Final Letter From Krush
By Irina Krush   
June 11, 2008
Irina Krush posts her final thoughts on the U.S. Women's Championship playoff. Anna Zatonskih decided not to publish a response. However, an interview touching on all sorts of subjects, between her and Tom Braunlich will appear on CLO next week.

Dear CLO,

After having read the replies to my letter from the chess community and the U.S. Championship organizing committee, I would like to offer some final thoughts on this subject.

First of all, I thank the organizing committee for taking the time to reply to my letter, and for the good faith they exhibited in attempting to honestly grapple with the issues I raised. I might not agree with everything they say, but I appreciate the effort they put into explaining their position.

Many of the posts I read, as well as the Committee’s letter, discussed the question of whether it is “illegal” to move on your opponent’s time. People went back and forth between USCF and FIDE rules, discussed what was “standard” in blitz games, and so forth.

I think one thing is pretty clear: neither participant in the Armageddon game knew what “rules” we were playing under, and though it may be presumptuous of me, I doubt that anyone else in the room did either. Certainly, no one informed us before the game that we were playing under any different rules than we had played the nine games of the tournament, the two rapid games, or the first two blitz games.
The reality is, chess players prepare for tournaments by studying the Sicilian, not by updating themselves on the latest wrinkles in the USCF/FIDE handbook. Thus, I sat down to play the final game intending to follow the only rules I know well- “chess” rules. These are the rules I have learned from watching how people behave at chess tournaments over my eighteen years of playing, and these are the rules I instinctively adhere to using my own common sense and judgment. FIDE or USCF rules might need to be referred to once in a while, but for the most part, people do just fine relying on “chess” rules.

 My understanding of “chess” rules tells me that it’s wrong to have your hand over or on the pieces while your opponent's time is running and they are executing their move, just like it would be wrong to pull a piece out of your pocket and place it on the board. Whether on the board or on the clock, both these actions have the effect of creating an unfair advantage for one side, and I reject them on those grounds.
My appeal was always to fairness and to the spirit of chess competition rather than to the minutiae of legal handbooks, and that’s why I won’t be taking up the reader’s time with my interpretation of FIDE rule 6.8 A.

In my opinion, everyone should give more weight to "what is right?" than to "what does the rule say?" You should not disregard your moral judgments based on a line in a USCF handbook. Nor should you resign yourself to the violation of what's right because it is in the past. 'What's done is done' arguments are either the cop-out of those who don't make moral judgments or a prison for those who do. If most people feel that you can't determine a chess champion through a blitz game, then this championship is already hollow. It is good to say "we'll do better in the future" but there is no reason not to add "and we'll rectify the past."

I argued that the notion of a champion implies that they have in some way distinguished themselves as better than their competition. Does anyone feel that saving yourself a few seconds by executing your moves on your opponent’s time is a demonstration of chess superiority?

I fail to comprehend why Anna didn’t bother to show me the same basic courtesy and respect that I showed her, when I wrote to her. I fail to comprehend why, if she disagreed with my assertions over what happened and what could be done to make it right, she made no effort to let me know what her objections were. I fail to comprehend why she has chosen silence over honest discussion, and I fail to comprehend why the one person who was in the position to resolve this fairly and amicably chose not to do so.

A title is only worth so much as what you show about yourself in winning it. And there is no title worth winning through violating the spirit of the game you love.

I am satisfied with my play and shared first in this event, and am quite willing to play Anna Zatonskih in a match if she’d like a chance to demonstrate her chess superiority over me.

With best wishes to all other chess players,
Irina Krush