Columns | March 30, 2010 15:50

To protest, or not to protest...

Have you ever had the situation where your opponent broke the rules, you considered calling an arbiter, but you thought it might not be worth it because of the bother and distraction it causes? At the European Championship in Rijeka I had two such cases, which I like to share with you.

Photo & text GM Dimitri Reinderman

If your opponent breaks the rules (to his/her advantage), what should you do? Call an arbiter? At the European Championship I had to answer this question twice.

The first incident happened in my game with Sutovsky in the ninth round.

European Ch (Rijeka) 2010

My opponent had sacrificed a piece for some attacking chances, but around here he found out that the compensation was clearly inadequate and he tried his luck by offering a draw. The problem is that he did it in my time, while I was thinking...

The rules say the following about this:

9.1. b (1) A player wishing to offer a draw shall do so after having made a move on the chessboard and before stopping his clock and starting the opponent’s clock. An offer at any other time during play is still valid but Article 12.6 must be considered.

12.6 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a source of noise into the playing area.

12.7 Infraction of any part of Articles 12.1 to 12.6 shall lead to penalties in accordance with Article 13.4.

13.4 The arbiter can apply one or more of the following penalties:
a. warning
b. increasing the remaining time of the opponent
c. reducing the remaining time of the offending player
d. declaring the game to be lost
e. reducing the points scored in the game by the offending party
f. increasing the points scored in the game by the opponent to the maximum available for that game
g. expulsion from the event.

So it's clear that Sutovsky broke the rules, though I don't know if it was a sly trick to distract me or just an honest mistake. Anyway, I had a decision to make now: call an arbiter or not? I decided not to call an arbiter, blundered a rook just before time-control and managed to even lose the game. But what had happened if I called an arbiter?

Most likely I first had to explain the situation to a table arbiter first. Then he probably wouldn't quite understand it, so I would ask for the chief arbiter. He would understand the situation, and decide to apply a penalty: extra time for me. Then we'd continue the game, and I'd need to get my focus on the board position again. So for some extra time I lost my concentration and in the mean time the players on the neighbouring boards won't be happy...

So probably it was the right decision not to call an arbiter and just try to focus on the game. However, just the fact I had to consider this, means the incorrect draw offer was to the advantage of my opponent. (Though I don't think it is the reason I lost the game.)

A webcam still of Sutovsky vs Reinderman in Rijeka

The second incident I had in next game, in the tenth round. It was very similar to the famous Radjabov-Smeets incident. My opponent, a young Russian named Levin, was trying to execute his 31st move, but knocked over some pieces. He first tried to correct it in his own time, then saw he had only two seconds left, and quickly pressed his clock, adding thirty seconds to it. I can't blame him for that: the choice was between following the rules and losing the game on time, or breaking the rules and not lose the game. Like most people would do (and like most football players when having the choice between a goal against or a foul), he went for the second option. The relevant rule in this case is:

7.3 If a player displaces one or more pieces, he shall re-establish the correct position on his own time. If necessary, either the player or his opponent shall stop the clocks and ask for the arbiter’s assistance. The arbiter may penalise the player who displaced the pieces.

This time I did call an arbiter. I tried to explain the situation to him, but no penalty was given, nor even considered. I could have tried to ask for the chief arbiter, but I gave up, and decided just to try to win my advantageous position. I did manage to do that, but while overcoming the technical difficulties the thought "I should already have received the point instead of having to work for it" was not easy to ignore.

As you can imagine, I felt unhappy about the outcome of both incidents. This had to do with the unhappiness of losing a won game of course (and not having +4), but also with the unfairness of the fact that it's beneficial to break the rules. In the first case my opponent more or less had a free shot at trying to break my concentration; in the second case my opponent avoided losing (immediately at least) without any negative consequence.

Does that mean there is something wrong with the rules? No, but I do think rule 13.4 (possible penalties) is often applied very softly. In both the incidents I described, a case can be made for applying penalty d: declaring the game to be lost. If you think it's too strict a penalty, think about this: what is worse, forgetting to turn of your mobile phone, or distracting your opponent on purpose? Being late ten seconds for the game, or breaking the rules, so not to lose on time? (By the way, I do think that the penalties for mobiles phones and being too late in FIDE/ECU tournaments are wrong, but that's another discussion).

So why is it that arbiters, when a penalty has to be applied, almost always choose either 'a. warning b. increasing the remaining time of the opponent a warning' and c/d/e/f or g, unless they do not have a choice? (At least, that is my experience - if readers have different experiences, I'm interested to know. Also I'm speaking about professional level; club games are another matter of course).

So to come back to the the opening question of my article: when having the choice of calling an arbiter or not, often (and especially in the time trouble phase), it's probably better to ignore it and just to focus on the game. But it would be better if this was not the case.

P.S. I also play another game at 'pro level', Magic: the Gathering. According to the tournament rules of this game, it is mandatory to call a judge when a (possible) rules infraction happens. Besides, it's quite common to reward a game or match loss for rules infractions. This probably has to do with the fact that cheating in MtG is easier than in chess, so they are more keen on discouraging it. Still, I do think chess arbiters can learn something from MtG judges...

Anonymous's picture
Author: Anonymous


David Miralles's picture

First of all, congratulations to Chessvibes for the high level of its commentators (not my case, btw :-( )

The discussion Mr Reinderman started seems to focus on two questions:
1. Is it worth to complain for small offences ?
2. Is it worth to commit small offences ?

In my opinion, the answers to these questions are the pessimistic ones, 1.No and 2.Yes (at least in the short term). Therefore someone has to search a solution.

IMO again, the only possible solution is to apply incremental punishments, on a game and why not, on a tournament basis, or even on a longer period of time (something like: Cesc Fàbregas will be yellow-carded tonight so he won't play at Camp Nou, because he will accumulate 3 or 4 yellow cards).
Translated into chess, the first time Mr Sutovsky commits a small offence he can be punished with a 10' decrement (with 1' left on the clock as a limit, which can be changed by an increment to the opponent), but the 2nd time it can be 20' without limit for losing the game, etc.
Of course the concrete method should be perfected but my ideal concept is the incremental punishment (and incremental benefits, only on a game basis).

Is that applicable to chess? Probably not, because keeping a record of offences needs some software which not all tournaments could afford, but why not in tournaments like ChessOlympiads or European Championships?

Thomas's picture

@Player of the day: There were more than hundred games each round at the European championship, maybe this explains why there is no private arbiter for every single one of them ... .
Regarding "A professional player should know the rules" - well, he doesn't have to, but then he can't complain when he has to face the consequences of violating rule x. Imagine a player says "I don't know the rule about capturing en passant" - I am sure some amateurs don't know this rule - still 15.ed6:ep would remain a legal move!

Simmillion's picture

Cool story, even for a complete patzer like me.

the thought “I should already have received the point instead of having to work for it” was not easy to ignore

So very recognisable!

(As a chess newbie I'm still kind of surprised by the lack of 'die hard rule fetisjists' on tournaments, and the very important role the personal interpretation of the arbiters plays. I play golf as well, and there almost every 'rabbit' walks around with a rulebook. I dont even have a chessrulesbooklet)

Simmillion's picture

(OT to Chessvibes: This is the second week in a row, my browser places the Monday Questions to a GM not in the 'mainlist' left, but only in the headers section. Their correct place, a mistake or do I have 'browser things'?)

agurel's picture

A grandmaster at Sutovksy's level should definitely be aware of such a simple rule. So, I think he did it on purpose only to distract reinderman. Shame..

jan van der marel's picture

Whenever I read an article like this, i get reminded again of how exciting the life of a grandmaster is!

Misho Cebalo's picture

Dear Mr. Reinderman,

First of all, I'm really sorry that such things happened to You in Rijeka, where, among other things, I was also a member of the OC. Now about those two cases of yours. In my long chess carreer I learned a couple of things, but two of them are important for your case. First, at least 90% of the arbiters are completely incompetent and don't know much about the chess and second, when a player coming from the former USSR offers you a draw it means that he is very worried about his position. Speaking about concrete names, in the first case a draw offer came deliberately in a wrong moment almost for sure (there are a couple of our GMs who could tell You some symilar stories about Sutovsky), while in the second case I think that your opponent broke the rules spontaneously.
I like very much your point of view in both cases and there is just one detail where I don't agree with You and that is about mobile phones, since I really don't see any reason at all for bringing any tecnical device in the tournament hall. On the other hand the "zero tolerance" rule is absurd of course, except in one single situation and that is when you have a high level close tournament played in a hotel where all the players are staying. In that case, because of the possible presence of sponsors and local politicians such a rule helps to avoid some unpleasant situations at the beginning of the round.
Best regards,

Someone's picture

@Pozzi: At your amateur level fair play is important, ok. Would you accept to win a game because your opponent offered you a draw (for whatever reason, you cannot possibly be in his head) at your time? Would you accept to win a game because at the time when your opponent played and prssed the clock, one of his pieces was lying on the board? I think not (unless you have a very strange idea of a fair play).

Many times following the letter of the law can be less ethical than breaking it. However, in the above case the letter of the law (as it stands now) is a small punishment, meaning some time increment, therefore asking for forfeit, I believe is neither legal nor "fair play".

A different issue comes from what Mr. Reinderman wonders. i.e. he asks for changing the rule (by making it more severe) so that it would be difficult to break it. That is an open discussion, but certainly, according to current rules (written and un-written) a forfeit for the above offences would be unreasonable.

Peter Doggers's picture

@Simmillion There's nothing wrong with your computer/browser. We're mainly providing a place for Merijn and Karel to publish their interviews, and we'll probably soon do a general article in which we mentioned a number of these interviews.

Someone's picture

Well, the word "fair play" is not the favorite of Mr Reiderman (maybe neither of Mr, Sutovsky). I cannot possibly imagine, wanting to win on time a game, where my oponent didn't have time to press his clock because accidentaly he threw a piece (remember the games are with time increment). Ok, at most, the arbiter could add to you a minute or so. Btw there is a restriction on reducing the opponents time. This cannot be done if he has less than some time per move (I don't rememeber the exact value on top of my head). As for offering a draw, if it was indeed intentional (in order to distract you) it is a bad behavior, but again you imply that this could result in forfeit. That is completly unreasonable. To win a chess game because someone offered you a draw at your time, even if it is intentional, is not logical. A warning or at the very worst a couple minutes increment to you, is the most you could imagine of claiming.

Finally, a warning by the arbiter is the slightest punishment. The arbiters are supposed to give this punishment at, at least some cases. Well, offerning a draw at the opponents time and pressing the clock before adjusting your pieces, are the smallest offences at a chess game I can imagine, and therefore, if they were to be punished they should be punished with the smallest punishment (warning) or in the very worst case with the next smaller (time increment to opponent).

Dimitri Reinderman's picture

Thanks for your comments Misho. Though I didn't want to be too cynical about the arbiters, I did have the suspicion that the main task of the table arbiters was to record the results and turn on the clocks, and that they weren't selected for extensive rules knowledge (which I guess is would have been difficult anyway with soo many arbiters needed).

I haven't heard the stories about Sutovsky, so I could only guess about his intentions.

And about the mobile phone and zero tolerance rule: maybe I should write another article about that :)

Simmillion's picture

@someone. Completly disagree. I dont see anything contradicting fairplay in this Reinderman story.

Playing means playing by the rules and bending them -willingly or not- should mean punishment.

@ Peter. Thanks!

Dimitri Reinderman's picture

Someone, I am aware that some readers think that players should want to win by purely chess technical reasons alone, and not by rules reasons. But as a professional player, I think the both time management and correctly following the rules (or at least trying to) is important. Let's think about a hypothetical situation: a player sees his time is running out, presses his clock with 1 second left, gets 30 seconds extra, then makes a move. Is player B really a rule lawyer if he claims the game?

Emil Sutovsky's picture

Dear Dimitri,

First of all, I'd like to apologize for distracting you. The draw offer was not aimed to
distract your thoughts, probably in a mutual time-trouble I lost a control over the situation (actually, my moves on the board signaled about the same!)
Honestly, I don't see it as a major sin, and encountered a draw offer myself while thinking quite a few times, as well as a repeated draw offer.Anyways,
once again, the fault is mine and I apologize.
However, I'd like to admit, that GM Cebalo's comments look weird to me:
I don't recall a single similiar case, while playing Croatian players.
Not pretending to get "fair-play" laurels, as it happens to me (as well as to many fellow GMs) to lose the full control over the situation in the time-trouble,
but GM Cebalo's accusations seem rather strange.
Anyways, will try to get not only older, but wiser.

xtra's picture

It is very strange that chess arbiters seem to be so incompetetent at followig the tournament rules. Chess rules really aren't that complicated, compared to other sports. That is not saying it is an easy task being a good arbiter, it will always be tough to understand exactly what happened, are the players telling the truth, how exactly should the rules be implemented here, etc. but still...a serious chess tournament should have serious arbiers who know the rules and how to apply them in most cases.

judges in magic the gathering seem to have a very good community and a sort of independent organization, maybe that is what is needed for chess arbiters as well. But in Mtg instances of breaking the rules will come up far more often than in chess, so I guess it is natural that the judges will be more experienced at handling infractions.

Anway, about the case where your opponent breaks the rules, like knocking over pieces with very little time left. It can happen, and it is unfortunate and understandable. But the attitude towards it (for all involved) should be "that's too bad, it could happen to anyone, but you lose the game according to the rules and that is just the way it is. Better luck next time". There is just no good way to "repair" the game position since that involves the players state of minds and concrete variations calculated in that situation. So it is unfortunate, but the greater injustice is to the player who did not knock down the pieces and was not in time trouble, and could have won the game if the opponent made the wrong move. Even if the position is dead drawn, it is a part of the competetive game to make the moves in time and not knock over pieces, or similar things. There is just no good way around that.

Someone's picture

Ok, lets say "fair play" is not an issue. (btw not playing a move Vs simply throuhing a piece is not precisely the same). But honestly, which is the smallest chess offence? Isn't offering a draw at opponents time and pressing the clock without adjusting a fallen piece close to (if not the) the smallest possible offence? If this is the case, I find it entirly logical to apply to these offences the smallest or next to smallest punishment, which is warning or addition of time to you. In any case, I would never forfeit a player for these offences (as an arbiter) and neither accept such a decision from an arbiter if I was in the offended place (your place in this case). It was in this sense that I spoke of "fair play" and maybe it was too harse the way I put it.

Sander's picture

Ahhhh, sometimes I long for the times when this site was Dutch-only, when you can complain at heart's desire and never have to expect a reply....Remember Arne Molls's 'clash' with Danailov a few weeks back? Anyway its very nice to see big names checking out this site as well.

adamcurrier's picture

Why not directly cutting their head off? That would be fare. Noone cries after those types of guys.

Who has the rigth to distract you or anyone else by means of saying "DRAW" or having fallen the pieces?

Dimitri Reinderman's picture

Apologies accepted Emil.

And Someone, I can understand that you find it a small offence, needing only a small punishment. But as I wrote in the article, this does mean that it's often pointless to protest, as you lose concentration in exchange for a small time bonus. But if it's pointless to protest, this means it's smart to break the rules, as there is no disadvantage to it... if you leave aside fair play that is.

Xof's picture

In a way, the rules in mtg are quite the same. 99% of the rules violations you can make in a game of mtg will only get you a warning the first time you commit the offense, even at a pro tour level. The only difference would be that it is more likely to have a repeat offense in magic, as calling a judge there is quite common, while it hardly ever happens in chess.

Something like the penalty guideline that exists in mtg would probably be useful in chess also, clearly defining what penalties should be applied for every offense, depending on the importance/level of the tournament.

Vooruitgang's picture

In the short term it is pointless to protest for the reasons Dimitri gives.

Is it smart to break the rules because there seems to be no disadvantage to it?

Well, the scientific law of cause and effect, or karma, refute this in the long term. Would you want to be known forevermore in this life as "J'Adoubovic"? And then have to pay for cheating sometime in the future?

mike's picture

Sutovsky could have apologised after the game, or later in the tournament, or after the tournament.
Only when this whole case started to be bad for his PR he took action. He only apologises for his own benefit.

alex's picture

I am agree with GM Reinderman !!! You get 1h30 minutes and 30 seconds each move, that's the rule. And if you can't reach the next time control, you lose !!!
You can't steal time, just to win time !!!

Nutos's picture

solution for drawn offers in your the clock.
Conversation could be brief and thus:
"would you like a draw?"
- player presses clock and replies "Are you offering me a draw?"
"then press your clock"
player presses his clock.

This would open a huge bag of worms but I think would (just) be legal.
Another example is players (at my patzer level) adjusting pieces in their opponents time. The correct response here is to press the clock and wait for them to finish.
Another example is the writing down of moves...players should ensure that their scoresheets are up to date in their own a player (not in time trouble) needs to write down your move before making a move against you...

Tournament arbiters need to enforce these my level chess is the top levels I think you should probably ignore indiscretions if you can and report players who transgress to the tournament organisers - players who regularly behave poorly may find that they obtain less invitations...

Nutos's picture

apologies for double posting...
County Chess League - 4th division (so very lowly) - our club recently forfeited a game that our player was winning ( up 2 pieces and about to promote) because he accidentally switched on his phone and it went beep. Nothing at stake, our team had already won the match...entirely within the rules...but my goodness did it cause ill feeling. I'll stick by my suggestion that at top level players who regularly cause offence by not sticking to the rules should lose invitations (I'm sure they do anyway).

chandler's picture

Smallest possible offence candidate example (deserving a warning): My opponent would "adjust" a piece that looked perfectly fine to me when I was thinking. I requested him not to do that when I was thinking (is this wrong too? talking to only the arbiter would be a good rule), but he still did it one more time. I probably should've summoned the arbiter, but didn't. And I paid for my mistake when he did two adjusts when I was calculating a variation and had around 15 secs on my clock! The "adjust" relocated a piece which I'd moved in my head, I lost my calculation thread, and had to make a random move...

@Nutos: that would imply that I can offer a draw to gain time on my clock (due to increments)

noyb's picture

Excellent article! Thank you for writing it.

It was for reasons such as these cited that I've mostly given up playing in tournaments. The rules have gotten ridiculous, the arbiters, who have no real incentive to do well, are often not knowledgeable and frequently make poor decisions, and last and most unfortunately, players these days are ill-mannered and think nothing of cheating or not following the rules (why should they if there is no serious penalty?).

Organized chess is a mess, even at the highest levels (i.e. "Toilet-Gate" at the last World Championship). Chess is only really enjoyable amongst friends!

Thomas's picture

@noyb: Incidents happen - I will leave it open whether some players are involved more often than others, and whether they do things on purpose - and I was also the victim of [what I considered] "poor" arbiter decisions, sometimes it cost me a bit of prize money.
But is it THAT bad? How often does or did it happen to you? In every game, every second one, every fifth one, ... ? At (my) amateur level, I would consider most players friends or at least decent colleagues of each other.
That being said, I can understand GM Dimitri Reinderman's mixed feelings - also because he is playing at a different level, and in the given tournament there was 'significant' prize money and possible World Cup qualification at stake.

Player of the day's picture

I am confused? Since when does a player need to know all the rules of chess, to play it? Having said that, I have spoken my mind.

Radical Caveman's picture

Precisely because you lose concentration making a complaint, time penalties should never be very small. Offering a draw on your opponent's time ought to merit 15 minutes added to his/her clock and 5 subtracted from yours, plus a stern warning. Unintentional infractions might merit, say, 10 minutes added and no subtraction. If this level of enforcement were done consistently, it would make clear to all players that breaking the rules doesn't pay, without having to be draconian and forfeit the game for each and every infraction.

And, yes, if somebody isn't able to complete a move properly in the allotted time, they should forfeit. It's a bummer to lose because you knocked over pieces, but that's the chance you take when you let your clock get down to a few seconds. Why should somebody be rewarded for pressing their clock with pieces still scattered?

Pozzi's picture

Very good and interesting. I think like most laws (not only games), it is good to brake them, if you are not punished efficiently. I do not like this way of thinking, but especially in business, you see this way of doing things often (i.e. Madoff, not taxed money in offshore banks, incorrect balance sheets, etc.). I think on a professional level chess is like business.

I also discussed this topic with an international arbiter I know and it is not easy to handle the situation, if you did not see it yourself. What would be the consequence of a really hard punishment like "game is lost". Wouldn't this mean I should accuse my opponent of a rule offense, to have an easy win? How could the arbiter know who is right? For sure your opponent would never say the truth, if the punishment would be hard.

Even the Radjabov - Smeets is not easy to decide (although the arbiter saw it) and the international arbiter told me, that in critical situations like these, he usually asks the players, if they could reach an agreement (especially if the players are IMs, GMs) - like it was there. This means for a professional you should brake the rules.

What would be a fair penalty in your cases? I do not have any idea, but I think some minutes are to less and "game lost" is too much (although in the 2nd case I think game lost could be ok). Maybe some new medium punishments are needed (between 13.4 a/b/c and d/e/f/g).

On my amateur level fair play is very important and I would prefer to lose a game instead of breaking the rules. Most of my opponents/friends think the same way. I would stop playing chess, if it would be different.

Would be also interesting what Geurt Giessen on Chess Cafe thinks about this topic?

Dimitri Reinderman's picture

@player of the day: A professional player should know the rules.
@Pozzi: A medium punishment would be nice yes. Also punishments at professional and amateur level should be different (as far as I know chess rules don't make this distinction, while Magic the Gathering tournament rules do).
I mailed Geurt Gijssen to ask his opinion.

Lone-Tiger's picture

April fools is round the careful of all news in the past 1 month to date!

Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture

Nice story. I think that because the concentration is of great importance to the game, many unethical ways are used to try to irritate or confound an adversary.

Player of the day's picture

"A professional player should know the rules." 'Should' is exactly the key word here. It's not a must.

Player of the day's picture

Firther on the subject at hand - Chess is a game. The rules that revolve around it are not. One way would be to install a "smart clock", not allowing a player to press it unless all the playing pieces are on the board.

Player of the day's picture

Being a relative newbie to the game, I fail to comprehend why a player needs to call for help? Isn't there an umpire beside each match? And if not, why not?

Frits Fritschy's picture

Dimitri Reinderman's story is well documented, directed at the matter instead of the persons involved, but is not completely convincing to me.
First of all, it's always unpleasant when your opponent breaks the rules, whether he does it intentionally or not. Then, you will always have to make a decision about objecting to this or not. When you have plenty of time, your opponent first presses the clock and immediately after this says: "Oh yes, I offer a draw", anybody in his right mind will at most say this is not quite according to the rules, and leave it there. Because, protesting offically is always bothersome for yourself: you put a strain on future relations with your opponent, you disturb your flow of thoughts, you disturb other players. And in my opinion it would be completely absurd to claim a win here – much worse things happen that are not directly covered by the rules.
According to the FIDE Handbook, the arbiter has discretionary powers to inflict penalties. So, he can match the penalty to both the degree of bad intention and the amount of bother for the opponent. In contrast to the example above, offering a draw when not having the move to a player who has only seconds left, and then claiming the game on time when he reacts too late, might be penalized with loss of the game, because you only seem to be trying to distract your opponent with the intent to win on time. The same can happen when, short on time, you put in a clearly absurd drawing claim, and keep on thinking about the position while the arbiter checks your claim (you are just using the rules to gain time). It is risky to abuse the rules!
Again according to the Handbook, the Chief Arbiter (CA) of a FIDE tournament must have proper qualifications, but he can choose his 'deputies' at will. On the other hand, according to the Handbook you must have the possibility to ask for the CA's decision. So you always have access to a just solution.
By the way, quite important is what is written in FIDE Handbook C.06.12.(a): "When there is a dispute, the CA or CO [organizer] as appropriate should make every effort to resolve matters by reconciliation." This seems to have been the policy in the Radjabov-Smeets case.
So, the offended player has a choice to protest or not, the arbiter has a choice to penalize or not and how to penalize. I think it is part of the profession of chess player to be prepared on what choices to make and to know what the possibilities of the arbiter are. I don't think many professional players would be happy with the alternative: your game to be declared lost after any small infraction on the rules.
Justice is never a matter of black and white, there are a lot of tones of grey.

Frank van T's picture

It would be sensible, if apart from the score-sheet, there would be a move-counter implemented in the digital clock. It would shorten discussions of reaching the time-control or not.

Someone's picture

@Frank van T: Well it actually does have:-)

Which of course can cause troubles if someone presses accidently the clock (either the board next to you, or instead of stoping the clock for a claim). And the arbiter in those cases, has to subtract the extra seconds added AND change the counting of moves.

I don't think there is any discussion on whether one actually reached the time control is any tournament using the fide time controls (+30sec etc)

patyolat's picture

Tournaments shouldn't invite known cheats. In FIDE tournaments also after a certain number of previuos infraction (yellow cards), they should ban you for the next similar event.

Mike's picture

Unfortunately breaking the rules and the concentration of your opponent can be very beneficial.
Many years ago I played against German Amateur player Markus Kauch. I was clearly higher rated and also had a clearly better position. He offered me a draw on my time. Instead of ignoring the draw offer I rejected it with the words: "It isn't allowed to offer a draw while your opponent is thinking". He began to start a discussion and accused me of beeing arrogant.
With my next move I blundered an important passed pawn and the unfair player walked away with the full point.

Castro's picture

Master Reinderman:

In the game against Sutovsky, most probably his offer was NOR "a sly trick to distract you", NOR "an honest mistake". It was simply a full responsible and normal minor break of rules, in order to propose you a draw, at the time it came into his mind.
This is a recognized offer draw, but indeed you could claim about the disturbance it represents. He would be penalized in time (on your clock). And you could accept or reject his offer (as you did).
Anything related to the game, after that, is irrelevant, and merely subjective (if, for instance, you became too nervous, if you lost, etc.).
"the incorrect draw offer was to the advantage of my opponent" is an abusive and most subjective conclusion. Both should know the rule. It makes sense, because there are times when you should make a draw offer on your opponent's time. If someone abuses, there are penalties. I'd say "Period".
To claim or not, it's just up to you, but this is really a normal and minor situation.

In the game against Levin, the only thing you did wrong was not calling the chief arbiter, because you have all the reason, and your opponent's behaviour, also understandable, would be penalized. On this case, maybe even the loss of the game was in order, but I agree, it's difficult to be sure, and maybe the chief arbiter would just stick to time penalty, unless imediately some witness(es) assured he was going for a real sure loss on time, in case of finishing correcting the pieces on his own time.

Like in any sport, the rules can't be perfect. I understand your feeling "the fact that it’s beneficial to break the rules". It happens, luckily not often, and it's almost imposible making a difference of a point (or even half a point) purely out of such things.
In both your cases, I however think there was nothing for big scandal, but you did right in writing this article, for us all to think, and for arbiters and rulers to become more aware.
You're right, the mobile phone rule is far too strict in comparison. (About being late, I'm not with you. EITHER a player have a real good excuse, and in that case it should be considered, OR simply be on time! Or before!)

A last not about MtG:
"This probably has to do with the fact that cheating in MtG is easier than in chess"
Also, probably cheating in MtG is also both more serious (with bolder consequences) than chess (unless we talk about Pocket Fritz issues, or that kind of things), and easier to testify and to decide, when detected.

Pozzi's picture


It already happened to me, that my opponent offered a draw to me on my time. The case was the follwing:
My opponent FM Elo 2300 : me Elo 2000
My opponent got with white a clear advantage from the opening. I played a risky counterattack and my opponent lost control over the game and his nerves. Around 2 mins after finishing his (I think) 30th move, when I was calculating some very complicated variants, he offered a draw. I recognised it was not according to the rules (I am regional arbiter), but I was not even thinking about submitting an arbiter, because I also recognised the difficulties of my opponent. The position was not clear for me, although I recognised my position is getting better, so I accapted the draw. No problem for me and I do not think it was unfair from my opponent.
I think I would have needed more time than 2 minutes (the usual punishment as far as I know) to get back into the variations of this complicated position, after some long discussions with my opponent and the arbiter. As mentioned above, I do not know the correct punishment for this and maybe a new medium punishment is needed. On my amateur level I do not need an arbiter/punishment for this.

The 2nd case with the pieces lying on the board never happened to me. I think it could happen to me, to be the bad guy in this case mentioned above. The important part is that you would lose the game on time, if you place the pieces correctly on your time, according to the rules. I think I would resign after I got some seconds to calm down and get my nerves under control.
In this case with the few time left, I think it is fair play to lose. If you have enough time to place the pieces correctly, there is no necessety on amateur level for any punishment or submitting an arbiter.

All rules however they are formulated/enforced can be broken and some efficient punishment is needed. I am happy that it is not me to decide about these things.

Estragon's picture

Clearly some players do use the inappropriate draw offer to gain an advantage by disrupting the opponent's concentration, and to protest only compounds the problem. Without a severe penalty, it still confers an advantage on the rule-breaker.

A possible solution would be to outlaw verbal draw offers, replacing them with a draw card the player must place beside the board before stopping his clock. The opponent may accept or, if he rejects the offer, take the card and hold it until he decides to make a draw offer. Like the doubling cube in backgammon, after one player has offered the draw he may not offer another until the opponent has done so. This also eliminates the tactic of repeated draw offers.

The discretionary penalties are arbitrary nonsense - this is, inadvertent or not, disturbing the opponent's thought and should be a loss for the player.

Similarly, if you knock over the pieces and do not replace them accurately before stopping your own clock, a forfeit is called for.

Jeremy S's picture

Last saturday, a teammate of mine wanted to offer a draw in a teammatch. His opponent was not at the board at that moment, so he looked a bit nervous around and asked me in confusion whether he should make a move, push the clock and after the return of his opponent, could still make his offer. I thought it was the wisest thing to do and luckily, so did his opponent (after some laughing about the draw-rule).

I think that in amateur chess games the draw offer is not such an issue. Professional players should know the rules, amateurs should know gentlemanship.

Peter Doggers's picture

Hm. Perhaps that should be: 'Amateurs should know gentlemanship, professional players should know the rules and gentlemanship. :-)

Simmillion's picture

Gentlemanship, sounds a little overrated to me. Offcourse, I try not to smell bad, dont spit people in the face, minimize my smoking cough. When drinking coffee, I try not to 'slurp' etc etc

But furthermore, I play tournaments to win, not to be known as the most lovable guy on the chessboard of the Rijnmond (Dutch Seaport Area)

And in the end the trick is not to be distracted. Easier said then done, I presume.

the thought “I should already have received the point instead of having to work for it” was not easy to ignore

Bartleby's picture

It would be just if the rules or the arbiter could hit "Ctrl Z" and undo what the unfair player did. But in lack of an undo option, I go with Castro's interpretation in both cases:
The draw offer on your time should get a minor punishment on first offense. If you suspect he did it on intention, it would be good to call the arbiter. The arbiter probably won't punish him on your suspicion alone, but he might if a similar offense happens repeatedly during the course of the tournament.
The second case is severe enough to declare the game lost immediately if the facts can be established. The player hasn't corrected his pieces, thus his move isn't complete. He steals 30 seconds by hitting the clock.
I hope that in the professional circuit someone who systematically uses rule breaks would get known for it, and from then on would be watched closely by the arbiters.

sharkman's picture

All this is nonsense. Sofia Rules everywhere and all problems solved. Of course, Arne and Peter hate Danailov (who invented the Sofia rules,by the way)and they will be not happy ,but what to do ?


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