Thomas Wright
By Joel Benjamin   
December 27, 2006
Dear Joel,

I understand that some games are long and stretching is necessary, but could it ever be possible that rules regarding how far a person may go could ever change? An opponent of mine once took quite some time and I went outside to get some air and found him analyzing a computer!

On another note, do you think anything will ever be done about players who like to eat or drink soda during a game? Not only is the unwrapping of candy and snacks distracting (along with the chewing), but at some tournaments it's already crowded enough with the clocks and opponents next to you. Is it within USCF's power to enforce such rules?

Thanks,

Thomas Wright

Players are not meant to stray too far from the playing area during their games. Smokers who go for cigarette breaks just outside the building's entrance are bending the rules, but anyone who disappears from public view during a game is really breaking the rules.

At major tournaments such as Olympiads and World Championships officials keep a close eye on the players, but this is not possible at large open tournaments. Even if you spot a player somewhere he shouldn't be, you can't tell from looking at him if he is still playing his game.

With computer cheating now a documented and realistic threat, directors will likely increase their efforts to limit the movement of players during games. At the 2006 World Open, the staff announced that players who leave the level of the playing hall ask permission before doing so (limited toilet facilities gave players legitimate reasons to travel).

USCF rules definitely allow for limiting player movement, but enforcement will not be easy. But anyone tempted to emulate Mr. Wright's opponent by cheating with a computer should know that circumstantial evidence will ultimately trip them up, even if no one sees them use the computer. Just ask a few gentlemen from the World Open.

Food and drink is a simpler matter to deal with. Eating at the board is impolite; even if done silently, smells could distract the opponent. I don't know what the rulebook says about this issue, but if an opponent starts eating at the board, calmly ask him to stop. If he objects, any competent director would back you up.

Drinking at the board is considered acceptable. After all, most tournaments provide cold drinking water to players during games. Decorum must still be observed; slurping straws can be quite irritating!

Joel Benjamin