Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mysterious Pairing System

In his latest newsletter to Australian chess fans, the men's captain, Manuel Weeks, writes: "The accelerated pairings for the first two rounds left many weak teams on good match scores and the subsequent type of Swiss pairing has left the pairings looking almost random. Many teams are rather unhappy and mystified by the system they are using here."

At least one big-name player, and we can safely guess also his entire squad, is definitely no fan of the pairing system. When asked during a press conference what he thought of the pairing system, the United States' GM Hikaru Nakamura said, "If the system works, then so be it. However, I definitely wouldn't say that I'm a fan of it based on what I've seen here."

The Americans have so far played Iceland (2.5-1.5 win to the US), Greece (2-2), South Africa (3.5-0.5), Azerbaijan (1-3) and finally, Hong Kong (4-0).

Said Nakamura: "We had a very tough match against Azerbaijan, which we lost, and then today [round 5] we've had to play against Hong Kong which is even weaker [than South Africa]. I mean it wasn't a good feeling."

Nakamura's co-panelist in the same press conference, GM Sergey Movsesian, was equally mystified about the pairing system, describing it as "a bit strange".

It was left to Movsesian, Slovakia's board 1 player, to make the connection between the new match point scoring format and the pairing system. Answering a question from GM Rogers, Movsesian ageed with his fellow grandmasters on the panel that match points are a better way to determine the winner, but added that the current pairing system is diluting the advantageous effect of match points.

"Match points are OK, but then it should be connected with a different pairing system", said Movsesian.

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