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I manage a chess club. Two 1900+ players A and B were playing. They reached a position where A had K+Q, and B had only K. They each had about an hour left on their clocks. B just waited the full hour, letting his flag fall instead of resigning, causing A to miss his last bus home.

B knew the situation. He was hoping A would choose his bus home over the win, and offer a draw or even resign in order to catch the bus. He admitted this.

What recourse, if any, is there? According to the laws of chess, what B did is entirely legal as far as I know. But it is extremely unsportsmanlike.

A is extremely angry (I can understand why) and I wish there were something we could do...

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  • 3
    You don't say whether this was a tournament or what the match was. Were both players members of your club? Surely your club has expectations of it's members and penalties if they are not met? Sep 15, 2023 at 13:57
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    Obviously this is extremely dirty behaviour and they need to be reprimanded.
    – Tom
    Sep 15, 2023 at 14:43
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    Doing this is a bannable offense on every major chess website.
    – DJMcMayhem
    Sep 15, 2023 at 17:19
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    so, I wonder, did the result of the game have any relevance toward anything (other than B's feeling of superiority, perhaps)? The post only mentions a club, nothing about it being a formal competition, a tournament, or other such?
    – ilkkachu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 19:18
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    If it was not a formal tournament, or otherwise subject to FIDE formalities (ELO ratings, norms, etc.), then you have every right to say "to hell with the rules, player B loses, player A can go home now." This is the case even if your club maintains its own win/loss records - FIDE does not get to tell you what to record in those records. However, it is prudent to exercise this power with considerable restraint, lest your players stop taking your informal records seriously.
    – Kevin
    Sep 15, 2023 at 21:44

4 Answers 4

21

From your question, it seems that the governing laws would be FIDE’s rather than USCF’s.

This being so, who takes the role of arbiter in your events? Under FIDE Laws the arbiter has the discretion to adjudicate this absurd situation:

Preface 0.2

The Laws of Chess cannot cover all possible situations that may arise during a game, nor can they regulate all administrative questions. Where cases are not precisely regulated by an Article of the Laws, it should be possible to reach a correct decision by studying analogous situations which are regulated in the Laws.

The Laws assume that arbiters have the necessary competence, sound judgement and absolute objectivity. Too detailed a rule might deprive the arbiter of his/her freedom of judgement and thus prevent him/her from finding a solution to a problem dictated by fairness, logic and special factors. FIDE appeals to all chess players and federations to accept this view. The Laws of Chess cannot cover all possible situations that may arise

A relevant law is:

Article 11: The Conduct of the Players The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.

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    This is a good answer because the OP references the FIDE laws in his question.
    – Wastrel
    Sep 15, 2023 at 12:05
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If you are using USCF rules, rule 18G says the director may adjudicate a game in an emergency situation. And they can declare an emergency situation if:

a player with substantial time remaining and a poor position disappears for more than 15 minutes or is present but shows little interest in considering the position. Such behavior is unsportsmanlike and the director is encouraged to adjudicate, possibly after a warning.

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  • Does "considering the position" have a specific definition under the rules? Sep 15, 2023 at 13:41
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    @MichaelRichardson No, it doesn't. It's just a judgement call.
    – D M
    Sep 15, 2023 at 20:47
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    @MichaelRichardson: I think the issue is whether the player is using the time in a bona fide effort to maximize the likelihood of playing a good move (which is what a player is supposed to do), as opposed to using the time to annoy the opponent (which is forbidden). Sometimes a player might in good faith spend a long time vainly try to figure a way out of what would seem to be an almost certainly lost position, but if e.g. a player has a choice of two moves, either of which will obviously result in getting immediately checkmated, a player would have little excuse for taking many minutes.
    – supercat
    Sep 15, 2023 at 22:55
  • It's not USCF, but thanks!! Sep 17, 2023 at 19:26
  • @supercat I had originally assumed that B was in a losing position but was making moves to delay the end. Re-reading the post, it actually sounds like B just sat there letting his time run down. Sep 18, 2023 at 13:50
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What recourse, if any, is there? According to the laws of chess, what B did is entirely legal as far as I know. But it is extremely unsportsmanlike.

You are right. The laws give you no recourse in this case.

However, since you manage the chess club and are, presumably, the tournament organiser for the club's competitions, you could explain to the player that his behaviour is inexcusable. You could then tell him that if there is any repeat of such behaviour then he will be immediately ejected from the tournament and banned from future club competitions. This should concentrate his mind.

If you feel the need for more extreme action (and you know far more about the situation than we do) then you could return the player's entry fee and exclude him from the rest of the competition.

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    Personally, as such behaviour is detrimental to the club as a whole, I would make it clear to player B that any hint of a repeat would make them personna non grata. But as Brian says you know the specifics of this.
    – Ian Bush
    Sep 14, 2023 at 21:36
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    You could then tell him that if there is any repeat of such behaviour then ... If it's inexcusable, then why wait for a repeat? Ban them now. Sep 16, 2023 at 23:50
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    @JohnGordon: Better would probably be to give them e.g. a three-minute warning, and specify that if they fail to move within three minutes such failure will be viewed as a patently unsportsmanlike attempt to annoy the opponent. If e.g. a person had been e.g. daydreaming about something they'd be doing later that evening, such conduct would be irksome but not ban-worthy; banning someone directly could thus be viewed as plausibly being unfair. Giving a three-minute notice, however, would solve the problem while also allowing everyone to save face.
    – supercat
    Sep 17, 2023 at 16:33
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    @supercat In this case we know the behavior was deliberately malicious; it was not idle daydreaming. As I get older, I find I have less and less patience for such behavior. Best to get rid of such toxic people straight away. I don't want them in my club. Sep 17, 2023 at 16:52
  • @JohnGordon: Clubs can suffer both from people who flout principles of good conduct, but also those who main spurious accusations of bad conduct. If a TD consistently gives a warning before punishing conduct that is even conceivably unintentional, that avoids the risk of letting a player push the TD into taking an unjust action based on a false accusation.
    – supercat
    Sep 17, 2023 at 17:31
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Player A started playing a chess game that would cause him to miss his last bus home if both players used their time. Even if he himself still had an hour left! That's on him, it's a risk he took himself. It's even a tiny bit unsportsmanlike to miss a bus because a game takes its normal time and then complain about it, isn't it?

The FIDE laws themselves don't really have a way to deal with a player just using their allotted time. I don't think the Preface should be used. It's expected that the game takes this long.

However what changes it for me is that a) player B knew about the bus situation, b) his behaviour was only because of that, and c) he even admitted it. That is of course extremely unsportsmanlike behaviour.

The chess club can choose not to let player B enter their competitions anymore, or give them a warning that that will happen next time, or whatever. You don't want such players in your tournament.

And it should be explained to A that games will sometimes take this long, and he should plan accordingly.

Final thing to mention: if A had resigned, the result would still have been a draw (under current FIDE rules), as B had no way to win on the board anymore. So "offer a draw or even resign" would have been the same thing. There would have been no need to offer a draw, A could just have declared it a draw.

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    This was my thought. Both players are at fault here, one for unsportsmanlike behaviour and the other for being an idiot. Did he expect the other player to play especially quickly just to suit his travel arrangements?
    – Valorum
    Sep 17, 2023 at 10:37
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    @Valorum: There is a difference between taking a chance that one might have to resign a long and complicated game, and would thus have to adopt a potentially riskier play style that would be more likely to yield decsive results quickly, versus running the risk that an oppoent might seek to deliberately waste time.
    – supercat
    Sep 17, 2023 at 16:37
  • @supercat - I strikes me that starting a game with a one hour timer with less than one hour available is simply asking for trouble. On top of that, expecting them to resign because it would suit you if they did is also unsportsmanlike.
    – Valorum
    Sep 17, 2023 at 16:51
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    @Valorum: Players are not supposed spend huge amounts of time doing anything other than thinking about their next move. Demaning that an opponent resign in a losing position may be poor sportsmanship, but demanding that an opponent play reasonably quickly in a forced-mate situation would not be.
    – supercat
    Sep 17, 2023 at 17:20
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    "That's on him, it's a risk he took himself. It's even a tiny bit unsportsmanlike to miss a bus because a game takes its normal time and then complain about it, isn't it?" -- It's one thing to take a risk: "Oh darn, if this game goes too long I'll have to pay for an expensive cab home". It's quite another thing to have a fellow club member force that to happen.
    – Sompom
    Sep 18, 2023 at 14:23

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