Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Swiss Manager - Time to update

If you are a user of the Swiss Manager pairing program, now would be a good time to update to the latest version. With FIDE changing the data format of their rating lists to take in to account Rapid and Blitz ratings, older versions of Swiss Manager do not process the information correctly. In the case that I observed, the names get input correctly, but everything else is gone. Downloading the latest version fixed this up straight away.
There are also some changes in the new version, including the ability to import various national ratings lists, including Australia. The only trap to avoid is making sure you specify the right download file. The ACF lists defaults to /jun12/junmst12 which needs to be changed to /sep12/sepmst12 to get the latest info.
You can either download the update to Swiss Manager from inside the program itself, or go to and follow the links.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 Changes to the FIDE Laws of Chess

As a result of my tardiness, I never made it to the end of my discussion about the proposed changes to the FIDE Laws of Chess before the changes were actually made. It turns out that some suggestions from the meeting of RTRC Counselors in April 2012 were accepted, some were rejected, and some third party proposals were debated at the 2012 FIDE Congress.
RTRC Chairman Geurt Gijssen has made a summary of the changes and posted them in his Chess Cafe Column. The link is on the right hand side of the screen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No draw offers before 30 moves

Two interesting incidents from the current Olympiad concerning the no draw offers before move 30 rule. In one match a player came down with a health problem (280/120 was his blood pressure reading!) and as a result, the medical staff said he was unable to continue the game, as he could seriously damage his health. The opponent was happy to agree to a draw, but the problem was that it was only move 28. However the arbiter sensibly suggested that the players concerned play 2 quick moves, and then a draw could be offered. This was done (causing no extra stress for the player concerned) and then the point was shared. The other incident was quite funny for the spectators, but maybe not the players involved. At some point in a lower board match, a player offered a draw, although it was only about move 25. The opponent pointed out they had to reach move 30 before a draw could be offered, and the game continued. Now it is not clear if the first player believed that he had been promised a draw by move 30, but this is certainly how he played. He played some garbage moves to get to move 30, but in doing so left himself with a lost position. But having reached move 30 he was then very angry when the now allowable draw offer was refused. He began verbally abusing his opponent, who was in the middle of executing a mating attack. When the axe finally fell he picked up his opponents queen and slammed it down on the board, all the time calling is opponent names. Even his other team members could not keep a straight face, and the offending players captain made a great show of congratulating the opponent, and apologising for his team members appalling behaviour. For the rest of us, it has been the best 'dummy spit' of the tournament so far!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 8

Article 8 deals with the recording of moves, and in my experience, is one area where an arbiter is likely to be called upon to make a number of rulings.
At the the meeting in Lausanne there wasn't a big discussion on this section, although there is one big proposal that will be voted on in Istanbul.
One issue that did come up was that of legibility, as the 8.1 requires a player to write 'legibly'. In the end we decided it was up to individual arbiters to make there own judgement, using the obvious test of being able to reconstruct a game with the minimum of assistance. This of course may result in the forfeiture of vast numbers of chess players, but I have never seen a player punished for poor handwriting yet.
There was a proposal to treat players with a disability differently from players who cannot score for other reasons (eg religion), and this will be voted on at RTRC meeting.
8.3 states that the scoresheets belong to the tournament organisers. This isn't being changed, but it is worth noting I had a dispute with a player at this years Doeberl Cup who refused to turn in his scoresheet, and then disputed this rule, claiming it was over ridden by 'the laws of Australia'. In the end I walked away from this argument, but sorted it out at a later stage.
8.4 is the section that specifies when you can stop recording. You can stop recording when you have less than 5 minutes before the next (or final) time control, and if you have less than 30s increment. The USCF is proposing a change to this rule, to allow both players to stop recording, when one player is below this limit. I will vote against this proposal,as one of the requirements of playing tournament chess is to keep a record of the game, if you are able to. The other problem is: What happens if a player is below 5 minutes but continues to record, can the second player stop? (Feel free to think of other variants of this problem).
Otherwise everything remained unchanged, apart from a few language corrections.

Chess Organisers Handbook

The FIDE Events Commission have released Events Organisers Handbook. It is in pdf and is free to download.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can I be a player and an arbiter at the same time?

The question of the player-arbiter comes up quite a lot. Is it possible to be an arbiter and a player in the same tournament? The answer depends on what event it is.
For small events or club events, the player/arbiter is quite common, and normally it isn't a problem. For FIDE rated events it is discouraged, but not totally out of the question. However, if you wish to earn an arbiters norm (FA/IA) from a FIDE rated event, then you either have to be a non-playing arbiter, or forgo the norm.
In response to a question from Peter Cassettaru, the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters Commission stated:

Dear Mr. Cassettari,

it is not allowed the Arbiter of a FIDE rated tournament to be a player in the same tournament at the same time.
Such an Arbiter's norm shall not be recognized.

With best regards
Panagiotis Nikolopoulos
FIDE Arbiters' Commission

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 7

Article 7 of the FIDE Laws of Chess deals with Irregularities, and how they are to be handled. In my experience this is probably the biggest area of confusion for arbiters, although not so much for players.
There is one philosophical point worth pointing out here. One assumption made when drawing up these laws is that chess players do not intentionally cheat (even if they do from time to time). This means that we are not bogged down with pages of rules and regulations designed to restore 'equity'. Contrast this with the Laws of Bridge (for those that play both games) and you will see what I mean.
The first proposed change to Article 7 is to include a new 7.1, although this is essentially Article 6.13, now moved to a better location. The interesting thing in this clause is that it instructs the arbiter to also adjust the move-counter on a clock if needed. This explicitly allows the use of move-counters in FIDE rated chess events (although of course it does not mandate them).
7.2 Has a little bit of wording changed (to read better), but the intent remains the same. If the pieces are set up wrong at the start, the game is to be restarted, if the chessboard is the wrong way round, as per Article 2.1 (and not just because the numbers and letters are wrong), then the game is moved to a new, correctly orientated board.
There has been some extra wording attached to 7.5 (old 7.4) to cover some explicit illegal move cases. Leaving a pawn unpromoted on the back rank and capturing the opponents king are now specifically defined as illegal moves.  To be honest I'm not fussed about this change, although it may help arbiters when dealing with argumentative players.
7.5b just adds the requirement that illegal moves must be completed (ie the clock is pressed), before valid claims by the opponent can be made.
7.6 deals with illegal positions/moves and how they are to be corrected. The need to conform with 4.3 and 4.6 has been added to this section, which means that if a position arises due to an illegal move, the replacement move must adhere to touch move etc (rather than playing any move that suits you).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 6

From Article 6, the FIDE Laws of Chess deal with 'competition chess'. This is for games played within competitions, where the final result contributes to something more than just personal pride. Having said that, even now the Laws try and avoid trying to define what form the competition takes, leaving that to the FIDE Tournament Regulations (the TR in RTRC).
The first change to Article 6 is a an new definition. We decided to define 'The chessclock' so as to make the following articles clearer. The proposed new 6.1 reads

‘Chessclock’ means a clock with two time displays, connected to each other in such a way that only one of them can run at one time. ‘Clock’ in the Laws of Chess, means one of the two time displays. Each time display has a ‘flag’. ‘Flag fall’ means the expiration of the allotted time for a player.

Following this we then removed an area of confusion in the previous rules that has always irked me. We propose to define 'press' or 'presses' as meaning pushing the button on your clock to start the opponents clock. We also propose the define 'stop' to mean halting both clocks (or the chessclock) to ask for the arbiters assistance.
Article 6.2 is essentially unchanged, apart from using the new terms mentioned. However taken together with Article 6.3, it does clear up an issue that is still debated. Article 6.2 requires players to complete the required number of moves before the end of the time control (ie 'flag fall). Article 6.3 then requires the Arbiter to check whether this has happened, immediately after on flag falls. Why is this important? Because it answers the question about whether arbiters should call flag fall. Under USCF rules the arbiter does not call flag fall, and I know a number of arbiters (including myself), who are uncomfortable in doing so.
As I have posted in a previous entry, if you follow 6.2 and 6.3, you are required to make a ruling concerning 6.2 the moment you notice a flag has fallen, or one player alerts you to this fact. However, at this point you are making no statement concerning the result of the game, but are merely checking whether the conditions of 6.2 have been met. If it turns out that they have not, then Article 6.9 applies. While this is a somewhat convoluted explanation, it does at least treat the issue of flag fall as a routine part of the game, in the same way that touch move or stalemate may needed to be ruled upon.
6.4 is unchanged, and simply states that the clock is to be placed by the arbiter. Of course there is still the persistent belief that the player with the Black pieces decides, and while this generally happens in practice, it is not correct. In a practical sense, an arbiter may wish to place the clocks all facing in the one direction to make observing them easier. The work around is either for the arbiter to not mind players moving clocks, or to simply allow the player with the Black pieces to decide which side of the table they wish to sit. (Barring left-handers from chess is probably a step too far!)
6.5 is also unchanged, and states that the clock of player of the White pieces is started first.

Now we get on to 6.6. This is the big ticket item, and the one that is probably the most controversial rule in recent years. As it currently stands, 6.6 requires the organiser to set a default time, and a player arriving after that time loses the game. It also states that this time shall be 0 minutes, if the organiser does not specify a time.
Now while the rule clearly states that it is an organisers right to set this time, FIDE (and RTRC) have come under a great deal of criticism for the implementation of this rule. While I'm not saying this criticism is unwarranted, we do have the absurd situation of the ECU using a 0 default time for their own championship, and yet somehow trying to shift the blame onto FIDE, despite the ECU being able to choose a non-zero time.
Having said that, I for one went to the meeting with a proposal to remove 0 and replace it with 30 minutes (or even 15 minutes). However in discussion we looked at a couple of different proposals. Now at this stage we haven't quite agreed on what we will present in Istanbul, but has come down to 2 choices.
The first is to keep it as is, with one small addition. The result shall be a loss, 'unless the arbiter decides otherwise'. While this is a small improvement, it will still be difficult to implement, as players will argue for conformity in arbiter rulings, and letting one player off means letting all players off.
The second proposal is one that I support and reads

The rules of a competition shall specify in advance a default time. Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the default time shall lose the game unless the arbiter decides otherwise.

This wording takes out any mention of a specific default time from the Laws of Chess, and puts the responsibility in the hands of the tournament organisers. Of course some tournament organisers will still insist on 0 (including FIDE), but it will only apply to their tournaments.

The various clauses in 6.7 are mainly unchanged, except under 6.7c we have added 'to press the clock before moving' as things you cannot do with the chessclock. Also in 6.7d, which deals with time adjustments for players who cannot press the clock (ie need an assistance), there is a proposal to exempt players with a disability from this requirement.
From Articles 6.8 to 6.12 we mainly fixed up the wording, with 'the chessclock' replacing 'clocks' wherever necessary. The only real addition was in 6.10b where fixing the clocks 'move-counter' is explicitly mentioned. This foreshadows an explicit recognition of the use of move-counters on clocks, as until now this has not clearly been stated in the relevant regulations.
Article 6.13 is to be taken out of the Laws, and instead moved into Article 7, which deals with other irregularities. This means that 6.14 becomes the new 6.13, but otherwise there is little change.

*** Small Update ***
The proposed change to article 6.6 is now the one listed above

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 5

Article 5 is the last section that deals with how chess is played, and defines the completion of the game (minus technical issues which are covered later). All we did here was take out the references to Articles that occur after this, as they do not make any sense if a person is not reading the complete Laws of Chess. However there is one issue that occasionally comes up and that is 5.1b. "The games is won by the player whose opponent declares he resigns. This immediately ends the game" There is a claim that you can arrange a 1-1 result by both resigning at the same time. A couple of people have asked us to fix this, but it is one of those issues which fall under the heading of "Why?". Nonetheless Franca Dapiran did come up with a sensible suggestion to resolve this case. If both players resign at the same time, simply take the player whose move it is (ie whose clock is running) as the player who resigned first.

Monday, May 14, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 4

Article 4 deals with "The Act of Moving the Pieces". We dealt with a couple of proposals and tidied up some wording. However I am surprised that there are still large numbers of chessplayers who still don't understand all the clauses.
For example I still get asked at blitz events whether two handed capturing/castling is allowed. Short answer - NO. 4.1 states "Each move must be made with one hand only". Seems pretty straightforward to me. (NB we did not change this rule at all).
We made a slight change the 4.2 to clarify who can adjust pieces after saying "Adjust" etc. It is the player who has the move, and only the player who has the move. However he is still allowed to adjust his opponents pieces.
In 4.3, we have removed "deliberately" before "touches" and instead added the phrase "with the intention of moving or capturing" at the end of the first sentence. This is a refinement if the previous wording, to make the intention of the rule clear.
While the initial discussion concerning the issue of pawn promotion did not lead anywhere, I have proposed an addition to 4.4 to deal with the case of pawns not being placed on the back rank before promotion takes place. My draft wording for 4.4d is
intends to promote (3.7e), the player may remove the pawn from the 7th rank and then place the promoted piece on the promotion square.

and the current 4.4d becomes 4.4e. The idea is to 'legalise' a common way of promoting a pawn. At this stage the proposed wording is still being discussed, so I do not know whether it will be a recommended law change or not.
Otherwise the changes are mainly cosmetic, removing instances of repeated expressions, or in the case of 4.7, making the wording consistent with 4.3

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 3

Article 3 saw a little bit more work, although this was mainly in the area of tightening up definitions.
Section 3.1 contains definitions of 'attack' as well as a prohibition on capturing your own pieces. There was some discussion about what defines 'attacking a square', as whether pinned pieces can capture on a square (normally they can't) or give check (in this case they do), needs to be taken into account. In the end we modified the wording slightly, without changing the assumed meaning.
There was also the regular discussion about how best to define the Knight move. It was noted that definitions seem to change from language to language, and this can sometimes cause difficulties. The familiar "moves in an L shape" definition in English may have no equivalent in Chinese or Japanese. In the end we left it as is.
Section 3.7 deals with how the pawn moves, and there was some work done here. The definition of en-passant  was tidied up to remove the use of the word 'attack' and instead to use the physical location of the respective pawns. ( 'occupying a square on the same rank and on an adjacent file').
Promotion was also covered in this section, and although we left the wording unchanged it is still something that may be revisited. The difficulty is that this section defines what promotion 'is', not how it is supposed to occur. So the definition starts with 'When a pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position' which is perfectly fine. But in the absence of any further laws concerning promotion, this also becomes the defined method of promotion (ie You must physically move the pawn to the 8th rank to effect promotion). This then cause difficulties (especially at Blitz) when players simply remove the pawn from the 7th and put a piece down on the 8th. We had intended to work on something to repair this, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we did not have the time to do so. Nonetheless I may still try and put something together before Istanbul.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 2

Article 2 of the FIDE Laws of Chess is pretty straightforward. In fact we have not changed anything in this section, although we are proposing a simple addition. Section 2.2 contains a 2D representation of the pieces, which are normally used for setting chess diagrams in books. The proposal is to add an image of pieces as they would look in real life, ie in 3D (although we aren't proposing to use 3D images!). The pictures will probably be of the standard Staunton design chess pieces.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 1

You might think that Article 1 of the FIDE Laws of Chess is pretty straightforward, and yet we needed to do a little housekeeping here. The issue was 1.1 and the idea that the player with the White pieces 'commences the game'. Using our 'be descriptive as possible' policy we decided to change it to the player with the white pieces, 'moves first'.
However this wasn't our only change. While it might be assumed that everyone should understand that White plays, then Black plays, then White plays etc, I suspect someone suggested that the rules are not clear enough, and although White plays first, the rules then do not prevent the alternation of moves starting with a second White move! So we fixed this one as well.

Monday, April 30, 2012

FIDE Laws of Chess - Article 0

Of course there is no Article 0 in the FIDE Laws of Chess, but there is both a Preface, and probably an underlying framework to the document. Even before that there is the question about how these Laws are made and amended.
The responsibility for defining the FIDE Laws of Chess lies with the Rules and Tournament regulations Commission. The current Commission is chaired by Geurt Gijssen (NED), with Stewart Reuben (ENG) as Secretary. Ashot Vardapetyan (ARM), Franca Dapiran (ITA) and myself are the Commission Counselors. The rest of the Commission is made of general members nominated by there respective Confederations.
The full commission meets every year at the FIDE Congress. These meetings are also open to the public, who may make contributions to the proceedings. Members of the public are also entitled to submit suggestions, at any time, to the RTRC, concerning proposed changes to the Laws of Chess.
Every four years (eg 2008, 2012) the Commission will present their recommended changes to the Laws of Chess to the FIDE General Assembly for approval. Proposed changes will normally go through the Chair, and be sent to the RTRC members for discussion. Also some changes will be presented to a RTRC Counselors meeting, like the one just held in Lausanne.
One important thing to know is the framework and ethos of the Laws of Chess. The first 5 articles are how chess is played. As one person at the RTRC meeting put it, "It is the rules you get when you buy a chess set". it is a definition of how the pieces move, how the game ends, and other important rules for playing the game (ie check etc). Articles 6 to 14, as well as the appendices cover the rules of competition chess. This deals with the a game between two players, using a chess clock, with an arbiter (almost always) present. Importantly, this is pretty much the boundary of the rules. While this part defines competitive chess, it does not generally deal with chess competitions or tournaments. This is instead covered in the FIDE Tournament Regulations (which the RTRC handle as a separate document).
One effect of this is that the references in the Laws of Chess may seem a little odd. One thing we have tried to avoid is referring to any Articles from 6 to 14 in the first 5 Articles, as it would not make sense outside of competitive play. This can make some definitions seem incomplete or repetitive (eg stalemate).
Nonetheless one suggestion that is being adopted is the introduction of a glossary of terms. This will explain the meaning by some of the expressions and definitions used in the Laws. The only difficulty is if this glossary is included in the Laws (even as an appendix) it becomes part of the laws, and then subject to the same change procedure!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Swiss Pairing Rules - Half point byes

Whether it is legal to give half point byes in a FIDE Rated Swiss tournament has been subject to debate for quite a while. Some pairing programs do allow it (even FIDE approved ones) but until recently the pairing rules seemed to be clear that it wasn't allowed. Under the rules for the Dutch System clause F5 stated

Players who withdraw from the tournament will no longer be paired. Players known in advance not to play in a particular round are nor paired in that round and score 0.

However the last meeting of the FIDE Swiss Pairing Programs Committee, as well as the FIDE Technical Commission had a look at the rules and have now ruled that they are allowable.
In the updated Swiss Pairing Rules clause B1b now states

A player who has received a point or half point without playing, either through a bye or due to an opponent not appearing in time, is a downfloater (see A.4) and shall not receive a bye.

The text of the updates Swiss Pairing Rules is at this link FIDE Swiss Pairing Rules (Dutch System)
(Note: Clause F5 still remains unchanged in the updated rules, but in discussion with SPP Chairman Christian Krause, we agreed that this is overridden by B1b and F5 will be changed at the next meeting).

The discussions concerning this, and other changes to the pairing rules are included in the minutes of the Swiss Pairing Programs Committee.

However the final decision of half point byes was made by the Technical Commission, who's meeting minutes are here.

Nonetheless there may be some time until all FIDE approved pairing programs are updated to reflect the changes in the pairing rules. At the 2012 Queenstown International I observed a number of cases where players who had received a half point bye were then downfloated in the next round, or the round after by Swiss Manager. on the other hand, JaVaFo, which we ran alongside Swiss Manager (under the Vega interface) did treat the half point bye correctly.