Saturday, April 07, 2007

Toppled Off

I don’t know if Anand enjoys chocolate eggs but if he does he’ll be munching away this Easter happy in the knowledge he’s just be declared the highest rated chess player in the world. Again.

For those of you who don’t familiar with the arcane (feel free to substitute Byzantine if you prefer) FIDE decision making process, it happened like this …

Anand, won the recent Linares tournament and, perhaps helped by Topalov’s rather disastrous performance, gained sufficient rating points for the chess press to work out he’d be declared world number one in the new rating list that was due out at the end of March. The only problem was that when the list was eventually published, Anand was still in second place.

It turns out that Linares finished after the end of February deadline for results to count in the new list. A slightly strange decision you might have thought. At least it seems odd to me that the governing body of a professional sporting organisation is going out of its way to avoid keeping its rating system as up to date as possible.

However, rules are rules and should apply equally to everybody. If that leaves Topalov at world number one then so be it. Hard luck Vishy.

Unfortunately for FIDE, those more cynical than your humble correspondent immediately began to kick up a fuss. True, they said, Linares did finish after the deadline but that’s never stopped it being counted before. Alas for FIDE, the agitators could also point to events that ended after Linares but were included nevertheless.

It is not for me to speculate on exactly what FIDE thought they were doing or what they hoped to achieve. I shall merely reflect on IM Malcolm Pein’s recent statement in the Daily Telegraph that Topalov is the “darling” of FIDE officials.

In any event, FIDE finally relented and included the Linares results so Vishy Anand is officially world number one after all. The only question that remains is whether our game’s governing body might try to restore its credibility by attempting to organise a night of vigorous alcoholic drinking inside a brewery. I fear it might be beyond them.


Ryan said...

Toppled Off indeed! Nice

The fact that FIDE break their own rules shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. The surprise was that (for Linares at least) they KEPT to their rules for the first time.

It's a shame that our beloved game is run in such an amateurish way...

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if a new chess organization was established to make FIDE irrelevant. They've pissed off enough top players to leave them, and without the best chess players you don't have a legitimate and respected chess organization. The decisions they've made in the past have eroded any sense of loyalty among the chess community. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rise and Shine,

welcome to the blog...

I don't necessarily disagree with you about how good a job FIDE are doing - but I seem to recall predictions of its demise dating back at least until the aborted first K-K match in 1984.

I must admit I'm more than appropriately proud of the post title. Perhaps a career as a tabloid newspaper headline writer is not beyond me after all!

ejh said...

What do you think?

Any alternative organisation would only be there to serve part of the chess world and their narrow commercial interests. I'm quite sure that there are people considering such a move, I have a fair idea who they are and much though I dislike FIDE I trust the alternatives even less.

Incidentally, isn't it possible that the gap of a month is a sensible idea to allow for results to actually come in and be collated? Does somebody imagine there are hundreds of people working at FIDE to do this job?

Jonathan B said...

Hi Justin,

how did the camping go?

Is a month really necessary to come up with a rating list? Speelman addresses this question in his most recent Observer column (,,2052647,00.html).

I have to say I agree with him. A month delay makes sense for the amateur level players but hardly for the world's elite? There aren't so many tournaments the top 20 (50? 100?) play. Certainly it doesn't seem to me that the world's elite play more tournaments than, say, the best tennis players.

Tennis seems to be able to update its rating list as each tournament passes. I'm not sure this isn't possible for chess too.

Whether or not a month's delay is a necessary it is definitely more than a little questionable that an established practice should suddenly be abandoned.

Whether it was their intent or otherwise, FIDE managed to give the impression they were trying to keep Topalov at number one come what may. I'm sure there are many people who would disagree with that point of view but there are certainly many who seem to share it.

Jonathan B said...

That Speelman link should read:-,,2052647,00.html


PS: Forgot to mention that I fully share Justin's doubts as to whether an alternative organisation to FIDE would solve the chess world's problems. In any event nothing that's happened since 1984 suggests it would.

Jonathan B said...

that link is still not being published properly for some reason.

add .html to the second version and you should get there.

Or just go to, take the sport option then scroll down for the chess link.

ejh said...

Is a month really necessary to come up with a rating list?

Well, it depends how many people are available to work on it and how swiftly they are supplied with the appropriate information. I would guess that with tennis there were more people employed and the information was available rather more swiftly.

Anonymous said...

If tournament results are submitted in a prescribed electronic format and if software is used to process them then I believe it should be possible to produce new ratings with very little effort. Software can also help to produce results submission files (and ensure that they are correctly formatted and have integrity) – for example, for ECF grading, Tournament Director software will produce a grading submission file from its database of results.


ejh said...

I agree with that - but it still depends on whether there are people available to do the work: as with all things, it's easy enough for us to say "surely it can't be that hard" but if it turns out there's only one person working on it and they have other things to do, perhaps it's not that simple.

It also depends on whether the results actually are submitted. Which shouldn't be a problem with Linares, but I'm fairly sure that when Angus and I played at Marianske Lazne last year - in January - the results didn't feed into the grading list until the next list but one, because of delays in submission.

Anonymous said...


I take your point(s) but I still think the governing body for world chess SHOULD be able to produce an up to date rating list very swiftly (for the reasons Angus gives).

If it is just one bloke with other things to do then they should pay more attention to what is a rather important issue.

I'm sure you're right about the lack of speed for the tournament you and Angus played in but would suggest that is less needy of speedy recording.

I appreciate I'm suggesting a two-tier rating system but I'm not sure that matters (although I accept others may disagree).

Bottom line, for me at least - to be taken seriously, professional chess needs to do a better job letter the world know who the best players are.

At the very least it would help if they didn't appear to be going out of their way to favour one player over another.

ejh said...

I don't think they were and to be honest I'm not really sure how anybody could reach the conclusion that they are.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure they were either - I personally tend to prefer the cock up theory of history rather than any grand design on most occasions.

But having said that I think there are reasons to consider it *appears* as if they might have been.

(a)linares has always counted before

(b)linares didn't count this year (at first). No readily apparent reason for the change of policy.

(c)despite widespread comment in the chess press that Anand was going to be number one, nobody at FIDE said "hang on a minute Linares doesn't count under the rules".

(d) FIDE go ahead and publish the list. Behold - Topalov is number one instead of Anand.

(e) It all kicks off.

Like I said - I'm not actually saying that somebody in FIDE was going out of their way to keep Topalov top. I AM saying, however, they didn't go out of their way to make sure it didn't LOOK as if they might have been.

Of course, others will have a different opinion.

ejh said...

What would be the point in them issuing a list just to keep Toplaov top? What would it achieve?

Anonymous said...

Well if you wanted to keep Topalov at the top of the list then the point would be that it would keep Topalov at the top.

Of course - and this is my real point - FIDE could have avoided all of this by:-

(a) sticking to established procedure or
(b)announcing before Linares that it would not be counted for the next rating list or
(c) at the very least announce as soon as the press started calling Anand world number one that Linares would not in fact count.

Given what I think it's fair to call the controversy at the recent World Championship Match it would probably have been better for everybody (including Topalov) had FIDE not made a mess of all this.

As I say, my real point is that FIDE have been incompetent and not so much that they are part of a pro-Topalov conspiracy.

ejh said...

To me, though, they haven't really made a mess of it. The press called a result before the result actually existed.

Tom Chivers said...

The spirit of the law has always been that results are counted even if submitted late - provided it's possible to do so.

Typically it's not possible to do so - due to the work involved in sifting through the names and their variant spellings of hundreds of different players in large Opens.

But with the elite, it is, always has been, and always should be.

Anonymous said...

The way it works for ECF grading is that the results officer for a tournament determines a player's grading code at registration time (this is necessary anyway, to determine or verify a grade) and the code and the name (along with other identifying information) are recorded in the results submission file which is sent to the ECF.

It's possible, of course, that a player won't have a code. If this is the case then the 'field' for the code in the submission file is left black and a new code is, I think, allocated automatically, when the submission file is processed... There are cases where a new player will play in two or more tournaments and not have a code for each. So, I would guess that before allocating a new code, ECF software will attempt to match a player with an existing code, especially one that was recently allocated.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that ECF don't have much work to do to identify a player; it's mostly done by the tournaments beforehand. I'd guess this is also the case for FIDE.


ejh said...

I shall merely reflect on IM Malcolm Pein's recent statement in the Daily Telegraph that Topalov is the "darling" of FIDE officials.

Aren't Topalov's camp and the Bulgarian Chess Federation currently very upset indeed with FIDE? Doesn't this actually mean that Pein is talking bollocks?