2017 Zonal Tie-Break Appeal Decision

The CFC's National Appeals Committee has rendered its decision on IM Nikolay Noritsyn's appeal concerning the end of the second blitz play-off game at the 2017 Canadian Championship. Details about that blitz game can be found here.

The NAC voted 3-1 to deny the appeal, upholding the decision of the Arbiter, which means -- barring further appeals? -- that GM Bator Sambuev is the 2017 Canadian Champion and has earned the right to be Canada's representative at the next World Cup.

The CFC has published the Arbiter's Report as well as the written reasoning of each of the members of the Appeal Committee. You can read them below.

Note: the editor of the Newsfeed has made (minor) changes to the posted report: 

  1. Removed personal email addresses
  2. Formatted to improve legibility
  3. Corrected minor spelling and grammatical errors. 

 NAC has been “invoked” to consider the appeal from Nikolay Noritsyn of the final tiebreak game at the Canadian Closed.


Below is the official appeal (by email) from Nikolay. He has paid the appeal fee of $35.

From: Nikolay Noritsyn
Sent: July-03-17 8:53 PM

I would like to formally lodge an appeal with the CFC.

In Montreal, I asked about the appeal procedures, but [was] told that as the tournament was over, I should appeal to the CFC, not to the Canadian Closed Appeal Committee.

I posted my version of events on -- http://forum.chesstalk.com/showthread.php?16004-2017-Canadian-Championship -- if needed I can provide more information.

I would like to point out the fact that Bator Sambuev returned the queen to the table right before the arbiter intervened, and the fact that he kept quiet about it during the dispute. Also, And as to deliberately hiding your captured pieces from the opponent, there's always Rule 12.1:

The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.



  1. Aris Marghetis, I.A., I.O.
  2. Lyle Craver, I.A.
  3. Illia Bluvshtein,
  4. Mark S. Dutton, I.A., I.O. – Chairman
  5. Pierre Dénommée, I.A. (Conflict of interest - RECUSED)

 Here are the 4 NAC Committee Members responses - 3 against and 1 in favour of this appeal:

1. Aris Marghetis, I.A., I.O.

Gentlemen, here is my opinion and vote on the Noritsyn appeal. Please appreciate that high-level arbiters from FOUR COUNTRIES have engaged me about this incident, and they are all in agreement with what I am presenting below. That actually includes the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission, of which I am the Secretary. I hope you agree with me.

But first, I strongly recommend that we let Mark chair this. He is the obvious experienced choice as CFC NAC Chairman!

This appeal must be considered with arbiter mentality. No law was violated. One law was ignored (laws < July 1st, 2017):


...A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available.

 This law was ignored by Noritsyn. The arbiter cannot be blamed for that. The opponent cannot be blamed for that.

I understand that there were might appear to be extenuating circumstances. However, the above law is perfect for such situations, as exercising it appropriately circumvents all of the circumstantial issues. Here is my current personal list:

Noritsyn refers us to his ChessTalk posts. My goodness, his appeal clearly needed a better submission to us. (in fact, Noritsyn's appeal email doesn't even explicitly state what he's appealing for, what remedy he expects, etc.)-

I would have preferred Organizers/Arbiters provided extra queens. But law 6.12.b above could have covered that. (I especially cannot believe that with TWO black pawns on their SEVENTH rank, that no one thought of extra queens?!)-

I would have preferred Arbiters notice that the opponent had the black queen. But again, law 6.12.b was possible.

From both the written and video evidence, I cannot ascribe any actual negative intent on the part of the opponent.

In conclusion, I vote against this appeal.

Thank you, and best regards, Aris.


2. Lyle Craver, I.A.

Two points:

(1) I understand Mark is willing to serve as NAC chair in this case and that all of us should support him.

(2) With the deepest regret I have to vote with Aris. I say that as I believe Noritsyn was badly treated at several steps in this process.

I find Noritsyn received bad information concerning appeals from the arbiter and that was not his fault.

On the other hand, I also share Aris' view that when making an appeal a player needs to specify his desired remedy.

I want it clearly said in our report that we DO believe the arbiter was deficient in not providing extra queens and that in a playoff situation there surely were extra pieces available both from the players' set and from another set. I am frankly amazed at the arbiter's failure to mention in his report where the black queen was as I definitely think that was very much a material factor in this incident. Nevertheless it would not have been difficult for the arbiter to obtain additional queens from a different set even from move 1 and I do think that is a completely reasonable player expectation. (Perhaps this is not a reasonable expectation in a 100 table event but with a single game player - yes it is reasonable!)

(Even in an event with many boards still in play when I as an arbiter am touring the boards to determine which boards are likely to need extra attention due to time trouble I will commonly have a queen of each color in my pocket if it is after the first time control. Obviously this is not in the rulebook, but in my opinion is "best practices")

Barring any additional evidence that concealing the queen was deliberate (which I do not see in the video) I do not see how a 11.1 claim ("bringing the game into disrepute") is possible.

I agree with Aris' finding there was no malice by the opponent.

I also say that in this particular case the arbiter's performance was below what I would expect of a national championship much less a national championship playoff.

I particularly take exception to the arbiter's statement that the tournament is over when the last game in the last round is completed and that if one happens to be playing the last game in the event that one has no appeal except to the National Appeals Committee. This comment needs to be publicly addressed so that no player is told this again by any arbiter.

I recommend that the provisions of 6.11

(Aris has the right rule but the wrong numbering of it! http://rules.fide.com/images/stories/Laws_of_Chess_2017.pdf)

be posted on our site and that all masters for whom the CFC has e-mails be reminded of the rule.

I would further recommend that our report point out to players that rule 4.4.4 ("4.4.4 promotes a pawn, the choice of the piece is finalised when the piece has touched the square of promotion.") is interpreted in such a way that the piece is chosen when placed on the board and that specifically means an inverted rook is understood to be a rook - the more explicit we are about this the less likely a future recurrence. This is definitely something our federation needs to publicize as it is contrary to what most players think they "know" (Though how one inverts any piece other than a rook is a mystery to me!)

I reject the notion that the FIDE rule changes of 1 July 2017 enters into this decision in any way since there was no change to any part of 6.11 in the 2017 rules.

It my opinion Noritsyn's best course of action would have been to leave the pawn on the 8th rank, stop the clocks and say as loudly as possible "Queen!" if it was not immediately obvious to him where the queen actually was.

However in my view he should definitely not have been put in that position in the first place. This is specifically why I am sympathetic to the appellant.

Thus with the utmost of regrets I must deny the appeal.

Lyle Craver,

International Arbiter
Secretary, Chess Federation of Canada


3. Illia Bluvshtein

I strongly disagree with the proposal to DENY THIS APPEAL and will make my opinion public. I consider the denial of the appeal as a failure of NAC to ensure a fair play.

All 3 parties involved failed and deserve one or another punishment:

1. Sambuev:

1.1. Sambuev violated FIDE rule 11.5: "It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever". Hiding the queen from the opponent at the time of the promotion is a major distraction, especially when the opponent has just seconds on the clock. Whether Sambuev's action was intentional or unintentional is irrelevant.

1.2. Sambuev brought the game of chess into disrepute. It is violation of FIDE rule 11.1: "The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute." What is the reputation of chess game if "Canadian champion" and leading Canadian GM hides the queen and wins the game because of this? (I leave alone the ethical side of the problem. If Sambuev had any notion of integrity, he had to let the arbiter know that the queen was not available to Noritsyn and was in his (Sambuev's) hand at the instance of the pawn promotion. If he did not realize this during the game because of understandable state of emotions and shock, he had to do this publicly after the game, after the dust settled and emotions subsided.

FIDE rule 11.6 says: "Infraction of any part of Articles 11.1 – 11.5 shall lead to penalties in accordance with Article 12.9."

One of the options in 12.9 is "declaring the game to be lost by the offending player". It is one of the options for NAC as well.

2. The arbiter

The arbiter violated everything he could. To put it simply, he had to ensure that the queen is available at the time of promotion. Many FIDE rules fall under the failure to ensure the availability of the queen. For example:

Rule 12.2a: "ensure fair play".

Rule 12.2b: "act in the best interest of the competition".

3. Noritsyn

When he did not find a queen, he had to stop the clock and request interference of the arbiter. He did not do this. It is perfectly understandable under the circumstances (players with seconds on the clock are in the state of shock) but it is still violation of the rules.


So all parties have their part in violation of the rules. It is unfair to punish just one party, especially when another party initiated the whole problem, specifically, Sambuev, by hiding the queen.

I suggest annulling the decision of the arbiter (regarding promotion) and, correspondingly, the result of the game. The potential next step would be replay of the tiebreak. As to FIDE deadline to name the Canadian champion (if there is any deadline), it can be negotiated with FIDE.


Ilia Bluvshtein.


Mark S. Dutton, I.A., I.O.

As Chairman of the NAC - I chose to NOT express my opinion until all 3 others had the opportunity to state their opinions and vote, in the event of a tie.

Having said that, I completely agree with Aris and Lyle that we can NOT allow this appeal. After reviewing all of this material and hearing from the 3 others on the NAC we voted 3 to 1 against this appeal and have no option but to DENY THIS APPEAL.

Best regards,

Mark S. Dutton, I.A., I.O.,
Past President, Chess Federation of Canada
Chairman - National Appeals Committee


Arbiter Report, Canadian Zonal 2017 tiebreak game number 6

No event worth reporting did occur during the first 5 games.

The 6th game did goes well until the time that IM Noritsyn made his 50th move. At this time, he did replace the pawn that he has legally promoted with an inverted rook. I then apply Article 14.4*

If a player having the move: a. promotes a pawn, the choice of the piece is finalised when the piece has touched the square of promotion.

[*Note from later in Pierre’s Arbiter Report: The Zonal did start prior to July 1st, the relevant rules are the old one and I will cite the old Article numbers.]

From page 15 of the 2016 FIDE Arbiters Manual we have

“When a player places an inverted (upsidedown) Rook in the promotion square and continues the game, the piece is considered as a Rook, even if he names it as a “Queen” or any other piece. To put an inverted Rook on the promotion square is not considered as an illegal move.”

The Arbiter has to intervene and put the Rook in its correct position on the square and he may penalize the player according to the Article 12.9. The arbiter has to intervene, there is absolutely no arbiter discretion here. Actually, if the game is allowed to continue without correction, every diagonal movement of the inverted rook would be an illegal move. Non-intervention is clearly not an option.

The rule does not care why an inverted rook has appeared in the game or what is the level of responsibility, if any, of the opponent. The player who has put an inverted rook on the chessboard is always responsible, no excuses are accepted. For IM Noritsyn, the proper procedure was to stop the chessclock in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance. Unfortunately, he wrongly believed that he would have been forfeited if he has stopped the clock. I have used my discretion not to penalize according to Article 12.9, any penalty would have been excessive and unreasonable.

a. If the game needs to be interrupted, the arbiter shall stop the chessclock. b. A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available.

About the video, it has been filmed from a much higher position than the arbiter's chair at the edge of the table. From the arbiter's position, the actions of GM Sambuev were hardly visible. A part of the table was hidden behind GM Sambuev’s body and could easily have contained captured pieces. At the speed that those games move, I have to keep my eyes on the chessboard and on the clock at all times. I had very little opportunity to look elsewhere, such as at the captured pieces stack. This would actually have been a very serious error. Three times there has been the beginning of a touch piece violation, a piece has been touched and placed back on its starting square or kept in the hand of the player. With my eyes squarely fixing the touched piece, the players knew that I have seen the touch and they did not try anything. My first duty was to watch the chessboard for violations, I did not let what was exterior to the chessboard distract me.

After video review, we found that all arbiters and the organiser have failed to notice GM Sambuev putting back the captured pieces on the board, everybody was convinced that the queen has always been there. The core question is, does it change the decision? The quick answer is no. If a queen is not available, as it was, it is the player who promotes responsibility to stop the clock and to ask the arbiter for a Queen.

Once again, ignorance of the Laws of Chess is not an excuse. You could easily argue that GM Sambuev’s behaviour is a disturbance as in Article 11.5, but this would not change the result because, in the last FIDE seminar that I took, Takis Nikolopoulos has made it very clear that disturbances are punished by adding more time to the victim, not by forfeiting the perpetrator. With a queen against a rook, time is irrelevant, the position remains lost for Black.

As for Article 11.1, bringing the game of chess into disrepute, I will refer to the FIDE arbiters manual. This is an Article which can be used for any infringements not mentioned in the Laws of Chess. Promotion to an inverted rook is not a case not mentioned in the Laws of Chess. Not only it is mentioned in the FIDE Arbiters' manual, but it is also covered in FIDE refresher seminar for already titled IA. I have attended such seminar and I couldn't deny that I have been told the proper procedure in case of a promotion to an inverted rook.

Article 12.1
The arbiter shall see that the Laws of Chess are strictly observed.

Strict observance may not always be fair to everybody. Justice is blind and punishes harshly those who are ignorant of the Law. There are rules pertaining to the promotion of a pawn to an inverted rook. All those rules are mandatory for all arbiters. Strict observance of the rules cannot bring the game of chess into disrepute. IM Noritsyn has always remained nice and polite despite the action of the arbiter. His behaviour has been exemplary. His only error is the ignorance that he has the right to stop the clock when the piece required for promotion is not available.

IM Noritsyn did not appeal during the game, but after the game. This is a minor breach of CFC Tournament Rules.

This incident attracted a lot of international attention. I got this from the chairman if the FIDE Arbiter Commission:

I have been informed about the incident from Mr. Hal Bond of the Canadian Chess Federation and I have seen the relevant videos on Facebook. In my opinion and as I said to Mr. Bond as well, you handled the case in an absolutely correct way and in fully accordance with the laws of Chess. The promotion with an inverted Rook has been already clarified from the previous laws of Chess (approved in 2014) and nothing has changed about it in the new laws of Chess, valid from 1 July 2017.

IA Pierre Dénommée