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  A view from ACF Player's Representative Richard Beckwith : 2010-02-04

Harmonizing the Rules of Checkers -- Part II

I now present Part II (Conclusion) of excerpts from Hugh Devlin’s letter on harmonizing checker rules.
In response to the current situation the WCDF agreed to undertake a revision of the rules at the General Assembly Meeting held at Las Vegas in 2005. It was proposed to establish a working committee to undertake this work. These were Hugh Devlin (Chairman), Alan Millhone (ACF), Richard Beckwith (ACF), Alex Moiseyev (World Champion), John Reade (EDA), Ian Caws (EDA), and Jim Somers (IDA).

In February 2008 the committee began a systematic review of the game’s rules by assembling a portfolio of rules currently recognised by the ACF, EDA, IDA, and WCDF. In addition a review was undertaken of the rules of comparative games i.e. FMJD, USCF, and FIDE in reviewing current trends and for evidence of best practices. Here I will briefly outline some of the issues we were confronted with.

The description of the equipment used varied considerably depending on which set of rules you are reading. There are major differences in how a “draw” if defined. The FMJD and FIDE have a rule that where the same position occurs for the third time in a game it is considered a draw. Some of our checker organisations have adapted this in different ways. While the ACF have no such rule, the EDA have introduced a similar rule - that where a position may occur for a fourth time it can be declared a draw. The IDA came up with something completely different in that their revised rules point to the “same sequence of moves”, which of course is a completely different thing altogether - change the sequence and the same position can arise any number of times. There was a bigger question to ask – is such a rule needed at all? Remember the Chinook Vs Tinsley Match (1992) where Tinsley purposely repeated the same position four times during their 1st game to reach the next time control.

Again, do we need a 40 move rule (ACF & WCDF) or a 50 move rule (EDA & IDA)? Should it be called from the time the referee is notified (IDA & ACF) to be counted forward, or counted retrospectively (counting back over the previous moves) as directed by the EDA, FIDE & FMJD. Does the player have the right to a move count (IDA) or does the referee decide (ACF) whether to allow one?

The WCDF Rules Committee worked on this project every week for eight months. Sets of rules were worked through, line by line and sentence by sentence. Discussion documents were formulated. The process highlighted many differences of opinion and stimulated much debate. When any group of people come together who have different views and experiences, it is inevitable that compromises must be made by all participants in order to advance the process. This committee was no different. This was not a process where any one set of rules could be taken and adopted with a few minor alterations. During the process every member of the committee was out-voted on one or more points by a majority decision, but everyone stuck to the task at hand. At the conclusion, the committee produced a set of rules that everyone could accept and to which they had all made a substantial input.

The final document produced was accepted by the WCDF for use at the World Mind-Sports Games in Beijing (2008) for the first time. Copies of the new WCDF rules were sent to affiliated member organisations and to the players who would be competing in Beijing in the weeks preceding it. These rules were implemented there and no problems arose as a result.

We do accept that no set of rules remain indefinite and they are open to being amended or changed if the majority of the member organisations of the WCDF wish to do so at a future time. This can be done either through application to the WCDF rules committee where a specific need arises, or via a proposal at the annual General Assembly (GA) meeting where open discussion can take place between all the stakeholders and such proposals voted on by all member organisations. In comparison, we note that FIDE have a committee that reviews the “Laws of Chess” on a four yearly basis as standard practice.

As stated earlier, the function of this international review committee was to establish rules for the game that will cover all WCDF events so as to ensure there is a standard set of rules used worldwide. Earlier this year, following the success of these rules in Beijing, I asked organisations affiliated to the WCDF to consider the acceptance of these rules for their own events i.e. national tournaments, and international team matches, etc. The reason for this is to promote the harmonisation of the rules for all major events (not just WCDF events) worldwide. I believe that it makes little sense to see a national tournament and then a WCDF Qualification Tournament being played in tandem as we have seen in Scotland 2006 and USA 2007, - being held at the same venue and with many of the same players participating, yet using completely different sets of rules. Such a scenario would make a mockery of our game.

The exercise undertaken has also been an opportunity to update the rules to comply with 21st Century standards. Nowhere is this more visible than in rule 4.16 that states: “It is strictly forbidden to bring mobile (cell) phones or other electronic means of communication, not authorised by the tournament controller, into the playing venue. If a player’s mobile phone rings in the playing venue during play, that player shall lose the game in progress”. This might appear harsh to people not familiar with current mind-sports regulations but it is an accepted standard in all such games. In Beijing this was brought sharply into focus when this very issue arose in an FMJD event. There Alexander Getmanski (Russia) was playing against Jean-Marc Njdofang (Netherlands) in the semi-finals of the 100-square draughts, when during their game Jean-Marc’s mobile phone rang and Getmanski was instantly awarded the game. There was no fuss or appeals. Contrast that with my observation at an Irish Open Masters event where not alone did a player allow his mobile phone to ring for a while before acknowledging it, but then proceeded to excuse himself from the game to answer it! Is it any wonder that some people have a poor image of our game, and I must admit sometimes we have to accept responsibility for this ourselves.

It is natural and expected that any change in the rules of the game will create a little anxiety for some individuals. When we review the differences in the way the game has been played in many countries around the world it is unavoidable that some changes and compromise is required by all if we are to harmonise the rules. The process undertaken by the WCDF Rules Committee has been open, transparent, international, and democratic. It is important that we do not lose focus on the endgame here – this is not about the various organisations and differences of opinions – it’s about the future of the game of draughts and what is in the game’s best interests. I would therefore ask everyone to give serious consideration to harmonising the rules by adopting the WCDF regulations as standard for all major events i.e. national tournaments and international matches in addition to all WCDF events.

Hugh Devlin, WCDF President

Read more articles from your ACF Players Representative in the Rep's Corner Archive.

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