No Losing Chances Rule at the New York Open

In round 8 of the New York Open in the game between FM Jesse Noel Sales (2334) and GM Evgenij Agrest (2604) on board 27 a position arose in which White had a pawn on g3, a king on f3 and a bishop on d7 and Black had a pawn on h5, a king on g5 and a rook on c5.

It is clear that in this position, Black has no legitimate winning chances because the black king is prevented from crossing the squares f4, g4 and h4 and, if the black king tries to go around the side and to the back, the white king or the white bishop can threaten the remaining black pawn.

Jesse Noel Sales (2334) vs. GM Evgenij Agrest (2604), 2000 New York Open, Round 8

However, this game was played on a sudden death time limit. Thus, no matter how many moves the game went, when one of the player's flag falls, the game is over. When I came to the board, White had less than five minutes on his clock and had stopped keeping score and Black had about 20 minutes left.

White called for an arbiter and started saying "draw, draw". An arbiter finally came and started watching the game, but did not say anything and appeared ineffective.

I went out and told the Chief TDs, Carol Jarecki, Sofia Rohde and Vince Moore, what was going on, at which point John Fernandez (bless his heart) said that Black had a win by force.

I then went back to the board. About 30 or 40 moves were played, during which Black set a few elementary traps and White successfully avoided them. The supposed arbiter, Leon Muys, said nothing.

Finally, Black pushed his pawn to h4 and White captured the pawn with gxh4. Black did not bother to recapture the pawn, so now it was an ending of rook against bishop and pawn.

Another 30 or 40 moves were played. By this time, White had less than a minute on his clock and Black was down to 10 minutes.

Carol Jarecki finally arrived at the board. By the time she got there, Black had managed to chase White's king to the a1 square. The position was still clearly a draw, but the possibility that White might blunder and Black thereby win loomed larger.

Since White had long since stopped keeping score, he could not claim the 50 move draw rule.

White was now saying "draw, draw" after every move. Finally, Carol Jarecki asked "Are you claiming a draw or are you offering a draw?" Sales replied that he was claiming a draw. Carol Jarecki then ruled that the game was a draw.

This situation is disturbing because, had Carol Jarecki not arrived and had the other ineffective arbiter remained in charge, White would eventually have fallen on time, assuming that he did not blunder and lose on the board. Could he have then claimed a "no winning chances" draw based on the fact that the idiot arbiter had not accepted his claim 30 moves earlier when made? I feel that if this had happened, White should have been awarded a draw, even though he may at some future point in the game have either blundered or fallen on time.

It seems unfortunate that a game between a FIDE Master and a Grandmaster could be subjected to the whims of an arbiter who obviously knows nothing about chess.

In this case, White spoke English and Black did not. What would have been the ruling if White had not spoken English and had not been unable to understand the arbiter's ruling?

Sam Sloan

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