Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sitges: better late?

I had nine games in Sitges, in four of which my opponents turned up on time and in five of which they did not. The five players who were late at the board arrived fifteen, nine, six, nineteen and sixteen minutes late, an average of thirteen minutes. Of these, precisely one bothered to apologise.

Well, we can all of us be rude in our different ways, I suppose, and some people are OK with lateness and less happy with constant sarcasm. Still, sarcasm at the board is still a rare event, whereas, if we take my experience as indicative, lateness at the board is anything but.

You have plenty of time for thinking, while you're waiting for your opponent to turn up, and what I was thinking about, much of the time, was the zero-tolerance rule in chess, which, you'll have gathered, didn't apply in Sitges. It's not that I agree with the rule, as such - I don't. It's not necessary. But I agree even less with people whinging about it to the extent that they do.

See, when people are complaining about how unreasonable it is that they can't turn up late when they want to, I'd like to see a bit more recognition that you're not making an appointment with yourself here, you're meeting somebody else, at a time previously agreed. If you don't turn up on time, you're messing them about. Sponsors, spectators, team members, opponents, whichever may apply to the particular level of chess in which you're participating.

Yes, yes, the clock gets started on time (or ought to) and the opponent gains some minutes over you. But suppose that's not your call to make? Let's suppose that you're a social player, not a professional. Maybe your opponent would prefer that the game actually started on time, a time for which they themselves have managed to arrive. Maybe they want to get on with the game, not be kept hanging around not knowing whether they're actually going to get a game or not. Why is that an unreasonable expectation, but perfectly reasonable for you to rock up at the board whenever suits you?

Lateness gets on my nerves, and culpable lateness much the more so. Yes, circumstances beyond our control - the train was cancelled, the car broke down, the dog ate the map you'd printed out. This is why I'm not in favour of compulsory zero-tolerance, though I'm not all that opposed when it comes to professional-only events. If it's a job, aren't you supposed to turn up on time?

For the rest of us, I dunno, maybe I'd like a shorter cut-off time, though I suppose that if we did, it would amuse the perpetual latecomers to turn up just a minute or two before the deadline. But anyway, the point is less a rules-related than an ethical one. You're a social player? This is, therefore, a social occasion? Then have some consideration for your opponent and don't keep them hanging around. Eh.


John Cox said...

I don't agree with this at all. If you want to play social chess, play social chess. If you want to play a competitive event, you have to accept that your opponent can turn up at any time permitted by the rules at his or her convenience and not yours. Your opponent may, for instance, dislike rushing before a game, dislike being engaged in social banter before the game and thus prefer to turn up after the session, starts, or whatever (not a few great players have had the habit of turning up a few minutes late). It's not a question of good manners; that simply doesn't come into it. It's a question of people's entitlement in a competitive situation.

Anyway, you're allying yourself with Nigel, you know. That can't be good.

If you ever play Gigi Bucchichio you won't enjoy it. He finds the game a bit slow and prefers to turn up 45 minutes late. If by some mishap he's earlier then he just sits in a chair at the side of the room for half an hour before making his first move. The young US GM whose names escapes me but writes books - ah yes, Naroditsky - seemed a bit surprised by this at the London Classic.

Zero tolerance is far worse than stupid and unnecessary; it's part of the war fought by administrators to increase their power at the expense of players. If we collectively had any gumption we could soon end it - well, obviously we could vote out the cretins who introduced it, but assuming their corruption continues to keep them in power we could simply ensure that all competitors in the Olympiad left the hall a minute before the start of play and remained there until one minute afterwards. Kirsan would soon get tired of announcing 0-0 draws in all matches.

David R said...

It's bad manners. Whoever heard of a chess player with bad manners?

an ordinary chessplayer said...

The dog ate my Garmin.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

All joking aside, I agree with what John Cox said. Against gamesmanship, the best answer is to make good moves -- make them wish they had more time to think. Against rudeness, the best answer is to behave correctly. What I do is notify the arbiter that my opponent is late, so the arbiter can ring up the hotel room, in case they have overslept or perhaps don't know the start time.

About the zero tolerance, I thought the cause was this: In the old days, if black was late, white did not have to move but could start black's clock. Since the crummy display software, as well as digital move counters, could not handle that real-world scenario, they changed the rule to require white's clock be started first, and white must move before starting black's clock. That rule change was the REAL stupidity. The zero tolerance is a natural consequence, so that black cannot not wait in the hotel room for a free peek at white's first move.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that was the cause of zero tolerance for a moment, though it is sometimes used a justification, to be sure. ZT was born out of some fatuous notion that it was unprofessional for players not to be on time, or some such pious bollocks. And of course arbiters took it up because it makes them more powerful and important and the players less so, and this is always the first and chief goal of any arbiter.

Anonymous said...

I'm with John Cox here. I'm not a social player, I'm a competitive player. I'm on time because I want to use the full time allotted to me, not because I don't want to keep my opponent waiting. He'll be waiting for my move often enough during the game. If my opponent decides to gift me 15 minutes I'll take them gladly.

That being said, team events are a bit different in that respect, because often the starting of the clock is deferred until everybody has arrived. If that is the way things are usually done, coming late is of course pretty impolite.