Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Corrosive Effects of Money on Good Chess

Inspired by this excellent Mr. Cranky Old Chess Player (er, Reassembler) (EDITED: That should be Crabby Old Chess Player) post and cheered on by the comments there, I hereby get back to blogging with my explication of:

The Corrosive Effects of Money on Good Chess, or, Why I Never Went Back to the World Open, Wherein I Observed a Most Remarkable Phenomenon.

The "corrosive effects" were actually brought to my attention some years before the World Open discovery, around 1982-3. In those days the New York Open was as big or bigger than the World, and Chess Life had an article with a last round game from New York where one GM "played to lose" in a drawn Rook ending--the explanation was something like "a win was worth $6,000 to GM X, a draw put him in a 14-way tie for 5th place and $98.17, and a loss was worth nothing." So "game theory" said to play for a win, I guess. However, it certainly made for ugly, awful chess.

I attended the World Open in Philly back in 1990, and actually had a pretty good time, though as I recall my score was moderately terrible at 2.5 out of 9 games. What was very noticeable was that the winners of the big pots in all the "class" sections were guys with very "foreign" names. In other words, sandbaggers from other countries, Experts playing in Class B, who had beaten out our homegrown sandbaggers, who had merely dropped a few games at the club to go from 1850 to 1794. I understand that various and sundry methods have been devised to prevent this over the years, but I had seen enough.

The tournament was fun, the chess was fun, the people were fun, but I never played in another really "big money" event. I did play in several of the "Weikel" tournaments in Reno, great family-run events with pretty good prizes and plenty of GMs in the Open, but with money for top ten or so in every class, not so skewed to 'first place or nothing." Little sandbagging, little pressure.

Nowadays my ideal of a weekend tournament would be a $20 entry and the opportunity to win $100 for first, or maybe a $7 quad and winner takes all minus ratings fees. The funny thing is, for me rated games are serious, regardless of the money, and any big money just distorts the chess. If I was playing one game for thousands of dollars not only would it be tense, it would be work. The result would be all, the chess, nothing. The joy of sacrificing a piece for a speculative attack...are you kidding?!

Going to the big Opens is, for most, just gambling. If you are willing to just drop the entry fee and play chess, have at it--that's the only way to have fun in a casino. If you go into it calculating what you could buy with first money, well you may possibly walk away with something, but don't expect to have a whale of a good time.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Great stuff, good to see a pulse on the RP blog!

One word: TACO.

likesforests said...

I paid $45 for entry and a 1-year USCF membership w/ magazine. :)

But seriously, for the $350 most pay you're spending a week in Philly during Fourth of July, with hotel rooms $100 off/night, free hot breakfasts, the opportunity to see fellow bloggers and GMs, and a view overlooking the festivities. I am happy to have gone. Only my last round play was affected (I would've been ok with a draw).

tanc (happyhippo) said...

I envy you fellas in the States a lot.

And you have quite a number of highly rated tournaments to take part in compared with the land of the Kangaroos.

Okay, I'm jealous. ;)

Wahrheit said...

BDK: TACO sounds yummy good.

likesforests: Yes, I read about your good experience and it was encouraging and inspiring. But if I understand correctly you were in the Unrated and not clawing and scratching for $10,000 or so. Plus, you're a gentleman.

Tanc: I've read your blog, I think you've got my kind of events there. In my new town, I'm going to have to organize them myself and beat like three others to become "City Champ!"

transformation said...

great to see you back. i am preparing to get rated from my provisional rating dating from 1973. im serious.

if i can, i would like to go to the world open, but do not antipate being able to go...

are you up in alaska now?

warmest, dk

Anonymous said...

Funny you should say that. I just decided to play in the NA Open in Vegas

Do you know any Vegas based Chess Bloggers.

Anonymous said...

The I above is Ivan from Getting to 2000

wang said...

Good to see you back my friend.

Of course you could do what I do. Just play poorly in every event you enter. That way the stress of winning money and having to pay taxes on your new found income never becomes an issue.

Seriously, I never pay attention to the prize fund. I don't do it for that I do it because I love chess. There are sandbaggers but this is hard to combat, and I don't give it much thought.

Polly said...

RP: I am with you. I could spend $400 and get smashed by a bunch of 2200 strength B players in the World Open, or I could play in 12 tournaments at the Marshall CC with a $25 entry fee. I may not win any money there either, but I'd get a variety of different strength players including 2200 strength players who are actually 2200.

Though there is something to be said about just being at a tournament like The World Open. There is certain chess vibe that can't be found in your run of the mill cheap weekend swiss.

Anonymous said...

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