Horton-Jarmany, round 3, British Championship (Aberystwyth) 2014
Position after 27...Rf8-h8. White to play and to be disturbed.
I'm on nought out of three. I'm not happy. I messed up a super game: I'm not at all happy. But in fact I'm much unhappier than that.
White is winning, in the above position. (You might like to check that, because it's pertinent. It's not the whole point of the story, but it's pertinent.) He's winning, but he has just four to five minutes, plus thirty-second increments, to play the next fifteen moves. He has lost the thread a little - hence the time shortage - and has already missed at least one of the clear wins which he has used his time up looking for. But he is still winning.
But while he is thinking, his opponent suddenly addresses him: "you still have to keep score even if there's less than five minutes". This is, as most readers will know, completely against the rules, since it is forbidden to talk to an opponent. [Edit: but see comments.]
It is, moreover, particularly wrong to talk to an opponent when it is his move. And more than particularly wrong to talk to him while he is in time trouble.
As it happens, the only move White had not written down was the last move on the board - 27...Rh8 - and again, as readers probably know, you're not actually obliged to write down your opponent's move before you've played your reply. Even if you were, even if White were breaking the rules, that's what arbiters are for. But I mention it for the record.
Now of course, I can't be sure that the interruption played any part in what happened next. I can be sure that I was shocked, both at being addressed at such a crucial stage and at being addressed for a completely wrong reason. It certainly broke my concentration: I can't be similarly certain that it changed the result. But what happened next, on the board at any rate, was 28. Re7??
and now Black whipped out 28...Nc6!
and, out of the blue, won the game, which concluded shortly.
Who knows? I might have blundered anyway, particularly under such time pressure. I can't prove otherwise and don't seek to do so. Quite likely nothing would have changed. God knows I have mucked up enough similar games and positions without any verbal help from the opponent.
But I did make a serious complaint to the arbiters, during the course of which my opponent (who apologised at length) claimed not to have known either that the opponent's last move doesn't have to be written down before the player plays his own, or that it's forbidden to speak to an opponent.
Tha arbiters discussed the matter and while they issued my opponent with a warning, they neither reversed the result - which I wasn't expecting them to do - nor applied any penalty, which, whether I was expecting them to or not, I would have liked them to do. Because as it stands, the player who disturbed the opponent lost nothing, and the player who was disturbed lost eveything.
Anyway, I didn't pay my fifty quid to take the decision to the Appeals Committee and you're entitled to draw your own conclusions from that. But it isn't really about that. It isn't about the complaint or its outcome.
Nor is it about cheating. I don't believe it was cheating and I don't believe it was gamesmanship as such.
What it's about is really bad chess etiquette at a point where chess etiquette really mattered.
And what it's also about is - look, this is the British Championship. Either we are serious about this or we are not, but if we are, then let us be serious. Wasn't it just a little thing, a few words from an opponent? No, because this is the British Championship, for which I have never qualified before and may never do again, for which I've spent weeks preparing and much longer looking forward to. If I screw up I screw up - and I expect to. But what I don't expect, what I'm entitled not to expect, is some clown behaving like that.
You lose a game of chess, it can ruin your whole day. That's OK. But you lose like this, it ruins a whole lot more.
I came here to play chess. That's what I did. And then I saw it ruined, not in circumstances where the only fault was mine, but after an interruption from an opponent who claimed he never knew you shouldn't speak to your opponent.
An experienced tournament player, who claimed he never knew you shouldn't speak to an opponent.
You can believe that if you want.