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    Sunday
    Sep042011

    The Moiseenko-Navara Draw: Honorable, Or Not?

    In the last post, I gave the details of the very strange Moiseenko-Navara draw as I understood them at the time; now, further details are available. (Have a look here [HT: Mark Crowther].) In brief, on move 35 Navara wanted to move his bishop from e7, but first touched his king on f7 in what seems to be universally accepted as an accident. Moiseenko noted at the time that Navara touched the king and had to move it, but then chose not to insist. Later, so that he wouldn't be viewed as someone who won in an unfair way, Navara offered a draw in a position that was by that moment trivially won. Had he won the game, he would have won the match on the spot and guaranteed himself at least another $7200.

    It is claimed by some parties that this was an example of good sportsmanship, of honorable action, first by Moiseenko and then by Navara. I'm afraid I disagree. Article 4 of the FIDE Laws of Chess, "The act of moving the pieces", makes repeated reference to the player deliberately moving a piece. If it was really clear, as it seems to have been from the players' statements, that Navara accidentally brushed the king on the way to moving the bishop, then Moiseenko is no more being honorable than I would be if I saw someone I knew to be very intelligent adult type "you" as "yuo" and maintained that she really wasn't so stupid as to misspell a first-grade word. This is not an act of supererogatory magnanimity on my part or Moiseenko's, but a trivial display of basic decency. It's hardly even a positive act; it's more like avoiding a really negative behavior.

    For different reasons, I don't think Navara acted properly either. By the rules of the game and by correct sporting norms, he deserved to win. Furthermore, if he has a second or seconds and they are receiving a percentage rather than a purely flat fee, they are thereby entitled to at least the cut they would have received had Navara won. (Of course, he might still qualify, but if he doesn't?) There is something morally attractive about Navara's putting competitiveness on such a low level, but I don't believe it should have been trumped in this case. This isn't like Azmaiparashvili's making a move and hitting the clock against Malakhov some years ago and then requesting (and receiving!) a take-back. Navara had nothing to be ashamed of or any reason to fear that anyone would think of less of him.

    Just to be clear, I'm not claiming that either player acted dishonorably, though if Moiseenko pointed out that Navara "had to" move the king, knowing all the while that it was an accident, before regaining his sportsmanship and retracting the claim, then in that case it would have been a dishonorable initial act on his part. If that's the case, it would be an instance of good sportsmanship by him to resign the match without playing tomorrow. That scenario aside, I wouldn't claim that either player acted dishonorably, but all the same Moiseenko shouldn't have said anything if he believed it was an accident and Navara shouldn't have let his opponent off the hook.

    But maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

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    Reader Comments (48)

    Surely the time to sort this is at the time of the incident. There seems little point in Navara playing on if he didn't think he was morally entitled to a win.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    It hard to judge this situation. I wonder if the live telecast captured the moment. The answer will depend on how much of an accident it is. If Navara touched the king first accidentally by back of his hand while reaching for his Bishop, then Moiseenko had absolutely no claim for sure. But I have known instances where player grabs the wrong piece in time trouble, even when his intentions were different, if thats the case then Moiseenko has some point.

    Though this is off-topic, I thought it might be worth mentioning that, Navara is known as a player with a very nice attitude, manners . I remember reading some article where his manners over the board are compared to Akiba Rubinstein. In any case he eliminated any further controversy by offering a draw.

    I also remember reading about a very similar incident that happened to GM Jon Speelman. I forgot his opponent's name, but the game ended in a draw after a similar piece-touching controversy.

    In any case I wonder what Kant (or Nietzsche !) would have to say about this :)

    [DM: Kant doesn't offer a substantive ethics, but a metaethics, so I don't think he comes into the picture. As for Nietzsche, he clearly wouldn't approve - but I don't think that's an un-endorsement anyone should care about. :)]

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHari

    Btw, you can see the bishop move in the official broadcast (HD version is nice). It happened around 16:02, immediately after Polgar's press conference. It seems to me that Navara just played Bd6. Maybe, during the execution he somehow touched also his king, but it doesn't matter.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK

    I absolutely agree with Dennis Monokroussos. There was not any fair play from Moiseenko. It's ridiculous if someone thinks he acted in a honorable way. That was exactly the opposite. The reaction of Navara was surely respectable but utterly usseless. He did nothing against the rules and deserved to win. The fans watching the game until the very end were rightly disappointed.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGambit

    I totally agree with you Dennis. Moiseenko shouldn't have said anything at all after Navara accidentally touched his king. Navara's win was deserved and there was no need to offer a draw instead of winning.

    Interestingly, this incident reminded of me something related to Moiseenko which I read in British Chess Magazine years ago. I made a quick Google search to be sure and found this page.
    Just search Moiseenko in the opened page. Probably he doesn't deserve this kind of sportsmanship.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterdeadManWalking

    Not to insist for false claim is enough for fair-play prize ??
    I suggest gentleman Navara to refuse the same prize as dishonest Moiseenko.
    Let Moiseenko to take 2 prizes, first for this http://www.bcmchess.co.uk/monarch2004/rd5.html

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLudo

    The closest philosopher I can think of is Albert Camus, who was once a goalkeeper (in soccer of course) and said:

    'All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.'

    Substitute chess for football and we may have the philosophy of David Navara.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    My judgment is that people, on this page too, are way too judgmental.

    [DM: I guess as long as you're being ironic about it, it's okay.]

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMNb

    Im glad somebody got that right. Well done, Dennis. Spectators of the game were just fooled, mickey taking for hours!! What would Navara have done, had the game ended in a draw??????? Navara should have acted straight away and sorted thing out before playing on. He had not done anythinganything wrong when he accidentally touched the piece.

    [DM: "Mickey"?]

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterG.Isola

    I assume "mickey taking" means "taking the Mickey" = "taking the piss". [DM: Oops, that'll teach me to ask.]

    To me another weird thing is how long Navara waited before offering the draw. What would he have done if Moiseenko resigned a move earlier, as he certainly could have done? Refused the resignation? [DM: I'm not sure what he would have done, but in response to the first point I guess Navara wanted to wait until he was clearly winning so as to make it clear that the offer was only related to the touch-move incident and nothing in the position.]

    Navara is supposedly on the autism spectrum and I wonder if that had anything to do with his feeling that he couldn't rightfully win the game.

    Thanks to K for pointing out the video. At 16:02 you can see Moiseenko play 35.Qe2 and then seconds later Navara confidently plays 35...Bd6, with no obvious sign of having touched another piece; if he did touch the king it was absolutely clearly accidental. Moiseenko immediately points at the king and then makes a gesture like "whatever, never mind", and Navara summons an arbiter. Then the camera cuts away.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Schmidt

    While on the subject of (dis)honorable draws, anyone notice the itty bitty little draw Ben Finegold offered to his son Spencer in the recent Missouri Championship?

    Their whole game was: 1. e4, c6 1/2-1/2

    To me, that stinks to the heavens.

    http://saintlouischessclub.org/news/2011-08-22/and-winner

    [DM: I have no problem with this sort of draw at all - I wouldn't play a real game against a family member either. The Kosintseva sisters do this all the time (though they usually "drag" it out to 10 moves or so), and I'm sure other relations have a similar non-aggression policy. Who is hurt by this? What is problematic is players who are getting an honorarium - getting paid to play - who make a habit of short, bloodless draws. I don't see the problem in "civilian" events.]

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuralRob

    I agree with you Dennis. I respect Navara's decision, but Moiseenko acted like a cheap trickster.

    [DM: A few people have "agreed" with me, but I didn't say that Moiseenko did something wrong - my remark was phrased as a hypothetical. I'm only asserting that he didn't do anything virtuous by "forgiving" Navara's accidental touch.]

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNima

    Sharp practice by Moiseenko. In the long term this may be a mistake on his part, as now people are aware of his little tricks.

    September 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    My view is that it was an honorable thing to do on Moiseenko's part. I can think of more than a few world champions even who would not allow such a luxury. FIDE rules may be very clear on the matter but that belies the fact that the rule is in actuality very murky because it has to do with interpretation. Not by FIDE, but by the players themselves i.e. what they saw and what they remember. At the very least in the spirit of competition Moiseenko could have made life very difficult for Navara. And I think Navara was just returning the favor. I do think Navara was being excessively polite by returning the favor but that's his decision.

    [DM: Sure, Moiseenko could have tried to make a stink. But again, he himself claims that it was obviously an accident. If so, then unless one thinks that *not* acting like a jerk is enough to make a person praiseworthy, I don't see how his behavior is admirable. (Remember, denying that an action is admirable doesn't automatically mean that it's worthy of condemnation. An action can be morally neutral as well.]

    It's one thing to think of the incident in a vacuum but out in the real world there's a lot of nastiness going on. Life's not fair and so on. This applies to law as well. A law may be written with good intentions but when it hits the real world it can have very negative consequences due to the interpretation of the law by various individuals. Rules in a rulebook are no different. All it would have taken was a little bit of exaggeration on Moiseenko's part (for example, saying his opponent's hand lingered on the king as it seemed to him) to turn it into a controversy and maybe even force Navara to move the king. Would he know if the camera was on him? Would he care? I don't know. But he had the option and right to protest. $7,200 was on the line.

    [DM: He had the option, yes, but the moral right? Absolutely not, if he believed it was an accident.]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlwh

    I think Navara made a boo-boo.

    1. http://i53.tinypic.com/2iscr9e.jpg
    2. http://i53.tinypic.com/iyouab.jpg
    3. http://i52.tinypic.com/fa0psn.jpg
    4. http://i56.tinypic.com/16mlnp.jpg
    5. http://i54.tinypic.com/fxqe7t.jpg
    6. http://i53.tinypic.com/dym1c0.jpg

    From the angle, looks like Navara touches one piece in pic2, but by pic4 he moves another.

    [DM: It's hard for me to tell one way or another, and it's made worse by the fact that the two pictures aren't taken from identical perspectives. It's interesting to see the Zapruderization of this event though!]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe stills:

    I'd like to think that the moral virtue or otherwise of sporting decisions is not informed by the implications of prize money.
    I admire Navara's draw offer. Maybe Moiseenko should have rejected it :-)

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Lear

    It's obvious that Moiseenko benefitted most from this incident. He was clearly lost. The honorable thing for him to do would have been to refuse the draw offer, make his own move and resign. By that gesture he would have acknowledged Navara's sportmanship fully and at the same time set an even higher standard.

    The rule about touching pieces should be adjusted. If a piece is touched intentionally or not, is too vague. Why not go with pressing the clock as the completion of a move. The abuse of this new rule by touching all your pieces could then be seen as very bad sportmanship, maybe punished with a time penalty, but not with the claim that someone has to move with a certain piece.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuctor

    The video (video.ugrasport.com/view/698 - cca. 16:01:50 - 16:02:10 - the desk in the back, middle) shows that Navara may have not touched the piece at all - he played it "clean" (it is possible that there was a slight touch as his hand was passing the king). So Moiseenko probably only used this to get some more time in time trouble - he had no sustainable claim. But Navara offered him even more than he could have hoped for. Doesn´t seem like fair play form Moiseenko :-/.

    [DM: You can tell from the video? I need a new monitor or new eyes!]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterL.

    I think Navara was just being polite to make note of his brush. I'm sure he knew it wasn't intentional and had the rules on his side in such a situation. He just wished to show his sportsmanship by giving his opponent the opportunity to "agree" with him. Had he not paused and allowed Moiseenko the opportunity it might have been something to dwell on for the rest of the game by one or both players. Best to get it over with and that's what both of them did. I suspect that Navara was more interested in showing Moiseenko that he appreciated him not resorting to making an issue out of the piece brush and that's why he offered the draw. Why did he wait so long? Perhaps he was still sorting out what would be the sportsmanlike thing to do.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter2drc

    Given that Navara wasn't happy the best moral follow through on this was clearly for Moiseenko to refuse the draw. That would have been a tremendous thing for Moiseenko and chess but alas he blew it. Arguably such an action could have set his career up as one of chess's ambassadors. As you say Dennis he could also have resigned the match by now but that would be rather calculating.

    However I guess we may then have had the spectacle of Navara not delivering mate...

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    Hi Dennis,

    As usual you are spot on the topic. Moiseenko has not displayed any great sportsmanship here, since it is clearly established now that David inadvertently touched the king while moving the bishop. Also, to me it appears that Moiseenko was wrong in the first place to make a note on this but later he showed decency and carried on with the game.

    With regards to David, what can I say, it was not at all required to show such a magnanimous gesture. But, hey, such individuals are rare and they value their character more than money.

    David seems to be too nice a guy and overtly sensitive. He reminds me of the young Vishy Anand in his behaviour on the board. David is a great gentlemen and I wish him all the best.

    On a different note, this is one of the sites which carry impartial opinions on the games and also on the players. This is the reason I keep coming to this site regularly. Thanks very much Dennis for keeping it going...

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChess Fan

    David Navara made a similar thing (i.e. offer a draw in utterly won position) more than once before when he personally felt that his win would be unfair due to something what had happened during the game and what could have disturbed and affected play of his opponent. Bellow are just two examples of similarly "strange" draws of Navara:

    Andrei Kovalev vs David Navara, Czech Open, Pardubice 2006

    1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Be7 8. f4 Qc7 9. Kh1 O-O 10. Bf3 Nc6 11. g4 Re8 12. g5 Nd7 13. a4 Bf8 14. Bg2 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 b6 16. Qf2 Bb7 17. Be3 Bc6 18. f5 exf5 19. exf5 Ne5 20. Bd4 Nc4 21. Bd5 Rac8 22. Qg2 Ne3 23. Bxe3 Rxe3 24. g6 Kh8 25. gxf7 Re5 26. Rae1 Bxd5 27. Nxd5 Qxf7 28. Rxe5 dxe5 29. Nxb6 Rb8 30. Qc6 Rxb6 1/2-1/2

    Ilija Balinov vs David Navara, Mitropa Cup, Pula 2003

    1.c4 g6 2.e4 e5 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Nc3 O-O 7.g3 Re8 8.Bg2 d5 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Ndb5 Nxc3 11.Qxd8 Rxd8 12.Nxc3 Nc6 13.Bg5 f6 14.Bf4 Ne5 15.Bxe5 fxe5 16.Nd5 c6 17.Ne7+ Kf7 18.Nxc8 Raxc8 19.Ke2 Rd4 20.Rhd1 c5 21.b3 Bh6 22.Rab1 b5 23.Rb2 c4 24.bxc4 bxc4 25.f4 c3 26.Rc2 Rxd1 27.Kxd1 exf4 28.Rf2 g5 29.e5 Rc5 30.Kc2 Ke6 31.gxf4 gxf4 32.Rf3 Rxe5 33.Kxc3 Re2 34.Bf1 Rxh2 35.Rh3 Bg7+ 36.Kd3 Rxa2 37.Rxh7 Be5 38.Bh3+ Kf6 39.Bf1 a5 40.Ra7 Ra3+ 41.Kc4 f3 42.Kb5 Bc3 43.Bc4 Bb4 44.Rf7+ Ke5 45.Bf1 Rc3 46.Bc4 Kd4 47.Rf4+ Ke3 48.Rf6 f2 49.Rf5 Rxc4 50.Kxc4 Bd6 1/2-1/2

    [DM: Do you know the stories with these games?]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHonza Cervenka

    Looking at the video is a good idea (http://video.ugrasport.com/view/698).

    Navara makes his move in such an obvious and confident manner, it's really not a case of "grabbing the wrong piece".

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDharmabum

    Dennis, just a comment about your "my remark was phrased as a hypothetical". Here's what Moiseenko said according to the official press release:

    Alexander Moiseenko: — Navara on the 35th move first touched the king. I told him: the king moves. However, I realized that my opponent accidentally made this mistake, it is not possible that he could so easily blunder the piece. This is the reason I did not insist on his move with the king.

    I guess you can drop the hypothetical ("if Moiseenko pointed out that Navara 'had to' move the king")!

    [DM: Moiseenko's mental state was part of the hypothetical: was he fully aware as he was pointing it out that it was an accident? If so, then he's guilty of at least a slight sporting breach. But it's also possible that he was confused for an instant and reacted, and only a moment later realized that it was of course an accident and thus retracted his claim.]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRandomeister

    absolute tripe.

    Navara is a pro. If he is so trashy he cannot take hold of a piece in the correct fashion, flails about, he should be told to move the piece he touched.

    Awww, Navara is so cute, what a sport....OH stop already.

    [DM: I don't understand this comment. It isn't as if Navara *grabbed* the wrong piece or his intention was unclear. No one, including Moiseenko, is pretending that Navara intended to move the king. Being a 2700 in chess doesn't make you a 2700 in dexterity (though I'm not aware of Navara having regular disputes of this nature), and in any case I've seen other players (most recently Carlsen in the Botvinnik Memorial) also demonstrate momentary klutziness at the board.]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraham

    The video (video.ugrasport.com/view/698 - cca. 16:01:50 - 16:02:10 - the desk in the back, middle) shows that Navara may have not touched the piece at all - he played it "clean" (it is possible that there was a slight touch as his hand was passing the king)

    Yes I agree... at most his shirt sleeve would have touched it!
    [DM: Moiseenko] is not a sportsman at all.

    [DM: Are you guys watching this on a stadium-sized monitor or something? I really need an upgrade!]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNavi

    Apparently Navara is autistic and that could have contributed to his fastidiousness. If that is the case then Moiseenko acted dishonorably in accepting the draw.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercouriermike

    If he was "confused for an instance and reacted", then how come he used the situation to his advantage, and accepted the draw offer? No, I think he was fully aware of the psychology of his particular opponent.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRandomeister

    Dennis, it is a good idea to swith to the fullscreen HD version.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK

    Hi Dennis,
    you are absolutely right.It is amazing how many people including the players are very ignorant about the rules.If the incident developed the way it is described ,Navara accidentally touched the king and could have played anything else.If he did it deliberately,only then Moiseenko could have said that he has to move it to a square after which Re7 wins a piece.In the latter case he simply had to insist.Fairplay should always be confined within the chess rules.Otherwise the organizers should have to reward Malakhov when he allowed Azmaj to take his move back in Silivri Euro Individual CC in year 2003.Alas the latter speaking about the case,called the former one a true gentleman and sportsman etc...In my opinion both cases do not reflect any kind of fairplay and the meaning of the expression is seriously violated.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGM Suat Atalik

    One thing just strikes me, looking at the video again. The bishop stands on the right side of the king. Navara plays the move with his right hand.

    How can he even touch the king ?

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDharmabum

    I heard Navara is autistic. If so, surely Moiseenko should have known. Is it not cruel to find fault with Navara for any 'accidental touch', if at all there is? There cannot be any other unsportsman like gesture than this.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersnrao

    [DM: Do you know the stories with these games?]

    Well, I was following the game with Kovalev live on-line back in 2006 and I was completely puzzled when after Kovalev's 30.Qc6, which was a blunder made in better position but with far worse time (David had 1h 21 mins against Kovalev's 19 mins.), and black's instant reply 30...Rxb6, which wins a piece because 31.Qxb6 Qd5+ 32.Kg1 Bc5+ is not an option for white, a "1/2-1/2" result appeared on my screen. At first I have thought that it was just a mistake in transmission and that Kovalev just resigned but it was not the case. Later I have heard that David was feeling poorly that day and that his behaviour during the game was due to his state much queerer than usually. I don't know exact details of what was happening there but according to a witness, who was there and spoke with David, he believed that his behaviour significantly affected his opponent's concentration during the game and caused him to make a decisive mistake. And as he thought that his win under such circumstances would not be fair, he offered a draw, which was quite understandably accepted by Kovalev.

    In second case I don't know any specific details but according to one kibitzer from chessgames.com, who pointed out this game in a discussion related to Kovalev vs Navara game and Navara's sportmanship, there was a problem with digital clock, which caused that Balinov got into severe time trouble and botched the position there. David reportedly felt uncomfortable with exploiting of such a misfortune of his opponent and offered a draw in clearly won position.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHonza Cervenka

    "The honorable thing for him to do would have been to refuse the draw offer, make his own move and resign."
    I agree. Another thing is to blame people for not being honorable - which, as DM pointed out, is not the same as being unhonorable.
    My previous comment was both ironic and serious - and yes, does apply to myself too.

    "Why not go with pressing the clock as the completion of a move."
    You can imagine where this goes: people moving a piece and withdrawing it dozens of times.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMNb

    Watching the video over and over, reading all the posts, seeing those two games where Navara unexplicably draws, and remenbering the only two times I've actually heard him speak (in Wjik An Zee, and here, on the live video), when he more than often apologized for nothing, I came to the conclusion than Moiseenko delibarately tried this trick to unsettle his opponent.

    So it's good news Navara eventually won !

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDharmabum

    Interesting comments on what will surely be a fascinating instant of chess history.

    What surprises me is that no-one ( unless I missed it ) picks up on the the intriguing "Zapruderization" as dropped into the flow by Dennis.

    I have spent an happy time following the trail of this on the Internet, ashamed that I read the book it was coined in, and yet have never used it or ever seen it used before.

    It is added to my list of words to drop in to a conversation and I'm grateful to you, Dennis, for re-introducing it to me.

    [DM: I add that I haven't read it anywhere either. The Zapruder film is well-known to those familiar with the (to my mind, dubious at best) controversies around the Kennedy assassination, and "-ization" endings are a common way of creating neologisms...or should I say instead that it's integral to the neologization process?]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSignalman

    Well, if one carefully watches the HD version one can see it had to be an accident. Navara's move is so smooth and confident that while he may have touched the king in the way, it is clear beyond doubt that he was going for the piece which he eventually did move, i.e. the bishop.

    That being said, it's not really important: according to both the players, Navara didn't intentionally touch another piece (the fact that Moiseenko himself is apparently convinced of it speaks for itself). Therefore, the touch-move rule simply doesn't apply, end of story. It's just like when you reach for your glass and involuntarily knock down several pieces with your elbow. You're most obviously not obliged then to move the piece which your elbow touched first!

    I fully agree with Dennis that not protesting here can't be viewed by a sporting act by any means, it's just that protesting would be utterly nonsensical, unsporting an unethical. In other words, I can't have a reasonable claim to being called a gentleman just because I choose not to trip other people when they pass by me.

    The praise that goes Moiseenko's way is undeserved at best. If anything, one could ask him why he didn't do the decent thing in the end: say "Thank you, I appreciate your offer, but you have absolutely nothing to feel bad about. You won deservedly and I have only myself to blame for the current position on the board. I reject your draw offer and resign". However -- and this is quite a serious possibility in my opinion -- Moiseenko could have quite simply not been aware of the reason behind Navara's offer. I for one probably wouldn't be, as I'd would have forgotten the whole his-thumb-touched-the-king-while-going-for-the-bishop business by then and probably would have thought that Navara is so tired that he miscalculated something (granted, that's a stretch in the final position, but blindness can attack the best after six hours of play), or that 50 moves have passed.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKajetan Wandowicz

    FYI that a technical reading of the rules establishes that Moiseenko would have been within the FIDE Laws of Chess, if not within the norms of sportsmanship, to insist that Navara move the king. There is no reference to "deliberately moving" as this blog says. The deliberate act referred to in the rules is the act of touching (not moving) "one or more" pieces. To be clear, the rules state:
    "4.3 Except as provided in Article 4.2, if the player having the move deliberately touches on the chessboard: a. one or more of his own pieces, he must move the first piece touched which can be moved"
    Significantly, by using the phrase "ONE or more", the rule expressly addresses which piece must be moved where only ONE piece is touched deliberately. In that case, the player must move the first piece touched which can be moved. The rule does not say a player must move the first piece touched that was deliberately touched. As a matter of rule construction, the interpretation suggested by this blog would render the rule's phrase "*one* or more of his own pieces" nonsensical, and a rule should be interpreted so as not to render any of its terms superfluous. Here, there is a factual dispute regarding whether the king was the first piece touched in Navara's act of deliberately touching one or more of his own pieces. If the king was indeed touched first, before the bishop, then Moiseenko would have been within the FIDE Laws of Chess, Article 4.3, to insist that Navara move the king. General sportsmanship is another matter altogether.

    [DM: Seriously? This reading is a clear violation of common sense, as it would penalize a player for even the most transparently obvious accidental touch.

    At any rate, it's semantically clear that "deliberately touches" is distributed through the subsequent clauses. To say that a player deliberately touches one or more pieces means in the first case that he deliberately touched one piece, in the second that he deliberately touched more than one piece. Navara only deliberately touched one piece, so that's the only one he was compelled to move. (Assuming, as was the case here, that the piece could move.)

    I can think of at least two clear problems with the alternative interpretation, but I'll stick to just one of them; to wit, it forces a player to move an accidentally touched piece - but only after he tries to move a different piece afterward. Suppose Navara was preparing to move the bishop, but another player trips while walking past his board and Navara's hand hits the king first. Must he move the king? Not according to the rule, which only covers deliberate touches. No problem. But now Navara, having regained his composure after the bump, tries to move the bishop. Wait! Now, on your interpretation of the rule, with "deliberately" not distributed to all the touched pieces, he is now forced (if his opponent insists) to move the king. This is obviously nonsense.

    So if the choice is between interpreting the rule as so stupidly written as to obviate the distinction between accidental and deliberate touches and an interpretation that - if rewritten in a particularly clumsy way - can be expressed with a single superfluous term, I'm choosing the latter.

    Addendum: On a different point, you're completely right that the rule refers to deliberately touching a piece rather than deliberately moving it, and I should have written it that way. I have no idea why I wrote it as I did, but it was a mistake - an accidental one, hopefully, but a mistake all the same.]

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbe

    Here's how I would think about it.

    If Moisieenko knew the touching of the king was an accident then he shouldn't have told him he had to move it even though he didn't insist. If he thought he intentially touched the king then he was just trying to be a good sportman by not inisting, and then wouldn't be out of line in accepting the draw since he already threw a bone to his opponent.

    If Navara touched his king on purpose and tried to weasel out of it by moving his bishop and hoping his opponent didnt insist he move it, then his draw offer was morally justified, although more appropriate there would be that he just moved his king instead of the bishop. If Navara just brushed his king while going to move the bishop then I would have mentioned that when Moiseenko claimed I had to move the king and in that case I certainly wouldn't offer the draw once I reached a won position.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommentercheVelle

    In general I agree with Dennis' opinion and have said so in some private e-mails. The one nebulous factor is that whenever intent is written into the rules of a game, allowance must be made for differing perceptions on the part of the players.

    In cricket, one of the considerations for a leg-before-wicket (LBW) decision is whether the batsman intended to play a shot. If intent is seen, and if the ball's first bounce was outside the line of the stumps, the umpire should judge not-out. Separately, in cases where a batsman did-or-did-not nick a ball that goes through to the wicketkeeper, a batsman who knows he did flick it is supposed to "walk" and judge himself out even before the umpire is appealed to for a decision. When the "walk" sportsmanship ethic is combined with LBW and its "intent clause", things get very tricky indeed. It is understood that a batsman in the latter case may not know whether he intended to play a stroke or was simply flummoxed by the delivery.

    From what I read of the video---no time for Zapruderization myself---it should have been clear there was no intent to move the king. But, one can find situations where a player has fully grabbed a piece he did not intend to move, and that is touch-move. My reading is that in the first second it was legitimately unclear to both players. Then Moiseenko realized it was not a touch-move situation, but evidently Navara's own doubts remained. I've seen the facility for such self-doubts ascribed to "position on the autism spectrum"; let me just say it aligns with something I call "being ping-y" in myself, and I can empathize! I did think that overnight, a consultation of the video might have led Moiseenko to resign, but perhaps there is no provision in the rules for this. Navara did after all make a legal draw offer, and absent a provision for declaring oneself to have lost (dodecamossamorozevichynichyacide?), Moiseenko's seconds may have had the same say ascribed in the post to Navara's.

    September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth W. Regan

    Moiseenko is a dirty player that was trying to rattle Navara, and it worked. He was lost but tried to inflict guilt on Navara because he knows that he is a bit fragile. Everyone should know this rule - if you are concentrating and your elbow touches your rook on h1 as you lean over, that is not "touch move". If he had any decency he would have resigned when facing mate. It would not surprise me if he elicited the draw offer in some way by shrugging and acting like hey, I let you take a move back.

    Here's more evidence: http://www.bcmchess.co.uk/monarch2004/rd5.html

    "There was a little incident in the Moiseenko-Ghaem Maghami game. On move 31 Moiseenko played Rc3, pressed his clock, then unpressed his clock, put the rook back and played Rc5 instead. This was observed by spectators as well as his opponent. Of course, touch-piece-move was enforced, although Moiseenko claimed that he had meant to play Rc5. Rc3 was a terrible blunder and cost him the game. Moiseenko complained that his opponent had put him off by offering a draw twice earlier in the game."

    Multiple draw offer are annoying, but they do not grant the opponent takebacks!

    [DM: This is a surprising comment from you - you're usually far more measured. There's also a difficulty with the facts: Moiseenko was slightly worse, not losing at the time. As for labeling him a dirty player, that seems a bit much based on an incident seven years ago. What he did was inexcusable, but to brand him for life based on one (egregious) episode goes too far. That's not to exonerate him from all possible guilt here, but to avoid punishing a jaywalker with a prison sentence based on a real crime years before.]

    September 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdvigorito

    (I haven't read the responses thus far, so excuse me if my viewpoints have been beaten to death.)
    1) If "deliberate" is a required element needed to qualify as "touching a piece", he didn't touch a piece.

    2) His not having touched the king in a legal sense is fairly irrelevant where the touch rule itself is concerned because it was ignored in the game.

    3) The game continues as if the touch-rule incident never existed.

    4) Life goes on, Navara plays on, gets a won game; this is as far as I'll agree with the players.

    5) Navara offers a draw and here roads split:

    5a) Both players thought that the touch-rule applied, making Navara a gentleman for offering a draw. You can argue the ethics of offering a draw in a won position of course, but this makes sense.
    5b) Only Navara knew it didn't apply (highly unlikely) and offered a draw. Not so much gentlemanly as it is utterly incomprehensible.
    5c) Only Moiseenko knew it didn't apply and was happy to have a draw, the opposite of a good sportsman.


    I don't know, but once a move is etched in stone, you can't change it, live with it and pretend nothing ever happened before is my view. Navarra didn't get a won position because he wanted to move his king, thought differently and moved the bishop, but because of his chess. If there aren't rules that prevent draws in quite clearly unequal positions, there should be.

    September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPerseus

    I agree with you on this, Dennis. I would also like to comment on the comment by 'RuralRob', and what you have to say about it. I noticed the one move draw given by the GM to his much lower rated son and wrote about it on the BaconLOG (http://baconlog.blogspot.com/2011/08/fix-is-in-st-louis.html). I suggest you read it, and the feedback it engendered. Dennis, you ask, "Who is hurt by this?" The other players competing for second place WERE hurt by it! GM Finegold gave his son a half point that he, most probably, would not have had going into the last round. I have participated in many tournaments where the top player was much higher rated than his opponents. Sometimes the higher rated player would win his first four rounds and then offer a draw to clinch first place IN THE LAST ROUND! A draw was as good as a win in that case. In this case, the GM had to play for a win in the last round because the two players half a point behind him, ONE OF THEM BEING HIS SON, could possibly tie for first, if Ben only drew his last game, and either of them won.
    As for the Kosintseva sisters, they have no honor whatsoever. Contrast this with the Williams sisters in tennis. Granted, they have no way of 'splitting the point', fortunately. The McEnroe brothers also had to battle it out on the court. IN A SPORTING COMPETITON NEPOTISM SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED! If one does not wish to play a relative, then one of them should not compete in the event.

    [DM: This is off-topic, so I don't really wish to continue the discussion in this thread. I'll note only the following: (a) draws between family members are common, (b) Spencer Finegold had to have a good score to achieve the pairing in the first place, and still needed to play his last round game to tie for second, and (c) the draw benefited both players, so it was sensible for Ben to offer and Spencer to accept. Finally, (d) similar sorts of draws are also common among non-family members as well, though usually it happens in the last round. A strong player will offer a lower-rated one a draw to clinch clear first, and the lower-rated player accepts because odds are he'll lose if he plays it out. So it's rational for both players. The higher-rated player has no special obligation to look out for the competitive and financial interests of some third party.

    P.S. Please don't do the all-caps thing. It's great to have passion about your argument, but there's no need to cyberscream. If you think I'm too stupid to get it without yelling, then please go all the way and assume I'm too stupid to get it even you yell, and don't bother. :)]

    September 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichael bacon

    Dennis, I left a comment yesterday, and then wrote about it on the BaconLOG. I received an email today asking why my comment was not posted on your site. I assume I made some kinda mistake, so I left it again.

    [DM: Sometimes people forget to do the captcha letters, or make a mistake with them without realizing it.]

    September 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichael bacon

    I think we are spending a lot of time interpreting the rules - however as pointed out by Perseus (option 5(a) which seems to be the most likely interpretation) - the key to judging sportsmanship in this incident is not what the rule actually says but what the two actors in this drama thought the rules said at the time they took their decision - despite interpretation of the rules to the contrary. Moiseenko thought there was a problem - thought it over further and then said ok play can go on. He thought there was a violation but after further reflection thought it was an accident - he did display sportsmanship to a degree not displayed by many sportspersons these days (Mr. Feller and Mr. Topalov are some examples, albeit extreme ones) - note that it seems he did believe there was a technical violation even though it was an accidental touch - that doesnt necessarily take away from Moiseenko belief that it was a technical violation and thus waiving it was sportsmanlike. Navara then offered a draw - which was also sportsmanlike - but this was also driven by his belief that he had committed a technical violation.

    Also note that as Kajetan Wandowicz points out: Moiseenko possibly didn't know the reasons behind the draw offer. Why should he reject it?

    Both displayed good sportsmanship - maybe Navara more than Moiseenko but we are splitting hairs.

    The seconds fee is neither here nor there - we dont know if they were making a percentage - and we also dont know if Navara made them some reparations - in short we cannot assess a debate on insufficient facts and on seconds fee we dont have any facts to make conclusions that are worthwhile.

    September 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdev anand

    I totally agree Dennis. Shame on Moiseenko for being low enough to try and exploit something out of nothing. Shame on Navara for trying to appease what didn't deserve appeasing by giving Moiseenko a most undeserved draw. Lastly, shame on the media that tried to pass this embarrassment of as story as something positive. Thank you Dennis for seeing through the bull and saying something about it!

    September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

    Relating to what Honza Cervanka mentioned above about this being not the first time Navara behaves in such a manner - I think Peter Svidler provided quite a good ethical portrait of the man, when he was asked about the affair in today’s press conference (there’s a full transcription in TWIC):

    “I want to stress that this is in huge part due to what kind of a man David is. He is constantly worried he will do something wrong and in fact never does. In all my years of knowing him he hasn't done one thing wrong ethically and yet he constantly worries about it […] He is a great guy but sometimes he is his own worst enemy. I think because he wants so badly to be absolutely perfect in every respect.”

    September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

    Navara said, "...I incidentally touched my king with my thumb and it started to rock a bit...My opponent had seen my king rocking and it was logical to ask me to play with it..."

    This statement supports the description of the series of tinypic.com snapshots above, which are split-second frames taken from the video.

    September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheStills

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