Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trying to stay sane as an arbiter

Last week not one but two accusations of cheating landed in my inbox. They both occurred in tournaments I was an arbiter at, and interestingly, both were made after the game in question, and the tournaments they were played in, were completed.
The first was concerning a game between 2 players in an Under 1600 event. The basis of the accusation was that one player was leaving the room during the game and was talking to a parent who was using a laptop, with a running chess program on it. As further evidence to support the claim, the game itself was later analysed by a recent Australian Champion and Olympiad representative who allegedly stated " the boy played like a '2000' rated player".
Unfortunately no claim was made to the arbiters during or immediately after the game in question, so I was unable to rule on the first part of the claim. In fact during the same tournament (in another section) there was a player who was leaving the room after every move, although this was due to a health issue. However his opponents asked us to monitor his movements (as it was distracting more than anything else) and we did so (finding nothing untoward btw).
As for the second part of the claim, I've looked at the game in question and it doesn't look anything like a '2000' rated player's game (unless missing Mate in 2 is de rigueur for 2000 rated players these days). I'm not sure what motivated the former Australian Champion to make such a statement but to my eyes, does not match the reality of the game. Instead it was a game where both players made short term threats and eventually one player lost material. Nothing different from most of the other games played in that tournament (including the missed mate in 2).
The second accusation was far more serious, as in my opinion, it was entirely without merit. Basically Player B has a winning position (with 3 or 4 minutes on the clock) and decides to repeat moves to pick up some time from the 30s increment. However Player B miscounts the repetitions and leaves Player A (who had less time) the chance to claim a draw (by recording a move on scoresheet that brings about the third repetition). However instead of claiming, Player A looks at Player B and says "Draw". Player B who believes the position has only been repeated twice says No, but instead of now claiming Player A moves. Although the position has now appeared on the board 3 times, by moving Player A has lost the right to claim and Player B plays a new move which creates a new position. Player B then wins the game in short order, with player A resigning.
A few hours after the game I received an email accusing Player B of cheating. While this claim had no specific references to any rules that had been broken the gist of it was that Player B had done something wrong in repeating the position to gain time, and that he should have realised that he had repeated the position 3 times and given Player A the draw. I was also at fault for not stepping in a declaring the game a draw.
As I was the arbiter for this game I suggested that an appeal be made to the ACT Chess Association on this matter, with a public hearing held forthwith. This suggestion was declined, although the accusation of cheating has not been withdrawn at this stage.

What I find most disturbing about both these incidents is that the accusation of 'cheating' is being tossed about in such a cavalier fashion. In defense of both "players", the actual emails did not come from them, but from a parent of the player, although I am taking the position that the parent is speaking on behalf of the child. And in both cases, nothing was said to the arbiters during or immediately after the games in question.
And I guess there are two lessons to take from this. (A) If you want the arbiters to do something, ask straight away (B) Kids, if your are going to get grown ups to speak for you, make sure they know what they are talking about.