I don’t know why the chess community can’t get the following extremely simple concept through their head:
“Major chess events should conclude with a climactic showdown between the two top players or teams”
This extremely basic concept, which is used in nearly 90-95% of all major sporting competitions, is seemingly lost on the chess community. In fact to even suggest that “hey, maybe instead of Team 1 playing Team 4, and Team 2 playing Team 7 in the final match, how about they just play each other?”, you’ll be treated to a litany of people spamming your blog post to inform you that you’re the biggest idiot in the world.
Will these people write to MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, the Olympic Games, The World Cup, The Champions Cup, The Euro Cup, The NCAA and basically every major sporting competition except for National Soccer Leagues, to tell them how dumb they are?
We just witnessed the Olympiad ending in ridiculous fashion, with USA playing Canada, while Ukraine played Slovenia. Neither team had any chance of getting first place, yet here they both are, determining which team will be Champions of the world. But that was not the most ridiculous part of the final round. The most ridiculous part was after the USA and Ukraine unsurprisingly dispatched their much lower ranked opponents, the result then came down to the match between Estonia and Germany.
Germany and Estonia came into the final round of the event in 54th and 70th place. All eyes were on them as because of some absurd tiebreak format, the USA needed Germany to win in order to win the gold medal.
Let me counter the normal argument that the chess fans all scream in unison:
“But wait Greg, in the NFL there are dumb tiebreaks all the time that determine what teams make the playoffs, so how is this not the exact same thing”
It’s not the exact same thing because we aren’t talking about which borderline teams just squeak into the postseason. We are talking about which team will win the gold medal! You don’t determine who wins the Super Bowl by watching the Cleveland Browns play the Tennessee Titans.
Here is exactly how the Olympiad should work:
There should be 9-11 rounds of play. At the end of these rounds, the top four teams go into a four team playoff, with 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3. Do I care that the fifth place team didn’t quite make the cut because of a tiebreak? Of course not! I’d rather see a tiebreak affect 5th place than 1st place! Let the teams fighting for first battle it out head to head.
If the playoff matches are drawn, there is a team tiebreak match at rapid time control. If it’s drawn again, speed up the time control again. Eventually someone will win. Then the two winners play in a grand championship match.
What I have just proposed above is exactly how any sane sporting organization would run an event like this. But it’s not the way chess does it, and they haven’t for years, so people will complain about how the current system is better. The current amazing system in which the final round consists of a bunch of mismatches and then sitting around and watching the 70th place team to see who’s the champion, if we can even figure out the tiebreak system to begin with.
Can the chess world for once just admit that the rest of the world isn’t insane or delusional, and actually knows how to run sporting events? Ukraine and USA should have played today. They both went through the tournament with a 10-1 record! And the winner of their head to head match should have been champion. This is absolutely basic.
But at least for all the U.S.A fans, the tiebreaks fell on our side this time.