The way wetake notation and the way weset clocks are two prime examples of rulebook U-Turns: rulesthat have gone througha 180-degree reversal.
In the Beginning:In the pre-technology dayspaper and pencil timesplayers mostly moved their chess soldier first and then notated it later. Then along came a fellow by the name ofAlexanderKotov. In his bookThink Like a Grandmaster,he advised that players first write down their move on their score sheet. This procedure, at the very least, slowed down many a wood pushers knee-jerk response to their opponents last move. It created a momentwhena player could reconsider their plan before executing it. A lot of players and scholastic coaches bought into the ideawrite your movefirst! A whole generation of chess wizards grew up notating their idea before completing their move over-the-board.
Rule-Benders Association Strikes Again:Like any well-meaning idea, this wasoneof whichwastaken advantage. Some players would notate,reconsider,erase the move,notate again,reconsider,erase that move again and again beforephysically movingany new piece on theboard.Eventually, avocal minority claimed thismethodologywas cheating, under the argumentthat it was note-taking. They never did drum up enough support for their cheating claim among the delegates--until the advent of e-notation devices.
E-Notation Devices:When e-notation devices appeared on the scene the landscape changed instantly. With those devices,a player couldview what the board position would look like on their screen,beforeactuallycommitting to that movethatscheating 101. Thedelegates changed the rules:Everyone, regardless of thosewith or without e-notation devices,MUST make their move first on the board before notating it.
The U-Turn:The player backlash to that move first dictate forced a rulebook U-Turn.Today,an unannounced variation to the main rule (move first-notate next) allows aplayer usinga paper scoresheetto scribble first,then make that same move OTB.Butnone of thatwrite,erase,write again,erase again stuff is allowed.
Interestingly,online games now sanctioned by US Chess avoids the notation problem altogether, asonline servicesautomaticallytake notationandavoid the entire issue ofthe playernotating first or moving first.
In the Beginning:The journey of the clock-setting rulebook U-turn is short.In the analog-clock days,setting your device was easy:simply set the clock mechanically for the base time control,no delay, no increment. Then came digital clocks,which provideddelay and increment.
Delay:For games withadelay,the players base time waits for a delay period before counting down after each move. That extra delay time results in digital-clock gamersreceivingmore playing time than analog gamers,so thedelegates created a rulefor balance:Games with delays reduced the base time by one minute for each second of delay. Digital clock manufactures had delay controls builtstandard, but notfor that adjusted base time, and fiddling withthosedigital clocks proved to beannoying and cumbersome.
Increment:When incrementsentered the scene adding valuablebasetime aftereach moveall sorts of fairness issuesreared up.Again, games with digital increment clockswere providingmore playing time than analog-clock games. To compensate, analog clocks werepermitted toadd to the base time, an extraminute for each second of increment. It didnt take long for players to believe that analog clocks gavethem more playing time.
The U-Turn:All thisfiddling with clocksstopped when thedelegates saw the lightand did a 180-degree turnabout. Now all clocks,digital and non-digital,have tostart with the same base-time control. No addingtime. No subtractingtime. No clock fiddling.Wenow all start at the same pointanotherrulebook U-Turn!
Future Rulebook U-Turn?There is one last bit of minutia that thedelegates will probably still need tohandle:increment time starting at move one. Someplayersbelieve that base time plus increment time together need to bedisplayedat the start of the game(ex:theclockfor a game 60 with a 30 second increment wouldbe seen as60:30).But the argument is that extra 30 seconds might be the difference between a flag fall and extra playing time. Not all digital clocks have the capability to make this happen, insteadonly showingthe base time for move one. The increment time is then automatically added only after the clock is pressed,so that the incrementonly becomesavailable starting with move twonot moveone. Tohave the incrementstartat move one,we are back to fiddling about with those timers again!
I wonder what OTB rules will come under U-Turn scrutiny with the advent of any new online US Chess rules?
The free, updated as of 5-11-20, US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2+11 from the 7thedition rulebook) are now downloadable and availableon-line. Past Just the Rules columns can be viewedhere.
Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th, 6th, and 7theditions of theUS Chess Rulebook. He is also the author ofMy Opponent is Eating a Doughnut&Just Law, which are both available fromUS Chess SalesandAmazon/Kindle. Additionally, Tim recently revisedThe Guide To Scholastic Chess, a guide created to help teachers and scholastic organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. Tim is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee. His new column, exclusive to US Chess, Just the Rules will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.
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