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.

A Game … and a Mystery

Back in 1993, when correspondence chess was played on postcards, Alina Markowski (a well-practiced organizer) set up a correspondence team to compete in the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) team championship.

The team was known as the Kalifornia Kings. Jeff Arnold (an extremely likeable young man) took first board. I took second board, and the team finished third (if my memory is correct).

Jeff was not only a Master in correspondence chess, but also one in OTB.

This is perhaps his most famous game. Unfortunately, there is a little confusion about the exact date and location. NM Jerry Hanken suggests it was played in the Southern California Open, which means the game must have been played in Los Angeles in September of that year. Mr. Hanken has since passed away.

The account given in the Chess Correspondent (the magazine of the CCLA) of the same year (1997) claims the game was played at a North County Open, which would put that game in Oceanside, California. Personally I think the game was probably played in Oceanside, but I don’t know.

Does any reader know the details of the game? Please share your insights here.

Thank you!

And now the game (hold on to your seatbelts – it’s quite a ride! 🙂

NM Jeff Arnold-Harish (1975)
California, 1993
[Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.Nc3 b4 11.Ne2 Nb8 (11…Na5 12.Ba2 would return to the more usual continuations in this variation. – CC) 12.Ng3 (Considering the problems Black is likely to face before he can get his bishop to g7, namely a knight settling on g5, he probably would have done better to regroup with 12…Nfd7 only playing …g6 after his bishop was sitting on f6. – CC) 12…g6 (? Up to now, Back’s moves, though not the best, have been reasonable.12…Nbd7, followed by 13…Nc5 allows White only a tiny edge. – JH) 13.Bh6 [!? 13.c3!? (Arnold). I like 13.Bh6 better, although it will involve some hazardous sacrifices. 13.Bh6 lets Black know that his f7 also requires defending. – CC] 13…Re8 14.Ng5 d5 (What else can Black do? White now wins the pawn on e5. – JH) 15.exd5 Nxd5 [? “15…Bxd5 is better.” (Arnold) True, although Black hasn’t escaped all his problems. After 16.c4 bxc3 (also 16…Bb7 doesn’t quite work. 17.Rxe5 Nfd7 18.Re3 Bxg5 19.Rxe8+ Qxe8 20.Bxg5 just nets a pawn although it is bit backward!) 17.bxc3 Bf8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 (or 18…Rxf8 19.Rxe5 Bxb3 20.Qxb3 the pawn on d3 is taboo: 20…Qxd3 21.Rd1) 19.N3e4, Black’s position is still under considerable pressure. – CC] 16.Rxe5 f6 (Black does not believe White has won a pawn and avoids 16…c6 in what now becomes a classic attack! – JH) 17.Qf3 (! – JH) 17…c6 (Too late! – JH.)

18.Nh5 [! “Good Knight!” (Arnold) – CC ; ! White has two pieces en prise. So, of course, he puts a third one into the pot! If 18…fxe5 19.Qf7+ and if 18…gxh5 19.Ne6 decides quickly. So …- JH] 18…fxg5 [If 18…gxh5 I had planned 19.Bxd5+ (Here Chess Life’s Jerry Hanken analyzed wrong. 19.Ne6 does not decide quickly. What about 19…fxe5 20.Nxd8 or 20.Qg3+ Kf7? Although this looks winning it is a lot slower.) 19…cxd5 20.Qf5 fxg5 21.Qe6+ Kh8 22.Qf7 Rg8 23.Rxe7 +- (Arnold)] 19.Nf6+ (! – CC) 19…Kh8 (If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 then it’s mate on g7 or f8. – JH) 20.Nxd5 Nd7 (If 20…cxd5 21.Qf7 and crunch! – JH) 21.Qf7 (Crunch anyway! – JH) 21…Bf8 22.Nf6 (Mate threat on g8! – JH ; ! Of course, the knight can’t be taken. If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 Black can’t defend the threatened mate on g7 without allowing an equally unpleasant fate on f8. – CC) 22…Nxf6 23.Rxe8 Qd7 24.Bg7mate 1-0

The same game in PGN

[Site “California”]
[Date “1993”]
[White “NM Jeff Arnold”]
[Black “Harish (1975)”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Source “Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)”]
{Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)} 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.Nc3 b4 11.Ne2 Nb8 {11…Na5 12.Ba2 would return to the more usual continuations in this variation. – CC} 12.Ng3 {Considering the problems Black is likely to face before he can get his bishop to g7, namely a knight settling on g5, he probably would have done better to regroup with 12…Nfd7 only playing …g6 after his bishop was sitting on f6. – CC} g6 {? Up to now, Back’s moves, though not the best, have been reasonable.12…Nbd7, followed by 13…Nc5 allows White only a tiny edge. – JH} 13.Bh6 {!? 13.c3!? (Arnold). I like 13.Bh6 better, although it will involve some hazardous sacrifices. 13.Bh6 lets Black know that his f7 also requires defending. – CC} 13…Re8 14.Ng5 d5 {What else can Black do? White now wins the pawn on e5. – JH} 15.exd5 Nxd5 {? “15…Bxd5 is better.” (Arnold) True, although Black hasn’t escaped all his problems. After 16.c4 bxc3 (also 16…Bb7 doesn’t quite work. 17.Rxe5 Nfd7 18.Re3 Bxg5 19.Rxe8+ Qxe8 20.Bxg5 just nets a pawn although it is bit backward!) 17.bxc3 Bf8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 (or 18…Rxf8 19.Rxe5 Bxb3 20.Qxb3 the pawn on d3 is taboo: 20…Qxd3 21.Rd1) 19.N3e4, Black’s position is still under considerable pressure. – CC} 16.Rxe5 f6 {Black does not believe White has won a pawn and avoids 16…c6 in what now becomes a classic attack! – JH} 17.Qf3 {! – JH} 17…c6 {Too late! – JH.} 18.Nh5 {! “Good Knight!” (Arnold) – CC ; ! White has two pieces en prise. So, of course, he puts a third one into the pot! If 18…fxe5 19.Qf7+ and if 18…gxh5 19.Ne6 decides quickly. So …- JH} 18…fxg5 {If 18…gxh5 I had planned 19.Bxd5+ (Here Chess Life’s Jerry Hanken analyzed wrong. 19.Ne6 does not decide quickly. What about 19…fxe5 20.Nxd8 or 20.Qg3+ Kf7? Although this looks winning it is a lot slower.) 19…cxd5 20.Qf5 fxg5 21.Qe6+ Kh8 22.Qf7 Rg8 23.Rxe7 +- (Arnold)} 19.Nf6+ {! – CC} Kh8 {If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 then it’s mate on g7 or f8. – JH} 20.Nxd5 Nd7 {If 20…cxd5 21.Qf7 and crunch! – JH} 21.Qf7 {Crunch anyway! – JH} 21…Bf8 22.Nf6 {Mate threat on g8! – JH ; ! Of course, the knight can’t be taken. If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 Black can’t defend the threatened mate on g7 without allowing an equally unpleasant fate on f8. – CC} 22…Nxf6 23.Rxe8 Qd7 24.Bg7# 1-0

The Sultan’s Problem

Is sometimes our problem as well.

 

We human beings, despite our efforts and accomplishments in mathematics and technology, can only visualize only a few objects at a time. The exact number depends on the objects, the differences in the objects, and the arrangement of the objects.

 

The number, therefore, can vary from perhaps as low as three to no more than 100.

 

So what does this have to do about chess? And why are we concerned about this fact?

 

The history of chess of chess is shrouded somewhat in mystery. It is known to have originated in India, about the year 700.

 

From there it traveled across Arab lands before it arrived in Europe in about 1485. The rules were updated to expand the powers of the queen and moves like en-passant and castling were added to speed up the game.

 

But we don’t know the person, or persons, who actually invented the game.

Therefore, this is a good  place to insert a myth.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

A certain Sultan was concerned about boredom and indifference that was infecting him, his staff, and his army.

 

So, he called over his advisor to see what could be done. The advisor recommended a game that a slave, loyal to the both the advisor and Sultan, had recently invented.

 

 

The Sultan was intrigued about this and so he called over to the slave.

 

The slave told him that this new game of his was a war game that emphasized strategy and there was no luck involved; the winning player must earn this victory.

 

That intrigued the Sultan who began to ask questions about the game and wanted to play.

 

Of course, the Sultan won the first game of chess; the slave was a clever one.

 

After winning more games, the Sultan was full of praise for his slave. He asked him, “What do you desire for this excellent game?”

 

The slave thought for a short time before replying. He finally said, “Oh great and wonderful master. The only thing this humble servant want is to paid in grains of wheat, in which I can feed my family and perhaps make a small profit by selling the rest.”

 

The Sultan looked at him and replied, “I am a busy Sultan, so let me ask you one more time, what do you want for this game?”

 

The clever slave replied, “Master! All I ask for one grain on the first square on the chessboard, two on second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, and so on until the board is filled.”

 

Sultan_Board

 

 

The Sultan smiled, and asked him, “Is that all?”

 

“Yes, master.”

 

The Sultan called over his advisor and said to him, “Bring me a bag of grain for this slave and do what he asks”. The advisor bowed and walked to the grain room.

 

But, if you know exponential functions, you’ll realize that the advisor must have made many trips to the grain room and could never fulfill his task.

 

 

And the clever slave, who know he outsmarted the Sultan, didn’t count on the fact that it was the Sultan who had the power of life and death over his slave. Once the Sultan figured it out, or perhaps had it explained to him, he immediately executed the clever slave.

 

Here is a chart to help you.

 

rice-legend-graph

 

 

For the actual numbers (and I know you want to see them!), please click on the following link.

 

Sultan

 

If simple folks cannot visualize large numbers of rice grains, how can we expect to visualize the large numbers of people, both healthy and sick, and make good decisions about what we should do to make sure more of us stay healthy?

 

This story is a fantasy. The sick are not.