Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Q: "Did the Soviets Collude?" A: "Yes."

Hat tip to the BCC Weblog for pointing us to "Did the Soviets Collude? A Statistical Analysis of Championship Chess 1940-1964" by Charles Moul and John V. C. Nye, an interesting contribution to the economic study of sports. Unlike previous claims of Soviet collusion (such as Bobby Fischer's), which were based on a judgment of draw offers in potentially winning positions, this analysis tries to look systematically at drawing behavior, comparing draws in all-Soviet tournaments to those in tournaments with Western players present. The data suggest that there was definite Soviet collusion (for example, draws were shorter and more prevalent in Soviet-Soviet match-ups when facing Western opposition than they were in Soviet-only tournaments) and that some Soviet players definitely gained a tournament advantage because of it. The most interesting case was the legendary Zurich 1953 tournament, where, the authors argue, second-place finisher Sammy Reshevsky was almost certainly denied his best shot at the World Championship title due to Soviet collusion. If you are willing to wade through the dry economics stuff, there is a lot of interesting history in the article.


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