128 players started the World Cup and at the end there was a sole winner. The knock out format is cruesome, but in my opinion most democratic system used to determine the winner. Even current World Champion Magnus Carlsen took part of this competition. Why this system is not used in other competitions remains mystery. It is common in tennis, but chess sponsors prefer to invite certain players according to their standings on rating list. In this way they make sure that the tournament is listed as supertournament. The elite players are accustomed to this privileges and for others it is nearly impossible to get into inner cycle. In Tbilisi the outsiders had their chance for revenge. World Champion was eliminated on the third stage and also other rating favorites were leaving early. In this article I like to share my thoughts not about the chess games, but about the famous incident which occured in Tbilisi.
The chess news from Tbilisi got heated up with the dress code scandal. This was very interesting case not only in sense of the chess politics or the actual interpretantion of the dress code. Who was right or wrong about the dress code itself may be the area of discussion for the law people. However it was wellcome material for chess psychology. Here I like to represent my views of this case. I do not know personally Anton Kovalyov and I am not making any personal conclusions.
Kovalyov had prior to the incident very good tournament. He beat Anand which was kind of shock to the Indian chess community and in his match against Maxim Rodshtein he definately was not underdog any more, at least there was no any reason for him to throw the match away, what he actually did.
People play a lot of different kind of games. Why they play the games and why they play chess? They play to win or in different interpretation they want to make their opponents to lose. This is the essence of game theory and it is widely used in modelling the best move scenario. In chess good sportsmanship teaches us that you should win, but our aim is not to make our opponents sore losers. In chess we want to create something and without our opponent we cannot create anything. Some cooperation is a must. This is why in good old times it was common to allow your opponent to play out the beautiful combination till checkmate. In chess we see the winning losing as some digits on the tournament scoreboard. However winning and losing in most cases are not possible just to measure with numbers. The winning situation might occur for the losing player in situation when his opponent likes to play out the winning combination, but he can stop it just resigning the game and not giving his opponent the opportunity to play it out. In this case it is also winning losing situation. If we graciously allow to our opponent to play out the combination then we have other situation. It is called the cooperation.
In Tbilisi incident we did not see any compromise or cooperation. All players were eager to make their opponents to lose. I have the right to assume that all players in Tbilisi were adult intelligent grown up people and there were not any conspiracy involved.
The arguments presented by the players in this conflict are not serious or valid at all. The details are not important when there is a war. One cannot seriously take the argument about some missing attire. Chess tournament scenery is not a nightclub or some other hang out place where the puncher may decide who is fitting into it and who is not. The chess player needs to be aware of his position on chess board and definitely tries to be aware of the parings and is aware of other regulations. We cannot assume otherwise. Chess players who are not capable of following it usually do not qualify to World Cup. In our incident no doctor was called for. Nobody was in state of insanity. Still something happened.
Seemingly from nowhere people started the game to make others to lose. From famous classical examples from game theory we know that if you play the game out with wrong intentions everybody loses. This is what exactly happened in Tbilisi. What was the correct solution?
Player one Anton Kovalyov lost, but he could lost anyway. He tried to make himself a winner not risking to lose the fair game against to Rodshtein. The arbiter definitely lost. Tournament organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili also lost. He probably did not realize in time when arguing with Kovalyov, that the latter wants make him to lose. In other hand, if even Azmaiparashvili was asking Kovalyov to play the match in his terms, Kovalyov could still refuse pointing for some non relevant reason and make Azmaiparashvili to lose anyway. Azmaiparashvili could not see the danger. Instead of changing his outfit and play the game in which situation Azmaiparashvili could win, Kovalyov preferred to win himself. He just left the tournament making everybody to lose and finally making himself a loser as well. Mathematically still he could lost the match against Rodshtein in 50% of the time which if we consider the mathematical aspect of game theory he probably made the correct decision.
My analyzes are not considering other so called emotional background of decisions made by players in this incident. As I already mentioned the human arguments and emotions are not relevant here. I am sure that person who masters the mathematical part of the game theory can show with figures what was the correct decision. In my opinion Kovalyov made the correct decision according to game theory, which requires the best decision in every game situation. He made others to lose, but if we consider the cooperation situation where everybody wins then his decision was bad for chess in general and especially for the Tbilisi tournament.