Thursday, April 28, 2005

Beyond J'adoube

Last weekend at the club, Mike Griffin and I were having one of those typical conversations about the tactics some players try to use to annoy their opponents. He mentioned the case of a player who intentionally placed his pieces off-center to the square whenever he moved them. The appropriate response, of course, is to say "j'adoube" and adjust them on your own time. However, this opponent appealed to the tournament director citing an ambiguous phrase in an earlier edition of the USCF Rules of Chess that could be read to mean that a player did not have the right to adjust his opponent's pieces. Fortunately, the TD was not persuaded by his argument and informed him that he could be penalized for disturbing his opponent if he continued his off-center piece placement tactic.

An eminently reasonable outcome, but we then began to wonder about how this might apply to pieces which have already been captured and removed from the board. Some players have very specific preferences about where they place captured pieces and how they arrange them. Some organize them by type and value (left to right or right to left). Some like to line them up next to the equivalent pieces captured by their opponents. I suppose some people might like to stack them pyramid-style (though I've never actually seen someone do this during a game).

What if you do not like the way your opponent has arranged his captured pieces? Do you have the right to say "j'adoube" and adjust them more to your liking? I suspect not -- presumably captured pieces are "owned" by the capturer. However, if this is true, when my opponent (in time trouble) is about to queen a pawn can I put the previously captured queen in a place which is difficult for my opponent to reach? Maybe even in my pocket?

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