Recently I was asked to comment on a situation which arose during the semi-final of the World Rapid Championship. I wasn’t involved in the refereeing of that tournament, so I’ll give the account of an eyewitness.
“In a game at the time control of 15 minutes with a 10 second increment each move an endgame arose: R + B v. R. As the increment per move was less than 30 seconds the players didn’t have to record their moves. The player on the weaker side turned to the arbiter with a request that he counted moves in order to confirm a draw by the 50-move rule. After ending up in a position when in 2 moves he’d either lose a rook or be mated the player again turned to the arbiter with the question, “How many moves have been made?” The arbiter replied that according to his count 58 moves had been made since the first question. However, the stronger side objected as there was no proof the moves had been counted correctly by the arbiter. The chief arbiter suggested continuing the game, which ended in a defeat for the weaker side. After the end of the game the losing player submitted a protest to the appeals committee, without making a deposit. The appeals committee considered the protest, cancelled the result and awarded a draw.”
In general the understanding is that an arbiter can’t be wrong, although it’s not rare for arbiters to make mistakes. It’s not clear, though, why the arbiter couldn’t have recorded the moves on a separate scoresheet. That’s always done at the World Cup, even for games with a time control of 4 minutes against 5 without an increment. In a case where the arbiter can’t record the moves quickly enough you have to record them for at least one player. Sometimes the record is made by 2 arbiters, one for White and another for Black. That makes it possible to avoid conflicts, and the player can demand a draw on the basis of the arbiters’ record (based on the three-fold repetition or 50-move rules).
The arbiter shouldn’t tell the players the number of moves made, but instead ask for the game to be continued. At the point when 50 moves have been made the arbiter should stop the game and award a draw. That situation arose three years ago in the semi-final of the World Blitz Championship in Moscow during the Karjakin – Mamedyarov game. It was a similar ending, Karjakin was very nervous and he said that the arbiter probably wasn’t counting the moves. I asked him to continue the game, but after 50 moves I awarded the draw. You have to give credit to Sergey. After the game he came up to me and admitted he was in the wrong.
I don’t understand why the chief arbiter suggested continuing the game. Perhaps he wasn’t sure about the actions of the arbiter below him.
Finally, the members of the appeals committee were totally wrong to contravene the tournament regulations. If a deposit is specified for filing a protest then the deposit has to be paid, the protest submitted and then a decision taken. By the way, the appeals committee’s decision was absolutely correct.