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    Monday
    Oct102011

    More Information On Nakamura's Loss

    According to ChessVibes (HT: Ken Regan) Hikaru Nakamura had 25 seconds left on his clock to make his 40th move, and claims to have asked the arbiter if they had reached the time control. According to Nakamura, the arbiter nodded his head, so Nakamura got up to get some orange juice, only to come back and be forfeited. Needless to say, Nakamura filed a protest, but as no one else saw the fateful nod (and obviously neither the arbiter nor Vallejo [if he saw it] felt like admitting anything) it was denied.

    So did Nakamura get, well...the short end of the stick and treated unjustly? IF the arbiter did nod "yes" and then denied it, he deserves to be excoriated and should be barred for life from anything having to do with FIDE chess. (Having him make financial reparations to Nakamura wouldn't be a bad idea either.) However: According to FIDE's laws of chess, Nakamura had no business asking the arbiter anything in the first place:

    13.6 The arbiter must not intervene in a game except in cases described by the Laws of Chess. He shall not indicate the number of moves made, except in applying Article 8.5, when at least one flag has fallen. The arbiter shall refrain from informing a player that his opponent has completed a move or that the player has not pressed his clock.

    The bottom line is that Nakamura's loss, while unfortunate and altogether undeserved from a purely chess point of view, is ultimately his own fault.

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    Reader Comments (21)

    But how is it possible to not know whether the 40th move has been made with electronic clock? After 40th move they should show an hour left.

    October 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrey

    I agree with the last comment. Also, in FIDE rules I thought the players are required to keep a valid scoresheet, even in time trouble, so why didn't he just look at his scoresheet to determine if he'd made the time control?

    [DM: They're only required to do so until they fall below five minutes, except when there is a 30-second increment - which they're not using here.]

    October 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Henderson

    So, if the arbiter nodded (for whatever reason, maybe he misunderstood the question or was gesturing to himself while contemplating what to do or any other plausible reason) he should be banned for life for from chess and make financial reparations? How come your statement reminds me of Torquemada?

    [DM: Perhaps because you're reading me as uncharitably as possible? I could have been clearer, though. I of course agree that the arbiter could have nodded for some other reason - though why not admit that and say that either he or Nakamura misunderstood something? My point is that if he was nodding for the reason Nakamura assumed, and then decided to "forget" it, then he absolutely deserves the severest censure.]

    October 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBilbao observer

    Even if the arbiter nodded there should not be any sanction against him. It would not be reasonable to infer anything from a "nod" in those circumstances.

    [DM: There are issues of evidence and issues of moral principle. I agree entirely that unless there was a microphone present and extremely clear video evidence, sanctioning the arbiter cannot even begin to pass legal muster. My remark was more one of principle - I wrote that if he nodded (by which I meant, nodded in agreement with what Nakamura had in mind) and then denied it, "he deserves" to be sanctioned.]

    October 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandy

    I agree with all the previous comments. I absolutely don't believe the arbiter was deliberately evil and conspired against Naka such that to nod nefariously (knowing he asked about move 40) and then later declare him to be lost on time. It's just a case of misunderstanding (gesture misinterpretation, accent trouble or whatever), and as the first comment said the clock should show the added hour if move 40 would've been completed , also you wrote that Naka shouldn't have asked in the first place. Just an unfortunate loss for Naka, that's all.

    [DM: And no one said the arbiter was, not even Nakamura.]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

    Also, you can't blame the arbiter if according to the rules the player isn't supposed to ask the arbiter about the status of his moves. It's just Naka's own fault that he didn't know how to read his clock . It's not clear if the arbiter understood Naka's question (or that Naka understood his nod) but even if he did he would've been confused by the question(i.e. if arbiter was aware of the rules that he's not supposed to tell player about the move status) and must be wondering in his mind (Can't you find that out by looking at your clock or your scoresheet?).

    [DM: That Nakamura is ultimately responsible was the whole punchline to my article. That still doesn't mean that the arbiter is morally off the hook IF he intentionally and knowingly told Nakamura that he had made the time control and then denied having done so.]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

    Still unsure about the setting of the timers. The discussion on ChessVibes is inconclusive. Can someone please inform how the DGT timer in Bilbao works after 40 moves? Does it still run down to 0 before adding time, or is the time added after the players made 40 moves? It seems strange if the latter is true, because Naka would just have to check the timer in order to get the desired information, not ask the arbiter. However, I assume the timer can be set either way!?
    In my club we use identical timers (DGT XL), but in our teams matches, the time is allowed to run to 0 before new time is added after the time control.

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRandomeister

    Nakamura is the only one to be blamed. An elite player like him should know the regulations and shouldn't be asking anything to the arbiters.

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIago

    An interesting quote from Vallejo via whychess:

    Vallejo added that Nakamura hadn’t yet signed the scoresheets or shaken hands with him, though he said he didn’t mind and understood his opponent’s anger. He also said that it’s common for Nakamura to ask the arbiters for the move number, though they never answer because they’re not allowed to.

    http://whychess.org/node/2290

    [DM: That's interesting - I had seen some shorter comments from Vallejo elsewhere, but that Nakamura has made a habit of asking arbiters the move number is new. Surprising, too - you'd think he would know the rules!]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    Well, he's young, he'll get over it. I'm sure it will only make him tougher (and more vigilant as to the clocks).

    As to punishing the arbiter, I agree with what I understand as Dennis' statement: form a purely theoretical point of view, assuming we have full insight into both Nakamura's and the arbiter's minds and the playing venue, IF he understood Nakamura's question, IF he then nodded to say yes even though he KNEW the answer was no, he should be punished which would be the moral thing to do. Unfortunately, we don't. Even so, it is Nakamura's fault all the same -- as Dennis duly noted, it's his job to manage his clock, not the arbiter's.

    By the way, we also have to assume that Nakamura is telling the truth. I can't tell you the number of times when my mind was intensively occupied by some problem (why not a chess game in his case?) and I meant to tell someone something, and later believed I had indeed done that only to find out I had not. And that's just the example to justify a possibility of making an unintentionally false statement. If we are to be cynical towards the arbiter and consider the possibility that he intentionally misguided Nakamura to make him lose on time, why not be similarly cynical towards Nakamura and consider the possibility that he is, plain and simple, lying to cover his own embarrassing failure?

    Or maybe we could assume the best about both of them and say that Nakamura probably asked the arbiter, the latter probably didn't even hear the question or thought about something else and was nodding his head in response to that, which Nakamura interpreted as a full-fledged yes-nod, or thought the question was "is this the last move before the time control?" and later forgot the fact because he just answered it so automatically he didn't even register it, or any other plausible scenario, and simply forget about it. Chess has enough scandals, let's not look for Nakagate where there may very well be none!

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKajetan Wandowicz

    I can't quite believe Nakamura. I've always found him to be (unintentionally) the funniest GM around, but now this? As someone else pointed out, he had a scoresheet, and it's a rule that it be completed. (My understanding is that moves don't have to written in the last five minutes of the game, not the last five minutes of the first time-control, once the 40th move is made is should be 100% up-to-date. But I am prepared to discover I am wrong about that!)

    [DM: I alluded to this in my remarks to the second comment. The rule is when you're down to five minutes (without a 30-second increment) left to any time control whatsoever - it's 8.4 in FIDE's Laws of Chess:

    If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then for the remainder of the period he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1. Immediately after one flag has fallen the player must update his scoresheet completely before moving a piece on the chessboard.

    The same is true in USCF games too.]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarvey

    Nice tag!

    Obviously the arbiter was careless & foolish to make any response, but ultimately it's got to be the responsibility of the player to know how many moves s/he's made. It's just a basic part of the game...

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNick Funnell

    According to at least one report of the post-game press conferences, Vallejo said that “it’s common for Nakamura to ask the arbiters for the move number, though they never answer because they’re not allowed” (http://whychess.org/node/2290). This sounds really weird (or hilarious).

    [DM: Agreed, it's amazing that he would do that. Another commentator pointed to that quote as well.]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

    Just a factual correction - Nakamura had 45 or 46 seconds left when Vallejo made his 40th move. It was hard to tell exactly how much time he had left when he asked the arbiter if he had made move 40 - probably 35-40.

    [DM: Thanks!]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterclifford

    Chessvibes writes that Nakamura had "about 25 seconds on the clock" when he asked the arbiter. Peter Doggers is on-site in Bilbao, maybe he saw it happen outside the glass cube or watching the video in the press room.

    Along with others, I also rather sympathize with the arbiter. Even if he nodded, it might mean something else for him. Anil Surender is Swedish, but with an Indian name and looks (photos on Chessvibes) - maybe nodding is the equivalent of "Western" shaking one's head (which would also be wrong) or shrugging shoulders (which would be the correct reaction, if he reacts at all)?

    Maybe the most interesting comment on Chessvibes is by "Bartleby", who is also an arbiter: "... Probably every experienced arbiter would try not to react at all; and every experienced player would know about the dilemma the question has caused, and not deduce anything from whatever reaction he gets. ..." I would go even further: an experienced player shouldn't ask such a question at all.

    Particularly if Vallejo (mentioned by others) is right and correctly quoted, Nakamura may even deserve a warning rather than sympathy. Of course now he's punished enough, for sure it won't happen again!

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Just 1 point there have been some comment about if the clock move counter showed 40 moves having been made then Nakamura would have a case. i am not sure even this is true as the players remain responsible for ensuring thy make the required number of moves and the function of the clock is to correctly record the elapse of time. Sometimes the clocks record an extra move but that doesnt reduced the players responsibility for playing the right number of moves. If the clocks do not record the time properly or stop thats different.

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterandy

    If I'm reading the post correctly, you are saying that if the arbiter nodded and then didn't mention it, he should be censured? The arbiter says he didn't respond, and you mention this possibility which contradicts his story.

    [DM: I don't understand the second half of the last sentence. The phrase "mention this possibility" seems to refer to "[t]he arbiter says he didn't respond", but how could the arbiter's statement contradict his own story?

    But seriously, what's complicated about this? I'm saying that IF IF IF IF IF IF IF IF IF the arbiter affirmed to Nakamura that 40 moves had been made, and then, after Nakamura acted on this to his detriment, denied having done so, he deserves censure. I'm not claiming that the arbiter did this! Back to "Confused"'s comment:]

    What's amusing is that you still take Nakamura's story as a given! I don't know anything about the arbiter, but I do know Nakamura has a long history of questionable behavior and claims on ICC, where he's ready to accuse many of cheating without any proof and without ICC agreeing. You furthermore add a "[if he saw it]" to Vallejo's name, again acting as if there was anything to see to begin with and introducing some doubt as to Vallejo's character. But, if you want to take Nakamura's story as a given, that's up to you.

    [DM: If I took it as a given, then I wouldn't have bothered with the second paragraph and its great big IF. I do take it as correct in its broad outline, and with good reason. His past behavior on ICC is entirely beside the point here. Think about the undisputed facts of the situation: everyone agrees that he had plenty of time to make one final, reasonable move before the time control, everyone agrees that he turned to the arbiter (apparently seeking information - Vallejo himself says so, and notes that this is something Nakamura has done before), and everyone agrees that he went to get some orange juice and came back shocked to find that he had been forfeited. There's just no reason to think Nakamura manufactured a story.

    Now, it doesn't follow from those undisputed facts that the arbiter understood what Nakamura was asking, nodded his head "yes" to indicate that Nakamura had made 40 moves, and then lied later on when asked about whether he nodded his agreement. And that - once again - is what I was communicating in the second paragraph with the "if" statement. (To think: I thought putting it in all caps and bold type would help eliminate misunderstandings! My bad.)

    No more of this, please.]

    October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConfused

    IF it helps, there is at least one person in the world who understood the original comment in precisely the way it has been subsequently and consistently defended (which was precisely the way it was originally written).

    [DM: Thanks, and the first word of your comment is a nice touch!]

    October 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Lear

    Btw, regarding Nakamura making a (strange) habit of asking arbiters the move number - turns out he actually tried to use it in his favor in his appeal...

    In [Nakamura's] appeal, he referenced a previous game with Vasily Ivanchuk in Sao Paulo, when he had inquired about reaching the time control in a similar manner, and got no response from the arbiter. The implication was that this had been an answer in the negative, whereas this time around, the arbiter had confirmed they had reached move forty, in Nakamura's view. (http://main.uschess.org/content/view/11424/141)

    October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

    What if, asking the arbiter if he had made 40 moves and the arbiter said hmm let me think, and after some seconds of thoughts Nakamura ran out of time I wonder what Nakamura would say?
    Or the arbiter said ;stop the clock and let me check the rules. After some minutes he could say I'm not allowed to answer your question. In the meantime Nakamura could use his extra time to study his position. Would that be fair?

    My point is: How should the arbiter correctly act to Nakamura's question? I'm not sure if it's correct when Vallejo said Nakamura had done this before, but if the arbiter did nothing to his question and Nakamura was looking at him waiting for an answer and ran out of time would he then blame the arbiter?

    October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNCP

    To CNP, well, see the comment just before you. Not only Vallejo has stated that Nakamura had asked the question before...

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