16 January 2014

The Winning Formula

'The Road to the World Championship' -- yesterday I posted Part I on my WCC blog -- has seen numerous format changes in recent times. The sequence of Zonal -> Interzonal -> Candidates -> Title Match was unchanged from 1948 to 1993, when the Kasparov - FIDE schism brought on overlarge attempts at new formats that would somehow unify the split title. The format of the current, four-stage cycle uses a different type of event for each of the stages.

Continental Championships: First introduced in 2000, the Continental Championships have been based exclusively on the Swiss system. Since tiebreaks are always an issue, both playoffs and Buchholz-style calculations have been used to determine the last qualifiers advancing to the next stage.

World Cup: The functional equivalent of the old round-robin Interzonals, the knockout format of the World Cup reduces many qualifying players to a handful of true, world-class title hopefuls. The format was used four times to determine the World Champion -- 1999 Las Vegas, 2000 India/Iran, and 2001 Moscow (the 1997 Groningen event was a title tournament in name only) -- before it was abandoned as being too random to pick a true champion. Unfortunately, it survives in this capacity for the women's cycle.

Candidates Tournament: The 2013 London tournament was a return to the eight-player, double round-robin format used until 1962 Curacao. Although it produces more hard-fought games than the knockout match format last used at 2011 Kazan, its disadvantage is that it can be manipulated by collusion among the players.

World Championship Match: While few people have a problem with the tournament format last used in 2007 Mexico City, most fans prefer that the champion earn his title in a head-to-head match against the strongest opponent. The popular success of the 2013 Carlsen - Anand match should guarantee the use of the match format for years to come.

Swiss system, knockout matches, double round-robin, and head-to-head match : four different formats each well-suited for the stage where it is used. Has FIDE finally found the winning formula?

1 comment:

M Talon said...

The candidates matches were always an interesting prequel to the World Title "bout", I think it's fair enough to get to certain scenarios with tournaments etc.

But inevitably you just want the top 10 players in the world, and not accidental tourists from the top 100,....in knockout competition head to head reasonable length matches (8).

The candidates matches had their own mystique or personalities if you like and could be played in different parts of the globe. I might add that perhaps the world champion should vacate his post every year (2) so that rather than candidates you would have a genuine finals system like other sports.