A lot of my friends often ask me what I do in my studies. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s difficult to make what I study sound interesting to a non-economist. Economics as a field is fascinating and incredibly useful, but the core skills and courses required of a PhD in economics are themselves largely based around complex mathematical models that could send even the more erudite of dinner guests to sleep.
Recently, however, I got the opportunity to tailor one of my assessment pieces to a chessy theme, for a change. The subject was called “Social and Economic Networks”, a course focussed on a new and emerging branch of mathematics based around network theory. I decided to write my final research proposal on how the field might be used to develop a new tie-break system for Swiss and round-robin chess events.
I should stress that I’m not really suggesting it as a serious alternative for tournament chess, but it’s definitely true that the current systems each have their flaws – which I discuss in the paper. My system is based on tallying up a network of direct and indirect wins over all participants in the competition, and has an added perk in that it encourages players to fight for decisive results rather than settle for quick draws. Mind you, it has its own flaws, but at least it made for a more interesting project than what I’m used to.
You can check it out on the link below, if you’re interested, though I should add some sort of warning for the mathematical derivations and prosaic language. As an example, consider the end of the introduction:
This proposal seeks to address both the inadequacies of current tie-break systems and the issue of ever- increasing draws in chess by introducing a new tie-break system for large tournaments. The system uses a measure based on both direct and indirect wins, and is a generalisation of standard centrality values stemming from the directed network of wins throughout an event.
Still, it was kind of a fun application of some complex math, and I managed to wrangle a bit of text on recent tie-break controversies at the European Championships and also the Commonwealth Championships. Just try not to be too scared by all the Greek symbols.
(You can check it out here: 01072012 SMERDON – Social Networks Research Proposal )