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Why There Shouldn't Be a Chess World Champion 284

An anonymous reader writes "An article at Slate makes the case that the time has come to stop crowning World Chess Champions. This week, challenger Magnus Carlsen is trying to take the title from reigning champion Viswanathan Anand. Despite currently holding the title, Anand is very much the underdog, which only serves to illustrate why the current system is broken. The article suggests measuring greatness the same way tennis does. Quoting: 'Here's what Carlsen should do: Beat Anand for the title, and then work with FIDE to institutionalize four big tournaments as chess's Grand Slams, simultaneously eliminating the title of world champion. Corporate funding for even major chess tournaments can come and go with frustrating regularity, meaning FIDE itself has to get involved. Perhaps the grand slam tournaments could be located in three cities permanently—Moscow, Amsterdam, and a Spanish locale such as Linares would be natural picks—with a fourth that would rotate from year to year. This would give chess the same clear and predictable yardstick for greatness that golf and tennis have instead of the extremely crude world champion benchmark.'"
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Why There Shouldn't Be a Chess World Champion

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  • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @03:32AM (#45343037)
    I watch chess for the riveting slow-action replays.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @03:36AM (#45343051)

    But does he get a teapot and groupies?

  • by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <> on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @03:42AM (#45343061) Journal

    Clearly, the current 3-year cycle makes no sense.

    At the same time, people LIKE tournaments. If you want to be the true world champion, why not have regionals, as the author suggests -- but limit them to residents and let them be "open" (single elimination in round 1). We have brackets in other sports. This would allow people to compete regardless of wealth.

    Each "continental champion" (think "North American Champion" or even "East Asian Champion") could face off in a tournament with the other regionals. This would let each population cheer for its hometown star from New York to New Dehli. Sure, maybe the two "best" don't face off in the "World Championship" but it also allows underdogs to win more easily and makes it more competitive.

    Or we could just crown Deep Blue every year.

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @04:21AM (#45343199) Homepage

      Because it is idiotic. The whole premise is. The young star challenging for the World Championship for the first time being the favorite doesn't tell us the system is broken... it tells us the challenger is a big rising star!

      And the Champion is one of only, what, only 6 people to have held ratings over 2800? This is not the 90s, Anand is not Khalifman, and everybody knows Anand is the clear Champion. And that Carlsen is the clear #1 player.

      We already have ratings that tells us who is the best. The World Championship is a title. Adding an extra series of tournaments and calling it a title is fine, but why would it replace the World Championship? And FIDE actually tried it, and it was a total joke and those "Champions" aren't considered real champions.

      These people should first learn some history about the chess World Championship before they tell chess players how our championship should be structured to better entertain the most casual observers. Because this is a long-argued topic, and there is a very strong consensus that the World Championship title has value, that it is not always held by the strongest player, and that it is normally achieved by winning a 1 on 1 match between a Champion and a Challenger.

      • Not only that, but the article is begging the question of who is the better player. It is true Carlsen has a higher rating, but Anand doesn't chase ratings so much, and the one-on-one format is where he really excels.

        My money is on Anand.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @03:46AM (#45343085) Homepage

    In tournaments it's about who can pick the most points from the weakest players, of course you'd like to win every time but if you're facing Carlsen I think most players will be more than happy to draw and try to outpace him on the rest. The world championship is intended to be a hardcore duel between the two best players, you have to defeat your opponent to win you can't skirt around it. The issue is twofold, one to get the opportunity to play you must win the candidates tournament meaning you must be pretty damn good in tournaments anyway and second by the time another championship comes around many expect the current champion to fall. Unlike many other sports the chess ranking is far more important than "points" collected from tournaments in other sports, so it's hard to make a single tournament be all that important. There are already several long-standing tournaments that usually have most of the top ten players, they're not going to get bigger even if the world championship went away.

  • by LainTouko ( 926420 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @04:00AM (#45343131)

    I think the problem the author has is that he wants to believe that there is a singular notion of "best chess player". In reality, there are multiple notions of the best chess player. Ratings measure more the ability to stay consistent throughout your career and never let your form dip, tournament wins measure more your ability to take points off weaker players and shift our mindset rapidly to deal with the next style which comes along... and the world championship measures more your ability to present an impregnable wall of defensive ability and be unbeatable.

    These are all very valuable things to have, and wanting to take one of them away just because your mind isn't flexible enough to cope with them all existing simultaneously is selfish.

    • I can see the emotional appeal; but it's a trifle odd to even bother quibbling about the 'bestness metric' when storage and retrieval of every move, in every (reasonably official) game played in somebody's entire career is not exactly a terrifying challenge at the cutting edge of database design...

      Especially with the (relative) standardization of computer-readable move notation, you could probably derive practically any wacky fitness metric you could conceive of, compute it, and rank players according to
    • I agree it's a different kind of game. This is kind of the odd thing about chess. You get to study a single opponent for months, maybe even years before you finally play against them. If you had more of a tournament style play, there would be too many competitors in too short a period of time, and you wouldn't be able to specialize your techniques for playing against a single player. I'm not sure which is actually a better measure of greatness, but they are two completely different ways of measuring gre
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @04:27AM (#45343209)

    One town's very like another
    when your heads down over your pieces brother

  • whats wrong with the same method used by boxing?
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      boxing, the same sport that has .. I don't even fucking know how many champions. 3 "pro"?

      and then world champion? olympic champion? etc etc.. and if you get a match being arbitrary.

      in boxing you must have some time between important matches though, but I don't see why a reigning chess champion should be able to wait for years for the challenger match to happen..

      • boxing, the same sport that has .. I don't even fucking know how many champions. 3 "pro"?

        There are currently *five* organizations independently handing out the title of boxing world champion. There are only two heavyweight champions, with one person holding four of those titles simultaneously (and, interestingly, the other one is his brother), but in other weight divisions there are indeed five different world champions. I can't see how boxing is an example for anyone to follow.

  • Shouldn't we just have the chess-playing computers in a 24/7/365 competition cycle, with mastery changing hands as often as is computationally feasible, and then just use the time-honored traditions to decide who among us shall bear the title of 'Meatsack Prime' within the chess world?
    • Great idea. We could also replace the Olympic games by much faster/higher/longer/more accurate machines.

      • Great idea. We could also replace the Olympic games by much faster/higher/longer/more accurate machines.

        No, the Olympics we should keep organic. Not necessarily entirely human; but organic. Just imagine hideous man/tick hybrids sprinting and jumping, ghastly quadruped-thing endurance runners, archers with creepy compound eyes... A glorious celebration of mostly-human athleticism!

        • by jfengel ( 409917 )

          You just know that it would get higher TV ratings than the present Olympics do. Lifting 200 kg? Dull. Lifting 20 metric tons, on the other hand...

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @05:02AM (#45343361) Homepage

    I've yet to RTFA, but the sentence "Despite currently holding the title, Anand is very much the underdog, which only serves to illustrate why the current system is broken" does nothing to illustrate the point. Rather the opposite: a contender who beats the incumbent happens all the time. The fact that this is possible, is the prime motivator for trying at all, and thus the reason for the existance these tournaments.

    • The point is that it's obvious that he's the stronger player, and the world needs a better system than a single championship once every three years to prove it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We only have Olympics and world cups every 4 years, so why can't these chess people wait 3 years to update their stats?

  • Moscow, Amsterdam.... Bangkok? It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity To be looking at the board, not looking at the city
  • by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @05:35AM (#45343453)

    The problem with modern chess is that it has been analyzed to death.

    To make it more interesting they should make some kind of modifications. One that was suggested a long time ago was the players choosing the positions on the back ranks. Maybe adding more pieces and squares etc.

    Also add time to the clocks. Let games last several sessions. etc.

    • The problem with modern chess is that it has been analyzed to death.

      Not true

      The current analysis of the opening moves is certainly very extensive. But since all top players are familiar with this opening theory, a game between two grandmasters only actually "begins" once one of the players breaks from the current theory. This will usually take the form of a player making a move that is considered to be inferior.

      So each Grandmaster game becomes a contribution to current chess theory and will itself trigger analysis amongst chess experts across the world

  • by ebcdic ( 39948 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2013 @06:18AM (#45343585)

    Why does chess need a "clear and predictable yardstick for greatness"? It's a game, not engineering.

  • and while your at it, let's stop having winners and losers, every game is a draw and these overgrown children can all feel good about themselves no matter how good/bad they's all about their self esteem!

  • Hmm ... lets see. The author thinks the incumbent - who looks like a worthy champ to my admittedly unenlightened eyes - is useless and that the challenger shits gold.

    Consequently, he'd like to replace the current system which is subjective but works for other sports (boxing?) and replace it with an equally subjective system so that his favourite challenger will rise to the top sooner than he'd like.

    He then goes on to spout nonsense about what the challenger should do *after* he beats the crap out of the
    • by JMZero ( 449047 )

      You completely misunderstood the article. His complaint isn't about how Carlsen has arrived here or how long it's taken (it hasn't been long); it's that having a single, seldom-disputed title for Chess doesn't provide a fine-grained measurement for accomplishment. Through chance or deliberate "ducking", someone can end up being world chess champion longer or shorter than they "deserve". He believes that with more frequent sampling, you could get a more accurate "signal" in terms of player skill. He belie

  • The article really fails to make a substantial argument. Okay, the every 3 year issue I can see. Make it every two. First year is to pick the top 4 contenders. The next year the tournament.

    But I don't see what the issue is with having one champion. It seems there may be an issue with point scoring system. As frankly, I think wins are more substantial than draws.

    I just came away from the whole article questioning what the issue is in having a world champion. It seems to me that no harm is there. And the f

  • This would give chess the same clear and predictable yardstick for greatness that golf and tennis have instead of the extremely crude world champion benchmark.

    Except that golf and tennis are actual sports, while chess is not. Golf and tennis are followed by 100s of millions of people, while chess is not. Now if you want to destroy the tradition and intellectual pursuit known as chess and turn it into something that can be monetized, go ahead. Years ago, they did that to wrestling, so who knows, 25 years from now, we might all be watching All Star Chess on television.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.