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Old June 22nd 08, 05:13 PM posted to
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Default Round 2: Braunlich 1 Bowel Boy 0 Trolgar -1

From Trolgar's blog:

Hi Phil,

Just a quick answer, as I have written about the playoff controversy
elsewhere online extensively.

I'm sorry, but your questions seem rather hyperbolic and opinionated to
me. What exactly do these observers believe was "degrading" or
"demeaning" or "deviant" about the playoff?

Is it the fact that the playoff (after four previous games that were
split) came down to a wild mutual time scramble? Such time scrambles are
a rare but definite possibility inherent in any chess game that is not
using a delay or increment on the clock (including tournament games, not
just blitz). This is not the first one to ever happen. But this time it
was captured on video. Were all the chess games played before the
invention of the Fischer Clock also deviant because they allowed a
scramble like this to occasionally happen? Several big international
tournaments recently had time controls with no increment on the clock --
the 2008 M-Tel Masters in Bulgaria, for example. A time scramble could
happen during these events (and I think did happen in a few cases). Was
this choice of time control "degrading" and "deviant"? Of course not.

Is it because the players are observed in the video beginning their
move before the opponent punches the clock? This is an awkward
possibility inherent in any chess game time scramble, including
slow-play tournament games. It happens frequently in time pressure, but
could theoretically happen at any time. When the time pressure is
mutual, the problem is magnified and it gets ugly. Unfortunately the
rules for moving the pieces are ambiguous and controversial on this
point. Several imminent International Arbiters, such as Geurt Gijssen,
to name just one I'm aware of, interpret the rules to be that it is
legal to do so. If observers don't like this, then they should demand
the FIDE rules committee do something to clarify the rule.

Is it because a blitz armageddon game was used in a playoff? Neither
the USCF nor the FIDE rules discuss playoffs very much at all, and give
very few guidelines to organizers, but it is my understanding that they
both specifically mention blitz playoffs as a possibility, and the FIDE
tournament rules even use armageddon blitz (5 to 4 with no increment) as
an example of a playoff method if limited time is available. There are
plenty of precedents for the use of such playoffs for important
tournaments, (the 2003 U.S. Women's Championship, for instance), and
nothing in the rules that I am aware of against it. I'm not trying to
justify it as the best playoff method but I am stating that this
indicates there is certainly nothing "deviant" about using it.

I'm sorry to give a flippant answer to your "official questions", but
trying to affix blame for the controversial playoff seems weird and
inappropriate to me. I think a little bit of emotional reaction to the
video is going on here due to the distressing final moments it shows,
which has put a spotlight on it. It is clear that, at a minimum, if a
blitz or armageddon playoff is used an increment or delay on the clock
should be included to help mitigate the worst aspects of a time scramble
if one happens. But unfortunately this was not the standard practice
before this game and it has become clear only with the benefit of hindsight.

I have written extensively about this controversy on Chess Life Online
and already addressed a lot of these issues. I have also received a lot
of feedback about the need for playoffs in the first place, and the best
playoff methods, and I am currently writing an in-depth article about
the "theory of playoffs" for Chess Life Online which I hope Jennifer
will publish in a week or two. It will include interviews with a lot of
experts on the subject, and will try to present the issues coherently
and to make conclusions. I invite the readers of Chessville and
Chessbase to participate in that.

:-) TOM
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