Thursday 20 November 2008

Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee

Over the previous 2 days I spent 7 hours at the Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee (RTRC) meeting. It was the first time I have attended a FIDE committee meeting, and I don't think what I am about to post will be able to completely describe the experience.
The first thing to note about FIDE meetings is that are pretty democratic, in that anyone is allowed to attend. In this case the RTRC meeting attracted 65 people. However democracy only extends so far, at least in terms of the voting practice. When an issue comes up for vote, usually the committee members vote first, and if there is a big majority for or against, the issue is decided. If the vote is close, then the rest of the room gets to vote as well! Nonetheless there were also occasions were essentially the chairman (Geurt Gijssen) had the only vote, simply by passing over a contentious issue.
Secondly, I picked up a strange vibe from a number of people present. It seems that there are a number of experienced arbiters who believe the rules need to be able to deal with every situation, and in the absence of such rules, they cannot make a decision. This resulted, in my opinion, a number of rule changes that were overly prescriptive, and downright silly.
As for the proposed changes (noting that the committee only make proposals, which have to be approved by the General Assembly) the major ones were as follows.:
Sections 1-5 (Basic Rules of Play) were untouched except for some corrections to the wording.
In section 6 the phrase "even with the most unskilled counterplay" has been removed (making this rule definitive)
One big discussion (of which I was involved in) was section 6.7, dealing with forfeit time. At this Olympiad it has been set to 0 minutes, which even the meeting chair (Gijssen) accepted was against the current laws of chess. I had always had problems with the wording of the old rule (in that I believed it did not allow the organisers to reduce the forfeit time to below an hour) and after much back and forth I proposed a new wording, which I believed added clarity to the wording. In my proposal I suggested a default forfeit time of 30 minutes, but also allowed the arbiter discretion as to what would happen if that time was exceeded. The motion went forward, but 30 minutes was suddenly replaced by 0 minutes by the chair. (If this was a formal meeting I would have been entitled to object). The committee voted 8-7 in favour (a number of negatives were based on the time, not the wording), but the whole meeting voted 40-20 in favour. I then tried to move a motion changing the default time to 30 minutes but Gijssen simply said "Moving on to the next item".
The other big issue was whether organisers can forbid draw offers/agreements in under x moves. A motion to this effect was passed, although Campomanes (who was present throughout) tried to pull a swifty by changing the wording to make the default case one where no draw offers were allowed, unless allowed as part of the tournament conditions. This was spotted in time, an the motion that passed allows organisers to forbid draw agreements before move x, but in the absence of a regulation, then draws can be agreed at any stage.
What is also important about this motion is that the topic of contrived repetitions was not addressed. What this says to me is that arbiters cannot refuse a valid repetition claim at any stage of the game (whether that is move 5 or move 25). Of course this makes it easy to circumvent any 'no agreed draws' rule, but we'll see what happens in practice.
The meeting adjourned after 5 hours, and then we reconvened the next day.
Day 2 dealt with the appendices to the Laws.
The first big topic was an attempt by Campomanes to abolish the section on Adjourned Games. I could not see the sense in this, but the discussion went on for 45 minutes. At first Gijssen asked the whole meeting to vote and although I thought it was split 50-50, Gijssen stated that the motion had passed. Stewart Rueben then objected to the change in voting procedure from the previous day, and when the committee members voted it was 6-2 against removing the adjournment rules (So that's 2 in the eye for Campo).
Under the discussion of the Rapidplay rules the wording was changed to allow the arbiter to call flag is BOTH flags have fallen (to prevent games from dragging out), but gives them the freedom not to.
Under the discussion of the Blitz rules, the most absurd rules change I have possibly seen was passed. Previously under section C.4 players could not ask for a draw under 10.2 (insufficient winning chances). However, after describing a absurd hypothetical (in a 15 minute game, which is now considered blitz, it gets to rook v rook after 5 minutes, and one playercannot claim a draw), the meeting decided to reword C4 to allow claims under 10.2. What they stupidly missed is that 10.2 only applies when you have less than 2 minutes on your clock anyway, so you would need to play another 8 minutes minimum in the given example. I voted against. So from the 1st of July next year, players can now claim draws in blitz games, which is both a nightmare for the arbiter, and a radical departure from what blitz is really about (ie winning on time).
Discussions about Chess 960 were held over and the meeting broke about 2 hours later.
Overall it was an interesting experience, and it was revealing (not always in a good way). I also attended the Technical Commission (of which I am also a member), but I will get to that later.

1 comment:

Shaun Press said...

Some extra info on the default time issue. At the FIDE Executive meeting in Anatalya(?) last year, FIDE agreed to a forfeit time of 15 minutes. So when the rules go to the General Assembly for approval, I believe that 0 minutes will be replaced by 15 minutes.