Check Out What We Can Learn from Chess

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Geoffrey Borg

We asked the Chief Executive Officer of FIDE, Geoffrey Borg, to give us the low-down on the chess tournament at this year’s SportAccord World Mind Games.

You can tell by their ears!

A sign of stress, this subconscious signal is enough to guess the outcome of an important game, according to Mr Borg. It seems that chess, like go, has its fair share of ear-reddening games. But what differentiates our two games?

I think one of the great things about go is the ko rule, preventing repetition of positions. In chess we are plagued with draws and it can reduce the entertainment value for spectators. If you think of chess as a game of war, the stalemate rule makes no sense. If your opponent’s king is trapped without a safe place to move, he deserves to lose!

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Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi, with the formidable Elo rating of 2721, is one of Russia’s hopefuls in this year’s competition. We asked him his impressions of the game of go.

Actually I have never tried to play, but my friend has recently started to learn. As a chess player I am interested in go because, unlike in chess, the top human players are still far superior to computers.

Recently there have been many scandals in chess involving cheating with computers, and with the inevitable improvement of go software, perhaps we can learn from the chess world how to deal with this problem before it arises.

There are also many who are unsatisfied with the dan/kyu ranking system used in go. These ratings do not change dynamically and are in most cases kept as honorary titles for life, and therefore often do not reflect the current strength of the player. Furthermore, there exist many variations in the systems used in each region. But what does Nepomniachtchi think about the so-called Elo system used in chess?

The rating system we use serves as an objective indicator of a player’s current strength. In the past it was updated only twice a year but now ratings are recalculated on a monthly basis. There are also separate ratings for each time setting (e.g. standard and blitz). In chess we make heavy use of rankings to determine tournament qualification, so it is important to ensure they are accurate.

And what about draws in chess? Would an anti-repetition rule benefit the game?

I believe chess is already well balanced and that there is no need to change the rules. Draws are just a part of chess and I see no reason why a draw should not be given if both players are performing at a similar level.

It seems both sports have a thing to learn from each other. Will we see a universal rating for go, or anti-drawing measures in chess?

- John Richardson

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