Friday, February 25, 2011

US Amateur Team East - The Results Are In....

...and we didn't have a very good Monday.  We were paired up in round 5 and lost the match 0-4.  In round 6 we were sent back to the Heritage Ballroom away from all the action.  We were paired down with a chance to achieve an even score, but lost the match 1.5 - 2.5.  If one went strictly by rating we should win the match 3-1.  I was the only one playing a higher rated opponent.  He didn't out-rate me by all that much, but losing a pawn is tough to overcome when the opponent plays solid chess.  Our 3rd board suffered a loss against a player he out-rated by a good 300 - 400 points.  That was the match there.

Meanwhile in the main ballroom the action was rather intense as West Orange Krush won the battle for top honors.  The final score was 2.5 - 1.5.

West Orange Krush -USATE 2011 Champions
Jose Fernandez, Peter Radomsyj, Victor Rosas, IM Mikhail  Zlotnikov

I can't take credit for having them pose with the oranges.  That was Al Lawrence's idea.  I was just tagging along for the ride and taking pictures along side him.  He was covering the tournament for Chess Life Online.   Since the team is from the West Orange (NJ) Chess Club they came up with the idea of Orange Krush (Krush as in Irena) for their team name.  Al thought it would be fun to have them pose with oranges and squeeze them as if they're actually going to crush the oranges.

Their win did not come without a little controversy.  The deciding game came down the opponent's player running out of time on move 39.  Even though the player's score sheet indicated only 39 moves had been made, he thought he had made 40 based on the fact that the clock added the extra hour for the second time control.  A "move" counter setting had been used.  I use quotes for the word move because the clock is not really counting moves.  It's counting how many times the button has been pushed.  The number of button pushes may not necessarily coincide with the number moves actually made on the board.  This particular incident demonstrates how that can happen.

For those readers not familiar with the clock used I will attempt to explain the different ways of being programmed for the time controls of 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by 1 hour for the rest of the game.  These were the time controls for this particular tournament. 

One setting does not make use of specifying any number of moves that need to be completed in the first time control.  The clock will count down from 2:00:00 to 00:00:00 and then additional hour will be added.  It doesn't matter how many moves have been made on the board, the clock will keep running until all three hours have elapsed for a player.   If a player has not completed 40 moves it's going to be apparent he overstepped when the clock goes from 00:00:00 to 1:00:00 and counts down from there. The opponent will be able to claim a win on time as long as he has a reasonably complete scoresheet. A reasonably complete scoresheet is defined as one that has no more than three missing or incomplete move pairs. The USCF rule differs from FIDE rules.  FIDE rules don't require a complete scoresheet and the director can call the time.

There are several settings where a "move" counter is set.  When the prescribed number of "moves" for the first control have been made, the clock will add the the additional hour for the second control.  I use quotes when writing the word move because the clock program isn't really counting moves.  It's counting clock button presses.  If someone forgets to press the clock or if White starts the clock first before moving the counter will be off by a half "move" or more.  When using the "move" counter setting one has the option of having the move counter displayed as shown below, or as shown in the second picture. 
White has completed his 4th move, Black is on his 4th move.
Move counter is displayed at all times. Time displayed in hh:mm

White has completed his 4th move, Black is on his 4th move. 
hh:mm:ss replaces move counter while player's time is running 
after 5 second delay has elapsed.

In this particular game Black was late.  White started Black's clock without making his move first.  Rule 16I and 16J discuss the procedure for starting the clock at the start of the game.  This can be found on page 65 of USCF Official Rules of Chess, 5th Edition.

"16I. Starting the clock. At the time determined for the start of the game, after the board and pieces are set up, the clock of the player with the white pieces is started."

"16J. Black not present. If Black is not present for the start of the game, White shall start his own clock, make his move on the board, and start Black's clock."

After these two rules there is a rather lengthy TD Tip discussing what should be done if White pressed the clock before moving.  "If a director observes that White has started Black's clock without moving, the director should remind White to make a move immediately.  If, upon arriving, Black observes that White has started Black's clock without moving, Black may immediately start White's clock or stop the clock and make a claim.  Either way, if the clock has a move counter, it may be necessary to adjust it before the game continues. The director may access the standard penalty (IC2A), or other penalties, if appropriate, against the player who improperly started Black's clock without moving."

"If White makes a move before the clock is started, the move counter may be off by a half-move. If White starts Black's clock without moving, the counter may be off by a half-move or full move. The director should, at an early stage in the game, verify the setting of the move counter, and ask the players to correct it if necessary."

In this situation Black most likely arrived at the board and pressed White's clock.  This will make the move counter be off.  Black's side will display 01, and White's side will display 00 until he makes a move.  The clock will "think" Black is White and White is Black.  Black's clock will always be a move ahead of the number of moves Black has actually played.  When Black played his 39th move the clock "thought" White completed his 40th move so it added 1:00 to the remaining 00:08 seconds.  When White made his 40th move the clock "thought" Black made his 40th move and added the time.  The player playing Black thought he had made his 40th move and spent more then his remaining 8 seconds on what was really his 40th move even though he only had 39 moves recorded on his scoresheet.

White claimed a win on time when Black's clock ticked off to remaining 8 seconds of time.  Needless to say, Black wasn't happy with this claim and vigorously protested.  Part of his complaint was that the clock indicated he had made 40 moves.  However regarding move counters rule 42B2 states: "Players rely on the count at their own risk"  Given that, Black doesn't have much of an argument.  He and his teammates felt perhaps White had deliberately started the clock first without moving in order to throw off the move counter.  Though one would think during the course of the first 40 moves one would notice the move counter was off by a move.

Having had my share of mix ups with Chronos settings on my opponent's clock, I've become far more vigilant in making sure I know how the opponent has set it.  I've also seen the move counter get out of sync when someone has forgotten to press the clock.  Depending on the situation sometimes the opponent or I have stopped the clock and adjusted it.  Other times when it's clear there will be no time pressure issues on the first control, we've just ignored it.

About 3 weeks before the tournament there had been a discussion on the USCF Chess Tournament forum about move counters.  Click on the link if one wants to read the entire discussion.  The original poster had started the discussion with the following post:

"This year, as a change of pace, I ponder setting my Chronos with no move counter for the USATE.

The more I think of it, the less I like move counters on digital clocks. This belief was reinforced by a game at our club last week; the players started late, thus played by mutual agreement at a faster-than-announced time control.

In the rush to re-set the clock---an Excalibur Game Time II---the move counter was set to "Off"....and as I watched the time scramble at the end of the first time control, (40/75 in place of our standard 40/90) I thought to myself, "This is a Good Thing." One player made the control at move 40 with two seconds to spare---but he could not take an educated guess that was so by glancing at the clock. (Yes, you take a chance on the move counter being wrong, but still.)

Here's my question: Has enabling the move counter---by far the most common approach, in my experience---been anointed with official "preferred" status? (If so, would that make the Saitek less -preferred than other digitals?) I expect at least one opponent to complain if I show up in Parsippany with my Chronos set sans move counter.

At least we are clear on deducting five minutes from the main clock time to compensate for least for this year. "

There were varied opinions. On Jan 31st NTD (National Tournament Director) Harold Stenzel gave his opinion.

Based on my years of TD experience, move counters create more problems than they solve. At the 2009 National Chess Congress I counted 6 different games in which I was called to the board because of questions/problems created by the move counter. Although I solved all of them to the players' satisfaction, they also were unnecessary. I point out to the players that they count clock presses, not moves and therefore cannot be trusted. While I don't require them to be turned off, when asked, I recommend the game be played without it.

Ironically enough he would be the one to have to rule on this particular dispute. He ruled in White's favor, upholding the claim. When I asked him about it on this thread he posted the following:

The ruling was quite simple but also unfortunate for the loser. He relied on a move counter that added an hour after 40 clock presses even though both score sheets indicated 39 moves had been played by Black. Rule 42B2 states: "Players rely on the count at their own risk."
My only question is why did it take the player until move "40" to see the discrepancy between his score sheet and the move counter? Correction: Clock button push counter.
The Chronos' setting used did not display the "clock press counter". Even so, Black (and his teammates) recounted that at the start of the game White had started tardy Black's clock without making a move. When Black arrived he started White's clock. No one complained about the improper starting of the clock to any TD until after Black's flag fell almost 4 hours later. I felt that to allow the game to continue would be to permit Black to play with a primary time control of 39/2 while White would have 40/2. Black's team appealed my ruling to NTD Carol Jarecki who, after hearing all of the evidence, stated that she "could not disagree with Harold's ruling".

This case was very similar to a ruling I made at Foxwoods in 2009 about an Excalibur's move counter. The Foxwoods loser then appealed to that tournament's chief TD (NTD Bill Goichberg) who also supported my ruling.

On a personal note, I, and most or all other TDs, would prefer that games be decided without TD intervention and not be required to make a ruling that could determine the winner of the tournament, but it had to be done.

The ruling was appealed by Black, but Carol Jarecki the chief tournament director and also an NTD upheld the ruling.  I don't think there was anything else that could be done at that point.  The clock indicated the time had gone past two hours, and the score sheets both showed 39 moves completed by Black.  Even if White had concocted this evil plan to deceive Black there was nothing to be done.  Any complaints or claims would have to be made before the game was over.  Time exceeded, game over.  Game over, no claims against opponent. It's the same thing I tell kids when they complain to me after they've lost.

I've always liked the move counter because I like to see the next time control added after the first one has been reached.  However having watched the heated discussion and seeing the tough spot the directors were in, I think I'll pass on the move counter. It's too much like work to keep track of.

This weekend I'm in Saratoga Springs to direct at the New York State Scholastic Chess Championship.  I'll probably be directing in the Primary section.  I'm sure I'll have some interesting stories to share.  I also have a few more games from the USATE of interest.  I already added one to my previous post that neeeded editing anyway.


LinuxGuy said...

Technically, everyone knows that the person who only even wrote down 39 moves should be forfeited - it's right there on their own scoresheet!

OTH, if the clock belonged to the other player, and it did say 40 moves on it, then I believe common-courtesy would be to allow play to continue, and reset the clock.

This is a problem that I see with modern tournament chess, a lot of people are trying to win on the clock, and then say "yay, yay, yippee me!" when some sort of event like this occurs (not everybody).

Eventually, the player who loses on time in this "weak" manner will come to realize that the clock is more important than playing good chess, and then they will start to play the clock more and the board less, and those games which could have been wins will start to turn into safety-draws.

Plus, it sort of breaks the spirit of the clock-defaulting player, as they realize that all that chess training came down to some clock dispute/misunderstanding. After that happens a few times to a person, there is a certain sort of feeling of specialness that goes away. The chess addict will learn to cope with faded feelings, but that person who may only play a couple tournaments a year could feel majorly jipped and give up tournament chess.

It's sort of "funny", this instance, because obviously there is another hour for play if the 40 moves had been made. It's not as if the round is ending and people need to clear out of the venue, it's just one of those "competitive" issues.

LinuxGuy said...

BTW, I don't like move-counters, mine is usually wrong in these dual time-control tournaments, but I would not have forfeited the other player - it's an obvious misunderstanding. Although my clock is so old that it doesn't "show" the move-count - someone would need to know which button to press, or ask me.

I've learned to basically ignore move-counters.

LinuxGuy said...

Since you are someone who could influence the rules :-), I would like to see something changed.

A person can blitz in the last five minutes and not write their moves down (which I suspect is what happened). But, I feel strongly that this should not be allowed during any time-control other than the sudden-death period.

So for the first 40 moves, people should have to produce a scoresheet that has 40 moves, IMHO, and not grab the opponents time-sheet after 40 moves has passed and fill in their last 12 moves. I find that practice appalling. But in a sudden-death period, such as the final hour, it makes sense.

denopac said...

Polly, thanks for bringing up this interesting topic. I never set the counter since it can get messed up (as we've seen), and have never had an opponent question having it not used. Once or twice an opponent has given me a quizzical look when move forty was reached and the extra hour was not automatically added, but once I explain they've been fine with it. IMHO not using the counter should be the preferred setting.

Soapstone said...

I've disliked move counters since 2004 when I failed to make a claim while everyone was watching. When my opponent playing White made his 40th move, his flag was actually down, but the digital clock added the time of the next time control. I didn't see the moment of flagging, only the display after he hit the clock at 40 which showed 1:00:00 or 1:00, so there was no shorthand way for me to see his flag down. Two TDs saw him flag. My opponent actually asked aloud, "Did I make it? Did I make it?" The TDs couldn't say anything unless I made a claim. But I was confused by the display and was under pressure to make my own 40th move as black, so I moved without making the claim. The TDs told me I just needed to speak up and they would have forfeited him. I resigned at move 42. Digital clocks don't show negative times. They just stall at 0 and when the move counter hits 40, they add time. With move counters, a situation could arise that a player who flagged at move 40 but nevertheless hit the clock. The TD has to rule on the clock evidence showing that at move 40, the flagging player has 1:00:00 time instead of 1:00:01 (and probably have to entertain arguments about 1:00:00.01, an invisible hundredth of a second). Very tricky and confusing for both players and TDs. Since 2004, I only set time and delay with no move counter. If the opponent oversteps on move 40, the clock would show that he used up time in the next time control, the telltale sign that I would understand as overstepping and use to make a claim.

Polly said...

Linux: On the first time control keeping score is required unless in time pressure. The player not in time pressure keeps score because that's the only way he'll be able to make a claim.

Sudden death time controls has changed the nature of the game. When I was first playing the time controls were 50/2, 25/1, 25/1 etc. There were adjournments. Games do come down to those last minutes.

The player who flagged is an experienced player. He saw the time added and then left the board. It's unfortunate that it came down to this. Maybe in an individual tournament the player would have not claimed. In a team tournament with the match and championship riding on it and your teammates looking on what else are you going to do?

Soapstone said...

I gave up on the counter in 2004 when my own Chronos did me in. My opponent playing White flagged just before making his 40th move while two TDs were watching. He honestly didn't know, but asked aloud, "Did I make it? Did I make it?" When I looked up, the clock showed 1:00:00 for the next time control. Since I was under pressure to make my own 40th move in time, I just made a move. The TDs told me that had I claimed, I would have won by time forfeit. Instead, I resigned on move 42. When the move counter is set, digital clocks pause at 0:00, but add the next time control when the 40th move is made. If the flagging player hits the clock on his 40th move with the counter set, TDs and claiming players have to assert that the 1:00:00 is evidence of flagging while the flagged player could argue that he actually has 1:00:00.01 seconds left. Tricky and confusing for both claiming players and TDs to sort out. Now I just set time and delay with no counter. If a player oversteps at move 40, the clock retains the evidence in that some of the next time control will be used up.

LinuxGuy said...

'He honestly didn't know, but asked aloud, "Did I make it? Did I make it?"'

I don't like all of these clock technicalities. Heck, my clock is digital but analog plunger which takes about a second to register, and I've lost quite a few games where I thought I had pressed it before it said 0 seconds.

But, I think it was rude of that guy to say that before you made time-control and disturb you, so for that I think it would be right to flag him. If someone is going to call flag they will call flag, he doesn't need to say anything.

I try to avoid that situation now unless the position is truly, truly lost and I am playing on merely for the sake of it. All those horribly selfish motives come out like seven deadly sins or something, when it is last second.

Selfishness can ruin things. Football, for example is so interrupted these days, for review of every close catch and slow-mo'ing every nook and cranny. I don't think that is really right. Before instant replay, the thing that bothered me most were incorrect penalties, and most of those are unreviewable anyway. Nowadays, people want to state a federal case over the last second of a clock to be the decisive outcome of a game.

Well, I avoid those situations more now myself, but it's still a little disturbing to hear about them. Most weird situations involve the clock. People will point to the clock, as if a question, and then not say anything, some people will forget to set the delay or not prefer it. I don't count on any of this stuff anymore, just avoid the drama situation as much as possible, but it still takes away from the game.

Chess Coroner said...

There are problems with the blue Saitek clock as well.

If you don't press your plunger hard enough to illuminate your opponent's clock yours will keep running!

That happened to one of my teammates in round 5 and to an IM in October. In both instances the player time-forfeited.

Polly said...

I know what you mean about the blue Saitek clock. I ended out playing with one on Thursday night because I was a little late getting to the board and that's what my opponent was using. The buttons are hard to push. My biggest complaint with the clock is the 5 second delay countdown filling up the time display until it's done. I have found it a little confusing both playing with the clock and observing games as a TD or spectator.

Anonymous said...

I hate move counters and have gotten into "friendly" discussions when I'm White and Black wants to use his clock with a "move counter" (not realzing that it's hardly counting moves, just clock presses!). Of course, I have always lost this argument since there are no USCF requirements on whether you must use it or not. No good has ever come of a "move counter".

Polly said...

Anon: At the moment there isn't anything you can do as White if Black wants to use his clock with the move counter on. As long as time delay is on, no brand of clock or setting takes priority.

Maybe after this incident maybe someone will propose a rule change to eliminate the use of them.