Nepomniachtchi cries foul on Armageddon

by Albert Silver
9/19/2015 – It was the final match of the day, and the cliffhanger of cliffhangers. After tying their standard and rapid games, Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi each survived must-win situations to push the match to sudden death. After a dramatic game, the American prevailed and it was all over. Or was it? To the astonishment of all, the Russian filed an appeal demanding the result be nullified.

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When news that Ian Nepomniachtchi had filed an official appeal, requiring a US$500 deposit, regarding the Armageddon game, thus requesting the final result be nullified (and no doubt replayed), Hikaru Nakamura expressed utter consternation on Skype. He had played in the utmost good faith, so what was the complaint?

As it turned out, his opponent was informed that during the game the American had castled with both hands, something the FIDE rules specifically cite as an irregularity:

4.1 - Each move must be made with one hand only.

Naturally, the first thing to do was examine the evidence. Thankfully, this was not dependent on testimonies since the games were all broadcast in high definition streaming by FIDE. See the evidence for yourself:


Video of the critical moment. Nakamura is black.

The first thing to note is that there is no question that both pieces were touched by both hands. There are two further rules in the FIDE Handbook under Laws of Chess that cover this specifically, outside the issue of playing with one hand only.

4.4 - If a player having the move:

b.- deliberately touches a rook and then his king he is not allowed to castle on that side on that move and the situation shall be governed by Article 4.3.a

If one examines the video frame by frame, one can see that the rook was touched a split second before the king. However, it is not so simple. Consider the very next article:

c. - intending to castle, touches the king or king and rook at the same time, but castling on that side is illegal, the player must make another legal move with his king (which may include castling on the other side). If the king has no legal move, the player is free to make any legal move.

It is clear from this last point that deciding the rook or king had been touched first via frame-by-frame playback was never meant to be the way the rules were interpreted. Now it is mentioned "touches the king or king and rook at the same time", and it is evident that in good faith Black's play is best described as "intending to castle", he "touched the king and rook at the same time."

Fine, but where does that leave the entire debâcle? It is defined by article 4.7, as ruled by the Appeals Committee.

4.7 - A player forfeits his right to a claim against his opponent’s violation of Article 4 once he deliberately touches a piece.

As a result, his appeal was denied and the result stood. In a display of understanding and sportsmanship, the Appeals Committee also chose to return Nepomniachtchi's $500.

It should be noted that watching the video of the crucial moment it seems clear that White never hesitated even a fraction of a second when the 'incident' took place or even right after and either did not see it at the time, or did not care.

Unhappy with the way it turned out, Ian Nepomniachtchi lashed out on his Twitter account with
an image of the rules and a curious grey box surrounding text that says, "If an arbiter observes
a violation of Article 4 he must always intervene immediately. He should not wait for a claim to be
submitted by a player".

However, it must be pointed out that there is no such rule in either the FIDE Handbook, or the
official 2015 World Cup regulations. It is rather a guideline in the FIDE Arbiter's Manual.

The important thing to take away from this is that should you witness an irregularity in your game and wish to complain, stop the clock and call the arbiter immediately. Just be warned that should your claim be rejected, you are the one who may be penalized.

The official report by the Appeals Committee

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 9/22/2015 01:05
Ian didn't stop the clock b/c he didn't even notice it during the game. Someone had informed him of this "irregularity" after the game was over.
genem genem 9/21/2015 09:27
A minor technicality is not grounds for overturning a result.
In contrast, if Naka had say moved Rh8-g6, then Ian.N would have a stronger moral case.

Still, Naka should knock it off with the two-handed castling in the future.
Ammesik Ammesik 9/21/2015 10:55
Nepo should have stop the clock, and call the arbiter to force Naka to move the rook. The video shows Naka touch his rook before the king…
SuperMoverBros SuperMoverBros 9/21/2015 06:38
Oh... If Nakamura had not used the other hand for half a second, the result would have been different. Yes, Ian should have won. He played better. But damn that two hand touch, it changed the entire game. Ian was dominating until then. This is worst than giving up a queen. Because at least when you give up a queen, you have a chance.
oputu oputu 9/21/2015 06:32
When I watch the video again, I admit, there is some sort of beauty in the two hand castling. Very chessy! And certainly much faster than Ian's one hand
Aaron06grad Aaron06grad 9/20/2015 11:13
Aigh, the arbiter is required to call the foul if, and only if, he observes the infraction. It seems pretty clear that the arbiter did not observe it. So, basically Nakamura got away with it because no one called him out at the time. Did he violate the rules? Yes. But the official rules also state that the player or arbiter must take immediate action in order to redress the infraction, so it would also violate the official rules to address the matter after the fact. You can't break one rule in order to uphold or enforce another. Even the arbiter's manual says that the arbiter must intervene IMMEDIATELY. To make one last point, arbiters are not perfect, and no arbiter can be omniscient. Mistakes can and will be made, even by the umpire. But life moves on and so does the chess world.
Aighearach Aighearach 9/20/2015 08:33
You don't have to resort to worrying about "the spirit of the law," because the letter and spirit of the law agree that 2-handed castling is cheating. It is stealing time, adding to your clock by not following well-known rules. As you say he intended to castle... with both hands.

The actual "spirit of the law" analysis clearly indicates that Nakamura violated the spirit of the law, and intentionally touched both pieces. What saved him is that the arbiter, who is standing there watching the players move, didn't call the foul even though ___required___ to do so immediately under the rules. The rules only allow the player to call the foul if they see it at the board. So Nakamura clearly violated the "spirit" of the law, and evaded punishment because the arbiter broke the letter and spirit of the law by not protecting his opponent and calling the foul.

I'm an American, and hope Nakamura does well. He's from New York, a true-blue American. Just look at his hair, there can be no doubt. I also hope he takes the time to learn the rules of blitz, and starts following the rules. The same expectation I have of people "taking notes" or hiding computers in their shoes.
Aighearach Aighearach 9/20/2015 08:25
And, as to how you touch both pieces at the same time: it isn't a claim about metaphysics, about if you can really touch both pieces at the same time. The vast majority of games don't have video, and the implication that is apparently "hidden" to some is that if you can't determine conclusively by the available evidence which piece was touched first, then they were touched "at the same time," or more succinctly, the evidence can't distinguish which came first but that both pieces were touched within the small time period examined.

For example, if player A says the king was touched first, and player B says the rook was touched first, and rated witnesses agreed that none of them were able to tell which was touched first. The player doesn't get the benefit of the doubt, because play with 2 hands is banned already!

Nothing is more unsporting than attacking people for even caring about the rules of competition.
Aighearach Aighearach 9/20/2015 08:20
I think it is quite clear from the rules that they DID intend instant-replay to be used when available. I just don't see the implied idea that it isn't. There certainly isn't anything in the rule cited as suggesting such.

Some players, actually the vast majority, cheat at blitz in every game, even in a "serious" tournament. If they players were playing with one hand, waiting for the clock to be pressed by their opponent and THEN reaching for their own piece, then blitz playoffs would make sense. The reality is that the way that these GMs, including Nakamura, grab their piece before their op even touches the clock... it is just crazy. The player most willing to ignore the rules gets an extra 20% or more of thinking time.

If Nepomniachtchi wants to combat the blitz cheating, he's going to have to learn the rules carefully, and call out every violation during playoffs while at the board. I don't see him having the courage to do that, or really any of the top players, because of silly peer-pressure from their fellow GMs. Just look at how few are willing to call out note-taking, which is blatant memory-tool cheating.

Those badmouthing Nepo for caring about the rules, wow. You're not chess players, so why do you care? Chess is a game of absolute rules, not maybe rules, or rules that are flexible depending on if you think it is the fashionable time to ask that they be enforced. Honestly, many of the comments here are shameful attempts to bully a GM! Insane. (see peer-pressure, above)
footloose4 footloose4 9/20/2015 08:14
this is splitting hairs and it is unsporting to complain. If Ian had won the game, he wouldn't complain and ask for a re-do because he won unfairly. He would just accept the victory and move on. Same with a loss. As has been pointed out, he is a cry baby.
stephen brady stephen brady 9/20/2015 08:13
Peb and Bertman, you are both not quite right about the incident, if I remember correctly. Kasparov was moving a knight to a certain square (which would have lost), released it for a split second, before picking it back up and changing squares. Judit did not issue a complaint, so we won't know what would have happened.
Bertman Bertman 9/20/2015 06:04
@PEB216 Judit complained immediately, not after.
PEB216 PEB216 9/20/2015 05:41
This is reminiscent of a similar situation involving J. Polgar and G. Kasparov. In this case, Kasparov touched a piece but moved a different piece. Polgar did not say anything at the time of the incident, so Kasparov was not penalized. The lesson to be learned seems quite clear: notify the arbiter at the time of the incident not afterward.
astonewaller astonewaller 9/20/2015 05:33
Having read the FIDE rules, it's still not clear to me that 2 handed castling is forbidden. If this is indeed the case it should be specifically stated. Also the penalty for the infraction.
craniotomy craniotomy 9/20/2015 04:40
There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law always trumps the letter of the law. Nakamura clearly intended to castle.
Parmandil Parmandil 9/20/2015 04:22
So if a pawn captures a piece on the eigth rank and promotes to a queen, only one hand may touch the three pieces involved?

I think the right interpretation of § 4-1 should be that the same hand should both commence the move and end it (by pressing the clock).
hpaul hpaul 9/20/2015 03:17
As Ian's Twitter entry suggests, it is Ian himself who should get a "C" for competence. He should know that you can't make a claim for an illegal move after you've made your own next move. The whole issue probably never occurred to him during the game, I suspect someone else pointed it out afterwards, perhaps after reviewing the video. Silly to risk $500 on an obviously losing claim.

But chess tournament rules are sometimes confusing and have often been changed. FIDE's blitz rules from 1992 gave the following (Rule 7): "Each player must push the clock with the same hand he uses to move the pieces; exception: during castling, both hands may be used." The penalty (at the time) for a first infraction was a warning, not a forfeit. But this rule is no longer in the FIDE rulebook.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 9/20/2015 03:00
Some rules really affect the game. Like when Irina Krush lost a few years back, she had a legitimate complaint (I am not passing judgment on the validity of the complaint). But this one is just so childish. It had absolutely no effect on the game. Play better, Ian, and you won't have to resort to this childish behavior. The appeals committee should have kept half the deposit.
Phillidor Phillidor 9/20/2015 02:59
The rules make it very clear that the complaint must be made timely. As Karbuncle wisely pointed out, it would be against bona fidei if a player had the opportunity to claim mistakes regarding the final result.

I assume Nepomniachtchi truly didn't see it during the game, but for that he cannot blame it on the arbiters. This rule is also very clear: "If an arbiter OBSERVES a violation... he must intervene." So if the arbiter didn't see it, because he was observing another match, he did no wrong. One arbiter cannot control five boards to every bit of precision, especially if a player himself failed to notice the breach of the rules.

Even in the occasion the arbiter was there... How could have Nepomniachtchi believed this was the reason to restart the game? That rule is written for the arbiters, so that they act professionally as possible. Breach of that rule could only result in disciplinary proceedings against the arbiter. And not in repetition of the game.
KevinC KevinC 9/20/2015 02:33
What a baby. He was beaten badly in the last game, so what does he do: Cries. Whaaaaa!
oputu oputu 9/20/2015 11:49
@Karbuncle; completely agree with you. Nitpicking. I am a big Ian fan (esp since he worked with Carlsen), and I like Naka because I only play the KID. However, on this occasion, the KID won, fair and square!!! Not the castling; regardless of the method the king used to get two squares left (tongue out!)
Nepo may not have appealed during the game because he was a minute ahead on the clock.
Ali Nihat YAZICI Ali Nihat YAZICI 9/20/2015 10:48
There is no doubt about the decision of Appeals Committee, but returning 500 USD, I would not second! Why? Then every body may claim in a situation they are not right.

If we talk about the behaviour of Mr.Nakamura, I guess this may come from USCF rules. Warning is corrrect, but would be better before Appeals Committee. It is very clear for me that till 2014 it was not chess (respecting FIDE Laws of Chess), what they were playing in USA. Since I complaint this a few times till Istanbul 2012, finally we suceeded to persuade as FIDE in 2013 Tallinn Congress, USCF to follow FIDE rules. For me it was scandal learning that USCF did not follow FIDE rules over decades.

There is no doubt that a federation may apply their own rules, but if those rules generate results qualifying players to World or continental events, then there is a problem.

I believe in that Mr.Nakamura's miss behaviour is a defect of playing chess in USA; not a personal manner conflicting FIDE rules! All we know he is a good sportman!

Ali Nihat YAZICI
cptmajormajor cptmajormajor 9/20/2015 10:47
I would be quite happy to pay some dollars so Ian can have a lollipop. I am happy that the rest of the world do not see this in the media as the chess players image does not need any further damage. Get a life , Nepo. Take the loss like a man. I thought russians wrestled bears as opposed to crying for mummy when losing a chess game.
Well done Naka.
I am sure you will understand a man who does not like to lose :)
Karbuncle Karbuncle 9/20/2015 09:00
Opatu, I've been playing blitz for nearly 20 years now. The complaint is purely sour grapes for losing. Think about it: Nakamura didn't pull anything underhanded at all like touch a piece and then decide to move a different one. Castling was the intended move, an expected move, and that's what he played. Ian complaining about it after losing is very obviously nitpicking instead of accepting he lost fair and square.
RJ Nolts RJ Nolts 9/20/2015 07:45
you have to claim on the spot during the game..not after the game!! but if your really gentleman...accept your loss and do not try to win on some technecalities!!
oputu oputu 9/20/2015 07:32
There is something quite suspect 'hidden' in that rule. How can a 'normal' person touch the king and the rook at the same time if he is using one hand??? These pieces have two 5cm x 5cm squares in between them.

I have tried doing a quick castle (like the computer does: where you the viewer visualizes both pieces move at the same time) using one hand but the pieces always fall off. So in accordance with touching both pieces at the same time, I use both hands 'in blitz' to Naka copy cat was just on my tail. No wonder I do so well in blitz chess. I am playing like

That being said, my condolences to Nepo, we all know that once an UEFA match has ended, even if the deciding goal was offside, the decision would never be changed no matter the appeal. Clearly, everybody was high on RED-BULL during the Armageddon.

And to the committee saying Nepo should have complained during the match: Who actually watches (carefully now) an opponent in that position in the KID (move 5 is almost always 5....0-0). In a blitz game, everybody is in a hurry to make theoretical moves up to a critical position. Castling was the obvious move there and Nepo couldnt have been watching to see how he castled. Whoever thinks Nepo should/could have complained during the match doesnt play blitz then.

Karbuncle Karbuncle 9/20/2015 07:32
And let's not forget the move happened at near the beginning of the game, so it wasn't even an issue of a mad scramble as to why Ian continued to play.
Karbuncle Karbuncle 9/20/2015 07:30
@ Denix, as the article states, you're supposed to stop the clock immediately on the infraction, then summon a TD to make the complaint. If you continue on to play moves after the fact, it's the same as being fine with it, much as if a touch-move fault happened. You can't play the game out, and only when you have lost, make the complaint. It makes you look like a poor sport.
Captain Picard Captain Picard 9/20/2015 07:06
Chess makes people go crazy. I'm sure of it.
Rambus Rambus 9/20/2015 07:04
Nakamura has to be careful with this habit in the forthcoming rounds. His future opponents are going to stop the clock immediately. Contrast the Wesley So incident, where the complaint was made immediately.
vishyvishy vishyvishy 9/20/2015 06:32
Ian can you play chess ... a sport,,,Or do you wanna become a Great lawyer??
Denix Denix 9/20/2015 05:47
With due respect to both grandmasters, when is the time you have to complain? Is it during the game or after the game?
Karbuncle Karbuncle 9/20/2015 05:35
Well the point is clear: Ian should have immediately complained the moment Nakamura made the move with both hands. The fact that Ian played the game out without complaint means he waived his right to protest the move to begin with. Had he won the game, do you think he would have mentioned this issue? Likely not.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 9/20/2015 04:56
Talk about splitting hairs!

C'mon Nepo, you played great, you lost, let's move on.
Najdork Najdork 9/20/2015 04:16
>Hikaru Nakamura expressed utter consternation on Skype

Source? More info?

>Ian Nepomniachtchi lashed out on his Twitter account with an image of the rules and a curious grey box surrounding text that says "If an arbiter observes
a violation of Article 4 he must always intervene immediately. He should not wait for a claim to be
submitted by a player"

A google search reveals that this note is added in fide's ARBITERS’ MANUAL, but is not strictly part of the rules.
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 9/20/2015 03:55
Ian is a cry baby.