FIDE Congress Update: Chess 960 and an Illegal Move Quiz

US Chess President Allen Priest and Grandmasters Fabiano Caruana, Melikset Khachiyan and Wesley So at the start of the Croatia-USA match. Photo: David Llada
Alongside the World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia, the 89th FIDE Congress is taking place at the Sheraton Hotel, about 15 minutes from the playing hall. As this is a FIDE election year, the Congress is very well attended, and the US Chess delegation is no exception.  Our representatives are:
  • Allen Priest, US Chess President
  • Carol Meyer, US Chess Executive Director
  • Michael Khodarkovsky, US Chess’ FIDE Delegate
  • Ruth Haring, USA Zonal President and General Secretary on Nigel Short’s FIDE Presidential ticket
  • International Arbiter Walter Brown, Qualification Commission Councillor
  • International Arbiter and Organizer Tony Rich, Social Projects Commission Councillor
  • International Arbiter and Organizer Steve Immitt
  • International Arbiter and Organizer Sophia Rohde
  • International Arbiter and Organizer Grant Oen (US Chess FIDE Events Manager)
While our Olympiad teams are pursuing gold medals, the US Chess delegation at the FIDE Congress seeks to ensure that our player, arbiter, and organizer title applications are processed and approved, our interests are represented at the various commission meetings, and our vote in the FIDE Presidential Election is based on a well-informed decision. US Chess ED Carol Meyer and President Allen Priest have met with all three presidential candidates: Georgios Makropoulos (Greece), Arkady Dvorkovich (Russia), and Nigel Short (England).  US Chess has already endorsed the candidacy and ticket of Mr. Short.  The election will take place at the FIDE General Assembly next week, and our vote will be cast by our delegate, Michael Khodarkovsky.
Organizer of the Year Sophia Rohde celebrated her birthday in Batumi
Qualification Commission The Qualification Commission met on the morning of Thursday, September 27.  QC is perhaps the most relevant commission to many of our members, as it regulates over-the-board titles and title applications, and the rating of all FIDE-rated games. US Chess’ Walter Brown serves as a Councillor on the QC, and this meeting was also attended by Ruth Haring, Sophia Rohde, Steve Immitt, and yours truly. Since the most recent FIDE Presidential Board Meeting, the Qualification Commission considered 84 title applications, of which 5 were from USA.  I am pleased to report that the following US Chess title applications were given a “thumbs up” from QC, subject to official ratification by the FIDE General Assembly which begins next week.
  • IM Brandon Jacobson
  • IM Hans Niemann – subject to 60 day waiting period
  • IM Aaron Grabinsky – conditional on rating
  • IM Ben Li – conditional on rating
  • IM Tianqi Wang – conditional on rating
Congratulations to our new IMs!
Hans Niemann, Photo Vanessa Sun 2017
Also discussed at the meeting were the status of “FID” players who play under the FIDE flag/ without a federation with regards to their standing as foreign opponents for a player’s title norm (the most common examples are Bulgarian players and some ex-Cuban players).  International Arbiter Werner Stubenvoll, QC Chairman, clarified that FID players are simply players without federation – they do not count as a foreign opponent, but they may count as players “not from the host federation” when counting towards 1.43e tournaments (commonly known as Super Swisses). The most heated topic of the QC meeting was the discussion of introducing ratings for Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess) following a proposal from the Icelandic Chess Federation.  ICF President Gunnar Bjornsson discussed that the 2018 Reykjavik Open hosted a Fischer Random side event which was well attended (and won by American GMs Alex Lenderman, Elshan Moradiabadi, and Josh Friedel!).  Chess960 fans will remember a rapid and blitz match in Norway between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura earlier this year.
Three of our Olympic team members at the recent Saint Louis Champions Showdown, Photo Spectrum Studios
Most notably, the very recent Saint Louis Champions Showdown featuring Garry Kasparov and many other elite Super GMs presented Chess960 in a high stakes and well-viewed Rapid and Blitz format, showing the true interest in the variant among players, fans, and organizers. Dozens of those who attended the QC meeting, including GM Nigel Short and GM Susan Polgar, raised questions and comments about Chess960’s rating implementation.  Would there need to be three additional rating lists for Chess960 Standard, Rapid, and Blitz (FIDE already calculates ratings for Standard, Rapid, and Blitz in classical chess), or just one additional rating list for all time controls? The feeling of the meeting was very enthusiastic about the addition of Chess960 FIDE ratings.  After lengthy discussion, it was resolved that concrete plans would be put into motion following collection of statistical data beginning November 1.  Extensive data will be needed to try to perfect a new rating system, but Chess960 fans should be able to look forward to soon having FIDE Chess960 ratings.
Team dinner on the rest day
Arbiters’ Commission On Friday, Sophia, Steve, Tony, Walter, and I attended the Arbiters’ Commission.  I am glad to report that all of our arbiter title applications and classification upgrades are slated to be approved:
  • International Arbiter David Kuhns
  • FIDE Arbiter Byron Doyle
  • FIDE Arbiter Robert Hungaski
  • FIDE Arbiter Martha Underwood
  • FIDE Lecturer Boyd Reed
  • International Arbiter Tony Rich – Classification Upgrade D to B
  • International Arbiter Boyd Reed – Classification Upgrade D to B
The commission then moved to discuss some negative reports about the standards of arbiters at the 2018 World Rapid & Blitz Championships.  Currently, it is possible to become a FIDE Arbiter and even International Arbiter without ever having directed a blitz or rapid event. IA & IO Alex Holowczak (England) had previously submitted a proposal that an additional norm requirement will be added to the FIDE Arbiter and International Arbiter title requirements which mandate a Rapid and Blitz event.  The proposed IA blitz/rapid requirement will be particularly stringent, requiring an international (minimum 3 federations) FIDE rapid rated event with at least 100 players and 9 rounds, or an international FIDE blitz rated event with at least 100 players and 15 rounds. This proposal was approved, and will likely go into effect on January 1, 2019 pending the General Assembly’s vote. IA & IO Mihail Prevenios (Greece) then discussed a new form which will be introduced in January 1, 2019.  The new IT4 form is the Chief Arbiter’s report on the evaluation of event arbiters.  Beginning in 2019, for all events on the FIDE Calendar and events awarded a norm certificate, this online IT4 form must be submitted by the Chief Arbiter, who will evaluate, rate, and briefly comment on each arbiter’s performance during the event. This confidential report must be submitted to FIDE before the event can be rated. Arbiters’ Commission Secretary IA & IO Aris Marghetis from Canada then presented the 7th issue of the FIDE Arbiters’ Magazine, which discusses practical cases of player incidents and rulings which have recently occurred at events all over the world.  All issues of this magazine are freely available in PDF on the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission website.  Of particular interest is the article regarding January 1 2018 changes in FIDE rapid and blitz rules in which an illegal move no longer means an immediate loss. Furthermore, this article explains that “it is NOT an illegal move to make a legal move after an opponent’s illegal move; a player should not be punished for not noting his opponent’s move was illegal.”  Some may remember the dispute between GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Ernesto Inarkiev at the 2017 World Blitz Championship regarding this exact situation. Readers who are FIDE Arbiters (or who aspire to be) can test themselves on the following situations:
Question: you are an arbiter for a FIDE Blitz tournament.  Black has just played the illegal move Kb8-a8.  Neither White nor the arbiter notices the illegal move, then White plays a7 and claims checkmate.  What is the result? Show Solution
Answer: White wins (1-0) – in blitz and rapid, “it is NOT an illegal move to make a legal move after an opponent’s illegal move; a player should not be punished for not noting his opponent’s move was illegal.” 
In classical chess, of course, the illegal move should be remedied by the arbiter once discovered.
Question: In the above FIDE-rated game, it is White to move, but White’s flag falls.  What is the result? Show Solution
Answer: DRAW.  FIDE Laws of Chess 6.9: “if a player does not complete the prescribed number of moves in the allotted time, the game is lost by that player.
However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.”  White’s only legal move is h7 checkmate, so Black has no legal series of moves to win the game, but since White’s flag is down, the game is drawn. Mr. Marghetis then presented a proposal for new arbiter training and retraining courses.  The objectives of the program are to improve the level of all arbiters by requiring seminars for both new arbiter title applicants as well as retraining seminars for current IAs and FAs. This proposal will implement new International Arbiter and FIDE Arbiter seminars which are to be a required norm for the title application (currently only FA titles require a seminar norm).  It also seeks to increase the quality and quantity of FIDE Lecturers, and increase feedback from Chief Arbiters to Assistant Arbiters by the use of the new IT4 form. Retraining seminars and online recertification exams will be required for all current IAs and FAs when new FIDE Laws of Chess are introduced every few years.  Failure to pass these online exams within 6 months will result in an arbiter being moved to the List of Inactive Arbiters. It is clear that the Arbiters’ Commission is very serious about increasing the quality, consistency, and decision-making of arbiters of all levels, including those who have already earned their FIDE Arbiter titles.
Grant Oen accepting the Chess City of the Year Award for Charlotte, with US Chess Board member (and former President) Mike Hoffpauir
Events Commission Later on Thursday, the FIDE Events Commission met.  The Events Commission evaluates bids for International FIDE Events (i.e. World Youth Championship, World Senior Team Championship), and evaluates applications for the FIDE International Organizer title. Ms. Hongwei Tian, a Delegate and International Organizer from China, raised that the 2019 World Cadet Championships (U8, U10, U12) will be held in Weifang, China, but that the organizers are requesting to hold the event in July or August instead of the more traditional fall scheduling.  The organizers will hopefully avoid conflicting with various Continental Youth Championships (i.e. Pan-American Youth Championships) which are traditionally held during the same time period. The Events Commission supported this request, as it may allow for many more students to play the event without missing school days. Also discussed were the evaluation of bids for international senior championships and the additional preparation needed to accommodate senior players.  Many commented on the very high level of organization and the 2018 World Senior Team Championships in Dresden, Germany (in which the USA team won Gold in the 50+ division). Marketing Commission The FIDE Marketing Commission met on Friday, September 28 to affirm its vision and mission in support of the global chess community. A small group discussion was facilitated to help narrow the focus the Commission's work. Three primary areas were discussed for targeted understanding - participants, audience and revenues. FIDE would like a larger membership, a bigger global audience and a diversified revenue stream from new sponsorships. Advisory in nature, the Commission expects to influence FIDE operations by providing tangible guidance to enhance FIDE’s brand. A proposal was put forward for FIDE to create an International Marketer certification program. The idea would be to build capacity in marketing by training individuals to be global marketing professionals for the chess community. The proposed 15-hour certification program would cost a proposed 100€. Trainings would be available to member federations for the cost of the trainer’s travel plus a maximum 250€ fee. The Commission’s participants were generally optimistic about FIDE’s future. Participants recognized that no matter the outcome of the FIDE Presidential election, FIDE has work to do to rebuild its image and brand in order to realize its marketing objectives. Upcoming commission meetings include the Anti-Cheating Commission, Rules Commission, and Trainers Commission.  The commission meetings will be followed next week by continental meetings, the General Assembly, and the FIDE Presidential and Continental elections. The US Chess Delegation will provide a couple more reports on the FIDE Congress, General Assembly, and FIDE Presidential election. Executive Director Carol Meyer contributed to this report.