Monday, 26 January 2009

Do chessplayers behave this way?

I spent a couple of hours at the annual Canberra Games Convention yesterday. While there I spectated the Settlers of Catan and Carcassone competitions. O2C Doeberl Cup chief organiser Charles Bishop happened to be the director of play for both events, and I must say, probably had a tougher job than I normally do as a chess arbiter. One of the reasons for this is that these sort of tournaments are far less common than chess tournaments (maybe once or twice a year), so the players are less familiar with tournament rules and etiquette. While chessplayers may argue the toss on occasion, they usually have played in enough events to know when the rule is being applied fairly and correctly.
Charles on the other hand not only had to make rulings and decisions, but then had to explain them in great detail. How the pairings system worked, who qualified for the finals on tie-break and how the tie-break system worked, and most significantly, what happens when you don't turn up on time.
In the final case, one of the qualifiers for the 16 player semi-finals was nowhere to be seen at the 12 noon start time. For those unfamiliar with Settlers of Catan it is a 4 player game, so a late player holds everyone up, and throws the timetable out of whack. After waiting 15 minutes (and searching the rest of the venue for the missing player), lucky finisher number 17 took the place of the missing player and the last game commenced. 5 minutes later the missing player arrives. It is explained to him that they waited 15 minutes but could not wait any longer, and so he was replaced. The player made a muted protest, spent 5 minutes looking at the posted time table (which read 'Semi-final 12 noon') and then .... Walking over to the semi-final he was supposed to be playing in, swept all the pieces off the table and onto the floor. He then refused to leave the playing area despite being asked to, and consequently was escorted away by event security.
Ironically I ran into a chessplaying friend 30 minutes later who said "Look at all these well behaved wargamers. Chessplayers aren't as well behaved as this". "Well" I replied "guess what happened half an hour ago ...."


Malcolm said...

It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? Many of those things that you mention needing explaining in detail are things I've had to explain a number of times (even when it really didn't matter) to chess players.

As arbiter, I've also had to deal with forfeiting and/or removing various players for spilling beer on a chessboard (whilst drunk), offensive odors and generally unsociable behaviour. I've also had some pretty cool decisions appealed (always been upheld, as far as I remember, at least on the big ones) and been on appeals committees for some tricky cases. As a player, I've seen (possibly) worse (and been somewhat pissed at the arbiters for not being effective). I'm sure, if you think back, you've had similar experiences, Shaun. Fortunately (hopefully) the bad comes along with the good, so isn't the defining aspect of the experiences. It's just part of "the deal" (says the philosophical guy who stopped doing this because he got sick of all the crap stuff).

Gaming conventions are interesting, as you noticed. The rules are often way more complicated than chess, leading to a real separation of classes: those who are still feeling their way and need the game master's or umpires help a lot and those who know things backwards (in the latter case, things usually run a lot smoother than your average chess tournament).

Shaun Press said...

I am being flippant with the headline, as I suspect we have all seen or head of similar behavior by chess tournaments. In fact in Canberra there was a celebrated case of a player upending a table (that he was playing on) and storming out of the chess club.
In fairness to wargamers I should add that the player at yesterdays tournament had been a chess player in his youth (although he stopped playing as a junior, some 20 years ago).

Malcolm said...

Against the run of play for the web, I'll admit, but I read the article, not just the headline. :-)

Note to self: I need to use less parentheses in comments on Shaun's blog. Apologies to anybody going cross-eyed trying to parse my earlier comment. said...

I have been to a chess tournament where a 2100 rated player lost his second game of the day (the first was to yours truly, rated only 1500 at the time). He was so irate after the game he swiped all the pieces onto the floor and stormed out. His girlfriend said she had never seen him so angry.

Phil Bourke said...

It is strange that petulant displays such as this cause me less distress than inefficient arbiters/referees/stewards do. I can understand how a player can be peeved at their mistakes, been there, done that, but inept officiating, that really pees me off! And don't give me excuses about it either, if you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, find someone who can because having an inept official will do more harm than having no official at all. said...


Could you please give me an example of inept officiating?

The worst example of poor chess officiating that I have ever came across was Garvin Gray's. I had paid and pre-registered for a tournament, turned up about 5 to 10 minutes late for round 1, and not only had Garvin not paired me (I was second seed) - he didn't even give me a half point bye!

I complained to Ian Murray who at the time was on the CAQ and he gave Garvin Gray some on the job training - as his decision was just totally ridiculous.

Is this the type of thing you are referring to?


Phil Bourke said...

I don't feel the need to enter any examples, especially naming names, that doesn't sit with me as being fair and nice. Especially as you seem to have grasped the notion well it appears to me that you just used this opportunity to have a go at the person you named. And if inept gets my goat, you don't want to see what vindictive does for me. :) said...

I simply stated very truthfully exactly what happened. If that means I had a go at him, then it was a fair go.

If Garvin disagrees with any aspect of my account, he reads here regularly and can state his position.

At the time of this tournament Garvin's actions had a very distressing effect on me, as you could well imagine. I am therefore fully entitled to raise the subject.

His decision was overturned by the way, and Ian Murray - the much more experienced chess official - had to tell Garvin that he cannot simply disregard the rules of chess and swiss pairing at a whim whenever he feels like it.

Best Regards,