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An Arbiter's Notebook

Geurt Gijssen

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The Classical Era of Modern Chess

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We are still ironing out some wrinkles in the website redesign. In the meantime enjoy this month's An Arbiter's Notebook. Please support this column with a purchase from our chess shop.

What is a Push Counter, and What is a Standard Game?

Question Dear Geurt, In light of new regulations taking effect from 1 July 2014, I have a question regarding the flag fall in a Rapid or Blitz game. In article A.4.c it is written:

To claim a win on time, the claimant must stop the chess clock and notify the arbiter. For the claim to be successful, the claimant must have time remaining on his own clock after the chess clock has been stopped. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player's king by any possible series of legal moves.

According to this rule, it is obvious that a player having a right to claim a win on time is obliged to stop the chess clock and summon the arbiter, and he must have time remaining on his own clock after stopping it. Yet what happens when the arbiter is present? My thought is that the arbiter shall immediately declare the game won for the player, provided the player has not made his own move yet. According to previous regulations, the arbiter had to refrain from signalling a flag fall unless both flags have fallen. However, this wording has been removed from the new rules and will be invalid as of 1 July 2014. I ask this question as an arbiter, because I want to be sure that I have the right to immediately act in such cases irrespective of potential claims from the players themselves.

I find your column very useful for arbiters and players. I would be grateful for any comment. Thanks, Wojciech Krzyzanowski (Poland)

Answer Your question is absolutely to the point. In the new regulations for Rapid and Blitz play the arbiter has to act exactly as in "normal" games. By the way, from now on "normal" games are called "standard" games. And, as you know, a flag is considered fallen when the player makes a valid claim or the arbiter notices the flag fall.

I can understand those who have the opinion that, especially in Blitz, the arbiter cannot see everything: events happen very fast and there are often many players. They are completely right. But in many Swiss tournaments we have the same situation. My own experience is that an arbiter misses illegal moves, flag falls, etc. Nevertheless, we accept this situation. Why not have the same rules in Rapid and in Blitz tournaments as for Standard tournaments?

Question Dear Geurt Gijssen, I hope you are doing fine. I want to know about a rule regarding Blitz. Black moved his pawn to the eighth rank, but pressed the clock before placing the promoted piece (a queen). He placed the queen after pressing his clock and the opponent claimed a win for an illegal move. After the promotion to a queen, White's only move is to take the queen and Black can mate White next move. Is placing the promoted piece after the player presses his clock legal or not? With Regards, I.A. Haroon (Bangladesh)

Answer Before I answer your question, I would like to mention that the new rules for Blitz and Rapid games add something new.

If a Rapid game is played with one arbiter for no more than three games or a Blitz game with one arbiter for one game, and the games are recorded, the standard rules will be applied.

If an arbiter has to supervise more than three Rapid games or more than one Blitz game, the following applies according to Article A.4d:

If the arbiter observes both kings are in check, or a pawn on the rank furthest from its starting position, he shall wait until the next move is completed. Then, if the illegal position is still on the board, he shall declare the game drawn.

Let us now investigate what should be done in this case. I assume that it was a Blitz game and one arbiter supervised more than one game. The opponent pressed the clock without exchanging the pawn for a new piece. This is considered to be an illegal move, and White claimed a win before making a move. An illegal move played in a game as described means the loss of the game for Black.

Question In a recent Rapid tournament (time control 10'+5''), in a game between two juniors, the following happened:

Black was low on time. Twice he played a move leaving one second on his clock. He also took a lot of time on his later moves, and I was almost certain he would not manage to complete his move in time (maybe he was certain as well). But then he played the move with his right hand, and pressed his clock with his left hand. His clock again showed one second remaining.

I was inclined to stop the game and declare it won on time for White, but Black's clock showed one second. Would this have been justified? I also thought maybe I should warn him not to do this again? In the end I did nothing, and Black went on to win. I decided that if White had made a complaint, I would have given him the victory.

Black clearly knew the rules; this was the only move in the whole game that he pressed his clock with the other hand. This incident troubled me for quite some time, as it was an important game. I asked White later that day if he noticed what happened, and he told me he had not. Regards, Christos Gitsis (Greece)

Answer I think you were right not to interrupt the game and for sure not to declare the game lost for Black. If he had played with two hands quite often, then there was a perfect reason to intervene and to give a warning or to add some time to the opponent's time.

Question Dear Mr Gijssen, I have a question. If Player A made his move and did not press the clock and Player B made his move too, can Player A call the arbiter to tell him that Player B made his move before Player A had pressed the clock? Will you give Player B a punishment? My question refers to a normal game (not Blitz or Rapid). Hilmi Mustafa Demir (Turkey)

Answer I refer to a part of Article 6.2a of the Laws of Chess:

A player must be allowed to stop his clock after making his move, even after the opponent has made his next move.

As a player, if it happens once during a game, I shall not call the arbiter. But if it happens often, I will stop the chess clock and ask the arbiter to instruct my opponent to make his move after I have completed my move; meaning after I have made my move and pressed the clock.

If Player B were to continue his actions I would punish him and add some minutes to Player A's remaining time.

Question Dear Mr. Gijssen, We have a lot of Open Swiss tournaments in Austria, all of which are FIDE-rated and offer chances for IM or GM norms. Could you please state your opinion on this question?

Do you agree with Mr. Reuben, is it possible to penalize only mobile phones which are switched on in spite of the actual wording of 11.3? Besides the problem that we are not going to collect hundreds of mobile phones each round there are other issues as well.

  • Liability for the mobile phones; in Austria it is customary that an organizer of an event is not liable for objects in the cloakroom.
  • I use a mobile phone provided by my company; therefore, I am bound by contract: I am not allowed to deposit it (insurance issues).

 Gregor Neff (Austria)

Answer I assume that you agree with me that tournaments in which IM and GM norms can be achieved should not be subject of any doubt. I am sure that there are possibilities to safely store mobiles. I am afraid that we will create big problems when we allow players to bring their mobiles in the playing area of important tournaments such as you mention.

I wonder how it is done in other sports. For instance, swimming and other types of athletics. I am sure that in many other sports participants cannot take their mobiles with them. I can agree with you that a kind of flexibility, for instance, in club competitions is possible, but not in cases where norms can be achieved.

At the FIDE Congress in Tromsö, the tendency was to be more flexible. I will keep you informed.

Question At our chess club this evening, my ten-year-old son (White) was playing a senior member of the club (Black). The time control was fifteen minutes each for all moves. When Black's flag fell, Black had king, rook, bishop and three pawns; whereas White only had king and knight. Black claimed a draw, as White had insufficient material to checkmate. White claimed a win, since checkmate is still possible. Our reading of some rules online provoked much discussion, but no definitive answer! Clearly, if Black only had a king it would be a draw since checkmate is impossible. Also, it seems Black could have claimed a draw when he had less than two minutes left, but perhaps not after his flag fell. I should be very grateful for your view. With thanks & regards, John Gemmel (UK)

Answer You were completely right. Your son had a knight and it is possible to create a series of moves to checkmate the opponent's king; for instance, with knight vs. bishop, or rook vs. knight, or knight vs. bishop:

An Arbiter's Notebook
[FEN "6nk/8/6K1/4N3/8/8/8/8"]

White plays Nf7#

An Arbiter's Notebook
[FEN "6rk/8/7K/4N3/8/8/8/8"]

White plays Nf7#

An Arbiter's Notebook
[FEN "6bk/8/7K/8/5N2/8/8/8"]

White plays Ng6#

Black had the option to claim a draw before the flag fall, based on the fact that White did not make any effort to win the game, but not after the flag fall.

Question Hello Geurt, A question came up during the recent IA refresher weekend in Chicago; the answer to which we could not absolutely confirm. Albert Vasse says that FIDE requires clocks to indicate flag fall with or without counting moves. If an arbiter sees both flags down, but can see which one fell first (flashing light, picture of flag or other digital indications) is he or she required to use that information to declare the game lost for that player? Can he declare the loss even if the players have not noticed and the required number of moves has not been made? Thank you and very best wishes, I.A. Carol Jarecki (British Virgin Islands)

Answer The DGT clock, which is produced by the company of Albert Vasse, has been approved by FIDE and fulfils the requirements of FIDE. Therefore, Article 6.10 is applicable:

Every indication given by the chess clock is considered to be conclusive in the absence of any evident defect.

Nevertheless, if a flag falls, the arbiter has always to check whether the required number of moves has been played.

Question Dear Geurt, About two weeks ago, there was a team match in the Bavarian "Landesliga Süd" in which the following sequence of events happened:

On one of the boards there was an intense time-scramble, which eventually left both players with only seconds on the clock. The following position arose after 123.h8=Q f1=Q 124.Qh5+ Kg3:

An Arbiter's Notebook
[FEN "8/8/6K1/7Q/8/6k1/8/5q2"]

Black, with only one second left on the clock, claimed a draw, which the attending arbiter agreed "because of a draw offer according to 10.2 of the FIDE Laws of Chess".

The tournament time controls were two hours each until move forty and one hour for the rest of the game, with no increments. It is important to note that Black did not stop the clocks to support the claim and also pressed his clock so he was not on move when claiming the draw. In fact, it was White's move when the attending arbiter (he was following the game for quite some time) stepped in and declared the game drawn according to 10.2 FIDE, without stopping the clock either.

White's team challenged this decision with an official protest (the attending arbiter's legal authority was in question because he may or may not have been announced correctly during the match), which was later accepted (the game has been declared lost for the black player) in the first instance by the Bavarian main arbiter with the following reasoning:

The draw claim of Black was not valid because he was not on move. The arbiter should have continued the game until a correct claim could have happened. Because there was just one second remaining on the black player's clock, it was assumed that the black player would lose on time on the next move before being able to do anything.

My questions are as follows:

Question One What would have been the correct procedure for the attending arbiter: After the incorrect claim of Black, should he have stepped in or should he just have let the game continue as if nothing had happened?

Question Two Would you agree that the final position belongs to the category where a win cannot be achieved "by normal means"?

Question Three Regarding to appendix D of the FIDE rules, D.1 says that "a player may claim a draw when he has less than two minutes left on his clock and before his flag falls. This concludes the game." Does this mean that the claiming player does not necessarily have to have the move and a draw claim at any time immediately concludes the game?

Question Four If you would have to handle the protest, what would be your adjudication (e.g., resuming the game, declaring the game a draw, a win for the white player or even a loss for both players, etc.)?

This is quite a complicated case (the arbiters' opinions differ widely) and I would really appreciate your opinion. With kind regards, Stefan Herb (Germany)

Answer One I refer to the "old" Laws of Chess (valid until 1 July 2014), because it happened during that period:

If the player, having the move, has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may claim a draw before his flag falls. He shall summon the arbiter and may stop the clocks. (See Article 6.12.b)

As you may see, the player may stop the chess clock; therefore, he is not obliged to stop it. Another question is of course: may he press his clock in this situation? I have the opinion that it is forbidden to press the clock and to start the opponent's. I consider the action of Black as disturbing the opponent and in my opinion the arbiter had to act accordingly.

Answer Two: It is quite likely that the result of the game will be a draw, but as an arbiter I would want to see some more moves. Yet you mentioned that the arbiter followed the game and based on his observations it was possible that he had declared the game drawn if a correct claim had been made (and the claim was incorrect in my opinion).

Answer Three Yes, this is correct. I assume you did not understand the situation in which the claim was made. The heading of Appendix D (old rules) is:

D. Quickplay finishes where no arbiter is present in the venue

This chapter applies to tournaments in which there is no arbiter at all. I know, for instance, that the London Chess League is played without arbiters. Nevertheless, in this situation it is possible to claim a draw based on the well-known conditions. As you may in the wording of this chapter, an arbiter, who is not in the playing hall, but nominated especially for such types of claims will receive all details of this game (complete scoresheet and the reason why the claim was made) and will decide the result of the game. If he rejects the claim, the claimant will lose the game.

Answer Four I would have taken the same decision as the Bavarian arbiter, because, in my opinion, his reasons were correct.

Question Hi, In Rapid or Blitz how do you claim a draw by triple repetition of position. What is the procedure? When do you stop the clock? Considering time is critical and moves are not written down. Regards, Milan Ninchich (Australia)

Answer In principle it is possible to claim a draw; for instance, if the arbiter had observed the game or the game was recorded in some way, for example, by video or if the game was played on an electronic board, which also has saved the moves.

Question Dear Mr. Gijssen, I have a question about the new rules (Rapid and Blitz).

The arbiter comes to a board and notices a non-promoted pawn on the eighth rank. He actually did not see an illegal move, but it is obvious who produced it. What will the arbiter do?

1. He will wait for the next move and if after the completion of the next move, the position is still illegal, he will declare draw.
2. He immediately stops a game and declares the game lost for the player who made an illegal move earlier (not seen by arbiter).

Thank you for your answer, I.A. Boris Zlender (Slovenia)

Answer Let me first quote Article A.4d of the Rapid Rules:

If the arbiter observes both kings are in check, or a pawn on the rank furthest from its starting position, he shall wait until the next move is completed. Then, if the illegal position is still on the board, he shall declare the game drawn.

When the arbiter notices the position, he shall wait for the next move, because it is not completely sure who has the move. Whose clock is running is not relevant.

The arbiter waits for the continuation of the game. I suppose there is a white pawn on e8. If White exchanges the pawn, the game continues. If White completes any other move or Black completes a move, then the illegal position remains. In this case the arbiter decides that the game is drawn. The reason is that it is very unclear how long the illegal position has already been on the board and how long both players continued the game with an illegal position on the board.

To avoid a misunderstanding: if the arbiter observes that a player played his pawn to e8 and then pressed the clock, then the move is considered to be illegal with the consequences related to an illegal move: he declares the game lost for the offending player.

Question Dear Mr. Gijssen, In the Dutch cup competition the rate of play is 110 minutes with an increment of five seconds per move. The home team has to provide the arbiter for the match.

In a second round game, I was arbiter of the match of our team. At the end of the match, both on board one and two the players were in their last minutes and were not recording their moves. Our second board player was defending an endgame of pawn against two knights, while our first board player (playing with white) had knight against rook. As I expected this game to end quickly, I was following the game on board two. When it became obvious that the away team would win the match, their player on board two offered a draw which ended the game.

However, the game on board one continued. Although Black missed a win in the endgame early on, White managed to regroup in the middle of the board and it was clear that the position was completely drawn. Black made an illegal move and I adjusted White's clock, at which time I noticed that the move counter indicated move 109. After this, White offered a draw which was refused and then White got irritated and asked Black how long he would continue. After a number of moves more, White stopped the clock and claimed a draw based on Article 9.3 (no pawn moves or captures in the last fifty moves). I rejected this claim as he could not prove the validity of the claim as no moves were recorded. After he asked how this game could end, I told him that he had to record the moves again for a valid claim. As White had received two extra minutes because of Black's illegal move, the five-second increment was sufficient to record the moves. The game ended before a new claim was made as Black gave away his rook.

Now I have the following questions:

Question One How can a player claim a draw in such situations? Because of the increment, Article 10.2 does not apply. However, usually a five-second increment is not enough to record the required fifty moves until sufficient spare time has been saved. Is it necessary that he records the moves himself or can he ask a spectator or the arbiter to record the moves? Are there other types of evidence that can be used to prove the validity of such a claim; e.g. the move counter of the clock, or by deducting the number of moves from the remaining clock times?

Question Two How should the arbiter react in such a case? I was reluctant to record or count the moves myself or ask a spectator. First, because I was observing the other game as well; and second, because all actions from my side would clearly only help my own player, which could raise questions to the neutrality of the arbiter. Does the arbiter have to record or count the moves himself to be prepared for a draw claim?

Question Three How does the new Article 9.6b that comes into effect in July change the answers? Should the arbiter count the moves, can he use the move counter of the clock, or can he just decide that 'after a very long time' at least seventy-five moves have been made without captures or pawn moves. Thank you very much for answering these questions. Wouter Noordkamp (Netherlands)

Answer One Let me start with a general remark; in your question you refer to the move-counter. This terminology is incorrect. In fact, this counter shows the number of pushes or presses. Therefore, it is better to call it a "push-counter".

I agree with you that it is very difficult to record the moves when the game is played at a very high speed. Nevertheless, it is not written that the player who claims a draw has to show a complete scoresheet. Therefore, it is quite dubious that you rejected his claim. As you probably know, the Laws of Chess mention what to do if both players are not able to record the moves. See Article 8.5a:

If neither player keeps score under Article 8.4, the arbiter or an assistant should try to be present and keep score.

I understood from your letter that you had to observe only one game. Therefore, you had to try to keep score. I also understand that it was probably too difficult to do so. But, especially in such endings, counting moves is a possibility. And putting dots on a paper is not so difficult. In such a situation you may not inform the players how many moves they completed, but in case of a claim you know how many moves are played without the movement of a pawn and capturing any piece.

Answer Two I answered a big part of this question in Answer One. If you were worried that there could be some doubts or perception of doubt regarding your neutrality, then it may be best to not act as an arbiter.

Answer Three I mentioned in Answer One that the move counter can be dangerous. It is possible that the players did not press the clock after each move. It is also possible that they pressed the clock without playing a move. I give you an example: A player made a move, and pressed the clock, but the played piece falls to the ground. The opponent reacts by restarting the player's clock. The player puts this piece back on the chessboard and presses the clock again. In this situation there is a push without a played move. I have the opinion that in an endgame of two knights vs. pawn, the arbiter has to be present and has to count the moves. Then he knows after a claim whether or not fifty moves have been played without pawn moves or captures.

The new seventy-five-move rule does not change the situation, though there is one exception: If seventy-five white and black moves have been completed, the arbiter has to announce that the game is drawn.


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