Monday 15 December 2008

Following the rules

While there has been debate about the instant forfeit rule (ie turn up after the scheduled start and you lose the game) in chess, what isn't so well known is the story behind it.
According to a number of FIDE people I spoke to in Dresden, it goes back to the 1998 Anand v Karpov World Championship match in Lausanne, Switzerland. As part of the push to get chess recognised as an Olympic sport, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov invited a number of IOC Officials to one of the games, making a big deal about how chess should belong to the Olympic family of sports. At the scheduled starting time for the game, Anand was ready to start, but Anatoly Karpov was nowhere to be seen. After 10 embarrassing minutes (for Kirsan at least), Karpov strolled in, ready to start the game.
Apparently Kirsan has stewed on this for a number of years, but rather than punish Karpov for his perceived slight, he has decided to punish the rest of us instead.
The disturbing thing about this push (apart from Ilyumzhinov's 'rule by decree' attitude which sadly is supported by many in FIDE), is that FIDE are confusing their role as the body that sets the rules of chess, with their role as tournament/event organiser. Clearly they have it in their power to specify the conditions under which their events (World Championships, Olympiads etc) are to be run, and this includes forfeit times and scoring systems. But to use the Laws of Chess as the mechanism to apply these conditions is simply the wrong way to go about it.
The vast majority of chess played in the world isn't organised by FIDE, the significance of which I'm not sure that FIDE (or the Rules and Tournament Regulation Committee) understand. For club chess or schools chess, the organisers can probably get away with ignoring the more bizarre pronouncements from Kirsan, but once you are holding FIDE rated or title events, then disobedience can become trickier. As an organisers there are 2 possibilities if you try and set your own tournament conditions. Either FIDE will refuse to rate the tournament or some bush lawyer in the event will claim that FIDE rules override any local conditions and they will claim the win because their opponent was 10 seconds late in sitting down at the board. And either outcome isn't good for event organisers, or in a sense FIDE.
Why wouldn't it be good for FIDE? Because the more bizarre the rules, the more comfortable people will become at ignoring them, with the resultant lack of uniformity from country to country. But it is worth noting that the USCF have been operating under their own "not-quite-FIDE" rules for the last 50 years, and no one has seemed to take issue with this.


Anonymous said...

An exceptionally well written post of yours that leaves the solution as a dilemma in the hands of a budding organiser. I think locally we will start publishing local conditions of FIDE rules that don't apply; and include these in the flyer.
Two come to mind' the start on time rule and the mobile phone rule. Any others you think we should disobey.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the "must write the move on the scoresheet after you make it on the board rule".