"Grace-Time" Controversy – the real story

by ChessBase
7/8/2015 – "As you aware, in an unfortunate incident GM Koneru Humpy withdrew from the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2015," wrote A.K. Verma, Secretary of the Delhi Chess Association. "Too much has been written about this. As Organising Secretary of Championship it's my responsibility to clear the air." Attached was a document relating the DCA's stand and view on the issue.

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Grace-Time Controversy – the real story

Too much has been written about Koneru Humpy’s loss against Himanshu Sharma in the fourth round of the Commonwealth Chess Championship that ended in Delhi some days back.

The Delhi Chess Association has clearly been one of the best chess organisation in India, in here we have organised 13 International tournaments with record participation every time. In January this year, in the International festival we had 1000 participants in three categories.

To up the ante is the motto of this organisation. Please have a look at our next tournament in which the Grandmaster and even those who are below 1600 rated get to play high prize money tournaments.

The Delhi Chess Association does not feel good about the incident that happened. Our appeal to the chess world: please go through the entire as-it-happened detail before reaching your conclusions.

Round 1: Tania Sachdev lost on time.

Tania comes from Delhi. Like for Humpy, we have the highest regard for Tania. She knew “she had done a Carlsen” when the Arbiter said you have lost on time.

She put her point across: “but you announced like this: 90 minutes plus 30 seconds and 30 minutes of grace time”… In her candid admission in one of the previous reports, Tania mentioned she learnt it the hard way. The Arbiter could have been better but not to know the rules is also players’ fault. Period.

What exactly is meant by grace-time? We googled it and the top result is:

OK, "grace period" is the perfect term, but in India we call it "grace-time". We may not be perfect in English but we can make you understand. And we are very humble people generally so even if the same question is asked 100 times we reply with a smile. “It essential means the time you have got to be at the board from starting time of the round, otherwise it results in a forfeit”

In Tania’s mind there was no doubt so she did not ask the arbiter. This is where round one ended.

Round 4: Humpy lost on time.

Her reaction after she was declared lost: Ok, in that case I will withdraw from the tournament. If anyone does not believe what we are saying, we can get witnesses who saw this happen. Humpy cannot deny this herself. We have evidence she created a scene in that one minute. There were over 100 players still playing their games.

Humpy in her interview has talked about low-standards. What standard is she setting here? She was by far the biggest star in the tournament. By some margin. Does that imply you should talk loud in the hall, say in front of so many people “then I think no point playing here, I will withdraw”?

No Offense meant to anyone. Are Magnus Carlsen or Hou Yifan or Koneru Humpy bigger than the game of Chess? They did not make Chess – Chess made them what they are. No sport person is bigger than the game in any sport.

We do not know what happened to Humpy in that one moment. But… what happens when something goes terribly wrong? Unexpected, inexplicable? What happens when it really is no fault of yours according to you? What is the first reaction in a human mind?

We blame! We blame it on many things. Don’t we?

What happened in that one moment? The “grace-time“ became “additional time”. She mentioned it to us immediately. The arbiter said “Additional time”. Now obviously in her mind the story was suiting to her requirements.

Her letter to Appeals’ committee did not ask them to review anything. She just mentioned her points including the “additional time” story and said she was withdrawing from the tournament. The Arbiter did not say “Additional Time”, but grace time – Tania Sachdev will attest to this.

If you are withdrawing from the tournament who do you inform? The Appeals’ committee? And what did we do? We promptly called the appeals-committee members from everywhere except India to please address the issue. They sat, deliberated, with and without Humpy…. None of us were present there. The committee also reached the same conclusion that the result of the game cannot be changed.

What happened after that. We literally pleaded with Humpy to not leave the tournament, but she had made up her mind.

Ambiguous announcement in some minds? We agree. But please tell us what we could have done? Should we have gone to Humpy personally and informed her what happened to Tania?

We believe a lot of people knew what happened to Tania. Many Grandmasters also knew what happened to Tania, Humpy was unaware. Is not informing Humpy personally about the time control a mistake?

Mr. Srivatsan is an International arbiter of repute, we stand by him. Its always one moment when something goes wrong… Srivatsan said something that did not register in some minds. This is what the entire case is all about. Nothing more and nothing less.

Mr. Emil Sutovsky of the Association of Chess Professional did his work and his facebook post was copied on ChessBase as well. He asked what to do when an arbiter is wrong? Mr. Sutovsky: The arbiter was not wrong. He was only misunderstood. Besides Tania and Humpy there are 296 other players in the championship, why nothing happened to them?

Humpy in her interview said: “I was shocked to see the clock at 0:00. I asked my opponent about the additional 30 minutes and he was confused and said to find out with the arbiter. I went to the arbiter and they said that there was no additional time control. I questioned that the announcement was made that we would have 90 min + 30 sec from move 1 and 30 minutes. To my surprise, the arbiter said 30 minutes is grace time. I accepted the result and immediately signed the score sheet”.

Did it actually happen? No. She made an announcement right there and then that she is withdrawing from the event. Without giving anything or anyone a chance. Did she immediately sign the scoresheet? She signed it after a long argument.

In one of her other game in the event, she won in 41 moves. Yet it did not strike her to look for her clock? That did not raise any suspicion?

In Humpy's interview the following comment was mentioned by Ms. Chevannes

This announcement confused many people, including myself. I read in the invitation that the time control was without additional time, but suddenly the arbiter is mentioning an extra 30 minutes. However, he actually said “grace time” and by this, he meant that each player has 30 minutes to get to his/her board before being defaulted. This never affected Humpy until round four, as she won her first three rounds before move 40.

Many say that Humpy should have realised there was no additional time once she didn’t see the extra 30 minutes added on to the clock after move 40. However, I have played many a tournament where the time is only added on to both sides after the first time allotment reaches 0:00. – Sabrina Chevannes

As we have already posted the scoresheet when Humpy played 41 moves, this information was not precise and was done without checking the facts.

Things go wrong. What do we do if we are flag bearers of the game? We run away or we stay put to set it right? Humpy chose to leave the championship.

Humpy sent a letter to Indian media in which she mentioned:

“I also want everyone to know, I quit the tournament in protest of the wrong announcement (poor communication skills of the arbiter), irresponsible organization several times power cuts occurred in between the game, there is no live transmission until round 4. The tournament was done below the International standards. No one took the responsibility to make correct announcement due to which I lost and am mentally disturbed.”

No live transmission? Power-cuts? Who are we kidding here? Humpy is an Indian. Power-cuts happen across the world. There was never a power cut more than 30 seconds – the switchover time in the venue when power-cut happens. This is India, power-cuts happen here. Far less than before, but still do. And why she did not mention them till this incident?

And live transmission? It gets interrupted so many times across the world. We had a technical snag here. The machine got broken. We did not have resources to build it back in time. And, by the way, what live transmission has got to do with her time loss? She played all games in the event on DGT board… We are living in an age when people are demanding delay in live telecast…

This reasoning by her? We leave the readers to decide what was in her mind. All said and done, nobody wanted this incident to happen. As we mentioned earlier, things go wrong.

After her withdrawal, we referred the matter to Commonwealth Chess Association President who sent the matter to AICF and subsequently it has now gone to FIDE/Ethics Commission.

Humpy’s latest statement is:

"It`s painful to read such adverse and annoying statements by my own federation published in "The Hindu". But what I have done is for justice and for respect towards chess players in India. I believe change cannot be achieved without the difficult situations, struggle or the pain. I wish that in future no player should suffer facing such circumstances."

What justice and what respect is she referring to here? Would she have withdrawn if the matter had gone in her favour? Would she have complained if the arbiter ruled – “ok you are right, it was our mistake, please continue the game”?

The competition would still have been the same, the conditions as they were and the respect meted out to chess players in the country would not have changed one bit. It was that one moment…

And suddenly the ACP, the Arbiters’ commission, the FIDE ethics commission, All India Chess Federation, we in Delhi Association, Chessbase editorial team, the chess buffs across the world… Hundreds of people have suddenly found extra work. Opinions might be split but that one moment, when Humpy said she won’t play “if this is the case” has given us all so much work. Why? Because Humpy can do no wrong?


We regret the incident on the whole. The matter is now under FIDE’s jurisdiction and we will accept whatever they decide.

We just wanted to clear the air.

A.K. Verma
Secretary, Delhi Chess Association

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