Rene’ Phillips (left) blitzing with Sulaiman Smith in Atlanta.
Photo by Frank Johnson (shootfilm.net).
There are many controversies in chess. Lately the chess world has had to address a number of cheating allegations of players who have tried to take advantage of the system. These players are often barred, suspended or expelled. However, another question comes to mind. What happens when arbiters or tournament directors are in violation of the rules. Hurricane Katrina survivor Rene’ Phillips wrote an essay about his experience at the National Open in Las Vegas last month and if his accounts are accurate, it points to egregious violation of player rights. Here is Phillips’ essay:
Hi my name is Rene’ Phillips United States Chess Federation Victim 11489052. I wished to share my experience from the National Open in Las Vegas this past weekend. I thought a brief mention of three terms would serve to help place readers in the milieu of the event amidst the sights and sounds consistent with the allure of Las Vegas. Many would argue that the words “victim”, “victor”, and “inmate” are completely unrelated. “Victory” is a term most people relate to a contest or debacle wherein winning, overcoming, subduing, persevering, and completing a task that ends with the desired result. While the term “victim” carries the connotation of an event where one or more people have been hurt, or wounded intentionally or unintentionally with no attempt of the aggressor and/or any other party present to make amends. Finally, an “inmate” is a person charged with a crime, deprived of many rights who then imprisoned pending trial.
During the National Open in Las Vegas this past week, I was allowed to experience both sides of the spectrum. I am playing GM Zviad Izoria in the second round of the G/10 championship. I have the White pieces and was able to reach a very familiar position of the London System. Izoria upon reaching an equal position and desiring to complicate things sacrificed a piece for two connected passed pawns. Upon returning the piece, I found myself with a special advantage and huge advantage in time. We both agreed to play without the increment as we could not set the function on the clock at the beginning of the game. Hence the digital display read two minutes for me and 10 seconds for Izoria.
A time scrambled ensued and the crowd gathered around this the last game of the round with an upset looming in the air. I notice there was a crowd of approximately thirty spectators pushing and jockeying for a better position from which to view the debacle. In the time scramble Izoria attacked my rook and in haste to move the rook, I inadvertently knocked my King down and grabbed the attacked rook. Upon releasing the rook and restoring my King to an upright position, Izoria with 2 seconds on the clock captured my rook and uttered “Touch move!” I see Izoria now has one second and thus with two pawns and no checkmate in site for either side, I shun summoning the tournament director for the inadvertent King touch and announce “Flag”!
GM Izoria at this time uttered something in his native tongue and stopped the clock. The digital display showed 12 seconds for me and no time for him. At this juncture, a woman wearing a burgundy tournament director’s shirt intervened without being summoned by either player and stated the game was a draw. The woman TD was later identified as Betsy. Betsy advised that she would place one second on Izoria’s clock and then the game can be officially drawn. I inquired as to the basis of the draw and Izoria answered for the TD and said “because I am up a rook and I would win with more time.” The tournament director Betsy picked up the clock as more people gathered around. She places the one second on the clock and says now the game is a draw.
I am immediately rushed by several spectators as I proceed to the pairing table in an attempt to get a second ruling from another TD. Upon arriving at the pairing table along with several other players, we were met sternly by TD Walter Brown. I politely inquired if I could speak with another tournament director about a ruling just rendered, and without hearing my story, Brown yelled rudely, “Whatever the tournament director said is final. Now we have work to do and you have to get out of here!” I attempted to diffuse the situation by talking calmer, but was met by even more stiff verbal humiliation. Another director with a long white beard chimed in on cue and yelled, “What is it that you want?!
At this time TD Walter Brown advised that he would call security and have me thrown out if I didn’t leave. Seeing a ride to jail was inevitable if I continued to attempt to reach resolve with the outraged and angered TDs, I exited the room and proceeded to the tournament registration table. I requested to speak with a senior director or an executive level administrator with the tournament staff and was advised that Mr. Bob Snead was not available, but upon being given my name and brief details of my issue, would get back to me.
I forwarded my name, brief details of the incident and started back toward the tournament room. Prior to reaching the tournament room, I was met outside by TD Walter Brown who related that he had just been made abreast of the incident and he stated, “I just heard what happened and I think you got ripped off badly. I will return your entry fee in exchange for your inconvenience.” I returned to the game room only to find out the third round had started and I had been paired against a women’s IM and she had started my clock. Approximately five minutes had elapsed in the G/10 game, but I knew going back the same directors who were infuriated by me inquiring about the previous game would me met with swift and quick verbal humiliation.
In spite of my anger and feeling of helplessness I won the game against the WIM. I however could not shake the feeling of being cheated and victimized. I won the game and was not declared the victor, but was victimized by the player, the tournament directors and the GMs, IMs, FMs, and other rated players present who witnessed this travesty and said nothing on my behalf to the tournament directors. Throughout the remainder of the National open I was asked by scores of players, coaches, and other tournament directors about the incident. I retold this story at least 20 times to different directors who all stated that I should have summoned another director (which I made several attempts) and ask for a second opinion.
Notwithstanding, after the numerous futile attempts at getting some type of meaningful resolve I talked one last time to Bob Snead who related that I would get my entry fee returned, but I should have made an attempt to contact another tournament director on the day of the incident. Thus here I stand several days later, feeling not like a victor, but a victim, and much worse a victim who has no recourse. Here it is I have returned home and still feel helpless with no returned entry fee, a crosstable from the G/10 that reflects a draw against GM Zviad Izoria in round two despite me winning the game on time. More importantly as a retired policeman whose job was to protect and serve, despite receiving an award from Janet Reno as America’s top cop in 1997, I was treated like a criminal by the National Open rulings or lack of proper rulings and United States Chess Federation and as a victim have no recourse. Inmates lose very many rights after they are sentenced for crimes, but even after being found guilty of the most heinous of crimes, they retain the right to appeal. What about me?
Signed Rene’ Phillips
National Open Inmate
United States Chess Federation
Inmate Id# 11489052
Appeal National Open #101