Meanwhile in the chess world …


The championship match between Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana has so for resulted in eleven straight draws, breaking the earlier record of eight straight draws before one person won. The 12th and last regular game will be played on Monday. If that game also ends in a draw, then the match will be decided on Wednesday in a series of increasingly rapid-fire games in the following order.

  • Best-of-four rapid games (25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move). The player with the best score after four rapid games is the winner; otherwise they proceed to blitz games.
  • Up to five mini-matches of best-of-two blitz games (5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment after each move). The player with the best score in any two-game blitz match is the winner. If all five two-game matches are tied, an “Armageddon” game is played.
  • One sudden death “Armageddon” game: White receives 5 minutes and Black receives 4 minutes. Both players receive an increment of 3 seconds starting from move 61. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. In case of a draw, the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

It is interesting to see the rules of the final ‘Armageddon’ game in which white is given a time advantage but a draw results in black being declared the winner. How the ruling chess body arrived at that formula I do not know and I wonder which color the winner of the coin toss will prefer.

It is felt that Carlsen has the edge over Caruana when it comes to playing rapid chess games.

Should Monday’s final classical game end in another bloodless result, Carlsen will be a prohibitive favorite in Wednesday’s tie-breaker, which consists of a series of games under tighter time controls. The Norwegian, who in addition to his No 1 ranking is the world’s top rated rapid player and top rated blitz player (compared to Caruana’s respective ratings of No 8 and No 16), is unbeaten in tie-breakers over the last 13 years.

Given this information, one wonders if Caruana, who gets to play white in the last regular game, will go for broke and take more risks to try to win it to prevent facing Carlsen in formats that he seems to do very well in. The report on the 11th game says that Carlsen played it safe suggesting that he is likely to go for a draw in the final game and force the tie-breaking rounds.

Chess is an intensely demanding game and one usually feels exhausted after a tough game. One can only imagine the tension under which these two players currently are and how exhausted they will both feel after it is all over.

Comments

  1. consciousness razor says

    It is interesting to see the rules of the final ‘Armageddon’ game in which white is given a time advantage but a draw results in black being declared the winner. How the ruling chess body arrived at that formula I do not know and I wonder which color the winner of the coin toss will prefer.

    It’s been a fairly common recipe for a while…. I couldn’t say how long exactly, but Armageddon games are often used as a tie-breaker in tournaments or matches, essentially because it avoids the need to play an even number of games (which would mean the score could remain tied). Black gets draw odds because they are at a disadvantage in the opening, and that’s only compounded by having 1 less minute on the clock.

    If I were Caruana in that situation, I would definitely choose black. He can obviously get draws with Carlsen (especially with the way Carlsen has been playing), and his rating for faster time controls is of course quite a bit lower. (Several games have been fairly exciting even though they were draws, but the tension for me is definitely increasing because I’ve wanted Caruana to get a solid lead and avoid tie-breaks altogether.) If he gets that far into the tie-breaks, I think he should be pretty confident about a draw (with either color) and not very confident at all about a win (not even with white and an extra minute). Somewhat strangely, I think he’s sort of been doing better with black anyway.

    The report on the 11th game says that Carlsen played it safe suggesting that he is likely to go for a draw in the final game and force the tie-breaking rounds.

    Yes. But since Carlsen has black in game 12, he’s not in a great position to turn it into a quick and dirty draw. White can do that much more easily than black. I’m sure Caruana has a nice combative opening prepared, one that won’t really give Carlsen an opportunity to do that early on. If things remain complicated into the middle or endgame, white can keep driving for a win if he wants to. Of course he’s playing Magnus, so it’s not like a win would be easy, and it certainly involves some risk – but that’s what he’d have to do if he doesn’t want it to keep dragging on into rapid and blitz.

    One can only imagine the tension under which these two players currently are and how exhausted they will both feel after it is all over.

    I know I’d be tired. But I suppose Caruana will be staying in London to play even more, since he qualified for the London Chess Classic, which serves as the finals for the Grand Chess Tour. He’s up against Nakamura, Aronian, and Vachier-Lagrave. If he wins the world championship match, it’ll be hard to root against him there. All great players, so I don’t really have a strong preference, but I always love Aronian’s games.

  2. consciousness razor says

    I assume that when they’re talking about “increments” it means that your own clock doesn’t start immediately after the other player’s move, but rather X time after the other player’s move, in this case either 10 seconds or 3.

    Actually, no. There are various ways to fiddle with chess clocks. I won’t go into detail about the multitude of fiddling techniques that people have experimented with, but what you described is a type of “delay,” one that’s fairly common.*

    An “increment” involves adding some time back to your clock after you’ve made your move (i.e., when you hit the button, so the other player’s clock starts for their turn). You might think is a distinction without a difference, but it actually has a significant effect and a good time-management strategy will reflect this.

    In a time+increment game, if you move quickly (i.e., less than the duration of the increment), then you will gain time on your clock, because the entire increment is added, no matter how little time you actually spent. It occasionally happens that one or both players, when they’re in time trouble, will make a few quick moves (usually pointless, back-and-forth types of maneuvers), so they’ll get a little more time to think.

    With a delay like you described, you’ll be left with no more than the same amount of time you started with, after making your move. The clock keeps running down for you (however slowly); it doesn’t go back up. So of course, if you’re not mindful of this, you could waste some of your allotted time, by moving too quickly, which is now a negative instead of a positive like it was above. The idea is that, if you’re given 10 “free” seconds, for example, then you should spend them all, even if you are already certain about your move for this turn, because you can use the precious, precious seconds to think some more about the following turns.** There’s never an advantage (at least in terms of time management) to making silly, useless moves, like there is with an increment, because moving never gives you additional time on your clock.
    * Random bit of confusingness: A “Bronstein delay” is sort of a refund at the end of your turn (provided that your clock doesn’t reach 0:00:00 of course, like in all of these options). The clock does start immediately on your move, so calling it a “delay” is pretty weird, but instead of adding the full duration no matter what, it will only add the time you spent, which can be less than the full “delay” amount. That makes it the same as a simple/US delay, although it does seem a bit funkier.
    ** Top-notch grandmasters like this are astonishingly fast, so imagine it’s something like “10 Fabiano seconds = 45 CR minutes” to get a sense of why it matters at all. I’m probably being way too generous to myself even on my best days, but you get the idea.

  3. consciousness razor says

    Heh, some people were predicting it would be another boring draw. But no, Fabi is in berserker mode, and the position’s insanely complicated right now. It could totally fall apart for him, but at least he’ll go out with a bang. I love it.

  4. mnb0 says

    “in eleven straight draws”
    Makes me wonder what a non-straight draw looks like.

    @1: “I couldn’t say how long exactly”
    It was already in use in 2010 and I’m pretty sure it was introduced after 2000.

    “But since Carlsen has black in game 12, he’s not in a great position to turn it into a quick and dirty draw.”
    Mwah. Carlsen already has succeeded five times. He probably will happy with a long and clean draw as well. It’s the result that counts, nothing more. And he’s an excellent defender.

    “I’m sure Caruana has a nice combative opening prepared”
    Makes me wonder why he didn’t use that secret weapon at an earlier game.

    @5: “some people were predicting it would be another boring draw”
    There have been relatively few boring draws, so I don’t exactly understand “another”. The problem is that both players are excellent defenders and hence there’s a big probability that neither will crack, no matter how high the pressure.

  5. consciousness razor says

    Incredible. Magnus was definitely better, positionally and on the clock, but he offered a draw as soon as he could. It’s just plain bizarre, and I think his fans should be very disappointed. I guess he must be extremely confident that he’ll do better in rapid and blitz. But it’s kind of a shame — such an interesting position, where he faced very little risk, yet he just gave up. I wasn’t rooting for him obviously, but it’s really weird that he would behave like this.

    “Oh, you don’t want to play anymore today? Too bad, dude … this is why you’re being paid, and today, you’re playing for the world championship.” That’s what I’d like to say to him.

    mnb0:

    Makes me wonder what a non-straight draw looks like.

    It means eleven consecutive or uninterrupted draws. It’s not about what a particular drawn game looks like.

    But since Carlsen has black in game 12, he’s not in a great position to turn it into a quick and dirty draw.”
    Mwah. Carlsen already has succeeded five times. He probably will happy with a long and clean draw as well. It’s the result that counts, nothing more. And he’s an excellent defender.

    I was just making the general point that one of white’s advantages is better control of how the game proceeds early on.

    “I’m sure Caruana has a nice combative opening prepared”
    Makes me wonder why he didn’t use that secret weapon at an earlier game.

    I wasn’t suggesting that Caruana wasn’t being combative in earlier games. He had a pretty good edge in quite a few of them, but they did turn into draws eventually…. that’s just how it goes.

    @5: “some people were predicting it would be another boring draw”
    There have been relatively few boring draws, so I don’t exactly understand “another”. The problem is that both players are excellent defenders and hence there’s a big probability that neither will crack, no matter how high the pressure.

    Well, I agree with you, but some aren’t happy with it of course. Especially for a more casual chess fan, who may not be thinking so much in terms of the deep complexities of the position throughout the game, it doesn’t seem as exciting when nobody wins or loses. They want to see the equivalent of a stunning, game-winning touchdown or a homerun. It’s hard to put something like this on ESPN, you know what I mean?

  6. says

    I’m terrible at chess.

    I know the moves, and i know that controlling the center is better than controlling an edge b/c on a basic level, all other things being equal it is better to have more available moves than fewer, and on the edge your moves are more constrained than in the middle. I guess I also know the points assigned to each of the pieces, IIRC: pawn=1, k & b = 3, r = 5, q = 9.

    …and… that’s it. I have a quick enough mind that I can fake it a bit. With someone who doesn’t practice chess, I can do okay, but even a 5 year old who actually takes time to practice will probably corner me in an opening before I realize how screwed I am. Like a lot of inexperienced players, I’m actually better with fewer pieces on the board and even better when playing defense. That means that moderately skilled players beat me every time, but they have to play a much longer game to finish me off than it would seem from the opening. The result? Predictable finishes that take too long to reach. In other words, I make chess boring and no fun.

    C’est la vie.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke,

    Chess is one of those games that can be enjoyed at many different levels especially if your opponent is slightly better than you so that you learn from them while playing. This is why computer programs that have adjustable levels of skill are so useful. The only catch with chess is that the games can take a long time and it is somewhat anti-social in that since at least one person is concentrating on the next move, conversation is discouraged.

    As to the points for each piece, they are not part of the game but are meant to serve for novices as a very rough guide to the relative value of pieces, to tell them (all other things being equal) which exchange of pieces is worthwhile and which is not. So in general, if you lose a bishop while gaining a pawn, you have had the worse of the exchange. But experienced chess players know to adjust values depending on the state of the game. A high-point piece that is not ‘developed’ (i.e., far from the action) may be worth less to them than a pawn right in the thick of things. So experts are often willing to ‘sacrifice’ by exchanging pieces that purely in terms of points is disadvantageous. The ability to see the big picture and make such fluid adjustments depending on the state of the game is one of the characteristics that separates the experts from the novices.

  8. Mano Singham says

    consciousness razor,

    I was curious if any tie breakers had actually got to the Armageddon stage and if so which color the coin toss winners tend to choose.

  9. file thirteen says

    It hasn’t been much of a disadvantage being black in this tournament. My impression is that white has probably ended up having to grovel more for a draw than black overall. Carlsen was doing so well with the Sicilian (in response to 1. e4 black plays c5) that he tried playing 1. c4, and after Caruana responded e5, went into one with colours reversed (but, as white, having an extra move). Still ended in a draw though.

    Modesty aside, I’m actually quite a good chess player. But it’s only a game.

  10. consciousness razor says

    I was curious if any tie breakers had actually got to the Armageddon stage and if so which color the coin toss winners tend to choose.

    There haven’t been any armageddon games in the world championship. In other tournaments, I do vaguely remember them happening a few times over the years, but I’ve only ever seen it used at the end of a progression of increasingly shorter time controls (rapid, then blitz), so it only rarely gets to that point. I don’t know the stats for all such games with high-rated players, but my bet is that the tendency is very strongly toward black.

    The idea of armageddon games is … interesting. Draw odds for black offers such a big advantage (at least I would say so) that I think it’s a little artificial and kind of silly to pretend like it’s a fair game that way – the fair part of it is that you won a coin toss. But that’s not chess. And if you’re smart, you will take black. It makes sense especially for great players like this, who are at that level mainly because they can usually defend like a machine, even when their position is terrible. They don’t actually win so often against other great players, and they know this. But they are pretty reliable about standing their ground to pull off an even score when things don’t go so well.

    Of course, in some tournaments, they don’t do it this way. Instead, they’ll use various convoluted systems of mathematical tie-breaks (how many wins/losses vs. draws, your score against the specific player you’re tied with, and so forth). Many people, including myself, don’t like that approach — I want to see them decide the matter by playing the game a bit more. But if for example the tournament doesn’t have an extended period of access to the playing hall, then they want a way to resolve it at the end which won’t take another day or two (or more).

    Anyway, you got me interested in the general question. Here’s a breakdown of the world championship matches since 2006. This is when we returned to a single, undisputed title and the format for the champship has remained largely the same.*
    2006, Kramnik beats Topolav, after 4 rapid tie-break games
    2007, Anand beats the field, after 14 classical games
    2008, Anand beats Kramnik, after 11 classical games
    2010, Anand beats Topolav, after 12 classical games
    2012, Anand beats Gelfand, after 4 rapid tie-break games
    2013, Carlsen beats Anand, after 10 classical games
    2014, Carlsen beats Anand, after 11 classical games
    2016, Carlsen beats Karjakin, after 4 rapid tie-break games
    2018, my current mood/prediction: Draw beats Chess, after a three-match repetition

    Looking back at it, it’s pretty remarkable…. I mean, Vishy Anand definitely made his mark, didn’t he? And now he’s getting close to 49 years old but still going strong.

    * It was a double round-robin tournament in 2007, not a one-on-one match, but the tie-break rules were basically the same formula of rapid/blitz/armageddon.

  11. Mano Singham says

    Thanks a lot, consciousness razor, for this information on the history. So it looks like even the blitz stage has not been necessary so far.

    I would tend to agree with you that if it does get to the Armageddon stage, black would be a good choice. I wonder whether the chess world body did some trial runs with evenly ranked players using the Armageddon format to see what time advantage to give white to offset the draw advantage for black.

  12. consciousness razor says

    I wonder whether the chess world body did some trial runs with evenly ranked players using the Armageddon format to see what time advantage to give white to offset the draw advantage for black.

    That’s quite possible. Figuring it out empirically makes all kinds of sense, but with FIDE there’s usually a lot of politics motivating their decisions, along with a bit of expert judgement which may only amount to how certain people feel. If you wanted to test it, you’d want to learn how fair it is as a tie-breaker. I mean, it should be a long, high-stakes match/tournament, they’re both exhausted and nervous, etc. It wouldn’t be as informative, if they’re relatively comfortable, playing in isolated Armageddon games that don’t matter a lot to them. But like I said, that situation doesn’t happen very often, so they may not have a whole lot of data to work with (if they’re even using it).

    There are fewer draws as the time control gets shorter, and it’s understandable that defending is more difficult. So I could be overestimating the advantage for black a bit, in a game where they only have 4 minutes on the clock vs. 5 for white. Computers would be alright with much less time of course, but top-notch grandmasters are still human after all.