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25/03/2024 (updated 26/03/2024)

An Incident at the Yorkshire v Northumberland Match

Darlington, 24/03/2024

 

The arrival of Yorkshire’s board 6, Adam Lang, was delayed by a train not turning up as it should.  Consequently, when he arrived at the match, he had 50 minutes on his clock, but slightly more than an hour had elapsed since the scheduled start of the match.  Should he default the game due to arriving too late?  Adam and his opponent, Andrew Dunn, reportedly wanted to play the game, and the Northumberland captain reportedly agreed to this.  Maybe the Northumberland captain was agreeing to the game starting while he checked out the rules.  After 13 moves had been played, the Northumberland captain decided he would claim the game by default on the basis that the Yorkshire player had arrived too late.  Perhaps he felt he was just applying the rules as he interpreted them, and that the rules must be obeyed, but he was seen as going back on his alleged prior agreement to the game being played.  It has been suggested the fact that Northumberland had just lost bottom board due to their player’s phone sounding may have prompted the intervention regarding board 6.  (Intrigue is so much more interesting than facts!)

 

The NCCU rules for matches (at 10 b) say,

 

“At the time fixed for the start of play, the captains shall start the clocks of those players having the move.  If a player be absent, an eligible substitute may be put in within the first hour; otherwise his opponent, if present, shall score the game as a win.  If neither player is present or substituted then the game shall be scored a loss for both sides.”

 

In this instance, the match had started late, and clocks were started about 10 minutes after the time originally fixed for the start of play, so that the Yorkshire player was less than an hour late as indicated by his clock but had in fact arrived slightly more than an hour after the originally fixed start time.  From what point is a player’s lateness to be measured?  Unfortunately, the rules lose some degree of clarity in the context of a match not starting exactly to time, which delay is of course very often the case in team matches generally and often with games not all starting at exactly the same time.  Nevertheless, “within the first hour” can only be interpreted as being counted from “the time fixed for the start of play” as no other way to time the degree of lateness (e. g. time elapsed on a player’s clock) is mentioned in the rule.

 

Nevertheless, there is a school of thought which says that a match starting late is de facto a revision of the start time, and that the time lapsed on the late-arriving player’s clock is therefore what determines the degree of lateness, not the start time originally fixed and which was not in fact complied with.

 

[A reader has since commented, “Don't know if you agree but I think the point about the actual start time is valid.  If everyone else was given the normal time on their clock then Adam's board is being treated differently which seems illogical.”]

 

FIDE Laws of Chess don’t really clarify things as events are allowed to have their own rules on defaults due to lateness.  The FIDE rule says,

 

6.7    

Default time:

 

6.7.1    

The regulations of an event shall specify a default time in advance. If the default time is not specified, then it is zero. Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the default time shall lose the game unless the arbiter decides otherwise.

 

6.7.2

 If the regulations of an event specify that the default time is not zero and if neither player is present initially, White shall lose all the time that elapses until he/she arrives, unless the regulations of an event specify or the arbiter decides otherwise.

 

Thus, it is incumbent on organisers with their own lateness rules to incorporate the necessary clarity.

 

Reportedly the Northumberland captain’s stance was not widely endorsed, not even among the Northumberland players!  Some Yorkshire players are dissatisfied with their captain agreeing to a Yorkshire default on board 6.  However, the Yorkshire captain’s action was laudable in the eyes of the writer in that it averted any problems for the controller who might not have had time to investigate and adjudicate a dispute before submitting NCCU nominees for the English County Championships, which needed to be done by the end of that same day, 24th March, at the latest  The damage (the players not getting a game) had been done, and squabbling over one irrelevant (as it turns out) game point would not be worth it.

 

That said, in time, the Northumberland captain posted on LMS his explanation of events which can be seen here.  (Who had been tinkering with LMS, one wonders and maybe can guess.)  The rule (10 a) regarding exchange of team lists is as follows.

 

Before the time fixed for the start of play (arranged so that the playing session will conclude no later than 6pm) the team captains shall make up their respective playing lists, placing the players in rating order or order of deemed playing strength; they shall exchange lists and toss for colours.  The team whose captain wins the toss shall take white on the odd-numbered boards.

 

The Yorkshire captain had originally written “disputed” on his match sheet, but later changed it to a 0-1 default, possibly to save the controller the problems of sorting out a dispute when he had to submit NCCU nominations for the ECF County Championships that same evening at the latest.  At the risk of introducing another hard fact into the arena, I show the Yorkshire captain’s result submission to the controller, received by the writer as a “CC” recipient.

 

 

Others had evidently subsequently taken up the debate, with the result that the Controller decreed the board 6 result 0-0 as the game had started but had not finished (as was the case by all accounts).

 

The possible need for time to resolve disputes is of course a reason why matches should not be being played as late as the last day for submission of Union nominations for the English County Championships as was the case here.