Thursday, 22 December 2016

Not an appealing tournament

It seems that the Victorian Lightning Championship started as one of the strongest state blitz championships in Australia, but ended as one of the most controversial. On paper an event with 3 GM's, 5 IM's, 1 WIM, 5 FM's and 1 WFM in a 54 player field should be considered a success for the organisers, but the heavy hand of the arbiting team saw it run off the rails.
The main issue was a the announcement of a new rule that prevented players from starting their move (by touching a piece) before their opponent had pressed the clock. The punishment for this was loss of game. As a result a number of games were decided in this manner, including games between the top seeds.
It is not clear why the arbiters thought such a rule was either valid or necessary. There is no such rule in the FIDE Laws of Chess that prevents a player from moving immediately after their opponent has made a move. Of course some players find this tactic annoying (including myself), but it is not illegal. Indeed the rules (6.2.A in the FIDE Laws of Chess) explicitly describe the case where an opponent has moved while his opponent has not pressed their clock, and simply state that the first player can complete their move by pressing the clock. (NB I was on the FIDE Rules Commission when this rule was discussed and it was decided that there will be no rule change to prevent players from moving before the opponent has pressed their clock)
To introduce such a rule is also asking for trouble. In my experience the best run events require as little involvement from arbiters as possible. For example the 2 day 10 round 475 player LCC Super Rapidplay had only one issue that I saw (an incorrect draw offer involving raised voices), in part because the arbiters only involved themselves at the request of the players. There was a brief explanation about the application of A.4 (Rapidplay Rules), but otherwise the arbiters left the players to manage their own affairs.
The other reported issue from this event was involving appeals. IM James Morris lodged a formal complaint after losing a game in this manner, but the appeals committee included the arbiter who had made the initial ruling. This is not how appeals committees are supposed to operate, and I am surprised that the VCA (the organising body) would allow this to stand.
As a consequence the whole event is now under a cloud. There is talk of not submitting it for rating (either with FIDE or with the Australian Chess Federation) while the predictable debate about the quality of arbiters (and the suitability of their titles) has begun. This issue might run for a while, as I'm sure the organisers might feel aggrieved if such an action was taken, although how they balance this with the actual conduct of the event remains to be seen.

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