June 29, 2012 9:56

Adjourned games return to chess at ACP tournament in Amsterdam

ACP Golden Classic logo

The Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) will hold a tournament in Amsterdam next month where the games will be adjourned after move 40 and resumed on another day. The time control will also be like in the old days: 2.5 hours for the first 40 moves. The tournament, called "Golden Classic", will be held 14-22 July in Amsterdam, alongside the Dutch Championship and the SPA Open.

Game adjournments were abolished 18 years ago, and so some of our readers probably don't even know exactly what it means, or how this worked. Typically, until the mid 90s, at top tournaments games were adjourned after the time control (after either move 40 or 60). The player whose move it was, secretly wrote down his next move and the form was sealed in an envelope. Both players would analyze the position with their seconds and the game was resumed usually on the next rest day. The arbiter would open the envelope and execute the move sealed in the envelope, and the game resumed.

Sometimes games would be adjourned more than once, in case of very long (end)games. A famous example is Timman-Velimirovic, Rio de Janeiro 1979. The first World Championship not to use adjournments was the PCA Championship between Anand and Kasparov in 1995 while the last one to use adjournments was the FIDE World Championship between Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov in 1996.

One of the reasons to abolish adjournments in chess was the advent of strong chess playing computer programs, which could be used to analyze adjourned positions. ACP President Emil Sutovsky and ACP Board Director Yuri Garrett don't think this is a problem. Garrett:

This ACP Golden Classic comes out of Emil's idea, but it basically realizes an old dream of mine. I never understood why they stopped the adjournments. I just don't believe that computers will "equal" the game in an endgame or anything, I think they will just favour the best player. I think that this is a great occasion for demonstrating that whenever there is something new you should look at the past.

The tournament will be a single round robin with seven players: Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR, 2764), Gata Kamsky (USA, 2741), Baadur Jobava (GEO, 2721), Krishnan Sasikiran (IND, 2720), Le Quang Liem (VIE, 2703), Emil Sutovsky (ISR, 2687) and Anna Muzychuk (SLO, 2598). The exact schedule is not known yet, but it will be held alongside (and at the same venue) as the Dutch Championship and the Science Park Amsterdam (SPA) Chess Tournament. From the press release on the official website:

Seven great players from seven different countries will be battling for the ACP Golden Classic title in an unprecedented way in the computer era: they shall be competing under the same time control as was used in the World Championship matches in the Golden Era of chess: 2,5 hours/40 moves + adjournment! This should provide an occasion for producing highly spectacular and imaginative chess, by giving the seven gladiators the most important ingredient needed for exploiting their skills and fantasy: time to think.

Tournament director is Jeroen van den Berg, who also runs the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee and the Univé Tournament in Hoogeveen each year. He said about the tournament:

I am honoured that the ACP chose Amsterdam as host city for this unique event. The players, renowned for their fighting spirit, are very diverse in style, generation, country and even gender. I do expect them to battle out every game to the last inch.

Because adjournments are not part of the current FIDE regulations, the tournament won't be rated.* The players will be fighting for an overall prize-fund of US $35,000. The sponsor is private and doesn't want to be mentioned.

So why exactly is the ACP doing this? Do they think this is the future, the direction chess should go? Yuri Garrett:

More than with the future of chess, I think this has to do with the role of the ACP. The goal of the ACP is to be useful, to pave the way for new opportunities for professional players. It wants to build a community of professionals and the goal is to go where other people do not. At present there is a main stream that thinks that the adjournment isn't possible. Over the years, this has brought a lack of quality in endgames and a lot is decided in the openings, because we are reducing time controls. Is this an experiment, is this the way to go? We don't know, but we do it. I don't think it's the ACP's role to decide.

* Update 15:43 CET: The tournament won't count for the FIDE ratings, but not "because adjournments are not part of the current FIDE regulations". GM Emil Sutovsky explained to us:

It won't be rated for two reasons. First of all, we believe that to have it unrated is more in the spirit of the Golden Classic format. We want to take off the obstacles, which could prevent players from playing creative chess. Besides, some players were not sure about the format and its impact, and at some point we decided to go this way. But I don't see a problem. We have put a considerable amount into the prize fund, which should be stimulating, but not preventing the players from showing their best.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Roger's picture

Move 40 adjournments can take place in middle games. That was Botvinnik's skill, he was very strong when, as Bronstein put it, the game was paused for analysis. They don't say, but presumably they aren't using a quick play finish either. So games could drag on for ever at 16 moves per hour.

mishanp's picture

Sutovsky said they haven't decided yet. They were considering just 20 moves an hour or else using an increment.

Mikel Larreategi's picture

Why won't be the tournament rated? The adjournment thing is not an argument, as far as FIDE Laws of Chess have an entire Annex to explain the adjourning procedure...

Can someone elaborate on that?



Remco Gerlich's picture

I can't find it either. Adjournments are in the Laws, and nowhere in the Tournament or Rating regulations does it say anything about adjournments.

Thomas's picture

Technically, adjournments would violate Article 12.3 of the Laws of Chess: "During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse on another chessboard" - or at least there is no way to verify that these rules are observed.

brabo's picture

I heard this argument before. Players may neither leave the playingarea during play. For me the definition of adjourning is exactly that you stop playing and will resume on some later moment.

Creemer's picture

Technically, the game is adjourned. So all analysis cannot be said to take place "during".

Anonymous's picture

In the old days your friends would stay up all night analyzing the "adjourned" position....now the computer can and everyone can get a good nights sleep.

brabo's picture

Some positions can't be just left alone to computers, especially endgames. I believe it would be a big mistake to adjourn and leave the analysis completely to the computer. I am sure this policy will cost you points in the long end.

Thomas's picture

Indeed there will still be a human factor. I would say that comparatively few positions can be "left alone to computers" who will find a single forced line or a small variation tree with a clear verdict (win or draw) at the end. In such cases seconds can safely go to sleep - but they need to know _before_ going to sleep!
In other cases engines are helpful but not more than that. +0.5 might be a purely symbolic advantage, a promising one imposing a long and tough defense on the opponent, or it may even already be in a higher sense decisive. The second has to decide!
And the first engine line may not always be the best choice from a practical point of view. It might lead to simplifications and a pawn-up endgame that's still drawn (first type of +0.5 position) while other possibilities keep the game alive. Again work for the second.

brabo's picture

I remember my last adjourned game was a drawn endgame. However there were hundreds of variations possible and I chose a few times a second or third best line just to bring the opponent out of his preparation. The strategy worked. My opponent had studied many lines but not the one I selected, made an error on the board and eventually lost.
I also want to point out that analyzing with computers is a discipline on itself, see my blogarticle (Dutch): http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.be/2012/05/analyseren-met-de-computer.html

grabapawnalotski's picture

this may be the way forward for chess.to go back, let use our computers it will improve our technique , if you adjourn with r+n V r then your and opponent will try and master the winning and drawing plans , you woulds master r+4V r+3 same side , etc

Excalibur's picture

Good for the players but pointless for the spectators.

Creemer's picture

I'm a spectator. I like it.

brabo's picture

I see the gap between the highest and the lowest rated player is quite big. I won't be surprised if one or 2 of the top seeds preferred not to have the games rated as due to adjournments they assume less points to score than expected with their rating.
My experience with adjournments (http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.fr/2012/05/afbreken.html) tells me that it is quite a different game with strength differences diverting from the normal ratings.

S3's picture

Ivanchuk and Kamsky are no rating ****, they don't care about that and just want to play.

brabo's picture

Playing 6 games (7 players only) for first price 10k$ with 35k$ total prices, I don't think anybody will care much about rating.

Anonymous's picture

And only one player below 2687 doesn't exactly mean that there are lots of "weak" players compared to 2741 Kamsky.

NN's picture

Very interesting for fans of the endgame. And ... a private sponsor (!)

jussu's picture

Very interesting idea in any case.

Stephen's picture

It should be interesting to see how this develops. Will draws be more readily agreed in "equal" positions or will the "grinders" use the computer to find even more ways of keeping such positions alive ? Similarly, will the computer help save seemingly unsaveable positions ? I think that this could be a very interesting development.

Thomas's picture

On your first question, I think there's no universal answer: Players get more time to think about whether it's worthwhile playing on, if there are still some chances for him (her) or pitfalls for the opponent. If this involves playing on for another 20-30 moves, computers may be of limited help: it's impossible to thoroughly analyze all possibilities, or at least to perfectly memorize all possibilities.
I guess if a player is bound to continue in three out of six positions, he may still continue in three out of six positions - but not necessarily the very same three positions. Only one element might disappear: hoping or speculating that the opponent will crack under (time) pressure - anyone's choice whether this is good or bad news.

On your second question: if there is a study-like defense, engines probably find it. But how likely is it that the moment to achieve an "impossible" draw precisely coincides with the moment of adjournment?

brabo's picture

My experience tells me that adjourning favors the defender in general. The drawmargin is normally quite big but in todays game with accelerating ritme, it is not easy to find all the resources.
This could also be the very reason why the higher rated players prefer not to have the tournament rated as they will have less chances to outplay the (slightly) weaker opponent.

Matt's picture

I like this, hope the organisers succeed with this new-old idea. :)

Shaun Press's picture

As has been noted above, adjournments are still part of the FIDE Laws of Chess. A proposal to remove the rules relating to adjournments was proposed as recently as 2008, but was voted down by the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulations Commission.
They may have gone out of fashion, but adjournments have not been abolished. As for why the tournament isn't going to be rated, it might be worth getting an answer from the organisers.

Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks everyone for pointing out this inaccuracy in the report. Hereby I can confirm that the tournament won't count for the FIDE ratings, but not "because adjournments are not part of the current FIDE regulations". I just spoke to GM Emil Sutovsky, who explained:

It won't be rated for two reasons. First of all, we believe that to have it unrated is more in the spirit of the Golden Classic format. We want to take off the obstacles, which could prevent players from playing creative chess. Besides, some players were not sure about the format and its impact, and at some point we decided to go this way. But I don't see a problem. We have put a considerable amount into the prize fund, which should be stimulating, but not preventing the players from showing their best.

mishanp's picture

Ah, that's what I eventually assumed :) Sutovsky gave the same response about creativity in an interview a couple of days ago, but it did seem as if he was, understandably, "accentuating the positive": http://www.whychess.org/en/node/2130

Mikel Larreategi's picture

Thanks Peter!

brabo's picture

It would be interesting to know what is meant exactly with ' some players were not sure about the format and its impact'. The format impacting the ratings, as I assumed in my previous post?

Anyway a very nice initiative and surely the prize fund should stimulate everybody.

bronkenstein's picture

I will always be the first to applaud to any action against the extreme Eloistic brainwashing we are all exposed to nowadays, many of us , unfortunately, not even being aware of it.

Bravo, and lets hope for more in the future!

redivivo's picture

The reason the players didn't want the games to be rated was obviously that they take the ratings seriously. Otherwise playing great chess and scoring great results gives players a high rating today just as it was in the days of Fischer and Kasparov.

Harry's picture

Very nice!!!
I hope to see more tournaments with adjounments. I think to play without adjournments was a good idea for the trasition phase from pre-computer era to computer era. But now everybody has basically the same equipment, so there is no reason to play without adjournments anymore. It's also very good for the spectators because the higher quality.

Anonymous's picture

Instead of waiting for move 40 for the computers to take the game over, why not move 2...the human gets to make the first move, then move back and let the machines battle it out.

brabo's picture

In enginematches that is exactly what happens. Humans make the openingchoice via inserting priorities in the openingsbook and machines battle it out. So If that format interests you more then please have a look to those matches. In fact you can easily organise this yourself on your computer with a couple of programs.

noyb's picture

I will definitely be following this tournament with interest. Fantastic idea! I miss the good ol' days!

Kronsteen's picture

I'm not sure that adjournments are the future, but I certainly hope that playing outside of FIDE's clutches is.

fen's picture


chessteve's picture

I am old enough to remember adjournments and all I can say is "NOOOOOOOOOO!" Chess becomes a game not between two players but the players, friends, coaches and laptop. Awful idea. The worst!

Bartleby's picture

Good idea for one tournament.
I think the big issue with adjournments is unequal access to the best hardware (supercomputers) and software (not-yet released new programs). In most endgames it won't make much of a difference, but e.g. in a complicated queen endgame raw calculating power can be an advantage. And probably one of the next generations of chess engines will extract humanly memorizable patterns out of tablebase perfection, and another will generally learn to explain. Access to an early non-public version of such a program could adjourn you a GM title.

Lee's picture

Not keen on the idea of adjournments.

I like the idea of it being unrated though. Could really inject some randomness and excitement.

redivivo's picture

I like neither the adjournments nor the unrated part of it :-) The adjournments will only have the effect that the player with the biggest computer resources get an advantage over players with less resources behind them, and the games being unrated will just mean that the players care less than they would if the games were rated.

brabo's picture

What about the increase in quality of the games thanks to adjournments?
I do agree that a pure sportive chesscompetition (both players have same resources) is preferable but unless you play Fischerrandomchess it doesn't exist.

Thomas's picture

I would actually question that "biggest computer resources" can play an important role. Let's face it, the tournament isn't important enough for players to make extreme special efforts - such as buying supercomputer time or (human factor) hire a second stronger than their regular one or an entire team of seconds. And if a player does, it could make a difference in one out of six games? The other ones may be won, lost or drawn "beyond repair" before move 40 [after all, players are on their own after the opening phase until the game is adjourned]; or the adjourned position isn't complex or tricky enough that a supercomputer really sees more than a laptop. Hence, it might mean 1/2 extra point in the final standings. Of course in a WCh match such a half-point can make a big difference.

As to the games not being rated and players caring less ... . Maybe, but this doesn't mean that they will play carelessly, it could mean that they are in an experimental mood trying different openings, or that they take more risks - both could please spectators rather than turning them off (Amber comes to my mind). And I would assume that at least the four to five players who don't get many round robin invitations will still be motivated enough to give their very best?

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