bit, and then I casually asked “Oh hey mom, maybe we could play a quick game of Scrabble?”

I got the same answer about how I’m too much of an idiot to play against her, but somehow I convinced her to play. I didn’t want to sound like I was studying too hard, but I said something like “Oh I think I know most of those 2 letter words, so it should be fun”.

I completely destroyed her!! Very early in the game I played a relatively obscure 7 letter word…something like: ENTASIA. Basically a word that no one who doesn’t specifically study Scrabble has ever heard of. I won by almost 200 points. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She probably already realized it, but I had to let her know “Oh yeah, I’ve been studying a bit’.

She immediately challenged me to a rematch and played a much more defensive and strategic style. In the first game she didn’t take me seriously so left me a lot of openings, but now she knew she had to be careful and while my word knowledge was decent, I wasn’t really great at strategy yet. She ended up winning Game number 2. We went back and forth and I think I was ahead 4 games to 3 before I went home like a conquering hero.

Note that my mother, while taunting me for my subpar Scrabble skills, was always very supportive of both me and my sister in any games we pursued, and was always so proud when we became really good at them. It was fun to finally be able to compete with her in this game that I had seen her playing with her serious gamer friends for all her life.

I have since played one official Scrabble tournament three years ago and managed to win it (the Beginners section because it was my first time). It will probably be my last one, but who knows…maybe if someone taunts me enough I’ll lock myself in my room for a few weeks and play once more.

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Live shot of me crushing a 10 year old in my only Scrabble tournament

 

 

 

It’s Not a Bad Thing if Someone Calls You Racist

I think there’s almost nothing more important in this world than not being racist, not being sexist and not being a total asshole. So when someone suggests that you are racist, that person is doing you a favor and pointing out the specific things that are stopping you from reaching those goals. It feels bad at the moment, and will probably be followed by a lot of defensiveness, but what you do next is what matters.

Are you going to defend yourself to the death and insist that there is no way that anything you said was even slightly racist, or are you going to stop and think for a minute that maybe this person, who has experienced institutionalized racism for their entire life, might have a point?

The funny thing about it is that a common complaint among white people who have been called racist is that calling someone racist isn’t helpful in advancing the discourse. Instead they suggest that it’s more helpful for people of color to try to politely educate white people on why what they did was racist. The issue with that is that it’s hard enough living in a racist society for all of your life, and it becomes even harder if you have to deal with racist things as politely as possible. They are doing you a favor when they call you racist because they are telling you “You have done something offensive”. However the burden of learning what you did wrong falls on you, not them.

If you care enough about not being racist, you’ll think very hard about whether they have a point or not, and if you think that you are the exceptional case in which the racism claim was actually insane then that’s great for you, but most of the time you are probably wrong.

I was specifically called sexist when I was about 22 years old, for a comment I made about women’s tennis, and the reasons why it was more popular than other women’s based sports (I think I said it had to do with the attire and attractiveness of the women who played). The woman who called me sexist was so upset that she stormed out of the room. I honestly don’t remember my exact statement, and my reaction when being called sexist was “you’re a crazy idiot”, which all of my male friends who were in the room immediately agreed with. Now over fifteen years later, I feel pretty confident that whatever I said was indeed sexist. Unfortunately I didn’t learn from it at the time, and because my non female friends (obviously world class experts on sexism) backed me up, I didn’t even try to think deeper about it.

This is a common pitfall when you are called racist, because it’s normal that many of your white friends will tell you that you are totally not racist and the accusations are insane and without any merit.

A few years ago I wrote a blog in which I made a comparison between women’s based prizes in chess tournaments to affirmative action. My blog was called racist by at least one person, maybe two. At the least what I wrote was very insensitive, and it’s made me realize that just because I usually have the typical beliefs that a non racist person is supposed to have, it doesn’t mean that I’m immune from doing and saying some pretty offensive things.

I’ve had too many overly strong opinions on whether girls should play in all-girl chess tournaments or not. The entire time I wrote pieces about this subject, I never stopped to realize that I have no experience in what it’s like to be a girl playing in a tournament where 90% of the players are boys. I hope I wouldn’t make this same mistake today.

I think I’ve learned a lot by following a few particular people on Twitter. One good follow is @absurdistwords. His Twitter bio reads “I try to foster rational discourse on those sensitive subjects that divide us”. There are people out there who are making an a serious effort to educate the public on what racism or sexism looks like, and I think I’ve become less racist by following and paying attention to them.

So it’s really not a bad thing to be called racist. Just like me, you probably aren’t some special angel white person who doesn’t have a racist bone in their body. Be grateful for your free lessons on how to be more sensitive to people of color.

Chess Coaches Should Stop Taking Credit for Their Students Achievements 

It happens almost every time an American kid does well in anything:

1. There are Facebook posts by one or many coaches who have been part of this child’s chess life, always making it clear in some way, perhaps with just a passing sentence, that they coached them.

2. An article gets written on USChess

3. One or two coaches aren’t mentioned, or aren’t mentioned as the “main coach” and they start freaking out and sending annoying emails and making comments at the kids parents or other places online.

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The whole situation is weirder given that so many of the top kids literally have five or more coaches that they work with from time to time.

Here is my advice on what to do when one of your students wins anything:

Congratulate them privately for sure, and even publicly if you want. It’s natural to be excited about the success of one of your students! But when you congratulate them don’t mention that you had even the slightest role in their successes by coaching them. If you are truly such a great coach, they will tell everyone for you.

Famed author and coach, Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard said this about the subject:

“I personally don’t take credit for the success of my students, but I also understand that people have families and need to get more students”.

I don’t want coaches to cost themselves business by being “too polite”, although I don’t think publicly declaring that you are someone’s coach has any effect on whether you will get more students. At the same time I’m not saying that you never have to mention to anyone that you coached some strong and accomplished players. What I’m saying is right at the moment when they’ve had one of their greatest triumphs, don’t do anything to draw attention away from them, and don’t use their success as a prop to build your name.

I’d suggest posting something like “Congratulations to XXX, an amazingly hard worker who deserves all of her success!” Don’t write “Congratulations to my student XXX! We have been studying hard for the last year, he totally deserves this victory, and I’m honored to be part of this journey”. In one case you are praising only the student. In the other case, you are praising yourself and the student and it comes off as incredibly tacky.

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I have coached a lot of kids and run a program called the US Chess School, in which hundreds of top American kids have come through the program.

I admit that when kids who have attended the school do well, I publicize their achievements on our Instagram page, as we are loyal to our campers and want to make sure their successes are heard far and wide. It’s an added bonus that while we never specifically mention our program in these congratulatory posts, it still makes us look good.

But my honest opinion is that my efforts coaching at the US Chess School have had a relatively small effect on any individual student. Sometimes they win something right after a camp and their parents send us an email thanking us, perhaps thinking that our camp was to reason for their success.

It wasn’t. Kids don’t magically get better during a one week chess camp. The kids who come to our camp are already extremely strong and very capable of winning major titles without us. It’s not hard to just pick out the top rated kids, invite them to a camp, and then start taking credit when they do well. Of course they did well, they are the top rated kids in the United States! I’m not going to say it’s completely impossible that something stuck with a kid that happened during one of our camps and indirectly led to a win here or there, but most of the time it’s just a total coincidence.

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An example lesson from the U.S. Chess School

A longtime personal coach is likely to have more influence than a coach at a one week training session, but I still believe that almost all of the credit should go to the student. When a kid wins something it’s the hard work that this kid has put into chess for so many years of their life. It’s the energy and nerves that they expended during the tournament. It takes a strong character and work ethic to win a major chess championship.

In most cases these kids were probably going to be really good with or without their coach. Maybe the coach helped a little and maybe in some cases they even helped a lot, but who really knows? The only thing we do know is that the kid worked very hard for their achievements and that a great coach lets their student take all the glory.

At this time I would like to thank the following coaches who I believe directly helped my chess development and for whom I remembered various lessons they taught me decades later:

Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin: He taught me the Dragon, which I played for a large part of my career. He also guided me towards the Tarrasch French which is probably the reason why my favorite move to face when I play 1.e4 is 1…e6. I was only about 1700-1800 when we worked together, but I believe he helped me to form a good foundation for the future.

Steve Shutt: “Mr. Shutt” was the coach at Masterman high school and his major sacrifices allowed me to play in many tournaments and matches that I may not have been able to otherwise. He would literally drive us home from matches at 10-11pm on school nights. His chess program also allowed me to spend time on chess during school every day, which was obviously very useful.

International Master John Donaldson: I had only a few lessons with him but he taught me a lot of really useful opening ideas that I still use today and used a lot when I was younger. Most memorable are the ideas in the Panov Botvinnik. He also is the main driving force behind the Mechanics Institute, where I have played many memorable events.

GM Mark Dvoretsky: I’ve learned a ton from him and have had one or two lessons with him in person, but in reality I learned the most from his books. I love his scientific approach to chess that leaves room for psychological factors as well. In my opinion his chess books are the absolute best ever written. I’d be remiss to not mention his weakness of taking too much credit for the success of his students.

GM Gregory Kaidanov: He taught me lots about practical chess which I still think about today. For instance the idea that you should never spend more than 15 minutes on a single move. He also taught me some lesser known rules of thumb that I find very useful, but they are top secret so I can’t share them here.

And of course I have to mention the best coach of all, FM Michael Shahade. Without the various lessons he sprinkled throughout my childhood, I would never have been close to as strong as I am today.

I probably forgot someone, so please send your angry letters about how you didn’t get the credit you deserve in the form of a comment on this blog.

I Just Want to Watch Grown Men Give Each Other Brain Damage Without All This Political Crap!

Is it too much to ask that I can’t just sit on my sofa while a bunch of grown men destroy each other’s brain cells for money and entertainment, without subjecting me to one minute of watching them kneel during our national anthem?

They are paid to slowly kill each other so that they are vegetables when they reach old age. They aren’t paid to make patriotic Americans like me think about annoying stuff like racism and police brutality.

First of all if you want to protest, you need to do so on your own time, not at your place of work. Now I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure this remains true even if your bosses specifically tell you that you have the right to protest at work.

Secondly, wouldn’t it be appropriate for these athletes to make their statement in a more respectful way? I can think of at least hundreds of other ways they could make the same point, and get maybe 1/1000th of the media coverage. That way they could say all they wanted about racism, police corruption, inequality and the school to prison pipeline, without anyone actually having to listen to it.

Yes, I agree that there actually is racism in this country, but there is no worse time to discuss that than right before a football game. As a white man, who is therefore a major expert on this subject, racism seems like the kind of thing we can just talk about whenever it’s convenient. But definitely not before a football game or right after an innocent black man is shot and killed by a police officer that will be acquitted of all charges six months later. These are all definitely the wrong times.

Also why is Colin Kaepernick protesting when he so clearly lives a blessed life? He is a millionaire athlete and is living the American dream, what does he have to complain about? We all know that when someone protests something, they are specifically protesting only the effect it has on them personally. For instance I only donate to organizations that help end World Hunger when I’m really hungry and all the pizza places are closed.  Therefore shouldn’t it only be the poorest Americans protesting inequality so we can safely ignore them like usual? I just don’t get it.

As you all know, our National Anthem is not a song in which we celebrate to show pride in our country. No, the National Anthem is actually a tribute to our military forces, and if you don’t do exactly what you are supposed to do (stand tall with your hand over your heart), you are specifically disrespecting the military. What could be more American than a song in which everyone has to behave exactly the same way while it’s playing or they will be ostracized! The main exceptions to this rule are obviously if you are at home watching a sports game, in a bar watching a game, or literally anywhere except at the stadium during the game. The anthem actually doesn’t really count unless you are physically there when it’s being played. It’s a weird rule I know, but I didn’t make it! Check out more about how insulted all veterans are here. Or here. Or here. God they all hate him so much, it’s painful to read!

Now I know what you’re thinking: “The guy who made the Anthem was a slave owner and even included verses about slavery in the Anthem itself! So why should we be surprised when black Americans are hesitant about honoring the anthem?”

Well there’s an easy answer to that: Slavery was a long time ago and almost everyone owned slaves, so it was kind of normal. Or as they say these days: NBD.

I know I’d gladly stand to salute a song that was written by someone who thought it was normal to enslave my great grandparents, it’s just too bad that one of those songs isn’t our anthem and I haven’t had the chance to experience that reality. Oh well!

Honestly, if you think our country is so bad, why don’t you just leave! It’s obvious that if there is something wrong with your nation, the brave and honorable thing to do is to leave right away. As an added bonus I’ve found that it’s really easy to just pack up your life and move to another country. It’s a win win for everyone!

Past protests such as the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Riders, or many of the other nonviolent actions in the 1950s and 60’s, led to massive changes to help Civil Rights in the United States. It’s interesting that at the time of those campaigns, all of them were wildly unpopular among white adults! The people in that era thought these methods of protesting were extremely inappropriate and ineffective. Of course those critics have all been proven wrong as time has passed.

What I’d like to tell you today is that this time, we are actually right! This time the systemic racism that the black community is experiencing, is actually not worth protesting, especially in a way that makes me think about it for more than 5 seconds when I’m just trying to watch people who will probably get brain damage while entertaining me. It’s going to be so great in thirty years when I’m an old man and I read the history books and they say:

“Non Violent Protests at NFL games made people aware of structural racism and helped mobilize the nation to confront these issues and make major changes to our laws and legal structures, but it should have been done more respectfully”.

Then finally Colin Kaepernick and all you snowflake SJW’s will have learned your lesson.

Random Pairings Make Chess Players Go Crazy

At the Chess.com Isle of Man International, which is taking place right now, the entire chess world’s brains exploded when the first round of the Open used a random pairing system, and Caruana and Kramnik got paired.

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All of this shows me the lack of imagination in the chess world.

How many open chess tournaments do we have each year? Hundreds, maybe thousands even? How many of them use the exact same pairing system? It’s pretty close to all of them.

So we have every single tournament in the world, doing the exact same thing every time. I’m going to admit that the Swiss System is a great system, and works perfectly fine as the standard pairing system for an open event. However the problem with the chess community is:

Almost any change causes everyone to freak out

Is a random pairing system unfair? Absolutely not. The results of the random draw for one particular event may be unfair, but over the long run it will turn out to be pretty fair. Everyone worries so much about Carlsen, Kramnik and how important their pairings are, but there are hundreds of players in the tournament and they matter too.

If there are 100 players, why should player 51 automatically have to play the top seeded player when nearly half the field is lower rated than her?

Why should someone ranked 70th have to play a tougher opponent than someone ranked 100th? Is that objectively fair?

This is not a closed event, and I think it’s reasonable for every player to have equal rights from the start of the event. There is nothing more equal and fair than the pairings being randomly determined in the early rounds of an event (within a scoregroup).

The Swiss System is inherently slightly unfair. Over a short sample of tournaments it will likely be MORE fair than the results of randomized pairings, but over a long sample of tournaments the randomized pairings will be fairer to all players in the event (not just the top ones).

The issue is that chess players cannot see past the one individual tournament, and therefore they are happy to accept some small degree of inherent unfairness in order to assure that any one tournament isn’t too affected by “lucky pairings”.

Let me emphasize that once again I agree that the Swiss System is a fine system, and I’m not suggesting that it gets thrown into the trash heap. It’s completely normal that most Open events should continue to use it. But while I have your attention, let me try to improve upon the Swiss System:

Computers are pretty smart these days. It shouldn’t be difficult to set up a tournament so the first round or two is random, and then the computer could go out of it’s way to “equalize” the strength of opponents that people within a score group have faced throughout the tournament. So for example, if Kramnik and Caruana play in Round 1, then the computer will do what it can to slowly make their pairings easier during the remainder of the tournament. Something like this could be even more fair than the typical Swiss Pairings. Instead of using a system that ignores any luck of the draw from the previous rounds, this new pairing system would check to see who has had easier or harder pairings, and then alter the later pairings to make it more fair for those who had the tougher draw.

So imagine you have 4 players, two who have an average opponent’s rating of 2600 and two who have an average opponent’s rating of 2500, the computer would aim to give the ones who faced a 2500 average the higher rated opponents. If you’ve had easy pairings all tournament and are tied for the lead in the final few rounds, this system will try to give you the toughest pairings they can. Can you tell me any reason why something like this would not be more “fair” than the Swiss System?

What I’m suggesting is that when someone tries something different, and one which has obvious logical merits, that everyone doesn’t freak out because maybe one of the top players in the world got an unlucky break. In an open tournament everyone matters, not just the top 5 seeds. And by trying new things, we could experiment and perhaps find a way to improve upon the way things have been done for so long, such as my idea of a pairing system which specifically tries to equalize every player’s strength of opponent as the tournament progresses.

And lastly, the players all knew what the pairing system was and they agreed to play in the tournament. At the time of this writing, Caruana and Kramnik are playing an exciting chess game.

caruana

They are possibly taking more risk than they would have if the game took place at the end of the tournament. Why are we complaining about this!