The Moiseenko-Navara Draw: Honorable, Or Not?
Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 3:22PM
Dennis Monokroussos in Moiseenko, Navara, World Cup 2011, World Cup 2011, sportsmanship

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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