Februar 23, 2024

Jenseits der Norm

Fantastic results against Eastern European title holders got streaming and E-sport star Zhou Qiyu the WGM and FM titles. (Zhou Qiyu Instagram)

After a new world’s youngest grandmaster record has been set, the cottage industry of title norm tournaments has come under scrutiny, reports Stefan Löffler.

When there is no prize money at stake, when titled players participate for modest fees and agree many short draws, it must be easier for norm seekers to reach their desired results than against fully motivated opposition. There is a widespread suspicion that in tournaments held for the sole purpose to produce title norms, you find players willing to concede points for extra cash.

A few days ago the New York Times exposed the circumstances of the final norm that had made Sergey Karjakin the world’s youngest grandmaster in 2002, a record that stood until a few weeks ago. It happened in a tournament held in the Ukrainian city of Sudak. After Karjakin failed to beat the lowest rated participant in the final round and fell half a point short, his father looked for a player who would replay their game against his son and provide him with the desired result. Vladimir Malinin agreed to pass on a win to the boy since he had purchased more points than necessary for his own GM norm. Since Malinin, who was never a professional player but a law scholar, died a few months ago, Karjakin may have considered it safe to deny the allegations when the New York Times confronted him. But Nazar Firman and Alexander Areshchenko backed up the story that wasn’t triggered by the new record but had been in the making since last year. The world championship challenger from 2016 now looks like a hypocrite.

Thus, if there are reservations about Mishra’s record, the record he has broken was even more dubious. In order to protect prodigies from parental pressure and image-damaging shenanigans ChessTech suggested earlier that FIDE should stop awarding life-time titles before the age of 16. But this would not suffice to counter the larger issue of match-fixing for titles.