Hangin's take on
 Fred Wilson show with Andy Soltis
 on  5/19/2004


    Fred Wilson is back, you can catch his monthly show at www.chesscafe.com.  In this first show Fred had GM Andy  Soltis as his guest. It's always an excellent show when these two get together. They talked about  Andy’s new book, “Bobby Fischer rediscovered".  Fred recommends this book and based on this show, I will buy it. There was an interesting analysis of Bobby Fischer’s play. Soltis also  made an interesting point about the Fischer vs. Spassky match in 1992, he feels it helped cause Kasparov and Short to split from FIDE in 1993.  Soltis states that the Fischer vs. Spassky match fetched 5 million dollars. Spassky the loser got more money than Kasparov got for winning his match with Nigel Short. Soltis states that Kasparov thought he was getting a big pay day for the 1993 world championship match, however the huge pay day could not be had.


Hangin's take : 

  That's a great point, I  could definitely see how Kasparov would be angry that Fischer and Spassky could get a 5 million dollar pay day.  Kasparov and Short did not do too badly in terms of money for their 1993 match.  It had to sting Kasparov that Bobby Fischer, who had not played in 20 years, was still the biggest draw in chess. 


  Fred and Andy got on to talking about the best system for a world championship.  Andy seems to favor the Knockout format, because the games are more decisive. He says that Ruslan Ponomariov had to win a lot of games to win his title. Ruslan had to face 6 opponents. He states that Vassily Smyslov only won 12 games to become a champion. He won 6 games in the 1956 candidate tournament and then won 6 games to defeat  World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in 1957 world championship match.  Tigran Petrosian only won 13 games to become a champion. He won 7 games in the 1962 candidate Tournament and he won 6 games to defeat  World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1963 world championship match. 


Hangin's take:

My feeling  is that FIDE did not perfect the world championship process until 1964.

 I  also believe that it's not the number of games won that’s so important, it's  who you beat that counts most.

  Look at Spassky road to his title during the 1966 cycle.

1)      In 1966  Spassky won 13 games in the Amsterdam interzonal, where he tied for first with Larsen, Smyslov.  

2)       In the quarterfinal candidate match, Spassky won three games and defeated Paul Keres by a score of 6-4. 

3)      In the semifinal candidate match  Spassky won 4 games to defeat Geller by a score of 5.5-2.5.

4)      In the final candidate match – Spassky won 4 games to defeat former champion Mikhail Tal by a score of  7-4.

5)      In the world championship match - Spassky  won three games in his loss to  Tigran Petrosian the 9th World Champion  by a score of  11.5 – 12.5.


  Since Spassky lost the world championship match in 1966, he was automatically seeded into the 1969 world championship process.

1)      In the quarterfinal candidate match – Spassky won  3 games to defeat  Geller by a score of 5.5 – 2.5 . 

2)      In the semifinal candidate match -  Spassky won 4 games to defeat Bent Larsen  by a score of 5.5 – 2.5 

3)       In the final candidate match  Spassky  won  4 games to defeat Victor Kortchnoi by a score 6.5 – 3.5.

4)      In the world championship match Spassky won 6 games to became the 10th World Champion by defeating the 9th World Champion Tigran Petrosian by a score of 12.5 – 10 5.

  Spassky road to the world title was a tough one. He deserved to be world champion. He beat  top players, the who’s who of chess. He defeated two world champions and won 17 games against the best in the world.

Lets take a look at Bobby Fischer’s road to the title during the 1972 world championship cycle.

1)      In 1970 Palma De Mallorca Interzonal Bobby Fischer finished first by 3.5 points, winning 15 games.

2)      In the quarterfinal candidate match Bobby  won 6 games to defeat Mark Taimanov  by a score of 6-0. This was unprecedented in chess history. I equate it to Don Larsen’s perfect game no hitter in the world series in 1956.

3)      In the semifinal candidate match Bobby repeated the feat by winning 6 games to defeat Bent Larsen by a score of 6-0. During this period, Bobby string of defeating 18 GM is a row is equivalent to White Ford pitching 33 consecutive scoreless innings in a world series.

4)      In the candidate final match Bobby won 4 games to defeat ex world champion Tigran Petrosian by a score of 6.5- 2.5.

5)      In the world championship match, Bobby Fischer won 7 games to become the 11th World Champion by defeating Boris Spassky the 10th World Champion by a score of 12.5 - 8.5.

  Bobby Fischer's road to the title was also very difficult. He defeated 2 world champions and won 36 games against the best in the world.  He did it in smashing style

   Ponomariov only won 12 games en route to his title.  As far as being a world champion, it's not necessary the number of wins that counts most, it’s the quality of the opponent that’s important.  Clearly, in  the old system winning a lot was necessary but so was winning against the top players in the world. That’s what gives value to a title. If you review the path to the title of Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, and Kasparov, you will find that they won a lot of games and faced tougher opponents than any FIDE Knockout winner. The old system found the best challengers and champions. It kept the tradition of king of the mountain, the man who beat the man who beat the man.

   Fred Wilson made an interesting point that the challengers in the old system had to play  a lot of chess and could get exhausted. This gave the champion  an advantage.


Hangin's take:

  Well, I do think the champion has some disadvantages as well; all the top players will be studying his games.  Who does the champion prepare for?  He has to wait to find out  who will challenge him. He can take a good guess, but may need to prepare for multiple opponents. Also many champions have lost their titles in their first defense,  namely Smyslov, Tal, Capablanca, Euwe, and Spassky.  If you look at the true champions from 1966 onward, you can see the best player breaks thru.  Karpov defended his title three times. He lost his title because Kasparov was better.  Kasparov held his title for 15 years, but he had some close calls.  In the 1995 match, Anand took the lead mid way thru, but self-destructed. In 1987, Karpov was within one game and one draw of taking the title back. However Karpov lost the 24th game of the match allowing Kasparov to keep his title. Also in 1984, Karpov was one game away from retaining his title against Kasparov. I don’t feel that being a world champion is an advantage in itself. The champ does get draw odds, but he has to play better chess than the challenger. In the old system the better player has broken thru. The old process was three years long, so challengers had time to rest and recharge before playing the champion.


Andy Soltis also had an interesting comment, that during the 1970 USSR vs. the world match, all 20 players were asked the following question: Do you like the current world champ system? Only 3 players said they like it. 


 Hangin's take:
  My response is tough. Becoming champion is not supposed to be easy. The title retains it values because of the difficulty in winning it. The 1970 process was a fair, tough process. It allows the best players to triumph by showing strength of play. Also the money prior to 1972 world championship cycle was poor. Now the money is good and I think the candidate matches would draw some nice dollars for the players. Also players are proud to say, I was a candidate.   If the players in 1970 were making the money that top players make now,  I don't think they would object. The problem with Chess today is there aren't  too many resume building events, like candidate matches.

Soltis had another interesting point about how the world championship will be decided in the future, he feels that there will be another great player who will, like Capablanca, have a meeting with top players and tell them what is needed to challenge for the title.


Hangin's take : 

   Andy is talking about the 1922 London Protocol. It was after the 22 London Tournament, Capablanca invited all the top finishers out to dinner and told them what was needed to challenge him. The main point was money, the challenger had to raise 5000 dollars. I think this is very likely to occur if reunification does not happen. I don't think it's the best method, but it's better than the FIDE knockout process. It preserves the man who beat the man tradition. Kramnik says he has a 2 million dollar match against Kasparov any time he wants.  If FIDE does not support a good system, then that's what will occur. I think there is also danger, hopefully the champion will challenge someone in the top 5 or 10.  Fide was created to organize world championship events that allowed the top players to challenge for the title.  FIDE  perfected a system in the mid 1960's that allowed the top players to earn the right to challenge for the title through their strength of play against other top players.