For the past 2 years I've played quite a lot on the Zynga app "Chess With Friends" - an app where I can play chess against tournament level players from all around the world at any time of day or night from my phone. The app is useful for someone like me with a busy lifestyle and who doesn't have time to play tournament chess or to play moves every single day. Generally I've found the app great, but there is one major problem with it: technical glitches - which appear far too often.

The main technical glitch to occur is when a game becomes "corrupted" - meaning that the game simply can't continue. This can happen after 3 moves, or it can happen 1 move before checkmate, or any time in between. It certainly doesn't happen in every game, but it does happen often enough to be annoying - especially if it happens when you're winning! That said, you learn to live with the technical glitches and in the end you just have to accept that they are going to happen from time to time. You miss out on wins because of them, but you also sometimes miss out on losses because of them. There is also a technical support team who you can message for assistance when the glitches occur - and generally they are quite helpful and can usually get rid of the games affected by glitches. All of my dealings with them have been fine up until the following incident:

I have been playing regularly against a man from the USA. I have played him 7 times, and beaten him in each of those 7 games. He is a gentleman and is gracious in defeat. He is rated approx. 400 points below me, so it's expected that I should beat him. I played the following game against him - I was white:


At this point, I tried to play the move 43.bxc5 - yet when I played the move, a pop-up appeared on the screen giving me two options: 1. Undo Move, and 2. Claim Draw!

Of course I don't want a draw in this position, so I clicked "Undo Move" and tried to play the same move again. The same pop-up appeared again.

I then tried to play 43.Ka4 - and yet again the pop-up appeared.

I then tried several other moves, and each time the pop-up appeared. I obviously had no choice but to claim a draw - which I didn't want!

Anyone who plays tournament chess can clearly see that this is not a drawn position, so it was obviously a technical glitch in the app. So I decided to contact the technical support staff. The response I got was nothing short of appalling!

The technical support staff told me that the game was a draw by threefold repetition!!!! Of course I explained to them that the position had NOT repeated 3 times, and they then said that because my opponent's bishop had moved between d6 and e7 three times that the game was drawn!

Of course any chess player with half a brain knows that this is not the rule, so I pointed out the correct rule. They then responded by sending me links to the rules - which of course supported exactly what I was saying!!!!

Around this time I began to realise that the people I was dealing with are not chess players - and in fact, they have absolutely no clue about chess or about the rules of the game. They are simply IT geeks working as a tech support team. The know that the rules exist, but they don't know what the rules mean or how they are interpreted. They don't understand chess terminology or really anything much at all about chess.

For this reason, I sent them a link to the Official Rules of Chess - on the FIDE website, and pointed out Article 9.2 - which refers to this rule. I also sent them a few links to YouTube videos which also explain the rule as well as another link explaining it clearly.

I also explained that I have played tournament chess for 30 years, that I've been a FIDE Master for nearly 20 years (not that they would know what a FIDE Master is), and that I coach chess for a living. A quick search of Google could verify exactly who I am and that this info is correct. It would also show that I was president of the Melbourne Chess Club - the oldest chess club in the Southern Hemisphere for 5 years, and that I have several chess coaching videos on YouTube with tens of thousands of hits! It would also show that the email address I use is the same as the one used by who I say I am. On top of this, a quick look at my record on the app (approx. 900 wins from approx. 940 games) should show that I clearly know the rules of chess....

Despite this, they continued to send links to the rules etc, and still did not acknowledge that the problem was a technical glitch, rather than myself not knowing the rules.... Eventually the 4th person I spoke with came up with the following: "I understand about your concern on the game rule of the app. We are thankful for players like you that gives their feedback in the game, that help us to improve and better our game. I will take a note of this and will let the team know about your game concern." So by now, they still haven't answered ANY of my questions - namely:

1. Do they acknowledge that there is a technical glitch?

2. If so, what are they going to do about it? Can it actually be fixed?

3. Can I play a move in my game or do I have to claim a draw?

When I pointed this out, their (pathetic) response was: "As we have replied to your ticket in as much detail as we can, we might not respond to further messages around this topic. If you need us for something else please let us know and we'll be happy to help." Of course this translates to: "We are not going to do anything about this."

I would have thought that on establishing the fact that they were talking to someone who has played tournament chess for 30 years, been an FM for nearly 20 years, run a large chess club for 5 years, coaches chess for a living, makes YouTube coaching videos, and has won 900 of 940 games on their app, that they might decide "hmmmm, this guy probably knows what he is talking about - perhaps we should look into this a bit more"..... But no, none of that....

You may ask whether any of this really matters - and really, in the scheme of things, it doesn't. It really doesn't matter if I draw one game of chess on an app - if that is the biggest problem in my life, then my life is very good. However, one thing about this really does concern me: a lack of respect for the game itself. There is not much in chess that I believe should be held as sacred - but the game itself should be sacred, and should be respected. Part of this, means upholding the rules of the game. The rules of chess are universal, and recognised in all countries throughout the world. They are the same everywhere. When a chess player plays chess, whether it be in a tournament, at a chess club, online, or on an app, they (rightly) expect that the rules are the same and are upheld. Anything less delegitimises the game, and it can no longer be considered chess.... What is next? Can we start moving rooks like knights???

Of course the tech support staff almost certainly thought that they were right - but they were not right. The fact that there is a chess app where tech support staff don't have any understanding about chess is a real problem in my view - and more of these problems are going to occur. I sincerely hope that me kicking up a fuss actually results in Zynga teaching it's tech support staff about chess and the rules of the game, so that they can actually help players when these technical glitches occur.

I'm certainly not saying "don't play on this app" - because to put it in perspective, this is the only major problem I've had in approx. 950 games! However, what I am saying, is that if you are playing on this app, be aware that technical glitches do occur - and when they do it can be extremely frustrating, especially if/when they affect a game you are winning. While some can be fixed by the technical support staff, I wouldn't bother trying to dispute rules with them - because they really don't know or understand anything about chess and you will probably get absolutely nowhere with them.... It's a shame, because otherwise it's a really enjoyable app to use....