Friday, December 28, 2012

Rules? Who cares!

Rules? Who cares! They are made to be broken! 

A major incident took place before the first round of the 2012 PanAm Intercollegiate Championship at Princeton University. It had to do with official rules not being followed. An official protest was made and it was denied and no further appeal can be made. 

But before we go further, let me backtrack a little to provide a little history. The annual PanAm Intercollegiate Championship is a prestigious college team chess event with many top colleges and universities in North America competing. All these universities have to spend a lot of money to send teams to compete. The top 4 finishing teams will earn  spots in the College Chess Final Four and lots of glory. Each team is allowed 4 starters and up to 2 subs. Players from these teams can be placed in any order providing that their ratings are within 50 rating points. However, once a line up is set, it is final and can no longer be changed.

Before the tournament, the Director and Head Coach of Webster University, GM Susan Polgar, wrote to the organizer of the event about the official cut off time to submit the final team lineups. This was the reply:

The latest point will be 5pm”, which is exactly 60 minutes before the 1st round (at 6 pm). In addition, the official college chess rules ( state: 

4. Teammates must play in descending rating order, except that 50-point transpositions are allowed. Board order must remain the same throughout the event. Each team must submit a roster before the close of registration indicating the fixed lineup. 

The official rules also state: 

A team may not deviate from its given roster after sign-up. 

So far so good. Well, not so fast.

At 5:43 pm, the final lineups of all the teams were printed. It was posted a few minutes later at the tournament hall. There is absolutely no provision for exception for any reason. Aren't chess rules supposed to be enforced, especially in a FIDE rated event?


Here was the line up from Texas Tech University, which was posted on the wall for all 44 teams and spectators to see.

At about 10 minutes before the first round started, after seeing the lineups from Webster University posted, the Texas Tech team privately went to the Chief Arbiter to ask for a lineup change. They asked to put lower rated GM Hedinn Steingrimsson of Iceland on board 1, and a higher rated GM Elshan Moradiabadi of Iran on board 2. 

The reason? Because an Iranian player (Elshan Moradiabadi) cannot play against a Jewish Israeli player. Board 1 of Webster University B team happened to be GM Anatoly Bykhovsky who is Jewish and is from Israel. This was about 50 minutes AFTER the lineup change deadline had passed. This request should have been rejected as it clearly violates official college chess rules and the rules set by the organizer, which was confirmed in writing in an email.

No one knew about this change request until after round 1 had started because the correct (or changed) lineup of Texas Tech was NOT posted for others to see. No team was aware of the after the deadline switch. I caught this by accident only because Texas Tech happened to play right next to Webster B team and I saw these two GM sitting in reversed order.

Changes cannot be made after the deadline, especially after all other team final rosters were submitted, published, and posted. This obviously would create unfair disadvantages to all other teams which play by the rules. This is like knowing the answers before taking a test. That is why a deadline was created to be fair to all the teams.

On top of this, Texas Tech A team also has a sub so Texas Tech could play the sub if there is a problem by chance the two teams meet. This is what is done in every team event across the United States and around the world. This is why teams have sub(s). There is no basis for allowing this change. None!

This deadline for roster submission has long been established and enforced, including the PanAm, which is a FIDE rated event.

When I found out about this which was a few minutes after the round started, I lodged a complaint and my complaint was denied. The official excuse? "Humanitarian Reason". This rule must be broken because an Iranian player must NOT play against an Israeli player, even though GM Bykhovsky and GM Moradiabadi were teammates last year, and they DID play against each other in Texas 11 months earlier at the 2012 Lubbock Open in Lubbock, Texas. 

It is NOT "Humanitarian Reason" when Texas Tech has a sub and he is at the tournament hall. If by a small chance Texas Tech meets Webster B team somewhere down the line, the sub can be inserted and GM Moradiabadi could sit out to avoid the forfeit loss, if he refuses to play against an Israeli Jewish player. But this is all hypothetical.

Again, there is absolutely no reason for the rules to be broken. Texas Tech should have never made this request and the Chief Arbiter should have never granted this request. The request was clearly done to enhance their chances of winning the tournament or making the Final Four. This is clearly not a "Humanitarian Reason."

Below is the rating crosstable which can be found on the official USCF website (


On top of this, some students from Webster University were ridiculed and insulted for wanting to play by the rules. Unfortunately, I was told point blank that once the decision was made, it is final and the decision will not be changed.

This is an excellent life lesson for students of SPICE at Webster University. We are often asked why top players from all over the world want to come to the #1 ranked program SPICE and Webster University, and their decisions are very much supported by their parents and families.

The reason is simple. Not only these students / players will receive excellent higher education from Webster University, they are also given the opportunity to improve their chess skills while learning important life lessons. We always preach to our students to respect the game of chess, be professional, and conduct themselves with high level of integrity.

When faced with the same exact situation last year by having GM Elshan Moradiabadi on our team facing the strong team from Baltimore with an Israeli player, IM Sasha Kaplan, we did not ask for any exception. If GM Moradiabadi had to face IM Kaplan in the National Final Four Championship, he must make a decision to play or to forfeit. But as coaches of the team, GM Polgar and I would never ask for the rules to be broken. We respect the game of chess too much to do this.

Chess should be above the world political nonsense and rules should be respected. That is my opinion as the coach of the team. Winning should not be at all costs and turning a blind eye  to benefit you personally is also not OK. This is wrong. As educators, we must teach our students the right value. This is what I will continue to preach to my all my players and I am proud of it.

Paul Truong
Coach of the #1 ranked Webster University Chess Team


Anand Gautam said...

This is utter nonsense!
Why can't an official complaint be made to FIDE?

Anonymous said...

They should be sanctioned. This is wrong.

Anonymous said...

The USCF must investigate this. Texas Tech should not have asked for this. This looks bad. They should have known better. Rules are rules.

Anonymous said...

The USCF should penalize any team which breaks rules in FIDE rated events. Otherwise, they have no credibility to complain about FIDE

Anonymous said...

should follow important strategy is such situations...
a) If your team loses... lodge a complain!
b) If your team wins.. keep quiet :)

Anonymous said...

An official complaint should be made to FIDE.

Anonymous said...

It's a pity that a supposedly prestigious chess tournament can easily be smeared with political crap like this. However, this is not the first sporting event where this has happened. Spectators will just have to cover their noses and attempt to enjoy the games even if the stench can be unbearable at times.

Seppe De Vreesse Pieters. said...

Is this a chess event or an EVENT of UNIVERSITY STUDENTS playing chess... racism should be sanctioned by university boards ... not only by FIDE

Anonymous said...

Iranian Muslim hates Israeli Jew so he wont play with him. Religion of piss in action.

James Hymas said...

Beyond the alleged rule infringement, I find the language used to describe the crux of the matter objectionable: "Humanitarian reason. This rule must be broken because an Iranian player must NOT play against an Israeli player"

"must not"?

I would accept 'is prohibited by his government' or 'would be subject to persecution' or even 'would be putting his life in danger' if that is the case ... but not 'must not'.

Let's speak of these things as they are: acts of human spite, not the consequence of some natural law.

Anonymous said...

Texas Tech should be banned for 1 year for pulling this stupid stunt. But of course nothing will happen. They'll probably be rewarded for bad behavior.

Anonymous said...

Peoples are for rules or rules for peoples. There are exclusions from ususal .

What racism? It is a war between Israel an Iran.
Buenos Aires Olympic Games - Dec 1939 - many teams did not play vs Germany when they started 2nd World War.
Remember Aronian who did not want to play in Azerbajan.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Anonymous December 28, 2012 12:56:00 PM CST.

Those two cases are totally different. Germany started world war 2. Aronian can't go to a hostile environment due to safety but plays against Azerbaijan players. What excuse does this Iranian GM have other than his opponent being an Israeli Jew? That's just racist.

Anonymous said...

This has happened many times before... instead of complaining about a specific incident, why not seek to implement an official rule dealing with such political cases? I don't think that questioning the integrity of the event is the point here - such matters should be decided by FIDE for future occurrences.

Anonymous said...

People should not rush to the conclusion that Moradiabadi himself is racist. By playing against an Iraeli, he puts himself in trouble with his government. Thus he is in the unenviable position of having to either behave in an unsportsman-like manner or jeopardize his own career. It is the Iranian government that is to blame for giving him this choice.

Still, I believe that it would have been more appropriate for the organizers to require him to play on Board 1, and to use a substitute if he deemed it necessary. This was an easy solution that would not have imposed undue hardship on Moradiabadi or his team.

HermanTheGerman said...

Because racism is regarded and politicallay treated as a mainly White problem everybody else can get away with it playing the minority card.

Poor oppressed muslims..

The Muslims are not happy

They’re not happy in Gaza ..
They’re not happy in Egypt ..
They’re not happy in Libya ..
They’re not happy in Morocco ..
They’re not happy in Iran ..
They’re not happy in Iraq ..
They’re not happy in Yemen ..
They’re not happy in Afghanistan ..
They’re not happy in Pakistan ..
They’re not happy in Syria ..
They’re not happy in Lebanon ..


They’re happy in Australia ..
They’re happy in Canada ..
They’re happy in England ..
They’re happy in France ..
They’re happy in Italy ..
They’re happy in Germany ..
They’re happy in Sweden ..
They’re happy in the USA ..
They’re happy in Norway ..
They’re happy in Holland ..
They’re happy in Denmark ..

Basically, they’re happy in every country that is not Muslim and unhappy in every country that is!


Not Islam.
Not their leadership.
Not themselves.

AND THEN: They want to change those countries to be like….


Sara J. said...


Paul Truong preaches about following the rules?


I'll even sign my name here, UNLIKE other people who comment on their own blogs.


I will write the truth on my blog. The Iranian player is concerned about retribution to his family at home. You want blood on your hands Paul?


Anonymous said...

The evil, Jew-hating cult of Pedohammed has to go!

Anonymous said...

You could not have said it better.

This Week's Chess Safari said...

Weren't the players teammates last year?

Anonymous said...

I think organisator found good solution.
Chess are not out of politics as our life is in politics. Everything is politics and politics is everywhere.

Anonymous said...

All hateress has to go.

Anonymous said...

Texas Tech lost to the Spice boys. Serves them right for pulling off that cheap lineup stunt earlier.

At Sara J.:
"I will write the truth on my blog. The Iranian player is concerned about retribution to his family at home. You want blood on your hands Paul?"

Paul wasn't complaining about the Iranian. He was complaining about the solution arrived at. There was a better solution which also follows the rules. You apparently did not read (or did not understand) the entire post.

Unknown said...

A team member who refuses to play should be forfeited and should be sanctioned by his own team if they have the balls to do it. Students don'y have the option of not taking a required course.

David Ames