Photo Finish in Titled Arena Demonstrates that Chess is Fun

Whatever chess tournament format you like? Arenas are better. They just are. If you think I'm wrong your confusion is probably tied to a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of chess tournaments. It is not to deterministically and rigorously prove who is the best player, something that swiss, round robin and knockout tournaments can't achieve in any case. The purpose of chess is to have fun, and if you find playing chess fun then maximizing playing time and minimizing non-playing time is vitally important. No format yet discovered does that better than arenas.

The other advantage of arenas is their natural tendency to produce exciting, down-to-the-wire finishes. As a demonstration of how exciting arenas can be, I'm going to describe what happened in Saturday's Bullet Titled Arena and I will write two entire adult-sized paragraphs to describe the decisive moment of the event. A time period consisting of roughly 90 seconds. Ready? Here it is:

Going into his last game with GM Ray Robson, GM Andrew Tang was still optimistic of winning the tournament. 5 minutes before he'd had a commanding 11 point lead, but from that point Tang lost 3 in a row and second place GM Oleksandr Bortnyk had come roaring back. "I think it's fine as long as I win this game," said Tang on his live stream. Tang played well and got an easily winning position, but he used a bit too much time to achieve it. For many players 2.7 seconds would not be enough time to finish off a position up a queen and a knight, but Andrew Tang is not one of them. He needed less than half of that time for the game's remaining 12 moves.

Unfortunately for Tang, the 25 seconds left in the tournament was somehow still enough to cause trouble. 12 seconds later Bortnyk agreed to a draw with FM Andrii Palchuk and the resulting 2 points were precisely enough to push him above Tang into first place. "It happens" said a dejected but still magnanimous Tang on his live stream, "Congrats to him." The half-point that Bortnyk "dropped" vs Palchuk was the only blemish on his 5.5 / 6 score to finish the event. Palchuk finished in 21st, far away from any prize money and could have spoiled the event for Bortnyk if he so desired. In any case, the game was his to continue playing or not and he chose to accept the draw.

The next Lichess Titled Arena is April 9th.

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