Wednesday, April 23, 2008

J'adoube Gambit: Hunting Turkey

Tournament chess of the early 1970's hardened a player to be tolerant of some zaniness that is uncommon today because of Bobby Fischer's demands for perfect conditions.

In those days, you could be playing in let's say an Elk's Club Hall that had a few lights dangling on chains from the ceiling and if you weren't sitting right underneath one of the globes you were in the shadows.

Plus your set could be sitting on top of a rickety card table and your butt in a risky creaky folding chair. In fact I saw a chair separate and a player dumped on the floor, amazingly not being hurt in his journey.

And then there was the poor air quality, cigarette and cigar smoke, and you had the feeling that some opponents were intentionally blowing smoke in your direction. (As an aside to give you and idea of this culture; if you went to a track meet at the Boston Garden, after an evening of having people filling the Garden air for two hours by smoking, management would ceremoniously ask people to refrain from smoking while the 2 mile was in progress?!)

And people would have banquets at the board -: crunchy carrots or chips. At a tournament my opponent consumed the biggest vilest sardine submarine sandwich during our contest.

And one of the first Masters I ever faced who was intimidating enough to my then a young weak class C rating, and he would remark every now and again "well there's a cute move." If you wanted to play chess in those days we all learned not to let anyone or anything to get to you. And so even today I try not to be bothered by my opponents different behavior.

It was the 1998 Mass Open where my opponent arrived in full camo uniform, cap, fortunately sans gun or hunting knife. Like a character in the movie Deliverance, this should have been a tip off that our game was about to take us on a journey through the chessic twilight zone.

Move after move my opponent placed his pieces more and more off center until it was a little painful to look at the position. On my move, stating "J'adoube" I went to adjust a pawn of my opponent's color that was nestled in a corner of a square when my opponent stopped the clock and stated that I could not adjust any of his pieces. I could adjust only my own pieces.

His claim was that the 4th edition /1993 section A10 rule in the USCF book was: "Adjustment of the pieces. a player who is on the move and first expresses intention to adjust (e.g. by saying j'aboube or I adjust) may adjust one or more pieces on his or her squares."

I told him that I didn't think that was a correct interpretation of the rule and said I would like a ruling from the TD Steve Frymer. We led a parade of about 1/2 dozen players, who thought this conflict quite entertaining, and we marched into the TD's office.

My opponent cited page and paragraph to argue his point that only he had the right to adjust his pieces. I asked that Steve look at our board and I made the claim that I had the right to adjust the pieces, any piece, that was not in the approximate middle of a square and in fact felt that this consistent eccentric placement of the pieces was a type of harassment.

TD Steve Frymer looked at the position, and then us, and ruled that according to rule 10A I had the right to adjust any piece on my move and that he was going to watch us.

BTW the following Edition 5 says "on their squares" no "his or her". Fortunately I defeated my opponent once the J'adoube Gambit had been dealt with.

Upon telling this to my kids they offered to purchase for me a camo hunting uniform, including a camo mad bomber hat, and camo full rifle bag in order to hold my set and clock. Building 19 apparently was having a sale. I don't think Boston is ready to see me rolling on the Red Line to Davis Square in this getup no matter how stylin' it would be considered at the BCF.

What do you feel the perfect chess uniform should be? Should there be a dress code? Have you experienced some odd behavior at a chess tournament or have a story that you could please make comment about?

Mike Griffin 04/23/2008

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