The world’s slowest chess tournament

by admin on April 24, 2008

Here’s an update that no one asked for, on the Santa Cruz Cup, aka The World’s Slowest Chess Tournament. We got started last October with an eight-man round robin, which finally concluded in March… almost.

The trouble was that one game was still unplayed, and we couldn’t go on to the second phase of the tournament (the “championship round”) without it. It took a month to arrange, because of schedule conflicts, but Jeff Mallett finally played his game against Jim Parker and won. That created a tie between him and Dan Burkhard, which required a further playoff round to break.

Last weekend, Dan and Jeff had their playoff. They  split two games at a game/25 time control, then split two more at game/10. This is, of course, the situation that Juande Perea and I had last spring when we were playing off for the championship. We split two more at game/5 and then agreed to flip a coin instead of playing an Armageddon game. (I won the coin flip and took home the cup; however, officially we are co-champions.) This time, there wasn’t any Armageddon or any coin flip; Dan won both of the 5-minute games and thus qualified for the top quad.

So here are the standings from phase 1 again:

  1. Ilan Benjamin (6.5-0.5)
  2. Dana Mackenzie (5-2)
  3. Juande Perea (5-2)
  4. Dan Burkhard (3-4) * won playoff
  5. Jeff Mallett (3-4)
  6. Yves Tan (2.5-4.5)
  7. Ken Seehart (2-5)
  8. Jim Parker (1-6)

Now we enter the championship round, which will be a quad between the top four players (Benjamin, Mackenzie, Perea, and Burkhard) and a quad between the bottom four (Mallett, Tan, Seehart, Parker). I think we’ll get the quads started next weekend, May 4, and with any luck we might be finished with the tournament by the end of May. But I won’t guarantee it!

By the way, one of my ChessLecture listeners suggested an interesting solution to the Armageddon problem. If you want to break a tie with one game, he said that you should let Player A pick the time control that he thinks is fair (e.g., 7 minutes for White, 5 minutes for Black) and let Player B pick the color he wants. Remember that Black would get draw odds, which is why one would generally expect Player A to set a control with more time for White.

This is an interesting idea, similar to the fair division of a cake among two people (one person cuts the cake, the other picks which piece he wants). However, it doesn’t quite address one of my complaints about Armageddon games, which is that the draw odds actually make it a different game. Various openings and strategies become unavailable to White because he has to win. But maybe I’m making too big a deal about that. What do you think? Do you like the “fair division” approach to an Armageddon game? What time odds would you pick in order to balance out the draw odds?

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