The match was played between Casino Jaque of Huesca and UGT Aragón of Zaragoza, in the team championship of Aragón, in the penultimate round, with both sides in danger of finishing in the relegation zone (or having to face a play-off to stay up). I played on the top board. My opponent, Jesus Gracias Suarez, had the white pieces and the game began thus:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Ng5!?
This was the first and only point in the game at which I paused to think. I decided to play 5...Ne5 (which, as it happens, is possibly weaker than 5...d5) but just as I reached out to move the knight, my opponent's mobile phone went off. This, as I understand it, means the automatic loss of the game. Not knowing the Spanish word for "claim" I said "es la partida" ("it's the game"). My opponent looked to his captain, who, though I couldn't follow precisely what he was saying, told his player that this was indeed the case.
Mr Gracia wasn't at all happy, and a conversation with his captain took place outside the playing room, after which he came briefly back to the board, told me that he would not have claimed the game and left without signing his scoresheet. Which left me shrugging my shoulders, saying "¿qué podría hacer?" ("what could I do?") and feeling uncomfortable.
It always leaves a bad taste in the mouth when a game is decided by the disqualification of one of the parties. It's always an uncomfortable situation. But it shouldn't be. It should and could be done in a straightforward manner and accepted by all parties. There are rules laid down: everybody is used to them and knows what they are. There should be no problem. No controversy.
One may, of course, let them pass - in casual and unimportant games. But in serious games it's unwise to do so. Life is difficult enough as it is without introducing unnecessary ambiguities. I'm a stickler for the rules, in that sense. Games should start on time, moves should be recorded properly, all these sorts of things should apply as is set down. Not perfectly and not exactly. But they should apply: they shouldn't just be flouted, because if rules are ignored then nobody knows when or whether they should actually be applied. In general, if people know where they are, then the potential for controversy is reduced. If responsibilities are set out and understood, then the potential for ethical ambiguities is similarly lessened.
Now I should reiterate that this was a match, in a team compeititon - and a crucial match at that. I therefore had, in my opinion, a responsibility to my team-mates to claim the game, just as I would have a responsibility not to play for a win where a draw was required. (Or, as it happens, just as I had had the responsibility the previous week not to play for a draw in an inferior endgame, because the team were a point down and mine was the last game to finish.) If I'd not taken the win - and we had gone on to lose the match and found ourselves relegated - that would have been my responsibility. I had no reasonable alternative.
But that, in truth, is not my defence for claiming the game. My defence is that I shouldn't have to provide a defence. A game that is lost within the rules should be claimed within the rules without anybody making any fuss about it. It is a player's responsibility, to make sure his or her mobile is switched off before a game. It is a captain's responsibility, to ensure that their players are reminded of this. It is not the responsibility of the opponent to overlook it. There is nothing to talk about.
Should one similarly overlook it if a piece is touched and then the player regrets it? Or if a flag falls? Of course not - and one is not expected to. We learn from our earliest days in chess that "touch-move" always applies and we learn from our earliest days in competitive chess that when the flag falls the game is over. These rules exist and are applied so that games take place in proper conditions. Nobody would ever attract adverse comment for insisting that they be enforced. I see no meaningful difference where the rules involving mobile phones are concerned.
Another point. If a game is continued after one player could have claimed it, the conditions are not equal for both players. One player is in the position of having been able to claim a win: that will prey on their mind, just as it preys on your mind if you miss a win, or if you are offered a draw and do not take it. But the other player has nothing to lose: reprieved from their loss, they no longer have anything to worry about. The pressure is all on the innocent party. Therefore the player who broke the rules is in an advantageous position in relation to the player who did not. Is that not an absurd situation? Is it not precisely to avoid that situation that we have rules in the first place - and why we enforce them?
I didn't much enjoy claiming a win in the circumstances that occurred on Saturday. I play chess to win, but I don't play just to win. But I would always claim the win in these circumstances, for the several reasons I have set out above. As I say, I am not setting out a defence, precisely because I believe no defence is necessary: this piece serves, perhaps, merely as a discussion of the issues, one that can be referred to in the future, if and when the situation recurs. But it is not a defence, because none is required. I would be angered by the suggestion that it were - and if anyone should tell me otherwise I will respond. Not with a defence, but by deploying a vocabulary that I have acquired in Spanish but will not reproduce on here.