Are Armageddon Chess Games Fair?

Armageddon:

1.
a. Bible In the book of Revelation, the place of the gathering of armies for the final battle before the end of the world.
b. The battle involving these armies.
2. A decisive or catastrophic conflict.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Armageddon

7th Norway Armageddon can be found at the Other events today section of the wonderful website, The Week In Chess, by Mark Crowther. (http://theweekinchess.com/) Mark has been providing Chess information since the “First issue 17th September 1994.” Yet Mark cannot display the games from the tournament in Norway. Why is that? Why does the Chess world continue repeatedly shooting itself in the foot? The reason is m-o-n-e-y. Refusing to allow Mark to display any kind of Chess information may be good for the organizers in the short term (although FIDE has continually proven the opposite yet continues attempting to gather all the spoils it can) but it cannot be good for the long term health of the organization. I refuse to follow any tournament not allowed to be displayed at TWIC. The Norway tournament was even easier to eschew because so-called “Armageddon Chess” is ridiculous. The fact organizers thought they had to resort to such nonsense is proof positive the Royal game of Chess in a decisive or catastrophic conflict with itself. I spent some time attempting to ascertain the name of the lunatic who first had the idea of playing Armageddon Chess, to no avail. Evidently there are enough lunatics involved with Chess to have helped facilitate foisting the Armageddon abomination upon we Chess fans. The research did produce a few items of interest. Consider something posted six months ago by BackrankPawn:

Are armageddon games fair?

In the unlikely event that the world championship goes to an armageddon game, would players prefer Black with 4 minutes and draw odds or white with 5 minutes? Is it roughly fair?

Why don’t they auction time for the draw odds?

*edit* I buried the lead. I wanted to figure out how much time the draw odds are worth. We could let the players decide by auctioning seconds for black and draw odds. Whoever spends more, gets that much time taken off but gets draw odds. Then there would be no complaints about coin flips.

Then there is this from Leonard Barden on Chess:

Armageddon divides fans while Magnus Carlsen leads again in Norway

Controversial speed format designed to prevent draws sparks a chaotic scramble at Altibox event and causes online uproar

Armageddon is a chess penalty shoot-out, a controversial format intended to prevent draws and to stimulate interesting play. It can also lead to chaotic scrambles where pieces fall off the board, players bang down their moves and hammer the clocks, and fractions of a second decide the result. That is what happened in Tuesday’s Levon Aronian v Alexander Grischuk game at Altibox Norway. The loser called it “among the top three most disappointing defeats in my life”.

In an Armageddon game White has more thinking time on the clock than Black but a draw on the board scores as a Black win. Normally White has five or six minutes and Black four or five for the entire game but in the current Altibox Norway tournament it is 10 against seven.
Lewis chessmen piece bought for £5 in 1964 could sell for £1m
Read more

In response to growing complaints about too many draws the Altibox organisers made a controversial decision this year to limit classical games to four hours and to replay draws immediately as Armageddons. The scoring system is 2 points for a classical win, 1.5 for a classical draw and an Armageddon win, 0.5 for a classical draw and an Armageddon loss and 0 for a classical loss.
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/jun/07/chess-armageddon-divides-fans-while-magnus-carlsen-leads

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
R.E.M.
Produced by R.E.M. & Scott Litt

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane
Lenny Bruce is not afraid
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don’t misserve your own needs
Speed it up a notch, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, representing seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left of west and coming in a hurry
With the Furies breathing down your neck
Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

[Chorus]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s the)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s the)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine

[Verse 2]
Six o’clock, TV hour, don’t get caught in a foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, blood letting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a votive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh-oh
This means no fear, cavalier renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline

[Chorus]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine
(I feel fine)

[Chorus]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine
56
[Verse 3]
The other night I dreamt of knives, continental drift divide Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck
Right? Right!

[Chorus]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine

[Bridge]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine

[Chorus]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine

[Outro]
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it
(It’s time I had some time alone)
And I feel fine
https://genius.com/Rem-its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-i-feel-fine-lyrics

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2 thoughts on “Are Armageddon Chess Games Fair?

  1. Chesster Chess says:

    Which side has the advantage in an Armageddon tiebreak game?

    It is generally considered that white has better chances of winning in chess. This is due to white’s initiative, since white gets to move first. The difference in chances seems to get more significant, as the level of play gets higher.

    So, I suppose most grandmasters will choose to play white, whenever they are given the choice (especially in crucial games).

    (1) What is the general view on the Armageddon tiebreak in that respect? Is there a clear preference in tournament play, or are white and black equally liked in Armageddon? What are opinions on this at the top level?

    (2) Take the extreme example. In case of a tie after all classical, rapid and blitz games in a WCh match, there would be a drawing of lots, and the player who wins, gets to choose the colour in the Armageddon game. Which colour would be the choice of most GMs?

    Remark. There are many variants of the Armageddon tiebreak. To avoid ambiguity, let us fix the time control used in the rules for the Anand-Carlsen WCh match 2014:

    The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes whereupon, after the 60th move, both players shall receive an increment of 3 seconds starting from move 61. In case of a draw the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

  2. Brian McCarthy says:

    I believe Greg Shahade is the inventor of “lets get a win every round, draws suck” but stops short of Armageddon. At least fide is listening to someone. I don’t like increments, at least until move 60. There are enough events to try 1 or 2 new formats a year. Greg is a veteran chess pro whose camps improve many students, including my own. Even Carlsen wants a change. I think it is worth a try. Format after his rant.

    https://gregshahade.wordpress.com/

    Magnus Carlsen himself, the World Champion of Chess and number 1 player in the world, even admits it in his latest interview. He says “In general it’s good to incorporate more rapid and blitz in the world championship because to some extent it is a purer form of chess because preparation plays less of a role”.

    I have lost all patience with the diehard “never change anything about chess” crowd. They are dinosaurs and are making a mockery of what a game should be

    What are the main problems with chess:

    The draw rate is absurdly high at the top level. Do I have to see another article at some major super tournament where the author writes a glee filled headline because a few games actually ended in wins? A perfectly designed game should not be a tie as frequently as chess is and this is super obvious. The drawing margin is too high, and you can get away with too many mistakes and still draw, especially with the White pieces. Yes some of the draws were interesting, but how about create a format where it’s not a draw every single time? Maybe that would be even more interesting!
    Computers have taken a lot of the life out of the game. Chess players are no longer willing to play any risky looking moves in the opening, because they fear their opponent’s computer preparation. They know that it will be absolutely perfect and that they will stand no chance if they walk into home prep in a complicated position. This could be seen in Game 2 of the most recent World Championship match, in which Magnus intentionally avoided what looked to be the critical line. He knew it was the critical line, but he also knew that Fabiano would know everything about it. Magnus didn’t want to play against a computer, so he played a tamer line and was satisfied to just play for equality.
    The games are too long. The top players play exceptionally well in faster time control games. Give them a time control of 90+30 and they will still play near 2800 level. But for some reason we have to add an extra two hours so that maybe they will play at 2820-2830. It’s so ridiculous and a complete misuse of time and resources. You have to be so stuck in the past to think that a three or four hour chess game just isn’t enough, and that it simply must be six hours. The extra benefit is that when the time controls are faster, even just slightly faster than they are now, people win more frequently.
    There are almost no more memorable games in World Championship Matches. We have grown up studying the great games in the matches with Capablanca vs Alekhine, Botvinink vs Tal or Kasparov vs Karpov. Tell me one memorable game from the last 6 World Championship Matches? They will basically all be forgotten. You can pretend that Carlsen’s fortress defense from Game 6 will be remembered, but it won’t. Actually I take it back…..there was one extremely iconic moment from a recent World Championship Match that I don’t think will be forgotten easily. It’s when Carlsen played the beautiful 50. Qh6!! to win the title against Karjakin. It just so happens that came from a rapid game! Once rapid chess starts getting taken more seriously, we will see that the games and ideas are so much more beautiful and much more digestible to 99%+ of the chess audience. Players will once again be able to go for speculative sacrifices against the best opponents in the world.
    The current format is not likely to determine who the best chessplayer is! Because classical games end in draws so frequently, even if you increase the match length to 24 games, you are often going to see someone win the match with 2 wins to 1 and 21 draws. This does very little to differentiate who is actually the better player. Sticking to the low number of games, slow time control format, increases the chance that the weaker chess player will win.
    I have already written my solution in a previous blog but I’ll reiterate it one more time, with a small change, because I do think it’s the perfect balance of retaining that classical chess tradition, while not allowing all of the life to get sucked out of the game:

    This is how a chess game would work:

    You play one game at 90 minutes plus a 20 second increment. The winner gets 10 points the loser gets 0

    If that game is drawn you reverse colors and play one game at 20 minutes plus a 10 second increment. The winner gets 7 points and the loser gets 3

    If that game is drawn you keep the same colors as the rapid game and play one game at 5 minutes plus a 3 second increment. The winner gets 6 points and the loser gets 4. If this game is drawn, both players get 5 points.

    A perfect mix of Classical, Rapid and Blitz. The Classical game is still worth 5 times as much as the blitz game. The Classical game is worth 2.5 times as much as the rapid game. The rapid game is worth 2 times as much as the blitz game. But all the games count, and all forms of chess count. Every single player will need to be equally versed at Classical, Rapid and Blitz chess to consider themselves the best in the world.

    The best overall chess player will almost always win handily with such a format. If it’s truly very close, then we will see some really tight and exciting matches. Right now everyone is so good at the top and the draw rate is so high, that most matches with absurdly long time controls are going to end with the majority draws and maybe one or two wins sprinkled in.

    I think that Fischer Random is also a great idea, but there is something beautiful about the starting position in chess, so I decided to retain that chess tradition in favor of simply speeding up the time controls. But Fischer Random has the added benefit that Computer Preparation is rendered almost meaningless.

    The chess community needs to wake up. The World Championship was just all draws. The one before it was 10 out of 12 draws. The idea of making the match even longer so that eventually someone wins is ridiculous. Where exactly were players avoiding risks? You could say it was Carlsen in Game 12, but I believe he only got that position because Caruana was so hell bent on trying to win and avoid the rapid tiebreak. This is all so stupid and it’s so frustrating to be part of a community who can’t see it.

    Everyone loves to resist change, and they eventually get left in the dust because of it.

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