Official Statement Regarding Nepomniachtchi vs Aronian Match
On behalf of Chess.com, I wanted to post an update here regarding the situation that took place during the Speed Chess Championship match between Grandmasters Levon Aronian and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
During the first game of the 3-minute portion of the match, Levon Aronian's account began to show signs of a poor connection. Our staff immediately double-checked all server and ping times for both players, and we were able to confirm that our server was operating at <10ms latency and Ian Nepomniachtchi’s connection was fine. Unfortunately the connection issues existed somewhere between Levon’s connection and our server, which is outside of our control. He lost that game due to his lag. Shortly after, Levon reported his issues to our team and understandably wanted to avoid starting the next game until he knew what was going on. Two more games were aborted during this time of confusion and our (attempted) communication with Levon. Soon after Levon's account disconnected from the Chess.com live gaming server completely and our staff lost all contact with him. Several minutes later we did reconnect with Levon and he confirmed that he was attempting to restart his computer and improve his connection.
Before these matches, we advise all players to practice on Chess.com and establish a comfortable (reliable)connection from a location with reliable internet and to inform us of any potential issues. We want the players and fans to enjoy an uninterrupted show. The rules of the Speed Chess Championship (see https://www.chess.com/article/view/speed-chess-championship-official-rules) and our contract with the players stipulate that penalties should be assessed for "any games missed according to the total game clock" ("total game clock" is the clock running down at all times that decides the amount of games per time control) due to someone disconnecting of their own accord or struggling from a poor connection, as it is considered the player's responsibility to maintain a solid connection. Based on this, the rules could have claimed up to 3 forfeit losses for Levon. Obviously we were unhappy that we would even have to assess any penalty whatsoever, and tried to avoid this as long as possible, but ultimately we made the decision to apply only a single forfeit loss. After two aborted games and nearly 12 minutes of downtime, not doing anything seemed it might be unfair to Nepomniatchtchi given the pre-match publicized rules, but anything further seemed too harsh to me at this time.
Chess is somewhat young in the "eSports" world. With other major games, you won't see championship matches played from home, or on wifi connections that are 5,000 miles away from the hosted gaming server. Players generally play from highly-connected and optimized gaming venues, or on-site with the server. Our hope for chess as an eSport is that it will continue to grow and attract the kinds of sponsorship dollars and prizes to pay for travel and professional venues and connections.
We lament that the outcome of today’s match was impacted by the connection of the networks somewhere between Aronian's playing location and California. We are currently reviewing our guidelines and rules to better adapt to potential situations like this in the future, as well as investigating options for players who may be playing from locations further from our data center. We know we still have a long way to go to bring chess to where we want it to be, we feel honored and thankful for all the top chess players who've chosen (and continue to choose) to compete in our events, and we are only just beginning.
As always, we appreciate your patience and your feedback. We want this to be the best possible experience for the players and the fans.
Vice President, Chess.com
Chief Organizer, 2017 Speed Chess Championship
Danny's Note/ Addition as of October 11th, 2017:
In hindsight, as the chief organizer of this event, I regret that we did not 1) let Levon know as early as possible that he might have connection / lagging issues so that things could have been handled more proactively without penalties and 2) that I did not stress to the players even more before hand to be clear about all the rules and their responsibilities to play from a known, reliable location.
We do not believe it was fair for Levon to be put in such a bad position of trying to fix his connection without more proper communication from our team. This entire situation and process has pushed my team to improve our moderation during these matches to be better, with more consistent communication with the players and their managers, and to remove more responsibilities from my personal plate (so that I am not in the position of host, commentator, producer and organizer) during critical situations. A personal thanks goes to Levon Aronian and Grant Akopian (Aronian's manager) for their feedback and support of Chess.com's events.