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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Of Arbitering and Pairing....

Most tournament organizers nowadays use computer aided software to do pairings for the rounds. Whilst some small events may still use manual pairing, using pairing software will probably help the arbiter to do the pairing faster and more efficient (with less mistake). One thing for sure is that manual pairing usually opens more opportunities for arbiter to fix the pairing whereas using a pairing system may minimize the fixing but it does not lessen nor close the door for manipulation. But, to move from one system to the other does not mean an organizer is looking for loop holes to "control the pairing"

I believe we should look at things objectively and always think that there is "another side to the story". If we see someone with a gun, do we assume that he is about to kill someone, or is it because he wants to defend someone? Are we destructive (that it would destroy/cause harm/kill) or constructive (that it would build/develop/save)?

Changing from Swiss Manager to Swiss Perfect could simply happen because of economical reason. Swiss Perfect cost USD49 to purchase whereas Swiss Manager has a price tag of Euro199 (for the full version) and Euro99 (for the light version). In any event, Swiss Manager is much more expensive to own. On top of that, Swiss Perfect has a 30 days free trial period so, using it for small Non-Rated events is very practical. Unless there is an extensive use for FIDE Rated events, then it would be feasible to purchase the Swiss Manager but if not, why waste the extra money unless there is extra money to spend.

Looking at Swiss Manager and Swiss Perfect, one must understand that each system will use different "process" to arrive at a certain pairing. In a tournament where the number of players and their seeding are the same, each system/software may yield a different pairing for each round. But this does not mean the pairings are wrong or the system is flawed. It just means that each is using a different process and logical order but the most important thing is that the processes are "consistent" within each program. If Swiss Manager uses the same "process" to determine the pairing in Round 1, it will use the same logic for Round 7, 11 or 17, and so on. The pairing is only wrong if an event started off with a Swiss Manager system but ends using a Swiss Perfect system (or somewhere in the middle, another different system is being used) i.e. the system used was not consistent. Interesting to note that there is at least 2 popular Swiss Pairing process being used i.e. one which takes color (black and white) into account and the other which does not take colors into account when doing the pairing.

But, it needs to be understood that system is used as a "tool" to aid the Arbiter in doing the Pairing and if the system produced glaring mistake or unjustified pairing, then the Arbiter has the right to overrule and correct the pairing. For all purposes, systems are not 100% perfect so when an irregular situation arises, the Arbiter has the right to change the pairing and this is where his/her pairing methodology needs to follow the correct logical sequence. An Arbiter who have experienced many events will probably be able to identify when a such situation occurs and what needs to be done. If the system (using its internal logic) causes a player to be paired glaringly unfavorable, then the arbiter must correct the situation.

But to learn using the Swiss Manager without learning how to do the pairing manually is very dangerous and illogical - as the saying goes "a little knowledge is very dangerous". Most people who does not understand how to do the pairing will usually take the easy way to just "blame" the system for not doing the pairing correctly. If a person had learned how to do the manual pairing, then it is very easy to check whether the system has made the correct pairing or otherwise. Its like using a calculator but not knowing how to do the calculation manually - "That's the numbers given by the calculator but I don't know how it got those numbers". Same like - "That's the pairing given by the system but I don't know why its like that".

So, before blaming that it is a fixed pairing, get some pairing cards and check the pairing manually. It is a good knowledge to learn hence a player, parents, organizer, coach, etc. can check and "feel" if the system is doing its job correctly instead of taking the easy way of "blaming it on the arbiter for fixing the pairing". But maybe, to certain people , ignorance is bliss therefore, it is easier to blame than to learn. On the same note, it is also sad to have sign up, organize or enroll in such a learning session but not learning anything out of it - and continue to be ignorant

But do take note that even after some sanity checking, the pairing may still feel incorrect. However, one must understand that there are certain exact elements of calculation where the pairing software can calculate much deeper compared to a human brain which may cause the "checking" to be inconclusive. The best way to gauge is to see if the pairing differs very much from the actual pairing or about the same and if it is about the same, or a logical explanation can be found, then it can be concluded that the pairing is correct.

When I did the Blitz Event in Cititel (and some of my smaller events in DATCC), I actually use a projector to perform the pairing sequence using Swiss Manager for people to see. If this method can eliminate the "thought that a pairing is being fixed" then maybe, this method can be use to perform the pairing but..... it may create other issues i.e. the arbiter may not be able to correct a glaring mistake because technically, the pairing has been "published".

In any case, I would like to think that Arbiters are doing their best to perform his/her job and trusting that the he/she will not manipulate the pairing to favor certain players. Why must I think that people are bad?


  1. I absolutely agree that we must be circumspect and not jump to conclusions. Careful observation must be made over time and benefit of the doubt given.

    In the PICA scenario, I speculated that fixing was done for a few reasons. One, that no cross tables are given. Two, when one was shown after the first Lee Loy Seng event, I commented that the cross table looked funny. And it was immediately taken down. The good thing was other parents/bloggers in KL also saw the same thing.

    But even then I would not say it was conclusive.

    Maybe the most damning evidence in my mind is the fixing that was levied against Mark from the moment he became U12 Champion in the State.

    I have been asked many times to Champion many issues but I have always declined as I only want to write about things I have witnessed myself.

    Honest people will change systems for good reasons. Dishonest people will study a system to see how it can be manipulated without detection.

    So it is more about the people behind the act. As you know Najib, there are a few among us to try to look fair but really are not. It's just a disguise.

    So Najib, can I ask you a honest question? Are you aware of any fixing in the Malaysian chess community?

  2. I'm sure this article is a response to a nobody who made tried to make another attack on his favourite punching bag, PICA.

    I really appreciate how you are methodical and rational in your writing, giving your reasoning and scenarios as well. cannot say the same for the other fella, who just make insinuation and hope to fool those reading into "joining the dots" "on their own". No evidence, no logical reasoning, just make some assumptions i.e Swiss Perfect easier to manipulate, ask some leading questions and job (character assassination) done.

    Very irresponsible and selfish motives (attack PICA and its President indirectly).

    Hopefully your other article about parents and players are accurate :)

  3. I write on PICA simply because I am a first hand witness to events. I have been following recent events in Malaysia with some interest. I hope you are doing the same so we are on the same page here.

    Are you Jimmy also saying that we dont need any change in the way we run chess? Have you not seen the abuses too? Or have you joined the ranks of the people who implement them? I hope you can give an honest answer this time.

    It is good this debate is in the open. I would like to see how many really think that we are squeaky clean? This would be a good indication of the level of avoidance and self denial.

  4. "Or have you joined the ranks of the people who implement them?"

    I rest my case.

  5. In over 20 years of playing chess, I have come across less than 3 times when pairings are in doubt. For the most part, I seriously doubt some of the organizers are even capable of manipulating pairings.

    However, back in the 1990s, I have witnessed seeding manipulations to favour certain parties. This was possible because there was no national rating then. There was perhaps the PCA and CAS rating, other than FIDE ratings and they were not on the same scale. So "notable" players were seeded not even based on their ratings, and were arranged in very questionable orders. But that is the past.

    Raymond, you have time and again claim the support of "parents/bloggers", but I have never once seen any other parent/blogger speak of such suspicious activities. Perhaps you can name them or at least request that they respond to this post to corroborate your "speculation". We are all just asking for witnesses and evidence.

    In the English Premier League, if the football manager so much so as "speculate" that a referee is match-fixing without any proof, they are fined and banned immediately. And given that you try to uphold the world class "thinking" standards that you so profusely preach about, I think it is safe to hope that you would try to live up to those same standards.

  6. I have always spoken for myself and what I have witnessed. I do not ask for others to speak up for me or tell them what to think or do. But I think you will see some comments scattered across the web where there is some corroboration. If you go back to your last post on the article preceding this I wonder what your point actually is? This will be an interesting exercise for you. Do you remember you asked me at one time what I thought of you? And my answer was confused. Maybe you can see why now.

  7. I never asked you what you think of me, nor do I care. Najib completely understood what I wrote as he has been in the chess scene long enough. Where were you in the 1990s and 1980s Raymond?

    Your observation period is too short, so you do not see the whole picture. If you can't fathom the point, please learn how to read.

    Your strategy is what logicians call "Poisoning the well", or an ad hominem fallacy. You criticize the character of the person in hopes of destroying their points. You have completely failed to produce any evidence or counter-argued the point that what you said is purely speculation without proof. Only vague "scattered across the web" pointers to make it sound like there is a lot of evidence when there is none.

  8. Thanks for the feedback and comments given.

    To answer your question... Yes I have seen arbiters fixing the pairing to "favor" certain players but this is most glaring in the earlier years where pairings were done manually. Since the "birth" of pairing software, this occurrence have been mostly eliminated. For one thing, if someone is not familiar with the system, it may disrupt the entire pairing table and the "fixing" becomes more glaring. Secondly, with software, it takes around 10 minutes to complete a pairing but if the arbiter try to do something funny (hence it will take longer to produce the pairing) then it is subject to suspicion.

    I showed the SMS (of the parent that said the chess community is "so scary") to Greg and Haslinda. Of the other points, mostly are just observations based on experienced. :)

    But in any event, if any of you feel that I have said something wrong or pointed out something inaccurate, please feel free to correct me.

    I welcome your "constructive" feedback.... Just like chess, its how we all learn not to make the same mistake twice - when we learn from one another.

  9. Ninja, your last comment is spot on. I agree with you totally.

  10. Najib,

    I commend you on your fair arbitering in tournaments. In so far as I have known you I have not had any reason to suspect anything untoward. I may have had some "doubts" before but in looking deeper I believe all are in the process of improving and learning.

    However that is not the case in PICA. I have been in the committee and I know what goes on inside. I will have the grace to say that my knowledge of them is not current as I have had very little interaction with them for at least 2 years. But all that have been said is historically correct. I hope they have changed. I merely raise the issues again to remind ourselves of what may happen if we are not watchful.

    To answer your question, yes there have been instances when the arbiters in pica have locked themselves in a room and spent an incredible amount of time doing the "computer" pairing. There have also been an incidence where the State Champion was asked to leave a selection although he was invited by a committee member.

    It is important that we remember the transgressions so we do not repeat them again. Then maybe more players and their parents may stay the race. I think that is what we are trying to achieve here.

    So white washing is not a good thing.

  11. Who, where and when. These are info you have to provide. And the correct avenue is MCF, make a complaint in writing. Not openly in a blog especially when you do not give any details at all. And trying to spin it as doing a public service does not take away the feeling that this is just personal vendetta you are embarking on.

  12. MCF has been engaged many many times. We have had many many meetings, information given, emails and phone calls etc. But to date not one thing has been done. Some of the issues raised were the unconstitutional sacking, the need to address the loss of potentially RM 2 million in sponsorship. Another issue was the attack by anonymous bloggers promoted by an IM called Jimmy Liew on our sponsors and partner by the spreading of lies and slander. In fact there is still another issue outstanding and I am still waiting for a proper response. So all these things have been brought up again and again. But as you know Jimmy, that doesnt work. So we continue to have these abuses to this day. So I concluded it may be better to raise awareness instead. Hopefully if the issues is raised often enough there may finally be some action. I dont know. There is a culture of fear still in chess. Too much arbitrary use of authority and power with no check and balances.

    I would welcome some suggestions from you on how to finally corner the slanderers. Any ideas? I'm still looking for the answer.

  13. Time and again I have to repeat I have no interest in this AirAsia whamacallit. If a couple of blokes writting some words in a blog can derail a RM2 million sponsorship, the potential cannot be very strong to begin with. Face the reality. Stop blaming your problems on some faceless people.

  14. Trying to twist things again Jimmy? The 2 issues are not connected. The attack on Air Asia is concerning the training that FGM provided to our Juniors. I think you should know that by now since you go and read and comment on those blogs.

    Time and time again I have told you that this is about issues. About abuse of power, about spreading of lies and slander, about the victimisation of both the parents and the players.

    This is not and have never been about me. Otherwise I would not have defended the girl in Perak that was robbed of her win. I have no interest in anonymous people. Who knows who chess ninja is and who cares. He may be the same person who started out attacking Hamid and he may not.

    But you are visible and you encourage our young junior to make personal attacks on the blog. So yes this is about you also. This is about you needing to set a good example. You can start by trying to be honest. Try it. You will see that it doesnt kill you. Dont be selfish for once.

  15. Of course they are not connected. You are the one that brought Airasia into this, see your previous comment. Now blame me for it. Go and read Ninja's comment.

    This has always been about you. We all know that.

    And how do you know I encourage anyone or young junior to make personal attacks? Character assassination again without any evidence. Go and read Ninja's comment again.

  16. I have pondered a little about you. I think you think that everyone thinks like you. What a sad world you live in. You come across as very fearful that you will soon be irrelevant. And so you go around shouting people down, twisting the truth and trying to order people around. Do you really think that works anymore? I see you now as a very good example of the damage that chess can cause if we are not careful. A pity. You could have been so much more.

  17. Anyone reading your previous comment, they will know you are so full of yourself. Good thing for me, like Ninja, I do not really care what you think of me. No more comments from me here.