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The Tkachiev incident: the arbiter replies

9/6/2009 – At the Kolkata Grandmaster Open one of the top seeds, GM Vladislav Tkachiev, appeared for his round three game in an intoxicated state, fell asleep at the board and was ultimately declared the loser. In our previous report we published a letter from one of the participants criticising the arbiter for waking the grandmaster. Is that a breach of the rules? Not so, says R. Anantharam.
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As we reported, the 4th Kolkata Grandmaster Open was marred by an incident in round three: one of the top seeds, Vladislav Tkachiev, who recently won the French Championship, appeared in an inebriated condition for his game and was unable to complete it. He was defaulted after fifteen moves of play. One of the participants sent us an eye-witness account, in which he criticised the arbiter:

The chief arbiter totally mishandled the situation. First of all he should never have permitted various players to give illegal assistance by trying to wake Tkachiev up.

Secondly, and even more inexcusably, he had absolutely no right to try and wake him up himself when the Frenchman was down to his last few minutes. If, during a normal game, the arbiter were to inform a player game that he is about to lose on time, he would be guilty of gross professional misconduct. It is hard to see how the present case differs, in this respect.

The arbiter then compounded this error by seeking the support of members of the Appeals Committee for his action during the round! The Committee Members were participants and, rather than be disturbed during their games, were obviously likely to agree to any course of action suggested by the official whose job it is to make such decisions. Even so, as one Appeals Committee member later confided, he would have strongly advised against waking Tkachiev, had he been informed that he was drunk (rather than merely ill).

In reaction to this the Chief Arbiter of the event, R. Anantharam, has sent us the following letter:

In your article you mentioned that one of the participants in the tournament stated that the chief arbiter mishandled the Tkachiev situation. As chief arbiter, I have to explain the remaining part, which are missing in the version of the anonymous eye witness.

First of all, there was no illegal assistance to wake up Tkachiev. His opponent, Praveen Kumar (rating 2354), informed us that he wanted to continue. He said that he did not want to miss an opportunity to play with such a highly rated opponent (2669), which he gets rarely and requested me to wake him up. When the top seed Mamedyarov Shakhriyar, a member of the Appeals Committee, was taking a stroll in the tournament hall after his move, I informed him the matter and he volunteered himself to wake him up. This is what happened.

For your reference, I am quoting an answer from Mr. Guert Gijssen, the Chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee, FIDE regarding this matter in his Column "An Arbiter's Notebook" in the February 2000 issue of Chess Cafe.

Question: Dear Geurt, a situation occurred in a match I had recently. My opponent fell asleep. I was looking at the position, with my opponent to move, and suddenly heard him snoring. One of his teammates poked him, he woke up and continued the game. As a matter of interest (I raised no complaint during the match): does the waking of a player by a teammate amount to interference such as when a teammate points out an illegal move or that a flag has fallen, etc.? I know that I play solid openings, but I didn't think the position was boring enough for my opponent to fall asleep! Dave Burtonshaw (London, England)

Answer: Article 13.6 says: "The arbiter shall refrain from informing a player that his opponent has made a move, or that he has failed to press the clock." Article 13.7 says: "Spectators and players in other games are not to speak about or otherwise interfere in a game." The question is whether waking up a sleeping player is interfering in a game? I can imagine that some people have this opinion. But I can also imagine that a snoring player disturbs his opponent. The only way to stop this is to wake up the player. But to be serious, I believe it is not a problem to wake up a sleeping player. I, for sure, would never blame someone who woke up a sleeping player.

I acted only as per the precedence quoted by Mr. Guert Gijssen himself.

In addition I would like to mention that according to Article 13.2 of the Laws of Chess "The arbiter shall act in the best interest of the competition. He should ensure that a good playing environment is maintained and that the players are not disturbed."

Only to ensure a good playing environment, I had to wake him up. The scene of many players coming to his board and watching him sleeping was a disturbance to the nearby boards.

Thanks and regards,
R. Anantharam, Chief Arbiter - Kolkata Open

R. Anantharam is a retired professor of chemistry. He is a member of Swiss pairings Programs Commission, FIDE, and has served as chief arbiter in

  • the World Schools Championship Singapore 2008
  • the Asian Individual championship 2005
  • the Asian Junior 2007,2008 and 2009
  • the Asian Youth 2009 and deputy chief arbiter in World Youth Vietnam 2008
  • and as Technical Official - World Mind Sports, Beijing 2008

Reader feedback

Jason, Buczyna, Charlottesville, United States
This is certainly not a flattering situation for a very talented grandmaster. Hopefully he can resurrect his career and image soon, though that is made all the more difficult by the pictures of him with a cancer stick in his mouth, making him look even more ridiculous in the background of the incident.

Ching Kim Lye, Malaysia
Oh no! Does anyone have a photo of this drunk chess champ dozing off during tournament? He needs help!

Daniel Tapia, Bogotá Colombia
While reading the introduction I felt glad that Vladislav was in huge trouble, but now I am happy if he is OK. I don't understand why he drinks. I am sure it must be horrible to fight the bottle, but I hope he wins because he is simply too colorful a person to lose.

Scott Young, Crawfordville
Ya got to love this guy! He is a free spirit! Definitely not your bespectacled introverted young GM. He is not the first GM to let it all hang out – remember Tony Miles? However he should search for the meaning of life AFTER the game, not before!

Michalis Kaloumenos, Kallithea, Greece
If a player falls asleep (no matter why) should there be a doctor to examine his medical condition.

Kajetan Wandowicz, Wroclaw, Poland
Vladislav Tkachiev arrived totally inebriated for a game in an open in India. Apparently, he wasn't expelled from the tournament. He didn't even forfeit the game. He did lose though – on time. Well, that's what happens when you pass out on the board and can't be woken up while your clock is running. Hou Yifan was recently defaulted for not actually sitting at the board. Where's the logic? I do realise those are different events, different organisers, but some consensus is just screaming to be reached on what is accepted and what is not. Right now it looks like you could turn up drunk and refuse the handshake while your manager holds a press conference accusing your opponent of computer assistance, provided that your drunk, handshake-refusing, accusation-hurling bottom is actually seated at the table when the round starts.

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