At the recent Frank K. Berry US Championship Qualifier there was one “ruling,” which has been noted in the Chess Life Online report by Tom Braunlich and Dana Mackenzie’s Blog, related to keeping score while in time trouble.

Apparently, Grandmaster Alex Ivanov was not keeping score with less than 5 minutes remaining on his clock. The time control for the tournament was Game/90 minutes with a 30 second increment per move. His opponent, FIDE Master Todd Andrews, rightly complained to the Arbiter and Ivanov was given a warning and told he had to keep score.

 The FIDE Laws of Chess, Article 8.4 states “If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1.”

When Andrews eventually lost, according to Dana’s Blog, “he tipped over his king, said “cheater,” and stomped off in a huff.” From the same Blog, Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky was quoted as saying “he’s played in enough international tournaments, he knows the rules.”

Outside of the US, I feel that this would be a very cut and dry case. However, inside the US, especially at the major Swiss events around the country, despite them being FIDE rated, the majority of events use USCF rules. I definitely could see some plausibility in Ivanov wanting to clarify exactly which set of rules were in use for this tournament.

The USCF rules allow both players to stop keeping score when either player has less than 5 minutes remaining on their clock. The USCF rules do not have the additional proviso of enforcing scorekeeping when an increment time setting is used.

Of course, I was not at the tournament in person and so I do not know whether any clarifications were announced to the players in respect to which set of rules were in force. One could use the assumption that since the tournament was a qualifier for the US Championship and that it would be FIDE rated, it would be obvious the FIDE rules were in full effect. However, as I have said previously, the majority (probably 95% of them) of FIDE rated events in the US are run using USCF rules.

Personally, in this case the Arbiter ruled correctly (for FIDE rules), first offense a warning and then proceeding to greater penalties if it continues. However, comments like “cheater” and “he knows the rules” are a little harder to agree with given the current practice of using USCF rules in FIDE rated events, unless of course it was made plainly obvious that the FIDE rules would be used.

Since the event, Andrews has followed up further on Dana’s Blog. “There are no referees in chess. Players must ref. their own games and if your opponent requests to you one time to follow a certain rule and you clearly understand the rule, then why would you not follow it? Should one warning to your opponent to follow the rules be enough? Because I gave the GM four or five warning and he refused to correct his scoresheet. At what point should a guy (who is immorally breaking the rules, because he is aware that if he follows the rules, then he would run out of time) be forfeited? Chess doesn’t have any penalties to assess and it’s up to the TDs.”

Of course there are referees in chess. They are there to enforce the rules and obviously, with hindsight, Andrews should have stopped the clocks and immediately sought out the Arbiter/TD rather than continuously requesting his opponent to keep score. There are penalties that can be assessed, especially if the FIDE rules are being used, going all the way to a forfeit in very severe cases.

Lessons to learn from this? Players should be fully aware of the rules that are in use and, if you encounter a problem, it is usually better to stop the game and seek help from the Arbiter/TD rather than try to fight it yourself.

Best wishes,
Chris Bird

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