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philaretus 1006 ( +1 | -1 )
The Chicken Factor This article deserves an airing on Gameknot:

"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, c***-a-doodle-doo, etc.)

ormus 129 ( +1 | -1 )
DrYawn If someone in my rating class asked me for a draw after 12 moves in a balanced position, I'd punch him in the face...

Seriously, so-called GM draws should be worth 1/4 of a point... that way, players involved in engaging games that end in genuine draws would still gain 1/4 in the standings. It wouldn't do much for match play, but... has anyone bothered to consider enforcing players to play twenty-five moves before a draw can be offered - effectively taking repetition as a strategy out of the game for the first twenty-five or so moves... or does that give White too much more of an advantage at top-level play??


Player A is in first place after 4 games and can win the tourney with draws in his remaining two games.
Player B is in third place but also trying to achieve his second GM norm and will do so with a minimum of drawing his last two games.

Player B has the White pieces - Player A has the Black pieces

They draw after 15 moves because:

A) They are bored of Chess.
B) They don't want to hurt each others feelings. They agree to draw so they can remain friends after the game.
C) They are no longer motivated by Chess itself but rather by Tournament Politics, Performance Ratings, FIDE Titles and, of course, $$$

jjw109 174 ( +1 | -1 )
Someone else noticed the "Chicken Factor" too! I posted a comment regarding this and a link to it on one of the WCh threads. Very interesting way to show how many GM-draws are pretty ridiculous. I can totally understand Fischer's logic for the 1975 WCh of simply having first player to 10 wins win the championship (i.e., draws simply wouldn't count). His main reason was the change in style he played in the 1972 WCh where after he gained point advantage he played out draws to win the match (what were there, something like 15 draws in a row), and he stated that he hated playing like that (i.e., chicken playing) but that was all he had to do to win the championship so that's what he did. Of course for organizers the match could go on for a long time, so that was the conveners issue. Even then I don't think though that it would necessarily remove GM-type draws in a match-play. But, in tournaments, if a draw scored 0, it would stop many/?all of these early draws with playable positions. Too many times a draw is agreed simply for both players to get the 1/2 point--even deals are made, I remember reading about one game where a half-point gave one player the tournament and the half-point gave the other enough norm value to give him his IM title (i.e., almost exactly what ormus posited above), so that agreed to draw very early (don't remember but they may not have even moved a piece).

One caution though, philaretus, and to several others using the GK forums (e.g., cairo copied a WCh analysis directly from in another thread). Please cite the source or simply provide the link, otherwise you are violating copyright laws and could jeopardize the overall GK site.
tag1153 13 ( +1 | -1 )
hey philaretus....... that was educational and down right hilarious!!!!

anaxagoras 11 ( +1 | -1 )
I agree with Ormus. Make a draw worth 1/4 of a win, not 1/2. If that doesn't do the trick nothing will.
philaretus 23 ( +1 | -1 )
An alternative..... to award 1/2 point apiece for a draw as now, but to award one and a half points for a win. This is similar to the scoring adopted in (association) football by some countries in order to counter a plague of draws that was killing the game as a spectacle.
ormus 113 ( +1 | -1 )
just to clarify... The problem with that is that sometimes great play ends in a draw (look over Saturdays game between Leko-Kramnik). It's not that draws are a bad thing and should be punished, the problem comes from premature draws that are motivated by something other than chess (the game itself, not tournament politics or ratings).

So, I'd still give 1/2 points for the Sat. Leko-Kramnik game, but I'd give them 1/4 points of the 17 move cop-out a few days earlier. The decision on what kind of draw occurs would be determined by an international arbiter. Like I said, this scoring system would be absurd in match play, for obvious reasons, but in tourney play it would discourage players from offering draws after 17 moves because the 1/4 point earned would only be worth half of a genuine draw.

I'm not sure this is even my idea. I think I may have read something like this in Chess Life ages ago... regardless of whoever thought of it, it's a good idea and FIDE really has nothing to lose by testing it out in some tournaments, IMO
ketchuplover 9 ( +1 | -1 )
All we can do is not follow the example of GM's who draw prematurely. Are there any GM's today who have a low draw percentage?
soikins 79 ( +1 | -1 )
changing scoring system Changing scoring system has a lot of flaws and it has been discussed extensively. There are always ways to cheat the system, it has even been argued that it will encourage cheating.

First of all, if two people agree to draw, they can still play 100 moves after the agreement by just shaffling the pieces around. Therefore it is hard to determine what is "a quick draw".

Scondly, if one player forces a repetition (say with white pices) on the 19 move, do both players deserve to be punished with a quarter of point (as in ormus scoring system)?

And finally about swiss tournaments -- wins will be sold and bought in the final rounds because the point difference between a draw and a win is big.