A proposed Code of Conduct for Chess Matches & Games
played in
Sheffield & District Chess Association

Two slightly different versions have been proposed (Dec 2016). The 1st (blue version) created by Dave Latham from material by the President of the Stockport and District Chess League and the ILLINOIS CHESS ASSOCIATION. The 2nd (green version) by Alan Taylor.

THE SPIRIT OF CHESS, GUIDANCE NOTES (Version 1)

Summary: 

#1. Please keep it friendly and courteous; most of us want to see sportsmanship and dislike sharp practice

#2. Please keep it quiet enough for people to concentrate. Avoid causing distractions

#3. Some advice on points of etiquette

#4. Some examples of bad etiquette, dodgy dealing, and cheating

#5. Some examples of good sportsmanship

Preamble

Please be aware that what follows is not a rule book, with penalties for breaking the law. Mostly just guidance as to what sportsmanship in chess looks like, written in the hope of promoting a friendly atmosphere for people who take the game seriously. It is not exhaustive – just suggestions, and we welcome people’s thoughts.

Chess is a game that owes much of its enduring appeal to the generosity of spirit, in which, occasional lapses aside, it is usually played. When we play in the right spirit harmony is maintained between clubs, teams and players, and long term friendships developed. We want to avoid things which bring disrepute to the game and to the individuals concerned. It should be remembered that league chess is played without arbiters and so demands a high level of integrity from players.

The laws of the game are documented internationally, and in the case of our association further rules have evolved and are recorded in our Constitution and Rules. The guidance notes written here are intended to complement those laws and rules, and to provide a framework of good behaviour, so that chess in the League is played within the spirit, as well as within the letter of the laws. Unlike the laws and rules, which are written in prescriptive form, the guidance notes are, mostly, written in principle and general terms.

The responsibility for ensuring fair play resides with clubs, teams, captains and players. 

Responsibility of Clubs

Clubs should set an example of fair play to their members, teams and players. Clubs should ensure that their premises, conditions, and playing equipment are comfortable and accommodating to the opposition, and that opposing teams are made welcome.

Clubs should not seek to obtain unfair advantage over other clubs, by looking to exploit loopholes in the rules, or otherwise acting against the spirit of the rules.

Clubs should register with the League only bona fide players, and adhere to board orders specified by the rules. It would be helpful if each club made all members aware of the existence of these guidance notes, for example by posting a copy within the club premises.

Responsibility of Teams

Teams should wherever possible turn out with a full complement of eligible players. They should arrive in sufficient time to allow a reasonably prompt start.

Responsibility of Captains

Captains should set an example to players of fair and sporting play. The captains are responsible for ensuring that play is conducted in a sporting manner and within the Spirit of the Game as well as within the Laws (see also under Captain’s Responsibilities in the Handbook). On match nights at least, it is the captain’s responsibility to adjust and correct any behaviour not within the bounds of fair play, or against the spirit of the game.

Conduct of Players 

Players should at all times act in a fair and sporting manner. Players should be respectful to opponents, and take due care of playing equipment and premises.  And whatever the result, “win with grace, lose with dignity” (GM Susan Polgar).

In the event of a player failing to comply with the Spirit of the Game, such failure should in the first instance be politely drawn to the attention of that player. Further failure should then be drawn to the attention of his Captain. Continued action against the Spirit of the Game may then be referred to the League Executive

The Spirit of the Game Involves

Respect and courtesy towards your opponent, whoever he or she may be. The motto of chess internationally is “gens una sumus” - “we are one people” - and there is a long history of people living up to this principle, even when it has been dangerous to do so.

Respect and courtesy towards all members of the opposing team.

Respect and courtesy towards your own captain and team.

Respect for the traditional values of the game

Respect and care for all items of playing equipment

Respect for the playing premises, and all their management officers and agents

Respect for others’ need for quiet.

To play chess to the best of their ability people need to be able to concentrate. Allow them to do this by keeping the noise level down, when you are yourself playing and when you are not. When twenty people have finished playing and two are playing on, the noise level should not go up. Here we note that, while we have taken this piece from advice aimed at children, it is at least as often adults who assume it does not apply to them. Especially, avoid discussing any game which is in progress, or even give your opponent any cause for concern that you may be doing this. If you want to analyse your game when others are still playing, find the quietest spot to do this. Turn off mobile phones prior to commencement of the game; if opening food wrapping,  cracking open cans or eating is likely to cause noise, please do it away from the board. Finally, if a call is made for quiet because people are playing, please don’t dispute it: fall silent without demur and grumble after the match if you feel unfairly treated.

Not in the Spirit of the Game

Avoid any discourtesy. This includes any distraction to others, e.g. even if you’re unhappy about something, others’ wish for quiet comes first: find a quiet place or manner of interaction.

Avoid cheating or sharp practice. Here we defer to the formal rules, but would note that the social sanction for some forms of cheating can be much higher than the formal sanction the rules enforce– e.g. if a player is caught using a computer during a game, perhaps the heaviest sanction is that he may well never regain the trust and good opinion of his friends, or of serious players.

On the other hand, please, if you are going to make an accusation of cheating, have good grounds, preferably witnesses, and certainly a record of the game. “Why must I lose to this idiot?” as Nimzowitsch put it, is perhaps an understandable feeling but do you have a stronger case than that? If you’re going to say, for example, that someone used a computer, this is a step with consequences for the other person whether innocent or guilty. Has he just played well? On the other hand, if he vanished for some minutes on his own move before returning to play like a GM, or if he’s been a 120 for fifty years and goes up to 225 on his ninetieth birthday, we can see why you think it a bit odd, and we will try to look into it. With modern analytical techniques, there’s more chance of detecting cheats than cheats may think.

Avoid distracting an opponent either verbally or through actions. This includes, for example, repeated offers of a draw, or draws offered in the opponent’s thinking time; adjusting your pieces in your opponent’s time; using body language to try to mislead your opponent (e.g. faking pessimism in the hope this will help conceal your cunning trap); trying to pressurise your opponent into resigning or accepting your draw offer.

Try not to get angry with people: disputes are usually sorted out not by rowing, but by reading the rules and applying brain power, either on the night or at the executive. Avoid swearing, even if it’s the casual way of talking at your workplace.

Remember not to advise any team member on the state or future play of his/her game. Make it your practice never to give, or receive, advice on games in progress. Best not to have any conversation with someone who’s been watching your game – your opponent may wonder if you’re getting advice and in any case may feel distracted.

You need a really good reason to intervene in games in progress. To stop bullying, or to alert the players to a fire breaking out, that sort of thing.  If, for example, you see that a player’s flag has fallen, best not point it out. You may, for one thing, be denying the defeated player the chance to show a bit of class by pointing it out himself.

Be kind to the playing equipment, e.g. avoid striking the clock with undue force, and avoid slamming down your pieces – comes under distracting the opponent.

Breaches of the Spirit of the Game

In the event of non adherence to the spirit of the game or fair and sporting play, which cannot be amicably resolved between clubs, teams, captains or players, the matter may be referred to the executive. Please do this rather than letting things descend into a row – establish the facts, preserve a record of the game as fully as possible, and refer the matter to the outside body.

Examples of good sportsmanship:

1.  A’s chances of winning R v Kt on the board were maybe 15%, but his chances of winning on the clock – he had 5 minutes to B’s 1 minute – were close to 100%. A offered B a draw. Of course, B could have claimed one and tried to show that A was not trying to win over the board, but A’s offer ended the game in a manner more agreeable to both: no chance of unpleasantness consequent on suggesting that a colleague was trying to win on the clock.

2. If A’s next move were a rook move, he would be winning. If it were a bishop move, he would draw. His opponent C was not in the room when A touched the bishop, with no other witnesses. On C’s return, A said he’d touched the bishop and offered a draw.  Please note that although A behaved in this sporting manner with no intention of personal gain, the accounts of his sportsmanship (initially spread by his opponents B&C, of whom this writer is one) must be worth far more than an ancient extra half point won by dodgy practice.

Playing in this spirit enhances the experience for you and your colleagues and opponents. It is why a non-player once said that he thought chess must be about honour and chivalry and respect for the other guy, and in so saying showed that he knew more about the game than a few who have played it all their lives. Be aware, though, that the latter are indeed the few, the small minority, and that to most serious players and chess fans what is written in this code is not a high-flown ideal, but obvious common practice.

With thanks to JOHN M TURNER, President of the Stockport and District Chess League, and to the ILLINOIS CHESS ASSOCIATION 


THE SPIRIT OF CHESS, GUIDANCE NOTES (Version 2)

A few incidents of poor etiquette and one of alleged cheating were recently brought to the attention of the Executive who agreed to provide a code of conduct. None of the incidents were ‘complaints’, but issues that needed consideration.

What follows is not a rule book and has no consequent direct penalties, although the Executive may consider appropriate penalties where appropriate. In the main it is guidance as to what sportsmanship in chess looks like. There are some general pointers and some specific issues.

GENERAL POINTERS:


Responsibilities

The responsibility for ensuring fair play resides with clubs, teams, captains and players.

Clubs should set an example of fair play to their members. They should ensure that their premises, conditions, and playing equipment are comfortable and accommodating to the opposition as possible, and that opposing teams are made welcome.

Responsibility of Captains

Captains are responsible for ensuring that play is conducted in a sporting manner and within the Spirit of the Game as well as within the Laws (see Captain’s Responsibilities in the Handbook). On match nights it is the Captain’s responsibility to correct behaviour not within the bounds of fair play, or against the spirit of the game. Disputes should be resolved amicably, without aggression and without the use of bad language.


Responsibility of Players

Players should act in a sporting manner and act respectfully to opponents,

If a player fails to comply with the ‘Spirit of the Game’, this should in the first instance be politely drawn to the attention of that player and escalated to the Captains if repeated. Continued failure to be sporting and respectful may then be referred to the Executive

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES

In giving these examples the Executive acknowledges that games are often played within pub environments and the associated distractions that go with that.

1. Players should act with respect to opponents, opposing teams, team captains, club premises and equipment.

2. Players should respect the ‘need for quiet’ during games and avoid discussions and analysis after games have ended, which could distract those who are still playing.

3. Players should avoid conversations with anyone else while their game is in progress. Under no circumstances may observers give tactical or strategic advice while the game is in progress. {Exceptions are where a Captain may advise a player that their game result may affect the match} QUESTION –IS THIS APPROPRIATE?

4. Mobile phones should be turned off or placed on silent before the match begins. Exceptions may be if a player is ‘on call’ from work or for a family emergency and in those circumstances both Captains must be informed before the game commences.

5. Opening of food wrapping, cracking open drink cans or eating etc. could be distracting and should be avoided at the board.

6. The use of electronic devices such as mobile phones and chess computers whilst games are in progress is expressly forbidden. Suspicions of the use of these devices may be referred to the Executive with a copy of the game record.

7. Avoid distracting an opponent either verbally or through actions. Examples are repeated offers of a draw, trying to pressurise your opponent into resigning or accepting your draw offer and using body language to try to mislead your opponent (e.g. faking pessimism in the hope this will help conceal your cunning trap);

8. Do not intervene in games in progress without a good reason.

9. You may not point out that a player’s flag has fallen and it is up to the players themselves to keep an eye on the clocks.

10. Finally, if a call is made for quiet because people are playing, please fall silent (and grumble after the match if you feel unfairly treated!).

Breaches of the Spirit of the Game

In the event of breaches of these guidelines that cannot be amicably resolved between clubs, teams, captains or players, the matter may be referred to the Executive. Referring to the Executive should be seen as a neutral positive matter designed to obtain a balanced opinion on the incident. In these circumstances a full description of events and relevant chess record sheets are required from both Captains.






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