Columns | 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!


Share |
Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Michel83's picture

I'm afraid it isn't.
Everybody who is a regular on chessvibes will tell you that Arne is known for being a man completely devoid of humour. To be frank he is quite a frightening fellow!

Sligunner's picture

How about extending the time limit: 35 moves in 2.5 hours, 1 hour for next 20 moves, 30 mins for remainder of the game with a one minute increment from the first move. It would certainly encourage deeper thought, fewer mistakes, better chess.

stevefraser's picture

Or “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! BTW, in top flight tourneys and the world championship I'd give each player ninety minutes (for a total of three hours for the whole thing....similar to most other competitive sport time limits.)

Cheesus's picture

Haha, very witty! :) I particularly like the subtle reverse psychology in your satirical proposal.

Me's picture

I don't think mistakes are a sign of crisis. Per contra, it means there is a place for competition and development. How chess games would look like without mistakes? That would be something peculiar. Besides, how one imagine the possibility of win/lose outcomes in chess games without mistakes in the first place? How that would look like...

kaizen's picture

This may sounds bold, but I have a little proposal for more spectacular chess, adn still very interesting chess. I'd like to get your point of view.

Take 2 teams of 5 guys, 5 chessboards, 5 games.
- Every guy is playing ALL 5 games.
- Every guy gets 1 minutes for each move.
- Once they play their move, they go to the next chessboard, replacing the guy who was there before, and so on.

It means that each player really plays 5 games, but has to cope with what has been played by the other guys of his own team. It means that when you arrive on the chessboard, you have no idea what the situation is since 4 moves has been done by the other players of your team.

And the behaviour of a game is quite unpredictible, since the 10 different personalities of the players will be reflected in each game.

This looks simple to do, very stimulating mentally, great shows as 5 games in the same time played by everyone. And in the end, a winning team!

Your view??

linksspringer's picture

Or you could combine the proposals: if it's a draw, then whoever made the least amount of mistakes according to the engines gets the win. Something like a win on points in boxing. No more draws! ;-)

jonald fenecios's picture

My God with this proposal we are entirely and wholly accepting that machines dominate humans!

Mehul's picture


Daan's picture

Sorry Arne, I think this article is a big mistake.
Take it back and write a new one!

chuck's picture

SMILE.................YOU'RE ON CANDID CAMERA!!!!!


Rob Brown's picture

In this humourless, politically correct century satire does not do well, as evidenced by the reaction of the majority of commentators after reading this article. For the seriously minded out there in cyberland, when the author of an article starts quoting the likes of Ronald "MacDonald" Reagan and Faux artistes like Bob Ross, you can bet you're having your chain yanked.

adam porth's picture

"to err is human . . ." That's why many play.

Arsen Babayan's picture

This [proposed] game doesn't have anything in common with chess. Why this was published on the website at all?!

stevefraser's picture

Each game will continue until sixty moves are completed unless a definite result is reached....The player who brings about a repetition of position loses.

Bastivenko's picture

In my opinion Arne Moll is undeservedly making jokes about Kazimdzhanov, who made a serios proposal. It doesn't matter if this Idea is good or not. Trying to make it look rediculous is not a fair behavior towards such a great player.

Barone's picture

Why NOT a sport?
Reading most of the comments to this article, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks Chess IS indeed a sport, like any other fair competition based on exact rules.
As for all this indignation about different no-draw systems, I think any standard has itsplus and minus, but for sure there's no real way to eradicate draws in long time controls, especially in the elite group of players. Just like in any other sport, the higher the level, the more likely a drawn result is: when someone arrives on the scene who is able to win spectacularly against all the rest, then you have the super-champion who's able to revive his dicipline's popularity, as we could see in Chess with Kasparov, or for example in pole vault with Bubka (just to name a very minor sport).
The REAL problem for professional Chess is, as usual, politics: I cannot remember any other professional sport with such despotic and unworthy organization, WORLD organization infact! FIDE' president is at best described as an unpresentable joke himself, and nothing has being done for any of the main professional concerns of the Chess world, such as cheating prevention, live coverage of the main events (which are not even defined: what are the "grand slam" tournaments?), stabilization of the world title attribution system, definition of conventional time limits as chess' specialities with their own elo rate...
If the organization is completely bogus, both at local and especially at general level, what's the point of all this blabbering about appeal on the general masses and on allegged sponsors' seduction?

Philipp Somrowsky's picture

brilliant article ... :))) love the Bob Ross-quote!

Jacob's picture

There is another flaw: I don't know how it is called in game theory but perhaps the game is a draw if always the best move is played. In that case it is a travesty to do anything if a games does not end in a draw. Perhaps the new Let's check (feature in Fritz 13 ) database, and analysis of it, could be interesting.


Latest articles