Hard to Argue – a TD story.

A few decades ago, I was a TD at a local chess club. It was an open tournament and maybe it is fair to say that all participants were adult males.

Some of these players were friends of mine, and other players were known mainly by their reputation.

As a TD my main responsibilities were making sure that the wall pairings were up on time, the players had the necessary equipment, and to be available if a problem comes up. Other than that, I could walk around the tournament room or read a book (an opportunity I took advantage of, as the only place quieter than a chess tournament is a library).

As it is happens, one of the players in the tournament was somewhat a former child prodigy, who was now in his early 20s. I knew his parents and we all friendly and courteous to each other. I will name this player, “J”, and his mom, “M”.

Another friend of mine, “B” was playing in the tournament and could actually win a prize (not necessary to the story, but he was good enough to occasionally win a club championship).

Both the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and International Chess Federation (FiDE – this is French acronym) state that a player loses the game if he is an hour late to the start of the round. Every player I know follows this rule. There are stories from the 1940s that a strong player arrives at the board 59 minutes late (sometimes even later than that), and with a handicap of an hour less to think about his move, somehow manages to draw (or even wins) the game.

The rule is that well-known.

Anyway, I had finished the pairings and they were up on the wall. “J” was playing Black against this person who thought he was a lawyer, argued like one sometimes, and knew all the tournament rules. Or so he thought. I will call him “K”.

The start time was 7:00 PM. Just before the wall clock reached 7 PM, I was looking for “J”, as he was the only one missing.

At exactly 7:00, I told the players to start their clocks and immediately heard the ticking of many small clocks. (After a while of playing tournament chess, one learns to tune out the ticking. It’s a useful skill to learn).

I sat down to do some paperwork. But before I could get comfortable, “K” comes to the TD table and said his opponent (“J”) was not at the table and he was going to use the wall clock to keep track of the time so he could claim victory one hour from now. Then he walked back to his table. OK, that got my attention. Was he asking me something or was he making a statement so I could not argue back?

I watched from the TD table as he walked back to his chair and sat down and looked at the wall clock. There was nothing in from of him, no set, no clock, nothing. He was sitting there, possible thinking he had an easy win. Maybe he really didn’t want to play.

I looked at him for a couple of minutes. Then I got up and slowly walked to his seat.

I told him he was welcomed to sit there. But if he wanted to “clock” his opponent, he needed a set and a clock in front of him. He looked at me shockingly, as if it was wrong for me to tell him about the rules, as he always thought he knew the rules better than I, a TD. I also wanted to give “J” somewhat extra time to get to his game.

I told him he could look up the rules and that I had a copy of the rules book in case he wanted to look it up (it is an actual rule).

He declined my offer. And sheepishly asked me if he could borrow a clock. I told him yes, he could borrow one. That was covered in the rules.

He got up and walked to another player. Well, I got the clock and came back to the TD table and said he was going to set the clock to 53 minutes as “J” was seven minutes late. I told him he had to start the time for one hour as he could not claim lost time. He agreed and made the correct change to the clock. And went back to his table, pressed the clock and played 1.d4.

Now, if you know something about tournament chess, he made a few minor errors here. One, you don’t need to make your first move on the board. You just need to start the clock. That way, your opponent cannot get more study time before he come to the board. Second, you play the move on the board and then hit the clock. At that point the move is considered complete. This is important for speed chess and time trouble.

Finally, and this only my opinion. You don’t open a chess game with 1.d4. It’s too slow of a game – you have to play 1.e4!

Meanwhile I was still looking for “J”. If something happened to him, I wanted to know. This tournament was played well before cell phones became ubiquitous.

No problems for the next hour. I finished my paperwork, my friend “B” won his game (but finished just outside the winner’s circle), and “J” didn’t show up.

How do I know at this point it was an hour? Well, “K” came up to the TD table and said it was an hour and I had to give him a point. I told I would, but it was still his responsibility to indicate that on the wall chart.

He gleefully went to enter this the result. And then put away his set. This is usually an indication that a player doesn’t want to play anymore tournament chess, and not so much that he want to clean up the place.

As “K” was putting away his set (and cleaning nothing else) “J” and “M” stepped into the tournament room. “M” asked where her son could play his (tournament) game as there didn’t seem to be any open chairs or sets.

I informed her that her son was an hour late for his game and according to the rules, his opponent claimed a win by forfeit.

She got angry and demanded her son to play the scheduled tournament game as it wasn’t her fault that she was an hour late (actually it probably was, esp. if she was the driver). But I kept calm and spoke quietly. I didn’t want to risk a friendship, nor did I want to create a disturbance for the other players.

She wanted me to reinstate the original pairings. I could not do that as we had a time limit for use of the building and some of us (including me) had to wake up early the next morning for work.

She wanted me to take the time lost, divided in half and each player would lose a ½ hour on the clock, just to be fair. (Sorry, I could not do that.)

About this time, “J” started to tell, almost beg, his mother that it was not that important and he was willing to go along with the TD’s suggestion. Other players, including some where still playing their game, began to follow the conversation.

She demanded how could I do this to his son. I told her that I had nothing against her son; I still thought he was an intelligent young man, who would do well in his life.

She wanted me to talk the situation over with his opponent and get him to play the game with her son.

I told her that I would do that. But the choice was going to be his to make.

So, I got up from my chair, walked over to “K” and told him that “J” was still willing to play the original tournament game with him. I also mentioned that it would be his decision and I would respect whatever decision he made.

He curtly replied, “no”. And then I could swear he had an evil grin on his face. Did he hear our conversation?

I thanked him and walked back to “M”, I told her that “K” said no and there was nothing else I could do for her or her son.

She got even more angry than before and told me to do my job. (I thought my job was to run a tournament, and not make exceptions). I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that I did everything possible and legal to give “J” some extra time to get to the board.

Her last words to me were, “It is your fault that we are no longer friends”.

I began saying, “I would hate to end a friendship for this”. But she was already walking out the door by the time I got between the second and third word.

I never saw her or “J” after that episode.

My friend, “B”, and some other players said I did the right thing. I quietly replied, “Thank you” and walked back to the TD table. And got through a few more chapters of a book.

Left-Handed Players

Recently I read a short article on lefthanders in the August 1988 issue of the British Chess Magazine (BCM). The first paragraph was very interesting for us lefties. Here is the noteworthy first paragraph;

“Some research has shown that there is a higher-than-normal proportion of left-handed amongst chess players”.

This is something I have observed when I was playing Over The Board (OTB) tournaments. But among strong players, say Expert and above, the percentage of left-handed players actually drops below the norm.

And if we look at World Champions, we find no left-handed players. Not just the Men’s World Champion, but the Women’s as well. And correspondence World Champions have all been right-handed players as well. I have not researched the handiness of all the Junior World Champions, but I suspect you won’t find any lefties there.

Why is this so? There are many factors for this occurrence. And all have to do with brain physiology.

Right-handed people tend to use the left part of the brain. That side is where logic, calculations, and focusing (among other things) are located.

Left-handed people access the other side of the brain, the right part. (yes, left-handers are fond of saying, “I’m one of those few people who regularly use the right side of my brain. I don’t know about those right-handed people”. Usually, they say this only to their left-handed friends.

OK – back to the topic.

The right side of the brain is concerned with intuition, ability to see more across the spectrum of things (at the cost of narrow focusing), and ability to actually see chess positions that have not occurred yet.

Briefly, a lefty can actually see what positions may occur during a game. But it takes a right-hander to figure out how to get there.

OK, so you probably want some examples of left-handed players and their games. Just for research, right? ; )



Christopher Briscoe-GM Mark Hebden
British Ch.
Torquay, England, July 27 2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Qe2 (Known as the Worrall Attack.) 6…b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Bg4 10.dxc6 e4 11.d4 exf3 12.gxf3 Bh5 13.Bg5 Re8 14.Nd2 Nd5 15.Bxe7 Rxe7 16.Qd3 Bg6 17.Ne4

17…Nf4! 18.Qd2 Rxe4! 19.Kh1 Qg5 20.Rg1 Qf6 21.Rg4 h5 22.fxe4 Bxe4+ 0-1


Peter J. Oakley-
Yury Nikolaevich Shaposhnikov
World Championship V, ½ Final
ICCF, 1962

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 c5 4.e5 Ng8 5.d4 cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Qe4 d6 8.Nf3 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Nf6 10.Qe2 dxe5 11.Qxe5 Bd6 12.Qb5+ Bd7 13.Qxb7 Rb8 14.Qf3 Qc7 15.Bd3 Bc6 16.Qh3 Bf4 17.O-O Bxc1 18.Raxc1 Rxb2 19.Nb5 Qf4 20.Nxa7 Be4 21.Bxe4 Nxe4 22.Qa3 Rd2 23.Nc6 Kd7 24.Rb1 1-0


GM Daniil Dubov-
Renato R. Quintiliano Pinto
Blitz Game
Titled Tuesday
chess.com, May 11 2021

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.Be2 e6 7.O-O Bb7 8.Rb1 b4 9.e5 Nd5 10.Ne4 Nd7 11.Bxc4 c5 12.Bg5 Qb6 13.Re1 h6 14.Bh4 cxd4 15.Nxd4 Bc5 16.Nf5 O-O 17.Nxh6+ gxh6 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Qh5 f5 20.Qxh6+ Kg8 21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 1-0

A TD story

I believe it was 1987 when this instance occurred. My assignment was to help out in any was I can at a local scholastic chess tournament. In reality, and more truthfully, I was the guy whose job it was to solve any disputes.

Now a player who wins a game earns a grand total of 1 point. A player who loses a game gets 0 points. And if a game ends in a tie (usually called a “draw” in chess lexicon), then each player receives ½ of a point. This background information comes into play a bit later.

The winner of the tournament is the one who earns the most points at the end of the tournament. This sounds simple, and it usually is.

If the there is a tie (draw) between players at the end of the tournament then we had two tiebreak systems at our disposal.

The first is to look at all the players who are tied and then check if the players had played each other. If so, then we look at who won. If Player A beat Player B in their individual game, then we would conclude that Player A won the tournament. Simple, and again, usually not a problem.

If a second tiebreak is needed, then we would see would check which player faced the strongest opposition. And how does one figure out who the strongest opposition?

Well, we add up all the points of every opponent each player faced. This takes time. And there is pressure not to make a mistake, sometimes from the players, but mostly from concerned parents who naturally want their child to win or have a later appointment in the day. And this was years before computers were commonplace. In other words, we did it by hand.

We now introduce our two scholastic players who made played in this tournament, ‘J’ and ‘R’. ‘J’ was a fairly good player and one could not entirely dismiss him from winning this tournament outright. However, ‘R’ was in a league of his own. He was definitely the favorite but when it came to King safety, well, that was a weakness. It should be pointed out that this condition is almost universal among scholastic players. But it was more noticeable in ‘R’ ’s case.

Anyway, there was almost no problems with the tournament. The only problem I had to face was answering a child’s question on where the restroom was located.

The tournament ended a little sooner than expected. And as expected, ‘R’ won. Or did he?

We were getting ready to announce the winner, hand out the trophies, and thank everyone for coming.

But ‘J’ came to the TD table and said that he won the tournament and not ‘R’. I asked him for more information. Was it possible that the Tournament Director team made a mistake? As far as I knew we never made a mistake before. But I knew we, being human and all that, could have made one.

So, the team and I went to a back room to hear him out.

He claimed, “My tie-breaks were better than ‘R’. So, I won the tournament!” I told someone to bring the out the pairing cards. Our first check was to see if ‘J’ played ‘R’ and what was the result. It turned out that these two didn’t play each other in the tournament. I remember remarking, “Well, that was easy.” I got a few amused smiles. We had to do the hard work after all. This was the first time we had to work this out. However, things progressed rapidly once we figured out how to do it. I also had hunch or maybe had a sudden recollection, and as the tabulations were being completed, I checked out my hunch.

Once we crunched all the numbers, I put away my smile and told the young student, “You are correct. You did face the stronger opposition.” He smiled. Then I continued, “But ‘R’ has more game points that you. You lost on the first tie-beak, he beat you 6 points to 5 1/2 points.”

My smile came back to comfort him. But he wasn’t upset or even embarrassed. He just took it as a matter of course. I don’t know if he was playing a game with me or the staff. I do not know if he had ever won with this tactic before. My guess is that he had attempted this act in a previous tournament, and this was best reply he ever had.

WGM Anna Akhsharumova

WGM Anna Akhsharumova was born in the Soviet Union in 1957. She earned her WIM title in 1978 and her WGM title in 1989.


She won the USSR Women’s Championships in 1976 and 1984. And in 1987, she won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship with a perfect score. She thus, in a dramatic fashion, became the only woman to win both the USSR Championship and the US Championships.


And today is her birthday!


Congratulations Anna!


Below are a few of my favorite games of WGM Anna Akhsharumova.


Anna Akhsharumova-Natalia Titorenko
Moscow Women’s Ch., 1974
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.Na3 f5 10.Bd3 (Alternate moves are 10.Bc4 and 10.Qh5.) 10…Qg5 11.g3 Be6 12.exf5 Bxf5 13.Nd5 O-O-O 14.Bxf5+ Qxf5 15.Qd3 e4 16.Qc4 Qf3 17.O-O Kb8 18.Rfe1 Bg7 19.Re3 Qf5 20.Rb3 Ka7


21.Nb5+! axb5 22.Qxb5 Rd7 23.Ra3+ Kb8 24.Ra8+ Kxa8 25.Nb6+ Kb8 26.Qxf5 Re7 27.Nd5 Nd4 28.Qg4 f5 29.Qd1 Ree8 30.c3 Nf3+ 31.Kg2 Re6 32.a4 Be5 33.a5 Rh6 34.h4 Rg8 35.a6 bxa6 36.Qb3+ Kc8 37.Ne7+ 1-0


WIM Anna Akhsharumova (2290)-Catherine Dodson (2000)
US Women’s Ch.
Estes Park, 1987
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 O-O 6.Nge2 e5 (7…c5 is probably better. The text move often leads to Black’s defeat, sometimes in spectacular ways.) 7.Bg5! (The standard response.) 7…h6

[Bogdanovski (2449)-Masterson (2000), European Club Ch., Crete, 2003, continued instead with 7…c6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.d5 Qc7 10.Ng3 a6 11.Bh6 cxd5 12.cxd5 b5 13.h4 Bxh6 14.Qxh6 b4 15.Nd1 Nc5 16.Qd2 a5 17.h5 Ba6 18.Bxa6 Rxa6 19.Ne3 Raa8 20.Nef5 Rac8 21.Qg5 Qd8 22.hxg6 fxg6 23.Rxh7 1-0]

8.Be3 c6 9.Qd2 h5 10.d5 cxd5 11.cxd5 Bd7 12.Nc1 Na6 13.Be2 Nc5 14.O-O a5 15.Nd3 Nxd3 16.Bxd3 a4 17.a3 Qa5 18.Qf2 b5 19.Na2 Rab8 20.Nb4 Rfc8 21.Rac1 Qd8 22.Qe2 Ne8 23.Rxc8 Qxc8 24.Rc1 Nc7 25.Nc6 Bxc6 26.Rxc6 Qd7 27.Qc2 Ne8 28.Qd2 Bf6 29.Qa5 Bd8

30.Qa7! Qxa7 31.Bxa7 Rb7 32.Rc8 Rxa7 33.Rxd8 Kf8 34.Bxb5 Re7 35.Bxa4 f5 36.Rxe8+ (White wins by pushing her two extra queenside pawns.) 1-0


WIM Anna Akhsharumova (2385)-IM Igor Ivanov (2505)
St. John Open, 1988
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 Bg7 5.f3 O-O 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 a6 8.a4 e5 9.Bg5 h6 10.Be3 Nh7 11.h4 f5 12.h5

[M. Admiraal (2479)-V. Blom (2269), Andorra Open, Escaldes, July 23 2018 instead went 12.Qd2 f4 13.Bf2 Nf6 14.g4 Bd7 15.a5 b5 16.axb6 Qxb6 17.Nc1 Ra7 18.Na4 Bxa4 19.Rxa4 a5 20.Be2 Na6 21.Rxa5 Nb4 22.Rxa7 Qxa7 23.Qxb4 Rb8 24.Qa3 1-0 The interesting thing is that neither this game or the main game, did White castle. Did they find a way to press the attack that was so overwhelming that they didn’t need to worry about king safety?]

12…Qe8 13.hxg6 Qxg6 14.Qc2 Ng5 15.Bf2 fxe4 16.Ng3 Nd7 17.Ncxe4 Nf6 18.Nxf6+ Qxf6 19.Nh5 Qf7 20.Nxg7 Kxg7 21.Bd3 Bf5 22.Be3 Qg6 23.Bxf5 Rxf5 24.a5 e4 25.f4 Nh7 26.g4 Rf6 27.f5 Qe8 28.Qd2 Qe5 29.Bxh6+ Kh8 30.Ra3 Rg8 31.Rah3 Rxg4 32.Bf4 Qxf5 33.Rxh7+ Qxh7 34.Rxh7+ Kxh7 35.Qh2+ Kg6 36.Bxd6 (White again wins with two extra pawns.) 1-0


Alison Coull (2005)-WIM Anna Akhsharumova (2385)
Thessaloniki Women’s Ol.
Greece, 1988
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bd3 cxd4 6.O-O (The Ruisdonk Gambit in the Advance French. It should be more popular.) 6…Nge7 7.Bf4 (White has two reasonable moves here, the text move and 7.Re1. It’s not possible to decide which is the better move at this time.) 7…h6 8.h4 Qb6 9.Qc1 Bd7 10.a3 Na5 11.b4 Nc4 12.Nbd2 Rc8 13.Nb3 Nc6 14.Qd1 Nb2 15.Qd2 Nxd3 16.cxd3 Be7 17.Bg3 O-O 18.Rab1 a6 19.h5 f5 20.Qe2 Be8 21.Nfd2 f4 22.Bh2 Rf5 23.g4 fxg3 24.Bxg3 Bxh5 25.f3 Rcf8


0-1 [White’s pawns on e5, f3, and d4 (after …Qb5) are weak and Black is about to break through. One plausible plan is …Bg5, with the idea of …Be3. If White plays to Bf2 to nullify Black’s bishop, then …Nxe5 brings new problems for White.]


Ingrid Dahl (2100)-WGM Anna Akhsharumova (2395)
Women’s Izt.
Kuala Lumpur, 1990
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.Qg4 Nf6 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qh6 Rg6 9.Qe3 Nc6 10.Bb2 Ne7 11.Nh3 Bd7 12.c4 Nf5 13.Qe2 c5 14.dxc5 Qa5+ 15.Qd2 Qxc5 16.Qb4 Qc7 17.O-O-O Bc6 18.Qd2 Ng4 19.Qc3 Rg8 20.Be2 h5 21.f3 Nge3 22.Rd2 Rd8 23.fxe4?! (Winning a pawn while her house is burning down. Better is 23.Rxd8+ to relieve some of the pressure.)

23…Rxd2! 24.Qxd2 Bxe4 25.Bd3 Rxg2 26.Qc3 Bxd3 27.Qxd3 Rxc2+ 28.Kb1 Qb6 0-1


Erlingur Thorsteinsson-WGM Anna Akhsharumova (2385)
Reykjavik Open
Iceland, 1996
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nge2 dxe4 5.a3 Be7 6.Nxe4 Nf6 7.N2c3 O-O (The problem is where does White develop his light-squared bishop?) 8.Bc4?! (As it turns out the bishop is misplaced here. Perhaps 8.Bd3 is a better choice.) 8…Nc6 9.Be3 Nxe4 10.Nxe4 f5 11.Nc5 f4 12.Nxe6 Bxe6 13.Bxe6+ Kh8 14.Bc1 Nxd4 15.Bc4 Bc5 16.O-O Qh4 17.Re1 Rad8 18.Bd3 Nb3 19.Qf3 Nxa1 20.Re5 Rxd3 21.cxd3 Nb3 22.h3 Qxf2+ 23.Qxf2 Bxf2+ 24.Kxf2 Nxc1 25.Re7 Nxd3+ 26.Ke2 Nxb2 27.Rxc7 Rb8 28.Kd2 h6 29.Kc2 Na4 30.Rc4 b5 31.Rxf4 a5 32.Rf7 Rc8+ 0-1