Thursday, 1 November 2012

Averbakh 23: The Laws of Chess

Averbakh was recognised as an International Arbiter (the senior of the two arbiting titles, the other is FIDE Arbiter) in 1969. As someone who likes to look at the laws of chess from an evolutionary perspective (if one can see how a particular rule is arrived at, it can make it easier to understand and remember), I find accounts such as that given (page 119) of the game Yukhtman – Spassky, Soviet Championship 1959, in which the future World Champion claimed a draw by threefold repetition, useful. Apparently the draw claimant was not permitted to stop the clocks in the 1950s. It's probably worth recalling the laws applicable now:

9.2 The game is drawn upon a correct claim by the player having the move, when the same position, for at least the third time (not necessarily by a repetition of moves):
a. is about to appear, if he first writes his move on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move, or
b. has just appeared, and the player claiming the draw has the move.

9.5 If a player claims a draw as in Article 9.2 or 9.3 he may stop both clocks …

Incidentally, Yakov Yukhtman (1935 – 1985) was a well known eccentric, his ways did not always go down well inside the former USSR, particularly given he was Jewish. He was once banned from playing for three years by the Soviets. He later successfully applied to emigrate to Israel and subsequently moved from there to the United States. A formidable blitz player, he could get the better of most grandmasters. He won the Ukrainian Championship in 1953. There is an affectionate online tribute (in Spanish) to Yukhtman here. There is also a Sunday Telegraph chess column devoted to him. Averbakh relates some of Yukhtman's history on page 124. A man who tilted at windmills, a reader might say, recalling Cervantes and the true history, as he wrote, of Don Quixote. Alas, we can't all settle for tolerance of life's injustices, real or imaginary, especially when young. I have a lot of sympathy for an impractical refusal to compromise.

Switching topics to chess clocks, that necessary weapon in the war against the slowness of genius and the even more painful slowness of mediocrity have been used to speed up the game considerably in recent years. I am old enough to have played when tournament games were adjourned or adjudicated (in the UK they still apply in many evening league matches). The passing of the former I regret for when the game was interesting, the latter I have never cared for. British arbiters have supplied much of the impetus behind these changes. They have the advantage of being native speakers of the language of the laws of chess and have traditionally been well represented in the relevant FIDE committees.

Quickplay finish rules were introduced to make the running of a Swiss tournament over a weekend far more practical. Now, many arbiters are pushing for the elimination of quickplays through the introduction of Fischer time controls (had suitable clocks been available earlier, I rather doubt that quickplay finish rules would ever have been introduced). The QPF rules on the FIDE website are quite succinct:

10.1 A ‘quickplay finish’ is the phase of a game when all the (remaining) moves must be made in a limited time.

10.2 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)

a. If the arbiter agrees the opponent is making no effort to win the game by normal means, or that it is not possible to win by normal means, then he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim.

b. If the arbiter postpones his decision, the opponent may be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue, if possible in the presence of an arbiter. The arbiter shall declare the final result later in the game or as soon as possible after a flag has fallen. He shall declare the game drawn if he agrees that the final position cannot be won by normal means, or that the opponent was not making sufficient attempts to win by normal means.

c. If the arbiter has rejected the claim, the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes time.

d. The decision of the arbiter shall be final relating to (a), (b) and (c).

Contrast that with the 1995 BCF arbiters' version (click to enlarge):

Note the greater detail and the absence of a specification as to the amount of time to be added to the clock of the opponent of a claimant, should a penalty be imposed.

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

D.1 Where games are played as in Article 10, 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.
He may claim on the basis:

that his opponent cannot win by normal means, and/or
that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means.

In a) the player must write down the final position and his opponent verify it.
In b) the player must write down the final position and submit an up to date scoresheet. The opponent shall verify both the scoresheet and the final position.
The claim shall be referred to an arbiter whose decision shall be final.

With the BCF guidelines (from sometime in the 1990s, I can't remember the precise year):

One thing I have never liked is the inability to appeal against an arbiter's decision. It has a long history.

I should caution the reader that the FIDE laws on quickplay are intended to completely replace any older laws, including those produced by the then British (now English) Chess Federation.

The best guidance as to when to award a 10.2 claim I have ever seen can be found on pages 122-4 of The Chess Organiser's Handbook (ISBN 1-84382-170-2), a book written by the secretary of the FIDE rules' commission Stewart Reuben. Note that the most recent edition no longer contains the current laws of chess, although, in my opinion, it is still usable (for instance, one can manually insert replacement Scheveningen tables on page 213).

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