Short Draws in the World Cup

Short Draws in the World Cup

Hikaru Junction

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Hello everyone, and welcome to Hikaru Junction, the only chess blog on the internet that wakes up every evening with a big smile on its face. I recently responded to a question in the discussion thread for the last blog: Thread 174075, which made me consider the way I evaluate short draws, especially in a knockout format. This blog, we’ll be looking at several of the very short draws from the World Cup.

As I mentioned in that thread, my criteria for determining whether a short draw is merely annoying, or detrimental to the tournament, include the reasoning for the draw. To identify some of the "best" and "worst" short draws in the World Cup, I’ve taken each draw under 20 moves and applied the following method:

If the higher-rated player is Black, and thus both players (rather than, in the reverse scenario, only Black) have an incentive to play for a draw, 2 points are awarded. If the players are functionally equivalent in rating, 2 points are awarded. If the higher-rated player is White, 0 points are awarded.

2. If the draw is under 20 moves, 3 points are awarded. If the draw is under fifteen moves, 2 points are awarded. If the draw is under 10 moves, 1 point is awarded, and although it wasn’t necessary (thank Caissa) if the draw is under 5 moves, 0 points are awarded.

3. The following scale (roughly) applies to the drawing percentage of the opening, and the points given: less than 40 percent = 3, less than 50 percent = 2, less than 60 percent = 1, and less than 70 percent = 0.

Let’s then take a look at which draws were some of the best and worst according to this (yes, imaginary, but play along) metric.

With eight points from eight, among the "best" draws under 20 moves was the following:

Jeffery Xiong–Alexander Motylev

This game is disappointing, but the reasons why aren't entirely due to the quality of the chess game. (More significant is that I’m a fan of Jeffery Xiong, who’s both my age and American, and it’s disappointing to see him be so cynical.) Although the game ended very quickly, it’s interesting to a degree, and at least a significant chunk of the opening is played out.

Here’s another eight-point game:

Aryan Tari–Aleksandr Lenderman

Once more, the game is a little cynical, refusing to play into a standard drawing line, although it cuts out abruptly. Although each of these games are short draws, and inherently disappointing for viewers and prospective viewers, they’re understandable in a tournament format where one loss frequently means elimination. Now, let’s cut to some which aren’t so acceptable, to say the least.

Scoring four points on my made-up scale (below average, as most games I went over scored five or six,) allow me to present:
Etienne Bacrot–Alexandr Hilario Takeda dos Santos Fier

This game, although about as long as the previous two at 17 moves, involves several early exchanges and fizzles out early without any real intrigue.

Finally, we at the Junction have two special awards to give out. Firstly, the draw with the highest expectations:
Richard Rapport–Wei Yi

I was really looking forward to this game, as both Rapport and Yi are young, exciting players that have the ability to pull out stunning tactical tricks. Instead, we got both an unacceptable level of effort from Rapport, and an unacceptable attitude of complacency from Yi.

And the worst draw, according to my metric: is

David Howell–Aryan Tari

This game scores one point on my scale, lasting under 10 moves, with the clearly higher-rated player as White, and the opening– well, there’s not enough to judge.

What do you think of these draws, and how can we hope to avoid them when one loss could mean elimination? In round-robin, three-points-for-a-win scoring has had some effect. Is there anything that could be done in a knockout format?

To answer this, or anything else, here’s the discussion thread: Thread 174122


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