Likeforests asked me a few tournament directing questions under the comments of one of my recent posts. I thought they were excellent questions. Since comments often get ignored or buried under a low commented post I thought I'd repeat the questions here with my answers. These may not be the text book answers, but they're how I try to handle things in my own games. I'm not ready to have my own "Arbiter's Notebook" column at this time.
1. What do you do if your opponent makes a 'minor' violation such as touching the piece with one hand and punching the clock with the other, using two hands to move the pieces, or chatting on your move (especially if they happen when you are in time trouble)--do you ask them to stop, stop the clock and ask them to stop, or stop the clock and call the TD?
All of the situations you mention, I always try to resolve with the player before getting a TD involved. As soon as a TD is called in then the tension rises and the flow of the game is lost. Also a lot just depends on the player and the time situation. In a long time control where there is no issue with time pressure, I may simply ignore the fact that my opponent is using two hands to make a capture or pressing the clock. Sometimes I feel it's better for my concentration to stay focused on the moves and the position then fuss over my opponent's mechanics. Afterwards I may point it out, especially if I'm playing a young or inexperienced player.
However in time pressure I am quick to point these things out, especially moving and pressing the clock with the same hand. Violating that rule tends to lead to a hovering hand over the clock which may reach the point of pressing before completing the move. At least by moving and pressing with the same hand one has to let go of the piece, thus competing the move, before one can actually press the clock. Given what happened in the Krush-Zatonskih playoff I'd be quick to jump on any sort of violations in a sudden death time scramble situation.
If my opponent is chatting on my move I am quick to ask them to stop. I don't care what the situation is on the board or the clock. That's just rude and annoying and should be nipped in the bud ASAP. I gave a little lecture recently to a kid who towards the end of our game asked me what my rating was on my time. This is a kid who I've never had an issue over his behavior before. However lately he's picked up some of those annoying piece movement and adjustment mannerisms that too many kids do to be cool. Asking me about my rating on my time just pushed me over the edge. I guess his father had been observing the same thing because when I discussed it with the kid and his dad, his dad said "What did I tell you about adjusting and moving your pieces?"
If the opponent continues to indulge in these "minor violations" even after I've asked him to stop, then I will stop the clock and get the tournament director.
2. If they violate the touch-move rule, how do you handle it? Is it worth calling the TD since they'll decline your claim unless you can prove it anyway?
The touch move rule is one the hardest rulings for a tournament director to make. However even if my opponent denies the touch, or letting go of a piece I will call the TD any way. Some times someone has observed it and can verify your claim to the TD. A skilled TD will know what questions to ask before simply saying "he denied it, therefore I'm not going to make him move that piece". A few weeks ago I described a situation in the last round of "Four Rated Games Tonight!" where the TD had to make a ruling regarding letting go of a piece with no one having seen it.
Even if the TD ultimately rules in favor of the opponent, it still has brought your opponent's behavior to the TD's attention. He may just pay a little extra attention to your game. The opponent may be hesitant to try that stunt again. It may not help you in that particular game, but if this same player is getting into touch move disputes every round with different opponents the TD may be more inclined to stop giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.
A player's reputation can help or hinder him in situations like this. That's why as a coach and teacher I'm quick to harp on the kids about how they conduct themselves. That's why I also try my best to keep my cool in tough situations. I don't want a reputation as a hot head, sore loser or chronic whiner. Right or wrong, I've seen TDs take into account a player's history and rep when dealing with that individual.
3. If an observer is interfering or disturbing you, can you stop the clock to tell the TD? In one case I remember you told them to back off but otherwise put up with it.
Once again I will try to handle it myself with the spectator by asking him to stand back. I have complained when it's impacting my game or the spectator is related to my opponent in some way. (Parent, sibling, child, coach, etc.) Sometimes it's hard to deal with when it's not your game that the spectator is observing. My problem with AK's dad in Los Angeles was somewhat out of my control. My round four solution was not the most mature way of handling it, but at the time it was the best I could muster.
3a. I read if you stop your clock for the wrong reasons you could face a 2 minute penalty, which would be horrible in SD time controls!
This is not a rule. If you stop your clock to get a ruling, even if the TD rules against you there is no time penalty. If it was an absurd claim the Td might give your opponent extra time based on Rule 1C2a: "Except where specifically noted in the rules, the standard penalty assessed by the director is to add two unused minutes to the remaining time of the opponent not following the rules of chess." (Don't ask me what unused minutes are versus used minutes. It seems to me simply stating add two minutes would be enough.)
Things like cell phones ringing or refusing to keep score can lead to time deductions, but stopping the clock for the wrong reason doesn't lead to that sort of penalty.
Many years ago they told players to never stop the clock, and that if a claim was upheld the TD would give you back time. That stupid rule was scrapped some time in the mid to late 70s.
I hope that answered your questions.
PS. This will probably be my last post since I'll be spending the weekend in the woods at a Tae Kwon Do retreat. I don't there is internet access, and I'm not even going to bring my laptop with me.