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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Don't Put Yourself in a Suspicious Situation

Imagine the following scenario:

Two players enter a major tournament. One is an International Master, the other is approximately a 1700-rated player. The two are also husband and wife.

While the games are in progress, the husband (the IM) wanders over to check on his wife. They speak to each other, but because this is a tournament hall, they whisper in order not to disturb others. Concerned about their infant son, they walk out of the tournament room together to check on him, and return a short while later.

What has happened here?

Did the husband and wife, the IM and the class player, leave the room to verify that their child is safe and sound? Or did the IM instruct his wife on a proper game continuation as soon as they left the tournament hall?

There is no evidence that anything improper has occurred, yet it is not unreasonable to be suspicious of the situation. At the very least, it puts the IM and his wife in a position where there can be the appearance of impropriety. Not to be overlooked is the stress that this situation likely places on the player on the other side of the board, who sees the IM eyeball the game, then whisper something to his wife, and eventually leave the tournament hall with her.

Nothing untoward may have occurred at all, but why create this situation in the first place? Avoid conversations with other players during games that may have the most remote chance of appearing improper. And despite the psychological warfare that regularly occurs at the chess board, have respect for other players' feelings.

As you may well have guessed, this scenario is not hypothetical. It happened at the 2006 American Open. You can read more about it at the ChessCafe Skittles Room.

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