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Mig on Chess #116, 13.4.99
Dos Hermanas Rounds 4 & 5: Alternating Currents

"When cowardice is made respectable, its followers are without number both from among the weak and the strong; it easily becomes a fashion." -- Eric Hoffer

If you're not going to be able to watch round six on Tuesday, don't worry, you're not likely to miss much. As an even-numbered round it's an unofficial off day and you can expect at least four of the games to be short draws. This isn't Migstradamus talking, it's the numbers so far: Nine out of ten games played on even-numbered rounds have been drawn! That's compared to the 7/15 games drawn in rounds one, three, and five. And of course that should be 6/15, as we'll see a little later.

Rounds full of draws always create talk about solutions to this "problem." Several times I've hashed over this topic in these pages and many people have sent in their ideas on how best to cut down on the percentage of drawn games in GM tournaments. First you have to distinguish good fighting draws from so-called GM-draws. The former are the result of hard-played games in which neither player manages to win (or lose), simply put. The point is that at least one of the players was trying to win the game and had confidence in his ability to do so. A GM-draw results when neither player has much interest in winning or, at the very least, has much more interest in not losing. The term "GM-draw" originates with the plain fact that it's rare for draws of under 20 moves to occur in non-professional games. I think this is because few amateurs believe they have more to lose than to gain in any given game since their livelihoods don't depend on their tournament standings or their elo rating. Rarely would a club player propose, or agree to, a draw unless the position were hopelessly even, or unless he believed his position to be at least minutely inferior.

But many GMs agree to draws in positions that have been reached hundreds of times before and others make peace just when things are starting to get interesting. Though they are rarely pressed about these short draws, when they are asked they usually have no shortage of excuses handy. (Some of them are even valid, I should add.) But how can we determine which are valid draws and which ones were cop-outs? Extenuating circumstances must be factored in, surely. On the other hand, justice must be meted out to those who rob the sponsors of their invested cash and the fans of their good faith by heading for the showers without breaking a sweat. How can we do this? How can we be objective? This is where the "Chicken Factor™" comes in.

I have designed a scientifically precise system we can use to figure out who needs to be tarred and feathered and who already has his own plumage. It assigns values to each of the legitimate factors in the final position and then adds them up to produce the final rating for each player: The Chicken Factor. Many of the off-the-board factors are also included. These factors are based on the common excuses we hear, of course. (Other excuses like "I didn't know what was going on," are not acceptable and receive no adjustments. And if you want to "save energy" go install some solar panels.) You simply run down the ten-point checklist, and there you have it!



1. "There wasn't any play left in the position." Fine, I believe you, but then what do all those pieces do? If there's enough material on the board anything can happen! A simple piece value count provides us with the first variable in the formula: The total value of the player's pieces and pawns, based on the traditional Queen=9, Rook=5, Bishop and Knight=3, Pawn=1. (Calculated separately for each player to penalize the person with a material advantage.) Short draws are worse than boring and pathetic, they are insulting to the fans and the organizers. Subtract the total number of moves from each player's piece value score. (Additional penalty for draws of 15 moves and under. See Bonuses and Penalties below.) So, a game with no exchanges and drawn in 18 moves would provide a base Chicken Factor of, umm, lemme see, uhhh... 21 for each player (39 piece value minus 18 moves). (See the Bonuses and Penalties section for symmetrical and locked structures.) Note that in a fighting draw this base Chicken Factor will most likely be a negative number.

2. "I had black." Racist! Since when did it become impossible to win with black? Okay, not everyone is a Fischer or a Kasparov, but many players today seem to be terrified of winning with black. They get an equal, or even slightly better, position and the first thing they do is propose a draw, eager to try for the win with white the next day. From a maximization of advantages perspective this makes sense (more energy + first move) so we can't criticize too harshly. But if you don't think you can beat your opponent from an equal position why don't you go home and break out your Barbie? A 10-point penalty is added to the Chicken Factor of the player with the white pieces and black receives a 10-point deduction.

3. "One look at the crosstable will show you why we agreed to an early draw." Coward! If you're having a bad tournament don't you think trying to win might help improve things? If you're in first place did you get there by wimping out in every game? Rapid draws are common between tailenders near the end of an event because neither player wants to make things worse and lose even more elo points. Anyone in the lead is politely excused from playing a decent game because any half-point edges them closer to tournament victory. But when appearance fees are much higher than the prizes this argument loses weight like Pavarotti with Ebola. The lost elo risk is more of a factor since organizers are so infatuated with putting on the highest category event they can. Since most GMs pay the rent with the money they make at chess there has to be a small adjustment here. If the game was played in the final two rounds and one of the players was in first or last place, deduct 10 points from that player's total. (Of course in a match this deduction only applies to the player in the lead.)

4. "I was just happy to get a draw against So-and-so." This is the cry of the underdog who just drew against a much higher-rated opponent. Who cares about what was happening on the board, Mr. Superduper offered a draw and you grabbed it with both hands! To the barnyard with you! If you were good enough to go toe-to-toe against a higher-rated player so far why aren't you good enough to beat him? And if the guy always beats you wouldn't it be nice to break that streak? Again, elo is a mitigating factor since a draw gives the lower-rated player some points. Plus, the big guy deserves a penalty for letting some wimp off with half a point. Take the difference between their ratings, divide that number by 5 and add the rounded result to the higher-rated player's score and subtract it from the lower-rated player's.

5. "After what happened in my last game(s) I just wanted hang on and get my equilibrium back." YAWN. The medical benefit of trying to force a draw after losing a game has yet to be proven! Still, GMs invest a lot of energy and ego in their games and are often seriously affected by a loss. Deduct 5 points from any player for each preceding consecutive loss. (So if one of the players had just lost his two previous games you deduct 10 points from his Chicken Factor. If a player is coming off a draw or win, no modification is made.)

Bonuses and Penalties:

6. "No play" bonus: If the pawn structure is clearly symmetrical or completely locked, deduct 5 points from the scores of both players. (If the pawn structure is both symmetrical and locked, deduct 10.)
7. "Imminent disaster" bonus: If a three-time repetition occurs because there was no viable alternative. This applies in cases of perpetual check or in those rare cases in which if either player avoids the repetition he will remain with the worse position. (Use very critical judgement here. Most repetitions can be avoided.) Deduct 10 points from both players in these extreme cases.
8. "Been there, done that" penalty: Add ten points to the score of both players if they failed to exceed known games by at least five moves. That is, if they agree to a draw on move 18 and you find another game that reached the exact same position they had reached on move 16, you apply the penalty and add 10 to each player's score. (This adjustment can be ignored by those without access to large databases.)
9. "Why bother?" penalty: A severe penalty for insulting the fans and the organizers by agreeing a draw before your seat gets warm. Draws in 0-10 moves: add 45 points; 11-15 moves: 30 points; 16-20 moves: 15 points.
10. "What, me win?" penalty: A rare penalty, applied to a player who agrees to a draw in a winning or extremely advantageous position. 30 points are added to the player with the clearly superior position. And of course you can't blame the other player for agreeing to a draw in a losing position so deduct 20 points from the player who just received a miracle.

Then we check the Chicken Factor Scorechart to see how they scored. (Generally speaking, below zero is good and above zero is wimpy.)


> Chicken Factor -50 or less: Fearless Falcon
> Chicken Factor -49 - -25: Heroic Hawk
> Chicken Factor -24 - -1: Plucky Peregrine
> Chicken Factor 0 - 15: Timid Turkey
> Chicken Factor 16 - 30: Faint-hearted Finch
> Chicken Factor 31 - 45: Spineless Sparrow
> Chicken Factor 46 - 60: Cowardly Cuckoo
>Chicken Factor 61 or more: Chicken Supreme
(a.k.a. King of the Barnyard, Colonel Sanders,
Foghorn Leghorn, El Pollo Loco, Cock-a-doodle-doo, etc.)

So let's put the Chicken Factor to the test by looking at several of the five
draws provided in round four of the Dos Hermanas super-tournament.

[There is a handy online Chicken Factor form here.]

1 (Base CF (material value minus number of moves)):
(37 - 27 = 10) Gelfand: +10; (37 - 27 = 10) Polgar: +10
2 (color): Gelfand: +10; Polgar: -10
3 (standings): Draw did not occur in the final two rounds, no adjustments
4 (rating): Gelfand (elo 2691): +3; Polgar (elo 2677): -3
5 (preceding loss): Gelfand: no adjustment; Polgar: -10 (lost in rounds two and three)

Additional Adjustments: None

Chicken Factor: Gelfand: 23; Polgar: -13

Thus we find that while this draw was fully warranted from Polgar's perspective, Gelfand finds himself right in the middle of Faint-hearted Finch territory.

Gelfand - Polgar
, round four
Final position after 27...Bf6

(We can also talk of a game's chicken factor by adding the two scores (here it would be 10), although this is often inaccurate due to cases like the above in which one player is much more deserving of blame than the other.)

Korchnoi - Kramnik, round four
Final position after 13...Nbd5

1 Base CF: Korchnoi: 25, Kramnik: 25
2: Korchnoi: +10; Kramnik: -10
3: No adjustments
4: Korchnoi (2673): -15; Kramnik (2751): +15
5: Korchnoi: -5; Kramnik: no adjustment

Additional Adjustments:

8 (known theory): Korchnoi: +10; Kramnik: +10
9 (why bother): Korchnoi: +20; Kramnik: +20

Chicken Factor: Korchnoi: 45; Kramnik: 60

We can see that Kramnik's much higher rating compensates for his playing black and that Korchnoi's loss to Adams in the previous round was also a factor. This pathetic draw put Korchnoi at the top end of the Spineless Sparrow range and Kramnik barely saved himself from the horror of Chicken Supreme.

1 Base CF: Illescas: -5; Adams: -5
2 Illescas: +10; Adams: -10
3 No adjustments
4 Illescas (2585): -26; Adams: (2716): +26
5 No adjustments

Additional Adjustments: None

Chicken Factor: Illescas: -21; Adams: 11

Again the large rating gap played a crucial roll. In all this was a relatively well-played game instead of a lame GM-draw and the Chicken Factor reflects this. Illescas escapes censure while Adams receives mild condemnation for "letting" a player ranked 131 points lower get a quick draw.

Illescas - Adams, round four
Final position after 31.Bd1

Of course there will be some exceptions to the Chicken Factor rule. On rare occasions you will encounter a short, sharp draw in which both players fought hard and tactical skirmishes led to simplification and a clearly drawn position, resulting in an undeservedly high Chicken Factor, but I'm willing to bet that these are rarer than hen's teeth. I look forward to receiving your help in honing the Chicken Factor into a perfect science! Run some games through the formula and see what adjustments you think might be needed or what new factors might be added to better reflect your impressions. Soon the Chicken Factor will be an international standard and included in all database formats, I can see it now!

Let's see what happens when we run what looks like a tough draw through the formula.

Svidler - Anand, round five
Final position after 69...Kf7

1 Base CF: Svidler: -66; Anand: -65
2 Svidler: +10; Anand: -10
3 No adjustments
4 Svidler (2713): -14; Anand (2781): +14
5 No adjustments

Additional Adjustments:

10 (clear advantage): Svidler: +30; Anand: -20

Chicken Factor: Svidler: -40; Anand: -81

A brutal, hard-fought draw between mighty birds of prey! They played long and hard and went down to the bare bones so their big negative Chicken Factors should have put them both clearly into the Fearless Falcon class. Unfortunately for Svidler he agreed to this draw with a clear win on the board and so receives a big 30 point penalty. Still, no wimpy draw and the Chicken Factor confirms this obvious fact.

What, you didn't know about the Svidler - Anand game yet? Actually, I feel bad about that penalty for drawing in a winning position when finding out about it later is punishment enough for the player! Poor Peter Svidler has never beaten Vishy Anand and after playing a brilliant sacrificial game in round five he was finally ready to chalk up his first win. After some curious exchanges and messy play they arrived to an ending in which it was hard to see how the black knight and king could deal with all of White's pawns. Then Anand found a brilliant resource: his pawn on d4 was enough to hold the draw thanks to a remarkable check defense. Svidler maneuvered closer with his king, advanced his pawns to prepare the crucial breakthrough, and after his position reached its optimum... he agreed to a draw!!!

The hundreds of fans watching on-line around the world were stunned into silence for nearly a full second! (Trust me, this is not common.) It's clear that White can't advance his king any further and he can't take the d-pawn without losing his a-pawn to ...Nb5+, so Svidler agreed to the draw. But thanks to the precise location of his kingside pawns White can give up the a-pawn and still win! In an amazing sequence the king dominates the knight and forces it to either flee to the queenside or die an ugly death on e7! Either way White queens a pawn in short order and after that it's just shooting knights in a barrel. In fact, if you have a computer program that works together with Ken Thompson's endgame tablebases it will quickly tell you that the final position of Svidler - Anand is MATE IN 21!! AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!

Thankfully there aren't any high buildings near the playing hall and Svidler's attempt to do himself in via an overdose of toxic substances was unsuccessful, although he won't be in good shape after eating those 17 Big Macs. Here's the beautiful win Svidler missed. (Did Anand see it when he offered the draw!?!) Finally White has maneuvered to his optimum position and... AGREED DRAWN!! UNBELIEVABLE!! AMAZING!! IN ONE WORD FROM CHRISTIAN SÖDERSTRÖM: FLABBERGASTING!!!! With a forced win on the board Svidler throws his brilliant effort away by agreeing to a draw! The win isn't easy to see, but it's still remarkable that a GM misses forcing a pawn to queen in six moves! After giving up the a-pawn the white king completely dominates the black knight, forcing it to either leave the scene on a7 or into the line of fire on e7. A remarkable position, even for a super-GM, apparently.

69...Kf7 70.Kxd4!! Fritzy finds this in around a dozen seconds. I found it myself (someone had already told me by e-mail the final position was a win, so it wasn't too hard) only because there's nothing else to play! Really, there's no risk at all so why not see what happens? Could Svidler really have been so certain that he couldn't win without the a-pawn? That's what makes this so shocking. If he had spent a minute to actually calculate some lines he would have easily found the win, but you just don't imagine that the kingside pawns alone can win against king and knight. After five hours of brutal action he just didn't have the focus to look for something new in the position.

70...Nb5+ 71.Kc5 Nxa7 72.Kb6 Nc8+ 73.Kc7 An active king indeed! A remarkable position. The knight only has two squares and on e7 it will be in just the right place for a pawn fork! Who says there's no luck in chess? 73...Ne7 (73...Na7 74.Kd7 Kf6 75.h7 Kg7 76.f6+ Kxh7 77.f7 Kg7 78.Ke8+-) 74.h7 Kg7 (74...Nd5+ 75.Kd6 Kg7 76.Kxd5 Kxh7 77.Ke6 Kg8 78.f6 Kf8 79.f7 Kg7 80.Ke7; 74...Nxf5 75.h8Q tablebase time 75...Ke6 76.Kc6 Ne7+ 77.Kc5 Ng6 78.Qa8 Ke7 79.Qa6 Kf7 80.Kd6 Nf8 81.Qa8 Nh7 82.Qa7+ Kg6 83.Ke5 Ng5 84.Qg1 Kh6 85.Kf5 Kg7 86.Kxg5 Kf7 87.Qe3 Kg8 88.Kg6 Kf8 89.Qe1 Kg8 90.Qe8#) 75.f6+ Kxf6 76.h8Q++- Over to you, Mr. Endgame Tablebase... 76...Ke6 77.Qh6+ Kf5 78.Kd6 Ng6 79.Qh5+ Kf6 80.Qa5 Kg7 81.Ke6 Nf4+ 82.Kf5 Nh5 83.Kg5 Kf7 84.Qd5+ Kf8 85.Kxh5 Ke8 86.Kh6 Ke7 87.Kg7 Ke8 88.Kf6 Kf8 89.Qd8#

Needless to say Svidler left the playing hall at top speed and in a mood to kick kittens after Argentine GM Daniel Cámpora showed him what Fritz 5 had found while the game was still going on. He was already in last place and while his tournament might have been beyond hope, his first career win against Anand would have been a slice of rainbow after the storm. In a recent video interview with ChessBase Magazine (CD-ROM Extra #68) Svidler waxed poetic on why he plays chess. (After starting out with, "Because it's the only thing I can do!") He said that on a good day you can create music, the maximum expression of art. After this beautiful game and its bitter conclusion I think it's safe to say you can create art even on bad days. A terrible fate for such an interesting and inspired game.

Svidler's brilliant opening conception to revive a discarded piece sacrifice was followed up by ever-increasing pressure against Anand's stranded king. Analysts had given up on the 12.Nxf7 piece sac after only two or three outings, but Svidler's new 16.e6!! (a novelty of the year competitor along with around a dozen Kasparov innovations) might toss the entire line into the dustbin! He gained a ferocious attack and it was rapidly clear that he was going to get his sacrificed piece back with interest. Even after a few imprecisions allowed Black to survive the direct attack it looked like getting the full point in a superior endgame was only a matter of technique for Svidler. But Anand was revitalized by his own miraculous escape from the jaws of death and made things as complicated as possible. By the end of the first time control Black was even generating threats and it wasn't clear if White had any advantage left at all. His extra pawns were on the endangered species list and all three of Anand's pieces were moving in.
Then things changed dramatically once again when Svidler gave up his knight to reach a remarkable endgame with a, c, d, f, and h-pawns against Anand's d-pawn and knight!! (See diagram) 42.Rxh3 Rc1+ 43.Ke2 Rxc3 44.bxc3 Ng1+ 45.Kf1 Nxh3 Nights of analysis will have to figure out best play both sides, but it's clear that white held all the cards as far as winning chances. Knights are notoriously helpless against rook pawns and here Svidler had two of them! White's kingside pawns were positioned so as to make them invulnerable to Anand's king (If he drops back to approach the lead pawn, the other advances, etc.) and then we arrive the final position we are already familiar with. Draw! (But I guess it would have been a little suspicious if Svidler had announced "Mate in 21!" a la Allwerman...)

Svidler - Anand, round five
Position after 41...Ke4

I haven't even started looking at that knight vs. pawns endgame, although I think it was well played by both sides. But if you're looking for tips on where the players might have improved earlier you might look at the obvious 26.dxe6 for white. 26...Rxe6 27.Bf4! Rxe5 28.Nxe5 Ne6 29.Be3 and White is in complete control of the board. Chess journalist par excellence Leontxo Garcia is in Dos Hermanas and writing his superb reports for the Spanish newspaper El País as usual and often provides some comments from the players and their seconds as well as his own analysis. There we learn that Anand's trainer Elizbar Ubilava, or "Ubi" as Anand calls him, suggests 26...c6 as a possible improvement for Black and later a line beginning with 43...Rc2+ 44.Kd1 Rxf2 instead of "winning" White's bishop.

That all seems like a lot of action for one round, but there were other goings-on. Judit Polgar plummeted into last place to join Svidler and Anand (!!) with 1.5/5 after being totally squashed by Topalov. Quite unlike what we've come to expect from the Hungarian, she chose a slow, solid setup against Topalov's Najdorf Sicilian and quickly had the worse of it. Black grabbed the initiative on the kingside and after an attempt by Polgar failed to hold back the flood by returning the pawn it was over quickly. Moves like 25...e4! are why Topalov is one of the most dangerous attacking players in the world. He rips the center open to reveal White's uncoordinated pieces and the follow-up 26...Qg7! threatens ...Bxd2 and ...fxe4 when Black's heavy pieces are going to crash the party. Polgar has never been much of a defender by nature; she often seems to lose concentration when she's not on the hunt. Her passive opening was poorly suited to her style even if she didn't feel up to a razor-sharp Najdorf theory battle after showing so much rust in her two earlier losses.

Kramnik popped the Illescas balloon with a nice win to put himself into a tie for first with Adams. The Spaniard had been playing very solidly so far, but the man he seconded in Linares put on a display of power chess to drop him to an even score. There were fears that these two friends might not go all out in their game, but Kramnik dispelled any such thoughts with body-blows like 26.c5!. He came through the complications with an extra piece and liquidated the ending in fine fashion. This game was also notable for the duck-row of pawns Kramnik planted on the fourth rank. This formation should remind you of a few famous games although a quick ChessBase search turns up a few hundred games with identical structures. (Alekhine - Gruenfeld, Semmering, 1926 was the first one I could remember, but there's also the famous Fischer - Ivkov, Palma de Mallorca, 1970. If you can't remember back that far try Van Wely - Miles, Capablanca Memoria, 1994 which had SIX pawns in a row on the fourth! (ChessBase turns up another few dozen that match this feat. Try Rickenbach - Ritter, 1997 where six white pawns on the fourth faced off against five black pawns on the sixth!))

Adams held the advantage against Gelfand for the entire game but was unable to land a knock-out punch. The tenacious Gelfand held on tight even when his king came under direct fire and grabbed enough counterplay in the queen endgame to ensure the draw. Chicken Factor: Adams: -14; Gelfand: -43. Good draw!

A game between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi is always something special. Even if you are too young to remember their matches for the world championship I'm sure you have read about them many times. The petty insults and temper tantrums of today pale in comparison to the hate-filled days when these two were the top two chessplayers on the planet. Things were much more peaceful in round five when these two greats sat down to dispute their first game in three years. Karpov might have had chances for an advantage when Korchnoi made the interesting decision to break the central tension with 21...fxe4?!. In the end there were enough weaknesses to go round and the game ended in a tame repetition. Chicken Factor: Karpov: 12; Korchnoi: -22. No problem for Korchnoi, who had black and is rated lower, but a little squawking from the FIDE champ!



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