“No Tolerance” rule considered harsh

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.


  1. Section 6.7 should be a little more detailed as it could be misunderstood to the player. But as I find it contradictory to Section 6.6. Thanks for the article great blog, keep goin…

  2. If professional chess wants to be taken seriously by the mainstream public, it needs to be staged in a serious way. The players need to be at the board, ready to go, when the round begins.

    Imagine if the time came to tip off an NBA finals game .. but the Lakers weren’t on the court ! “Oh, we had to go to the bathroom”, “It’s not our fault, they put us in a hotel that was far away” Such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated .. it is self defeating.

    In the chess world, we long for the financial support that the commercially successful sports get. We need to realize that the difference is that they have worked long and hard to package a product that brings in fans, which brings in sponsors. Of course it’s not just one detail that makes the difference, it’s all of them … starting on time … reliability that the players will compete (and not be rewarded for not playing), etc.

  3. I linked the ChessNinja discussion in a comment yesterday, saying your earlier piece on Dresden was valuable for my comments there. I think my having 3 links is what caused your spam filter to trap it. My critiques are not with the rule per-se, but () how it is implemented compared to ATP pro tennis and other peer professional organizations, and () re Hou Yifan, how it was explained to the players. My fellow CS researcher Soren Riis, writing to ChessBase, opined that “The players CLEARLY have not been properly informed about the very strict interpretation of the rules. The spirit of the rules is that players should be present at the start of the game. It seems that the players have not been given a correct definition of what it means to be present. Had the players been told they would lose the game if they were not seated when game were to begin I cannot imagine any player would have be late at the board for such important games.”

  4. Again… there are two issues. Firstly, the image chess is trying to convey and secondly, what is considered “sporting.” Of course, an actual tournament game of chess (unlike basketball) can start without both players being present. In addition, the only penalty for being minutes late for an NBA game is a technical foul, not a forfeit.

    Of course, if the team is protesting, they can forfeit by not showing up (on purpose). However, I don’t think we can compare a team with a individual sport. There is no chance that all 12 basketball players will not be present unless there is a transport problem or a protest. Maybe tennis is better, but even in this case, a tennis player is not forfeited if they are one second late or a minute late… and they have heavy sponsorship.

    The question here is what type of image chess wants to convey and whether this rule will accomplish this. These forfeits, which will continue to happen even if rare, may do more harm than good in attracting sponsors. Eventually, a major competition will have to be decided this way because some high profile player has some type of issue. I can see professional players refusing to abide by these rules. What will happen then? What will happen is a compromise. There was talk in Dresden and player dissatisfation with the rule and they took a vote. The players suggested a short grace period such as 15 minutes. To me, that is just and fair.

    If someone can tell me where chess has lost a sponsor because a player was late to a game, then I would like to know about it. If we are talking about a match being televised, then that’s totally different. In fact, that is what prompted the rule according to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov . I heard him utter these words during the FIDE General Assembly. However, if we are talking about a tournament like Dortmund or Linares, then a time loss is harsh enough at that level. In fact, I don’t know of ANY sport where you are forfeited for being one second late to the match.

    The moral is if you impose a rule there should be room for flexibility instead of going to extreme right from the outset. I believe FIDE left some room by allowing the organizers to set a different grace period, but I believe the default of zero minutes is unreasonable and inflexible… especially in a tournament like the Olympiad where you have so many different types of factors at play.

    If the rule applies to all then each party has to have equal opportunity to obey it. That is why if you are hosting an Olympiad with some teams as much as an hour away and some teams next door to the venue, you cannot have this rule. I believe FIDE overracted in their attempt to impress the IOC… and chess still will not be an Olympic sport.

  5. Some knowledgeable people from outside of chess, who are involved in the world of sports sponsorship, were asked why is it so difficult to gain sponsorship for chess. One of the 3 reasons that they gave was “chess people themselves”. We make all kind of excuses for not doing the things that must be done to improve the commercial attractiveness of our game.

    “There is no chance that all 12 basketball players will not be present unless there is a transport problem or a protest.” Of course there would be a chance of that happening … if the league and teams allowed themselves the same excuses that we in chess make. But they don’t, because they have worked too hard to create a high quality product that sponsors are will to pay $$millions to support.

    “If someone can tell me where chess has lost a sponsor because a player was late to a game, then I would like to know about it.” A well known GM, who I highly respect, made a similar argument to me …” … they either give us the money or they don’t”. The answer to your question Daaim is the same one I gave that GM – that many potential sponsors don’t even pursue the discussion with us after their initial investigation of the various aspects of chess. They simply don’t tell us why they aren’t interested.

    As I mentioned earlier … no single detail is a showstopper. The continuing resistance by chess players to all things that they view as change, is an inhibitor to attracting sponsors. Commercially successful sports have tailored the details of how they operate with the idea of making money in mind … not just for their own convenience. Examples: When they interview an NFL coach for 30 seconds at the end of the first half, its not because he is a nice guy and has nothing better to do at that moment! It’s in the league contract with the networks, because fans like it, and more fans leads to more advertising revenue; We all have heard about TV timeouts — stoppages in the game to accommodate commercials; Also, there is a dress code for what can be worn by players during NFL games. The league has dress code police on staff, typically retired players, who inspect the teams during the pre-game warmups. They provide a list of violations to the teams, which must be corrected before the teams come back out to start the game; How would chess players react to these “infringements”? lol

    The bottomline is that the savvy sports continually work to make themselves as attractive as possible. They prioritize commercial viability over arbitrary traditions and customs. We have a long way to go in chess.

  6. RJT,

    Certainly, we are talking about sport and sponsorship, but those sports have much more support for very different reasons.

    The issue of sponsorship is not so straightforward and the chess sponsor you mentioned gave a very, very vague answer. Maybe that wasn’t the right question. The question could be, “What can the chess community do to earn more sponsorship?” In the answer to your question, he could have meant many things by saying “chess people themselves.” Is he talking about ALL chess people? The people he specifically dealt with? Players? Arbiters? Organizers? Some? All of the above? What does he mean? It’s open to anyone’s interpretation.

    Certainly sponsors may not approach chess organizers because they are not interested (or knowledgeable), but how then do you even figure this in the analysis? You can’t. We can only analyze specific cases that we know about. Where are the cases? Remember this rule was imposed solely to get chess into the Olympics. The lack of the FIDE rule has not hurt the sponsorship of big tournaments in Europe.

    We disagree on the NBA issue. I will say this though… the NBA imposed a MANDATORY dress policy; however, they did not kick players out of the stadium or ban them from playing because they didn’t wear a jacket. They simply impose a penalty in the form of a fine. In fact, the policy allows some flexibility. Imagine if they had said, “All NBA players have to wear a dark suit, with a white shirt, tie and dark shoes.” You go from no rule to a draconian rule. Imagine the push back from players AND sponsors. A chess rule where you go from one hour grace to a “zero tolerance” helps nothing.

    I doubt if the rule will improve sponsorship very much, but I’m glad FIDE had sense enough to allow the organizers some flexibility to determine the grace period.

  7. My first main point is that chess should not leapfrog its traditions to become more strict than peer professional organizations. I showed in the ATP rulebook where they have a 15-minute grace period with fines for players who are late but on-site. They also have a “signing in” provision in a related context. Fines or some other sanction could curtail this being used as a means of throwing games.

    My second point recommends that “ZT” start times be off the hour, e.g. 7:05pm as with many US sporting events. This is not a “grace period”, but could work like one. It also builds in 5 min. for media intros, visiting dignitaries etc.—if you’re going to have a short speech or ceremony on the hour (as I once did for a US Open round), it’s inconsistent to stipulate 7:00 as the start time. In tournament listings, the “:05” could be an immediate visual clue that the strict appearance rule is in effect.

    With the appropriate thinking about implementation and context of an event, I support such a rule.

  8. Kenneth,

    The scene in Dresden was absolutely ridiculous I can assure you. The rule was implemented without foresight and planning. I know this for a fact. I had discussions with FIDE people and got some information… off the record. It was unfairly and inconsistently applied.

    I do believe there should be some type of period for these housecleaning matters. Your solution may even solve a number of issues. Some believe that Zhou may have conveniently “gotten lost” but Hou’s case was another one of those cases that was questionable.

  9. Daaim — Sorry if my description of the view of the person involved in sports sponsorship was vague … their point was not vague! Their observation was that members of the chess world – players, entrenched organizers, etc., did not have the right perspective on working with sponsors to create an attractive package. And I’ll make the point again .. these guys won’t feel like they owe you an explanation … everybody wants their money. If chess seems too inflexible to deal with, they’ll just move on.

    For the most part, professional chess today is very dependent on wealthy patrons – individuals who love the game, and don’t care about it’s quirks, because they are not trying to make money. But that is a limited pool of sponsorship, so it limits the growth of the professional game.

    While I was in Vegas a couple of weeks ago for the National Open, I went over to the Rio to check out the World Series of Poker. Not out of any interest that I have in playing tournament poker, but as an investigation of what poker is doing to fuel their tremendous commercial success. I’ll save the details for later posts, but my conclusion is that chess has just as compelling a potential as poker, with the two having different strengths & weaknesses. The main difference is that some creative people in the poker world saw the potential, and are doing what it takes to realize that potential. Keep in mind that the success of the sports that we envy did not happen overnight … they worked long and hard, in some cases for decades, to achieve their current levels of success. PGA, NBA, Tennis, NFL, NASCAR, etc.

  10. RJT,

    I suppose the key is making chess attractive to viewers so sponsors can feel they are getting the exposure they’re paying for. I personally don’t think this rule will make that much difference. In fact, none of the top tournaments have imposed this rule. They don’t want to risk the chance of a major controversy (a top GM storming out or quitting the tournament) which could ruin potential sponsorship.

    All the sports you mention are very easy to understand and need little explanation. Even poker is easy. I don’t play poker and don’t know all the rules, but I know what they are doing. The other thing in chess you can’t talk to the opponent… in poker this is an interactive sideshow. Of course, EVERYBODY has played cards before which gives it mass appeal.

    With chess it’s not only learning the rules, but to convey what is going without totally confusing an onlooker. You cannot easily go from learning the rules to understanding a Grandmaster game. There are all types of issues here. I remember you told me (in a phone conversation) about the Fischer-Spassky match and how they packaged the coverage. Sounds interesting, but what can we do 37 years later?

    The other point… once a new viewer has gotten past the intrigue of seeing a match once, will they return to watch again? This is what sponsors want to see… sustained interest. Those other sports all have constant movement and are essentially “races” where score is kept. Chess is not really a race, so you really don’t know who’s winning. Another problem.

    In terms of the forfeit rule, Kenneth’s idea of having an off-hour start may help. I remember reading some pointers on time management and they suggested starting meetings off-hour (such as 12:15) because people will remember odd times better. FIDE needs to focus on some core issues, but be judicious in the application of rule changes… and inform federations in enough time to adjust to the change.

  11. Ah, Kenneth welcome to the chessdrum, nice ideas, excellent for tv too! We will be in the mall this weekend to expose the proper use of the fischer clock, Ivanchuck and the traditionalist dont really know how to use it, but not a bad idea by Fide, Trust, the “Black Chess will “assist” you in showing up on time. HaHa Peace.

  12. Daaim — I hear those arguments all the time – they just aren’t true!

    #1. There wasn’t a lot of chit-chat going on at the WSOP tables! I saw a few situations where a player was obviously tying to use banter to get an edge on his opponents, but for the most part it was as intensely quiet as a room full of chessplayers. After all, these guys have staked in their hard earned money, and they are serious about winning it back. Quite a few had mp3 players, I assume to block out distractions and calm their nerves. I suspect that even the talking that we see on broadcast poker is not quite as continuous as it seems, since those shows are heavily edited.

    #2. Live spectating at a big poker tournament not as accessible as at a chess tournament, because you can’t really see any of the play, — remember, the cards are all hidden. In fact, many (most?) hands end when the next-to-last player folds. In that case you don’t even get to see what hand the winner had. In chess of course we have demonstration boards or projectors/screens- nothing is hidden.

    #3. Admittedly the visible action of the athletic sports creates a lot of excitement, which attracts spectators. But I disagree that those sports are any easier to understand than chess. And you are overestimating the difficulty of explaining chess concepts, during a game, in a way that a non-tournament chess player would find informative & entertaining. At the last college chess final four, I was sitting with one of the VP’s at UTD, who is not a chessplayer. I explained to him that top chessplayers approach the opening phase of the game just like NFL teams approach preparing for their opponents … cooking up special “formations and strategies”, often far in advance of sitting down to play. Similar to viewing film, chessplayers can access databases that store the games of their opponents. Of course he immediately got it! I’ve effectively used that analogy, and others, many times, including during the live commentary that I host annually during the TransAtlantic Cup match. People get it, and they are intrigued.

    4. Here is the key to #3 above … even though we all love a sport like football, we really don’t understand it as well as we delude ourselves into believing. 99% of NFL fans, myself included, could not accurately diagram the play that they just saw. Oh sure, we might be able to say that it was a running play … but could we diagram it, using the proper nomenclature and diagramming conventions, as it is described in the team’s playbook? Well, we don’t need to be able to do that to enjoy the game. So what makes us think that knowing the first 20 moves of a topical line in the Semi-Slav is a pre-req to enjoying top level chess?? Back to football – our enjoyment is aided to a large degree by the expert commentary of the broadcasters, who use information fed to them by an entire staff of support people. Plus there is an extensive camera infrastructure at the stadium, that captures and replays and zooms and pans all sorts of things that we would otherwise miss. In other words, we get a lot of help to understand and enjoy a game that we all claim is so simple. All of that is due to the work that the leagues and their partners have done to make the game more attractive and entertaining.

  13. RJT,

    I’ll concede any points you make on poker. I’m basically not interested in what they do in WSOP. Your explanation of differences proves why we shouldn’t compare them.

    Well… we’ll disagree on sports. People understand exactly what the object of major sports are. We are not talking about Xs and Os… we are talking about being able to watch it and understand what is happening. Nevertheless, we cannot approach marketing chess the way other sports market their games. We can use some of their techniques, but chess has to develop its own character. BTW, none of those sports have a “zero tolerance” forfeit rule and that is what we are discussing.

    In the example you gave to the UTD VP, what is NOT to understand?? Your explanation was very general and had no more to do with chess than it did ANY competitive sport. You described what soccer, baseball, cricket, bridge and draughts players all do. Now if you tried to explain to him what was actually going on in the game (as it is evolving), then you would have seen a quizzical look.

    Anyway, we are waaay off topic. The “no tolerance” rule does not help the game gain respect. The real sell is to see players in action. That’s what sponsors pay for. Here’s an example. In a situation like the video below, should Carol Jarecki forfeit Garry Kasparov? How did Intel view Kasparov’s lateness? Did the lateness affect the match? These are questions we should examine.

  14. Daaim – lol I did explain to the UTD VP exactly what was going on! The players were jockeying for position using their pre-planned opening strategies. That is no different than saying that the SF 49ers are executing George Seifert’s scripted first 20 plays. The NFL broadcasters don’t bother to try and decipher for the viewing audience the details of those plays, people get the intention, and that is intriguing enough to them. And the example I gave you was a general comment about the opening stage of all the games. It’s not hard to use a similarly straightforward “bridge analogy” to explain what is happening in a specific game.

    You actually corroborated 2 of my points … first, indeed, “what is there NOT to understand”… about chess! And secondly, there are fundamental elements of strategy that are common across all sports which involve players or teams competing against each other, including chess. The more we emphasize those aspects of our game, the quicker we will debunk the myth of chess incomprehensibility.

    Sure, professional chess will have its unique identity. But it won’t get a pass and prosper without incorporating the elements of reliable drama, quality staging and compelling personalities/teams/organizations, that form the bedrock of all commercially successful sports.

  15. RJT,

    “The players were jockeying for position using their pre-planned opening strategies.”

    You cannot sustain someone’s attention with such a general description of a chess match. What you explained, they already knew. People know that chess is a strategy game and that planning is taking place. Saying they are executing a strategic plan is meaningless to someone who is trying to learn some details about why one player moved his “horse” from h3 to f4.

    Again… the key difference is that the evolution is understood in other sports. In chess players are sitting and the action isn’t obvious. The video I displayed above is an example of capturing chess “action,” but can it be sold to the sponsors (including Kasparov’s tardiness)? I think it is possible, but not by imposing draconian rules.

    Note: Play this video for that UTD VP, say nothing and after he’s done, ask him his impressions.

  16. I don’t use condescending phrasing like “…moved his horse from h3 to f4” with intelligent adults. They know the proper names of the chess pieces. Straightforward analogies to bridge chess concepts to what they are familiar with are all that’s needed, and you can sustain interest.

    The video you attached is not suitable for a non-chess playing audience. I subscribe to David Shenk’s (author of the Immortal Game) advice for discussing chess games with mainstream audiences – don’t spout variations. The Kasparov v Anand video fails in that regard. But it was produced years ago.

    Much better is the series of round updates on the recent US Championship, starring Jennifer and MaCauley. First — unlike your video, the broadcasters are seen in those videos! They do a good job of intermixing contextual info, i.e. what games and matchups are key and why, with first person comments from the competitors themselves. Sports fan like to get personal insights on the competitors, their history, motivations, etc. They do show moves and variations, but its kept to a minimum, and enough concept level words are use to help non-players understand the essence of what happened. Finally, the production values are superb … great camera work, editing, graphics, etc.

  17. RJT,

    I’m not sure what you mean by intelligent. Exposure to chess has nothing to do with how intelligent a person is. Most adults know nothing of chess and they may certainly refer to the knight as a “horse,” or the rook as a “castle.” Just as people incorrectly refer to a “birdie” in badminton, it’s common… and it’s no big deal. Let’s not get sidetracked. My point is that your comment doesn’t shed any understanding of why a player played a move like Nh3-f4 (if they should ask).

    Macauley does excellent work, but I’m sure you realize that those were only wrap-ups and not for following the entire game move for move. I watched their commentary in person and as enjoyable as it was for me, you could not put that on ESPN. Of course, they are catering to a chess audience as in the YouTube video.

    Video by Macauley Peterson (ICC/Chess.FM)

    I would agree that the YouTube of Kasparov and Anand is not appropriate for the audience and I’m not suggesting that it is. I’m just trying to get back on topic. It does feature a possible “zero tolerance” case and provides a chance to discuss such a case. We’re talking about TV and sponsorship and the impact rules may have on the marketing of the game.

    Should a top player be forfeited in a case like the one with Kasparov?

  18. I can only tell you that in my experience, many people understand how to play chess, the names of the pieces and how they move. They don’t call knights horses or horsies, they call them knights.

    They may not be familiar with the world of organized chess, or with the body of master practice, but they are capable of being entertained by the game, it’s players, and its events.

    Since you asked .. how might you explain a move like Nf3?

    Host: So Mr GM, we see that white has made a move, with his knight. Tell us what is going on.

    Mr GM: Well, in this opening, white will typically try to make a breakthrough in the center. So before he attempts that he wants to reposition the knight closer to where the action will be.

    Host: I see, so how might black respond.

    Mr GM: He has a choice. He can try to get something going first on the queenside. Or he can sit tight and be prepared to counterattack, which is currently the most popular way to handle white’s plan. In fact, the black player in this game scored a key victory with that strategy at the XXXXX tournament, held in Serbia last year. Maybe white has a new idea in mind.

    People follow that … I don’t why they wouldn’t. Of course if you include lots of chess jargon, without explanation, you’ll lose them.

    Finally — Should Kasparov have been forfeited .. no, because that wasn’t the rule. And perhaps FIDE’s current attempt to implement such a rule has been sloppy and confused. But as part of a full set of actions to stage an entertaining event, a zero tolerance policy on being present at the start of the game seems natural.

    I bet that Mr Daaim Shabazz has on occasion muttered to himself when he was trying to get some pictures of the top boards at an event, and the players were not present at the start of the round! An organizer works hard to get the mainstream press to their events, and marquee players aren’t even present for the photo window. They lose credibility ..and interest from the press.

  19. RJT,

    First on Kasparov… the point isn’t whether or not it was a rule or not. Let’s say that video was shot in a special match between Nakamura and Carlsen. The question is…

    “Should a top player be forfeited in a case like the one with Kasparov?”

    Think about it… cameras rolling, the sponsors name behind the board and the commentators priming the audience for the impending battle. One of the players is a minute late. The arbiter steps in, looks in the camera and says, “Sorry black is late and has forfeited.” No sponsor will understand it. Again… no professional sport (that I know of) has a “zero tolerance” rule. Do you know of one?

    Originally you stated that a player should forfeit because of professionalism and other standards. Now you are saying he should not have forfeited because it was not the rule. We are arguing the principle of the rule not when it should have been applied. To me a scenario like this has become real and not hypothetical. IMHO, in no case should any player forfeit on the basis of being a minute late.

    Let me say I do appreciate your time and the scenario you laid out. Certainly people can understand what you said, but whether that would keep their interest is another matter. We are talking attracting viewers and sponsorship. You have to do so many things in chess TV. Chess organization (i.e. Foidos) invested a lot of money trying to make chess marketable. They still didn’t meet their projections despite noble efforts.

    Your optimism is noble, but the issue of making chess attractive to both the public and sponsors (and players) is complicated than you can imagine. If you think not, there are a lot of people who would like to meet you and hear your formula.

    Let me be honest… I have never thought of players missing at their boards as an issue. Some players get up and walk around and you can’t tell them to sit down to get photographed. As a photographer with so little time to take photos, you shoot whoever is at the boards. It’s not an issue.

  20. I agree that in the scenario that you describe it would be silly and counterproductive to forfeit the player. But it is also counter-productive to resist efforts to improve the staging of chess events.

    Admit it — it would be better for you as a photo-journalist if the players were all there on time, at the start of a round. You may tolerate it since you are a member of the world of chess, but mainstream journalists, trying to make deadlines, will not be so tolerant.

    Promoting chess is very hard. I don’t believe that there are any shortcuts or silver bullets. But there also isn’t anything intrinsic to our game that prevents us from achieving much greater commercial success. We can learn a lot from the roads that other sports have traveled, embracing appropriately the common elements that entice all sports fans & sponsors, and combining those with the unique attractions of chess. (yes, there are some!)

  21. Interesting opinions on both sides. The questions I’d like to ask are (1) what would began to happen to viewership/sponsorship when major games slated for telecast are suddenly forfeited due to this zero tolerance rule? (2) If you think it would erode the sponsorship and organizer relationship, how would you go about resolving this problem?

  22. I’ll start by asking you a question – if Tiger Woods signs and turns in an inaccurate scoresheet at the end of today’s third round of the US Open, would they kick him out of the tournament ? Would the reason that his scoresheet was inaccurate make a difference in how the situation was handled?

  23. RJT,

    You’re using another sports analogies, but we have to solve chess issues.

    No it wouldn’t make a difference, but it’s apples to oranges. Turning in an inaccurate scoresheet (which is cheating) is very different from being forfeited for being late. They could arbitrate and determine an appropriate penalty whether expulsion (intentional) or a stroke penalty (honest mistake).


    It’s not easy. The sponsors may severe ties after the tournament if controversy brews. What could an organizer do? First of all, have acceptable tournament conditions with lodging nearby. When at the U.S. Championship, all players stayed at the Chase Park Plaza. It was about a five-minute walk from the site… unlike in Dresden where the rich federations were next door and the smaller federations were an hour away. No player staying in that hotel was late to the games. In my opinion, players coming late and quietly sitting down is probably less damaging than a controversy of a player being forfeited after being seconds late and causing a ruckus. Neither are ideal.

    However, it would be a shame to have to use “stand-by” players in a top-level tournament, but let’s examine. Have 1-2 replacement players available and pay them for their time as insurance against someone in the field being late. Use these players for commentary, lectures and simuls if they are not needed as players. This is a small incidental cost IF you invoke the “no tolerance” rule and sponsorship is riding on this. Of course, this is unfair to the player who has prepared for a particular opponent.

    There is no easy solution.

  24. If there’s a rule in place,regardless who the individual is, it must be adhered to. So the answer to your questions is somewhat obvious. Lets assume your analogy is intended to address my questions of viewership/sponsorship. In your scenario, Tiger woods did get a chance to play and the viewers got their satisfaction . I would bet to guess that viewers are more interested in watching the game, and not so much in what happens after the game. A few might, but I doubt if it would have a significant impact on viewership/sponsorship. That’s my best response to your scenario/question. I’d still appreciate your perspective to my original question.

  25. Thanks Daaim. I agree there are no easy answers! When a Superstar , like BobbyFisher, comes along, perhaps fiding sponsorship/viewership will not be as difficult.

  26. Daaim – I do owe you an answer to your original question, even though it is one of those “your answer will sound ridiculous” setups. But I’m game!

    1. Yes, Magnus would be forfeited, in accordance with the match rule that we’re clearly spelled out in advance.

    2. The fact that he was late would be disappointing to the broadcasters, organizers and sponsors, but not a surprise to them.That is because it would already have been clear for some time that Magnus had not arrived at the venue by the proscribed arrival time. Perhaps he had already accrued a penalty by missing that target, which would exist to try and prevent the totally undesirable scenario that you described.

    3. The broadcast story would then become – Magnus is not here, where is he, will he make it on time, what happens if he doesn’t, how will the forfeit impact his chances to win the match. The drama and controversy might actually increase interest in the match.

  27. 4.The impact to the stature of chess with sponsors would depend upon whether or not Magnus’ tardiness was an exception or a pattern, and what his reaction is to the forfeit. If he admits that he screwed up, apologizes to fans and sponsors and promises to get an earlier start to the venue going forward, then the quality image of the event is preserved. If he protests and refuses to continue the match, perhaps destroying the event, that would turn off existing and potential sponsors.

  28. RJT,

    I agree 100% with #3. You have to be positive and cover the best angle of the story. However, a forfeit would be devastating for Magnus (or Hikaru if he was the offender) and all involved. Sheesh… no winners. I merely think having the commentators to “stretch” with pre-game information and allowing him to quietly come to his board and play without any commotion would be better than taking a chance of a media frenzy.

    On points #1 and #2, I wouldn’t chose to debate whether the rule should be executed if it is a rule. If it is a rule, it will be executed and Magnus would lose. You’re right. I’m debating on whether the rule is a just rule. I don’t believe it is.

    I remember reading history of the struggles against segregation in the 50s and 60s. The shopkeepers executed the law that Blacks could not eat in the front of public facilities. They had to go around the back and eat there or go somewhere else that served Blacks. That was a federal law in America. Now when people of that day were asked, “Should Blacks be allowed to eat in public facilities,” many would reply, “No because it’s against the law.” That’s not really what’s being asked.

    What we should always argue is whether laws are just and a “no tolerance,” immediate forfeit is an unjust rule and should not be implemented without some flexibility. You may disagree, but I think by us examining the difficulties of dealing with the forfeit lets me know that there is another path. No top tournament has ever used that rule and I doubt if they would take that chance.

  29. Guy,

    If someone comes along, they’ll have to have an interesting personality to attract sponsorship. None of the players I see today fit that bill. Nakamura is interesting. I’ve had long chats with him on Facebook and he is very candid… has a different way of thinking. He’s a bit brash and has a story to tell. The USCF is not using him to promote the game. He is the U.S. Champion and part of the elite and the USCF doesn’t have a clue on how to package him.

  30. I think you all have made some very interesting points, the answer to this question is defined by who or why you are replying to it! Let us for a momuent consider that we are “doctor’s”… then in a particular situation we are concern with treating a patients condition, short term and long term and what is best for the patient is our highest priorty. Is it not “clear what we are doing and why”? Then in a similiar situation we are ask a question about the “practical theory” involve with a particular “treatment”, especially the cost, the time we meant have to invest for reseach etc. etc are we searching for a true or or are we trying to “remove a cancer” if we believe something is wrong or in error is it not our responsibility to inform and assist in its correction?! The attractive aspects of the royal game are subtle and complex at the same time but there is one thing clear if we would like to bring more attention to this game there are two important ascepts to consider. The first is the “similiarity or the power of association” that exsist with all things, by finding common ground the explanation of many activities can be “simplified” and the mysteries removed. When I was in 5th grade my history teacher give the class an explanation and defination as to why history is important, after class I brought to his attention that I strongly disagreed with his explanation and defination and give a clear definative reason why. In short, if life is one reaccuring big circle then the dates and names are not as important as recognizing the effects and circumstances so we can recognize them …and pervent them from happening again!!!

  31. Daaim – I remember those days of overt segregation, as contrasted with the covert flavor that still exists in some areas today.

    Getting back to to the original topic of the thread… the Dresden and Wang Hao situations seem to be simply cases of players not bothering to be present on time. Such a goal is a worthwhile one, organizers and players should cooperate to achieve it, and it is fair (just) to hold themselves accountable via severe penalties, like game forfeiture. My experience is that quality execution leads to greater success.

    Regarding the golf example I gave earlier, Tiger would be disqualified from the tournament, no doubt to the disappointment of TV advertisers and the local organizing group. That is what happened to Sergio Garcia at the 2007 PGA Championship – even though the root cause of the error was his playing partner’s (yes, his competitor) mis-marking of one of Sergio’s holes. The players keep each others scores during the round, but each player is still held strictly accountable for double checking the accuracy of the tally before he signs the scoresheet and turns it in at the scoring tent. Sergio was careless, probably because he had a disappointing round.

    His reaction to going home with zero dollars — “I screwed up”. Even though Sergio is a multimillionaire, national hero in Spain, and gallery favorite because of his skill and animated style. But he also realizes that he has a responsibility to protect the goose that lays the golden eggs! Can you imagine if FIDE required chessplayers to turn in accurate scoresheets, or else be disqualified! lol

  32. RJT,

    Follow me here. My point was not the history of segregation, but the law that was imposed. It was an unjust law that many followed because it was a law and not because it was good in principle. Same with “zero tolerance” in chess. Arbiters are forfeiting players because it is a rule and not necessarily because it is good in principle. I talked to at least one arbiter in Dresden who disagreed with the rule. Others used discretion while others forfeited regardless of excuse. You have made that case that players should be forfeited because they violated a rule (true), but my issue is the principle and spirit of the rule.

    It would be a ridiculous rule for a player to turn in a correct scoresheet in chess or forfeit. Unlike golf, an incorrect move on a scoresheet in chess doesn’t affect the outcome. However, if FIDE imposed this, then many would say they should be forfeited because it is now a rule. It is an issue of fairness. The question in all of this is whether the rule is just and what would be a better formula for increasing professionalism. I believe “zero tolerance” creates more problems than it solves and if I were a betting man, I would wager that it will NEVER be adopted on a widespread basis unless there is some flexibility.

  33. Barry,

    Good to see you here.

    I believe that we don’t often examine the cause and effects of experiments whether in medicine or in sport. The pharmaceutical industry makes billions getting people to believe that it’s OK to be ill because they have pills to make it better. However, with these products come so many adverse side effects. All those commercials with smiling people jumping in the sunlight and green pastures is ignoring the “why” that you bring up.

    In sport, officials make rule changes and they test them to see what adverse side effects arise. If the rule causes too much turbulence, then they adjust it. FIDE has a tendancy to change rules midstream just as they did in the Championship Cycle and at the last Olympiad in Dresden. The issue of how medals were awarded was another issue that caused a lot of controversy. Many argued that the highest performance rating was better than highest number of points. Yet the final match and team scores are determined by points and not performance ratings. What is more important?

    The question you bring up is “why?” This simply inquiry is often overlooked and I believe FIDE continues to be reactionary because they want to be perceived a certain way.

  34. RJT,

    Guess what? I just read an interesting article in today’s New York Times about golf sponsorship and the difficulties they are having in these turbulent financial times. The argument is that corporations want to avoid being perceived as loose spenders in a time when fiscal responsibility is needed.

    There was an issue of the bankers who received TARP money from the failed institutions and had spent it on parties and junkets which included golf. The image of golf took a hit and affected sales of corporate tents and tickets as execs pulled back. The article basically stated organizers are hedging their bets on the X factor… Tiger Woods.

    Your statement,

    If Tiger Woods signs and turns in an inaccurate scoresheet at the end of today’s third round of the US Open, would they kick him out of the tournament ? Would the reason that his scoresheet was inaccurate make a difference in how the situation was handled?

    These are interesting questions. The rules are clear in golf about scorekeeping, but the article lead me to believe if Tiger had an incorrect scorecard, he may not be disqualified. Pete Bevacqua, the U.S.G.A.’s chief business officer stated,

    “If Tiger weren’t in golf, what would the impact really be?” Bevacqua said. “You can’t even measure how important he is to the game. He’s a Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby all rolled into one for us.”

    Of course we are not talking about cheating by an elite chess player (i.e., Kasparov-Polgar), but the application of rules and their flexibility. I’m sure golf has some flexibility there. Chess should as well.

    Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/sports/golf/21tiger.html

  35. I’ve been traveling so I couldn’t respond until now.

    Agreed – FIDE’s implementation of the zero-tolerance rule is flawed. I said so earlier. I also said that the underlying goal is still a good one, as part of a broader effort to improve the staging of chess events.

    Tiger would definitely be forfeited. Again, I said his reaction would then determine what happened next. If he complained that his disqualification was unfair, too harsh, that could lead to a battle where one side or both sides might lose. In that scenario, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the PGA Tour back down and change the rule, after the fact, since Tiger’s emergence has dramatically increased the revenue for everyone involved in golf.

    My bet is that Tiger would just blame himself, and move on. He also has his image to consider — why risk being viewed as someone who wants a pass from obeying the rules. The PGA has been very supportive of what he wants to do. They don’t hassle him about the fact that he plays very few PGA Tour tournaments, which lets him play in more lucrative guaranteed fee events like in Dubai. And they moved an established tournament to a less desirable slot so that he could have his own signature event that weekend.

    I’m glad to see you researching other sports. We in chess can learn a lot from the successes and failures of other sports.

  36. RJT,

    Welcome back!

    Well… having worked for Sports Illustrated in New York and coming from a sports-mad city of Chicago, you’d better believe I have researched a lot of other sports. 😉

    However, I’m not sure how much apply much from the golf lesson. Garry Kasparov openly cheated against Judit Polgar and nothing happened… it was not even mentioned to him during or after the game. Why didn’t someone forfeit Garry when the rules are clear?

    I believe there are enough cases in chess where we can focus on improvements as opposed to trying to retrofit other sports examples to our chess situation.

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