What's a half-point bye? Can you claim it at any tournament? And if you can, what should you know about it as a player or arbiter? Find out more here!
Half-point byes are rare. But they serve an important purpose.
In the 2018 Isle of Man chess tournament, Alexei Shirov had a blazing start to the event. After 4 rounds, he was leading the tournament with a perfect 4/4 score.
Then, he took a half-point bye, surprising many.
A half-point bye is when you take a draw without playing an opponent. In such a case, you are given half a point.
So when Shirov requested a half-point draw, the following happened:
But why did Shirov take it? He was leading the tournament with all 4 victories. The momentum was on his side, and everything seemed to be going well.
While it's hard to pinpoint exactly why Shirov took the half-point bye, there are different reasons when a player can request it.
If a player falls ill or needs to rest, they can take a half-bye and recover their energy. This way, they at least get half a point instead of getting none.
A tournament like the Isle of Man offers so much to chess players. The landscape is stunning so someone might be tempted to explore without giving up a full point. In that case, getting half a point for not playing the tournament sounds like a good deal!
Sometimes, this can be a very strategic decision - Taking a half-point draw to avoid playing against a strong opponent.
In this case, what could happen is that the strong opponent might get paired against someone else and lose the game. So in the next round, a player might avoid facing a tougher opponent.
It depends on the tournament you're playing. In certain tournaments, half-point byes are allowed. But in most others, they aren't.
To check if your tournament allows half-point byes, always ask the chief arbiter.
In chess notation, it's written as half-bye.
Please note that 0 : ½ or ½ : 0 is not a half-bye. Such a result is given under other circumstances - like when a player's phone rings but the opponent doesn't have enough mating material.
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