Wednesday, August 25, 2004

On adjournments ...

In the July/August 1998 issue of Chess Horizons I wrote the following on the topic of adjournments:

Adjournments - I'm sure not everyone will agree, but I believe the potential for adjournment at some of these events is a significant plus. I have learned more about endgames by spending several days working out my adjourned positions than by any other method of study. In addition, the rituals around adjournment -- the sealed move, the envelope, etc. -- bring back for me the grand old traditions of the game.

"Nightclubbing - Our man goes forth from Boston, looking for new worlds to conquer" by David Glickman, Chess Horizons, July/August 1998, pg. 38

In the same issue of the magazine GM Larry Christiansen weighed in with his perspective:

CH: What do you think of adjournments?

Christiansen: As far ago as 1975 I wrote in puzzlement, "Why do they have the adjournment rule?" It's a stupid, anti-chess rule. The Soviets loved that rule; they could scientifically take a position apart, with their team methods, and analyze it to death. They were the best at it, because they usually had a team approach to these things, like

CH: But there were adjournments well before the Soviets even started playing chess.

Christiansen: I think then adjournments were based on the honor system.

CH: And time controls were longer then.

Christiansen: I don't know if the quality's gone down [with shorter time controls], but you see great games with 40/2, SD/1. If you make mistakes, so what? Adjournments are like having a marathon where at the 23rd mile you stop, rest, sleep, and then finish the marathon. During this
Kasparov-Karpov match in New York 1990, they had adjournments, and it was stupid to explain, "Oh, well they're stopping now; they're going to analyze it." It's cost me some tournaments; in the 1975 World Junior, I had a big adjourned game against this Russian guy Chekhov, and the guy was collapsing. He got to the adjournment, but my position was improving with every move. He called the Moscow Chess Club, he had some trainers analyze the hell out of it, his own second was a professional analyst; he scientifically analyzed the position. It was more difficult than I thought it was. I analyzed it with my second for four or five hours, and thought it was a simple, easy win. I show up and fall into a trap five moves deep, and he ends up drawing the game. That cost me the World Junior; I came in second. And I'm dead sure if that game had not been adjourned, he would have lost.

"Larry Christiansen - Chess gladiator from the West" by Peter Sherwood, Chess Horizons, July/August 1998, pg. 52-53

I must admit that my view has evolved over the years. While I still think adjournments present great learning opportunities, there are real problems from a competitive perspective. Even at the club level, players will spend hours consulting masters, GMs and computers to determine best play. One of my recent opponents, after we completed an adjourned game, said to me, "Fritz didn't understand this position at all, but I spent a couple of hours analyzing this with GM [name withheld to protect the innocent] and he thought that ..."

Adjournments are also a logistical nightmare for those of us with jobs and families. It is often difficult to find another evening or weekend afternoon to devote to the game.

That said, the trend to shorter time controls and sudden death finishes is not completely satisfactory either. Many games simply become very delayed forms of blitz and several hours of building a solid, interesting game go down in flames in a flurry of thoughtless moves.

In the end, I think this debate is largely moot. Large international tournaments and even world championship matches no longer have adjournments. And the vast majority of club tournaments have introduced sudden death time controls. While adjournments aren't quite dead yet, they are well on their way.

In any case, the BCC Championship still provides for adjournments and we'll see what occurs as the tournament progresses.


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