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Teimour Radjabov vs Jan Smeets
Corus Group A (2009), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 10, Jan-28
Zukertort Opening: Queen Pawn Defense (A06)  ·  1/2-1/2

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Mark Crowther

Time Scramble Blues

What happens in a time scramble when pieces go flying?

This was a question I thought I knew the answer to because of the following game: Keres vs Benko, 1962

The final position is equal, but in making the move 38...Bc5+ Benko knocked over a few pieces. I vividly remember reading that Keres' reaction was to shrug his shoulders at the mess that was presented to him and press the clock back to Benko. It stuck with me, that's what you do. I didn't recall that Benko was very unhappy about this loss on time and went out of his way to beat Keres in the final game of the quadrangular event. I would be interested to see what the New in Chess book "Curacao 1962 - The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World" by Jan Timman says about this, but it seems to me that this is entirely the right reaction.

I'm not sure what upset Benko, I can only think that he hoped that Keres would be a gentleman and reset the pieces in his own time given that he'd found the nice drawing idea.

A similar situation occurred in round 10 of the Wijk aan Zee tournament. Radjabov had played a winning sacrifice of a piece but had trouble finishing it off. He then entered an ending that was also winning but he had very little time left. He had about 1 second left when he made the move 39.Re7 but in doing so he also displaced the black bishop on e8.

So what are the rules that cover this situation?

I should point out first of all that there is nothing in the rules that covers the situation of a person starting his opponent's clock when it is still his turn to move. I find this a little amazing to be honest.

However there is a rule that covers the displacement of pieces as in these situations:

7.3 If a player displaces one or more pieces, he shall re-establish the correct position on his own time. If necessary, either the player or his opponent shall stop the clocks and ask for the arbiter's assistance. The arbiter may penalise the player who displaced the pieces.

This rule is in three sentences but only the first really says what should happen, the other two just allow the arbiter the leeway to intervene.

It seems to me that the only way that the intention of the rule, which is that the player who messes up the board "shall re-establish the correct position on his own time" is going to happen after he presses the clock is if the opponent immediately restarts his clock again. If the arbiter is called, clocks will be stopped, pieces can be adjusted etc without it being on the players time. Now the arbiter could make a determination as to how much time this took and take that time off the player, but in practice they are much more likely to "penalise" the player by giving more time to the opponent, which in both these cases amounts to no penalty at all. Looking at the rule it isn't particularly well written, but its intention that you only press the clock when you are presenting the true position to play is clear. Yet in its application it is always correct in practice for a player who has knocked pieces over in moving to press the clock anyhow.

The preface to the Laws of Chess says: "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 discussed 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 freedom of judgement and thus prevent him from finding the solution to a problem dictated by fairness, logic and special factors."

The report on the official site then says that "Just before the arbiters were about to award a time win for the Dutchman (a decision that would have been sure to prompt an appeal), and upon the initiative of the arbiters, the players decided to meet half way and the game was declared a draw." It seems then that the players were encouraged to compromise before making the arbiters decide. In my opinion this makes some sense but if they were asked to decide they would have had no choice but to award the game to Jan Smeets. In simple terms, Radjabov never presented a legal position to his opponent after black's move 38 and lost on time. I actually think it should be made clear that in the future this is what will happen.

There was a lengthy Discussion on Mig's Daily Dirt (http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt...) covering these issues. I did rather enjoy Alexei Shirov's joke that "Actually Radjabov's decisive mistake was 39.Re7. 39.Rc7 would be faster to complete and no pieces would fall.">

Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <There was also some suggestion that Smeets said something like "you should correct the piece first" and that this broke some law of chess about talking to your opponent. The only law that's close is this:

12.6 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims or unreasonable offers of a draw.

I don't think Smeets' action came anywhere close to breaching that law. I know that in some minds you are not allowed to speak to your opponent during a game of chess for any reason. But its not in the laws of chess (it is I think in the Sofia rules) and a change would have to be made for that to be the case.

I think it would be helpful if FIDE issued some guidance on this as I don't think the situation is all that rare. There is also the complication that if you restart your opponents clock in this electronic era the move count would be out. If, as I understand the arbiters at Corus believe, the correct proceedure for Jan Smeets was to stop the clock and call them, then in return, I believe, their only correct course of action would have been to deduct time from Radjabov's clock and flag him, as he really didn't have time left to reach time control and correct the position as proved in the game. I really don't think they would have done that.> (http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/eve...)

Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <The very detailed Chessbase report from the round surprisingly doesn't mention the dramatic finish at all>

Well, that just makes a very embarrassing reflection on their reporter (Steve Giddins)...

Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  lostemperor: This is, in short, from the Dutch TV text: <the arbiter awarded Smeets the point but the head arbiter thought however that Smeets acted wrongly. He should have stopped the clock not pressed it>

Unless they are not playing according international FIDE regulations, the head arbiter is wrong. But then we know arbiters often make wrong decisions, or are not willing to make tough decisions when it matters.

Officially Smeets did nothing wrong and should have been awarded the point according the first part of rule 7.3 <If a player displaces one or more pieces, he shall re-establish the correct position on his own time>. But if Smeets was persuaded to a draw against his great opponent that's fine with me.

Jan-29-09  firebyrd: Also, it is hard to see that the part of 7.3 about stopping clocks really apply here: <7.3 ... If necessary, either the player or his opponent shall stop the clocks and ask for the arbiter's assistance.>

It was clear to all which piece was knocked down, and where it was knocked down from. Radjabov could hardly need the arbiter's assistance to replace it properly?

Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: Macauley Peterson's video of the incident: https://webcast.chessclub.com/blog/...

Radjabov on the draw-compromise: "everybody was happy, especially the arbiters".

Jan-29-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: "The upset bishop" Well, maybe the pope wants to place him back.
Jan-29-09  Salaskan: Radjabov had 6 seconds remaining until the time control, Smeets had 2 seconds. Radjabov accidentally knocked Smeets' bishop over with his 39th move, when Smeets pressed the clock again and told Radjabov to restore the position. Radjabov's time ran out and controversy arose over whether Smeets was allowed to press the clock instead of pausing it.

In the end, the arbiter ruled the game drawn and both players agreed because Smeets had a lost position anyway (39...Bc6 40.Rxe5 Bxd5 41.Rxd5 Rxa7 42.Rxc5 and white is two pawns up with a won ending).

See http://blip.tv/file/1715626/ ; http://coruschess.com/report.php?ye... and http://www.chess.com/news/corus-rou...

Jan-30-09  percyblakeney: <Radjabov had 6 seconds remaining until the time control, Smeets had 2 seconds>

Surprising that Radjabov had so much time left according to the Arbiters. Should be easy to replace a piece and make one move in six seconds even if it was lying on the floor.

Jan-30-09  acirce: I guess he had 6 seconds left before his 39th.
Jan-30-09  percyblakeney: <I guess he had 6 seconds left before his 39th>

If so I wonder how many seconds he used on that move, it looks as if a strong blitz player should be ready for Rc7 or Re7 in a second, and then Smeets had two seconds to make two moves in a lost position. I'd guess Radjabov would have won this easily if he hadn't knocked the piece down, but now he did knock it down so I suppose it doesn't matter too much.

In Sasikiran vs B Predojevic, 2006 Sasikiran had a minute left (for his 40th move) to decide between going for a repetition draw or trying the apparently existing winning continuation. With three seconds left he went for the draw but dropped the queen and lost on time...

Jan-30-09  acirce: I'm checking the video and yeah, that is what the arbiter says: "Radjabov had, I think, 6 seconds and then he played Re7"

In any case, it's quite possible that he simply misremembered. It's not as if it is essential information whether he had 3, 4, 6 or 7 seconds left with two moves to make.

You cannot see exactly how long it took for Radjabov to play Re7 on any of the videos I've seen, but again, it's not of any importance.

Jan-30-09  firebyrd: Also, from the video it looks like Radjabov moves, hits, and only then discovers that the bishop has fallen. You can see him start to reach for it on reflex to replace it, then he withdraws his hand again. My guess is that this is on reflex too, on remembering that he has hit his clock and knowing he is not allowed to touch the board on his opponents time.
Jan-30-09  acirce: Funny thing is that he presses the clock AGAIN, without bothering to adjust the piece, after Smeets has pressed it.

<In the end, the arbiter ruled the game drawn and both players agreed ...> Not quite right, from what I understand. The official site's report says <Just before the arbiters were about to award a time win for the Dutchman (a decision that would have been sure to prompt an appeal), and upon the initiative of the arbiters, the players decided to meet half way and the game was declared a draw.> Radja was quite lucky that his opponent was so generous.

Jan-30-09  acirce: Ian Rogers: <There was also some doubt that restarting an opponent’s clock was obeying the letter of the law, even though this procedure is standard practice at all levels of play and, from personal experience, I know has the stamp of approval of Chess Café’s Geurt Gijssen.> http://main.uschess.org/content/vie...
Jan-30-09  percyblakeney: Rogers also mentions that the "being distracted by the opponent talking to you" argument has been successful before. Karpov once allowed a mate in one and Yudasin exclaimed that it's mate, before playing his move. His comment was deemed to have distracted Karpov and the protest resulted in the game being replayed, and Karpov won the rapid tournament.
Jan-30-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  lostemperor: Black had one chance (other than claiming the win on time) 35 ... Rd8 36. a6 Bxd3 37.a7 Bxc4 38. Rb6 Rd1+ 39. Kg2 Bd5+ 0-1
Jan-30-09  firebyrd: <Funny thing is that he presses the clock AGAIN> At that time confusion rules, and it is difficult to fault Radjabov for his reflex clock press, and also for immediately wanting to protest - he must have been shocked to see his win slipping away from him.

What is really funny is in doing so he ends up blaming Smeets for something he himself did in his Ivanchuk game. If not earlier, at that point he should probably have realized that it might be better to accept defeat.

Jan-30-09  GM GB: Who did you recognize in the video? GM Short, GM So...who else?
Jan-30-09  KingG: <percyblakeney> I'm not sure what the truth is, as there seem to be many different versions of this story, but some of the scenarios on this page seem a bit more plausible Karpov vs Yudasin, 1988. It seems like Yudasin might have tried to deliver mate before Karpov had actually pressed the clock.
Jan-30-09  percyblakeney: <KingG> OK, I had only seen Rogers' description of the incident, and I guess every description is subjective. The versions of exactly what happened seem to be innumerable judging by the game page. :-)
Jan-30-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <I'd guess Radjabov would have won this easily if he hadn't knocked the piece down>

Hence Shirov's perceptive analysis: <Actually Radjabov's decisive mistake was 39.Re7; the e7 square was too close to the bishop on e8. And 39.Rb8 might have dropped the rook on a8. Therefore, 39.Rc7 would have been the most precise continuation - it would be faster to complete and no pieces would fall> :-)

The fact that the final position is losing for Black may have made the draw idea more palatable for Smeets, though strictly according the rules it shouldn't be relevant, of course, to the issue of flagging.

Feb-04-09  notyetagm: Wow, brilliant game by Radjabov.

ICC Game Of The Day (GOTD) link: http://webcast.chessclub.com/Corus0...

Feb-15-09  Everett: <percyblakeney: <KingG> OK, I had only seen Rogers' description of the incident, and I guess every description is subjective. The versions of exactly what happened seem to be innumerable judging by the game page. :-)>

What an interesting way of backing out of spreading false rumors.

Apr-06-09  notyetagm: GM Benjamin: https://webcast.chessclub.com/icc/i...
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