In some round robins or swiss, there are score tiebreakers based on black wins, like the 2022 Accentus Chess960 tournament and the 2023 USCC. Never mind those. My question is for knockouts. Obviously this doesn't work for best-of-2. This has to be at least best-of-4.

I noticed in the 2016 & 2023 classical WCC's, the runner-ups Nepo & Sergey actually, to me, 'won the classical portion' in having more black wins than, respectively, Liren & Magnus.

  • 2016: Sergey won as black. Then Magnus drew as black, won as white, drew as black again and then drew the rest of the games. Total wins: Sergey had 1 black win. Magnus had 1 white win.

  • 2023: Nepo won as black. Then Liren drew as black, won as white, (ok it wasn't so smooth as 2016 but ultimately) and then drew as black. Total wins: Nepo had 1 black win & 2 white wins. Liren had 3 white wins.

Actually, the ones who lost their games as white

It feels kinda weird that in bo4 (or higher), you can have a drawn match from asymmetric wins, eg a black win can be compensated with a white win and 2 black draws. This is UNLIKE the case of bo2 eg the world cup or the 2024 Freestyle Chess (chess960) : If I win as black, then my opponent MUST do likewise.

I've never played a knockout chess tournament in my life, but I might feel that my hard work that led to my unexpectedly winning as black is not rewarded accordingly because my opponent can get around this by just playing safe as black and then expectedly winning as white.

Question :

What happens if this kind of tiebreaker is implemented? I.e. If for all tied matches in knockout tournaments (except bo2), if someone has more black wins, then they win the match without tiebreaks, then how'd the meta change for knockout tournaments?

  • Note: You can do this right after the classical portion so there are no tiebreaks. Or still have rapid tiebreaks and then if that's also drawn, then look at black wins like in the 1980 – 1981 candidates.

Guesses: [ This part is optional. ]

Guess 1 :

It encourage draws or something, hence why this is almost non-existent. I think these might be relevant:

If I lose 1 game as white, then my opponent if a superGM might easily draw against me, so I'll probably have less incentive to take risks as white. Meanwhile, this doesn't commensurately increase incentive to take risks as black. Overall: More draws, I guess. Idk.

Guess 2 :

Maybe there's some good explanation as to how a black win is indeed worth equal to a white win & 2 black draws, i.e. how a black win & a white draw is worth a white win & a black draw. And so implementing this actually violates the equal worth.

And if there's no such explanation, then it seems hypocritical for both bo2's & bo4's to exist. Or well maybe it's simply a variation in the specific tournament format of knockouts, just like how there are variations in tournament formats: KO vs RR vs swiss, time controls: classical vs rapid vs blitz and even variant: chess1 vs chess960.

Btw ways to fix this might be:

  1. Play armageddon w/ auction so colour doesn't matter. Or better yet, you can have a match of an odd number of games.
  2. Make it chess960 so colour matters less.
  3. Make it 'sudden death': A bo4 match can be made up of bo2 mini-matches s.t. if 1 mini-match is won, then the whole match is won by the mini-match winner. (This kinda sucks if a mini-match is won w/ more white wins sooo...)
  4. Make it 'sudden death' but for black wins only: A bo4 match can be made up of bo2 mini-matches s.t. if 1 mini-match is won w/ more black wins and then the match score is either favoured towards that winning player or is even, then the whole match is won by the mini-match winner.

Guess 3 :

I believe bo4 and above makes chess unlike other games/sports in that in chess you can have a drawn match comes from asymmetric wins. But if you can find some precedent for this in other sports, then go ahead. I think of dividing sports into 4 cases:

  1. Some sports have no attacker-defender. They are parallel state not shared state. Eg bowling, golf, swimming/racing or just exams in school. Ignore these. (But hypothetically you could come up w/ some ad hoc parallel state sport that fits the bill. Btw, the 'attacker' in chess is white, and the 'defender' is black. (I explain more in (4).)

  2. Some sports have attacker-defender, but the attacker-defender is not alternating the way chess is eg basketball (who has the ball) or boxing (I'm not familiar enough) or chessboxing (btw, if it's a draw in both chess & boxing, then black wins. Lol). Afaik, you can score points only as an attacker, so if I score a point, then to (at least) tie you must score a point also by attacking. You can't tie by scoring from a defense or something.

    • 2.1 - Ok in basketball you can indeed score points asymmetrically, and then you can argue 'Are 3 free throws worth 1 3-pointer? Why doesn't the other team have had to do the same amount of 3-pointers as my team did if the match is tied?'

1st of all, basketball is rarely tied (I think part of it comes from that they don't play 1st to X points at the pro level, but ok maybe they can use 3-pointers as tiebreaks in casual games).

2ndly, this asymmetry isn't in terms of attack and defense. If one team makes a shot, then you can't compensate for that by eg blocking shots. Like, basketball doesn't have points for blocking shots or something. You cannot score while your opponent has the ball (except 'own basket' / 'own goal'. I think the analogue of basketball's asymmetric point scoring is not really white win vs black win but mixed time controls like in the 2019 WFRCC (weighted scoring) or the 2024 American Cup (unweighted scoring) in that winning a classical game is like a 3-pointer ... well at least if the scoring is weighted like in the 2019 WFRCC.

But ok if 'it's like different points in basketball' is really the widely accepted rationale in chess, then that's an answer - Please cite your references.

  • 2.2 - I think boxing has various points for different things, so similar to basketball.
  1. Some sports have attacker-defender, and the attacker-defender is alternating the way chess is. However, unlike chess, you can score points only as an attacker eg baseball (batting-pitching). (Or only as a 'defender, depending on which side you consider attack/defense/defence.) Anyway, it's the same thing as (2). If I score a point, then to (at least) tie you must score a point also by attacking. You can't tie by scoring from a defense or something.

  2. Some sports have attacker-defender, and the attacker-defender is alternating the way chess is. And, like chess, you can score points as either an 'attacker' / a 'defender', which can just mean whichever side is more, respectively, advantaged / disadvantaged. So in chess attacker = white and defender = black. Similarly, there's counterstrike & valorant (terrorist vs counter-terrorist) and tennis (who gets the serve).

Actually, you don't have to think of it in terms of either attack / defense or advantage. The point is these kinds of games have 'colours' like in chess, and you can score points as either 'colour'. I say 'colours' because chess & tennis of course have inherent advantages associated w/ 'colours', namely that in tennis whoever gets the serve has the advantage. Counterstrike & valorant needn't, although usually the counter-terrorist has the advantage. 'Colour' here just refers to wearing different hats. Maybe like playing both colours of Casablanca chess. Or arm wrestling w/ alternative arms when players have opposite dominant hands.

  • 4.1. There's a tiebreak like this in soccer/association football called 'away goals rule', like they play 'both home court' just as chess knockouts (but not round robins or swiss) play 'both colours' whoever, if any, scored more goals outside their home court wins.

Anyway, so it's mainly for the sports in (Case 4), that I'm trying to make my point. Usually, there are no 'drawn rounds', afaik, so if get a win on a disadvantaged side, then my opponent, to at least tie me, must also get a win on a disadvantaged side. In a bo4, they cannot just draw w/ me 2 times on the disadvantaged side and then win on the advantaged side after I won on the disadvantaged side. (Although maybe the point it's not a mere' just' to draw twice on the disadvantaged side. Idk.)

  • For example, what this looks like in bo4 counterstrike/valorant match is: Let's say I start on the terrorist side ('black'). I play 2 rounds. I win one and lose one. Then when I play counter-terrorist side ('white'), my opponents 'draw' the 2 rounds, assuming counterstrike/valorant would have some kind of condition for a drawn round. Then the match is treated as drawn. My opponents never had to win when they played as the disadvantaged terrorists.

  • For example, what I think this looks like in tennis: For simplicity, let's say bo4 & 2 serves each (no deuce and all those other rules that I'm actually not so familiar w/). My opponent serves 1st (I'm 'black'). I play 2 rounds. I win one and lose one. Then when it's my turn to serve (I'm 'white'), my opponent 'draws' the 2 rounds, assuming tennis would have some kind of condition for a drawn round. Then the match is treated as drawn. My opponent never had to win when I had the advantage of serving.

  • 4
    You've got to trim this down and remove your multi-level guesses at answers.
    – Skye
    Commented Jun 2 at 9:49
  • In the bo4 case you have taken. Consider that draws are almost equally likely as white wins, with black wins being less probable. Using data available here at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-move_advantage_in_chess, take a 35/35/30 WDL split as white. Then to compensate for your 25% black victory, white has to make a 35% win as white. In perspective, you have a 65% advantage with a black win, to force your opponent to reciprocate. Also some of your suggestion would change the game into variants, which shouldn't be the objective.
    – A.Shetye
    Commented Jun 9 at 19:36
  • 4
    I agree with Skye, you need to trim down the post to make it even readable to the general userbase. (As a suggestion, you can take down guess 1,2 as these mostly invlove speculation. You can drop a good amount of the into which provides background examples for the question to exist (which isn't needed, it's sufficiently explained). Trim down guess 3 to only include extremely relevant examples and remove qualifiers).
    – A.Shetye
    Commented Jun 9 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


This answer is for how the rapid portion is played:

At the very least for 2016 & 2023 classical WCC's, assuming the classical portion stays the same, even if, respectively, Sergey & Nepo aren't immediately awarded the title, they can play for draws in the rapid portion.


I believe someone asked this to Magnus in the 2018 classical WCC like if the rapid portion should be played 1st (and then blitz and so on) so that there's already pressure on someone to win the classical portion. So I guess it's kinda reversed. With black wins tiebreaker in classical, there's pressure on someone to win the rapid portion.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.