It is generally considered that white has better chances of winning in chess. This is due to white's initiative, since white gets to move first. The difference in chances seems to get more significant, as the level of play gets higher.

So, I suppose most grandmasters will choose to play white, whenever they are given the choice (especially in crucial games).

(1) What is the general view on the Armageddon tiebreak in that respect? Is there a clear preference in tournament play, or are white and black equally liked in Armageddon? What are opinions on this at the top level?

(2) Take the extreme example. In case of a tie after all classical, rapid and blitz games in a WCh match, there would be a drawing of lots, and the player who wins, gets to choose the colour in the Armageddon game. Which colour would be the choice of most GMs?

Remark. There are many variants of the Armageddon tiebreak. To avoid ambiguity, let us fix the time control used in the rules for the Anand-Carlsen WCh match 2014:

The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes whereupon, after the 60th move, both players shall receive an increment of 3 seconds starting from move 61. In case of a draw the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

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    I'd love to see some statistics. Someone with "big data" and a good filter could do it very easily. Please, if you fell like sharing, and have the means, consider post it here. Thanks! – Dr Beco Apr 6 '15 at 16:03

It is generally considered that white has better chances of winning in chess. This is due to white's initiative, since white gets to move first. The difference in chances seems to get more significant, as the level of play gets higher.

That is completely correct.

But in an armegeddon game the expected draw ratio is just as important as the white advantage and much more variable over playing strength and time controls. So the stronger the players and the longer the time control, the better it is to take black, because a draw becomes more likely.

To give a real life example: A few years back Gata Kamsky became US champ by playing the black pieces with 25 min on the clock against his opponent's 60 min. That's quite a different ratio compared to the Carlsen-Anand tiebreak time control … Kamsky's choice was justified by the rather long time control and the high level of competition. With a 2:1 time advantage I (a 2100 Elo player) would have taken white any day.

So there is a tradeoff between time control, playing strength and personal style in as much as they influence the expected draw ratio and the expected white advantage.

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    The longer the time control, the more advantage black has. In the field of computer chess, it's axiomatic that doubling the time adds 100 to the effective rating. For humans, the effect is slightly greater. And a +200 in Elo yields an expected score difference of 75-25 (+100 is 64-36). The first might be enough to tip it to White, the second definitely doesn't. – Arlen Dec 2 '14 at 3:55
  • @Arlen do you have references for what you are saying? Thanks – Vladimir Vargas Nov 12 '18 at 0:31
  • The win probability difference comes from the table in Arpad Elo's "Rating of Chessplayers, Past and Present" but I honestly forget where the doubling of thinking time equates to +100 Elo. I suspect it was from Levy's book on computer chess. I remember it from years ago -- a postal master was playing half a dozen computers at once. He referenced it when explaining why he was winning; the brain is able to use the extra time more efficiently than the computers were. It's possible advancement in algorithms has affected that projection since then. – Arlen Aug 7 '19 at 14:02

Armageddon Chess is a fair tie-break system only if the two players bid for how much time Black should have.

Foolishly most times I see Armageddon specified there is no bidding. Instead the Tournament Organizer gazes into his magic oracle which tells him the exactly correct fair amount of time to give to Black (the T.O. is careful to never let us see the oracle for ourselves). This no-bid foolishness amazes me.

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If you ask this question to any FIDE officials they will answer you that nobody has advantage. Because ultimately, tiebreaks have to be fair. If it's not fair, then no one will want to play it.

However, in practical black has an advantage due to the psychological advantage to just hold the draw. In fact, to compensate this, there is a new system of players bidding for time in order to get the sides.

For example, if A and B is to play off against each other. They will have to offer the time they are willing to take in order to get black, A offers 3 minutes for black against white's 5 minute; B offers 4 minutes to play as black. Hence A wins the bid and the game proceed with 5 minutes for white, and 3 minutes for black.

Anyway, I haven't came across any statistics for armageddon tie breaks. But I am pretty sure that it depends on your style of playing to say that which side is advantageous. For an attacking player, white is obviously better, while for a defending player, black is probably a good choice.

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There is a recent academic paper claiming that time controls in Armageddon of the 2018 World Chess Championship "greatly favours black"

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  • Interesting paper, but with a complete lack of comparison to any real data it's hard to say to what extent its conclusions are valid. In particular, the assumption that human strength can be compared to engine strength just by switching the engine time controls, and then that the ratio of time controls between engines can be directly transposed to humans would require more investigation IMO. One could also argue that using a single blitz tournament might lack statistical significance. – ATLPoly Jan 16 '19 at 21:08

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