Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Legal Trick

In previous posts, I have presented tricks occurring in chess games.
You probably remember the trick disturbing the opponent.
Or that one preventing the opponent from reaching a piece for promotion.
Today’s trick is more sophisticated because it touches directly chess regulations.

The World Blitz Chess Championship 2017 took place in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). 138 players took part in the open section while 100 in the women section.
Magnus Carlsen was the winner of the open. Nana Dzagnidze was in the women section.
Taking place in Arabia, issues outside chess affected the event, like Israeli players not permitted to attend.
But in the playing hall, there was an incident that deserved the attention of the chess world. It happened in the first round, in the game Carlsen-Inarkiev and kept the chess community busy for a while discussing the meaning of “illegal move”.
The following diagram shows the moves previous to the incident.

Black’s position is objectively disadvantageous after Carlsen’s move. Not only on the board but also because of time. Inarkiev had only 5 seconds left, while 13 for Carlsen. However, Inarkiev surprisingly played 27…Ne3+.
Carlsen, overlooking that his opponent’s king was in check, quickly replied 28.Kd3 moving his own king out of danger.
At that moment, Inarkiev stopped the clock claiming a win alleging that Carlsen made an illegal move.
Then, a board arbiter approached the table, listened to what Inarkiev said and awarded him the victory.
Shocked by the unexpected situation, Carlsen was about to go away until someone suggested him to talk to the chief arbiter.

Among all the chess regulations for blitz games, the relevant part applicable to that incident is article 4.2 in appendix A:

If the arbiter observes an illegal move played, he shall declare the game lost by the player, provided the opponent has not made his next move.
If the arbiter does not intervene, the opponent is entitled to claim a win, provided the opponent has not made his next move.
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.
If the opponent does not claim and the arbiter does not intervene, the illegal move shall stand and the game shall continue.
Once the opponent has made his next move, an illegal move cannot be corrected unless this is agreed by the players without the intervention of the arbiter.

After examining the case, the chief arbiter overruled the board arbiter and concluded that the game should resume from before Inarkiev’s 27-move.
In fact, Inarkiev’s claim after Carlsen’s 28-move is improper because Carlsen’s move is legal.
Carlsen moved his king out of check, although in an illegal position.
The illegal position appeared only after Inarkiev played his 27-move.
But because Carlsen didn’t claim, the penultimate sentence from the above-mentioned rule should apply.
That is, the game should resume from move 27…Ne3+. But by doing so, Inarkiev’s king would have been in check for two consecutive moves(!).
Because of that, the chief arbiter’s decision was appropriate.
Nevertheless, Inarkiev refused to resume and filed a protest instead.

The Appeals Committee studied Inarkiev’s protest but rejected it with the following reasoning:

According to A.4.2 above, the illegal move 27…Ne3+ should stand, the game should have continued and the chief arbiter acted correctly.
What GM Inarkiev effectively claims is that in the position after 27…Ne3+, GM Carlsen’s only legal move is to claim the game.
While accepting that the precise sequence of events that occurred (the player claiming the game) is not specifically covered by A.4.2, the committee felt the meaning of: ‘the game shall continue’ in A.4.2 means exactly that and Carlsen’s move was in accordance with the meaning and spirit of A.4.2. Therefore the appeal is rejected

Garry Kasparov described the incident as “disgraceful”. Moreover, he emphasizes that Inarkiev made an illegal move and then claimed victory when Carlsen replied. In Kasparov’s words: “The rules of chess are simple enough, but there are also rules of decency and sportsmanship.”

What we learn from this incident is the importance of knowing the regulations in the tournament we play. In any case, when in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the arbiter.

Dear readers, what do you think about that controversy? Please, leave your suggestions in the comment section.

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