Do chess wizards have to blindly follow rules?

Stephen L. Carter is best known to the chess community as the author of The Emperor of Ocean Park and more recently, Back Channel: A novel. (http://stephencarterbooks.com/) He is also a Bloomberg View columnist and a law professor at Yale.

Do chess wizards have to blindly follow rules?
Stephen L. Carter 12:11 a.m. EDT April 19, 2015

There’s a wonderful old British case involving a farmer named Lawrence Burr, who was stopped while driving a tractor along a public road. The tractor was pulling a chicken coop to town, where it was to be sold. For the purposes of the brief trip, Burr had fixed iron wheels to the underside of the coop.

The trouble was that the Road Traffic Act of 1930 required all “vehicles,” including “trailers,” to ride on pneumatic tires. A lower court held that the chicken coop was not a vehicle within the meaning of the act, but the King’s Bench, in Garner v. Burr, disagreed, holding that a trailer was “anything which will run on wheels which is being drawn by a tractor or another motor vehicle.”

The case comes to mind in the wake of last week’s contretemps over the decision of the arbiter at the U.S. chess championships to forfeit Wesley So, one of the highest-rated players in the world, during his ninth-round game against Varuzhan Akobian.

So’s offense? During the game, he scribbled little encouraging notes to himself on a sheet of paper. According to news reports, he was in the midst of a family crisis, and needed some bucking up. The trouble is that writing anything during the game, other than recording the moves on a score sheet, is forbidden by what are known, a bit pompously, as the Laws of Chess. And he had been warned before about doing so.

Across the Internet, game sites exploded. Fans leaped to the defense of the young genius, arguing that the rule itself was trivial nonsense (this descriptor was more colorfully put in some of the comment threads), or that the prohibition had never been intended to cover the sort of notes So was writing. The official, cried critics, should have let the matter go.

In a world governed by common sense and general standards, So’s defenders might have a point. The rule was adopted to rein in the habit of many players to annotate their scoresheets with reminders about variations they intended to play – a phenomenon at war with the game’s traditional understanding that players rely only on analysis and memory. Once upon a time, chess tutors taught their pupils to write down the move first, then visualize it on the board, and only then play it. This practice, too, the rules no longer permit.

So’s problem was an amalgam of several rules. Rule 12.3(1) provides: “During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse on another chessboard.” So had previously written notes to himself on his scoresheet, but Rule 12.4 reads: “The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, the offers of a draw, and matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.”

Having been warned he was violating the rule, So switched to writing his notes on a separate piece of paper. But his opponent complained, bringing into play Rule 12.6: “It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.” In the end, Rule 12.8 was decisive: “Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game.”

One can immediately see the analogy to Garner v. Burr. There the judges had to decide whether a chicken coop being towed behind a tractor was a vehicle within the meaning of the statute. Here the arbiter had to decide whether So’s self- encouraging words constituted “notes” or “advice,” or a distraction to the opponent within the meaning of the rule.

Over the years, the Laws of Chess, like the laws governing so many areas, have grown more complex. Tightly structured rules have replaced discretion. The result can be clarity, but sometimes at the cost of common sense. I’m not defending So’s decision to keep writing himself notes after being warned. My point is that it’s not obvious that we’re always better off when every rule is plainly spelled out and enforced to the letter.

Still, shed no tears for Wesley So, who recovered nicely, winning his next two games and finishing in third place. And even if the arbiter was right, So’s violation needn’t have been the end of the matter; the most tightly worded rule might leave room for discretion about the consequences of breaking it. Lord Chief Justice Goddard recognized this proposition at the end of his opinion in Garner v. Burr. The outcome of the case, he wrote, established the principle that anything traveling on wheels is a vehicle. The justices of the lower court were free to stop there without further burdening Burr: “The question of penalty, or whether they should inflict a penalty at all, is entirely for them: they have an unfettered discretion.”
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/04/19/chess-wizards-blindly-follow-rules/25963309/

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IM Colin Crouch on The So – Rich – Akobian dispute

The news was announced on the English Chess Forum by Nevil Chan, Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:34 am:

“Harrow Chess Club deeply regret to announce that Colin Crouch has passed away. Colin was 58 years old and a member of the club since 1970.” (http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=7336)

Dr. Crouch was Professor Emeritus, University of Warwick; External Scientific Member, Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, Cologne. (http://www.britac.ac.uk/fellowship/elections/index.cfm?member=4526)

His Principal publications were:
Making Capitalism Fit for Society, 2013
The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, 2011
Capitalist Diversity and Change, 2005
Post-Democracy, 2004
Social Change in Western Europe, 1999
Industrial Relations and European State Traditions, 1993

IM Crouch published a chess book, one of many, How to Defend in Chess, in 2007. It became one of my favorite chess books. “Many books discuss how to attack in chess, but resourceful defensive play is also a vital ingredient in competitive success. This is an area largely neglected in the literature of the game. This book fills the gap admirably. Following a survey of general defensive methods in chess, Dr Colin Crouch investigates the techniques of World Champions Emanuel Lasker and Tigran Petrosian, both highly effective defenders. Lasker would place myriad practical obstacles in the opponent’s way, and was a master of the counterattack. Petrosian developed Nimzowitsch’s theories of prophylaxis to a new level. His opponents would find that somehow their attacking chances had been nullified long before they could become reality.” (http://www.amazon.com/How-Defend-Chess-Colin-Crouch/dp/1904600832/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429714416&sr=1-1&keywords=colin+crouch+chess)

I enjoyed the blog written by IM Colin Crouch. This is an excerpt from his last post:

The So – Rich – Akobian dispute

“Sadly, the news at St Louis dominates all discussion in the US Championships. The forfeit of Wesley So’s game against Varuzhan Akobian is deeply controversial, and no doubt will have long term implications.

The situation was, at its most basic, that Akobian had made a complaint against So, after move 6. There was no indication that there was any cheating by So, of, for example, using the computer of finding the very best moves in a particular position (the main reason for barring electronic devices).

What then was Akobian complaining about? The answer was that he had been scribbling a few notes, while the game was being started, mainly as motivation techniques. It was along the lines of thinking before you make a move, slow down, don’t hurry. It is more a case of getting more relaxed, for what is likely to be a tense game.

I have heard recently of this type of technique, used in political speaking. At a recent Seven-ways Leader debate (hes, these days there were seven parties, plus minor groupings), just before the British General Election, there were notes placed before the podium, for many of the leaders. With seven players battling it out, there were never going to be long set-piece speeches. It was much more the case of the speakers having written down in advance something like, calm down, don’t get wound up, that sort of thing. It does not even involve the speakers having written notes, and loads of statistical facts and figures o be wheeled out. That would have caused unconvincing lack of spontaneity.

It is in many ways what Wesley So has been doing in the last few months, and maybe before. Maybe it can be claimed that what he was doing was technically in breach of the chess laws, although it is, it can be regarded, as only a slight technically breach. Presumably something will need to be clarified at some later FIDE congress. Again though, such a writing down in such notes is, it seems, acceptable in politics, and in other fields. Is there is no totally clear rule that this should be forbidden during a game of chess? And what happens if, for example a couple of players agree to meet up for a meal after the game, and write down where they should meet up at a restaurant?

The simple point is that unless there is absolute clarity in the regulations, there should be no reason for a player being given the drastic punishment of a loss – after six moves of play!

Akobian claimed that he was distracted by So’s play. Really? It is surely much more of a question of how much Wesley So was distracted by Akobin’s play, and in particular in trying to make a formal complaint. It is of course just about possible that Akobian had only made a casual note to the chief arbiter, and that the Chief Arbiter, Tony Rich jumped the gun. I do not know, and without much clearer information, I cannot be certain.

My suspicions are however that Akobian was at least as guilty as distracting So, than So is of distracting Akobian. It is an unfortunate aspects of chess that one way of “cheating” is by accusing the opponent of cheating. Akobian was clearly able to take full advantage of Tony Rich’s actions. Even so, without 100% knowledge of what was going on, I am reluctant to say whether this was what in fact happened.

The next question is how Tony Rich handled things. We must too remember that unfortunately he would have had his clashes with chess authority. We was, for example, not given the expected payment for his contributions for Chess for the Philippines, in a bib Asian sports event, as the excuse was made that chess does not count. He moved to the USA, but it took time to play for the team in the Olympiad in Tromso, while various players originally from Ukraine were given the chance to change qualifications to Russia almost instantly. Where is the justice in that? I do not want to attempt to write about what was happening during his time at St Louis. There were some complications. He did not however complete his university degree there, which is totally understandable, as, unlike the vast majority of even top grandmasters, he is capable of playing at fully equal terms against Carlsen, given time. He also had problems with his mother, on his future in chess and study. There was an unexpected encounter with her at the beginning of the US Championship.

My instincts here is that quite probably he felt that he was being hassled by Tony Rich, and his continuous complaints that Wesley was doing such-and-such a thing, and that quite simply he merely wanted to play chess, concentrate on chess, and try to become the top player from the USA. He could easily be thinking that why does this arbiter keep whinging? It is not as if he is a strong player anyway.

There is an indication that probably Tony Rich is not quite as clued up as one would like. To make things easier, it is simplest that when strong players, including super-strong players, are under the control of the arbiters, the convention is that the arbiters have full knowledge and understanding of what is going on, during the game, and elsewhere in the tournament and surrounds. It is only when suspicions arise, that players have doubts about the arbiters.

A final point. I would hope that the game between Akobian and So is to be expunged from the points gained and lost in their game. Akobian did not win any points through his superior chess knowledge.” (http://crouchnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-so-rich-akobian-hispute.html)

The Wesley So Forfeit

The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center was in its infancy when I played in the St. Louis Open there in the spring of 2009. In the second round I faced a young boy, Kevin Cao, who was an expert at the start of the tourney. Playing my favorite Bishop’s opening the boy did not take advantage of the opportunities my play afforded, putting him in a difficult position. My opponent had been keeping score on a gizmo called “Monroi.” When the going got tough my opponent pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and placed his gizmo on the table, eschewing the actual chessboard in order to focus only on the chessboard on his gizmo. Since this violated the rules of chess, I lodged a protest with the TD’s. The rule is simple and clear: 11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

The tournament director’s did not see it that way. Since the Monroi was a USCF “approved” gizmo they had trouble ruling the only way they should under rule 11.3. They decided to “compromise” by asking my opponents father have his son not use the gizmo as a chessboard the rest of the game. I agreed to this, and so did the father, albeit reluctantly. This was done because I was playing a child. If my opponent had been an adult I would not have agreed, but insisted he be forfeited because the rule is clear. Things change dramatically when a child is involved.

After a few more moves my opponent’s position deteriorated, and he was in also in time pressure which happens with a G/2 time control. His father, seeing this while constantly hovering over the board, told his son to do go back to using his gizmo. The boy then pulled his hood over his head and placed his gizmo on the table and again eschewed the actual chessboard. I protested, the clocks were stopped and into the TD room we went. This time things became, shall we say, heated. Actually, the father went ballistic. Some time later the USCF issued a ruling castigating the father for “reprehensible behaviour.” The father took his son home and when his time ran out, I was declared the “winner.” The young boy dropped back into the “A” class because of the loss. He is now rated 2300+.

This was written about and discussed on the forum of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center, which no longer exists, and some have said it is no longer in existence was because of what was written on it, none of it positive toward me. Simply put, I was vilified. Much was written on the USCF forum at the time, where I was also excoriated unmercifully.

I closely followed the recent US Championship tournament, the one now called the “Open” tournament, as opposed to the one called the “Women’s” tournament. GM Wesley So is obviously a supremely talented chess player. I found the interviews with him intriguing, to say the least. After the interview early in the tournament,maybe the very first round, the one in which he mentions playing weakly in the middle game after not seeing his foster mother for some time, (She had been with Jeanne Sinquefield he said) I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman something was obviously “not right” about Mr. So. I could not put my finger on it, but knew something was wrong.

Much has been written about Wesley being forfeited, and I have read everything found on the interweb. I would like to share some of it with you, then share a few comments of my own.

“Akobian complained that this distracted him”!? What is the motive behind this statement? To me it looks like a “sucker punch” from Akopian to get an easy win. Chess referees should according to the rules always apply common sense. And the nature of this incident considering the actual writing of So does not by any means amount to such a serious offence that So should forfeit his game against Akopian.” – thomas.dyhr (Thomas Dyhr, Denmark)

“This decision is absolutely ridiculous I take it So has been writing on his scoresheet sometimes which would show on his copy handed in and is against Fide rules ok and Rich told him this.
He gets a blank piece of paper instead to write some thought positives and Akobian complains to Rich who forfeits So.
Akobian if he was distracted by So’s actions should have asked him to stop first.
Rich should have seen that this was not writing on a scoresheet which he warned him about and if he was not allowing So to write on blank paper as well told him to stop immediately and if So complied let the game continue.
Akobian and Rich do not come out of this with any credit and Akobian should be ashamed of himself as a man of integrity.” – Gilshie (Thomas Gilmore, United Kingdom)

“I guess they wanted to guarantee that an American wins the US Championship…” – Shtick (Nick Daniels, Canada)
(All of the about quotes from: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

“PS: editorial comment to myself

Many chess writers and commentators seem to have little better to do this weekend than to talk about a silly forfeit incident in the US championship, so I will throw in a few of my own observations.
The first is that even though some tournament rule might give the tournament arbiter, Tony Rich, the POWER or the AUTHORITY to forfeit Wesley So , no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did. So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.
Please understand that I am not saying that Akobian–who is a perfect gentleman– acted wrongly when he drew to the arbiter’s attention So’s actions. Nor am I saying that Tony Rich acted incorrectly when he decided to act according to the written rules. And especially I am not saying that So was right when he lashed out when interviewed afterwards…there were CLEARLY better ways to have handled the situation.
What I am trying to say is that once more the game of chess DESERVES to be belittled because of this incident. ONCE MORE, mainstream media will target and make fun of us. Chess LOST some prestige on that day. When Jon Stewart recently did a humorous skit on the USCF trying to recruit F.Caruana for the national team, many–including ChessBase–thought it was also a bit insulting to the game of chess. Perhaps it was a bit insulting, even though it might not have been intended to be insulting…
But until the day we (the chess community) STOP allowing silly and poorly written rules to hurt and denigrate the noble game of chess in the eyes of normal and intelligent onlookers (and let us not forget about potential sponsors and patrons), then we deserve to be insulted a little bit more each time…” – Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett
(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/it-took-a-really-long-time-but/)

“Guess my point is – even if he warned So, forfeiting is a staggering over-reaction. Threaten with forfeit = fine. Actually doing it = insane” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (Also from the aforementioned chess24 article, and if you click on this, you will find more comments, including this one by IM Mark Ginsburg, “Correct. Time penalty first. This action was wildly disproportionate as GM Hammer points out. Bad call.”)

GM Emil Sutovsky, President at Association of Chess Professionals, wrote this on his Facebook page (taken from the aforementioned chess24 article) “The arbiter’s decision to forfeit Wesley So for writing down irrelevant notes on his scoresheet during the game seems weird to me. Indeed, that can be seen as a violation of rules: ” 8.1 b. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.” And arbiter has repeatedly urged Wesley to stop it. But awarding a loss is way too harsh a punishment for such a minor sin. Yes, it can be disturbing for the opponent, and the arbiter could and should have deducted the time on Wesley’s clock for disturbing the opponent. And to keep deducting it (2 minutes each time), if needed after each move (warning Wesley, that a forfeit will come after 2nd or 3rd deduction). That was the most painless and logical decision. Unfortunately, the arbiter has preferred the most brutal solution. These things should not happen.”

It should be obvious from the above that the TD, Tony Rich, and the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center have not come out of this sordid incident in a favorable light. As GM Spraggett says, once again chess has suffered a black eye. I agree with Kevin when he writes, “…no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did.” The reputation of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center has been sullied.

The punishment should fit the crime. As GM Kevin Spraggett writes, “So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.”

Contrast this with how I was treated at the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center. My opponent violated the rule in order to gain an ADVANTAGE! GM Wesley So did no such thing. He is one of the elite chess players in the world and has no need to gain an advantage against any other player in the world.

If one closely examines the rule, “11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard,” it is clear the meaning is that a player cannot use any “NOTES, sources of information or advice,” to help, or assist him in regard to making his MOVES. A player cannot utilize a book, or gizmo containing chess information, or any “advice” from another person. There is no ambiguity here.

I was not there and do not know EXACTLY what Tony Rich said to Wesley, but from what I heard on the broadcast, and have now read, GM So was under the impression he could not write on his scoresheet, so he wrote on another piece of paper. How culpable is Tony Rich in this matter? Did he make himself COMPLETELY understood? Besides, as “Najdork” (Miguel Najdork, from Nepal) commented, “Also I would like to point out how from rule 8.1 you are allowed to write on the scoresheet any “relevant data”, and that is so vague that I guess you could write almost anything.” Who defines what is “relevant?” Your relevant may differ from what I consider “relevant.” For example, what if your opponent in a Senior event wrote on his scoresheet, “Take heart medication at 3 PM.” Who, other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, would complain? And who, other than Tony Rich would forfeit the man? I know Tony Rich. As Tony reminded me in 2009, I won our game at the Missouri State Championship in 2002 in Rollo. He was nice to me then, and has been every time I have encountered him, such as at the US Open in Indiana a few years ago. I liked Tony until he lost his mind. What could possibly have motivated the man to issue this stupid ruling, which will have lasting repercussions? If you were Wesley So would you join the American team at the Olympiad?

“In love with this rule: “12.2 The arbiter shall: b. act in the best interest of the competition.” Common sense.” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.

The forfeit defies common sense. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rule; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.” – John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/when-the-umpire-is-playing-for-the-other-team/262429/)
No one watches a chess tournament to see the TD. In lieu of watching Wesley So play GM Akobian, the world was instead subjected to a TD try and explain his “logic.” As many a TD has proven over the years, the less involved they are, the better the outcome.

None of this made any sense to me until reading this, “In the final reckoning Wesley So’s forfeit had no effect on the top three standings. Even a win against Akobian would only have tied So with Ray Robson on 7.5/11, and since he lost against Robson he would still have finished third. The person who has a real cause for complaint seems to be Gata Kamsky, who was edged out of 5th place – his goal in order to qualify for the World Cup later this year – by Akobian.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-and-krush-are-2015-us-champions)

There it is, the reason for this whole debacle. It always comes down to “Who profits?”

The whole affair is disgusting, and sickening. It proves only that a TD has only one rule by witch to abide: Do What Thy Wilt! There should be some kind of punishment for a TD who oversteps his bounds. I have seen far too many tournament director’s puff out their chest while strutting around singing, “I’ve got the power,” such as Richard Crespo, the former TD spending his days in prison after abducting a woman and shooting it out with police in San Antonio, Texas a decade ago.
I am embarrassed, and ashamed, to be an American involved with chess. This putrid affair rivals anything I have written about FIDE and the nefarious Russians. United States chess has reached a new low. Tony Rich has now made everyone forget about L. Walter Stephens, the TD who awarded Sammy Reshevsky a win against Arnold Denker in the 1942 US Championship even though it was Sammy who lost on time. The game will die before the shock waves emanating from this debacle subside. The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center touts itself as the US Capital of Chess. Knowledgable players and fans know that three of the players in the Championship, Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, and Daniel Naroditsky, cut their chess teeth in the San Francisco Bay area, home of the oldest chess club in America, the venerable Mechanic’s Insitute Chess Room. If any area should be acknowledged as the “Capital of US Chess,” it is San Francisco, in lieu of the neuveau rich, faux chess club AND scholastic center in St. Louis, which has now been tarnished. No longer can it be considered a “leading light,” or “shining example.”

I can only hope this affair does not dessiccate Wesley So’s desire. If one watches the interviews with Mr. So during the US Chess Championship he will see a dramatic change in Wesley as the tournament progressed. Hopefully, this will fire him up and prod Wesley to play the kind of chess of which he is capable culminating in a match for the World Chess Championship.

Wesley So Learned the Hard Way

Gotta Serve Somebody by Bob Dylan

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music

Tony Rich is The Arbiter

Tony Rich is the Chief Arbiter of the 2015 US Championships. Wesley So was until this tournament, one of the top ten highest rated chess players in the world. Mr. Rich had previously warned Mr. So about taking notes during the game, which is a violation of the rules of FIDE, the governing body of world chess. During the game between Wesley So and Varuzhan Akobian in today’s ninth round the latter brought it to the attention of the Chief Arbiter that Mr. So was violating the rules of chess. The Chief Arbiter, Tony Rich, then forfeited Wesley So.

As I watched the live coverage today my thoughts drifted back to last decade when I, too, had to go into the back room with of the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center with the arbiter during a tournament. Fortunately I was not the one forfeited. Until today the incident in which I was involved at the relatively new St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center with a young boys father in which the latter told his son to violate a rule by continuing to look at the chessboard on his Monroi gizmo in lieu of the actual chessboard, even though the father had promised to not advise his son to do so, was the most egregious incident to ever occur at the Scholastic Center and Chess Club. The incident is still brought up and discussed. Thanks to Wesley So, it may well forgotten.

Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index

Viva Las Vegas!

Jennifer Shahade posted a fine article on Chess Life online (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12874/793/), “Kazim’s Back: Gulamali on Taking Down Vegas.” By now the Millionaire Open is yesterday’s news, and it shows because many other articles appeared almost immediately after this article, pushing it to the back of the line, which is unfortunate. It is a shame the producers did not switch coverage from the Wesley So vs Ray Robson debacle to the match between IM Burnett and FM Gulamali. It would have been amazing to watch. I am grateful, though, that USCF has given it some attention.

Being a Dutch aficionado, I want to concentrate on the two Dutch games played in the match. With his back to the wall, having lost the first game, and having to win the next game to even the match, Kazim Gulamali answered IM Ron Burnett’s 1 d4 with f5! When you absolutely, positively must win, play the Dutch! The time limit for the following game was G/25+.

Millionaire Chess, Las Vegas 2014
White: IM Burnett, Ronald
Black: FM Gulamali, Kazim

1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nh3 Bg7 5.O-O O-O 6.c4 d6 7.d5 Na6 8.Nd2 Bd7 9.Rb1 c6 10.dxc6 Bxc6 11.Nf4 Bxg2 12.Kxg2 Qd7 13.b4 Nc7 14.Qb3 e5 15.Nd3 e4 16.Nf4 g5 17.Nh3 Ne6 18.Bb2 Rae8 19.f4 g4 20.Ng1 e3 21.Qxe3 Qc6+ 22.Kf2 Nc5 23.Qa3 Nce4+ 24.Nxe4 Nxe4+ 25.Ke1 Bxb2 26.Qxb2 Qxc4 27.Rc1 Qd5 28.Rd1 Qf7 29.e3 Qh5 30.Qb3+ Rf7 31.Qb2 Rfe7 32.Rd3 Rc7 33.Qb3+ Kf8 34.Ne2 Rec8 35.Qe6 Rc2 36.Nd4 Qf7 37.Qxf7+ Kxf7 38.Nxc2 Rxc2 39.Ra3 a6 40.Ra5 Ke6 41.b5 axb5 42.Rxb5 Nc3 43.Rh1 0-1

Ron’s tenth move is a new one. The more standard Nf4 was seen in this game:

Purnama,T (2337)-Reyes Lopez,D (2072)
Castelldefels 2005

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nh3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. d5 Na6 8. Nd2 Bd7 9. Rb1 c6 10. Nf4 Nc7 11. Nf3 Qe8 12. h4 Rb8 13. Nd4 c5 14. Nde6 Bxe6 15. dxe6 b5 16. Bd2 Ne4 17. Ba5 Na8 18. Bxe4 fxe4 19. Nd5 bxc4 20. Qc2 Nb6 21. Bxb6 axb6 22. Qxc4 Rf5 23. Qxe4 Re5 24. Qd3 g5 25. hxg5 Rxg5 26. Kg2 Qc6 27. e4 Qc8 28. f4 (Missing 28 Nxe7+) Rg6 29. f5 (29 Nxe7+ still looks strong) Rg5 30. Rf3 (Third time..) Ra8? (Maybe he was afraid White would finally see it?) 31. Nxb6 Qa6 32. Nxa8 Qxa8 1-0 (Proving there are several ways to skin a cat)

The next set was played at G/15+. Kazim won the first game so now Ron had his back to the wall in a must win situation. Once again Kazim played the Dutch, answering 1 Nf3 with f5. Not to be outdone, Ron played 2 e4!?, the Lisitsin Gambit! Back in the day there was scant information on this opening. It was big news when “Inside Chess,” the wonderful magazine produced by GM Yasser Seirawan and the gang from the Great Northwest, contained an article by, was it GM Michael Rohde, or was it GM Larry Christiansen? Memory fails…I only faced the Lisitsin Gambit a few times, the last a draw with Tim “The Dude” Bond. I had seen a way to win a piece in the middle game, but The Dude avoided the line. Some moves later the possibility appeared on the board, but I missed it! The game was drawn, and when I showed The Dude how I could have won a piece, he went into a funk, morose over the fact that he was obviously quite lost at one point. I will be the first to admit my memory is not what it used to be, but I have a vague recollection of losing to The Dude in a previous game featuring the Lisitsin Gambit…

Millionaire Chess, Las Vegas 2014
White: IM Burnett, Ronald
Black: FM Gulamali, Kazim

1.Nf3 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Ng5 Nf6 4.d3 e5 5.Nc3 e3 6.fxe3 d5 7.e4 c6 8.d4 Bd6 9.exd5 Qe7 10.Be3 cxd5 11.Bb5+ Bd7 12.O-O Bxb5 13.Nxb5 e4 14.Rxf6 Qxf6 15.Qh5+ g6 16.Qh3 h6 17.Nxd6+ Qxd6 18.Qc8+ Qd8 19.Qxd8+ Kxd8 20.Nf7+ Ke7 21.Nxh8 g5 22.Ng6+ Ke6 23.Ne5 Na6 24.c3 Nc7 25.Rf1 Nb5 26.Nf7 a5 27.Nxh6 a4 28.a3 Nd6 29.Bxg5 Nc4 30.Rf6+ Kd7 31.Nf5 Ra5 32.Bc1 Rb5 33.h4 Nxb2 34.Bxb2 Rxb2 35.h5 Rb1+ 36.Kh2 Rf1 37.g4 Rf4 38.h6 e3 39.h7 e2 40.h8=Q 1-0

5 Nc3 is a rather rare move, but 5…e3 is a TN. I found this old game, played before most players were born. Come to think about it, the game was played before many of the parents of today’s players were born…

Pavlovic, Dejan S (2340) vs Maksimovic, Branimir (2265)
Nis 1979
1. Nf3 f5 2. e4 fxe4 3. Ng5 Nf6 4. d3 e5 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. dxe4 h6 7. Nf3 Bc5 8. Bc4 d6 9. h3 Na5 10. Be2 Be6 11. a3 Nc6 12. Qd3 a6 13. Be3 O-O 14. g4 Bxe3 15. Qxe3 Nh7 16. O-O-O Qf6 17. Rh2 Ne7 18. Nd2 Qf4 19. Qxf4 Rxf4 20. f3 Nf8 21. Nf1 Rf7 22. Ne3 Nfg6 23. Nf5 Nf4 24. h4 Kh7 25. h5 b5 26. Rg1 Ng8 27. Nh4 Rb8 28. b4 c5 29. Bf1 Rc7 30. Ne2 Nxe2+ 31. Rxe2 cxb4 32. axb4 Ne7 33. Rd2 Rbc8 34. Rgg2 d5 35. Bd3 d4 36. g5 hxg5 37. Rxg5 Nc6 38. Kb2 Bc4 39. Ka3 a5 40. bxa5 Ra8 41. Rdg2 Rxa5+ 42. Kb2 Bxd3 43. Nf5 Raa7 44. h6 g6 45. Rxg6 Bc4 46. Rf6 Nb4 47. Rg7+ Rxg7 48. hxg7 Rxg7 49. Rh6+ Kg8 50. Nxg7 Kxg7 51. Rh2 Kf6 52. Rg2 Na2 53. Kb1 Nc3+ 54. Kc1 Ne2+ 55. Kd2 Nf4 56. Rg3 Ke6 57. Rg1 Be2 58. Rg3 Kd6 59. Kc1 Kc5 60. Kd2 b4 61. Rg5 Kd6 62. Rg3 Ke6 63. Kc1 Kf6 64. Kd2 Bc4 65. Rg1 b3 66. cxb3 Bxb3 67. Rg3 Bf7 68. Ke1 Ne6 69. Rg1 Ng5 70. Ke2 Bh5 71. Ra1 Bxf3+ 0-1

It came down to a “game” in which one player had more time with the other having draw odds in something called an “Apocalypse” game, or some such. I urge you to click on the link and go to the USCF website and read Jennifer’s article for much more detail.
I have it on good authority that as Kazim was heading to his plane, leaving “Lost Wages,” he could be heard singing this song in his best imitation Elvis Presley voice…