Reports | March 02, 2012 8:59

Poll to decide on one Tal Memorial participant

Poll to decide on one Tal Memorial participant

The Russian Federation has opened a poll to decide on the invitation of one player for this year's Tal Memorial. Visitors to the RCF website can cast their vote and pick one from thirteen pre-selected players. The player with the most votes will be invited.

As we reported before, due to the announced dates of the FIDE Candidates Tournament this year's Tal Memorial will take place much earlier. The 7th edition will be held from 7 to June 19, 2012 in Moscow, Russia. Again, the tournament will be a 10-player round robin with many of the strongest grandmasters in the world.

On the website of the Russian Chess Federation it is reported that six of them have already confirmed their participation: Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. Three participants will be determined later.

For the tenth player, a unique method will be used. For the first time in history, a player can be invited to a super tournament as a result of voting by the chess fans. In the lower right corner on all pages of the RCF website a poll has been put up with the names of thirteen pre-selected players. With the text "Whom do you want to see among Tal Memorial – 2012 participants?" the follow names are given:

  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
  • Wang Hao
  • Gata Kamsky
  • Ruslan Ponomariov
  • Mickey Adams
  • Anish Giri
  • Le Quang Liem
  • Judit Polgar
  • Alexei Shirov
  • Baadur Jobava
  • Emil Sutovsky
  • Luke McShane
  • Hou Yifan

The voting is possible untile 15:00 (GMT) on March 15. At the moment of writing, Hou Yifan (15,02%) and Alexei Shirov (15,80%) received the most votes.

Of course it's an interesting idea to invite a player based on a poll - in general it cannot be wrong for organizers to listen to the chess fans! However, it is known that online polls are not ideal.

To start with, open access polls may not have participants that represent the larger population due to selection bias. In this case, the organizers might want to pick the player who is most popular among "the Russian chess fans". However, not all Russian chess fans visit their website, or have access to internet between now and March 15th, or not at all.

Furthermore, online polls are known to be vulnarable for abuse. In many cases, polls have been hijacked by large groups, for instance coming from huge websites and forums. For instance, with our Dutch origin we could bring all kinds of arguments to make sure that all of our readers would vote for Anish Giri. Not everyone would listen to us, but it might be of strong influence.

Besides, we know that Alexei Shirov and Emil Sutovsky have already shared the link to the poll on Facebook, so that their friends will be encouraged to vote for them. There's nothing wrong with that, but are all the pre-selected players on Facebook? Or, to put it in more general terms: do all players have the same resources to mobilize their friends and fans? (Besides, another result is that non-chess fans will be voting, possibly giving the poll even more participants that do not represent the intended population.)

On top of 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. And in the case of the poll at the Russian Chess Federation's website, we can tell you that it's quite easy to vote more than once: just open the page on a different browser. We voted twice, in Chrome and Opera, and then we stopped trying...

To sum up, it's not completely clear whether the RCF poll is a fair and good system to invite a player, but it's certainly interesting.

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.


vhomas topalov's picture

Apart from the rating I think is impossible to define the ever"Good/Right" system,
so analyzing all the drawbacks of the pool system might be quite pointless,
unless the case that the organization had alredy a chosen candidate, and
support it behind the scene with some kind of a lobby of many voters,
in that case maybe it would be easier to invite him at once! Otherwise if someone has more friends on facebook is simply part of the game, the interesting thing is that we, chessplayers-chessfans, can feel being at least little bit, part of the process...
... ok and if the winner of the pool will decline the invitation? :D

miker's picture

Why no Morozevich

Anonymous's picture

No RCF players in the poll !
But the other still free starting place is reserved for a RCF player.
Moro? Svidler? Karjakin? Nepo?
I guess Moro has the best chances since he didn't play last year (like Grishuk).
But who knows if he wants anyway?

Anonymous's picture

I forgot to mention that I guess Ivanchuk and Grishuk will play.!/ChessinT

Szoker's picture

why no Wojtaszek.. -.-

well, I guess my vote for Shirov then

Jonas's picture

I can answer your question - because he is nobody.
Why no Jasek? Same answer.

Thomas's picture

"it's not completely clear whether the RCF poll is a fair and good system to invite a player"
What would be a fair and good system - not just for this spot, but also for those decided by the organizers? The only alternatives I could imagine are
- a Swiss qualifying event ("Dortmund-style")
- contact all chess clubs, probably just Russian ones, and let their members vote.

"not all Russian chess fans visit their [the RCF] website, or have access to internet between now and March 15th, or not at all"
That's why it's mentioned at other sites, even here (not specifically catering to a Russian audience) and probably also at some Russian chess forums [mishanp, can you confirm this?]. And those who don't have access to the Internet also won't follow the games on the Internet ... .

Bottom line: Any new idea (as well as 'old' ideas) has its drawbacks, but I agree with vhomas topalov that it's pointless to analyze and emphasize them (without making a better suggestion!).
The only real drawback might be the list of pre-selected players - for example if Sutovsky is pre-selected, then why not Naiditsch, Vallejo or Vachier-Lagrave (my list is still incomplete)? But maybe the organizers want to avoid a player whom they don't like themselves - probably not the case for the names I give, but Topalov might be missing for a reason ... .

mishanp's picture

Actually the whole process started at a Russian forum, with "ilevitov" (Ilya Levitov) posting:

"Hello everyone! This year one of the participants of the Tal Memorial will be decided by a vote on our site. Here I suggest that we come up with a list of candidates to vote for. Already determined/invited are: Carlsen, Aronian, Kramnik, Radjabov, Grischuk, Nakamura, Caruana, Ivanchuk. There'll be three Russians, and we'll decide the third a little later.
Therefore here only foreign players should be proposed."

Then you can (with Google Translate!) follow the discussion. It's interesting that it seems that e.g. Giri's chances of an automatic place were badly affected by his 5 losses in a row at Wijk. Levitov said Topalov would have to apologise for Elista before being invited (though in any case the discussion about Topalov was a bit exaggerated - he'd already fallen out of the Top 10 on the Live Ratings so he wasn't that obvious a player to invite).

redivivo's picture

Hou is overestimated, this was her latest round robin against men:

Her last result was great but the one above was more "normal" for her when facing much stronger opponents. She doesn't belong in the Tal Memorial but will probably win the vote and maybe it will even be fun to follow her games.

S3's picture

How nice that you can identify who is overrated and who is not. But it's besides the point. And furthermore, it's likely that she has improved a lot during the past year. You can't just take a tournament from the past as a predictor for her future performance.

christos's picture

And why exactly would you pick her "latest round robin against men" to make your point, instead of her last tournament? Is it because she scored 8/10 with a TPR of 2872 in Gibraltar 2012?

redivivo's picture

No, more because one shouldn't draw too many conclusions from one single result in a Swiss, it's better to look at her dozen round robins against men, when she never competed for a top spot even though the events were much weaker than this one. Mamedyarov shared first in Tal Memorial 2010 but wasn't invited next year or now. He is underestimated by the public compared to Hou, who is seen as more deserving of a spot. Shirov is overestimated too, he gets the votes for being a great player in the 1990s in spite of having trouble staying top 50 nowadays.

S3's picture

Shirov winning Nanjing and Bazna was a fluke I pressume?
Anyway, do you really think that the voting will be based on who is "most deserving"?
Voting will be based on playing style, gender, and nationality f.e. Few think that Hou is stronger than Myamedarov, but that is not the point anyway.
And I guess there are just many who acknowledge that Hou has made another step forward and they would like to see her get a chance to play an elite tournament.

Thomas's picture

Shirov was #12 in September 2010 (BTW 2 points behind #10, your special friend Boris Gelfand) - not exactly ages ago, certainly not the 1990's. Did you also say goodbye to other inherently unstable players (Ivanchuk and Morozevich) when they were down after a few bad events?
As to Hou Yifan, the event you mention might just indicate that she has problems against fellow Chinese players - who know her well and went through the same "school". And let's not forget that she is still young and keeps improving. I agree though that Tal Memorial might still be too early for her - maybe she would already fit into events such as Corus A or (just announced) Sigeman. But even a big minus score could be a learning experience, do you remember Carlsen's first Corus A result???

redivivo's picture

On the eight lists after 2010 Shirov has as clearly best ranking a 24th, and that was on the list furthest back of the eight so I don't agree it's just a question of "a few bad events", if I recall correctly Shirov finished in last place the last five-six times he played in Linares. Carlsen's first Corus was really bad, otherwise he wouldn't have finished equal with Shirov :-)

Thomas's picture

Shirov had ups and downs throughout his career - like others with a similar style, Morozevich was down to #48 in July 2011. He had three bad results in Linares, plus two with a strange final table where he happened to have a bad tiebreak: 2000 Kasparov and Kramnik 6/10, four others 4.5/10; 2001 Kasparov 7.5/10, five others 4.5/10. And you conveniently forget or ignore that he won MTel in 2009, and Shanghai in 2010.
In any case, "being a great player [only] in the 1990s" is rather misleading: in a way it suggests that he is about to suffer the same fate as, say, Karpov and Bareev. Too early to tell, he might make another comeback.

redivivo's picture

He might do all kinds of things, but he is ranked 9th of the 13. Shirov is slightly weaker than Pono but has 20 times more votes. But now that Le got 16 000 votes in no time they can close the poll, and I guess player strength isn't one of the most important factors to the voters anyway.

Janis Nisii's picture

CV: do you have any information on how the players in the list have been selected? I mean, apart from excluding the players who they have already invited or who have already declined the invitation, are other criteria known?

test's picture

Population of China: 1,347,350,000
Population of the Netherlands: 16,725,902

Giri doesn't stand a chance.

Parkov's picture

What are you saying, that only Chinese citizens are voting for Hou Yifan?

test's picture

They would be more likely to vote for Hou Yifan than Giri imo.
So far though Shirov is leading.

Parkov's picture

Of course they would, and Dutch people would be more likely to vote for Giri. But to suggest that she's getting more votes than Giri because China has a bigger population is ridiculous. I voted for Hou Yifan and I'm about as far removed from Chinese as a person can get. It's simple, she's currently a more interesting player.

S3's picture

It's the opposite; prodigies in big countries tend to get fewer chances and get less resources initially because of bigger competition (although some small nation players tried to suggest the opposite in the past).

But in such a poll it is of course an advantage to have a big population behind you. Even better when the inhabitants tend to be nationalistic, so I think Shak will win this poll.

Thomas's picture

What makes you (I mean "test") think that total population matters? I guess it's rather "chess population" where the Netherlands do quite OK with respect to China, if number of rated players is a rough indicator. China has 468 rated players (including inactive ones), the Netherlands have 2228. They are almost even in terms of number of GMs (China 23, NL 27) and China "wins" 12-2 for WGMs.
Moreover, Chinese voters have to decide between Hou Yifan and Wang Hao. And the overall result will most likely be dominated by Russian or "Soviet" votes, followed (now that the poll is mentioned here) by the western world.

test's picture

You are quite right Thomas and I fully agree with you.

Primarily I thought the comparison was just funny. It's quite a BIG difference.

(It does matter of course, another illustration how popularity contests can get skewed, but the points you mention are way more important.)

test's picture

That being said; I just checked and Le, Quang Liem is currently leading with 3648 votes.
Didn't know chess was so popular in Vietnam.

(And I just voted a second time -after yesterday- without having to do anything btw.)

anon's picture

Quang Liem is up to 11,000+ votes now! This is getting kind of hilarious. Vote early, vote often!

darkergreen1327's picture

that is what I was thinking! these guys have a huge population size! they should put a correction factor to level the results:)

True Chess's picture

Now I have to use some hacking skills to see Gata Kamsky in this tournament.

bryan's picture

Hou Yifan would be nice to see! She's definitely has a real chance of doing well! :D

Parkov's picture

She certainly would be interesting to see but to say she definitely has a real chance of doing well is a little optimistic. Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik is a bit if a step up from Short, SHirov and Polgar

RealityCheck's picture

Kramnik, Aronian, Carlsen are all a step up for any of the players on the list. My vote goes to Yifan! No, she's not the strongest in the field but, iI look at these exhibition tournaments as training grounds for future world champions. And, I subscribe to the point of view that extreme young talent shd be given as many chances to play (like Carlsen) at an early age as many great masters as is possible.

jussu's picture

At this very moment, it seems that this Russian attempt at democracy is meeting a Vietnamese version of "regulated democracy". Votes for Le are pouring in at an astonishing speed.

mishanp's picture

Not saying there isn't some dubious voting (the poll's so badly designed technically it's inevitable, though even a well-designed internet poll would be hopelessly flawed)... but there's obviously massive interest in Le Quang Liem in Vietnam. When I was doing translations of Shipov's commentary on games involving him (e.g. from Dortmund) Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was the city most visitors were coming from. The only individual player I've seen such a jump of visitors for is Carlsen, though of course Norway's population can't really be compared to Vietnam's.

jussu's picture

A nation of midnight voters, aren't they :P

jussu's picture

Okay, now it is Luke's turn to get a big flood of votes. This actually makes sense because it is convenient after-work time in England.

RuralRob's picture

Given the current levels of Yifansanity sweeping the globe, I predict a landslide win for Hou,

Harish Srinivasan's picture

Ok, so what is the guarantee that the player who wins the vote and be invited will accept the invitation?

Having said that I think the voting system is fine. It just selects one player. If the organizer did not have this voting system but instead just invited one of the thirteen, I dont think there would have been any complaints. At least here, it brings in some element of a fan's choice. And unless you give it a try and see how it works how would you know how good it is.

Greco's picture

I would like to see Luce Mcshane play

silvakov's picture

that's a point: has anyone contacted McShane about his avail­a­bi­lity? He had to pass Corus A this year... Of course it won't be a big issue since he has no chance to win the poll anyway...

Pablo's picture

By the time I voted, Le Quang Liem was ahead over Mc Shane with almost 700 votes. Seems to be a really big difference. I don't think Vietnam is such a big country. I think, by now, that most of the people here are overreacting about the pole. This should not be analyzed that hard. Is such a curious way to decide the last player. And that's all. I think ChessVibes wrongly put the attencion over the strategy to decide a player. This is not so important; is just marketing. And an interesting.

Anyway, a good player will be chosen. Because on the list there are no bad player, I believe. All good attempts. So, relax and enjoy. The method is a nice one; you don't have to scrutinize it so bad.

sulutas's picture

I have been promoting Hou Yifan's invitation to a top tournament in my previous posts here; so, I am glad to see her name as I believe her possible participation in Tal Memorial will bring about a nice sensation in the chess world - Yet! In a world where Yao Ming has been selected as an all star for many times, I don't think that it is really fair to have a poll! Nevertheless my heart is with Hou Yifan, if she is chosen.

nathan's picture

Luke McShane is quickly closing the gap on Le, he is now 300 odd votes behind. Would love to see Luke "Skywalker" McShane battle the top guns in chess.

Adolfo's picture

The rule should be simple: "Only one vote per person –IP+MAC address ( I don’t think this is being controlled as I voted twice: One for Sutovsky and one for Jobava); votes for the same national from where you are voting should be forbidden (u should vote for a non compatriot player). We all know what happens when China or India are involved in global polls

roamingwind's picture

Wait till Hou Yifan gets the entire Chinese population going !!

Anonymous's picture

I won't vote for McShane b/c he worked for Goldman Sachs. :) Hou Yifan all the way.

Dominic Fifield's picture

Quang Liem is the best choice. Good luck!

sofa phong khach's picture

I hope Quang Liem has a place there, though his recent results are not so impressed

mishanp's picture

Oops, 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. e.g. 100,000 "signatures" were recently collected to have a debate in the UK parliament:

It's an excellent cause, but even though you had to register and even give a postal address almost all of the signatures were collected in a couple of days and forums were full of advice on how to do it multiple times or sign even if you weren't from the UK.

Thomas's picture

So McShane (currently leading the poll ahead of Shirov and Mamedyarov!!?) will be the next one to be dropped, as English people also know how to manipulate such races? :)
Two things are for sure, however:
- all or at least most of the poll participants would be a worthy addition to the field, even if roughly half of them might be favorite for last place. To me, Sutovsky is the only 'random' name on the list.
- the poll already generated quite some extra attention and publicity for the event.


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