July 28, 2011 1:16

Abolish mistakes altogether

The chess world is in a crisis. In tournaments like Biel and Dortmund, all the public gets is games full of mistakes. Something must be done to end this situation which is scaring away sponsors, organizers and potential young talents from becoming professional chess players. I am proposing a startling solution.

Ronald Reagan: "Mistakes were made..." Rustam Kasimdzanov's recent proposal to abolish draws altogether is clearly insufficient. His comparison of chess to other sports is counter-productive at best. Chess isn't a sport and never will be. Already in 1965 J.H. Donner wrote that "many artists are inspired by the game of chess, because many things can be compared with chess. The game of chess, however, cannot be compared with anything else." Maybe we shouldn't compare chess to other sports, or other arts, but to a different kind of discipline - mathematics. Both disciplines feature exact reasoning, use of the scientific method, calculation, precision, patience and wisdom. Why, despite this apparent similarities, despite the fact that many more people worldwide are capable of playing chess properly, do we stand light-years behind mathematics in everything that defines success in this professional discipline? The reasons are numerous, no doubt, but the main problem, as I see it, is the existence of mistakes in chess. Mistakes spoil good games and therefore lose their attraction to a big audience. Often, all we can say about a game of chess is, "Mistakes were made." In mathematics, on the other hand, the main attraction is the fact that every formula, every conjecture and calculation, must be proven to be correct. In short, to put it figuratively, in proper mathematics there will always be a correct result. In our game, however, things are different. In order to be successful outside of our little world, in order to make front pages and TV, and thereby also the finance that comes in a parcel, we need champions that produce correct moves and games, even to a public far from intricacies of chess. We can't tolerate mistakes to be made as this deprives the audience of an opportunity to see a games played out 'to the max'! If a player makes a blunder in the opening, it might end the game already after 10 or 15 moves. And I don't even want to mention the deplorable practice of 'throwing games' for money! This is clearly intolerable from a sponsor perspective. It is no 'value for money' at all. So here's my proposal. If we want success, sponsors, public and everything else, we need to abolish any mistakes in classical tournaments altogether. Just don't allow them to happen! How? Not by Sofia rules – tournaments with Sofia rules produced as many mistakes as any other; and not by 30 move rule, where players are often just waiting for move 30 to make a mistake. No, we need something entirely different. We need correctness. Every single day.

Bob Ross: 'There are no mistakes, just happy accidents'

Bob Ross: 'There are no mistakes, just happy accidents'

Here's how it works. We play classical chess, say with a time control of four to five hours. Both players start at 100 points. A strong chess engine, say Rybka or Houdini, is following the game in analysis mode on a monitor and shows the objective evaluation position to the public and the arbiter. A mistake or a blunder? No problem – take back the move, play the engine's suggestion and start playing again, but with minus points for the perpetrator. Another mistake? Again take it back, deduct points, and play it from the correct move on. Until the game is drawn in a correct way and we count the number of points left for each player. We’ll make front pages. And much more than that. Our game will benefit from it. Not just sponsors and attention and prizes. People will try extremely hard to avoid mistakes, in order to play correctly, and not be corrected by the computer. Instead of quickly making a blunder in order to save energy and catch a movie, or gamble with a risky but dubious move, chess players will show their whole ability and will play correctly all the time. Our game will finally become a true science. Thank God, there will be no more "happy accidents" (as Bob Ross used to say) in chess. Sponsors should be coming our way soon!


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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Asdracles's picture

I have another better proposal: abolish chess.

All in one you get:

- No more mistakes
- No more quick draws
- No more pre-arranged games
- No more computer cheating

Fantastic, isn't it?

David's picture


this article is nonsense! If you don't like mistakes in chess you're not a chess fan. Mistakes are the type of moves which make our game to fantastic. See Morozevich-Shirov from the current Biel GM-turney. Look this fantastic game was full of mistakes. But who cares? People all around the analysis room where sitting and where excited by this game.

If you want to eliminate mistakes than take a 120 core i7 cluster with 5 Terrabyte RAM and lets play houdini vs. firebird then you have a 50 moves game without any obvius mistake. Then try to find sponsors with this kind of thing.

Contanct me if you found one

chandler's picture

OK. satire it is, it seems... good one then.

Greco's picture

Omg.....the things people come up with...seriously you think thats the main problem huh??? I dont know if i should laugh or cry..

Ajedrez's picture

Rustam Kasimdzanov Vrs Ronald Reagan

I do not know


mathijs's picture

I liked this a lot. Not just because it obviously isn't very serious, or might even be seen as a giant troll, but because it gives something to think about.
The beauty of chess is not about making the best move, but about the psychology of player versus player, mind vs mind. This is what separates chess from an exact science, it is an interpretation of human calculation and understanding. Therefore you might even compare the game of chess to making music or mastering an instrument. It is a pure form of art and culture.

Coco Loco's picture

"It is a pure form of art and culture."

Please ask a contemporary artist how easy it is to distinguish oneself from your peers - and get paid. For every 1% that make it on talent alone, there are the other 99% who make it through constant hard work at both becoming a better artist and at getting the work promoted.

chandler's picture

Ahem... is this a joke?
A "mistake" by your definition could be a brilliancy according to a computer a decade down the line. But by then the "mistake" would be branded a "mistake" by theory so that the deade-later-computer wouldn't know that it's a brilliancy and not a mistake.

So, once a mistake always a mistake?? Or will "thinking idiots" i.e. the humans be allowed to judge God (aka the computer)?

Or maybe you would suggest every new version of programs play over these "correct" games by previous versions to rectify them?

Sigh, what a load of crap I'm getting into now....

Csaba's picture

Yes, it is a joke. I think it's a good joke :)

chandler's picture

And also, obviously you don't plan to tell the player WHY it is a mistake. And so the poor guy has to work out what the darned comp's thinking when it made its suggestion; so your idea also seem impractical to implement.

What's happening to GMs these days? Just get back to chess, you guys.

Alexander's picture

Successful troll in successful.

Gens una sumus's picture

There are tournaments for computers, we do not need humans just to move the peaces.
What is the best move??? How do you know if the computer doesn't find the best move??? What if you play aggressive lines and (almost) brilliant sacrifices???
I am afraid that chess is much more than science. It is also physiology, war and art, all together and beautiful. Changes might be necessarily, but as someone who really likes chess, I would never support this kind of suggestion.

Gavin's picture

I love that you used a photo of Bob Ross.

Carl Lumma's picture

I know this is satire, but I think it's a great idea! This is the logical way to update Kasparov's "advanced chess", in a time when the human input is no longer valuable.

We do not need to have take-backs. In fact, Guid & Bratko showed in 2006 how to do this (in their paper "Computer analysis of World Chess Champions"). Play the game normally, with a strong engine watching. But instead of assigning points based on the outcome of the game, assign each player 1/z points, where z is the sum of the differences between the engine eval of the best move and the move actually played by that player. This is a kind of objective rating, and in fact can also replace ELO ratings.

Actually, I believe Guid & Bratko used the difference in evals, but


should be superior. That's because when one side has an overwhelming advantage, that player may rationally choose a nonoptimal move which wins more simply. For instance, a move that is +3 instead of +5. The difference 2 is large compared to the normal differences during the game. Guid & Bratko got around this with a hack, when they should have simply weighted the differences as above.


drucker's picture

the sponsors don't pay for playing without mistakes, for making no-draws and so on.
THEY PAY FOR IMAGE OF CHESS, as an intelectual fight between 2 gentlemen.
but golf caught those sponsors and tennis as well.chess is no longer for elite.
But for the masses. and for the masses they have got football/soccer

Ddrucker's picture

the sponsors don't pay for playing without mistakes, for making no-draws and so on.
THEY PAY FOR IMAGE OF CHESS, as an intelectual fight between 2 gentlemen.
but golf caught those sponsors and tennis as well.chess is no longer for elite.
But for the masses. and for the masses they have got football/soccer

timothée's picture

It seems Mr Arne Moll loves draws ! As they say, when you're psychotic, you never ride alone, Take your Prozac today ! It seems also that GMs love them too. Our forties-oldies can play their 5-moves drawing line, dressed like hobos and take their money. No problem !

Mr Arne Moll will continue his independent working career and chess reporter will never be a real job, neither will chess be a professional sport.

Here's the drawing line, we don't have different ways to make chess professional, you just don't want chess to be professional ! Thanks a lot, now it's clear !

By trying to make fun of the Great former World Champion, Mr Arne Moll just made his proposal more interesting.

What do you prefer ? Old Uncle Arne math-genius look with thickglasses or Media-compatible professional sport with Sofia Rules or Kasim-proposal ??

Lobster's picture

April Fools!

Chesster's picture

All great art is a visual form of prayer. (Sister Wendy Beckett)


Edward James's picture

It's seems no matter how obviously something is a joke, you'll always find some people who think it's serious.

Amusing article though, with a nice point. Well played, Sir.

kaizen's picture

Seriously... I hear and read people saying that chess is in crisis.

I am french, and no ones talk in France about chess on TV. No one knows the names of Etienne Bacrot, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. So what?

Many people are playing, all around the world. Tournaments are very good, very good players now come from all around the world, and training is becoming easier for everyone, as proven by the number of excellent players coming now from developing countries. Strong tournaments struggle to survive, and paying strong players to attend an event is costly. But very little compared to famous sports (soccer, basket,...)

It is difficult to live from chess, clearly. Seeing the money people get by playing soccer, or poker may seem awful. But these games are spectacular by nature, and so easy to understand, naturally. Chess is different.

No surprise tournaments have trouvle to find the right sponsors. Finding sponsors is a real job. It is not for amateurs. And with a president who met extra-terrestrials and Kadhafi, and a former candidate who is a personal enemy of V.Putin, no wonder there are few sponsors knocking at the door.

It seems that some people want so much to broadcast chess on TV (to get sponsors, for anything...) that they are ready to sacrifice what makes chess unique: it is not an easy game, it takes time to understand it, a game is long, it requires an intense and long training to succeed. Being gifted is mandatory, but not enough.

Anyway, it is not by dropping its identity that chess will become more popular, or will go on TV. Changing deeply its identity will only make it ridiculous. It would rather be better to focus on what makes chess different, and market it the nice way, than modify the nature of chess and kill it.

But this is my humble opinion.

Randi's picture

Who wrote this..Arne Moll?...well Arne Moll you are so incredibly stupid and i must say dangerous a well. Abolish mistakes Altogether?..To start with, the title is anti-chess, anti-human and therefore anti-chessreaders!. Mr Arne Moll, chess is, above anything, a game. If you're unable to understand that then you shouldn't be writing about it. Secondly, the concept of winning a game of chess is crucial for the ambitions of a chess player and to finish i would like to ask you one thing:

How on earth will you be certain that a move proposed by a strong engine (which is only a tool) is "correct"?..get some sleep man, or a shrink.

Johannes J. Struijk's picture

Dear Randi, apart from the fact that you obviously don't understand the article: It would be good if you would consider whether you really want to write something as unpleasant as you did here, if you ever will be writing something again on this website.

stevefraser's picture

I agree with you Randi re the value of this inane essay....neither math nor chess are natural sciences, both have rules, but one is a competition and one a sophisticated tautology (Seen Kurt Godel)...Overlooked is RK in his essay started by saying other top chess pros are also concerned about the impact of non fighting draws on the popularity of the game. This is the direct result of the two players agreeing to stop the game out of fear they may lose!...What other competitive activity would tolerate such a corruption of the spirit of a competitive endeavor. This problem is easily solved: "Each player is required to play sixty moves unless a decisive result is reached first. The player who on the move brings about a third repetition of the position loses". Problem solved!

arbiter's picture

This joke would be relevant if Kazimdhanov's proposal were to have players play Advanced Chess.

Unfortunately, this doesn't illuminate anything, stifles exploration, and continues down the trodden path of rejecting new approaches while offering nothing on its own, even sardonically.

Joeri's picture

Be very careful with this article!

Kirsan might read this...

Who knows what's next.

Estragon's picture

Now THAT's funny!

Arne Moll's picture

Kirsan never reads anything, Joeri. He knows everything already ;-)

Inky's picture

I enjoyed the article, but your comment really made me laugh out loud, Joeri.

Arne, you have the best sense of humor, even if some people don't understand it. And this was a great reply to ALL the silly stuff that's been suggested. Thanks for reminding me of the wonderful times I had watching Bob Ross.

mr anon's picture


bhabatosh's picture

not a nice solution , also don't know why someone considered even posting it here.
Kasim's idea was definitely a big improvement over current practices i.e. sofia rule ...
but using engine with game sounds crazy.

Michel83's picture

Nice one, Arne.
I can see you sniggering in a corner in total disbelief because half of the people here get seriously passionate&angry (or even try to rationally refute you) because they don't recognize the satire (what is somewhere between amusing and scary). Maybe they are new to chessvibes and do not know that nothing chessvibes publishes is ever to be taken seriously! :p

Also, I think the aliens are behind this. Yourself are definitely not clever enough for such a genius chess-solving idea, admit it!

P.S.: I'm using smileys otherwise people will think I am serious and attack me for calling you "not clever".

casa's picture

If I want to see something perfect i will buy Playboy, if you know what I mean.
Mistakes in chess are good. It keeps, us, the human race, 'on the ground'.
Because we have already accomplished sooo many great things:)

alfmdoncel's picture

Maybe the point is that draws, and mistakes also , are an intrinsic part of the game. The idea of betraying the game by forbiding draws deserves harsh criticism and sarcasm. I very well remember, when 20 years ago, rapid chess was introduced with the idea of popularizing the game (lol). The idea of atracting sponsors by inducing the true aficionados to lose interest in the game does not seem well founded. Or have any of you seriously studied a blitz game?

Rudi Matai's picture

Mister Drucker, you said chess is "an intellectual fight between 2 gentlemen" ?!?!?!?! Please note that also women play our beautiful game and enrich it with their play. Judith Polgar for example. Also madam Turova and madam l'Ami in the current Dutch Open Championships...As far as sponsors are concerned, an alcohol brand used to portray chess as a game between a man and his female partner, played after a romantic evening spent together as some sort of foreplay to the "wrestling match" they would soon commence in the bedroom...

Nima's picture

Hey Arne,

I think changing poopy diapers every day has taken you to new depths! ;-)

Le Bigot J.M.'s picture

I just pray Illiumzinov doesn't read this. If he does, chess as we know it is dead!

Michel83's picture

The sad thing about this is though:

I'm sure Kirsan has many ideas like this. And he's dead serious.

Bartleby's picture

Arne, every now and then, you are capable of a real flash of genius. Great!

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Well done, Arne. Your proposal is almost as silly as Kazimsanov´s.
But I am afraid he meant it seriously.

Coco Loco's picture


Thinking is hard. Knee-jerk reactions are easy.
Give Kasimdzhanov some credit for putting himself out on the line as he did. If you ridicule someone, at least do it with some class and respect.

Your (implicit) fears of what Kasim's plan would do to tournament chess may be well founded, but the goal here is not to be soft on Arne Moll's ego (after your hard-earned draw with a higher rated player followed by a loss at a quicker time control) but to make chess more popular. Draws do not elicit much of an emotional response from the spectator, except perhaps if they are like Morozevich-Shirov from a couple of days ago. Most people want blood - and so do you, when you are playing a competitive chess game - and Kasim's idea provides just that. It favors the young and fit, i.e. it makes chess more into a sport.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Though short draws should be curtailed, you are mistaken Coco Loco: Kasim's idea is a nineteenth century solution for a non-existing problem. It's not draws that scare away sponsors from chess. It is a handicap of the game itself. Computer genres like FPS and RTL have no issues with draws (one of the players will surely end up dead) but they likewise fail to attract much sponsoring. The reason for that is the same as for chess: you have to understand these games, and for that you actually need to have tried playing them yourself, to be able to distinguish good moves from bad ones, and appreciate why top players are better than others. This in not so with many physical sports. Even if you have never played or seen a tennis or football/soccer match before, you will understand what they are about and know must of the rules in under five minutes of watching them on TV. Chess, computergames and physical sports that are more complex, like criquet, will never be able to achieve this appeal to the masses. Abolishing draws, abolishing mistakes or even having everyone play naked for that matter, will not attract more general sponsors to chess. FIDE should focus on the niche where chess can be marketed instead of making grandious schemes that are doomed to failure.

Coco Loco's picture


There should be two complementary approaches to the sponsorship issue: growing the market base and getting the base to pay for the commercial products sold by the sponsor.

Kasimdzhanov's proposal might help with growing the base in the way he suggested in his letter - the higher likelihood of phenomenal individual results, which is similar to the way Fisher and Kasparov (just to pick some obvious examples) helped bring more people to chess - and also perhaps by making the sport more emotionally enthralling (everyone says they hate penalty shootouts in the soccer World Cup, but a dull 0-0 final result after 120 minutes of play is certainly worse for the sport's image.)

Regarding the second part - getting people to pay for stuff - let's think why people pay for Lionel Messi (or Lebron James or ...) T-shirts. They probably want to somehow identify with that player and daydream that they too can dribble and score like that. For a young aspiring player, this identification probably serves as a good motivator. For someone who never even plays the game, it's probably more helpful socially - bonding with other people supporting that player/team. Either way, money is spent, which is the whole point. If I had the inclination to pay for Kramnik's DGT clocks or Carlsen's clothing line or Topalov's advanced chess (wink, wink) training camp, I would be more likely to do it when that player was particularly dominating. I think that's why Kasim mentioned Djokovic's winning streak this year, for example.

By the way, I am not sure this no-draw idea would be beneficial for chess. But I think it's worth being taken into consideration and tried out in a couple of tournaments. Much more importantly, I just think a free flow of ideas is vital to the health of any endeavor. Having a chessvibes contributor mock a top GM's proposal seems pretty bad for chess to me.

Ardjan's picture

Nice satire but except for Kasim nobody has given any kind of solution for the 'Kazan-disaster'. Still, if we want top chess we need sponsors, for sponsors we need publicity, for publicity we need attractive sport. Indeed, we need chess to be a real sport for real people for it to blossom, not just a hobby, a science and/or an art for most chess-lovers that read these pages. So let's fight short draws in top chess and produce results! Of course we are not going to implement Kasim's plans in amateur chess, since there are hardly any short draws and no big media exposure there to be found.

Csaba's picture

I think the article made a number of good points, but probably does not go far enough. I believe electric shocks would make for a better incentive against mistakes than some silly brownie point system.

LMedemblik's picture

I did not even bother to read an article with pictures of Ronald Reagan and Bob Ross because the last was shot dead in a gunfight in his self painted bush.

B Ollockstickler's picture

Amusing. Well written, worthy of The Onion.

Pity there are so many dull humourless folk who take it seriously. They need to get out of the house more. Oh dear.

Thanks again,


stevefraser's picture

But don't you admit comparing chess with math is absurd, even tho both are bounded by rules and neither are natural sciences.

Arne's picture


What happens if you run out of points before a draw is achieved?

Glossu's picture

This thing can't be true. This is joke no?.


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