Yesterday I tweeted that FIDE was to introduce blitz and rapid ratings from 1 January onwards. The source, Chess-News, gave no details, but it now appears FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was talking in a discussion that marked the launch of a new bilingual website by blitz aficionado, Vladislav Tkachiev.
The new website, WhyChess, looks set to be bookmarked rapidly by chess fans around the world. It boasts numerous blogs (with the stars including Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk), columnists (including Vera Nebolsina, who provides a photo report from a trip to India), video lessons for beginners up to professionals (see Boris Avrukh on the Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation), chess news and… there’s a lot to explore! For example, Vladislav Tkachiev’s controversial internet project, the World Chess Beauty Contest, appears ready to make a comeback.
If there’s a burning issue behind the new website, however, it’s clearly Tkachiev’s desire to see blitz and rapid chess taken at least as seriously as classical chess. In the Politics section you’ll find a series of documents entitled “Worse than a crime”. They’re worth reading in full, but here’s a brief summary:
Back in 1988 the then FIDE President, Florencio Campomanes, proposed the introduction of “active chess” ratings, titles and World Championship events. That provoked a fierce letter signed by leading grandmasters (headed by Kasparov and Karpov), who refused to participate in any such events if FIDE introduced separate ratings or titles. Tkachiev laments that FIDE abandoned their idea, but thinks there’s now a second chance: (note: the text is straight from the English version of the website – the one thing letting it down at present is the apparent lack of proofreading by a native English speaker…)
Today is 2011 and it seems to be the time for reappraisal of values. In the situation where classical chess tournaments breathe their last one after another, every month there breaks out cheating scandals, and Candidates Matches beat the records in the number of “grandmaster’ draws it is necessary to think about long-felt changes. And it’s we, the chess community, who must do that.
I believe we should return to the idea of full-scale World Championships for rapid chess and blitz with mandatory qualifying continental tournaments and separate ratings. It’s necessary to think again of attractive TV format. The image of a chess-player as an autistic person inclined only to reflection and soul-searching should become a thing of the past. Since, first of all, it doesn’t square with reality and we all know this.
The future will tell us what type of chess is the most favourable to that. “All genres are good except one that is boring”. Classical chess, rapid, blitz – delete where applicable.
I made my choice about 15 years ago.
The news about the possible introduction of blitz and rapid ratings was broken yesterday by Evgeny Surov of Chess-News, but the lack of any details made it somewhat mysterious. Today he revealed the launch of the new website, and gave a short excerpt from the source for his information: a long discussion between Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the editors of the new website and invited journalists. As well as Tkachiev and Surov, the conversation was led by Marina Makarycheva, who, along with her husband GM Sergey Makarychev (mentioned at one point below), has been responsible for the chess content of the Russian NTV television channel.
So then, the Russian conversation, that you can listen to at Chess-News, went:
Tkachiev: Cheating is a confrontation with the 21st century. But in rapid chess it’s technically and practically impossible, extremely difficult. These endless toilet visits, for example, forgive me, but they’ll simply be technically infeasible. And in blitz just impossible in principle.
Makarycheva: Are you suggesting completely switching from classical to blitz?
Tkachiev: But why? I’m not saying…
Makarycheva: Classical chess is the main thing, and replacing it with blitz will be the destruction of chess.
Tkachiev: The destruction of chess? But in my view it’ll actually be a new blossoming for chess.
Makarycheva: But what sort of blossoming is that?! Let’s see who’s the quickest: two plus two.
Tkachiev: OK, with pleasure.
Makarycheva: And that’ll be very interesting for everyone!
Tkachiev: Let’s do it. But OK, when you’re sitting at home and you’ve got the option of playing an ICC game – you can play with the classical time control, or you can play rapid chess. Why is it then that 99.9% of people play 3 minute games. Somehow it’s worked out like that. Or take the Soviet team, which included Polugaevsky, Tal and Karpov, and was flying to the Olympiad in Buenos Aires in 1978, if my memory doesn’t fail me. It took days for them to get there. They had a perfect opportunity to play a classical round-robin tournament, but for some reason they spent those days playing nothing other than blitz.
Makarycheva: That allowed them to relax. Petrosian would sit there, he really loved when I sat next to him, and his conversation was always very interesting – he had a gift. That’s all true. But if you asked Petrosian, Polugaevsky and Tal what was the most important thing for them… That was classical chess. Rapid chess needs to be developed as well, but to be so absolute… that’s absurd.
Tkachiev: No. Let’s look at it this way. Firstly, as far as I recall, since 1988, since the moment the GMA (Grandmasters Association) sent that letter to Campomanes, on 13 May, active and blitz chess has found itself marginalised. There isn’t, for example, a system of continental championships. So let’s say the European Championship takes place in active chess, but there’s no qualification by country i.e. it finds itself in a position that isn’t entirely legitimate. But you’ve got a legitimate classical champion. And I’m curious, why is there a classical champion but no sort of equivalent in rapid and blitz? Let the public decide what’s more interesting. Why should we impose something on them?
Ilyumzhinov: The market, the market.
Tkachiev: Yes. And then people will in fact vote with their feet, hands or whatever else. Let them exist in parallel. No-one’s planning on destroying anything.
Ilyumzhinov: Like parallel worlds.
Tkachiev: The thing is, blitz and rapid chess have never destroyed classical chess, while classical chess at one point, 23 years ago, unfortunately destroyed two other forms… But now there’s a basic and interesting question: what happened to the GMA? They were so afraid that sponsors would quit and there’d be no interest. Fair enough. Fair enough, but where’s the GMA, where are the sponsors?
Makarycheva: Well, but they left their mark.
Tkachiev: No, I agree they left their mark, but they destroyed these innovations that had already been voted in.
Makarycheva: They glorified chess.
Makarycheva: They glorified chess.
Tkachiev: They glorified it to its current status?
Makarycheva: Well, and what’s its current status? Normal. Kirsan Nikolaevich, could you tell us how many tournaments are taking place just now? You could adopt that, but…
Tkachiev: But then what are we arguing about?
Makarycheva: When commentating on rapid chess events it’s interesting, it’s a show, it’s great, and they should be held. But during the commentary you get such an incredible number of mistakes.
Tkachiev: And you don’t get that in classical chess, right?
Makarycheva: Almost not at all.
Makarycheva: Almost not at all.
Tkachiev: The thing is, I’ve more than once watched a game and then the grandmaster gets up after it, he’s really happy, he’s almost skipping along: “Wow, what I good game I played!” His colleagues congratulate him. Then he goes to a computer, and his colleagues go to a computer – and it turns out there were three or four mistakes, and very serious ones.
It becomes clear that what they both thought was +- actually turned out to have been -+, and so on. The problem, I’m afraid, is that the “super idea” of classical chess as a search for truth has been exhausted by the appearance of super-powerful computers. Because, unfortunately, it turns out we’re not capable of finding the super truth. Soon even my iron will be able to beat me, if it’s connected to the internet.
Ilyumzhinov: A good comparison.
Makarycheva: No, well, you can, of course, commentate on games and switch on a computer, and you can say, look, when Sergey commentates he talks about the human approach. And the human approach is a little different.
Tkachiev: You think there’s less of a human element in blitz?
Makarycheva: But blitz… It’s very interesting and we’ve broadcast a lot of it and it was great, but nevertheless, always having to explain why the rook was hanging and no-one took it, and why mate-in-one was missed, which happens a lot… It’s beautiful, it’s a show.
Tkachiev: But what do you think will be more interesting to commentate on: the passions boiling over in blitz in front of everyone’s eyes, not so hard to grasp, or explaining the analytical subtleties, which no-one even sees, why on the 25th move you get a draw a pawn down in a rook ending?
Makarycheva: No, such deep analysis isn’t necessary.
Tkachiev: The problem is that classical chess just now, from grandmasters at 2500 level up, is heading for precisely that. We see part of the iceberg, while all the rest, the underwater part – that’s in the files saved on the grandmasters’ laptops. They go to a game knowing that it’s a draw in a rook ending where their opponent has an extra pawn, somewhere on the 67th move. That’s what beauty is, right? Honestly, I’m not convinced.
Surov: Perhaps the problem can be resolved not by switching to rapid chess, but switching, let’s say, to Fischer Random Chess or something similar.
Tkachiev: That just seems like a less radical reform to me. And then, I’m not proposing completely switching to rapid, I just want it to be legitimised. I propose raising it up to the same level. Why shouldn’t we, for goodness sake?
Ilyumzhinov: FIFA (the International Football Federation) received a proposal arguing that nowadays match analysis is being done by computers. Barcelona – Chelsea play, then they sit down and the computer gives its report: at that point two footballers ran the wrong way; in that situation you needed to pass not to the right but to the left.
Surov: But they don’t propose playing for ten minutes!
Ilyumzhinov: No, and now FIFA is saying 45 minutes is too short, that a footballer has no time to think, and the length of a football match needs to be at least doubled i.e. not 45 minutes, but an hour and a half, for them to move and think whether to pass the ball here or there. So we want to speed things up, but they’re thinking the opposite. Footballers don’t have the time. When someone asks why they passed to the right and not the left they say: there just wasn’t time… Now they’re proposing increasing the time: to run around not for two hours, but four.
It’s perhaps worth noting, for those who don’t know football (soccer), that although computer analysis of games is a fact the changes Ilyumzhinov mentions are rather bizarre and incredibly unlikely ever to happen. In any case, it’s worth keeping an eye on the WhyChess website, as today we can expect to see a full interview with Ilyumzhinov. The summary currently available reads (note the extra details on the blitz and rapid championships):
Regarding the results of the FIDE Presidential Board in Al Ain, the UAE, the Commission for Modernization considers the issue about introduction of separate ratings for rapid chess and blitz. Within the frames of this project it is proposed to start calculating new ratings from January 1st, 2012. Besides, it is supposed that there will be held the official World Rapid Chess Championship and World Blitz Chess Championship with subsequent tournament matches for the Absolute Champion title between winners thereof. Established for carrying out full-scale reforms, the Commission headed directly by FIDE President receives till September 1st all the offers in respect of bringing chess into accord with the tempo of life.
Detailed answers by K. Ilyumzhinov to the questions about planned reforms, dress code for chess-players, travel, sex etc. read on our website tomorrow.
9 responses to “FIDE, and new website, to change the face of chess?”
Interesting. It’s clearly an ambitious website but there’s not much content at the moment. It remains to be seen if it can follow through with worthwhile content.
As for separate ratings for rapid and blitz, I think that’s long overdue.
Maybe some people will like the content more if a presentation style similar to what they are used to, is adopted, or maybe there is need to see some “action”, i.e. games.
Rapid and blitz are very interesting genres of chess. Could their promotion result in the demise of normal tournament chess ?
Seemingly, for decades, FIDE is not to be trusted for doing anything right, this belief being strenghtened by the rule which necessitates being present at the table when a game starts.
I actually thought there was quite a lot of content for a launch, but we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. The first part of Ilyumzhinov’s interview is up now: http://www.whychess.org/node/324 It seems as though nothing’s yet set in stone when it comes to ratings. The fact that official discussion on the proposals is going to be “specifically” at http://www.whychess.org suggests it’s right to assume WhyChess is somehow funded by FIDE, though at the moment the website doesn’t provide any details (and the e-mail address bounces).
Hi MISHANP, I am an avid reader of your works… I have this feeling that the rapid/blitz vs classical chess debate can be compared with something similar in cricket. I am sure you know how the purists in cricket used to think only Test (5 day) matches should be held and they made ominous predictions when One day games were starting to happen. Test matches often produced no results but ODIs (50 over) would almost always decide a winner and was far more thrilling. So, ODI’s cricket became more popular than Test however the cricketrs themselves cosidered Test matches to be pinnacle of cricket. This went on for about 30-40 years and then cricket-mad fans got bored with a game that lasts for whole one day. They shifted their love to Twenty20 (T20) format which is 20 overs per side and it takes only 3-4 hours to decide the result. Nowdays the T20 format is the most popular format of the game (in terms of viewership, revenue etc). However, the players and most knowledgable fans still agree that Test remains the pinnacle of cricket. Luck plays increasingly important role in shorter formats but skill plays bigger role in tests. But then again, with no skill, you can never win a T20 or ODI, and for developing the skill you must play Tests.
Now, if we replace the formats of cricket game with those of chess e.g. Test with Classical, ODI with Rapid and T20 with Blitz then, there you go! I perfectly agree with the view that market should decide which form of chess they want to see. But market will also ensure that other forms of chess would exist if that is important for the existence of their most beloved form.
I already thought that including the tasteless “World Chess Beauty Contest” on the site was a very bad idea, but I am simply amazed at the questions posed by Oksana Rumyantseva (described as the “sex columnist”) to Ilyumzhinov at the end of the interview.
This website might indeed change the face of chess, but sadly NOT for the better.
Tkachiev is dreaming his dreams, which is always an interesting thing to watch. Who wants to share in?
Regarding Oksana Rumyantseva’s column: I never associated chess with sleaze before but if that’s what you guys want ok then. By the way, why can’t people figure out why chess isn’t more popular with women?
There is other stuff on the website that any chessplayer will like though; columns by grischuk and aronian, instructive videos and news. I think it’s very promising.
SD Prasad, slightly delayed response (!), but I agree with you about cricket being a very good comparison – some significant people in chess complain about 7 hour games being absurd, while cricket can last for 5 days with a drawn outcome still very likely. Although I prefer the 5-day format myself, it’s also true the shorter games have become more popular, especially on the “subcontinent”.
The point at which I’d say the analogy fails, however, is when it comes to commerce. Cricket was profitable before the shorter form of the game was found to be more profitable, so it was a genuine decision based on market conditions. In chess, on the contrary, we just have people claiming they’re changing the game to make it more attractive to sponsors, but we’ve seen absolutely no evidence of those sponsors, or even that chess fans prefer the quicker forms. I tend to agree with Aronian and Gelfand that chess is more suited to the internet than TV, and on the internet the longer the game the better, in many ways. And this Gelfand quote is great: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2011/05/boris-gelfand-a-completely-happy-man/
“It seems to me that chess should position itself as an occupation for intelligent, educated, thinking people. A person has to make an effort to understand chess. You don’t need to reduce chess to a level where it’ll be comprehensible to people who aren’t interested in it.”
That sounds anti-commercial, but then any funding for chess is likely to come from people interested in precisely that image of the game – not because it’s a TV sport (which is never going to happen).