Friday, February 10, 2017

The Draw Problem in Advanced Chess

ICCF is beginning to acknowledge the problem of
excessive draws. However, it continues to insist this
only affects the strongest players, i.e., those who are
competing in their world championships. I have been
assured by numerous ICCF officials that the "draw
problem" will never spread to the average players.
As stated in Advanced Chess-Hints to Get Started,
"history indicates computers will get faster, software
will improve and market pressure will drive prices
lower. More and more players will be able to upgrade
their hardware and software. The 'trickle-down' effect
will spread the draw death to the rank and file as well."

In the 47th German Championship Semi-finals (a national
event administered by Germany and played via postal
chess) there were 10 semi-final sections. The results in 
section #2 caught my eye:

When I saw this cross table a year ago, I contacted
event TD Seyb, asking how would a section winner /
advancement to the Finals be determined? After all,
ICCF's tie-breaking procedures (Sonneborn-Berger,
Baumbach Rule) don't work when every game ends
in a draw. The TD replied "wait and see what ICCF
does."  Clearly he had no idea how to proceed.

Now that the 15-player Finals section is underway
(GER/C47/final, 47th German Championship) I was
surprised to see that all 7 players from section #2 had
been advanced. Preliminary section #03 ended in a 2-
way tie; one player was advanced, the other declined.
Semi-final section #07 ended in a 4-way tied score but
the winner (by S-B points) also declined advancement
for personal reasons.

The BdF Tournament Director, Andreas Bartsch, sent
me further clarification: "It is the first time that all the
players of a group played draws. This could not be anti-
cipated in advance. Therefore, I've allowed all players
for the final tournament. From this year, however, it will
be announced in groups when all matches will end, and
the winner will be the winner. All [tied] players are no
longer advancing. If neither a finalist can be found by
the S-B rule nor by the Baumbach regulation, the lot
decides (which is unsporting). This is decided by the
additional number of the lottery. One should change the
rules, where a draw can only be offered after the 30th
move. Perhaps this results in more impartial decisions."

The HIARCS Chess Forums offer a fascinating array
of suggestions to end the draw problem. The "ICCF
group" is restricted to ICCF members - you will need
your ICCF ID# to access this group.

Postscript. My German is weak. I apologize in advance.
Any mistakes in translation are unintentional.