Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mobile Phones - Alternative Penalties

The Vikings Weekender is a small weekend tournament held in Canberra, Australia each year. This year there are 57 players playing, with a time limit of G60m+10s per moved. As it isn't FIDE rated, I (the arbiter) have a little flexibility with some of the rules. For this years event I am trialling a different set of penalties for Mobile Phone Infractions.
Instead of the instant loss that the current FIDE Rules prescribe, I instead announced a two-step system. If a players phone makes a sound (ring, beep, trill etc), the player will be given a warning and the opponent will be given an additional 5 minutes time. If it happens a second time the player will then lose the games. Note: Players are still forbidden from conducting conversations on the phone if it does ring.
As for how it is working in practice I cannot say. By the end of Day 1, no ones phone made a noise.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bughouse Rules

A couple of weeks ago the ACT Junior Chess League held it's annual Transfer Tournament. (For those unaware, Transfer is the named used for Bughouse or Tandem Chess in Australia). The difficulty in running this event is that there are some subtle variants of the rules for Transfer, some of which only make sense if you are playing online.
So for information here are the declared variants to the rules that others may use.
Firstly, the reference for the rules we used was

The changes from these rules were

You can drop for check, but not for checkmate. Dropping for mate and pressing the clock is considered an illegal move (and the opponents can claim a win).
Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th ranks.
There is no promotion. Pawns reaching the 8th rank just sit there until captured.
Partners can offer any sort of advice, even going so far as to suggest actual moves. The however cannot touch the pieces or clock on their partners board.
Castling can only take place with the original (ie non-dropped) rook.

The trickiest (and most controversial) rule is the no-drop-for-mate rule. This rule has been around in Canberra since I started playing chess over 25 years ago, although it's continued existence probably has a lot to do with old hands like myself arguing for it's retention. Indeed when it was announced at this years tournament, it was met with a chorus of boos from the mainly under 14 crowd.
The no-promotion rule is simply to make OTB Transfer easier to handle. No running after spare queens, and then trying to remember if it was the promoted queen or the original queen that was captured (and therefore turned back into a pawn).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is this a valid claim?

The 2009 Victorian Championship Reserves tournament has just started and already there has been one incident of note. In the game between David Beaumont and and Nikola Ivanov the position had just been repeated for a third time, and Ivanov, who was on the move, simply stated "It's draw". Then various spectators, who had been watching the game, began to analyse the position, with Ivanov, thereby destroying the actual game position. Part of the analysis included at least one move that was losing for Ivanov. All the while Beaumont had said nothing, and as the arbiter wasn't present, was of the opinion that the game hadn't been completed.
By the time the arbiter had reached the board, the analysis was in full swing, and even the chess clock had been removed by one of the tournament organisers, on the assumption that the game was over.
Having heard both sides of the story the tournament arbiter, IA Gary Bekker, ruled that as the position had been reached for a third time on the board, that the result was a draw. Beaumont entered a protest with the appeals committee that Ivanov had not claimed a draw correctly, in the sense that "It's Draw" wasn't a valid claim. He also asked that the game be continued with Ivanov having to play the losing move that appeared on the board during the analysis period.
The appeals committee upheld the first part of the protest (ie Ivanov didn't claim the draw correctly) but rejected the second part. They ordered the game to be continued from the position on the board, if the players themselves did not agree to a draw in the meantime.

Now I'm not privy to the reasoning of the appeals committee (although I have discussed this matter with Gary Bekker), but I don't agree with their decision. Once a player uses the word "draw", out loud, during a game, I (a) would regard that as a draw offer or (b) a draw claim, wherever appropriate. In part this is to prevent players from retracting draw offers (by claiming they didn't mean to say what they said) but also to discourage players from indulging in gamesmanship by musing aloud about the drawish nature of the position, in the hope their opponent will drop their guard.
The other objection I have to this decision is a purely practical one, in that once the game resumes, Ivanov, who is still on the move, can simply claim a draw anyway.
To me, in the above case, it was clear that Ivanov was aware that the position had occurred 3 times, and by saying "It's Draw" was claiming this.
Of course there are a couple of other related issues here as well, including the behaviour of the spectators, but the other lesson here is that players should always sign scoresheets at the conclusion of the game, so as to agree on a result.

Further discussion on the matter can be found at Chesschat and Ozchess bulletin boards

Event: Victorian Ch Reserves
Site: Melbourne
Date: 2009.10.10
Round: 1
White: Ivanov, Nikola
Black: Beaumont, David
Result: 1/2-1/2
ECO: B30

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. Be2 d4 6. Nb1 e5 7. Nbd2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Nc4 Qc7 10. Bg5 Ne8 11. Qc1 f6 12. Bh4 Be6 13. Nfd2 g5 14. Bg3 b5 15. Na3 Rb8 16. b3 a6 17. Nf3 h6 18. Nb1 Rd8 19. Nbd2 Nd6 20. h3 Rf7 21. Nh2 Rh7 22. Bh5 c4 23. Ndf3 Nb7 24. Ng4 Nc5 25. Rd1 Kg7 26. Rb1 Bf7 27. Bxf7 Kxf7 28. h4 h5 29. Ngh2 g4 30. Ne1 Nb4 31. Ra1 cxd3 32. cxd3 Rc8 33. Qd2 a5 34. Rdc1 Bf8 35. Qe2 Bh6 36. Rcb1 Ne6 37. a3 Nc2 38. Ra2 Nxe1 39. Qxe1 Qc3 40. Qd1 Rg7 41. Nf1 Kg6 42. Kh2 Bf4 43. f3 Kh6 44. Kh1 gxf3 45. Qxf3 Rcg8 46. Be1 Qc5 47. g3 Be3 48. Bxa5 Rg6 49. Bb4 Qb6 50. Bd2 Bxd2 51. Rxd2 Nc5 52. Qd1 Qe6 53. Kh2 Rg4 54. Rc2 Nxb3 55. Rc7 Nc5 56. Qc1+ Kg6 57. Rxc5 Rxg3 58. Nxg3 Qg4 59. Nf5 Qe2+ 60. Kh1 Qf3+ 61. Kh2 Qe2+ 62. Kh3 Qg4+ 63. Kh2 Qe2+ 1/2-1/2

Monday, August 3, 2009

Open Forum - August 2009

This is an open topic for comments. suggestions, questions etc
Simply say what you wish to say in the comments section to this post (usual guidelines - anonymous posts get ignored).
Anything really interesting may get bumped up to a separate topic.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A policy on byes

It is becoming quite common for tournaments to allow players to take pre-notified half point byes. This is to allow players who would otherwise miss an event because they couldn't play a single round (or two) to take part. It is also made available to players in tournament that have a 'holiday' component to them (eg Queenstown in 2009)
However the policy on this is a bit haphazard, so I'd thought I'd list the policy I use for my own events.

  • A player wishing to receive a bye for a round must notify the arbiter in advance
  • The player will receive half a point for the round missed
  • A maximum of 2 byes can be requested by any player
  • Players missing a third or more round shall receive zero points for the extra rounds missed
  • No byes can be requested for the final round
  • A player must be in the draw for the final round to be eligible for a prize
If the tie-break in a tournament is important this also raises the issue of what tie-break score a player receives for the rounds missed. Traditionally the opponents score (for SOS etc) has been 50% (ie the opponent is considered to have drawn every game). However this disadvantages higher scoring players. A recent proposal I saw makes much more sense. The score of your 'nominal' opponent is the same as your score for that round+50% of the remaining rounds (ie if you are on 4/6 and take a half point bye, your 'opponent is considered to have score 5.5/9 for tie breaking purposes). I'd have to check whether this is implemented in any computerised pairing software, but it does seem fairer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 ANU Open - Arbiting Issues

(NB This will be an occasional series on tournaments I have been involved in as an arbiter or organiser)

As with a lot of tournaments I have been involved with recently, the 2009 ANU Open ran pretty smoothly. Certainly there were no dramatic blowups or issues that required some heavy duty deliberation, but as with any tournament there are always some issues that are worth noting.

Default Time: This event (and all ACF Grand Prix events from 2010) used a Default Time of 30m from the scheduled start of the round. There was only 1 player who fell foul of this rule (in that he wished to play the round but didn't turn up in time) but in that case he may have forfeited under the old rule anyway. In practice 30 mins seemed to work well from an organisers point of view as it seemed to encouraged everyone to be there at the start of the round. My belief is that the thinking was "if I have to be there within 30 minutes I may as well be their at the start". Of course there were some people who came a little late (5 minutes at most) but this was for traffic/eating lunch reasons, and not because they chose to. The general feeling amongst the players was that 0 minutes is draconian and unworkable, 60 minutes means you have to wait too long to claim the game, while 30 minutes if just right.

Illegal Moves: There was quite a dramatic final round game in the Minor tournament, where both players were down to their last minute (with a 10s per move increment). The player with the White pieces reached a clearly winning position (2R+B+P v K) and Black was playing on through inertia. At one point the Black King moved from check into another check. Neither player noticed and with the next move the Black King moved out of check. I said nothing, as the chief arbiter was watching, and he said nothing, explaining later that it was up to the players to notice. While the 'correct' result was arrived at (White winning), I believe a problem would have occurred if Black had been stalemated (as the illegal path of the Black King increased the stalemate chances). The next time such a situation arises, I guess I will swoop in!

Rating Prizes: Most events in Australia offer ratings prizes in terms of U/2000, Under 1800 etc This can result in a player being eligible for more than 1 rating prize (eg a 1750 player being the best U/2000), with the result that the 'best' Under 1800 player is really the second best Under 1800 player.
In the ANU Open we 'band' our prizes, so that the rating prizes read 1800-1999 $200 1600-1799 $150 etc This is unusual enough for confusion to arise after the prize giving ceremony. The moral here is to read the tournament conditions!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Using Precedent

(Disclaimer: As I have had no legal training parts of this post may be completely wrong from a legal perspective. If so feel free to correct me)

Having got involved with the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulation Committee, one thing I've noticed is the difference between how players see the rules, and how arbiters see the rules. But let me explain.
Most criticism of the rules from players concern rules that are published. For example, the rule concerning forfeit time or the rules concerning insufficient material to mate (cf KN vKN controversies) attracted a lot of criticism from players. On the other hand, when the RTRC was meeting in Dresden, most of the concern from arbiters was about rules that were not written. Their big worry was that without a published rule they wouldn't know how to make a correct ruling.
Part of the latter problem is caused by the lack of published case law, or the acceptance of it. If we think of the FIDE Rules of Chess as statute law, to mimic a full blown legal system, there needs to be a repository of published case law. By that I mean somewhere where arbiters can look up decisions previously made by other senior or experienced arbiters, and use this decisions as a precedent to support their own decision making. And just as in a proper legal system, such decisions may be reviewed by a higher body (appeals panel or FIDE itself), resulting in a definitive ruling for that set of circumstances.

Here is an example of what I mean.

In the Radjabov v Smeets game at Corus this year (2009) there was an incident jut before the first time control. On his 39th move Radjabov moved a rook but in doing so knocked over Smeets' bishop. Radjabov then pressed his clock without returning the bishop to the correct square. Smeets immediately restarts Radjabov's clock, and asks him to replace the bishop. Radjabov presses his own clock, but by this stage has lost on time.

At the time the arbiters took a pragmatic approach of letting the players agree to a draw (as Radjabov claimed that Smeets acted illegally in speaking to him during the game), but that doesn't address the 'legal' position.
Geurt Gijssen was asked about it in his April 2009 Arbiters Notebook column. In his opinion he felt that Smeets had acted correctly under Article 7.3 of the rules of chess, and that Radjabov should have lost on time.

Given Gijssen's position as chair of RTRC, I would suggest that this opinion is now established precedent for situations of this kind, and therefore as an arbiter I would allow a player to act in the same way as Smeets (restarting the opponents clock), without sanction. And I would do so until either (a) the FIDE Laws of Chess are altered to deal with this situation in a different way or (b) a higher authority (the full RTRC, FIDE Presidential Board or FIDE General Assembly) offer an alternative ruling.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ignoring Touch move = Illegal Move?

From GM Bartlomiej Macieja to the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee, and republished here with his permission

Dear Members of the Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee

I would like to consult with you the following cases:

In a blitz game a player deliberately touches a piece, but eventually moves another piece.
An opponent claims a win basing on Article B.3.c:
"An illegal move is completed once the opponent's clock has been started. The opponent is entitled to claim a win before he has made his own move."
What should an arbiter decide?

In a rapid game, in the phase when both players have only seconds left to the end of a game, a player deliberately touches a piece, but eventually moves another piece.
An opponent calls an arbiter, claiming that irregularity.
What should an arbiter decide?

What should an arbiter decide in cases 1) and 2) if a player wishing to claim the above mention irregularity, having only 1 second left, doesn't manage to stop the clock before his flag fells?

Best regards
Bartlomiej Macieja

Feel free to make your answers in the comments section to this post.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Distracting your opponent - with water bottles

From Reasonable Person in the comments section below

First, thank you for setting up this blog.I am not sure if anyone is supposed to initiate a topic...but if so, here goes. A local club has reportedly banned the act of players drinking out of a water bottle during games , instead instituting a rule that players must use a cup / mug e.g pour soft drinks out of the purchased bottle into a cup. This apparently follows a complaint from one of its long-standing members that he was distracted by the act of players drinking out of bottles (strangely, this complaint seems to only emanate when said player loses the game). Several players have been recipients of this complaint, though in most, if not all, cases, their act would not have constituted a distraction by any objective measure. It seems to only affect the particular sensitivities of this complainant, and therefore, presumably to appease this person, the club has instituted a total ban on the use of drinking bottles during a game. The irony is that some players may also find the act of pouring a drink into a cup during a game distracting in itself etc. So, my question is this: do the FIDE rules (or ACF ones, for that matter) assess complaints of distraction objectively or subjectively i.e. in the latter case, it would regard the complaint as valid if the complainant is distracted, regardless of the fact that objectively, a reasonable person would not have been distracted in the same scenario. If the latter were to be true, then surely, all sorts of frivolous complaints would be upheld e.g. I might complain that the act of players holding their heads in their hands is particularly distracting to me etc. etc. I look forward to your view and advice. Thanks.

Article 12.6 of the FIDE Laws of Chess state "It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever." However what constitutes a distraction isn't stated in the rules, so this is why we have arbiters.
My first thought (more as an organiser than an arbiter) is the need to balance the needs of the many with the needs of a few. If no one minds not using water bottles at the board, then I guess there is no real problem with the rule. If however it ends up that you lose 3 or 4 players from the club/tournament just to keep one player there, then I think it is a net loss for the club and the rule should be dropped. If I was looking for middle ground I would simply allow water bottles etc at the table, but players could only use them during their move, so as not to disturb their opponent on their opponents thinking time.

Geurt Gijssen also discusses distracting an opponent it in his latest Chess Cafe column, although the example given is much more clearcut (as it involves the use of profanity).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Forfeit Time

From the 1st of July 2009, the laws of chess have been changed to allow tournament organisers to set a forfeit time for their own events, rather than the previous case where it has been 1 hour. However the rule change also states that the default time shall be 0 minutes, unless the organisers specifies otherwise.
So a couple of questions in terms of what will happen in practice.
(a) If an organiser fails to publish a set forfeit time in their entry form/tournament conditions does it have to be 0 minutes or can the chief arbiter simply announce that the forfeit time will be x minutes before the first round?
(b) Can a sanctioning body for a tournament (eg a national federation / state association) set a general forfeit time that will then cover all events under their control?
(c) What do you think is a sensible forfeit time?

Chess Rules Blog

Welcome to the "Chess Rules" blog. This blog is intended as a platform for the discussion of the FIDE Rules of Chess, past, present and future. I don't expect it to be a blog with a lot of topics, but I do hope the comments section will contain a lot of discussion.
The only thing I would like to see in regards comments is that they have a name attached to them (rather than just anonymous). The name can be a pseudonym or as something as simple as "Dave", just as long as there is some indentifying mark.