19 July 2018

Chess Superfinals

Near the end of last year, in Engine-to-engine, Head-to-head (December 2017), I wrote,

One of these days I hope someone explains to me the difference between a superfinal and a final.

The question has been in the back of my mind ever since, so I decided to find out when the term 'superfinal' was first used for chess. I started by searching back issues of Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess, and quickly discovered that the terms 'superfinal' & 'super final' are used interchangeably; the search technique I used covered both. My search went back almost 20 years to TWIC 200:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 200 - 7th September 1998 by Mark Crowther

I could have gone back to the first TWIC, but during Crowther's early years he did not cover events as comprehensively as he does today. The first mention of 'superfinal' that I found was for the 2000 Miguel Najdorf Chess Festival. Crowther covered it in TWICs 305-308 and TWIC 322:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 308 - 2nd October 2000 by Mark Crowther
THE WEEK IN CHESS 322 - 8th January 2001 by Mark Crowther

An excerpt from that last referenced TWIC is shown below.

The next reference to 'superfinal', excluding a few minor events, was TWIC 499:-

THE WEEK IN CHESS 499 31st May 2004 by Mark Crowther

The TWIC coverage of the event, the 57th Russian Championship Qualifiers, is shown above. Somewhat curiously, Crowther didn't use the term 'superfinal' when he reported on the main event later in the year. Other reports did use it, e.g. Super Final R11: Kasparov wins title by 1.5 points (chessbase.com; November 2004). Crowther only started using the term for the 58th Russian Championship (TWIC 580, December 2005).

None of this explains the difference between a superfinal and a final (I suspect it's a marketing ploy). There is also no guarantee that these usages were the first, although the Russian Championships are probably the reason why 'superfinal' gained wider use. The 57th Russian Championship (2004) was memorable for a number of other reasons. I'll cover those in a follow-up post.

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