Fair play (?) in the World Cup 2011
Yesterday, the news of a day was a draw offer in a winning endgame by David Navara, accepted by Alexander Moiseenko. Many commentators called both players honourable, some even composed pray songs. Mrs. Natalia Komarova, the Governor of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra, took a decision to establish a special prize of the World Cup - "Fair play", explaining: "No doubt that the whole world will highly appreciate the mutually noble deed of the Ukrainian and Czech chess players."
Was the truth really so bright? I have serious doubts about it.
Let's first collect facts of what exactly happened.
According to the explanations published on the official website of the World Cup:
David Navara: On the 35th move I accidentally touched both pieces - the king and the bishop. I wanted to move my bishop on d6, but clipped the king also, however, Moiseenko insists that I have first touched the king, but I am not sure about that. Any move with the king would lead to the loss of the piece, however, Moiseenko did not insist that I make my move namely with it. I did not want to be referred as to the unethical chess player who managed to win in an unfair way, that is why at the end, having achieved the winning position, I offered a draw.
Alexander Moiseenko: Navara on the 35th move first touched the king. I told him: the king moves. However, I realized that my opponent accidentally made this mistake, it is not possible that he could so easily blunder the piece. This is the reason I did not insist on his move with the king.
The whole incident can be seen on a video published on the official website of the World Cup, starts about 16:02.
The explanations of both players together with a video give a full picture of what happened.
1. While trying to make his 35th move with a bishop, Navara accidentally touched also a king.
Such things have happened in thousands of games and not only they are not illegal, but they are even not considered to be unethical. They are accidental! If one of pieces falls on a board, a player is only obliged to reinstate the position before pressing a clock. The FIDE Rules of Chess force a player to make a move with a piece touched deliberately, not accidentally!
Shame on many commentators who talked about "fair play forgiveness".
Shame on an usually highly professional GM Sergei Shipov who congratulated Moiseenko on the Crestbook forum with "forgiving an accidental touch of a piece made by his opponent".
Shame on a prestigious ChessBase that published a comment: "According to the rules, Navara had to move the king, but each of those moves would lead to his loss. Realizing that Navara made a careless mistake, Moiseenko did not force him to obey the rules".
2. Moiseenko distracted Navara with an oral information that the Czech grandmaster had to play a move with a king ("the king moves").
This point is missed by the majority of commentators, but it is very important. The Ukrainian grandmaster was wrong (there was no necessity for a king to move), moreover with his claim he violated the FIDE Rules of Chess: 12.6 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims (...)
There is one more reason why Moiseenko didn't act correctly - a player should address claims to an arbiter, not to an opponent directly.
3. Unexplained details.
While watching a video and gathering an information about the incident, 4 details that had not been discussed/explained brought my attention.
The first small controversy is that Navara even doesn't think that the first piece he accidentally touched was a king. It is possible that we will never get an answer who was right. The available video doesn't help. Fortunately it is only a detail, without consequences. It is quite possible that both players truly believed in a different order of touched pieces. It is not a rare situation at all.
The second detail is that Moiseenko stated: "I realized that my opponent accidentally made this mistake, it is not possible that he could so easily blunder the piece. This is the reason I did not insist on his move with the king."
Such an explanation could have been given if Navara had wanted to play a move with a piece located far from him and on a way to that piece his hand would have touched a king. However, thanks to an available video, it is clearly visible, that the Czech grandmaster wanted to play with a bishop from e7 to d6 and made that move, touching at more or less the same time a king.
Saying that it is impossible to avoid a conclusion that Moiseenko's explanations are slightly inconsistent with the reality. He realized that his opponent had accidentally touched a king, but mainly not because playing with a king would have been a terrible blunder (this is also true), but simply because Navara had played a move with a bishop without hesitation. Hence, a sincere sentence should have sounded more or less like: "I realized that my opponent had accidentally touched a king, because he had clearly intended and had made a move with a bishop.".
Actually, the last sentence: "This is the reason I did not insist on his move with the king." is the third detail. The video clearly shows that the Ukrainian insisted, however only until a moment when Navara looked at an arbiter with an intention to clarify if he had done anything wrong. Only then a gesture of Moiseenko's hand suggested that it wouldn't be necessary.
That's, by the way, the last detail that brought my attention. That was David Navara himself who called an arbiter requesting to clarify what should be done in the situation that occured. An arbiter, obviously, ordered to keep playing.
Although I know both players quite well (also as persons) and I respect both of them, I must admit that in this concrete situation I feel very sorry for Navara (who is an extremely sensitive person) that he didn't resist a psychological pressure put on him during a game by an opponent.
However I would like everybody to calm down with conclusions. When analysing the whole situation home, without any tension, it is easy to understand what happened. Only one player acted fair, even much more than "just" fair. However, it could have been unfair to blame Moiseenko, as it is fully possible that it was only his immediate instinctive reaction. In tensed situations very often emotions take over, thus calm precise analysis are inadequate. During my career I have witnessed many uncontrolled behaviours during a game of extremely ethical persons.
Perhaps, the only conclusion we can get from this post is that the creation of a psychological pressure on an opponent desires more a warning than a fair play prize.
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