Meanings: “Tie”

November 27, 2016


Carlsen and Karjakin

In the World Chess Championships, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the current world No. 1 and defending champion is tied with his challenger, the underdog Sergey Karjakin of Russia. The two have played eleven games and are tied at 5.5.  A win earns one point; a tie earns each a half point.  Carlsen and Karjakin have each one one game with all the other games have been drawn.  The match is tied, with one game to go.

But why do we say “tie” for a match in which no one is ahead when we also use that word for knots, cravats, marriages and railroad tracks?  Here’s

tie (n.) Look up tie at Dictionary.comOld English teag, “cord, band, thong, fetter,” literally “that with which anything is tied,” from Proto-Germanic *taugo (source also of Old Norse taug “tie,” tygill “string”), from PIE *deuk- “to pull, to lead” (source also of Old English teon “to draw, pull, drag;” see duke (n.)).

Figurative sense is recorded from 1550s. Sense of “cravat, necktie” (usually a simple one knotted in front) first recorded 1761. The railway sense of “cross-beam between and beneath rails to keep them in place” is from 1857, American English. Meaning “equality between competitors” is first found 1670s, from notion of a connecting link. Tie-breaker is recorded from 1938.

A connecting link: that’s the connection that ties the meanings together.

Tomorrow is the deciding game.  But what if Carlsen and Karjakin are still tied after the twelfth and deciding game? has been following the match.  Here’s their account of how the tie would be broken.

That tie would then be broken, and a world champion crowned, Wednesday with four rapid chess games — 25 minutes a side with 10 bonus seconds added per move. If those are tied, two blitz games — five minutes a side with three seconds added per move — will follow. If those are tied, they’ll play another two five-minute games up to four more times. And finally, if those are tied, they’ll play a final sudden-death game, using a format known as armageddon. In armageddon, black gets “time odds”: White gets five minutes while black gets just four, but a draw counts as a win for black.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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