Sunday, May 31, 2015

We All Love An Underdog?

One of the great things about watching competitive events is seeing the occasional upset result. Of course, the best prevail overall, but once in a while, it is most gratifying to see the Gods of their fields brought back down to human level.

In terms of chess, every tournament has some such upset. We have amazingly talented juniors playing well above their level for a game or 2, and well below their level at times too. Likewise, older players with years of experience can sometimes hold, or even frustratingly beat, younger players who may take a risk too much in their attempts to win. We expect Grand Masters to win the majority of their games, and finish at, or near the top of tournament tables, with a promising master possibly giving them a good run for their money.

When an untitled player upsets the cart, and wins a game against one of the elite it makes tournaments that little more interesting. Unfortunately, the day of the underdog is being threatened at the European Women's Championship in Georgia. Romanian Woman Grand Master Mihaela Sandu wasn't expected to be high placed finisher in the tournament, but she is still a WGM with a rating of 2300. She has performed at over 2500 for the tournament, and has beaten some players higher rated than her which has caused a number of competitors to become suspicious and to overtly accuse her of cheating.

The full story can be found on the chess24 website, but it's ugly reading. A letter was sent by a group of players expressing concern at her performance, and amazingly, 3 of the signatories were players who beat Sandu in their games! What is also interesting is not the players who lost to Sandu signed the letters of complaint, and good for them is my opinion.

I realise that there have been some high profile cheating cases in the chess world recently, but this doesn't mean we have to go pointing the finger at anyone and everyone who over performs or causes an upset. Even as I approach 50 years of age, I still dream of good tournament performances. I'm planning on entering the Australian Championships in January, where I would expect to finish in the lower half of the field. But let's just say that I have a stellar tournament and take out a couple of high rated players. Will this raise suspicions, and am I likely to come under the scrutiny of cheating commissions, and feel the wrath of my fellow competitors? If so, then what is the point of me playing?

I'm sure that many people reading this blog will find themselves as underdogs relatively frequently. How would you feel about having played the game of your life, the tournament of your life, and then be accused of cheating?

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