Was Lawton Ruling Unfair?

IM Enrico Sevillano vs. Charles Lawton in what would end in disaster.
Photo by Larry Stendebach.

Charles Lawton entered the 2009 U.S. Championship as a hometown favorite and a veteran player. His wildcard selection seemed to be a logical choice and gave recognition to a player who had been the pride of St. Louis. Onlookers at the ICC were wondering why his game with Enrico Sevillano ended abruptly after 89.Rc7 (threatening 90.d6) and figured it had to do with a relay problem. The position was dead draw as everyone agreed. It became a rude shock when “1-0” was flashed on the official site. What happened?

According to reports on blogs, Lawton’s loss had to do with a issue of score-keeping during sudden death. For those who are not familiar with the game, Lawton had a clear advantage, was up an exchange and looked to score his first point. In fact, when the tide turned after Lawton sacrificed back the exchange, commentator Emil Sutovsky and Jennifer Shahade stated that Lawton had no losing chances and had “wrapped up” the half point. Then disaster struck.

An unofficial report from a live observer from chessgames.com stated:

The situation was Lawton had 6minutes to Enrico’s 5 minutes Lawton had missed some moves recording and the arbiter demanded he catch up his score sheet. he did. Then she said it wasn’t correct or legiable enough and he needed to redo it. He pointed out he had only a minute left on the clock now thanks to her and he had no time to redo it. She said it would take only 30 seconds to do and if he didn’t do it she’d forfeit him. He let his time run out.

Horrible and unreasonable. The arbiter in question was Carol Jarecki demanded the keeping of score during sudden death. One poster at chessgames.com cited two rulings.

For example, USCF Rule 15C reads as follows:

“15C. Scorekeeping in time pressure, sudden death time control. If EITHER [emphasis added] player has less than five minutes remaining in a sudden death time control, BOTH [emphasis added] players are excused from the obligation to keep score. A scoresheet is not required to win on time in a sudden death time control (13C).”

FIDE Rule 8.4 provides (in relevant part):

8.4 If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1.”

The increment was five seconds. Jarecki reported that Lawton stopped recording prior to the five-minute mark and was required to update his scoresheet before playing another move. There was not information on whether Lawton signed the scoresheet, but letting his time run out was a natural reaction to what he felt was an unfair ruling.

Lawton, an electrical engineer, has had a long career in chess. Despite being the tournament’s lowest seed, he has brought St. Louis honor.

(Note: Jarecki clarified the time situation in her detailed statement in comment #10. There still remain questions about the dialogue that took place during the incident. Lawton did not release a statement.)

Official Site: https://www.saintlouischessclub.org/
The Chess Drum: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2009/05/07/2009-us-championship-st-louis/
See Sevillano-Lawton here!


  1. There seems to be a consistency with bad rulings being made when the brothers are involved. I keep trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, but we are now trending.

  2. I agree Frank, and there seems to be little effort made to perform
    a critical review of these incidents(checks and balances?). No one is perfect but it seems as if players are supposed to submit to whatever a TD says even when it is wrong. This is an unfortunate and continually one-sided affair which sadly given the current structure will always have an opportunity to recur again.

  3. From talking to a few people including someone who is in St. Louis, the impression is that Jarecki is right, but no one has released a statement. I was told by a journalist there (but not in the room at the time) that the arbiters allowed Lawton time to complete his scoresheet by stopping the clock.

    I find this hard to believe since Jarecki apparently complained about his scoresheet up until the time he abandoned the game with 30 seconds left. The USCF rules clearly state that once either player goes below five minutes, then they do not have to keep score. Of course no one will make a lot of noise for the lowest seed and assume that he’s wrong. Here are the rules from FIDE:

    Article 8: The recording of the moves

    8.1 In the course of play each player is required to record his own moves and those of his opponent in the correct manner, move after move, as clearly and legibly as possible, in the algebraic notation (Appendix E), on the ‘scoresheet’ prescribed for the competition. It is forbidden to write the moves in advance, unless the player is claiming a draw according to Article 9.2 or 9.3.

    A player may reply to his opponent`s move before recording it, if he so wishes. He must record his previous move before making another. Both players must record the offer of a draw on the scoresheet. (Appendix E.13) If a player is unable to keep score, an assistant, who is acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to write the moves. His clock shall be adjusted by the arbiter in an equitable way.

    8.2 The scoresheet shall be visible to the arbiter throughout the game.

    8.3 The scoresheets are the property of the organisers of the event.

    8.4 If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1. Immediately after one flag has fallen the player must update his scoresheet completely before moving a piece on the chessboard

    8.5 If neither player is required to keep score under Article 8.4, the arbiter or an assistant should try to be present and keep score. In this case, immediately after one flag has fallen, the arbiter shall stop the clocks. Then both players shall update their scoresheets, using the arbiter`s or the opponent`s scoresheet.

    If only one player is not required to keep score under Article 8.4 he must, as soon as either flag has fallen, update his scoresheet completely before moving a piece on the chessboard. Provided it is the player`s move, he may use his opponent`s scoresheet, but must return it before making a move

    If no complete scoresheet is available, the players must reconstruct the game on a second chessboard under the control of the arbiter or an assistant. He shall first record the actual game position, clock times and the number of moves made, if this information is available, before reconstruction takes place.

    8.6 If the scoresheets cannot be brought up-to-date showing that a player has overstepped the allotted time, the next move made shall be considered as the first of the following time period, unless there is evidence that more moves have been made.

    8.7 At the conclusion of the game both players shall sign both scoresheets, indicating the result of the game. Even if incorrect, this result shall stand, unless the arbiter decides otherwise.

  4. A player of African American descent is found on the losing end of yet another suspicious Tournament Director’s ruling. When is enough, enough? I propose some concrete directives to implement immediately for every major tournament where there are at least two people of African American descent participating. The suggestions below are not meant to be antagonistic, disrespectful, or imposing, rather a means to create an atmosphere of support and accountability for tournament directors, players, and tournament sponsors during future controversies involving African American players.
    * Players approaching the area where a tournament director’s involvement could potentially be required should be witnessed by a responsible person other than just the African American playing
    (Rulings traditionally made leaving the African American player o the “losing end” typically have been made with no other African American players present in the room or even the tournament period!)
    * More brothers need to attend tournaments and play!
    * Let’s agree to remain to watch games involving brothers that tend to last beyond the normal time control and begin to enter into the realm of “tournament director” intrusion.
    * Let’s agree to meet and set in motion plans to boost accountability of the USCF to controversial rulings involving African Americans
    * Let’s agree to meet at large tournaments like the upcoming World Open in Philadelphia and initiate some proposals for the future of increased involvement of African American players at the scholastic level
    *Let’s table a initiative to create a fund to sponsor promising youth of African American descent to obtain professional instruction (like the other folks do and have been doing for years) by titled players.
    * Let’s commit to pool our resources to encourage more attendance and participation in major tournaments in the US
    * Let’s commit to having a summit to plan, mobilize, and implement necessary directives to bring about wholesome, meaningful, advancement and enrichment of the African American chess player’s experience in US chess.
    * Let’s meet at the World Open and get the ball rolling.
    Hey, brothers, I will see you all in Philly. Let’s dialogue about the format of the meeting and table the speakers and officers of the meeting. I’m there and also know Frank “shootfilm.net” Johnson and Dr. Daaim Shabazz are down with getting some things done along with Bro. Kimani Stancil and others. Needless to say, I can name countless “stand up” brothers in Philly who are more than willing and up to the task. See you brothers in Philly! Charles Lawton is a true champion in my opinion. Continue to represent Charles and your character will continue win fans despite the outcome of the games.

  5. The travesty here is that more people are not in uproar over controversial rulings. If we are all competitors, there should be equal concern of these questionable rulings by any player or fan. I heard that Robert Hess was vocal about the issue. Others faulted Sevillano who would not agree to a draw. I wouldn’t go that far, but it would have been sporting to agree to a draw in such a position… especially after the type of game that was played.

  6. I would not go as far as to fault IM Sevillano. After all, this is the US Championship, and it would be obvious that he would mark NM Layton as a “must-defeat” opponent, as one of the lower rated participants. Yes, he could have done the “sporting thing” at the end of the game, but that would not have been consistent with his decision to play on in what many felt was a drawn position to begin with.

    I am not sure how a protest could be lodged in this matter. The issue is one of principle, not even the half point. We could demand arbiters that made no mistakes, but that is not realistic. I would cherish the next best thing, arbiters who would own up to their mistakes and make amends.

    Another thing: Is it too much to ask that there be a copy of the official USCF or FIDE rules present at the site, and that the TD quote those rules, with the document present, when making a ruling? Rulings based on “that’s how we’ve always done it” or “seems like this should be the case” should not be good enough for the Minnesota Open, and definitely are misplaced in the US Championships. An arbiter should not be allowed to make arbitrary rulings!

  7. Unfortunately, there is usually a psychological meltdown after a situation like this. Rarely, does the affected player find the inner strenght to march on . let’s hope our brother will find that inner strength to finish the battle in good form. Hopefully, at some point after the tournament, he can shed some light on what really happened and perhaps we can all lenefit from his lost.

  8. Okey,

    What you stated about having a rulebook is too logical, so it may not work. 😕

    I remember asking Bill Goichberg to show me a rulebook during a dispute involving Kayin Barclay back in 2003. He said he didn’t have one and mentioned that “he wrote it.” I believed him, but that doesn’t preclude him from not having a copy.

    This morning, I looked online for it and the link goes to USCF Sales! I’m sure some TDs carry rule books, but they are usually not produced during disputes.

  9. Daaim – I see that the arbiter has posted her version of the incident on the event web site. It would be great if you could get Charles’ version. It’s a shame that the game ended that way, since he would have gotten on the scoreboard, against an IM.

  10. RJT,

    I’m working on Charles. Thanks for the tip. Here is what she wrote:

    Arbiter Ruling on Sevillano-Lawton Game, Round 2
    Mon, 05/11/2009 – 20:19 — chrisbird Arbiter Rulings: Rnd 2, Sevillano-Lawton

    A situation arose towards the end of the Sevillano-Lawton game in that Lawton was no longer keeping his scoresheet up to date and had more than 5 minutes remaining on his clock.

    Article 8.1: “In the course of play each player is required to record his own moves and those of his opponent in the correct manner, move after move, as clearly and legibly as possible, in the algebraic notation (Appendix E), on the ‘scoresheet’ prescribed for the competition. It is forbidden to write the moves in advance, unless the player is claiming a draw according to Article 9.2 or 9.3.”

    “A player may reply to his opponent’s move before recording it, if he so wishes. He must record his previous move before making another. Both players must record the offer of a draw on the scoresheet. (Appendix E.13) If a player is unable to keep score, an assistant, who is acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to write the moves. His clock shall be adjusted by the arbiter in an equitable way.”

    Article 8.4: “If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1. Immediately after one flag has fallen the player must update his scoresheet completely before moving a piece on the chessboard.”

    Lawton’s scoresheet was inaccurate due to some earlier missing moves and the fact that he stopped recording moves entirely when he still had over 8 minutes on his clock. At that time he was warned by the Arbiter that he had to record the missing moves and continue to record move by move. He wrote a few moves then stopped again. The Arbiter ruled that Lawton should correct his scoresheet, bring it up to date first, then continue to keep score until he had less than 5 minutes remaining. He protested, saying it would take too long. At that point he had 6:53 minutes on his clock and his opponent had 4:34. He was provided with his opponent’s MonRoi scoresheet and instructed, again, to correct and complete his scoresheet. While doing so, interrupted by much objection, making moves and pressing his clock, Lawton’s time went under 5 minutes and he claimed that he now could stop writing since he had met the requirement of Article 8.4. However, the Arbiter ruled he should first accurately record all moves missed during the time he had ample time to write and while he was infringing that rule. The opponent’s scoresheet had been provided to help with the process. The arbiter even offered to read off the moves to him (other games in the room had finished).

    Lawton chose to refuse to bring his scoresheet up to date, while not being allowed to continue the game until he had done so. This ultimately led to him losing the game on time.

    Carol Jarecki, IA

    Chief Arbiter

  11. Article 8.4: “If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1. Immediately after one flag has fallen the player must update his scoresheet completely before moving a piece on the chessboard.”

    FIDE rules do not make mention of having to complete all the moves prior to the five-minute mark. I would imagine Jarecki was using her discretion here and forced him to comply with her initial demand. Lawton appeared to be recording the moves when he fell under five minutes after which he protested. However, she continued to enforce the scorekeeping rule despite the fact that it no longer applied to the situation.

    Jarecki could have exacted any number of penalties, but these two men played 89 moves for nearly seven hours. For the game to be decided on such a technicality is a travesty. The point is all moot since the game was dead drawn and that is what makes this games so painful. It wasn’t as if Lawton was trying to win on time.

  12. I see it way to many times when we as black folks jump to conclusions and play the race card. It is important that we only bring up the issue of race for the most dire of circumstances and crucial of moments. If we cry racism at every little slight that is unjustified or trivial in nature we become like the “boy who cried wolf” and when real racism appears no one will pay attention to our protests. This is happening now in this case and it is in our best interest we stop crying wolf. This case is a false wolf cry, chill out, Lawton is cool cat I’m sure, but has any posters here thought maybe he could have handled it better and just wrote his moves down. People organized this tournament and gave Lawton a shot though his rating doesn’t qualify, these seem like cool white folk trying to do their best, some people are bitter about past racism and rightly so, but its not present in this instance. Just my opinion.

  13. Robert,

    What you may be referring to is Rene Phillips’ comment and those concerning “brothers.” I won’t speak on that, but I will say that these incidences happen more than is acceptable. Some rulings are downright ludicrous.

    Could Lawton have handled it better? Could Sevillano have agreed to a draw? Could Lawton have played 20…Nxd4 winning? Could Jarecki have taken half his time? These are all hypothetics. The point is whether the ruling was fair and just. Let’s debate the rules and the interpretation of them.

    Lawton was qualified to play by the organizers. He was a wildcard and rating has no role in determining a wildcard selection. He is considered a St. Louis legend and the only local in the tournament. Lawton owes no one anything and should continue to play with pride.

  14. I stand corrected on Lawton’s qualifications I was just trying to say what a great oppurtunity that is to be in such an exclusive tourney right in your backyard, should just be fun and exciting win or lose.

  15. IM Sevillano is a gentleman and I am surprise he did not agree to a draw. I think it would have been the proper thing to do in such a position. Lawton played a good game against Khachiyan (over 2600) ; he was never worst. In that line of the Najdorf (where White castle queenside and keep the light lazer on f1 Khachiyan played a solid line with Be6, this is one of the reasons I don’t like that line for White because of the move Be6. White should not capture on e6 because it strength Black center and open up the f, file. Nevertheless; Lawton played a great middle game. Maybe the critical mistake for Lawton was 40.Rb1. 40. Rc6 might be a better choice. It would be difficult for Black to make progress and White (Lawton) might be better. Against Shabalov he just misplayed the opening. The Alekhine is a tricky opening and White must know the proper move order if he is going to play the main line. Lawton should play 9. b3 to control c4, so when Black push d5 White can respond with c5 and the Black Knight don’t have c4 to jump to. He is playing a good tournament so far, Although, it will be difficult to recover from the incident with IM Sevillano. Very bad call by the tournament director. Let the players play. Keep fighting Lawton and don’t let outside influences stop you from playing great chess.

  16. In the ruling, there is no FIDE rule that identifies a penalty for an incorrect scoresheet. In the player’s meeting, these types of rules would have been covered. Was this rule covered in the players’ meeting? I can think of several questions here.

    Do you stop the clocks to correct the score? Do you allow the clock to continue ticking? Do you take half his time? Do you immediately disqualify him? Does Lawton forfeit his right to make a future forfeit claim? FIDE is not clear on this. It merely says you are required to record the score. What happens if you don’t… or can’t?

    Did she give Lawton the ultimatum on the rule? For example, if an arbiter says “If you fail to keep score, then the penalty is…” In this case, the intention is clear. If you merely state, “you must keep score,” it may not be clear. Jarecki’s interpretation seems to be… if you don’t have a complete scoresheet you would not be allowed to continue playing.

    In any regard, he was attempting to catch up when he fell under the five-minute mark and he probably felt a bit of panic. There is no evidence that Lawton had any health concerns after the long game, but there is another part of Article 8 that may have been examined.

    “If a player is unable to keep score, an assistant, who is acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to write the moves. His clock shall be adjusted by the arbiter in an equitable way.”

    Here there is leeway, but it seemed as if there was a back-and-forth clash going on. Could Lawton have acted differently? Of course. Could Jarecki have acted differently? Of course. After having played a hard-fought 89 moves over seven hours, this was a disastrous result. This result may have affected both Lawton and Sevillano.

  17. The only racial link between these cited experiences is that several strong and talented black males are experiencing irrational responses from white male and female TDs when faced with a voiced dispute or question that requires serious effort to discuss. This has been observed by me and others on both local and national level. Fortunately, this is not a uniform condition, or necessarily racial but when race is removed, the central question becomes how do we identify correctly at the time of incident whether the player or TD are at fault. Critical review, redress, correction, compensation, are all methods for TDs to use but these methods do not appear to be used often enough. The simplest method that has been mentioned is for a TD to just offer the rule book on the spot so that the player can understand better the situation and for the TD’s justification to be clearer to all who observe. Can we all (player and TD) just learn and share together? Racial conflict has challenged us, but reinforced collective ignorance can do more harm. Is proof, clarity, and accuracy too much to ask for? No, but this is simply what black chess players on these blogs request as paid members of USCF!

  18. The simplest method that has been mentioned is for a TD to just offer the rule book on the spot so that the player can understand better the situation and for the TD’s justification to be clearer to all who observe.

    While it sounds like Jarecki’s ruling was technically correct, it also seems harsh given the situation on the board. At the same time, Sevillano (who used to live one block away from me–we once met at the laundromat) was not without cheapo potential (does White have realistic hopes of making it to R & B vs. R, with good practical chances?). I don’t know too many IMs who would give a draw to a 2350 in that position without seeing a few more moves first.

  19. Bill,

    Yes… Enrico is a great guy as is the entire Filipino crew in Chicago… Angelo Young, Arnulfo Benesa, Florintos Inumerable, etc. I do not for one moment fault him. Of course, Lawton saw the threat of d6, but the only reasonable hope for victory is the ending you mentioned. However, Enrico has to be able to play f6 and queen the d-pawn. That’s what he was trying to do before Lawton played …Bf6.

    This was a very unfortunate ruling and both of these men played their hearts out and probably would have been able to tell their fans and students about this game for a long time. Now they will only remember this negative experience and the hard-fought 89-move battle will be a memory best left forgotten.

  20. Race is ALWAYS an issue! Sometimes a big issue, sometimes a relative non-factor. So I wouldn’t ever discount its impact.

    In this case, I think something else was at work — you do not want to get on the wrong side of Carol! I know her, have worked events with her, and one thing you find out quickly is that she calls the shots. Personally, I’ve found her a reasonable person, because I’ve always dealt with her straight up. But I have seen, on more than one occasion, someone cop a ‘tude with her, and it wasn’t pretty what she did to them. She is probably the dean of US based IA’s, having worked all the big events, including Kasparov vs DB, Kasparov v Karpov, numerous US Championships and other national & FIDE rated events. She is an equal opportunity butt kicker. No one is going to over-rule her.

    Not having been there, I can’t speculate about whether or not she was unreasonable with Lawton. Her account seems reasonable, but we haven’t yet seen Charles’ account.

  21. Robert,

    While I will not broach the subject of whether this particular case was a direct result of race, Kimani’s eloquent points are those echoed in many tournaments. I’m not sure how often you play in tournaments, but I have lost count the number of instances where controversy has affected games where Black players are involved… this includes African and Caribbean players.

    Certainly, ALL players (AND arbiters) should know the rules and I do find that many (even strong players) do not. Some arbiters amend the rules or simply misinterpret them. It sounds as if Jarecki’s interpretation of the case was technically correct (we’ve only heard her side), but she may have lost a chance to express her discretion given the game’s condition.

  22. Please forgive me for the use of the term “brothers” as it appears there has been some confusion about the connotation it infers. Let me clear the air. I don’t think I used the term “racism” in my blog and am certainly capable doing so were that my intention. The use of the term “brothers” was casual and did not extend to any relationship of African Americans male and female who had anything more in common than playing chess at the tournament level. Hence, had it been my intent, I possess enough mental and literary dexterity to speak on and about racism with pointed certainty. The kind ceryainty that has not resulted from hearsay, but painful, personal experiences. I am amazed at the apathy, denial, and numbness regarding blatent chess infractions, rulings, decisions, and the like that have disproportionately involved players of African American descent.
    No one has even responded to the need of coming together if for no other reason than to get to meet other players of color from other regions around the country. Nor has there been any dialogue with regards to improving participation of African American youth in chess as a whole. Forgive me for thinking there were enough players incensed about incidents of this sort. I stand corrected and will hence forth remain silent about the issue.
    Lastly, I have not heard about racism and predjudice, I have exeperienced it! I don’t play the race card as I don’t see racism as a game. Nor do I need any crutch from which to illicit pity, sympathy, or empathy from anyone, espescially those who deny its existence. I’ll just play chess and keep my experiences good, bad, or otherwise to myself.

  23. How unfortunate! The sad fact is that race is an everpresent factor in today’s society at all levels. However, that factor isn’t present in every situation. I am inclined towards an earlier comment regarding the T.D.’s character traits.

    If I am allowed to flirt with stereotypes, then there may be a consensus that some women may tend to operate at a more emotional level than some men. That may explain the apparent rigidity that was displayed by the T.D. Add that to the previous observation of leveraging control, and we have a recipe for controversy…without the racial element.

    As a sidebar, I had experienced what I thought was racial bias during the 1986 Reserve Amateur U. S. Championship. I was 5-0 going into the final round. Throughout most of that round, several White kibitzers were incessant in their vocal accusations that I was sandbagging, and undeserving to be in the position that I was in. Their commotion was not only obvious, it was illegal…yet continued unchecked. I was determined not to be deterred, and proceeded to assume the “posture”…thumbs in both ears, and fingers shielding both eyes. I remained in this position until the end of the game (which I won).

    Alas, when it was time for me to receive my trophy, it was presented to me with several highly visibly scratches – as if it was “keyed”. I was careful not to break my smile, but asked the T.D. later what had happened. He didn’t know, but suspected as I did of sour grapes. I had viewed the trophy earlier and it was without blemish. The T.D. offered to replace it, but I declined. I opted to carry my Battle Scars home with me…not to remember the negativity, but to remember the Overcoming.

    I am reminded of other “unfair” incidences without the race factor – i.e., Polgar(?) – Kasparov…when he ignored the Touch rule, and went on to win a game that he should have lost. Polgar was a gracious loser (cooking my above stereotype!).

    I sincerely hope that Mr. Lawton uses his experience as a jumping off point for Overcoming…whether this incident was racial or not.

  24. Rene,

    Although I haven’t used the term here, I use “brother” all the time when I’m in informal circles with friends and acquaintances. I use it to refer to Black men… it’s vernacular. I don’t apologize for it because it’s a part of a subculture that is understood.

    Be that as it may, I believe Robert took issue with the racial angle of the case, but he may not be familiar with all the other cases that we all can aptly cite (and have experienced and discussed at tournaments).

    On the “coming together”… we had one on exactly the issues you mentioned.


    You asked about lack of concern. I believe there is apathy, but not a lack of concern. All brothers want to do is play, but we have to organize, study together and collaborate on projects. Not enough people have the concern because chess has not reached the critial mass as a pasttime in the Black community. Adisa Banjoko, Glenn Bady, Orrin Hudson, Ted Fagan, Vaughn Bennett and Mazi Mutafa are doing great things for the youth, but we need more collaborative efforts.

    I once wrote an article about chess literacy to bring up this issue. I didn’t focus on Blacks, but I dealt with the importance of being literate in chess. Many are not current on the news and that may have a direct impact on our ability to make a positive contribution to the sport.

  25. Point duly noted Daaim. The meeting cited took place it seems in Philly in 2001. What ongoing dialogue has taken place subsequent to that meeting? Are there any blogs or emails of later follow up discussions or forums one can view to get up to speed on the current status of the initiatives discussed back in 2001?

  26. Rene,

    That was 2002. It was a good meeting, but there were only informal networking activities that resulted. It was still a good meeting and we became more conscious as a community. Many brothers met for the first time and The Chess Drum was in its infancy (2001). I believe Vaughn Bennett and Ted Fagan attempted to collaborate on some projects. However, if such meetings are to maintain a lasting mark, there has to be more organization.

    I remember one of the most important meetings took place in 1990. I had met Maurice Ashley at the 1989 U.S. Open in Chicago and we developed a friendship. It turns out that I ended up spending the summer of 1990 in New York working for Sports Illustrated. I had contacted Ashley in Brooklyn and Jerry Bibuld whom I had corresponded with… by letters (!). I met Ashley at Washington Square Park to discuss the marketing plan I had done for a Black chess network. That was the beginning of The Chess Drum.

    Maurice told me he was going with Jerry to Philly to visit the World Open. I called Jerry and asked to tag along. On the way, we discussed a number of ideas and at that time Ashley was having a difficult time getting IM norms. There was mention of challenges that both he and Emory Tate were facing as well. It was an exhilarating conversation.

    We arrived in Philly and this was my first World Open. It was the first and only time I had met Wilbert Paige and he supported the network. In fact, Jerry told me Wilbert had similar ideas. I saw Pete Rogers and Alfred Carlin in action for the first time. Tate was playing too. I also met Zebedee Fortman and his promising son. In between rounds George Umezinwa invited Maurice and me up to his room and we proceeded to discuss a great number of issues including the marketing plan I had produced. Stephen Muhammad and Jones Murphy (the sponsor of the Wilbert Paige Memorial) were present. We also discussed current events, history, other interesting topics. I was taking notes.

    This was an important trip because I got support for the network and that idea would later produce The Chess Drum. I also believe that Ashley got the motivation for his “Unity” tournaments. You’ll notice from the documentation that Charles Lawton’s name is included.

    I had met Lawton and other brothers like Marvin Dandridge (a personal friend), Emory Tate, Morris Giles, Dexter Thompson, Maurice Broomes and in those years, I was inspired to create something to follow their progress. So… there was a lot of motivation that came out of that meeting.

  27. Kenneth,

    Your statements of prejudice (pre-judgment) are interesting. I didn’t know about this case you mentioned, but I hear them all the time. Much of this boils down to perception. There seems to be a general perception that Blacks do not play chess. Most will deny this, but I’ve seen far too many examples in chess clubs and tournaments. Here is a litmus test on perception…

    Walk into a chess club (where you are not known) and try to get a game. Do you think the initial perception is that you are a strong player? Probably not. I walked in Boulder, Colorado chessclub back in the late 80s and asked to get in a blitz rotation. They tenatively let me in. No one said anything to me or welcomed me. When it was my turn, I then sat down and won several games in a row… without a loss. They were amazed! THEN they asked me my rating! At this point everyone wanted to play me or talk to me. Same happened to Marvin Dandridge when he traveled to Texas and visited a chess club. They blew him off until he sat down and crushed everybody in the club. Then they asked, “What’s your rating?” He responded, “2320”.

    People in the U.S. typically do not hear about strong Black players. While The Chess Drum has filled some of that void, it’s amazing that I still get people (of all ethnicities) telling me that they didn’t know Black people played chess! Maurice Ashley had a story about this. A team he coached in Harlem in the 90s had won trophies and were lugging them through the airport. In almost every case, they were asked if they were basketball trophies. They said, “No these are for chess.” “CHESS???” they responded. Why was it such a surprise? Perception.

    Another example on Dandridge… I was witness to a blitz session with a Latin American IM (now GM) who was giving odds to everyone in a Chicago chess club. He was negotiating with Marvin Dandridge and they agreed on 5:3 odds. He didn’t ask Marvin’s rating (which was about 2250 at the time). The IM was stronger and faster than Marvin who was an absolute beast in blitz. I had never seen Marvin being dominated this way.

    When the session was over, the IM was introduced to a player of Polish descent, but he refused to give him odds. The IM was visibly nervous during negotiations. What he didn’t know was that this player was 250 points weaker than Marvin. All he had was perception to go on and certainly this player “looked” like he could be a European GM. While this Latin American GM is not a racist, he made an assessment based on his perception.

    We cannot blame others since they do not see a lot of Blacks playing at high levels. Yes… it’s annoying to face these preconceived notions people have, but you have to take it as an opportunity to teach something. I hope people of all ethnicities are reading this because these are the types of issues most do not see, hear or want to talk about. Most claim it doesn’t exist in chess. It does.

    Nevertheless, I’m absolutely estatic to see Lawton playing in this tournament. I will not say that he was the victim of racism, but it is yet another one of those cases that people will mention. He apparently has taken things in stride. 🙂

  28. Daaim – The examples you mention in your most recent post are of benign forms of racially biased behavior. In fact, it could be to a brother’s advantage to be underestimated as a chessplayer 🙂 The more insidious racially biased behaviors involve being taken advantage of, treated inequitably, or as Mr Wilkin’s trophy incident illustrates, attacked! I don’t make a distinction between attacks against a person or against their property, since the motivation to do one form can easily shift to the other form.

    It seems that the undercurrent that we have been discussing in this thread is in the categories of “being taken advantage of” and of “being treated inequitably”. So how do we address those challenges in the other areas of our lives where we also face them? Like work, business, neighborhoods, communities, even church.

    The formula that I have found effective, which was taught to me by far wiser people than myself is .. 1 Become knowledgeable 2. Network with each other, on solutions, not just commiseration. 3. Form key alliances with members of the broader community. 4. Keep it all in the daylight!

    We each have to take personal responsibility for #1. We have been doing a lot of #2, but must shift more to developing solutions, vs. commiseration. #3 is something that Daaim has talked about .. i.e. becoming TD’s & organizers. But frankly, we are woefully lacking in this key area. The the Drum is a good vehicle for #4, but that is typically happening after the fact. Making an investment in #3 can help with #4, especially developing relationships with the TD community & leadership.

  29. Shout out to Rodney Thomas, I am back home and always an honor to read your comments Bro.
    Is Mr. Bibuld still around? Perception in lots of cases represents a person’s reality. The reality is our perceptions are molded, shaped, and rounded by media, history, and personal experiences both good and bad. Unfortunately when the majority of those experiences (with regards to the genre of Blacks in tournament chess) reflect a preponderance of rulings made against a particular group of people, alarms go off. Note I am not claiming racism nor have implying that is the case with Mr. Lawton. People can be biased, prejudiced, and impartial without being a racist. I have never claimed that any entity has been racist in its rulings, decisions, or mandates. Racism requires power and lots of resources two things the chess community are devoid of.
    Let me ask this question: “Does anyone know of any rulings that were bad judgment calls that were made in the favor of an African American player?” Don’t hear me calling for an equal amount of bad decisions made in the favor of African American players, as the question is meant to be didactic. My contention is that there be accountability for some of the seemingly increasing amount of rulings going against African American players.

  30. Rene,

    Amazingly, I only know of one case ruled in favor of the Black player… that is the case of Peter Moss at the 2002 World Open. Moss’ opponent was caught cheating. After each move the opponent and his brother (both Russian) would go outside to discuss the game. Moss followed them and saw them discussing the game. He confronted them and the scene was very, very ugly. Here is that story…


    This was the same tournament where 12-year old Akeem Gregory-Thompson was thrown from the tournament for fighting with 14-year old Hikaru Nakamura between rounds. This was a harsh ruling since only one player was ejected. Both players should have received a stern lecture and a warning.

    Akeem complained that the arbiters “didn’t like him” and stated that Carol Jarecki (also an arbiter at the World Open) had thrown him out of a scholastic tournament months earlier for disruptive behavior between rounds. Jarecki is a taskmaster and that is fine, but what is the rubric for dismissal? I’m not certain of the details of Jarecki’s dismissal of Akeem, but Goichberg’s dismissal seemed unwarranted.


    Nevertheless, I agree with Rodney, we have to “up our game” and present ourselves as serious competitors. That is the only way respect is granted. There is too much “fast food chess” and not enough activism for chess excellence.

  31. It is truly encouraging to see networking efforts between Black Chessplayers!

    Baltimore had an active casual chess circle for Blacks (although all races were received well), but a major malfunction was the lack of mutual support among the participants. More specifically, there was virtually no analysis post-game, regardless of time limits or settings. “Opponents” were satisfied with the transient “one-upsmanship” associated with The Dozens, and little or no emphasis was placed upon move analysis that would ultimately facilitate both individual and Group mobility.

    The “crabs-in-a-pot” mentality functions in a duality that is both myth (per Dick Gregory) and reality…simultaneously. Fortunately, this provincial mentality does not proliferate at the higher levels of Afro-American Chess.


  32. I’m happy the brother is playing, but lets be honest, I would have much rather had a Emory Tate playing instead. However, b/c of local goodies he got in… Let’s not pull the race card here fellas please… there are serious and legitimate times when it is necessary ( a few I can think of in the Chicago/ World Open) but our brother has not won a game yet.

    I mean we can dispute the arbiters ruling, but stopping recording wasn’t a good idea.

  33. Jeffrey,

    Other brothers have made this comment about Tate, but there is no equal opportunity in this tournament. There is no one slot for Black players and Tate didn’t qualify. Lawton was awarded the slot by the organizing committee given his contributions to Missouri chess and the fact that he is considered a St. Louis legend. I believe it was a good gesture, but apparently Lawton has not played seriously for awhile.

    The problem is these disputes in the Chicago and World Opens are not addressed either. In the Chicago Open I saw a time forfeit overturned after one Canadian player overslept. The arbiter allowed him to play after asking his young opponent if he would still play the guy. This should not be an option offered to an offending player. I complained.

    One arbiter I told vigourously shook his head in disapproval, but didn’t want to get involved and referred me to the Chief Arbiter. When I complained on behalf of the young brother, the Chief TD upheld the ruling and said that such a ruling is permissable. He didn’t produce a rulebook. I believe many of you know the case I’m talking about. There is a problem with consistency of rulings in American tournaments.

    How then do we question these rulings?

  34. Daaim,
    I enjoyed reading your post of perception bias because I have experienced this also in my line of work and in chess. Here in Ft. Lauderdale I am part of a small group of chess playin brothers. We used to go by the name of Black Knights of Ft. Lauderdale. Due to an unfortunate armed robbery one late night that victimized two of our crew at what was our central location, we have been chess vagabonds playing here and there anywhere we can. We happened to be playing at a pool hall one night at some side tables and a white guy asks us if we all had been in prison.Another instance is various people (white & black) challenging us or thinking they can just jump on a board and match obviously dedicated chess players, after they get beat down they realize that this crew is for serious players only. I feel if white were playing chess with clocks and had chess books on the side, they would not be challenged so casually. However these instances to me were not mean spirited but just ignorant. I might have rubbed some brothers the wrong way with my earlier post on race this is another way to say the same thing;
    Usually one should only give check in chess when it leads to material gain, mate, or in the least improves your postion otherwise it may weaken your position and thus one should refrain from useless checks.

  35. You can’t play the race card unless someone else dealt it to you! 🙂
    Hey Rene .. good to hear that you are doing well. I won’t make the WO this year, but I am going to the National Open in Vegas in June. Are you playing?

  36. I personally spoke to both Lawton and Jarecki about this incident a day or two afterward and concluded that there was no story here beyond the official account that has been posted and cited. It was rather tragic, to be sure — Jennifer Shahade, who was a direct witness, told me it was difficult to watch — but not because of a biased ruling, but simply because Lawton sat there for several minutes while his clock ran down, when he might otherwise have continued. He had essentially resigned the game.

    I’ll be happy to publish audio from these interviews on the Chess.FM blog and perhaps air it on the LIVE US Championship webcast today.


  37. Did Lawton give up? From looking at Lawton’s last game (round 7) against Becerra, Rivero it seems so. I don’t see any fight in this game by Lawton. He just gives up a pawn in the opening and then proceed to play as he was sleep walking. What a pity! I know he is stronger than this game shows. Lawton can win a game in this tournament because he is strong enough; but he must fight hard and resist. Come on Lawton, play your last two game like it was the first.

  38. Yeah,
    I think its hard to get out of that slump. We’ve all been there when you have a horrible start in the tournament and you just want it to end. (not to mention this recording debacle) He is playing Shankland and probrably Krush or Shabalov in the last round. Let’s hope he can get at least one scalp. We are still with you brother!

  39. Thanks Macauley, for helping to shed a much brighter light on this issue. Hearing from both NM Lawton and IA Jarecki should dispel doubts. And, great job with the videos! Keep ’em comin’ !!

  40. Unless the rules have changed since my last tournament (a while ago…), didn’t the rules state that a player was allowed up to three omissions on his scoresheet? If not, I stand corrected…but if so, then at that point when Mr. Lawton had only one omission – there should have been absolutely no intrusion by the T.D.

    Also, didn’t the same set of rules that I am attempting to reference state that a player is subject to a forfeit if more than three moves are omitted? I am not clear if a forfeit can only be declared at the finish of a game or at any point during the game, but my original impression was at the end of a game. If this line of thought is valid/correct, then I am questioning ANY inteference by the T.D. on a scorekeeping issue since a remedy is already in place to cover this issue.

    I do stand corrected…

  41. Thanks again to MacAuley as the interview does it for me. Interesting to hear both sides. Looks like if there was an infraction, it was on Mr. Lawton’s end though understandable considering the tough competition he was up against in Enrico.

  42. Thanks Macauley for fine journalism.
    I am still concerned about the ruling in general and know also from personal experience what impact that would have on play. I am not surprised at Lawton’s score and I am glad he did manage to get a draw. He is probably only now recovering. This thread has gone on long enough so I won’t recite my own personal stories. However, I will stand on the position that we have to know the rules, recite the rules, play by the rules and hold everyone accountable to said rules until the rules get changed.
    Decisions that are made in the gray area are subject to challenge.

  43. Finally got a chance to listen to the interviews with Macauley. Evidently the basic, facts seem to be agreed upon by all parties. Bottomline – Charles dug himself into a hole, primarily by discontinuing keeping the score well before he was under 5 minutes on his clock. While you would think that he could have gotten his scoresheet caught up and continued to play, especially since the clock was stopped for a period (!), perhaps the dispute was too much for him to mentally recover from. Disappointing end to what was otherwise a strong game.

    Good luck to Charles in his final round game today!

    P.S. I’m really enjoying the daily video updates by Jennifer and Macauley … they are of SportsCenter quality 🙂

  44. Though Macauley’s interview was interesting and useful(THANKS MACAULEY), I don’t agree that this situation was fully due to Mr. Lawton. Why the insistence to fix a scoresheet with one move error determined by whom, the other opponent’s scoresheet which would have to be checked? It seems to me that with one move error, Mr. Lawton should have been allowed to finish the game uninterrupted with the obvious impairment of not being able to make claims due to an invalid scoresheet. And if the error is determined by Mr. Sevilliano’s scoresheet, then I submit that this is an impossible situation to remedy through one player’s action as both players may have missed moves or even made errors that can only be found through replay. Was there independent info present like a clock that keeps track of the number of moves as well? I would like to learn more for my own understanding.

    With regard to the broader issues mentioned on this and other topics, I do agree that interested persons should meet at tournaments with a focus to educate ourselves on how USCF and FIDE rules apply to past issues and conflicts with TDs or other players. This will be my last entry on this thread however I am available in person when possible for discussion.

  45. Very well said Kimani. I agree 100 percent with your position. You said it for me.

  46. I had an interesting conversation with Carol Jarecki, but I decided not to interview her as such. She added a couple of more points to what she presented in her letter. She told me that she was in a bind during the dispute. First, she had to force the issue of the rule per Article 8 of the FIDE rules and second, she had to avoid upsetting Enrico.

    According to her, this all started when Charles had approached her about falling behind on his scoresheet. She arrived at the board and told him he had to have an accurate sheet. He had caught up, but then started falling behind again. She had mentioned at one point she stopped the clock to allow Charles Lawton to catch up on the score. Enrico Sevillano grew agitated and asked her why she stopped the clock.

    The issue seems to be when Charles would be absolved of scorekeeping. He felt he was relieved of the responsibility once he was under five minutes. Jarecki stated that he had to have a complete scoresheet in order for that rule to apply. Be that as it may, we all need to learn the rules of FIDE and our national federation and be proactive!

  47. My only take on this situation is this: what if IM Enrico Sevillano had an incorrect score sheet, what then? The bottom line has always been that we have to not only play by the rules, but to know them as well. Mr. Lawton got the short end for sure but it could have been avoided.

  48. I thought the rule states that if either player falls under 5 minutes then neither player is required to record. The arbiter in her statement conceded that Sevilliano had under 5 minutes. Why then would she have required Lawton to record anything further?

  49. Eddie,

    Two points. First, the rule you cited is a USCF rule (see original post), but they are playing under FIDE rules. Second, it appears that the player must have a complete score sheet before the five-minute rule is in effect.

    For example, if you have played 35 moves in a 40/2 game and fall under five minutes, then you don’t have to record the remaining five moves. If you have only 30 moves recorded, then you have stopped recording early and (according to Jarecki) would have to record the last five moves. Jarecki rules that you have to catch up with your score on your own time before the rule applies.

    So in other words, FIDE’s Article 8.1 precludes the five-minute rule. In USCF, you are allowed to have three incorrect moves, but that is nowhere in the FIDE rules. In this case, Lawton was told to complete his score even after he had gone under five minutes. He stated that he was now under five minutes (even though he was still catching up). That was his argument.

    Here’s my argument…

    If both players are approaching time control and there are missing moves, how will the arbiter know how many moves to catch up? Perhaps she could look on the clock (digital are now required) and see the number, but would she then stop the clock, reconstruct the position and make each player fill in missing moves? That would seem impractical. She actually stopped the clock and offered Sevillano’s sheet for Lawton to copy. I’m assuming his score was correct.

    I have seen the scorekeeping rules skirted when players have illegible handwriting. I have not known Grandmasters to be haggled on this (even before DGT boards). What is not clear is the penalty on not recording. I asked her if this rule was mentioned in the player’s meeting. She gave an indirect answer saying that these were standard rules. However, at least three players were not seasoned players in FIDE tournaments. These rules still need to be covered. It was an unfortunate case since the game was dead drawn after 89 moves and six hours of play.

  50. I believe the issue here is more application than it is the rule itself. Arbiters tend to go a bit harder on the less favored player when they arbitrate. Rene Phillips case was one such case where a GM lost on time, was given one second on the clock and was given a draw… and there is a post at chessgames.com under the Sevillano-Lawton game that stated that a well-known GM was caught looking at a book during the game (the same line as being played) and was merely told by the arbiter, “you can’t do that.” The arbiter allowed him to continue the game and did not forfeit him. He did not mention the GM, but the point is clear. It is conjecture so it is not verified, but this type of favoritism does happen and stronger players usually get the nod. It’s like LeBron and Kobe always getting the calls.

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