Is it me or are chess tournaments becoming more complicated? The Champions Showdown which has just started in St Louis boasts that the games feature no increments or delays so we can expect a few exciting time scrambles. In fact, there could be many such scraps because although the tournament is only scheduled to last six days, there are so many games to be played that it resembles a series of penalty shootouts with no preamble of a proper match beforehand. Eight players are involved and so far as your correspondent can see, there is no overall winner. They are divided into four pairs: Nakamura v Topalov, Caruana v Grischuk, So v Dominguez and Carlsen v Ding Liren.  The first round consists of four games for which each player has 30 minutes. There are six games in round two with 20 minutes each, 10 minutes for the next eight in round 3 and finally only 5 minutes for the last 12 games in round 4. For each match the winner gets $60,000, the loser $40,000 – yes, $40,000 for losing! Why did no-one ask me? And that appears to be it. No semi-final or final and while three of the four games are under way with round 1 completed, Carlsen v Ding Liren begins on Saturday. Apparently, Carlsen had a prior engagement in Germany. The good news from that is that the tournament will therefore have to continue until Nov 16 with Carlsen’s match the only one left. Meanwhile, this is what happens at the highest level when you are short of time and losing:

White:   Alexander Grischuk (2785)     Black: Fabiano Caruana  (2794)

Champions Showdown 2017

Match drawn! While this was clearly entertaining for the spectators, it is not to everyone’s taste. As Mr Spock might have said, ‘It’s chess, Jim, but not as we know it.’ Caruana was of the same view:

‘I think it puts a lot of psychological pressure on the players from an early stage… Generally, a game shouldn’t end with one side losing on time in a completely won position, but it’s ok for one tournament.’ 

Perhaps the tournament should have been played last weekend to coincide with Fireworks Night.

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