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An Arbiter's Notebook

by Geurt Gijssen
All the King's Horses
From the 2nd until the 9th of May there was a very interesting
tournament in Arnhem (Netherlands). It was a double round robin
tournament and the participants were Korchnoy, Sadler, Nijboer
and Xie Jun. For several reasons, I will remember this tournament
for a very long time.
There were 12 games in this tournament and there were only 3
draws. I think that 75% of the games being decided is really
remarkable. I will also remember that Korchnoy did not draw at
all; he won four games and analysed these games very extensively
with his opponents, but he disappeared immediately after his two
lost games (Sadler and Xie Jun beat him).
But strangely enough one of the three drawn games was probably
the most interesting one. I refer to the game Nijboer-Sadler, played
in the fifth round. . After 63...Nxb6 the
following position
appeared on the board
(See Diagram):
White: Ka5; pawn - f4
Black: Kc5, Nb6, Nf5
Players familiar with endgame study literature will recognise
immediately one of the positions described by Troitzky and
Ch ron. Donner Also wrote about this ending; you may find his
lengthy article in "The King".
Nijboer took a second scoresheet and wrote "114". Sadler came to
me and asked me how many moves he has for this ending. I
informed him that he had 50 moves.
The literature indicates that this ending is won when the pawn is
blocked on one of the following squares: a5, b3, c4, d5, e5, f4, g3,
h5. So one of the conditions to win this ending is already fulfilled.
The "only" problem is to mate the white king within 50 moves.
I am not a strong chess player, but I understood that the initial
position was very good for white, because the white king is already
at the edge of the board. In the game continuation, Black forced the
white king to a8 (very good), then to h8 (not good) and finally to
h2 (but too late).
After 113... Ne3 the position was (See Diagram):

Kh2; pawn - f4
Kf3, Ne3, Nf2

After 113... Ne3 Nijboer informed me that he intended to play 114

Kf1 and that he was claiming draw. He wrote this move on his
scoresheet. Of course, I agreed and Sadler also agreed, but
according to Article 9.3(b) of the Laws of Chess White could
already claim the draw after 113... Ne3, without announcing his
next move.

The text of Article 9.3(b) is: The game is drawn, upon a correct
claim by the player having the move, if the last 50 consecutive
moves have been made by each player without the movement of
any pawn and without the capture of any piece.
Recently I received several letters on the same subject.
Question: Dear Mr. Gijssen: Let me first congratulate you on your
unique and highly interesting column! I am curious about the
current status of the rule that stated "if 50 consecutive moves occur
without a capture or pawn move, the game is drawn". I believe
computer analysis has shown that endgames previously thought
drawn are now known to be winning, e.g.:
(a) R + B vs. R Win in 56 moves at most. (b) B + N vs. N Win,
there is no fortress defence as thought earlier.
My source for (a) and (b) is Jon Speelman's book "Endgame
Preparation", (1989 reprint). He says that in both the above
positions, the attacker has 100 moves to win.
I would be grateful if you could clarify the rule. Also, has any win
been found in the ending 2 knights versus lone king? Santhosh
Matthew (India)
Answer: In the FIDE Laws of Chess, published in 1984 and 1988,
you will find that the 50-move rule is extended to 75 moves for the
following positions:
(a) King + Rook + Bishop against King + Rook; (b) King + 2
Knights against King + pawn; (c) King + Queen + pawn one square
from promotion against King + Queen; (d) King + Queen against
King + 2 Knights; (e) King + Queen against King + 2 Bishops; and
(f) King + 2 Bishops against King + Knight
In 1992 during the FIDE Congress in Manila the Rules Committee
suggested establishing one rule for all endings: 50 moves. The
General Assembly of FIDE approved this. The same happened in
1996 during the congress in Yerevan.
I would like to mention that the Laws of Chess apply to over-theboard-play. This means, for instance, that study composers may
ignore the 50-move rule.
Concerning your last question, it is still impossible to mate a King
with two lone Knights. By the way, there is a nice story about this
ending. In the Zurich 1953 Candidates tournament this ending
appeared on the board in the game Kotov - Najdorf. After move 50
the following position arose (See Diagram:

Kf4, Nf4, Ng6


"Now Kotov maliciously announced that he intended to play on, to

see whether Najdorf might blunder into being mated inside fifty
moves. Najdorf complained wildly to the tournament committee
against the idea of a Grandmaster being subjected to such an
indignity; and finally Kotov agreed to the draw...! (B.H. Wood, The
World Championship Candidates' Tournament, published by
Chess, Sutton Coldfield, England, 1953/54). Another version says

that Kotov informed Najdorf that a Russian chessplayer had found

a way to win this ending. Najdorf was shocked, but then Kotov told
him that he was joking.
Question: Dear Mr. Gijssen: A question about the 50-move rule When assembling a collection of games with knight + bishop vs.
bare king endings, I found the following curious game: Milos
Jirovsky (2435) - Stefan Neidig (2260) Pardubice Open 1998 1.
Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 Nbd7 7.
Qc2 c5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 cxd4 11. cxd4 Nb6 12.
Bd2 Bd7 13. Ba5 Bc6 14. e3 Bd6 15. Rfc1 Rc8 16. Qe2 Bc7 17.
Rab1 Be4 18. Rb5 Bc6 19. Rbc5 Qe7 20. Qe1 Bd6 21. R5c2 Ba3
22. Bxb6 axb6 23. Ra1 Ba4 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Ne5 Bc2 26. Qe2
Qc7 27. Qb5 f6 28. Nd7 Qc3 29. Rf1 Bd3 30. Qxb6 Bxf1 31.
Qxe6+ Kh8 32. Bxf1 Qc6 33. Qf7 Rd8 34. Bh3 Qd6 35. Qb3 b6
36. Qb5 g6 37. Qb3 Kg7 38. Qa4 Bb2 39. Qa7 Kh6 40. Nxb6 Bxd4
41. exd4 Qxd4 42. a4 Qc5 43. Bd7 f5 44. Qa6 f4 45. Qb5 Qd4 46.
h4 fxg3 47. Qg5+ Kg7 48. Qe7+ Kh6 49. Qe3+ Qxe3 50. fxe3 Kh5
51. a5 Rb8 52. e4 Rb7 53. e5 Ra7 54. e6 Rxa5 55. e7 Re5 56.
e8=Q Rxe8 57. Bxe8 Kxh4 58. Kg2 Kg4 59. Nd5 Kf5 60. Kxg3
Ke5 61. Ne3 h5 62. Kh4 Kf4 63. Nd5+ Ke5 64. Ne7 g5+ 65. Kxg5
h4 66. Ng6+ Ke4 67. Bd7 h3 68. Bxh3 (See Diagram)
68... Kd4 69. Kf4 Kd5 70. Bf5 Kd4 71. Ne7 Kc4 72. Ke5 Kc3 73.
Kd5 Kb3 74. Kd4 Kb4 75. Be6 Kb5 76. Bd5 Kb6 77. Kc4 Kc7 78.
Kc5 Kd7 79. Nf5 Ke8 80. Kd6 Kf8 81. Ke6 Kg8 82. Kf6+ Kf8 83.
Bc6 Kg8 84. Ne7+ Kf8 85. Ng6+ Kg8 86. Bd5+ Kh7 87. Bc4 Kh6
88. Bg8 Kh5 89. Ne5 Kh4 90. Kf5 Kg3 91. Bb3 Kf2 92. Kf4 Ke2
93. Ke4 Kd2 94. Kd4 Kc1 95. Kc3 Kb1 96. Nf3 Kc1 97. Nd4 Kb1
98. Nc2 Kc1 99. Ba2 Kd1 100. Nd4 Ke1 101. Kd3 Kf2 102. Bf7
Kg3 103. Ke4 Kg4 104. Ne6 Kg3 105. Bh5 Kf2 106. Kf4 Kg2 107.
Ng5 Kf2 108. Bf3 Kf1 109. Ke3 Ke1 110. Ne6 Kf1 111. Nf4 Ke1
112. Nd3+ Kf1 113. Kf4 Kg1 114. Kg3 Kf1 115. Bg4 Kg1 116.
Be2 Kh1 117. Nf4 Kg1 118. Nh3+ Kh1 119. Bf3# - Most
fascinating is the fact that the game ended with 119. Bf3
checkmate, but nevertheless the score was - !
This might be because of the 50-move rule: at move 68 - Bxh3 the last pawn was captured. The move 119. Bf3# is the 51st after
that! Now my question: I suppose that 119.Bf3# was actually
played on the board. Is it legal for the checkmated player to claim
"post mortem" a draw according to the 50-move rule? Dr. Guenther
Ossimitz (Austria)
Answer: What really happened here is a mystery to me. But let us
have a look at the game. At White's 68th move the last capture was
made. Black's 68th move is the first move we have to take into
account when applying the 50-move rule. After White's 118th
move both players had completed 50 moves without moving a
pawn or capturing a piece. At that moment Black, who has the
move, may have claimed a draw pursuant to Article 9.3b. There
was also another way to claim for the same result: He may stop the
clocks, write on his scoresheet Kh1, declare to the arbiter that he
intends to make this move, which results in the last 50 moves
having been made by each player without the movement of a pawn
and without the capture of any piece.
The player who has the move may claim the draw. Article 9.4 is
also relevant. It states that if the player makes a move without
having claimed the draw, he loses the claim, as in Article 9.2 and

9.3, on that move.

It is clear that claiming a draw afterwards is not possible. What
probably happened is the following: The game was played on an
electronic board and before the arbiter could interfere, White
played 119 Bh3. The computer registered this move and it was also
published in the bulletin. Therefore, when in a tournament where
the games are played on electronic boards, the players have to
leave the final position on the board. Otherwise it is very difficult
to find out what the real moves are.
Question: Mr. Gijssen: The FIDE laws allow for an extension to
the 50-move rule provided that a list of special situations is
announced at the beginning of the tournament. Would you use such
a list or stick rigorously to a 50-move maximum (the basic rule)?
Where can I find such a list of special situations? Michel Arsenault
Answer: Such a list existed until 1992. The consequence is that
each arbiter has to stick to a maximum of 50 moves.