Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The sadistic exam

Long ago when I studied for engineer, I remember that I had little to no stress before an exam. If you studied well then you knew in advance that you had a good chance to score well. In official chessgames on the other hand I always have a portion of stress. My wife knows me in the meantime well enough so before each game she asks me if I went to the toilet already as she knows that I always struggle with some cramps. Even after almost 20 years of competition, stress is still existing although I must admit it has improved during the years.

Obviously chess is more than just a game for me. I spend a lot of time on chess so it is somehow normal that you care about the results. Now at contrary to a classical exam in school, only 3 results are possible: 100%, 50% or 0%. Besides you don't know in advance what will be asked so preparing is often impossible. 1 wrong answer can be sufficient for a 0. In the book MFTL (which i reviewed in a blogarticle) Willy Hendriks talks about a chessgame as a sadistic exam and I fully agree with him.

Recently I managed to set a new sad record in terms of most painful blunder ever in an official game with classical tempo. Already quite an achievement as I already managed to do some exploits. I remember that I once permitted mate in 1 while 2 moves earlier I was still 3 pawns up without compensation or how I spoiled a completely won endgame of rook against knight by putting the rook an a square after which my opponent could fork it with my king. This time I managed to lose on time not only in a totally won position but also with an increment of 30 seconds per move. 
Final position Geirnaert - Brabo
Losing with an increment of 30 seconds, sounds like I was sleeping on the board which could have been  possible ,considering the position and the time late in the evening. However if I explain that I let on purpose run the time out then clearly there was something else going on. Before the game we agreed between the two of us, to play with 90 min for 40 moves and 15 min extra for the rest with 30 seconds increment from move 1. The fide-regulations tell us that with such tempo of 30 seconds increment that we are always obliged to record the moves (see article 8.4). This means that the players always know how many moves are exactly played. Once move 40 played, I chose to relax and quietly study the position. In the previous moves some blunders were made due to stress so it looked appropriate to take a small break. Naturally I was shocked when Steven claimed the win on time once my time was set to 0 and told me that I hadn't played yet my 40th move. My first reaction was that he joked but after checking my scoresheet, I noticed to my horror that he was bloody-serious.
My scoresheet
Line 30 below column 1 was left open which caused me 10 moves later wrongly to assume that move 40 was played. Initially I thought the scoresheet was partly responsible as 30 moves per column is not something I use standard. However even more recent I made a similar mistake in my game against Luc Winants while using the more classical scoresheet with 20 moves per column. Fortunately that time I was still able to correct. It seems therefore more correct to admit that I was simply not attentive enough. I already longtime ago learned to accept defeats as it is inherent to chess but to these kind of disasters I never get used. It is no surprise that afterwards I couldn't catch my sleep and instead played mindless bulletchess till late at night without success.

After the game one of the kibitzers told me that he would've agreed to a draw in such situation but I find this nonsense. In my blogarticle about fairness I stated that giving presents has nothing to do with being sportsmanship and is even often a source for conflicts. I remember a polemic some years ago in the Belgium championship correspondence chess. Yen Peeren made a serious analyzing error by inattention of setting up the pieces. Once Yen discovered that he analyzed the wrong position, the position was already beyond repair but the opponent had mercy and accepted anyway the draw-proposal. A heavy debate arose when this was made public on schaakfabriek especially as the present played an important role in defining the champion.

Correspondence is of course another discipline than otb. On the other hand correspondence chess can be considered as an open book exam in which you have access to all kind of tools so I don't see any serious reason to be suddenly gentler than otb.

Let us return to the fact that i lost on time as I still want to add something to the story. Afterwards I realized that I could have deducted from the digital clock that I didn't play 40 moves as the extra 15 minutes are added automatically once the 40 moves are played. Even more astonishing is that the helpful Austin Apemiye showed in advance how the specially selected clock works. However during the hectic final phase I completely forget about it and just thought the clock works as usual so only adding time for a new period when the remaining time of the previous period was fully consumed (and the number of mandatory moves was achieved). To wait with adding time when a clock first shows 0 is preferred if one doesn't want to give information about the number of moves already played. Before, waiting with adding time was propagandized by fide, see e.g. dgt 2010 time correction in option 21 with move counter. In Germany the DGT2000 is even forbidden to use, see e.g dgt 2000 nicht fuer fischer modus geeignet.

Today however I hear other sounds on the internet after some surfing. In his monthly article of August 2012 Geurt Gijssen writes that he understands the problem but a serious answer is missing. His reference that a lot of tournaments are using screens on which live games are shown, is nonsense as there exist no regulations about how such projection should be done (remember the commotion last year in the Belgian interclubs). Also he mentions that arbiters can't share the number of moves played as they can make errors hereby completely ignoring that an electronic clock also easily can show a wrong move-counter.

Our regulations are clearly lagging with the technological developments. It is not wishful to have several clocks behaving differently. Today I recommend not to trust the move-counter of a clock as we don't know in advance when time will be added for the next period. Taking care of a proper recording is the most wisest choice but this seems easier for me said than done.


Addendum 10 december
Yesterday once more was proven that our regulations are lagging with the technological developments. It is sad that Ivanov Borislav can make a comeback see e.g. chessvibes as we are one year further compared to my blogarticle cheating and no progress has been made.


  1. sportiveness : you probably mean sportsmanship

  2. Yes you are right. Thanks for the comment, I adapted the text.