Russell Sherwood Sunday, December 5, 2021
An opinion piece from the world of chess organization this time. Recently, I’ve read a few discussions about how ICCF is “unfair” and “unsportsmanlike”.
These complaints often resolve around situations where the complaining person believes that a “fairer” ethical principal should have been applied in a situation rather than rigid application of documented rules.
I’ve been involved in a few of these myself, both as a participant and as an official and on some occasions, I have agreed that the outcome was “wrong”.
Does this mean that we should look to move to a situation where principles are applied far more than documented rules? For me, it does not and for several reasons:
You will have noticed I have used quite a few speech marks earlier in this opinion piece. “Unfair”, unsportsmanlike”, “fairer”, “wrong”. All of these are value judgements, and all are through an individual lens – so if I think an outcome is “unfair”, this does not make it so, as someone else may view it as being “fair”
“They are wrong”
Any move award from application of documented rules requires the need for people (generally the Tournament Director in the first instance) to make judgements on situations. Notwithstanding the problem with judgements in general, we can end up with a situation that an issue can climb a hierarchy – say TD, then WTD then an Appeals group and at the end of the process the outcome still does not meet the complainers desired outcome, despite in an allegory to the US Legal system – “its gone all the way to the Supreme Court”.
The third issue, and the one which I find the most problematic, is that allowing a more judgment-based approach will allow many more errors to creep into the process. Why – simply put, humans make mistakes, so different outcomes will take place in the same situation. The natural consequence of this is that these mistakes are challenged and we then either end up with “They are wrong” or a move back towards rigid rules.
As I said earlier, I know of some situations where I believe the outcome was not correct, I recommend the same action now as I have always done – look to refine the rules. This rarely happens, as it seems to be easier for some to write a few angry emails and social media posts rather than suggest a rule amendment. Often it is the case that it is very difficult to resolve situations in a manner which is fair to everyone.
Let’s take a scenario – say a player draws one game early in an event, draws another this morning, and then resigns the rest of their (drawish) games.
Initially we have:
- Everyone is unhappy with the resigning player
- The people who he resigned against are secretly quite happy to have picked up the win
- The player he drew against early on is annoyed
- The player he drew against just before resigning is angry and really feels aggrieved.
From a rules-based position, the results would stand – the departing player could have been more cooperative and asked for a withdrawal rather than resigning games.
The problem we now have is that any attempt to change the situation is unfair to someone….
- Move all the resigned games to Adjudication. This is unfair to the two players who took draws, especially the one who “just” took the draw.
- Move the player who just took the draw to adjudication as well – unfair to the other players, as he had agreed the result.
- Move all the games to adjudication – messy, as the agreed draws are completed games.
- Move all the games to losses – Why should the player who got the first draw get a win?
The point I make is that many of these situations are intractable. As a player, you or I might agree with one of the approaches above, but that does not make them fair or otherwise!
In summary, situations like this will always occur and either a rules or ethics based approach will not always give acceptable results, but a rules based approach will give the better result more of the time but when it fails will tend to leave a "bitter taste in the mouth"