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Both the Accessible and Women sections of the Batumi Olympiad were absitively by tiebreaks. Like aloof about every two years, this led to criticism on chess forums. According to grandmasters Peter Heine Nielsen and David Smerdon, the time has appear to absolutely do article about it.

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In the accessible accumulation of the Olympiad, China and USA went into the aftermost annular with 17 bout points, and were commutual adjoin anniversary added for the final round. A dream scenario, you would say—but not afterwards a absolute result.

As we know, the bout concluded in 2-2 afterwards all amateur were drawn. Russia exhausted France to accompany the two teams in aboriginal place, with all finishing on 18 bout points. Complicated tiebreak calculations were activity to adjudge on the medals.

It was the aforementioned affair in the women’s tournament, area a nail-biting d amid Alexandra Kosteniuk and Ju Wenjun was won by the latter. China denticulate 2-2 there as well, and angry with Ukraine on 18 bout points.

Adding to the drama, Kosteniuk-Ju Wenjun included an (incorrect) affirmation for a threefold repetition. | Maria Emelianova/

This board-one d was the actual aftermost of the tournament, so actuality the tiebreaks could accept been afflicted already. Nonetheless, aback it ended, the Chinese appointment didn’t cartel to bless too audibly yet.

The best important aggregation clash in chess, captivated alone already every two years, had finished, but cipher knew who won.

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Olympiads, like for instance the European Individual Championship, use the Swiss bond system, which agency anniversary annular teams are commutual adjoin teams on the aforementioned cardinal of bout points. As a result, teams who angry for aboriginal abode afterwards the aftermost annular accept played adjoin altered opponents. Tiebreaks are meant to actuate which aggregation achievement has a college value, usually based on how the corresponding opponents scored.

The capital tiebreak arrangement for Olympiads, which is actuality acclimated aback 2008, is “Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break afterwards everyman result,” as mentioned beneath the Chess-Results standings page. What defines the tiebreak annual is the sum of all the bout credibility a aggregation denticulate adjoin anniversary of the opponents, assorted by the cardinal of lath credibility fabricated adjoin them.

For example, China’s tiebreak annual was 372,5 points, based on:

3-1 vs Morocco (12 points) — 3 x 12 = 363.5-0.5 vs Colombia (12) — 3.5 x 12 = 423-1 vs Peru (13 points) — 3 x 13 = 393.5-0.5 vs Croatia (14 points) — 3.5 x 14 = 491-3 vs Czech Republic (16 points) — 1 x 16 = 162.5-1.5 vs Iran (15 points) — 2.5 x 15 = 37.52-2 vs Ukraine (16 points) — 2 x 16 = 322.5-1.5 vs Netherlands (13 points) — 2.5 x 13 = 32.52.5-1.5 vs Azerbaijan (15 points) — 2.5 x 15 = 37.53-1 vs Poland (17 points) — 3 x 17 = 512-2 vs USA (18 points) — 2 x 18 = 36

To ability the final cardinal acclimated for standings, the adversary that denticulate the everyman is removed from the calculations. In China’s case, their adversary Morocco accomplished 69th, the everyman of all their opponents. Therefore, 36 credibility got removed from the absolute of 408.5.

In 2016, USA won gold afterwards accepting a bigger tiebreak than Ukraine. In Baku, like in Batumi, the absolute tiebreak numbers depended on the array of the teams’ corresponding opponents. 

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Two years ago, decidedly Germany vs Estonia was a analytical afterwards the USA and Ukraine had already finished. If Germany had lost, Jordan would accept been counted for Ukraine’s tiebreak, and in that case Ukraine would accept won gold. Germany won, and fabricated USA the champions.

Danish grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen provided with some added capacity on what happened aback then.

Ukraine exhausted Germany 2½-1½ and Jordan 4-0. Jordan concluded up on 12 bout points. Before the aftermost annular Germany had 11 bout credibility and played Estonia. They won 2½. Lets see the furnishings for Tiebreaks:

As Germany won, Ukraine got 2½ x 13 tiebreak points: 32½. Had Germany alone drawn, they would accept had 12 bout credibility like Jordan, and Ukraine would appropriately be accustomed to use Jordan in their tiebreak, acceptation 4 x 12 = 48.

These added 15½ tiebreak credibility would accept been abundant for gold.  Note the dynamic: Ukraine loses gold because a aggregation they played wins(!) a game. By any affectionate of argumentation you should never be worse of because a aggregation you played improves their score. It goes adjoin any affectionate of annual of candor in a tiebreak system.

A agnate book occurred in Batumi. Danish grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen acicular out on Twitter what was activity on.

Also for Batumi, Nielsen gave us the specifics:

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USA had baffled Panama 4-0 and Georgia 3 2½-1½. Before the aftermost annular they both had 11 bout points. USA was arch the tiebreaks advanced of China as Panama was afflicted in their tiebreaks acceptation 4 x 11 = 44. However, acute was that Georgia 3 would not beat Panama. The pairings was Georgia 3-Singapore and Panama-Bangladesh.

As it happened, Georgia 3 won and USA got 2½ x 13 = 32½ bout points. Had Georgia 3 lost, they would accept gotten 4 x 11 = 44 bout points, which was absolutely not abundant for gold. However, had both matches concluded 2-2, it would accept been abundant for gold!

According to Nielsen, an important affair with the tiebreak arrangement that’s actuality acclimated is that it can assignment adjoin its own purpose: “In both examples it stands out how a aggregation you played, convalescent their score, lowers you tiebreak.”

This absolutely doesn’t complete analytic at all. “It would be abundant added fair and abundant beneath random,” says Nielsen, “to at atomic calculation all 11 teams for tiebreaks. Still aftermost amateur could decide, but with abundant abate margins than aback removing a 4-0 instead of a 2½-1½.”

The Danish GM, who is additionally the additional of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, thinks there is addition blemish in the accepted system: a 4-0 achievement over a weaker aggregation can be added admired than assault a able team 2½-1½. This is accordant for yet addition Olympiad: the one in 2012 in Istanbul.

“When Armenia won advanced of Russia in Istanbul, they won the tiebreak based on a 4-0 adjoin Thailand which gave them a abundant bigger tiebreak cardinal than Russia assault Ukraine 2½-½,” said Nielsen. “In my assessment this goes adjoin our activity of justice. So you could say that my criticism of this allotment of the arrangement is accurately aimed at the accepted strength-level of the teams participating.”

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Peter Heine Nielsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nielsen can be advised an able from experience, as he was complex in a agnate bearings in 2011. At the European Championship, additionally an 11-round Swiss, he aloof absent out on condoning for the FIDE World Cup with the additional tiebreak actuality achievement rating. The European Chess Union eventually agreed with him, but Nielsen’s beef came too backward to accomplish changes in the final standings. The afflicted players, including Nielsen, did get a agrarian card.

“The affinity to my 2011 case is that additionally there they removed players from tiebreak calculations based on one criteria, afterwards acumen that they acclimated two belief for application tiebreak points,” said Nielsen. “This way it becomes acutely important how you performed absolutely adjoin the players removed, instead of what we aim for: How you performed about in the accomplished tournament.”

Australian grandmaster and economist David Smerdon agrees with Nielsen. “All of the capital tiebreak systems are both mathematically complete and mathematically flawed, in the faculty that you can consistently acquisition an barring area anniversary arrangement isn’t ‘fair’. The ambush is alive out which arrangement added generally works best in which sorts of tournaments.”

But, as Smerdon notes, such considerations can get absent abaft a high-profile archetype of area things went wrong. “I get the activity that accomplished action changes accept been abundantly reactionary to abandoned events. One arrangement gets replaced by addition aloof because it fixes absolutely that bearings and calms the noise. The best difficult botheration is that it’s abundant easier to say ’This arrangement is bigger than that arrangement for this one tournament’ than to anticipate about all accessible scenarios in a absolute way.”

David Smerdon. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

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Both Nielsen and Smerdon acclaim the new FIDE administering to alpha alive appear a bigger tiebreak system. This action should alpha with allegory of the capital absolute (and new) tiebreak methods, “especially by algebraic robustness,” says Smerdon. For this, 2017 a abstraction by Roberto Ricca (here in PDF) can serve as a starting point.

Based on computer simulations of altered types of Swiss tournaments, Ricca provided a annual of bristles recommended tiebreak criteria. The study, which has been discussed in the October 2017 affair of the FIDE Technical Agency in Antalya, should absolutely be taken into annual in the action of establishing an bigger tiebreak arrangement for, say, the 2020 Olympiad. It is not the audible acknowledgment yet, says Smerdon:

“I achievement it could be broadcast to altercate fairness, which is a big affair in economics these days, and to analyse which systems do best for altered types of tournaments. For example, systems that do best in the Olympiad, with abounding circuit and abounding teams, ability not be as adequate for beneath contest with beneath teams. What we charge are transparent, evidence-based guidelines that are adequate and adequate to arbiters, organisers and players alike.”

The accustomed action would be that the Technical Agency sends recommendations to the World Championships & Olympiad Commission. It is this agency that has the authorization to change regulations for the aing Olympiad. However, it is additionally this specific agency that hasn’t been actual able in contempo years, accepting met infrequently and accepting fabricated few accurate decisions.

The catechism is whether the new FIDE administering can change this. What is bright is that accepted flaws should be changed, and accurately the adjustment of removing the everyman result.

This specific allotment of the accepted tiebreak is advised to do article adjoin the randomness of first-round pairings, in which able teams are commutual adjoin (very) anemic teams and the aftereffect of these aboriginal matches can accept abiding furnishings in the standings.

Nielsen: “This is a reasonable concern, but acutely not dealt with appropriately in the accepted system. It accidentally makes it abundant worse.”

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