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Did Anand Promote Illegally vs Kramnik?

Did Anand Promote Illegally vs Kramnik?

The new FIDE Laws of Chess are in effect since July 1. One thing that's new is that using two hands to promote a pawn is considered an illegal move, and during rapid and blitz games an arbiter is supposed to declare the game lost. Interestingly, a situation like that occurred in the blitz game Viswanathan Anand vs Vladimir Kramnik, Leuven 2017.

Anand's knight promotion vs Kramnik. | Image: Maria Emelianova.

You might remember that Chess.com published an article three years ago about the changes to the official chess rules which came in effect July 1, 2014. Back then, there were some important changes regarding the promotion of a pawn, and regarding illegal moves.

For instance, for three years, pushing a pawn to the eighth rank and then pressing the clock before putting a piece there is considered to be an illegal move (which leads to the necessary punishment, see below). The pawn is considered to be a queen.

Also in 2014, a rule was introduced that says during a classical game, if you make an illegal move, the opponent will get two minutes extra on the clock, and if you make another one you will lose the game.

Last, since 2014, in case of an illegal move during a rapid or blitz game, the arbiter is supposed to stop the clock and declare the game lost (except when there's no possible way for the opponent to win the game with any series of legal moves).

Nakamura-Savchenko, World Blitz 2014—an endgame that saw it all: two pawn promotions and one illegal move.

In the new Laws of Chess, in effect since July 1, making a move with two hands is considered to be an illegal move. Two brand new paragraphs have been added to the regulations:

7.7.1     If a player uses two hands to make a single move (in case of castling, capturing or promotion), it shall be considered as an illegal move.

7.7.2 For the first violation of the rule 7.7.1, the arbiter shall give two minutes extra time to his opponent; for the second violation of the rule 7.7.1 by the same player the arbiter shall declare the game lost by this player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.

7.8.1.   If the player presses the clock without making a move, it shall be considered as an illegal move.

7.8.2   For the first violation of the rule 7.8.1, the arbiter shall give two minutes extra time to his opponent; for the second violation of the rule 7.8.1 by the same player the arbiter shall declare the game lost by this player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.

All this is about classical chess. Again, the penalty is more severe in rapid and blitz:

A.4.2
If the arbiter observes an illegal move has been completed, he shall declare the game lost by the player, provided the opponent has not made his next move. If the arbiter does not intervene, the opponent is entitled to claim a win, provided the opponent has not made his next move. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves. If the opponent does not claim and the arbiter does not intervene, the illegal move shall stand and the game shall continue. Once the opponent has made his next move, an illegal move cannot be corrected unless this is agreed by the players without intervention of the arbiter.

Interestingly, a relevant example at the highest level was seen recently, during the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven Belgium. In our report the game between Anand and Kramnik was included. It was played on  July 1 and saw a funny final phase, played at high speed.

We also sent out a tweet with a video of the last few moves.

What we didn't realize during the round is that Anand was actually using two hands to promote his pawn. Since this was a blitz game, strictly speaking the arbiter should have stopped the clock and declared the game won for Kramnik. This was the new rule, in effect since that day! (The organizers told Chess.com that they were following the new regulations indeed, and that the players had been informed.)

Few arbiters in the world would have had the guts to tell a five-time world champion that he lost this game due to an illegal move. In Leuven, there were two arbiters for five boards, and in this case they weren't standing right next to this one. Before there was time to hold up to the rule, the players had already agreed to a draw.

In the same week, we reported about an event where the exact same thing happened. FM Mike Klein's coverage of the Canadian Championship was about a controversy during the second blitz playoff game, where one player promoted to an upside-down rook, which was then considered to be a rook (and not a queen) when the arbiter intervened.

There was a lot of discussion (the article now has an update that mentions the decision of the Appeals Committee), but one thing wasn't mentioned: the player also used two hands while promoting.

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IM Nikolay Noritsyn uses both hands while promoting in his game with GM Bator Sambuev.

Coincidentally, this game was also played on July 1. You may wonder if a tournament that starts before July 1 shouldn't use the old regulations for the duration of the tournament. 

Commenting to Chess.com on this particular case, international arbiter and chairman of the FIDE arbiters' commission Takis Nikolopoulos said: "In my opinion a tournament must be held with the same regulations for all its rounds. It does not seem to me fair for the rules and the regulations to be changed a few rounds before the end and different situations to be created."

These are just two examples which show how common it is to use both hands for promoting a pawn, castling, or capture. In practice, few opponents will claim victory. However, since arbiters are now entitled to stop the clock, you better get used to it and use only one hand from now on—especially in rapid and blitz.


Update:

One of our readers, who was sitting in the front row in the playing hall in Leuven on both July, told us that the day after Anand-Kramnik, one of the arbiters informed all the top grandmasters about the illegality of promoting with two hands. He referred to "a game from the day before" and when one of the players asked which player he meant, the arbiter responded diplomatically: "I cannot say that." Several of the grandmasters were laughing out loud, including Anand and Kramnik. 

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