Since 2015, the European Go Championship uses a new tournament system consisting of three stages 1) seeding, 2) Swiss priliminaries, 3) KO finals and described in the Rules of the European Go Championship here:http://www.eurogofed.org/egf/ecrules.htm
Since only players with a passport of an EGF member country may be seeded, the tournament actually is an EGF championship rather than a European Championship now, although the tournament title tries to obfuscate this devaluation of the tournament's importance. Players must be aware that being a citizen of an EGF member country is insufficient - a passport is required and apparently, e.g., a country's identity card would be insufficient, too. Stateless permanent inhabitants may not participate, either.
To say at least something good about the system, players with amateur or professional rank both may participate and there is no age restriction. I.e., there is no major discrimination by status. However, politics replaces playing strength with respect to the two wildcard players seeded by the EGF; this is another devaluation of the quality of the tournament. The third wildcard for a player with a rating of 2350+ of the organising EGC country is no better because of likely giving some opponents an easy win, but similarly was also part of the previous system.
Compared to the previous EC system, the major devaluation of the new system is the reduction of the total number of rounds of the stages (2) and (3) from 10 to 7. This devaluation is not quite as bad as one might think at first because a) now there is no more strength and/or tiebreaker noise from non-European opponents during stage (2) and b) the first tiebreaker, EGF rating at a date before the start of stage (2), for the qualification from stage (2) to stage (3) means that players should improve on their rating during stage (1) by, if necessary, playing more games before the start of the tournament's core stages. Nevertheless, one must speak of a devaluation of quality. Research should assess its impact.
For the seeding stage, most of the players qualify for participation in the order of their best achieved EGF ratings within the previous twelve months (16th June of previous year to 15th June of current year). Only players with a tournament result in those twelve months will be taken into account, i.e., it seems to suffice for a player with a previously high rating to have played one game in one rated tournament during those previous twelve months - a ridiculous requirement for the significance of the players' rating...
Besides the wildcards, in 2015 the top 4 players of the EC 2014 were seeded. From 2016 on, these will be 8 players from the previous year's EC. The remaining 17, or then 13, players are seeded by rating (if 2350+). Given that the EGF rating system is reasonably meaningful for top rated players, this part of the seeding stage is reasonable. Besides, there is no rating race for the deadline of June 15 because the players' best achieved ratings are used - good.
In conclusion, the tournament system is a mixture of reasonable ideas, bad ideas and some devaluation in quality compared to the previous system. The apparent reason for devaluation is the now possible shorter tournament duration of stages (2) and (3) lasting only some week instead of previously some two weeks. Supposedly, this enables a few more top players to participate at all so that a few below-top players cannot participate any longer - an aspect slightly compensating the aforementioned devaluation.
Although the stage (2) tournament system is called McMahon in the rules, the reason for doing so is purely technical: this enables a combination with the European Open Championship, i.e., the EGC Main Tournament. Thereby EC players are also playing in the EOC but may leave the EOC as early as dropping out of the EC. This devalues the EOC because of severe SOS and SOSOS impact by opponents not playing all EOC rounds. Apart from this coupling, the so called "McMahon" of the EC stage (2) in fact is a Swiss tournament among the EC players. To be more precise, it is a combination of a Swiss and Double KO tournament: during stage (2), players with two losses drop out of the EC.
I have not studied in general yet all possible numbers of wins distributions after stage (2) when seeding to stage (3). This deserves research or, if already done, its broad publication. The tournament rules mention the possibility of five players with two wins during stage (2), of which one player is seeded (by rating) and the others dropping out. Apparently this assumes at least seven players having three or four wins. The seeding criteria are: 1) number of wins, 2) rating of July 15 [And here we wonder: is this a typo (then occurring twice) in the rules or is, for this seeding, a DIFFERENT rating being used than for the stage (1) seeding?! Is this rating the rating at July 15 and so is there a race towards higher rating until that day after all - or does this mean to use "best achieved EGF rating" during - WHICH?! - period?], 3) lottery [in the not so likely case of equal ratings. A rating race until the deadline would be a very bad aspect of devaluation of quality of the tournament system because, e.g., it would give a great advantage to rich (travel costs and compensation for loss of income) players with a great number of geographically near, rated, late-date tournaments.].
The thinking time is 2.5 hours basic time plus 1 minute byoyomi (3 times). This year, the AGA Rules (interpreted with situational superko) were used, i.e. 7.5 komi and area scoring.
So what did actually happen? We get information here:http://www.eurogofed.org/results/congress/egc2015.htmhttp://egc2015.cz/sites/default/files/R ... onship.pdfhttp://egc2015.cz/results/main/playoffs
So the politics of wildcards appear to remain secret! It is hidden which players were selected by wildcards, by whom and how. This opposes the idea that go is a game played on the go board due to the players' greater playing strengths. Devaluation of quality of the tournament system in action.
Somehow, the 24 players in stage (2) were selected, and we can follow this only for the rating-seeded players. Does anybody want to decrypt which they were and thus which the up to three wildcard players were?
The former EC Jan Simara lost his first two games and dropped out after round 2. After stage (2), Alexandr Dinerstein had 2 wins and must have been seeded by rating of [apparently] July 15, Pavol Lisy with 4 wins dropped out in the quarter final and Ilya Shikshin with initially 4 wins proceeded to make place 3, in the end scoring 6 wins compared to the 5 wins of the 2nd place holder Ali Jabarin. [Is this a sign of quality of a tournament system that a player with fewer wins gets the better final place?!] Hui Fan won the tournament; he also scored 6 wins and had lost to Artem Kachanovskyi in round 3 of stage (2). Ok, we understand that stage (2) is only a qualifcation to stage (3), so strange total numbers of wins are deemed acceptable. It matters WHICH games a player wins. Those in stage (3) are more important.
As Hui Fan explained in his post-tournament commentary, in his semi-final game against Thomas Debarre, Fan died in gote because both players had only about 10 minutes basic thinking time left and misread a not-so-easy life-and-death situation. Anyway, congratulations to Fan for his third EC title (in a row)! He explained that he has not met Ilya Shikshin and his fighting style in the KO final stage of an EC yet and would be less sure of the result of such a game.
How has it been possible that an EC tournament system with obvious flaws in some important details exists? Some time in 2013, a new EGF Rules and Tournament Commission was formed. Some time in 2015 before the AGM, the commission dissolved because, as I have learned from Ales Cieply, its proposals for improving the Rules of the European Go Championship were simply disregarded by the EGF Committee, who wanted to have everything their own way. Therefore, it appears that one should not blame the commission. The AGM was responsible for selecting the basics of the new system (proposed, IIRC, by the EGF Committee) and the EGF Committee is responsible for its details. Who wants to be in a commission whose work is overruled and thus wasted? The previous commission had more luck with cooperation with the EGF Committee having been the standard.
The European Go Championship is too important to be devalued by abuse of political power. May the quality of the tournament system increase again!