Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tie-breaks. But which one?

By all reports the 2017 Australian Open was an excellently organised event, which was enjoyed by all who played. However it appears there was an issue at the end of the event that seems to have left a sour taste in the mouths of the organiser.
Although there are no playoffs for the Australian Open (often due to the quick departure of overseas players), and all players who finish first are considered joint winners, there is still a trophy that is awarded to the winner on tie-break. When publicising the tournament the organisers specified a tie-break and this was used to determine the winner of the trophy. Having then announced the winner and awarded the trophy the organisers were then told by the Australian Chess Federation that they used the wrong tie-break and the wrong player was given the trophy.
The organisers defended themselves that they had attempted to find the correct regulations (that had disappeared from the ACF website) but were unsuccessful in doing so. They also pointed out that there was an official ACF representative whose job was to check the tournament regulations, and he raised no objection to the proposed method.
Now while it may just seem to be an unfortunate breakdown in communication, this type of situation has occurred in events I have organised on behalf of the ACF at least twice before. An almost identical situation occurred in the 1995 Australian Juniors where attempts to get any information from the ACF about tie-break and playoff procedures were met with absolute silence. Consequently we did the same as the 2017 Aus Open organisers and used what we thought were valid and sensible tie-breaks, only to be told almost instantly the event finished that we had got it wrong.
Then in the 2007 Australian Open attempts to get information on how to implement regulations on player approvals were met with a confused response, although myself and Stephen Mugford were still subsequently sanctioned for not implementing these regulations correctly. (NB This is not just an ACF problem. FIDE are very good at insisting you follow every regulation they specify, while simply picking, choosing or even ignoring regulations they need to follow).
Unfortunately  what happened this year is the rule rather than the exception, and it does have further consequences. The ACT Chess Association has been asked by the ACF in recent years to organise national events on their behalf. And while we have a good track record of running good events in Canberra (O2C Doeberl Cup, the very successful 2015 Australian Junior etc) I (as ACTCA Vice-President) always strongly recommend against anything to do with the ACF, because of their record of failure in this area. So while good organisers are hard to find, the ACF really need to improve their own procedures, otherwise they will have no one left willing to organise anything in the future.


Kevin Bonham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Bonham said...

Above was a test comment as a previous long comment that I sent disappeared.

A few factual corrections:

1. The organisers were in fact emailed the regulations well before the tournament began. The Chief Organiser makes it clear that he read the regulations in question but failed to notice the mention of tiebreaks (he claims this was because of the unclear layout of the By-Law, and he is right that the layout is unclear.)

2. It was not the organisers who pointed out that it was a role of the ACF Representative to keep an eye on such things, it was me. The said representative then, in a much admired post, admitted that this was part of his responsibility.

3. If the organisers had specified the wrong tiebreak on the tournament website then it is highly likely the error would have been caught and fixed. However, I have seen no sign that they did publicise the incorrect tiebreak in advance, with the exception of the FIDE ratings registration page, which doesn't count.

4. A very pedantic correction but just for complete accuracy: the regulations had not in fact disappeared from the ACF website - they were still online. Rather, they had ceased to be linked from its front page.

To a large degree this is just one of those things that happens as a result of a series of minor omissions and blaming anyone is pointless. A key problem however is that the ACF By-Laws have not been updated on the website (why they were not even linked on the new site is beyond me) and a few days before this incident I had a motion passed to get this fixed within six months (for various reasons it is not a simple process.)

Shaun Press said...

While all what you say is undoubtedly true, the main issue I am highlighting is that this has happened before. And indeed the points you have made have also been made to me before (by others on the ACF). Clearly you have put a lot of effort in identifying the cause (as have others in the previous incidents I have described) but until the ACF either fixes it, or even accepts responsibility for repeated failures, it is still the organisers who are expected to fix the problems themselves. To me it is an issue of what the ACF thinks is important, and at this stage, assisting organisers to do their job correctly does not seem to be one of these things.

Kevin Bonham said...

Each of these incidents is different, and a lot more examples would be needed than 3 such in 22 years (one of them ultra-dubious) to show a culture of systematic failure. 1995 - of which I have no knowledge - was a different ACF administration, and if attempts to get information from the ACF were met with silence then it obviously wasn't an "almost identical" situation or indeed anywhere near. In the present case (2017) the information had been sent to the organisers - they just didn't digest it at the time. Then for various reasons they did not ask the ACF about the tiebreaks again, which was slightly strange given that they had a few days earlier asked the ACF for advice about the Women's Champs by-law. (Very good thing they did too - since the version online was out of date and the version they had been sent was not quite correct either.)

The 2007 Australian Open situation is totally different from both of these. It was actually a long-running standoff between the organisers and the ACF plainly based on at least one of the organisers' philosophical objections to the NSWCA's actions against Matthew Sweeney. At one stage the organisers were attempting to deny states the ability to blanket-approve entries from their state in advance, although such a blanket approval is obviously consistent with the by-law. Later, knowing that the NSWCA had conveyed in advance that they would not approve of a hypothetical entry by Sweeney, the organisers chose to accept an (in my view deliberately "last-minute") entry by him anyway. They then ignored an ACF motion that Sweeney be removed from the event.

There are some issues with the practicality of that particular by-law but it hasn't been changed since and further organisers have not encountered such "problems" with it. This is most likely because they were not determined to encounter problems with it.

Speaking unofficially, the ACF is at least partly responsible for what happened with the 2017 Open tiebreaks, but the primary issue there will be fixed because I have, over time, acquired the necessary skills on the ACF website to fix it if nobody else does. I don't accept that the ACF deserves any blame for the 2007 situation at all, and the only extent to which we failed was that an unauthorised player played in the tournament. Some people's philosophical views are such that it is not easy for a federation to work with such views while doing the right thing by its constituent state bodies.