Monday, October 29, 2018

Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018 Highlights: Part 1

It seems I'm always late to the party, but better late than never. Today we start a series of articles analyzing some selected games from the Batumi Chess Olympiad, which was held just over a month ago.

One important event in this year's Olympiad was the return of Anand, who had not played in the Olympiad since 2006. He won a convincing game in Round 3 against Eric Hansen, leading the Indian team to a 3.5-0.5 victory over Canada.

Vishy Anand is back!

While Hansen's mistakes may look like mere inaccuracies, they were more than enough for the Tiger of Madras, who pounced quickly and dominated the board with his superb piece activity. Daniel King has provided thorough analysis of the game on his Youtube Channel, and I will include his analysis here.

I will stop here for now because schoolwork is preventing me from covering multiple games ): So we will split this series into multiple parts... stay tuned for more highlighted games of the Olympiad!


Saturday, October 20, 2018

4 annoying FIDE rules

Being swamped with work I have not had the time to analyze any new games (I know the recent Chess Olympiad is a treasure trove, but I'll leave that for a future article!). So today I will just share on something lighter.

When preparing to brief the arbiters for NUS IFG 2018 (Because I can't be an arbiter when I'm participating!), I forced myself to look through the painfully detailed FIDE rulebook. I realized how little we know about the FIDE rules: For example, how many people know that there exists such a thing called "Quickplay finishes"? And no, that's different from rapid.

"What in the world is that!?"

So below, I share a few of the more quirky and annoying rules of FIDE, most of which have been responsible for upsets, sudden losses, and emotional meltdowns of many players, beginner and veteran alike.

1. Touch move rule

Ah, the classic one. It's a rule that catches many beginners unaware. Even top level players fall victim to it sometimes: GM Gserper provides a few examples of such games. Why so much hype over touching pieces before moving them? The following forum post sums up the reasoning:

"Because if you start letting people touch pieces, move them and then change their minds, undoing moves, captures, promotions,  once, twice, three times, before they make up their minds and take their fingers off the piece(s) or even more officially hit the clock, you can easily end up with an impossible to resolve dispute over what the real position is/was. No touch. No dispute."

"What was the original position again?"

Problem solved, but another issue comes along. What's messy is that if a dispute arises, and the accused denies that he/she touched a piece, the opponent and arbiter have no evidence to prove otherwise! This is why arbiters - and the players on the adjacent boards - dread it when a touch-move dispute appears in a kids' tournament. After all, kids tend to be pretty unforgiving when they want to win.

But in case you were wondering whether only kids tournaments are prone to such problems... no, the recent Chess Olympiad 2018 saw a similar controversy. Fortunately, most top-level tournaments (should) have CCTVs to resolve such disputes when they occur, which is why we rarely see grandmasters having such arguments.

And thankfully there's no Fischer to complain about the cameras

That said... it still pays to be gracious, and admit a mistake when you make it. After all, if you are d___headed to deny a touch-move when you committed it, you may get away during the game. But what happens to your reputation after the game is not within the jurisdiction of the arbiters... (:

2. Adjusting of pieces

Did you know that you are not supposed to adjust the pieces when it is your opponent's turn? Refer to FIDE handbook Article 4.2.1: "Only the player having the move may adjust one or more pieces on their squares..."

(Also, Article 4 is a delightfully verbose set of instructions on how to deal with edge cases such as captures, castles... well, those FIDE bureaucrats sure have everything covered!)

Quite reasonable, considering that it can be annoying if you are deep in calculation, and your opponent's hands decide to go on a dance over the board adjusting every single footsoldier. But when time runs low, this can lead to some ugly stuff. For example, knocking over pieces when hurrying to move, and rearranging them after you press the clock, can constitute as a foul. OTB blitz tournaments are perfect breeding grounds for such mistakes (personal experience), so be warned...

Meanwhile, GM Gserper suggests saying "adjusting" to evade the touch-move rule, but provides a disclaimer that it is actually illegal (you can only say "adjusting" before touching any piece!), so we are not responsible for any loss of games or emotions if you try this out on the chessboard.

You didn't read the small print, did you?

3. Using two hands

Castling, promoting of pawns, pressing the clock - You can only use one hand to perform all these actions. For example, in Article 6.2.1:

"A player must press his clock with the same hand with which he made his move. It is forbidden for a player to keep his finger on the clock or to ‘hover’ over it."

Sometimes, even grandmasters are guilty of violating this rule, as seen in Anand vs Kramnik in a 2017 blitz game.

Well, no arbiter wishes to work out whether a player pressed a clock before making their move (which obviously is illegal), especially in a time-scramble situation. So what better way than to eliminate that by enforcing the use of only one hand with the pieces and clock? And why not standardize that by enforcing EVERY move to be made with only one hand? Problem solved.

Or perhaps, there are other conspiracies behind enforcing one-hand rules: FIDE is secretly training chess players to be martial-arts experts, by making us develop insanely quick hand reactions. No matter the reason, quick hands have proved to be an invaluable skill in blitz chess.

4. Illegal moves

This is one of those rules that are constantly evolving. For those who were active in rapid tournaments, you would recall the days of 2014-2017, when FIDE revised rapid-play rules such that one illegal move led to an immediate loss. This led to much grief over the board, such as the poor soul described in the beginning of this article.

Soon, it seemed that too many heads were rolling because of this rule, to the point that at the start of 2018, FIDE revised the illegal move rules for rapid and blitz to be similar to that of classical chess: The first illegal move would only lead to a time penalty while the second move would lead to a loss.

A relief to all rapid/blitz players? Yes, but as you can infer from the earlier three rules, implementing quirky stuff always opens up a whole new can of worms. Peter Doggers has written an article regarding some fascinating scenarios that could arise from the new rules, so I shall not elaborate on them.

Claim an illegal move, or play a7#?

What other funny FIDE rules have you encountered? Share in the comments below!

Image Sources: