Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bill Wall's Column on the Krush/Zatonskih Armageddon Game

Chess: A Knight's Tour by Bill Cornwall June 22, 2008 Move, Slap, Move!: That sequence, repetitively duplicated at breakneck speed, describes the final moments of the deciding tie-break game played last month in Tulsa, Okla., for the title of U.S. Woman's Chess Champion. Moving pieces at split-second pace and instantly slapping their clocks to preserve time, then-current champion Irina Krush, 24, of New York, and former champion Anna Zatonskih, 29, of Ohio, were engaged in a type of chess appropriately called Armageddon. The scene was prepared when each had scored 7 ½ points in the 9-round main event in which games could take many hours to complete. Two 15-minute "rapid" encounters were split followed by two five-minute "speed" games, also split. Then came one world-ending Armageddon, where there could be no tie. Krush was given the white pieces with six minutes while her opponent commanded black with only four-and-a-half minutes . Counterbalancing the time disadvantage, black possessed draw odds where a draw would ironically win for her. After a blurred confusion of hands, pieces, and clock slaps, Zatonskih stopped, and pointed at the clock. Her foe looked, protested, angrily slapped her king off the board, and left. Krush's time had run out! Zatonskih had regained her title. Controversy erupts: Later, Krush claimed she had been fouled. With the game video supporting her, she could prove that she had lost precious seconds when Zatonskih started her moves early before Krush had actually finished making her own move and stopping the clock. Internet blogging erupted on the subject and the general consensus was instructive. If you have taken your hand off of a piece, your move is over. Once your move is over, your opponent may start theirs even though you may not have yet punched your clock. If this seems unjust, consider that the video did reveal that Krush herself had clearly violated another rule. She had knocked over a man without resetting it.

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