Sunday, May 27, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 6

From Article 6, the FIDE Laws of Chess deal with 'competition chess'. This is for games played within competitions, where the final result contributes to something more than just personal pride. Having said that, even now the Laws try and avoid trying to define what form the competition takes, leaving that to the FIDE Tournament Regulations (the TR in RTRC).
The first change to Article 6 is a an new definition. We decided to define 'The chessclock' so as to make the following articles clearer. The proposed new 6.1 reads

‘Chessclock’ means a clock with two time displays, connected to each other in such a way that only one of them can run at one time. ‘Clock’ in the Laws of Chess, means one of the two time displays. Each time display has a ‘flag’. ‘Flag fall’ means the expiration of the allotted time for a player.

Following this we then removed an area of confusion in the previous rules that has always irked me. We propose to define 'press' or 'presses' as meaning pushing the button on your clock to start the opponents clock. We also propose the define 'stop' to mean halting both clocks (or the chessclock) to ask for the arbiters assistance.
Article 6.2 is essentially unchanged, apart from using the new terms mentioned. However taken together with Article 6.3, it does clear up an issue that is still debated. Article 6.2 requires players to complete the required number of moves before the end of the time control (ie 'flag fall). Article 6.3 then requires the Arbiter to check whether this has happened, immediately after on flag falls. Why is this important? Because it answers the question about whether arbiters should call flag fall. Under USCF rules the arbiter does not call flag fall, and I know a number of arbiters (including myself), who are uncomfortable in doing so.
As I have posted in a previous entry, if you follow 6.2 and 6.3, you are required to make a ruling concerning 6.2 the moment you notice a flag has fallen, or one player alerts you to this fact. However, at this point you are making no statement concerning the result of the game, but are merely checking whether the conditions of 6.2 have been met. If it turns out that they have not, then Article 6.9 applies. While this is a somewhat convoluted explanation, it does at least treat the issue of flag fall as a routine part of the game, in the same way that touch move or stalemate may needed to be ruled upon.
6.4 is unchanged, and simply states that the clock is to be placed by the arbiter. Of course there is still the persistent belief that the player with the Black pieces decides, and while this generally happens in practice, it is not correct. In a practical sense, an arbiter may wish to place the clocks all facing in the one direction to make observing them easier. The work around is either for the arbiter to not mind players moving clocks, or to simply allow the player with the Black pieces to decide which side of the table they wish to sit. (Barring left-handers from chess is probably a step too far!)
6.5 is also unchanged, and states that the clock of player of the White pieces is started first.

Now we get on to 6.6. This is the big ticket item, and the one that is probably the most controversial rule in recent years. As it currently stands, 6.6 requires the organiser to set a default time, and a player arriving after that time loses the game. It also states that this time shall be 0 minutes, if the organiser does not specify a time.
Now while the rule clearly states that it is an organisers right to set this time, FIDE (and RTRC) have come under a great deal of criticism for the implementation of this rule. While I'm not saying this criticism is unwarranted, we do have the absurd situation of the ECU using a 0 default time for their own championship, and yet somehow trying to shift the blame onto FIDE, despite the ECU being able to choose a non-zero time.
Having said that, I for one went to the meeting with a proposal to remove 0 and replace it with 30 minutes (or even 15 minutes). However in discussion we looked at a couple of different proposals. Now at this stage we haven't quite agreed on what we will present in Istanbul, but has come down to 2 choices.
The first is to keep it as is, with one small addition. The result shall be a loss, 'unless the arbiter decides otherwise'. While this is a small improvement, it will still be difficult to implement, as players will argue for conformity in arbiter rulings, and letting one player off means letting all players off.
The second proposal is one that I support and reads

The rules of a competition shall specify in advance a default time. Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the default time shall lose the game unless the arbiter decides otherwise.

This wording takes out any mention of a specific default time from the Laws of Chess, and puts the responsibility in the hands of the tournament organisers. Of course some tournament organisers will still insist on 0 (including FIDE), but it will only apply to their tournaments.

The various clauses in 6.7 are mainly unchanged, except under 6.7c we have added 'to press the clock before moving' as things you cannot do with the chessclock. Also in 6.7d, which deals with time adjustments for players who cannot press the clock (ie need an assistance), there is a proposal to exempt players with a disability from this requirement.
From Articles 6.8 to 6.12 we mainly fixed up the wording, with 'the chessclock' replacing 'clocks' wherever necessary. The only real addition was in 6.10b where fixing the clocks 'move-counter' is explicitly mentioned. This foreshadows an explicit recognition of the use of move-counters on clocks, as until now this has not clearly been stated in the relevant regulations.
Article 6.13 is to be taken out of the Laws, and instead moved into Article 7, which deals with other irregularities. This means that 6.14 becomes the new 6.13, but otherwise there is little change.

*** Small Update ***
The proposed change to article 6.6 is now the one listed above

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 5

Article 5 is the last section that deals with how chess is played, and defines the completion of the game (minus technical issues which are covered later). All we did here was take out the references to Articles that occur after this, as they do not make any sense if a person is not reading the complete Laws of Chess. However there is one issue that occasionally comes up and that is 5.1b. "The games is won by the player whose opponent declares he resigns. This immediately ends the game" There is a claim that you can arrange a 1-1 result by both resigning at the same time. A couple of people have asked us to fix this, but it is one of those issues which fall under the heading of "Why?". Nonetheless Franca Dapiran did come up with a sensible suggestion to resolve this case. If both players resign at the same time, simply take the player whose move it is (ie whose clock is running) as the player who resigned first.

Monday, May 14, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 4

Article 4 deals with "The Act of Moving the Pieces". We dealt with a couple of proposals and tidied up some wording. However I am surprised that there are still large numbers of chessplayers who still don't understand all the clauses.
For example I still get asked at blitz events whether two handed capturing/castling is allowed. Short answer - NO. 4.1 states "Each move must be made with one hand only". Seems pretty straightforward to me. (NB we did not change this rule at all).
We made a slight change the 4.2 to clarify who can adjust pieces after saying "Adjust" etc. It is the player who has the move, and only the player who has the move. However he is still allowed to adjust his opponents pieces.
In 4.3, we have removed "deliberately" before "touches" and instead added the phrase "with the intention of moving or capturing" at the end of the first sentence. This is a refinement if the previous wording, to make the intention of the rule clear.
While the initial discussion concerning the issue of pawn promotion did not lead anywhere, I have proposed an addition to 4.4 to deal with the case of pawns not being placed on the back rank before promotion takes place. My draft wording for 4.4d is
intends to promote (3.7e), the player may remove the pawn from the 7th rank and then place the promoted piece on the promotion square.

and the current 4.4d becomes 4.4e. The idea is to 'legalise' a common way of promoting a pawn. At this stage the proposed wording is still being discussed, so I do not know whether it will be a recommended law change or not.
Otherwise the changes are mainly cosmetic, removing instances of repeated expressions, or in the case of 4.7, making the wording consistent with 4.3

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 3

Article 3 saw a little bit more work, although this was mainly in the area of tightening up definitions.
Section 3.1 contains definitions of 'attack' as well as a prohibition on capturing your own pieces. There was some discussion about what defines 'attacking a square', as whether pinned pieces can capture on a square (normally they can't) or give check (in this case they do), needs to be taken into account. In the end we modified the wording slightly, without changing the assumed meaning.
There was also the regular discussion about how best to define the Knight move. It was noted that definitions seem to change from language to language, and this can sometimes cause difficulties. The familiar "moves in an L shape" definition in English may have no equivalent in Chinese or Japanese. In the end we left it as is.
Section 3.7 deals with how the pawn moves, and there was some work done here. The definition of en-passant  was tidied up to remove the use of the word 'attack' and instead to use the physical location of the respective pawns. ( 'occupying a square on the same rank and on an adjacent file').
Promotion was also covered in this section, and although we left the wording unchanged it is still something that may be revisited. The difficulty is that this section defines what promotion 'is', not how it is supposed to occur. So the definition starts with 'When a pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position' which is perfectly fine. But in the absence of any further laws concerning promotion, this also becomes the defined method of promotion (ie You must physically move the pawn to the 8th rank to effect promotion). This then cause difficulties (especially at Blitz) when players simply remove the pawn from the 7th and put a piece down on the 8th. We had intended to work on something to repair this, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we did not have the time to do so. Nonetheless I may still try and put something together before Istanbul.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 2

Article 2 of the FIDE Laws of Chess is pretty straightforward. In fact we have not changed anything in this section, although we are proposing a simple addition. Section 2.2 contains a 2D representation of the pieces, which are normally used for setting chess diagrams in books. The proposal is to add an image of pieces as they would look in real life, ie in 3D (although we aren't proposing to use 3D images!). The pictures will probably be of the standard Staunton design chess pieces.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 1

You might think that Article 1 of the FIDE Laws of Chess is pretty straightforward, and yet we needed to do a little housekeeping here. The issue was 1.1 and the idea that the player with the White pieces 'commences the game'. Using our 'be descriptive as possible' policy we decided to change it to the player with the white pieces, 'moves first'.
However this wasn't our only change. While it might be assumed that everyone should understand that White plays, then Black plays, then White plays etc, I suspect someone suggested that the rules are not clear enough, and although White plays first, the rules then do not prevent the alternation of moves starting with a second White move! So we fixed this one as well.