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  1. #1
    CC FIDE Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Legal mate in illegal game

    Geurt Gijssen considers a question of a funny game constructed to test the Laws of Chess, I believe, in his latest July column in ChessCafe. He is asked to consider it for all three types of Chess (Normal, Rapid, Blitz).

    White starts the game with King and Queen reversed from the start. This can nullify the game at any state of a Normal game (to play a new game), or in the first three moves of Rapid or Blitz, if presented to the arbiter during the game. However in the game itself, apparently checkmate immediately ends the game, provided that the move was legal. White is trying his luck with the Fools mate (and it becomes a fools mate all right, but to himself!).

    1.e4,e5 2.Bc4,d6 3.Kh5,g6+ mate! Hilarious stuff. Now all of this nonsense could be stopped during the game if somebody protests, both the reversed King and Queen positioning and the illegal Kh5 move. But apparently full house always wins, so the checkmate ends the game which makes it impossible to protest even to an appeal committee. The general problem is that some rules in the Laws of Chess are stated to be above other rules explicitly. This is not good rule making, for instance compare to these statements 1. All Danish are liars 2. I am Danish. Did I tell the truth? Nobody can tell because the rules are self-inflicting. Rules should not be able to tell something about themselves but about anything else (for instance Chess).

    I seem to agree on Geurt on this one, but I also sense he is playing the Devil's advocate. He himself suggested in 2004 that it be "checkmate ends the game immediately provided all moves are legal", but he lost the vote. Perhaps some arbiters were afraid they would have to check all moves of the tourney or else be held accountable, but I think that is a non-issue. If you accept that you lost the game by signing the scoresheet, that is just it, no turning back. If you were however presented with 3...g6+ checkmate, you should be able to protest and have that nonsense anulled, before you sign the scoresheet. We don't really need to check every game for all moves if they were legal - the players should protest before the game concludes, then the claim of having wrong start positions of pieces or illegal moves can be checked for correctness, and resolved with common sense.

  2. #2
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    I think if you make an illegal move, press the clock, and get checkmated by a legal move made in response, then that's your problem and there should be no recourse. In a blitz game they could have just as easily lost by claim of illegal move anyway.

    I am a little more sympathetic to a case where White makes an illegal move, Black not noticing the illegality makes a legal response, then White delivers mate immediately before Black realises what just happened. But I am not sure it justifies changing the move.

    I am glad Geurt's 2004 proposal was rejected because it would indeed give rise to endless attempts by checkmated players to argue they were not checkmated because of some illegal move much earlier in the game. Of course, such players would refuse to sign the scoresheet while the checkmate was under review.

    I mentioned before that I have had a few incidents involving this sort of thing. In one I unintentionally played an illegal move and my opponent responded by stalemating me. In another my opponent played an illegal move in blitz and I responded by resigning.

  3. #3
    Illuminati Bill Gletsos's Avatar
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    Player A picks up a piece.
    Player A moves his piece and releases it on a square.
    Before Player A can press his clock Player B touches and moves a piece and release it on a square checkmating his Player A.
    Player A having not "completed his move" because he has not pressed his clock replaces the piece he picked up on its original square and makes a legal move by either moving that piece legally or if it cannot legally move making a legal move with another piece.
    Player A then presses his clock.

    Player B then needs to retract his move and is free to make another move with any piece.


    After all a player cannot be forced to make an illegal move however this is essentially what is happening if he is not allowed to correct his illegal move if he has not pressed his clock completing his move.
    Last edited by Bill Gletsos; 15-07-2009 at 10:09 PM. Reason: clarification
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  4. #4
    CC FIDE Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I am glad Geurt's 2004 proposal was rejected because it would indeed give rise to endless attempts by checkmated players to argue they were not checkmated because of some illegal move much earlier in the game. Of course, such players would refuse to sign the scoresheet while the checkmate was under review.
    I am not sure there would be so many cases like this, even though you state you have seen some. There would be a lot less cases than 10.2 claims, which I hear are not so common after all. It is kind of unusual to not notice an earlier illegal move until you get checkmated, unless the illegal move directly influenced that the checkmate could arise. Of course cheaters might hide that they know an earlier illegal move, and they use it to be able to find an emergency exit, since the arbiter must restore that position on their claim. But those cheaters would probably not wait until their own checkmate to use this emergency exit.

    The 10.2 disputes could potentially arise in every game, but statistics show it happens seldom. In the case of a dispute of checkmate indeed the scoresheet had to be checked with some tedious checking, but not endless, and not anything out of the ordinary compared to any other position where checkmate did not happen as the last position, and there is a claim about an earlier illegal move.

    My concern is principally that we are trying to uphold nonsense that in any other aspects of the Laws of Chess the arbiter is expected to verify and correct - just because by chance checkmate resulted. I would have red ears if I had to deliver a PGN file from Dortmund or Linares with the above 3-move game. Many Chess databases would not be able to show such a game.

    I think you should have red ears about your stalemate too, although I understand it was unintentional on your part. More importantly I don't think the Laws of Chess should uphold Normal games with illegal moves like this, I fail to see the rationale. In my opinion this is truely bringing Chess into disrepute! - and I think the correct thing in your game would have been to continue from before the illegal move, in other words I think also the stalemate should not stand if there were earlier illegal moves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    In another my opponent played an illegal move in blitz and I responded by resigning.
    Yes if you resign there is no mercy, and I agree that the result should stand.

  5. #5
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Re #3 - Yes. This is why I included "press the clock". If you haven't pressed the clock then checkmate in reply does not end the game and will have to be retracted to allow you to replace your illegal move with a legal one.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 15-07-2009 at 09:51 PM.

  6. #6
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    I am not sure there would be so many cases like this, even though you state you have seen some. There would be a lot less cases than 10.2 claims, which I hear are not so common after all.
    From 1997 to about 2005 I ran numerous tournaments with guillotine finishes without increments - typically four or five such tournaments per year. In many tournaments we would get no 10.2 claims at all but in some other tournaments we had as many as three. Nine-tenths of them were very easy to rule on, and most were rejected. So yes in my experience 10.2 claims were much commoner than illegal moves, but at higher levels players in such tournaments were probably more likely to avoid making 10.2 claims in positions where they knew they would not be upheld.

    In the case of a dispute of checkmate indeed the scoresheet had to be checked with some tedious checking, but not endless, and not anything out of the ordinary compared to any other position where checkmate did not happen as the last position, and there is a claim about an earlier illegal move.
    I would be concerned about junior chess. In low-level junior chess scoring is often poor and illegal moves are very common.

    My concern is principally that we are trying to uphold nonsense that in any other aspects of the Laws of Chess the arbiter is expected to verify and correct - just because by chance checkmate resulted.
    It is up to the players to ensure they do not play nonsense and if they do play nonsense there is a risk they will be checkmated for it and lose the game.

    Of course if I was confident the players were conspiring to concoct such a nonsense game I would rule the result zero-zero.

    I think you should have red ears about your stalemate too, although I understand it was unintentional on your part.
    Pretty sure there were no red ears on my part at the time.

    It was a very odd thing to happen but if the opponent had not run himself down to c. 20 seconds for K+Q against K in the process of outplaying me then he would have been in a better position to notice I had unintentionally made an illegal move. Had he been able to reach said endgame with more time on his clock I would have just resigned.

    The point you make about databases being unable to handle illegal moves is a good one. This is often a problem and it would be good for all databases to include something like "You have entered an illegal move. Are you really really sure you want to do this?" and allow for the option of illegal moves being entered.

  7. #7
    CC FIDE Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gletsos
    Player A having not "completed his move" because he has not pressed his clock replaces the piece he picked up on its original square and makes a legal move by either moving that piece legally or making a legal move with another piece.
    Player A could not make a legal move with another piece, unless all other moves with the first piece are illegal (touch-rule) - however I understand what you (probably) meant.

  8. #8
    Illuminati Bill Gletsos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    Player A could not make a legal move with another piece, unless all other moves with the first piece are illegal (touch-rule) - however I understand what you (probably) meant.
    Thanks.
    I have clarified it.
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  9. #9
    CC FIDE Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    It was a very odd thing to happen but if the opponent had not run himself down to c. 20 seconds for K+Q against K in the process of outplaying me then he would have been in a better position to notice I had unintentionally made an illegal move. Had he been able to reach said endgame with more time on his clock I would have just resigned.
    Another case for arguing that all chess moves should have an increment. Then you would surely just have resigned much earlier

  10. #10
    CC International Master
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    So we don't have to double threads. What is the point of a signed scoresheet? Is it simply so the game can be reproduced and is said to be accurate by both players? Or some other reason? Because I constantly stuff my scoresheets up and often have illegal moves recorded that didn't actually happen in the game I just wrote it down wrong.
    And still, no one has satisfactorily proven, that it isn't opposite day.

  11. #11
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    Another case for arguing that all chess moves should have an increment. Then you would surely just have resigned much earlier
    Indeed - but given that I was in serious time trouble in that endgame too, if the game had had an increment, I may have been able to defend better and not get in a lost position in the first place.

  12. #12
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saragossa
    So we don't have to double threads. What is the point of a signed scoresheet? Is it simply so the game can be reproduced and is said to be accurate by both players? Or some other reason? Because I constantly stuff my scoresheets up and often have illegal moves recorded that didn't actually happen in the game I just wrote it down wrong.
    Many tournaments enforce signed scoresheets so that it can be said that the players have agreed to the result of the game being as indicated. At low levels it is usually not bothered with.

    I didn't switch to algebraic scoring until about age 22 and I am still prone to record completely the wrong move now and then, especially if there are not numbers and letters on the side of the board or worse still they are the wrong way around. Quite embarrassing really.

  13. #13
    CC FIDE Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I would be concerned about junior chess. In low-level junior chess scoring is often poor and illegal moves are very common.
    I understand the concern, but since they are probably pretty clueless in the first place about the illegal moves, they would also not claim an illegal move after checkmate. Perhaps their Dad would, though

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    It is up to the players to ensure they do not play nonsense and if they do play nonsense there is a risk they will be checkmated for it and lose the game.
    The example game is in fact a little ingenuous construct in itself, leading to checkmate in 3 moves with both illegal start position and an illegal move that would have been legal if the King and Queen had been reversed, in other words if the start position had been correct. Both players may have been in good faith since for instance 3...g6 is the normal reaction to the Qh5,Bc4 attack. But even if the arbiter and the two players agree that the moves played were meant to be 1.e4,e5 2.Bc4,d6 3.Qh5,g6 (for instance being able to continue with the normal moves 4.Qf3,Nf6) then the hands of the arbiter are tied. Once he has witnessed that in fact a checkmate position has occurred, he must uphold that according to 5.1(a) and I don't see that he can legally obstain from that, exactly because it is only required that the last move was a legal move. My opinion is that in both determining checkmate and stalemate there should be a criteria that provided all moves and the start position to be correct. It does not mean you have check all the moves for legality in each game. It just opens up for an exception to that the game ended if there were an illegal move or illegal start position, provided there is a claim of this fact (as there is in the example).

    So the risk is rather that the arbiter must ophold a nonsense game, even though he would prefer not to. Some arbiters would just correct start position and moves without worrying about the legality. But I think we should make consistent rules instead that will not enforce ridicule and put Chess in disrepute. In fact I'm more worried about the honor of the game itself (and the tournament) than the players that went on to accept several illegalities before realizing what happened, and thus can be punished. But we should not punish the tournament (which would look ridiculous with such a game played) or punish Chess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Of course if I was confident the players were conspiring to concoct such a nonsense game I would rule the result zero-zero.
    Agreed.
    Last edited by Jesper Norgaard; 16-07-2009 at 05:41 AM.

  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Garvinator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saragossa
    So we don't have to double threads. What is the point of a signed scoresheet? Is it simply so the game can be reproduced and is said to be accurate by both players? Or some other reason? Because I constantly stuff my scoresheets up and often have illegal moves recorded that didn't actually happen in the game I just wrote it down wrong.
    Quote Originally Posted by 2009 fide laws of chess
    8.7 At the conclusion of the game both players shall sign both scoresheets, indicating the result of the game. Even if incorrect, this result shall stand, unless the arbiter decides otherwise.
    Also having both players sign both scoresheets confirms the result in the case of an agreed draw. Agreed draws are quite often not clear just from looking at the moves played, unlike a win or loss.

  15. #15
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    So the risk is rather that the arbiter must ophold a nonsense game, even though he would prefer not to. Some arbiters would just correct start position and moves without worrying about the legality. But I think we should make consistent rules instead that will not enforce ridicule and put Chess in disrepute. In fact I'm more worried about the honor of the game itself (and the tournament) than the players that went on to accept several illegalities before realizing what happened, and thus can be punished. But we should not punish the tournament (which would look ridiculous with such a game played) or punish Chess.
    I don't think a nonsensical game like this brings the game into disrepute; it's just something people would see as comical. Most of the absurdity comes not from the result being checkmate but from the players having played such ridiculously illegal moves in the first place.

    Concerning my comment about junior chess again: it quite often happens that a junior delivers checkmate via legal move from an illegal position (eg the king was in check, moved into check again, and then the opponent checkmates). I ran an interschool in a rural area today and there were at least four or five such cases. In these cases, the evidence of an illegal position having occurred is often on the board when the game ends, but reconstructing the position by getting the players to take back moves til the last legal move is tedious, time-consuming and often futile. But a requirement that all moves must be legal would force the arbiter to wind such positions back to a legal position which is an awful lot of work that I for one could do without.

    Also, if you allow a player to make a claim that an illegal move had occurred after the checkmate, how much time would be allowed for such a claim?

    I generally like checkmate-with-a-legal-move wins. It puts the onus on the players to look after the legality of the position themselves (as they should) and it eliminates the need for the arbiter to get involved in pointless attempts to wind back positions that may not be properly documented.

    It's true that you will get the odd absurd result but at the sort of level where players would actually play the sort of "game" given in the example sent to Gijssen, it's likely that there's plenty of other nonsense going on that is just as embarrassing to serious play. We're not talking about something grandmasters could do (though I did once see a GM play five moves of a blitz game before noticing his king and queen were the wrong way around.)

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