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History of ECF controversy


Email, 29 July 2014.


From:  Roger Lancaster

To:      Phil Ehr (then CEO, ECF)


There was an incident, of which I imagine you are already aware, in Round 5 of the British Under-8 Championship last week.

As a result, the two tournament leaders – who had been paired together on Board 1  – were awarded 1 point and 0.5 point respectively.    The online ECF results for Round 5 describe the award of 1 point as a “bye” and the award of 0.5 point as a “draw by default”.    

In short, the impression given is that no Board 1 game took place.   Even if this had been the case, the outcome would have been unusual.   However, I need not dwell on this because it is evident from more than one witness that the Board 1 game did take place.

It also seems clear that, at some point during the game and possibly due to the alleged occurrence of an illegal move, an arbiter (or acting arbiter) intervened.   I am not entirely clear as to the nature of his intervention but the outcome was as described in my second sentence of this email.

The two juniors involved each finished on 5.5/6.    The juniors who finished third and fourth, on 5 and 4.5 points respectively, are both members of Watford’s J4NCL team.   Watford Chess Club, on whose behalf I write, therefore believes it has an interest in the matter.

May I therefore please request clarification of the arbiter’s actions and an explanation of his decisions? Perhaps you would clarify, when doing so, whether the event took place under FIDE competition rules or under its rapidplay rules, as the arbiter’s powers differ.

Email, 29 July 2014.

From:      Phil Ehr

To:          Roger Lancaster


Thank you for your note.  I am aware of a discussion about Round 5 in the BCC U8.  We are looking into the matter.   We’ll get back with you.



Email, 10 August 2014.

From:  Mike Boyce

To:      Phil Ehr


I have become aware of the irregularity in the under 8 years section of last month's British Championships, and I have seen your exchange of correspondence with Roger Lancaster of our Watford Chess Club.


I am writing to ask if your enquiries are close to completion.


The tournament has finished, everyone has dispersed, and what happened happened. We cannot rewrite history. And yet, juniors look to us wise ones for fair play (they might not express it that way!), and parents, I know from personal experience in other sports, are quick to complain if they don't see it.


As president of Watford CC, I feel I have a responsibility to my members to help bring this to a fair conclusion for all if I can. The one lingering concern, as I see it, is that points from that BCC u8 event carry forward to the English Youth Grand Prix. Any perceived injustice due to the bonus half-point might linger for some time. So I wonder if the EYGP points feed can be repaired even if the BCC u8 results cannot. We believe that would placate the parents here.


I expect to be given a mildly hard time at our Club AGM in early September, so I would greatly appreciate a ruling this month if possible.


Email, 10 August 2014.


From:  Phil Ehr

To:      Mike Boyce


Thank you for getting in touch.   Claims of irregularity at the British U8 Championship are being investigated thoroughly.  We are taking this complaint very seriously.



Email, 15 September 2014.


From:  Phil Ehr

To:      Mike Boyce


Just a note to say that the Board reviewed a report on this complaint.  The report is nearing completion.  We are in touch with (name of parent deleted).



Email, 13 November 2014.


From:  Mike Boyce

To:      Phil Ehr


It is now two months since your most recent holding reply to me on this matter on September 15. I am disappointed still not to have received a fuller explanation of what went wrong at the British Chess Championships under-8s and why, and particularly how the parents' feelings of injustice are to be addressed.   I am now aware that (name of parent deleted) lodged a complaint with FIDE on October 15. Watford Chess Club is not a party to that complaint however,and we had no prior knowledge of it.


(Name of parent deleted) was but one of the aggrieved parents. I trust your emphasis on dealing with his personal complaint has not led to your overlooking our request on behalf of the Watford-based parents involved.


I certainly do not want a witch-hunt - arbiters are human, have to deal in the moment, and humans sometimes make mistakes - but does the ECF believe mistakes were made in the arbiter's intervention in the round 5 game concerned, and in the later annulment and award of 1½ points for that game?


More important though is management of the aftermath, which was the focus in my orginal email to you on August 10, appended below. The kind of response I'm looking for Phil is "sorry and this is what we plan to do".


Email, 15 November 2014.


From:  Phil Ehr

To:      Mike Boyce


Thank you for your email.  Firstly let me apologise for the delay in replying.  The Board examined the events at the British Under 8 Chess Championship, including the scores applicable in the English Youth Grand Prix.  In response to a complaint from (name of parent deleted), we communicated the decision as it affected his son.  We are aware of his complaint to the FIDE Ethics Commission.  


As you rightly point out, other players were effected.  Rather than communicate the decision privately, we intend to post a statement and draw your attention to it.  Please accept our apologies; the delay was entirely our responsibility.


Email, 22 February 2015.


From:  Mike Boyce

To:      Phil Ehr


More than three months later I find myself wondering why you haven't done what you promised. If you have no intention of dealing with this issue, I do wish you would say exactly that. How difficult can it be?


A similar situation seems to have arisen in the (name of event deleted) in December. Players and juniors' parents are at a loss to understand these decisions and need help from their governing body.



No reply of any type has ever been received to the last email above.   After waiting for a further 10 days, Watford referred the matter to the county association.




Email, 4 March 2015 (with attachment synopsis)


From:  Roger Lancaster

To:      Alan Brewis, Hertfordshire Chess Association Secretary


It is, I think, too late to request that items be added to the formal agenda but Watford Chess Club would appreciate the meeting giving this matter consideration under "Any Other Business".

A synopsis is attached and our strong feeling is that it would be helpful in promoting an informed discussion if this could be circulated in advance, although of course the decision on this is yours.

If any clarification is required then I, or Mike Boyce, will be happy to try to provide this.  One or the other of us proposes to be present at the meeting itself.



The above-mentioned synopsis appeared as below on the agenda for the Hertfordshire Chess Association meeting held on Friday 13 March.  


Unresolved Issue from British under-8 Championships in July 2014

An apparent irregularity at the British under-8 championships in Aberystwyth last July has been the subject of a long-running discussion with the ECF's CEO Phil Ehr.  Two Watford Chess Club juniors were affected and the families are aggrieved.

The intervention of the HCA, and ideally also the SCCU and EACU, would add weight to Watford's request for an explanation.

In the penultimate round of the under-8's, a dispute arose in the game between the joint leaders.  The arbiter declared the game drawn, the result later being amended to a win for one player and a draw for the other.

The award of 1 1/2 points for that single game penalised their rivals, including the Watford juniors who finished 3rd and 4th.  That bonus half-point was also carried forward into English Youth Grand Prix points.  The EYGP standings influence selection, and the EYGP age-group winners at the end of the season also receive substantial cash prizes.  The u-8 group is very closely contested and it is quite possible that that half-point may determine the winner.

Watford are looking for (a) an apology for the ECF's handling of the incident, if it was at fault, (b) an explanation for a ruling that defies common sense, and (c) a plan to repair the EYGP points awards that stem from the BCC u-8 ruling.

The ECF did conduct an enquiry into events at Aberystwyth but have not published the outcome.  In November, Phil Ehr replied to us that "rather than communicate the decision privately, we intend to post a statement and draw your attention to it".

More than three months later, and seven months after the event, this has still not been done. 

Watford asks the HCA to lend its weight and name to holding the ECF to account.

Roger Lancaster, Juniors Secretary, Watford Chess Club.   Mike Boyce, President, Watford Chess Club,  4 March, 2015


The outcome of the HCA meeting is recorded in the minutes as follows:

"Following discussion and debate the meeting agreed that

"The awarding of 1 1/2 points to a single game, whatever the circumstances, is an irregularity that requires an explanation from the ECF.  The allocation of 1 1/2 points has an impact on the results of other players within the competition that could be considered unfair.

"The absence of some form of explanation some 8 months after the event reflects poorly on efficacy of the ECF."


Notice that this was being discussed at the county association meeting, with a view to raising it at meetings of ECF-affiliated unions, had been communicated to the ECF.   Coincidentally, within seven days, on 20 March, the ECF succeeded in publishing on its website the statement (below) which it had for the previous 8 months struggled to produce.


The ECF Board responded to a complaint in September regarding the British Under 8 Chess Championship as below.  A subsequent decision was taken to accept British Under 8 Chess Championship results into the English Youth Grand Prix without alteration and this decision remains unchanged.

The British Under 8 Championship was a six round swiss system tournament.  In the penultimate round, a dispute arose in the game between the joint leaders; both claiming different positions, one including an illegal move claim, one denying the claim.  The control team investigated and asked the children about the position.  Neither child varied their accounts.  One claimed a win because of an illegal move; one claimed no illegal move was made.  Both disagreed about the board position.

The British Chess Championships Chief Arbiter and Senior Members of his team were consulted about how to handle the matter.  They concluded this was essentially a dispute about the facts rather than the application of the Laws of Chess.  The Senior Arbiter indicated that the Laws provided that in a disputed/illegal position, the game should return to the last known legal position so that they could continue.  One player was visibly upset and insisted that the illegal move was made and the game should be forfeited.  He did not feel he could continue.  Both players agreed that they did not wish to play on.  It was suggested the game be postponed until after round 6 and that the pairings for round 6 be based on a hypothetical 0.5-0.5 score line.  The arbiter team checked all the possible permutations of the round 6 pairings based on different score profiles.  They concluded that the pairings would be identical however the scores had been allocated.  Round 6 proceeded with the pairings.

After round 6, the arbiter team considered the equity of the outcome, and consulted with parents of the disputed round 5 game.  All parties agreed that the fairest outcome would be to allow each child their claim.  That is, one player was awarded a draw as his material was at least better than equal; the second player was awarded a win as he had a claim for an illegal move.  This outcome was discussed and agreed by all the involved arbiters and by the parents who agreed that no solution was perfect but that this was the most equitable.  It should be noted that this result (0.5-1.0) was not without precedent.  It has been used in both youth and international tournaments in appropriate situations and agreed by the arbiters.

In considering the complaint, the Board considered that the scores were unusual but that in the circumstances of the dispute, the allocation of the points was justified.  In the context of a complete disagreement about the facts, and with two very emotional eight-year-old children, the BCC Arbiter Team had put in place a balanced solution having considered all their possible options.  The Board concurred with the report that the BCC Arbiter Team were not confronted with a dispute over the rules but a dispute about the facts.  It had not been possible to resolve this dispute about the facts.  The Arbiter Team, after due consideration, had implemented a reasonable and well considered solution.  The Board were satisfied that the Arbiter Team acted with due consideration and with proper regard to process.  They were an experienced team with many years of arbitering junior and international chess.  The Board emphasised their confidence in the team and in the actions that they had undertaken.

- Phil Ehr, Chief Executive 


Watford's reply on 26 March was as follows:

There are two aspects to this matter.  The first is the award of 1½ points in respect of a single game.  It is entirely possible that this is lawful – in fact, a footnote by the Chess Arbiters Association to Article 12.7 of the Laws of Chess gives an “exceptional” example where this might apply.   But the example cites totally different circumstances and, while the ECF claims there are precedents, it has not given one in the situation (which, far from being exceptional, occurs quite commonly) where two players disagree over the facts and the arbiter cannot determine who is right.   In fact, if the ECF cannot find a precedent, it is in serious danger of having created one.


Normal practice in these situations – another example might be where one player claims the opponent intentionally touched a piece but the opponent denies this, the arbiter not having witnessed the alleged incident – is to give the benefit of the doubt.   Lawful or not, we feel the alternative – in effect, giving both players their claims -- is highly undesirable and, in practice, fraught with unintended consequences.


The second aspect is that of justice.   The half-point bonus was awarded in a tournament where the three prizes were £100, £70 and £30.   Prior to the award, boy A had finished with 5½ points from six games, ahead of B and C, both with 5 points.   The prize distribution would therefore have been £100 to the winner and £50 to each of the two runners-up.


The bonus increased B’s score to 5½.   In the normal course of events, that would have seen A and B as joint winners receive £85 each while C took the third prize of £30.  However, the parents of A (who would have lost £15) and C (£20) seem to have been less than enthused about this.


In the end, the ECF seems to have conceded that it would be unfair to deprive A of the £100 which he had appeared to have won, so that was reinstated.   B had now tied for first so he, too, was awarded £100.   It was next decided that it would also be unfair to deprive C of the £50 which he believed he had won, so he was reinstated with that sum and second (!) place.


Once the dust had settled on two co-winners and the third-placed boy finishing second, third prize of £30 went to the fourth-placed boy on 4½ points.   Doubters may verify this at the ECF website   The “reasonable and well-considered decision” was so fair that a 40% increase in the prize money was needed to try to convince parents of its fairness. 


Our view is that the extra £80 must have been paid to compensate other players for the perceived injustice of the bonus award – no other explanation comes readily to mind.   And this is the crux of the matter – the ECF appears once to have recognized, despite its current amnesia, the need to compensate for the injustice.    But, since the tournament results carried forward into the youth grand prix, which impacts on such matters as selection for junior international events, the same injustice is perpetuated there.   It is this further injustice, the unintended consequence of a highly problematical decision, which the ECF continues to refuse to remedy.



Outcome of U-8 Youth Grand Prix for 2014-15 - 13 April, 2015

Pending publication of results, the following represents Watford's best understanding of the eventual outcome.

Going into the last weekend, the national junior squad championships on 11/12 April, one junior ("boy B" in the narrative above) led the U-8 YGP by 12 points including 8 points which he had received as a result of the ECF decision.   His closest rival, a Watford junior, needed to score 4/5 at this final event to improve his YGP score and overtake the leader - always assuming, of course, that the leader did not himself improve his YGP score.  The Watford junior scored 3 points from his first four games but, needing to win the fifth, only drew to record 3.5/5. 

The club's issue has been solely with the ECF and it takes the opportunity to congratulate the U-8 YGP winner. 


Complaint to FIDE, update as at 12 June 2015

As indicated above, the award of the 'bonus' half-point did not, as things proved, affect the outcome of the grand prix.  Nevertheless, the correctness of the ECF's actions remains a matter of controversy and had already been referred to the FIDE Ethics Commission ("the EC") which published its ruling on 22 April.

The EC did not consider the matter was truly one of ethics but that it did raise issues which should be considered by the FIDE Rules & Tournaments Regulations Commission and by the FIDE Arbiters Commission.  Accordingly, it referred the matter to those commissions, each of which has a meeting scheduled later this summer.  It remains to be seen whether the contents of the unpublished ECF report on the matter, considered by the ECF Board last September and believed to contain a full account of what actually happened, but which the ECF has thus far been prepared to share with other parties only after assurances of total confidentiality, is disclosed to the commissions 


Update, 24 July 2015:   As far as Watford Chess Club is concerned, we now consider the matter closed.  However we understand the ECF's actions were considered at a meeting of the FIDE Rules & Tournament Commission ("RTC")  in Armenia in June and are also on the agenda for the next meeting of the FIDE Arbiters Commission.  This update is provided as a matter of record only.



Extract from the FIDE Rules and Tournaments Commission Councillors Meeting, 19-21 June 2015


The FIDE Rules and Tournaments Regulations Commission (RTRC) have reviewed the materials presented to us in regards to the Ethics case of Kadengal v ECF.  The following points are made:


First, the original decision of the floor arbiter we find as consistent with the Laws of Chess given that no objective evidence was available to prove the claim of an illegal move;


Second, the original decision of the Chief Arbiter we find as consistent with the Laws of Chess given that no objective evidence was available to prove the claim of an illegal move;


Third, the actions of the Chief Organizer (Kevin Staveley who is both IA and IO) were inconsistent with FIDE Competition Rules and had no basis within the FIDE Laws of Chess.   The tournament regulations did not provide for the Chief Organizer to have appeal authority over the Chief Arbiters decision.  There is also no mention of an appeals process above the Chief Arbiters Ruling being utilized, only a unilateral decision by the Chief Organiser;


Fourth, the FIDE Laws of Chess do not provide for a ‘split result’ (awarding each person a result that does not sum 1 point);


As a result of these points, the RTRC refers this matter to the Arbiters Commission as it involves the specific actions of an International Arbiter in contravention to the FIDE Laws of Chess and the FIDE Competition Rules.




Extract from the FIDE Arbiters Commission Councillors Meeting, 6-8 August 2015:


The Arbiters’Commission after discussion agreed that according to the FIDE Laws of Chess the decision of the arbiters and the Chief Arbiter had been correct.  As there was no intention by the English Chess Federation to send the event to FIDE for rating, they could to follow only internal regulations that may not be known and cannot be commented by the Arbiters’ Commission.  According to the rules of the specific event, the Tournament Manager had the right to overrule any decision of an arbiter or the appeals committee.




Verbatim extract from the minutes of the FIDE Arbiters Commission held in Abu Dhabi, September 2015:

"In the view of the Commission the main problem is that for the game where the incident happen, half a point was given to one player and a full point to the other player.   Bharat Singh pointed out that a result of ½ - 1 cannot be accepted by FIDE.

“Chairman Takis Nikolopoulos proposed to write a letter to the English Chess Federation pointing out that such results should be avoided in the future.

“Ruben Stewart (sic!) pointed out that the event was not FIDE rated and in fact such results do not exist in FIDE rated tournaments of the English Chess Federation.

“The Arbiters’ Commission after discussion agreed that according to the FIDE Laws of Chess the decision of the arbiters and the Chief Arbiter had been correct, but the applied by the Tournament manager result ½-1 does not exist in the FIDE Laws of Chess. 

“However, as there was no intention by the English Chess Federation to send the event to FIDE for rating, they could follow only internal regulations and therefore there is no reason to penalise anybody."

Readers may recall that the arbiters' original draw decision, which everyone bar the ECF agreed was correct, was overruled by an ECF officer (identified below) in controversial circumstances.  As to the so-called 'internal regulations', the version communicated to FIDE has been disputed but, since there is no desire to further prolong this dispute, this aspect is not being pursued.

The Abu Dhabi meeting was attended by Alex Holowczak, ECF Home Director but then under suspension (a suspension retrospectively lifted and annulled as wrong) for a fortnight and consequently standing in as FIDE Delegate instead.  In his report, Alex included the following paragraph: 

"The Rad Kadengal case was considered, and I was not able to defend Kevin Staveley on behalf of the Organisers due to my ECF suspension.  This notwithstanding, there was much opposition from everywhere about awarding 1-1/2 in a game.  As the condemnation ground to a close, I noted that Kevin accepted that this was wrong, had "learnt his lesson", and that the silver lining was that the player won the British Under 8s this year.  The meeting ended on that cheery note."

Those wanting the uncensored version of Alex's report can find it on the ECForum - the version on the ECF website has been carefully sanitised!