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A Blog About Controversial Chess Rules

A Blog About Controversial Chess Rules

Hikaru Junction

A Blog About Controversial Chess Rules

A brief explanation is due for the following post. Due to some recent incidents in the London Chess Classic in which the rules (though clear, and with no execution problems) were criticized by some players, I thought I’d write a blog about what happened. I, thereafter, remembered that I had given a short presentation about related topics last spring, and since I didn’t have the video, I’d attach the outline I made. I’ll see you at the bottom of the outline with some, perhaps more relevant, recent news.

An explanation of FIDE
There are two levels in the organization of chess. The national chess organization for the US, the USCF, and a broader, worldwide organization, called FIDE. The USCF has many problems, but FIDE sadly, has more.
Why they are corrupt
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Kirsan is the president of FIDE and largely controls the direction the organization takes.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov believes in aliens. He said, in an interview, that “... I was taken from my apartment in Moscow and taken to this spaceship, and we went to some star. After that I asked “Please bring me back” because the next day I should be back in Kalmykia, to Elista, and go to the Ukraine. They said, “No problem Kirsan you have time.””2 He also believes chess was created by aliens. Crazy much?

Ties to Russia

He, and FIDE, also have several ties to Russia, which is why high-class tournaments are often held in the desolate Siberian landscape. He is the current president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, is a millionaire from profits from the “ joint Russian-Japanese company Liko-Raduga (or Eko-Raduga as it is sometimes known). According to some media outlets, by 1990 Ilyumzhinov had made his first million rubles. By April 1993 he was the head or founder of over 50 companies and banks in CIS countries and abroad.”1 He was also a loyal member of the Communist Party, being “Deputy Chief Party Ideologist” at his university before his expulsion and subsequent reinstatement as a student.

Stupid rules
Dress code
What players can wear is being regulated. FIDE has very strict rules, including one that disallows ‘sport caps’ for male players.
The doping test
There is no drug proven to help chess-playing ability. However, players are still required to pee in a cup regularly at top-level tournaments on pain of forfeiture. There was no precedent for this until very recently, and players can be forfeited for drinking too many cups of coffee or taking allergy medication.
Crusade against draws
In many tournaments, if players agree to a draw in under forty moves, then they are forfeited. (Alternatively, draw offers can be banned.) This is pointless! A hard-fought game often results in a quick draw, and if the players want a draw, then it will occur:

Writing down moves
FIDE introduced a rule in 2005 that you may not write down anything besides the moves of the game already made on your scoresheet. The penalty: two warnings, then a forfeiture.
‘Zero tolerance’
The ‘zero tolerance’ rule is quite simple. At the start of the round, the director rings a large bell, which lets everyone begin. If you are not in your seat when the round begins, you are forfeited. There are no exceptions.
Why WDM and ZT are terrible
Examples of forfeits
Wesley So, a player in the world’s top ten, was recently forfeited in the United States Chess Championship for writing down little motivational notes: “Use your time” and the like, on another paper, which he believed to be legal. He had drawn two warnings earlier in the tournament; He had written such notes at the top of his scoresheet, but believed it was the choice of paper that was the problem.
International Master Pavel Dvalishvili was forfeited for writing moves down on his scoresheet several times during the game; this probably cost him two thousand euros. He had been completely winning on the chessboard.
ZT: The 2009 Chinese Chess Championship was decided by a forfeited game. Earlier in the tournament, a player was forfeited even though they were in the playing hall and walking towards their seat.
GM Shakiyar Mamedyarov was forfeited for being ‘ten seconds late’ in the 2012 European Championship.

Player backlash
Garry Kasparov: “I have often criticized the FIDE “zero tolerance” rule that forfeits a player for even a moment’s delay in reaching the board.”5
Anatoly Karpov: “An example of an arbitrary and damaging rule is the so-called “zero-tolerance”rule FIDE implemented last year that forfeits a player if he is not seated at the board when the clock is started.”4
Steven Immit, tournament director: “a lot of FIDE rules are stupid!”3
“According to [Sunil] Weeramantry [director of the NSCF] , at the August delegates meeting, “the entire NY delegation was against [the rule change],” and, he continued, “I’m not going to enforce it in any of my tournaments.”3
General sentiment
Players generally dislike both of these rules. The main reason is because the penalties are too large and the rules, although generally well-intended, make little sense.
Why this violates the spirit of the game
These penalties don’t make sense for several reasons. For the ‘zero tolerance’ rule, there already is a penalty, and in ‘MDYM’ it is a minimal offense, so a large penalty is not necessary. Also, the rules don’t really make sense. Why are these a problem?
Built-in penalty
For the zero tolerance rule, there already is a penalty: the ticking clock! it makes no sense to impose another one, especially one that is so strict!
No precedent
Alexander Kotov, in his book Think Like a Grandmaster, advises students to write down their moves first, and it is recommended by many coaches to beginners and young players to do so.
‘Zero tolerance’ also has a traditional aspect: until about 2005-2006, when both these rules were put into place, the traditional time period for a forfeit was 1 hour.
Countries have other rules
USCF mandates that the time control for forfeiture is still 1 hour.
USCF follows the FIDE rule for WDM, but loosely enforces it.
Media view of chess
Chess is already a joke in the media–and shenanigans like this only make it worse. The media prey on the irregularities in chess and make it funny and ill-regarded. These rules only increase that stigma.
Kids won’t play
Because of the preponderance of kids that write down their moves before they play them as a way to check their moves, this rule is very unpopular amongst kids and especially those who are just learning. It may even discourage people from beginning the game. If you are invested in it, you won’t stop, but if you aren’t…
‘Zero tolerance,’ which helps increase the perception of chess as stupid, does nothing to help as well.
What should be done instead
Zero tolerance
Wait one hour, then forfeit the player. Two forfeits in the same tournament and they are disqualified.
A warning, then a time penalty of five-to-forty minutes, then perhaps a forfeiture.

Back? Thanks. So, in the London Chess Classic, Carlsen won, also, in the process, winning the Grand Chess Tour. (People are calling this a bad year for him, but I don’t know how many events he’s won nevertheless.) The Grand Chess Tour consists of three events: Norway Chess, the Sinquefield Cup, and the London Chess Classic.

There were minor issues with both Norway Chess and the Sinquefield Cup in the eyes of some fans. Magnus Carlsen lost a game (entirely his own fault, in my opinion) after arriving too late to be briefed on the admittedly unusual time controls of Norway Chess, and the way points were shared in the Sinquefield Cup was seen as controversial by some. However, the incident which invoked the ire of some strong players such as Hikaru Nakamura occurred in the London Chess Classic.

Three players were tied on points at the end of nine rounds: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Anish Giri. As Carlsen had the best tiebreaks, the rules specified, he would get to rest while Giri and MVL battled, then the winner would have to play him in a playoff round, as the three were tied. MVL beat Giri, but then had little energy and lost to Carlsen. The twist came when it was found that the rules stipulated the playoffs would only affect first place, leaving Giri still in second, as he had more tiebreaker points than MVL. Because of this finish (instead of second,) MVL misses out on a place for the next Grand Chess Tour.

The rules were clear. However, there were two points which were rued: Carlsen getting to proceed to the finals of the knockout instead of a round-robin, and the playoffs not affecting any place but first. More easily interpretable rules are called for, and less contentious rules, which are standard and fair.

If you disagree, please write a comment here: Thread 166751. I’d like to know and, perhaps, convince you.
Next week, more chess–some blunders and RHP games.


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