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Many years ago, I was playing in a chess tournament. We had been at the board for at least three hours. My opponent had spent the entire time at the board trying to find good moves. I had the better position and plenty of time on my clock. My opponent had less then 10 minutes on his clock. I also taken a couple of bathroom breaks.

The tournament provided free bottles of water. I got up from the board and got two bottles of water. I started to drink one and placed the other bottle near him. Neither one of us said anything to each other. He opened his bottle and started to drink it. About 10 minutes after drinking the water, my opponent needed to use the bathroom which he did. While he was gone from the board, he went over on the clock.

Did I do anything unethical?

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    This is a very odd question. First off, I don't think water passes through a human body in mere minutes, but even if that were the case there isn't much of a discussion to be had here. Why would you assume that this could in any way be construed as unethical behaviour? Did your opponent accuse you of something after the game? – Scounged Dec 29 '20 at 23:24
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    I don't see what the unethical behavior could be. Is there any specific behavior you can concerned about. Needing bathroom breaks is predictable and part of time management. – Michael West Dec 30 '20 at 0:37
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    @Bob I mean... "HE OFFERED ME THE WATER THAT WAS AVAILABLE FOR FREE, I DECIDED TO DRINK IT, HE OBVIOUSLY MADE ME LOSE"..... does that sound like a reasonable argument? Props for wanting to make sure this isn't unethical, but honestly.... think about the stance that your opponent would need to take to pin that on YOU.... it's a stretch :P. – Patrice Dec 30 '20 at 13:34
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    Your opponent had agency to choose whether or not to drink the water. – Schwern Dec 30 '20 at 21:33
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    I'll ask the obvious- was the water spiked with diuretics? – Studoku Mar 1 at 23:34
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I had the better position and plenty of time on my clock.
My opponent had less then 10 minutes on his clock.
I also taken a couple of bathroom breaks.
...
He opened his bottle and started to drink it.
About 10 minutes after drinking the water, my opponent needed to use the bathroom which he did.
While he was gone from the board, he went over on the clock.

I may misunderstand the chronology - It does not quite seem to tally as if taken at face value he would have drunk the water at or after the end of his available time. However, taking that to mean that he was within a few minutes of his time expiring, it sounds like him drinking and then taking a toilet break were within a few minutes of each other and very close indeed to his time expiry.

No rational person would abandon a situation that was critical to them instead of waiting a few more minutes even under extreme duress. It is also very likely that a highly dehydrated person will also have a full bladder.

I above said " ... no rational person ...". It seems likely that the person was either acting irrationally (which is quite possible in such circumstances) or was effectively resigning. You could not reasonably expect such behaviour as a response to your action.

  • At "best" you might expect to gain a few seconds from their opening the drink.
  • Distraction per se is a possibility but probably a rather extreme gambit.
  • It is also likely that the water would improve their ability to play better in the closing moments.
  • It seems almost unthinkable that giving them water at that stage would have initiated a 'toilet break'.

Overall you action seems on balance to have been neutral or to have improved their (slim) chances. To we as onlookers your actions seem ethically proper.

It seems worth adding, and only you know this one way or the other, that it MAY be that your intentions were in fact calculated to add to your advantage and that you still remember this long after. Even if this was the case, it seems a ploy more liable to fail than succeed and the actual degree of its success would be very unexpected.

An aside - which may actually help: I'm getting 'oldish'. On occasions I wake in the wee small hours with memories of events from decades or many decades past where I recall & mentally run through past actions and wonder if I did things as well as I could. I am generally seen as "an honest & upright" person - and that is my aim in life. It doesn't seem to stop my brain questioning my past motives and deeds :-)

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No, what you did is what is known as a gambit. You offered your opponent material (in this case a water bottle), which he accepted. This would be considered a blunder on his part, since although it gave him a temporary hydration advantage, it ended up costing him time due to the uncomfortable situation it caused for his bladder, which needed to be resolved. If he had instead declined the gambit, he may have won, but such is the way of the game.

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According to the FIDE Laws of Chess:

It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.

If you placed the water there with the intent that it would cause him to use the bathroom (and thus distract him) this would be an issue. If you were just doing it to be nice, there is no problem.

The FIDE Code of Ethics doesn't really have much to say about a situation like this. The closest thing is probably

Failure to comply with normally accepted standards of courtesy and chess etiquette. Misbehavior of a personal nature which is generally unacceptable by normal social standards.

Again, I think this is only violated if there is intent.

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I think maybe you're overthinking this a lot, especially if this was many years ago.

I'll echo what another respondent said: if there was intent, sure. But even then? You can't control another person's bladder. If your opponent was really invested in the game, I'm sure he would have "held it". Perhaps it was an admittance of defeat.

No, nothing unethical here. Quit dwelling on the past.

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