Playchess in Holland , and both hands in blitz

3/23/2009 – Last Saturday there was a press meeting of the Dutch Chess Federation to launch a new Internet chess project, in partnership with Playchess. We used the opportunity to visit the Hypercube Blitz tournament, which is held in Utrecht every year. As chance would have it we barged into a controversy on how many hands you can legally use in speed chess. Here are the graphic details.


breidt uit met internetschaak

The Dutch Chess Federation takes on Internet Chess

The Dutch Chess Federation has joined forces with Playchess, the world's largest chess server, to organise national Internet chess events – als well as club activities, training and open tournaments. At a meeting of the KNSB last Saturday the partnership was announced to the Dutch press in Utrecht, Holland. Details are available on the special Internet page of the Federation.


IM Hans Bohm hosts the meeting and press conference of the KNSB


Frederic Friedel spoke to the board members and journalist about Playchess

Playchess went online in the third week of September 2001. On September 12th ChessBase launched its database driven news service – here is the very first article we published in the new system – and Playchess was switched on for the general public a week later. Heart-wrenching when you think about it.

Here are some stats about Playchess:

  • Registered users: 230,000+
  • Total number of games played: 350,000,000+ (over 350 million games)
  • Number of tournaments conducted on the server: 150,000

Typically you have 6,000 to 10,000 members logged on any given evening. The largest number of games by individual members is 175,000 (Roland Bühler) and 165,000 (by Günther Koren). These are members who came in practically on the day the Playchess server was started, and have played very actively ever since.


With about 80 participants present Bohm played an blitz game against a young Dutch chess talent on Playchess. The IM offered a draw and some useful advice to the girl in a winning position.

We used the opportunity of the KNSB event to visit an interesting blitz tournament which was being held in Utrecht. It is an annual event and has gained something of a cult status in European circles.


Hypercube Blitz Chess Tournament

Since 1977 the Hypercube Snelschaaktoernooi is a blitz tournament organised by the Schaakclub Utrecht. In the first year there were around forty participants, but the event, which is sponsored by Hypercube Business Innovation, gradually gained popularity and the numbers increased to 150 and more. Here are the past winners of the tournament:

1990 Jeroen Piket   2000 Rafael Vaganian
1991 Bogdan Lalic   2001 Loek van Wely
1992 Michael Gurevich   2002 Manuel Bosboom
1993 Dimitri Reinderman   2003 Andrey Volokitin
1994 Dimitri Reinderman   2004 Jan Smeets
1995 Loek van Wely   2005 Vladimir Epishin
1996 Loek van Wely   2006 Daniel Fridman
1997 Manuel Bosboom   2007 Alexandre Dgebuadze
1998 Dimitri Reinderman   2008 Daniel Fridman
1999 Rafael Vaganian   2009 Andrei Orlov

This year's event was held on Saturday, 21st March, 2009. The prize fund was just over € 3000, with a first prize of € 1000. The entry fee is € 5 and the time control five minutes per game per person.


The tournament venue was Den Hommel, in the J.F. Kennedylaan 9 in Utrecht...


...right next to a canal with bridges, and barges passing by just outside the windows

There were eight grandmasters, twelve IMs and fourteen FIDE masters. The average (!) rating of the 130 participants was 2100. The final standings of Group A were:

1 GM Andrei Orlov 2525 15.0   11 IM Rafael Fridman 2460 10.0
2 GM Bogdan Lalic 2537 14.5   12 Tobias Kabos 2128 9.0
3 GM Vladimir Epishin 2587 14.5   13 GM Mihail Saltaev 2498 8.5
4 GM Alexandre Dgebuadze  2538 14.0   14 Henk Vedder 2336 8.0
5 GM Daniel Fridman 2627 12.5   15 FM Frank Erwich 2317 6.5
6 IM Dimitri Saulin 2435 12.0   16 FM Christov Kleijn 2336 6.0
7 GM Petar Popovic 2489 11.5   17 IM Chiel van Oostrom 2404 6.0
8 IM Manuel Bosboom 2412 11.5   18 WGM Anna Zatonskih  2458 5.5
9 FM Anish Giri 2457 10.5   19 FM Bonno Pel 2273 3.0
10 IM Wouter Spoelman 2488 10.0   20 Lukas Boutens 2158 1.5


The winner of the Hypercube Blitz: GM Andrei Orlov of Russia


Spectators watching one particularly exciting game: Anish Giri vs Manuel Bosboom


Yes, it's our young annotator of Linares playing against a very dangerous opponent

Anish is currently the world's youngest grandmaster, having made a total of four valid norms and in possession of enough rating points to get his title officially the next time FIDE announces its awards. Above he is playing against Manuel Bosboom, a highly entertaining and imaginative IM who, at 45, is also on track to get his GM title. The game between the two ended in a furious draw: Bosboom offered the lad a draw, he refused, and with only seconds each on the clock, Anish dropped a piece on the floor. He stopped the clock, crawled under the table to retrieve it and emerged, ready to play on. But then reason got the better of him and he offered Bosboom a draw, which the Dutch IM laughingly accepted.

The incident


Grandmaster Vladimir Epishin, who won this tournament in 2005

In 2005 Epishin won the tournament by playing mainline variations he knew very well, while this year he tried it with obscure lines, like 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 with black, or on 1.d4 he'd play 1...b6, followed by Bb7, c5 and after white d5 he followed up with ...e6 and ...f5.

In his game against Anish Giri he played (with black) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e5 and soon found himself in a bit of trouble against a whisp of a lad, who weighed at least three times less than him.

Giri,Anish (2457) - Epishin,Vladimir (2587)
Supercube Blitz Utrecht, 21.03.2009

In this position Black (on the move) realised that his previous ...e4 was a mistake and that he was losing a pawn. He quickly retreated his queen to b7 and e7 and a fairly chaotic situation arose, with both players in time trouble. Suddenly Black lost his queen to a knight fork and Anish Giri was winning. At this moment Epishin launched a protest: Anish had used both hands to execute a move.

A lot of people were watching the game and amazingly Robert Beekman actually captured the moment the move was executed. In the above picture Anish has the captured piece in his left hand, while executing the move of the capturing piece, his queen, with the right. He then went on to press the clock with his right hand.

Epishin called the arbiter while pressing on his side of the clock. Anish tried to press down on the lever, but did not have a chance against the burly Russian GM. So he stopped the clocks, which then showed 26 seconds for Black and eleven for White. The arbiter is summoned and decides that Giri should not have played with both hands and that his opponent should receive two minutes of additional time in compensation. Anish protests that he should get some extra time as well, since his clock ran down to eleven seconds while his opponent had kept his side pressed. He wanted 16 seconds, the arbiter proposed 14, Epishin was not happy with anything. In this moment Anish offered Epishin a draw, which his opponent immediately accepted.


Vladimir Epishin complaining to all and sundry about what had transpired in the game


Anish shows us after the game approximately how he executed the capture


So what did I do wrong?

We have not spent too much time researching the subject, which is bound to crop up again. Here for the moment are two sets of rules we found in a quick search:

The USCF Blitz Rules state:

4.) Each player must press the clock with the same hand that moves the pieces.
          4a) When castling a player may use both hands.
          4b) When capturing or completing a promotion both hands may be used if it is
               clear that the clock is pressed after the move is determined.

However Northwestern Chess states in the March 2004 revision:

4. Each player must push the clock button with the same hand he uses to move his pieces. Exception: only during castling may a player use both hands. When capturing only one hand may be used. The first infraction will get a warning, the second a one minute penalty and the third will result in the loss of the game.


Speed chess game between Hikaru Nakamura and Max Dlugy, 2006. You can see both players using both hands to execute some of their moves. But this is lightening chess (one minute for the game)...

If you search for blitz or speed chess in YouTube you will find lots of examples of people playing quite blatently with both hands, especially at the end of games. Do send us good links and additional material on the rules, if you find them.

Photos by Robert Beekman, René Olthof and Frederic Friedel

You will find a highly entertaining, illustrated report on the blitz tournament by Robert Beekman here. Unfortunately it is in Dutch. However, if you speak German you will discover that with a little effort you can get the gist of things. Apart from that there are always the translation programs like Babel and Google Translate, which are not perfectly but viable, reasonably understandable translation deliver many times (if you can follow this kind of garbled English).


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