Reinventing the wheel

1949 was the first year that the Irish championship was played with the Swiss system. Nearly every year since this has continued to be the format and virtually every Congress in Ireland is now played as a Swiss. Even Drogheda, the great stalwart of all-play-all sections, gave in last year.

Nowadays, most of the big Congresses have three or four Swiss sections, and this can bring issues with where the rating bands are set and, even more so, whether there should be any flexibility with people allowed to “play up” a section. Some players like to be ambitious and go looking for stronger opposition and want the flexibility to move up to a higher rating band, while the higher section players moan about the dilution of the rating standard of opponent. Organisers are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

In 2014, Galway suffered a drop in numbers, which the organisers considered was in part a result of this tension around how to set rating bands. Chief organiser Pete Morris is now considering a radical solution and is looking for feedback from intending competitors – I reckon chessplayers are by and large a conservative bunch when it comes to changes in tournament organisation, so I don’t foresee the Galway organisers getting a great light for this propsed innovation.

If it doesn’t go ahead, at least Morris will be saved the extra burden this psychedelic Swiss format will impose. However, I’m curious to see how it might work out and hoping we’ll see it in action at least once.

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