The clock strikes one… or two! In yet another controversy brought on by the FIDE “no tolerance” rule, two players forfeited games at the Chinese Championships recently held in Jiangsu, China. The rule was famously deployed at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, an event replete with controversial rulings. There were several forfeits and in several cases, the ruling was applied inconsistently.
Amon Simutowe of Zambia (left) questioning the forfeit of Suriname’s Roger Matoewi (far right) who was seconds late. Simutowe wanted to play the game. The arbiter stood firm on the policy. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
The new ruling states that a player has to be seated at the board when the round begins or they IMMEDIATELY forfeit the game. This issue was debated during the FIDE Congress in Dresden and a poll was taken. Predictably, the players felt that a grace period was far while the arbiters and organizers felt the rule was just. The rule still reads that player gets an hour to make the appearance, but FIDE has employed the rule across the board. The rule states,
E.I.01A. Laws of Chess
6.5 At the time determined for the start of the game the clock of the player who has the white pieces is started.
6.6 If neither player is present initially, the player who has the white pieces shall lose all the time that elapses until he arrives; unless the rules of the competition specify or the arbiter decides otherwise.
6.7 Any player who arrives at the chessboard more than one hour after the scheduled start of the session shall lose the game unless the rules of the competition specify or the arbiter decides otherwise.
The proposed rule change is:
6.7 Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the start of the session shall lose the game, unless the arbiter decides otherwise. Thus the default time is 0 minutes. The rules of a competition may specify a different default time.
There was particular outrage at the imposition of the rule. One may ask, “What is the purpose of the rule?”? Is it to instill discipline in the players? Is it to attract support from the IOC? One poster made the point that coming within an hour of game is just since the loss of time is a tangible penalty. So what happened in the Chinese Championships?
The arbiter awards a forfeit win to Ding Liren!
Photo by Sina Chess News.
GM Wang Hao had played solidly throughout the tournament and had held the lead for practically the duration of the tournament. However, Wang summarily lost to Ding Liren, a 2400-rated player who was playing the tournament of his life. Wang was still in the lead, but needed to win to clinch 1st since the overachieving Ding would have better tiebreaks. Ding’s opponent was Zhou Jianchao, a GM who had played in the middle of the pack, but was clearly a favorite. When the bell sounded, Zhou was not at the board so the arbiter declared Ding the winner.
In other action, Hou Yifan was also victimized by the rule. According to the ChessBase report,
Incidentally the youngest player and the only female in the event, Hou Yifan, was also forfeited in round eight, against tailender Liang Chong. Hou was in the hall, we are told, had filled out her scoresheet and was waiting for the game to start. But when it did, at 14:00:00h, she was not actually sitting on her chair in front of the board. 0-1.
So there you have it… FIDE’s “no tolerance” rule. Eventually the rule will be tested when a high profile match is decided by such a fluke. It will force FIDE to ease since there would be tremendous publicity damage in one instance of protest. After the Dresden controversies, there was a meeting and there was discussion of finding a compromise in the time allowed to get to the board. However, that rule apparently is not on the books. The saga continues.