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I am currently playing in an ELO tournament.

Today, while I was playing, my opponent occasionally got up and walked around. At first, I did not care much. Then, I realized that some people were behind me, examining the game very carefully.

At the moment there was a critical position, my opponent was not at the board, and three or four guys came around, and began to speak among themselves. I looked for an arbeiter but there was only one and he was sitting at the other end of the tournament room.

I made my move, and went to the arbiter. This is when the weird things happen. I told the arbiter that my opponent is never at the board, and there are some people coming when he's away. There are cameras everywhere, so he is free to check.

When I and arbiter were walking back, there were three people around the board, talking to each other and pointing at the game, and my opponent was also at the board, listening to them.

I immediately said that I demand a rematch at the least, since this is not the first time. Arbiter spoke to my opponent and his response was "he said that they were speaking about something else, I warned him, and this will not repeat again."

He also told me that if I don't sign the scoresheet, it counts as I did not play the game, and I cannot claim anything. So, I completed the game, signed the sheet, and told the arbiter that I will write this to FIDE.

I have written a mail describing this situation. But I'm not sure if something will change. In case such situation happens again, how should I proceed?

  • 10
    You'd really like to think that the real opponent in chess is yourself and that we're all on a quest to make ourselves smarter and better. Hearing things like this really bums me out. :-( – corsiKa Nov 16 '17 at 17:26
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    Sign it 'under protest' next time. – user207421 Nov 18 '17 at 9:20
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According to the 2017 version of the Laws of Chess, rule 11.10 says:

Unless the regulations of an event specify otherwise, a player may appeal against any decision of the arbiter, even if the player has signed the scoresheet (see Article 8.7).

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Writing to FIDE will make you feel better but is otherwise a waste of your time.

Let's step through and see why.

First, getting up and walking around is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

Here's what the FIDE Laws of Chess have to say -

11.2.1 The ‘playing venue’ is defined as the ‘playing area’, rest rooms, toilets, refreshment area, area set aside for smoking and other places as designated by the arbiter.

11.2.2 The playing area is defined as the place where the games of a competition are played.

11.2.3 Only with the permission of the arbiter can:

11.2.3.1 a player leave the playing venue,

11.2.3.2 the player having the move be allowed to leave the playing area.

11.2.3.3 a person who is neither a player nor arbiter be allowed access to the playing area

When it is your turn your opponent is allowed to get up and go anywhere in the "playing" venue. This includes the toilets, smoking area, refreshment area.

When it is your opponent's turn he is still allowed to get up and wander around the "playing area", basically the room or rooms where the tournament is taking place.

Secondly, if the people watching your game were not players then they would only be allowed there if spectators were allowed, but this is normal practice. If, as spectators they behave "badly" - disturbing the players, discussing the game - then the arbiter can ask them to leave. He cannot penalize either of the players for this behaviour by third parties.

Thirdly, if a player has a complaint against an arbiter's decision in a FIDE rated event then an appeals committee should be set up, normally 3 or more players, possibly the organizer, to hear the player's complaint and come to a decision. Only if this is unsatisfactory can you take it further, although "further" probably means your national federation.

If you receive a reply from FIDE it is likely to be to tell you to take up the matter with the event appeals committee or your national federation.

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    So, what prevents players from discussing moves with other players while it's their turn? – padawan Nov 15 '17 at 20:06
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    Also, by Chess Law 11.3.a, "during play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard." So, it is just "I'll break the rule if you can't prove." – padawan Nov 15 '17 at 20:16
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    If the arbiter did not at least give some sort of penalty to those people talking around a game in progress (even if the arbiter couldn't be sure whether they were talking about that game) I'd be disappointed. – D M Nov 15 '17 at 20:18
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    He did absolutely nothing. The game continued and I've lost (naturally). Not mentioning that my opponent suddenly began to make positional moves after the discussions although he was playing pure materiallistic throughout the game. – padawan Nov 15 '17 at 20:29
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A short answer to the title of your question would be that you do not lose the right to appeal against any of the arbiter's decisions by signing the scoresheet.

But also notice that you did not use your right to appeal anyway, therefore, you have, most likely, already lost it. Every tournament has an appeal committee and players wishing to appeal must do so usually within an hour of the end of the game or maybe within an hour of the end of the round or something like that, you can check with the arbiter. FIDE is not the appeal authority thus sending a letter to them did not serve any other purpose than to merely complain about the arbiter without having actually used all the means that were available to you.

What to do next time. If you suspect that your opponent is cheating - a very strong accusation that you should not make lightly, you could actually be penalized by FIDE for a false accusation - then talk to the arbiter as soon as possible and several times if necessary. However, notice that if you insist that your opponent is cheating then you will be required to make this claim in writing. There is a form that you need to fill in, sign it, and it will be sent to FIDE.

When you complain to the arbiter, there is only so much they can do, however. While they will take your complaint seriously, they will not accuse your opponent of cheating without having a good reason, i.e. they will need to see some evidence of highly suspicious behaviour themselves. In practice this means that the arbiter will attempt to observe the player for the rest of the game (and possibly even in the next rounds) but you cannot expect the arbiter to forfeit the player on your request. In my view, based on your description of the situation, the arbiter did the right thing - they inspected the situation and they warned the player.

Your opponent talking to other people. This is somewhat tricky, although it is forbidden to take advice from anyone during the game players always talk to other people in the playing hall. This is very common and you do not want to forfeit everyone who you observe talking to someone. Being strict makes sense in some important tournaments and less sense in leisure tournaments. I am not saying that the arbiter should not act, they should. But most of the time it is difficult for them to establish how innocent the conversation was and what (if any) damage was done. Thus the appropriate course of action is to warn the players and perhaps keep an eye on them.

What you did not mention is that your opponent was a ten-year-old child and I guess the other three or four guys you mention were similarly aged children. In theory this does not matter, in practice, however, it is unrealistic to expect children to stay focused for a number of hours and not to talk to anyone. And you certainly do not want to forfeit the child for mere talking to someone (or even worse for others talking to him), no children would play chess then. With children, most of the time it is enough to warn them. And if you do not like them gathering at your board and talking to your opponent then tell them. Most children have respect from adults.

A personal story. Once I played a league and my opponent was not happy about losing his advantage in the game or something like that. He made a move, left the room and then I heard him complaining about the game to other people outside. Not a big deal but it was disturbing me. Thus I went out and told them to go to talk about it somewhere else where I couldn't hear them. They were very embarassed, problem solved.

  • Unfortunately, there is no one responsible except a single arbiter in the venue. – padawan Nov 16 '17 at 13:51
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    Main problem is the player talking to people who examine the board carefully. Talking to someone is of course OK, discussing and analyzing the position, AND THEN talking to the player should be punished harshly independent of age, sex or nationality. – padawan Nov 16 '17 at 13:57
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    @padawan I agree that such things should not happen but the arbiter has to see that and, ideally, they would prove cheating beyond all doubt. If they had warned the player and the guys before then forfeit might have been sensible. But from your description it only happened once and there were no problems afterwards (thus the arbiter could not gather more evidence). You have to have a good reason to forfeit someone and, as Brian Towers points out, it is problematic to penalize the player for the behaviour of third parties. – IA Petr Harasimovic Nov 16 '17 at 15:58
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Is it really that certain that your opponent cheated?

The key facts that I extract from your question:

  1. Opponent chatted with others on a regular basis

I often do this too, and I do not talk about the game at hand just other things. As such I would say this does not even imply something going wrong.

  1. At some point the game was discussed, presumably too close to the board.

This is of course not supposed to happen, however as you mention that your opponent was merely sitting at the board and did not seem to have asked for advice or anything, it is likely the audience that is doing something wrong. Even if your opponent benefitted from this (which may or may not be the case) there is no punishment listed for him.

What to do in practice

If you hear people discussing the game (especially common with less experienced audiences) give them a hint that they should not do this. A very simple statement should be enough:

Shh, we are still playing

If this does not help, then the arbiter can warn/remove the audience, but refrain from claiming that your opponent was cheating unless your opponent was a clear active party in this.


Precedent

To help you focus on the game in further situations, I will bring in this unusual anekdote for which I unfortunately do not recall the players name.

A number of years ago a strong player (master/grand master) ended up in a tricky endgame and decided to consult a book about this on the toilet. The arbiter actually caught him, and gave him a warning. Afterwards he apologized and used his newly refreshed knowledge to win the game.

I am not implying that this is normal, but just trying to provide reference for not focussing on trying to claim the win, as this is very rarely given for a first infraction.

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