Reports | March 17, 2012 14:51

McShane wins poll for Tal Memorial invitation | UPDATE: Le Quang Liem's reaction

McShane wins poll for Tal Memorial invitation | UPDATE: Le Quang Liem's reaction

Luke McShane won the poll on the website of the Russian Chess Federation, which was to decide which tenth player would be invited for this year's Tal Memorial. The English grandmaster received 3860 votes, 128 more than runner-up Alexei Shirov. This was reported by the Russian Chess Federation.

In early March we reported that the Russian Chess Federation opened a poll to decide on the invitation of one player for this year's Tal Memorial. Visitors to the RCF website could cast their vote and pick one from thirteen pre-selected players. The player with the most votes would be invited. Last Thursday, the RCF brought the news that English grandmaster Luke McShane won the poll.

The fight was very hard, and until the end the three leaders went head to head. In the end, Luke McShane (England) won, receiving 3860 votes. Second place went to the Latvian grandmaster Alexei Shirov - 3732 votes, while third came Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) - 3682 votes. They left behind the Women's World Champion, Chinese Hou Yifan, who was supported by 1646 people, and the leader of the Georgian team Baadur Jobava, who got 720 votes.

As we wrote earlier, online voting often leads to problems. We mentioned several potential issues, one being that many online polls lack good security to avoid people voting more than once. Usually polls are secured by either cookies (small bits of information stored at the voter's computer) or the registration of IP addresses, but a decent hacker will find his way around this. In the case of the vote at the RCF website, we quickly discovered that it was possible to vote several times, simply by using different browsers.

And indeed, the poll encountered such problems. After a few days, the Russian Chess Federation decided to remove Le Quang Liem from the poll,

as his supporters have violated the rules of fair play and used computer generated votes.

As mishanp commented on our site, 

(...) Le Quang Liem voters got a little over "enthusiastic" and he seems to have been dropped from the race. I don't know... on the one hand, people definitely were voting multiple times (techniques for how to do it were being discussed on at least one Vietnamese forum), but on the other hand, it's just the nature of such votes.

And so against his will Le Quang Liem was punished for his popularity in his home country, and the many votes had the opposite effect.

We contacted Luke McShane and asked him whether he would consider playing, and if he would be able to take off time from work. Unfortunately, at this point he couldn't comment yet.

Update March 18, 12:52 CET - On his personal blog, Le Quang Liem has now reacted to what happened with the poll on the RCF website. He writes:

To be honest, I didn’t have time to follow the voting because I had been concentrating on my own tournament, the HD Bank Open Chess tournament in Vietnam. My friends told me that they voted for me, as well as informed and persuaded others to vote for me. I was very grateful for that.

However, I soon found out that my name had been excluded from the list for some unknown reasons. Only until March 15th, which was the voting’s deadline, RCF announced that the top spot went to the English player with 3,860 votes. At the end of the announcement I found an explanation for my case.

They said I was excluded from the list because my supporters had voted unfairly by using computers to vote automatically. This might happen due to a technical problem of the website, or an over-zealous attempt from a fan. In either case, it was unfortunate.

Yet, I was really surprised by RCF’s decision. Obviously they have all the rights to set up a voting-list or nominate a player. But when they run such voting, they must have clear regulations and execute them strictly. If, for example, they find a number of illegitimate votes, they should eliminate them but still have to count the remaining legitimate ones. In my case, they simply removed the candidate who didn’t commit any fault at all.

To me, this is clearly an unfair and disrespectful decision. That I didn’t hear any word of explanation from RCF for more than 10 days afterwards is also strange. The whole thing is even stranger considering the fact that Vietnamese chess fans later could not vote for any other chess players in the list (RCF possibly used an IP-blocking for all computers in Vietnam).

From this experience, there are two important issues we need to think about. First, when voting for such events, fans should vote honestly and seriously and organizers need to have explicit and fair rules which show respect for candidates, especially when organizers themselves set up a list of candidates. Second, it may not be appropriate to have such voting for such a prestigious chess tournament when there aren’t clear rules or effective ways to control the voting.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Septimus's picture

Jobaava and Yifan would have been better options. Both are attacking players.

KC's picture

Just say it's a closed tournament. Vote for what? Le should say thank you to the organization for putting his name at the first round. Faults(suspected) for Le's fans, retributions for Le.

silvakov's picture

wow, just cause i said in the previous report on the subject that mcshane had no chance! now my 'concerns' about his availability are real!

Bob's picture

I voted for Luke as I think he is one of the most interesting players around at the moment, as well as being a prfoundly nice chap. Hope he can make it

James Maskell's picture

Good pick. McShane faced Shirov today in the Bundesliga. Talk of coincidence!

Greco's picture

Nice!!!i hope he performs as good as in London

nickeur's picture

I had voted for Le. Bad news but my second choice was Mcshane so.... I'm very happy!!

k's picture

I'm happy its McShane, I voted for him a couple of times from different browsers.

stevefraser's picture

Great to see the fans directly involved!

RuralRob's picture

If I were Luke's employer, I'd send him to the tournament in style on the corporate jet! Just make sure he's wearing the company logo the whole time.

Billy Hunt's picture

I don't see how there could be anything unfair about a Russian election.

Septimus's picture

LOL...Nicely done sir!

Kenneth W. Regan's picture

One aspect is that McShane won the Wijk Tata "B" last year, on tiebreak over David Navara, but his job did not allow him to claim the prize of playing in the "A" this year, so Navara did instead. Thus the Tal---if his job allows this time---would be a kind of recompense.

galil.sho's picture

Anyone knows , who are the other players ?

fen's picture

Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian, Radjabov, Nakamura, Caruana, and McShane if he accepts - Shirov came in 2nd in the voting. Then there are three more spots yet to be filled.

Richard Fireman's picture

I don't understand why Nepomniachtchi wasn't a contender; he clearly demonstrated at the Tal Memorial last year (as well as other tournaments previously) that he was among the top players in the world, although at his last tournament he clearly underperformed; however, he's extremely talented and deserves to be competitive at the top level. Oh, well...

Thomas's picture

The poll was meant to pick a foreign (non-Russian) player, hence Nepomniachtchi wasn't a contender. At least some of the remaining spots will go to Russians. I remember something like "two more Russians" - plenty of candidates: Karjakin, Grischuk, Svidler, Morozevich, Nepomiachtchi (probably no chance for Tomashevsky, Jakovenko or Vitiugov). As the result of the poll was close, they may also invite Shirov or Mamedyarov - in any case, it should be Shirov's turn if McShane cannot accept the invitation.

RealiityCheck's picture

For me this is good news inspite of having caste a vote for Yifan.

PeterV's picture

Me the same...

Peter Doggers's picture

Le Quang Liem's reaction now added to the article.

mishanp's picture

Le Quang Liem: "The whole thing is even stranger considering the fact that Vietnamese chess fans later could not vote for any other chess players in the list (RCF possibly used an IP-blocking for all computers in Vietnam)."

Actually it seems no-one anywhere could vote after Le Quang Liem was excluded, which makes the talk of a hard fight until the end of the vote a little bizarre. I basically agree with Alexander Khalifman. He noted that Liem is popular enough to have won a fair vote, and said that the RCF had a choice, either to 1) accept everything as it was (Liem wins) or 2) organise a new vote with clear rules (as there was plenty of time). They picked a strange third option - suspending the vote and declaring the player who had been second at that point the winner.

The only thing I'd add is that it's unlikely clear rules would have helped, as it's almost always going to be trivial to skew an internet vote. Of course it can be treated as just a little fun and a publicity stunt for the RCF website, but given the significance of an invite to probably the top super-tournament of the year it's a bit inappropriate.

Arne Moll's picture

Good reaction by Le Quang Liem  but chances must be zero the RCF will respond again. Will they ever learn?

sofa phong khach's picture

It is so said for Le, he did nothing wrong. I think RCF's decision to choose from internet voting is not appropriate. Anyway, congrelation to McShane, he is one of those that derseve this tournament entry.

Thomas's picture

Le Quang Liem is understandably disappointed, but what should the organizers have done? If they had invited him, that decision would also be criticized - it was rather obvious that rules of fair play have been violated (maybe also for other candidate players, but less blatantly). And it may be impossible to separate illegitimate votes from legitimate ones (as LQL suggests) and count only the latter.

Back to the start: The organizers picked a number of players worthy of a "wildcard", but not quite strong enough for a regular invitation. How should they pick one of them?
- throwing a dice or some other lottery?
- decide themselves who is most popular among chess fans? This might reflect whose fans make most "noise" on Internet forums (but that's probably a small subset of the total chess fan population), or preferences by journalists who also know little or zero about what a silent majority thinks. Khalifman's opinion quoted by mishanp ("Liem is popular enough to have won a fair vote") is also just his opinion!?
Instead, they came up with a poll - which turned out to be flawed, but no more flawed than the other options. Maybe a Chess Oscar style poll would have been better: asking only journalists, which eliminates the problem of fake multiple votes.

Yet while McShane was granted a spot, noone else was robbed of a spot. And they all have the opportunity to improve their ratings (20-50 points might do the job) to be considered for 'normal' supertournament invitations, Tal Memorial or elsewhere.

Anonymous's picture

"Instead, they came up with a poll - which turned out to be flawed, but no more flawed than the other options."

I disagree. What they did made people feel disrespected - a truly random lottery of that set of players would not have.

James's picture

McShane is an excellent choice, if he really committed to Chess I have no doubt he'd be a top 10 player and competing for future World Championships, unfortunately it seems the money in Chess isn't as good as banking. I really hope Luke finds time to play in the Tal Memorial and shows the world he can compete with the best overseas as well as at home.

Jhoravi's picture

Liem is far better than McShane

Nesbo's picture

Liem is a professional, Luke is an Amateur. If Luke turned pro then how far could he go?

John's picture

Le is definitely right. Next time, if anyone wants his/her player vote, he/she can simply arrange illegitimate votes for other players so the opponents can be disqualified.

hipocrates's picture

Glad to see McShane take the take! Me and my mates voted from from several browsers on several computers in the critical hours.

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