Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Repairings in Elementary Nationals

At Elementary Nationals last weekend, there was a protracted and very poorly handled dispute over first round repairings. Whether repairing kids whose opponents don't show is a good idea or not is an interesting question. On the one hand, kids travel a long distance to play chess and they should get an opponent. On the other hand, nationals are about fairly determining individual and team champions, and repairings do distort the normal patterns of things (although so do accelerated pairings—they especially mess with team standings). Further, repairings create the weird problem that if you are in the bottom half of the tournament (and thus paired up in round one), you can simply show up 30 minutes late for the round, because by then your original opponent will be playing someone else and you will either get a forfeit win or be repaired against a randomly chosen late player, who is probably lower rated than your original opponent. Overall, I don’t care either way if they do repairings or don’t, but I do feel strongly that once repairings are done and games are played, they should count.

Whatever you think of the idea, repairing kids whose opponents do not show up in the first round of nationals is standard practice. It has happened every year I have been coaching (11 years). If you look at results pages for any nationals (elementary, junior high, high school, grade nationals, any year) , you will see there are almost no full point byes and no forfeit wins. It is also stated in the tournament booklet rules that players will be repaired in the first round.

In round one, eight players did not show up, including the opponent of my student, James Black (2070). James was repaired with Kevin M** (1450), who was 250 points stronger than the original opponent. James won, but we noticed in the standings that his win was recorded as a forfeit. No one came to us to explain why this played game was not being counted. John Galvin, my school’s assistant principal went to inquire, and was told that Sunil had complained about the repairings and that floor chief Wayne Clark (the same section chief who misapplied the en passant and touch move rules in the last round on a top board at the high school nationals two years ago) had “felt” the rule was unfair and decided not to count 3 of the 4 already played games for the tournament. The fourth game he allowed to stand. (The three games that were not counted would be rated as a separate tournament.)

Wayne claimed (in the presence of John Galvin, Franc Guadalupe, Sunil Weermantry, Steve Shutt, Shaun Smith and myself) that he did not originally know that two Hunter kids were involved, despite the fact that Sunil was appealing. I cannot believe that Wayne does not know Sunil represents Hunter. Another TD told John that he thought the Scholastic Council had ruled on the decision, and that’s why it was overturned. Sunil does wear a name tag that says Scholastic Council on it; perhaps this caused the confusion.

Of the two Hunter players involved, Sophia F******* (1498) was paired down to a 1300 and lost, and Spencer G*****-S*** (1598) was paired down to a 100 and won. Sophia’s loss was overturned and she was given a forfeit win, but Spencer’s game was counted and he was allowed to keep his tiebreak points (James was not). Wayne explained that the G*****-S*** game was allowed to stand because it was the only game in which a player in the top half was repaired with a player in the bottom half.

I questioned whether the rules really required first round repairings to be top vs. bottom half, as Wayne and Franc claimed. (Of the 8 players whose opponents did not show up in round one, all but one of them was in the top half of the tournament itself. Within the repaired group, top half was correctly paired against bottom half.) I asked the TDs to look up this rule, and Franc admitted they had not done so yet (This was Saturday afternoon, a full day after the decisions were made, and after Franc had told John Galvin unequivocally that this was the rule.) I had to ask three separate times before Franc attempted to find a rule book. Wayne had joined the discussion after Franc had admitted to the group that he had not looked up the rule, and then made the mistake of insisting that he and Franc had looked the rule up the night before, even though Franc had admitted 10 minutes before that they had not.

When they finally looked it up, they found there was (is) nothing in the rules preventing top vs. top half repairings. Despite this, Franc still refused to override Wayne’s decision. I said to both of them, “Look, the rules say it’s ok; it is always been done like this at every nationals; you yourselves repaired the kids and they played the games already, but now one person has decided he feels it’s unfair and so you are pretending not all, but some of the games didn’t happen?” Franc and Wayne agreed with my summary of the situation but stood by their decision. They later accused me of being emotional.

As I understand it (I wasn’t present for this), Franc changed his mind after speaking to Carol Jarecki and learning that players were repaired in every other section of the tournament (as they always are and always have been) and that these results stood. Franc then reversed Wayne’s ruling, allowing the original results of the repaired games to stand.

This upset Sunil, who said overtly threatening things like, “The gloves are off" to Shaun Smith and “It’s personal now” to John Galvin. John is a very friendly, laid-back guy, and he replied, “Sunil, what are you talking about, I appealed a ruling about my own kid; it’s personal with whom?” and Sunil said “You.” (Sunil and I had had a cordial relationship until last December at Grade Nationals, when he came up to me-- Beatriz Marinello and Michael Khodakovsky were present and can verify this-- made some wildly inaccurate accusations, told me everyone is against me and announced that I was being “blacklisted.”)

Franc amended his ruling again later, and gave the players who lost the repaired round one and lost round two a full point paired win (not a forfeit win) in round two. This “made up for” their undeserved harder pairing in round two. For example, Sophia F*******, who lost to an 1100 in round one and to a 1900 in round two, was given a full point against her second round opponent, Benjamin M***, despite the fact that she lost the game. (He was also given a full point, which was lucky for him, because he went on to tie for first.)

I was involved in the matter in the first place because my student, James Black, had been repaired with a 1450, Kevin M**. I had seen the game, and understood from it that Kevin was a very strong player and that his tiebreak points would be meaningful for James’ final standings. (M** finished with 5 points.) I did not know of Sunil’s involvement at all until the matter began to unravel. I did not protest or get involved in the decision about the free second round points because it did not directly affect my students.

I feel it looks very shady for games to be played and then to have a TD decide not to count them after the losing player’s coach complains. It looks even worse for the TD to cherry pick which games should count based only on his personal opinion of fairness that has no basis in the rules or precedent. It’s also a problem that this is done entirely behind closed doors. We were not informed that James’s result was changed, and it was impossible to find out any information about the repairings or results from the website. There is no way for another coach to find out that one Hunter player lost and another won and only the favorable result was kept. (Galvin did this through some superhuman detective work.) The fact that no official is in any way forthcoming, and that Wayne clearly lied twice* to a large group of people, makes the whole organization and tournament look dirty.

Because of his (frankly) bizarre ruling two years ago, this incident, and his consistent arrogance, rudeness and refusal to admit his own mistakes, I think Wayne Clark should not be allowed to direct another national scholastic tournament. Franc has always been a very reasonable person, but I feel like he went too far in protecting Wayne’s decision and ego at the cost of fairness. He also should have looked the rule up on Friday, and not waited until I insisted he do so Saturday afternoon. Whether or not anything underhanded went on, Sunil’s apparently cosy relationship with members of the TD staff, combined with his inappropriately aggressive behavior towards other coaches while he is wearing a badge that says Scholastic Council, creates the impression of serious impropriety. Sunil claimed he was resigning from the Scholastic Council (he holds a lifetime advisory position); I think this is appropriate and hope he is held to this and not reinstated.

Elizabeth Vicary
May 11, 2010








*Once about having looked the rule up the night before, and the second time about having no idea that Sunil was representing Hunter or that Hunter kids were involved, despite having looked at the pairings (I assume, since he ruled on them) and having known Sunil for years.

77 comments:

Globular said...

I'm sorry, but random(ish) pairings in any round of a tournament, let alone a National Championship, strike me as just a bad idea.

There's no way an equitable solution can come about.

I don't know if it's possible, but maybe tiebreaks can be calculated as if the game took place, but the result would stand as a forfeit?

I also think there's no excuse for not notifying the TD if a player can't make it. Withdraw the player, and disqualify the whole team from any prizes, if you ask me.

John Fernandez said...

Clearly, you are still blacklisted.

Also - in order to be a TD you have to have balls, especially in scholastic events. It sucks, it's unfortunate, but being a TD means you get an absurd amount of abuse from parents and coaches, and you need to be able to stand up to them. Either that, or you need to fall back on whoever the cheif TD is.

To make up random rules and not involve the higher-ups is insane.

Arun Sharma said...

What a ridiculous mess. The amount of absurd things that seem to be happening in the National Scholastics nowadays really is amazing and kind of sad. I really can't remember any of this kind of nonsense which seems to be more the norm now than the exception in my many, many years of playing in the Scholastics myself. Perhaps it's partly as you said, since many of these things happen "behind closed doors", but it's still very troubling how ridiculous things seem to have gotten.

I'm certainly not a TD nor qualified to state what the correct ruling is. But after repairing players, letting them finish their games, and then later deciding that only a select few of those games will end up "counting" - I just don't see how that makes any logical sense, whatever rating argument one chooses to justify it with.

The past few years I've heard so many stories of crazed parents going nuts at these tourneys, feeling their kid was cheated, that their kid's opponent was cheating in some fashion, etc. - once again the sorts of things which I never encountered back in my years of playing. The natural assumption was to blame this on overbearing parents, but when rulings like this are made, I begin to wonder who is really at fault. In general, has winning become so much more important to everyone that things of this sort are simply unavoidable? In one sense, it's nice that people seem to be taking the game much more seriously, but if this is the cost of that passion, well maybe the cost is too high.

In any case, my respect for those (yourself included) who go to these tourneys as coaches every year and have to put up with this stuff all the time has definitely gone up. I know I wouldn't want to have to do it!

Bill Brock said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Narrowly, I agree with your account.

Broadly, life is too short to get into pissing matches with Sunil (who is intense) or Wayne Clark (who means well).

Keep kicking ass.

Anonymous said...

What if one of the players, who received a full point even after losing round 1 game, went on to win five more games to tie for national champion? It would have been an even greater scandal.

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Anonymous said...

Does anyone believe that if they went to a chief and attempted to get results of completed games overturned they would be remotely successful? This entire issue speaks to an abuse of privilege by a member of the scholastic council and the utter either total incompetence of the Chief TD or willingness to be bullied. Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I agree with your stance and action. Sunil's behavior is once again an embarrassment to chess. He is very intense which is fine but he also tries to bend every rule for his favor and he's known to be a hothead sore loser (used to break pencils after losing). This type of behavior as a coach is pathetic in my opinion. I also tend to notice that his student's generally have bad board ethics and commonly engage in clock and piece banging along with other cheap parlor tricks. He is the one who should be blacklisted and he should learn to show some decency and respect to the game and other players but I suppose that would be asking for too much.

Anonymous said...

It seems that there are two divergent points of view:

On one extreme there is a point of view that the tournament should be a positive experience - so every kid who shows up should have a game for each round. A laudable goal in theory.

The other extreme is that this is a serious tournament and helps decide who gets to be considered for world level tourneys and most of the top players deserve a serious tourney. Supporters of this point of view would note that the national gold and tennis tourneys for juniors would simply default those who don't show up - their coaches are responsible for knowing the times - repeat offenders lose the chance to participate in the future.

So what to do? I propose a simple solution: everyone who doesn't show up on time are pooled together into a separate tourney - they play each other. Their opponents get a default. The serious players and teams won't be hurt this way, and the sleepy heads can still get in some experience and learn a lesson: be punctual. Teams can't then game the system - they have lost a participating member if someone no shows or show up late.

Anonymous said...

What are the kids learning from all of that? What a shame!

Anonymous said...

I've been in a few of the tournaments that have been run by Franc. It seems like he often jumps to the wrong conclusion, but can usually be coaxed to do what is logical.

Chris said...

Just to clarify, Wayne Clark was the Floor Chief, not the K6 Championship Section Chief who was NTD Jeff Wiewel. Once it reached those lofty heights then it was out of our (I was one of Jeff's floor TDs for the section) hands.

Of course I heard a lot about it from various angles and your version, with the small correction noted, is just about what I know of the situation too.

On another note, what is really spooky is that I was Wayne's floor TD (he was the Section Chief) when he made the previous en passent/touch move ruling, also in Atlanta, a couple of years back!

Anonymous said...

Why was Benjamin Moon "lucky" to be given a full point for his game against Sophia Flanagan if Benjamin actually won the game?

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth ! You were right!!
Keep standing up for your kids!
You are their best advocate!
That guy should be ashamed of his behavior.
Shame on him!!
Keep up the great work you do!
Great job to You!,Is 318 team and all the adults who stood up for the kids!

Anonymous said...

In the future could you be more mindful of the lasting effects of the internet and refrain from using young children's full names. My son had nothing to do with what happened and now when I Google his name your anger is his first hit and will follow him for the rest of his life on the internet!

Anonymous said...

honestly,

u got gipped, but i'm guessing this is really not worth the time or anxiety to even bother on getting screwed out of a few tiebreak points. obviously you are in the right

Elizabeth Vicary said...

anon 1:44-- I'm happy to remove your son's full name from the post. I'm sorry it caused you disturbance.

anon 2:49 -- It's not so much the tiebreak points, but the idea that Sunil can go to the TDs, make a laughably illogical argument, and get whatever he wants, in total secrecy.

Sophia F's mom said...

I am extremely upset at the events which occurred this past weekend at the Chess Nationals in Atlanta. My daughter was put on an emotional roller coaster with a very negative outcome. Her coach, Sunil, had every right to complain after round 1, since the re-pairings were not done properly. Whether or not the ruling that was made was correct or not, it should have been final. It should not have been reversed two rounds later on the next day, especially without letting the players who were affected know. How would you like to have been in my daughter's shoes going into round 4 and realize from looking at the pairing sheet that 1 of your points had been taken away? Well, let me tell you. She was very upset, and it impacted her play for the rest of the tournament. The fact that they gave her the point back after round 4 is totally irrelevant. The damage was done. As one of the previous bloggers commented, this is supposed to be a positive experience for the kids. Well, this turned out to be the worst chess experience of my daughter's life. I hold you, Elizabeth Vicary, partly responsible for this. You and the USCF have no right to play games with a 12-year-old girl's emotions.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I'm sorry that happened to your daughter. I'm sorry it happened to my student also. The TDs are at fault for not notifying people and for taking a long time to make and reverse their own decisions.

But the repairings were done correctly: they were done as they always have been and according to the written rules. Two TDs have already attested to that on this blog, and many more did so at the tournament. The problem was that Sunil complained about the repairings and a TD incorrectly went along with what he wanted.

Anonymous said...

"Whether or not the ruling that was made was correct or not, it should have been final."

Thats a funny argument.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, even though you took out the last names, my kid's name still comes up as being attached to your blog. Please don't ever do this agian with any child's name! This kind of cyber bullying should not be permitted, certainly not from an adult against a child!!!

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I think "cyber-bullying" is a little harsh. I did not say anything at all negative about your son; I simply reported his pairings.

Despite that, I again apologize that this was unpleasant for you and him. That was never my intention. With regard to the google search, I think you might find that in 24 hours the results are different. I don't know why, but sometimes it takes a little time.

Arun Sharma said...

I'm sorry also to Sophia's mom for what her daughter had to go through - I'm sure when I was that age I wouldn't have wanted to endure something like that either.

But that being the case, lashing out by placing the blame upon Elizabeth doesn't seem at all fair. I obviously only have her above account to vouch for what happened, and perhaps others would describe the situation differently.

But if the above is correct, it seems that your daughter's coach was really the one who started the whole mess by complaining first. I don't see how you can logically blame another coach for objecting when another coach's obviously self-serving complaint is upheld behind closed doors. It seems to me that Elizabeth's student has far more of a case for claiming to be put on an emotional roller coaster by Sunil than your daughter would have against Elizabeth given that the former was the one who really started the problem.

As for the re-pairings being done incorrectly, once again I have no expertise to be able to comment on that, but I think you should understand how that looks to an objective observer. If it was felt that the re-pairings were incorrect, why did her coach not object immediately instead of allowing her to play the game? You have to realize that objecting later on makes it unequivocally look like he's objecting since he's unhappy about what the end result was - not since he felt the original rectification of the issue was wrong.

Again, I have no stake in any of this, it simply makes me sad to see ridiculous things like this happening at all the National Scholastics. I know when I was that age, those were the tourneys I looked forward to going to most all year and to see these things happen to the kids instead is very disheartening. I just think you need to be a little more objective and perhaps realize that your coach was really the one at fault here. If her repairing was wrong, then as her coach he should have objected right away not after. In line with your comment that "Whether or not the ruling that was made was correct or not, it should have been final.", I would say that once the re-pairings were made and the games played, THEY should have been final.

Anonymous said...

you are really not understanding this. What I'm upset about is that for the rest of my kid's life whenever someone Google's his name your opinions will be attached to him, and all of the other children whose names you have encluded. this is an issue between adults and children's names should not be used!

Weibel_Room1 said...

Since my kid Kevin M was directly involved in the controversy, I am with Sunil on this. Whatever decision was made after the first round should have stood. I was also flabbergasted to find that in Round 4, I find out that my kid had a point taken away. (Kevin's scoring situation was exactly the same as Sophia F's situation at the time). We at Weibel, remember, were also in the running for the K-6 title, and that also played on my kid's emotion knowing that he wasn't holding up his end of the score, at least for that one round.

And it wasn't just Sunil that complained about the re-pairings - we at Weibel also vehemently disagreed with the repairings. At our state tournaments, we don't do repairings - why? because it leads to inequities, as what happened here. I have a feeling that if you didn't have the 2070 player but the 1450 player instead, you probably would not have been fighting so much for making the first round count.

Sophia F's mom said...

Dear Arun Sharma,

I appreciate your sympathy. Let me clarify a few things. First, Sunil was not made aware of the re-parings until after the round was over. My daughter complained to him about what happened, because she saw that her teammate (who was also re-paired and who was rated higher than her) played a player rated 100. She did not think that the re-pairings were done correctly. I was not involved in the discussions at all, since I was still on a plane to Atlanta. If you read what I wrote earlier, I only put part of the blame on Elizabeth. She claimed that her goal was not to have a point taken away from my daughter. I cannot see how that was not her goal. I put most of the blame on the USCF and the tournament directors involved. I disagree with your assertion that Elizabeth's student was put on a bigger emotional roller coaster. He did not have a point taken away from him, and his pairings were not affected like the way my daughter's were. I do agree with you that it is sad and disheartening to see things like this happen at the Nationals. I am not sure that my daughter will ever want to play in another Nationals after what happened.

Arun Sharma said...

Sophia F's Mom:

Thank you for your follow-up. I felt your original post was not especially fair in the fashion that you assigned blame for this unfortunate situation. However, your second post does greatly clarify (at least to me) your position, and I can sympathize with it more even if I still do not quite agree with your overall conclusions.

First off, if there is a re-pairing involving one of your students (especially in the first round), is it not at least somewhat the responsibility of their coach to be on top of the situation and deal with it appropriately then? Perhaps that's an unfair burden for them, obviously many of these coaches have tons of students and keeping track of all of them may not be feasible. But even so, I still feel the coach has to bear some of the responsibility and fault in a situation like this.

Regarding the emotional roller coaster, I didn't mean to imply that what Elizabeth's student went through was worse than what your daughter endured - I was speaking merely from a fairness standpoint. My perspective is that Elizabeth's student played a legitimate game, won it, and then was denied his earned tiebreak points from that victory which seems wholly unfair (even if losing tiebreak points is not a big deal). Whether the re-pairing of your daughter was correct or not, the fact is: she DID play a legitimate game, lost, and then was later given a forfeit win. Emotional issues aside, I'm sorry, but I cannot consider the latter situation to be more of an injustice to fundamental fairness than the former. It appears to me that Sunil took what was already a slightly unfair situation and turned it into an even more unfair one, due to the self-interest of one of his own students.

In that vein, to claim that it was Elizabeth's intent to take away a point from your daughter doesn't seem right to me. As I noted above, I personally feel what happened to her student was actually more unfair then what happened to your daughter (who was simply given a loss for a game she did legitimately lose). Whether you agree with me on that or not, you claim that Sunil had every right to complain when something he perceived to be unfair happened to his student. But what do you expect Elizabeth to do in the same situation? She (rightly imo) felt her student had been cheated and so went to the TD about it. When trying to rectify such a situation, obviously there are always going to be those who wind up unhappy with the end outcome - just as there were when Sunil got the original ruling changed. To claim that Elizabeth's main intent was to deprive your daughter of a point, rather than just standing up for her own student's rights (just as your daughter's coach did) really doesn't seem like a fair interpretation to me.

318 Coord said...

One point of clarification. I.S. 318's original appeal ONLY had to do with the results of James Black. James was a possible contender for the individual title and his tiebreaks could affect both team and individual results. We had NO idea of the results of the other games because they were only listed as X's. We did not find out the results until the next day. Upon discussion with the Section Chief he indicated that he had only repaired as directed and that Wayne Clark had overruled him and the "the Scholastic Council had taken up the issue and voted" That seemed absolutely bizarre.We indicated that not telling any coaches of the issue was extremely inadequate. We were told that there were "2000 players and we couldnt expect them to find us"

So we asked that James result be marked as a mixed result. With James getting a win and his opponent being given the forfeit win. I actually think this would have solved everything. I think it would also have made the Weibel team satisfied. Again we were only asking for relief for our player. We had no idea what the results of the other games were.However giving a mixed result would have prob satisfied everyone.

We were told no. Wayne Clark told us that the parings were unfair. Even though it was revealed that EVERY other section in the tourn re=paired.

I think that any coach had the absolute right to appeal. It is up to the TD's to act accordingly. However the right to appeal must also be granted to our team.In this case both precedent in the same tournament,and the fact that the games had been played required Wayne Clarks decision be overturned. We never asked for anyones points be taken away. We only asked that James be made whole. He played the first round and won.

James also had to play a tougher opponent in rd 1 then was scheduled. The player from Weibel was super talented. Ultimately, it is the TD's responsibilty to act.

Anonymous said...

Helicoper Moms,

I hate to tell you, but the internet fingerprints of your children will very soon be so vast that no one will ever find the Vicary article without some serious digging into the far corners of the Internet. And so what? The article doesn't blame any kids.

I would be more worried that people will Google your son and find instead your over-anxious comments to this article and wonder, "What kind of over-parenting did he get?"

es_trick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
es_trick said...

The parent who's worried that this blog article
"will follow him for the rest of his life on the internet!"
is over dramatizing.

I've googled my own name a number of times over the past several years, just to see what comes up. If I just enter my name, I get results for five dozen other people with the same name, and maybe two of the first twenty things that come up are associated with me. If I add the name of my town, then certain things come up, if I add the name of the organization I work for, other things come up, if I add the word chess, a completely different set of results appears, and if I add words related to topics I've debated online, still other things appear.

That parent does not need to worry about her/his child's name being associated with some blog article for the rest of his life. Even if EV hadn't deleted the child's name, that reference would fade into the background of thousands and thousands of other data points in cyberspace.

Doug said...

Based soley on what I've written here in the comments I would conclude that poor Sophie has a better chance of being screwed up by her crazy stage mother than anything that Elizabeth Vicary has written.

Doug said...

Sorry, of course I meant to write "based soley on what I've READ here".

D'oh.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

A few things:

1. Coaches are not allowed in the room at the beginning of the round, so it is correct that no one had any way to know about or appeal the repairings beforehand.

2. What I was told about the repairings was this: 6 players were initially found without opponents and repaired. After this, two more were found / showed up. The TD I spoke with said he thought the two extra players without opponents had not been noticed because one had come late and the other had been in the bathroom. They were then paired with each other (this is the 1500 vs the 100). This was the one result that was initially allowed to stand.

3. My objective was never to get Sophia's points taken away. When we first protested, we had no idea anyone else was involved; we only knew James' result had been changed. As John Galvin notes above, we initially suggested the repaired games be recorded as a win for the winner and a full point bye/ forfeit win for the loser. The TDs told us this was impossible. (despite the fact that they did this in round two) When they gave Sophia a full point in the second round for a game she lost, I did not protest at all.

4. Google caches results for a little while. Your son's name will disappear soon.

Anonymous said...

My view of this whole thing is that the adults could take some lessons from the kids. Not that the kids don't get upset at what they perceive as injustice -- just that (generally) they don't pursue such matters to the nth degree the way that adults do(i.e., trying to get the other person blacklisted).

At this level,i.e., with children, the point "ought" to be having fun and not worring too much about winning. This may be naive and impossible, but I think it is worthy goal -- one that is not served by obsessing over win/loss/tiebreaks.

I wonder how much Sophie F.'s heartbreak and possible unwillingness to go to Nationals again derives from her mother's attitude toward the whole thing.

I think the children would be best served if all the adults involved (parents and coaches) just took a "chill pill" and didn't get themselves so worked up over results. It seems that the importance of having fun has taken a back seat to the importance of winning under the guise of concern over "fairness".

Marty

Anonymous said...

Based solely on what I have read here, I don't think anyone has a right to judge another parent's parenting.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think this country would be better off if we judged other people's parenting MORE, not less.

Sophia F's mom said...

To Marty and Doug,

I want to respond to both your negative comments about me. I will let you know that Sophia's reactions were a direct result of what happened to her at the tournament and not because of my attitude towards the whole incident. You are not giving my child enough credit. She has feelings of her own. She has felt that she has had unlucky pairings at the Nationals every year, and this was yet another example of it. I did not argue for her to get a point after what happened in the first round. Her coach did after she complained to him. I was not even in Atlanta yet. When I found out that she received the point, I almost wished she didn't because it meant that she would get paired up in the 2nd round. I have a problem with the fact that they gave her the point and then took it away the next day without telling her. She was visibly upset when I went to meet her at her board before the 4th round (I have a younger child who was also playing at the tournament who I had to seat first). I tried to tell her that it wasn't a big deal and told her to focus on her current game. However, I knew that it bothered her a lot, enough to impact her play. I know my child. I was at the Nationals to support my daughter and to be her advocate. I was extremely upset because she was extremely upset. Any decent parent would feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Doug & Marty,

Reading one side of the story and prejudging Sophia F.'s mom based on what facts are presented by only one side is a bit childish. You cannot know how much this event disturbed the Sophia unless you were actually there.

Anonymous said...

Having had to referee kid games one can see the problems here lay in the nature of the organization and their way of dealing with things:

1. Having a system of dealing with re-pairings that "always has been done" - without some written code or policy - I apologize if I missed that in the posting - but if it is an actual formal policy and not an ad hoc one, then there shouldn't be a problem - it is then either what should be done or isn't - no place or room for petitions and arguments from coaches, players and parents. This is really an issue that the Nationals organizers should deal with now so that next year it can't happen again.

2. Once a decision has been made - and I know that some people may have a tough time with this, the umpire, referee and here the TD needed to stick with the first decision - he or she may look back and admit they blew the call, but to waver and change just makes the situation worse -as we all see here.

Recommended actions:

1. Eliminate ad hoc re-pairing rules. My suggestion - you don't show up - you default - we'll put you into a pool for a fun tourney, but you are out of the nationals. Sorry, but that is most decisive and fair. It sounds like the vast vast majority of people got there on time and barring some disaster like a volcanic eruption you don't show, you are out.

2. The TDs need to learn - once you make a call - you have to live it - so OK think over your original call, but once you make it, you made it. Reversing calls at that time is just going to make things worse.

Anonymous said...

"lizzyknowsall"?? you know nothing

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Sophia F because of her mom. How can you possibly be upset because your daughter did not get a point for a game she LOST! You go Lizzy V!

Anonymous said...

the girl lost a game, got a full point, got the point taken away, and then got upset with tht. how does this make any sense: she got upset over a full point being taken away for a game she lost.

ben daswani said...

"She has felt that she has had unlucky pairings at the Nationals every year, and this was yet another example of it."

- Sophia F's mom

correct me if i'm wrong, but in this tournament, didn't she ultimately end up getting a point for a game she lost? she needs to take some responsibility for her results...

Anonymous said...

I think this whole thing has gotten so out of hand. But let me tell you that my son was at his board at 12:50, I have a photo of him with the time signiture. He never went to the bathroom during the half hour that he waited to be re-paired nor during his game. He was re-paired with the 189the child who had not originally been paired because he was the odd child out. Please get your facts straight. As for the internet footprint, what I object to is the fact that this is an issue that should be discussed between adults. My child and I'm sure many of yours Google their names and I don't think that our children should have to stumble accross the rantings and ravings of adults, particularely coaches lambasting other coaches. This is bad sportsmanship and frankly not the type of role model that I believe any of us want to be for our children. Our children play chess because they love the challenge and the beauty of the game. Winning, loosing and forfeiting are all part of life and how we respond as adults and coaches sets an example for the coping mechanisims of our children. Frankly I think everyone should have a lovely end to your child's school year and find another venue for this discussion, or at least one that is private and not accessable to children.

Weibel_Room1 said...

>> Anonymous said...
the girl lost a game, got a full point, got the point taken away, and then got upset with tht. how does this make any sense: she got upset over a full point being taken away for a game she lost.

May 13, 2010 6:36 PM


She played a game that she shouldn't have had to play under normal circumstances, regardless of whether she won or lost; and then she's fighting for points for team play. Of course she's going to be upset that a point was taken away. How difficult is that to understand? My kid was very upset too when he saw that he only had 1 point at the start of Round 4 when he should have had 2. I had to work really hard to convince him that I would do my part to get that point back.

Re-pairings should be done away with. If the purpose of repairings is to make sure everyone plays, do the forfeits and just re-pair them as extra-rated games. Add in tiebreaker points if necessary - that should be a secondary concern. Re-pairings for anyone who was supposed to play way down but instead had to play way up makes a huge difference in how the entire tournament can turnout, and is not fair.

Anonymous said...
What if one of the players, who received a full point even after losing round 1 game, went on to win five more games to tie for national champion? It would have been an even greater scandal.

May 11, 2010 7:02 PM


the weird thing is that my kid came within some major time pressure problems in his final game of doing just that - winning the K-6 title. Imagine the headline - "4th grader wins K-6 title despite getting screwed on re-pairing and having his emotions played with by taking a point away from him in the middle of the tournament".

Anonymous said...

Why does Weibel say that "she shouldn't have had to play under normal circumstances" when EVERY other section was repaired and EVERY other national repaired and the scorebook handed to every player says that students will be repaired. Your player was granted a point during round four for a game HE lost in Round 2. What a gift! Do you really think a player who only wins 5 games can be considered a national champion?

To be consistent, why did you not insist on your player being given a FORFeit win in round 2. Your player received tie break points for a game he lost!

Did you complain that your player was paired in round four with the one point scorers? He played a 1200 instead of a 1700 or so if he had been paired with the two point scorers. So inconsistent.

es_trick said...

It occcurs to me that this kind of controversy could be avoided in future scholastic events if the following change were made:

Continue the practice of "repairing" in the non-championship sections, e.g. K-6 U1000. If the purpose of repairing is to make sure the kids get to play, repairing makes sense for those who have not yet reached a high competitive level.

But to pretend that youngsters who are already at Class C, B, A, and even Expert need to be coddled in this way does not make sense. These are young people who are clearly very talented, who have invested a lot of themselves (and their family's financial resources) to get to where they are. They are not "just playing for fun" or to learn good sportsmanship. They're highly competitive, and the event should be given the respect that their level of competition deserves.

The Championship section should be treated like any other tournament with serious players. Players whose opponents don't show up get the forfeit win, end of story. And end of complaints about being unfairly paired up or paired against too strong an opponent in the first round.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:44 - You seem to know a lot about this Weibel kid, and about the possibilities. Were you actually there in Atlanta?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anonymous 11:03.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I mean es_trick. That is a very important point that I think has to be made and understood.

Weibel_Room1 said...

Anonymous said...
Why does Weibel say that "she shouldn't have had to play under normal circumstances" when EVERY other section was repaired and EVERY other national repaired and the scorebook handed to every player says that students will be repaired. Your player was granted a point during round four for a game HE lost in Round 2. What a gift! Do you really think a player who only wins 5 games can be considered a national champion?


as I've stated, and some others have stated, the idea of re-pairing in a championship tournament is ridiculous with so much at stake. Forgetting about the silly rulebook for a minute, the correct thing to do would be to not re-pair. In that case, there would have been a forfeit victory in Round 1, and yes, 5 more victories would have been enough to win the championship. That's how it should have been scored. There was no "gift" as you put it. The point in Round 2 was only to correct a wrong, which was to take away the point in the first place. Take a look at the standings and do the math.


To be consistent, why did you not insist on your player being given a FORFeit win in round 2. Your player received tie break points for a game he lost!

Did you complain that your player was paired in round four with the one point scorers? He played a 1200 instead of a 1700 or so if he had been paired with the two point scorers. So inconsistent.

May 13, 2010 10:44 PM


I guess you weren't there in Atlanta. We complained to Franc as soon as we got the pairings and realized that we were missing the point. 15 minutes before Round 4 started. By that time it was obviously too late to undo the damage. The way the score was amended at the start of Round 5, with a win assigned for Round 2, certainly was not my idea - I simply wanted the point back. I certainly would have been ok with simply having the forfeit victory in Round 1. Plus the fact that my kid wound up beating a couple of 1700s in Round 5 and Round 6 invalidates your last argument.

gurdonark said...

I lack a strong opinion as to what the initial repairing rule should be. I have a strong opinion that in future similar events, a written rule should be adopted and applied consistently.

I make no criticism of any coach, including Sunil and Elizabeth, for advocating for his or her kids. That's what coaches do. I do believe, though, that a TD should make decisions in such matters in a transparent rather than a less transparent manner.

My own TD level of certification is purely local, and consists almost entirely of directing quads of 4 to 20 players. I am not going to pretend that I have an expertise sufficient to permit me to pontificate about how NTDs run tournaments. Yet the net result of the way the "repairing" issue was addressed led to some absurd points arrangements.

I suggest, despite a lack of natinonal experience, that either of 2 simple approaches might work better:

approach 1: don't re-pair. log in a forfeit if a team does not show. let the winners of first round forfeits spend the round playing non-tournament rated games (special one round section) against other similar 'first round forfeit winner" teams.

approach 2: do re-pair. recognize that this will result in imperfect pairings. Weight the tiebreakers a bit to the prejudice of re-paired teams. otherwise, just treat these teams the same as everyone else.

To the parents of the kids who have posted here: none of us who read this weblog think any less of your kids. No kid in this story on any team did anything wrong. Seeing your kid's name or initials or team name what have you does not reflect upon your child to any reasonable reader of this post.
I know you are parents, and it is your job to stand up for your child. You have done so with fervor and an admirable boldness.

Yet really, when it all shakes out, this is a debate about rules, procedure, and transparency, not about this kid or that kid. Your kids are fine. Your kids did great.
This is a debate about TDs and coaches, not about kids.

Google is a remarkably resilient engine, and soon google (and bing and everyone else) won't notice that your kid and this weblog had anything to do with each other.

Elizabeth, I'm amused that i read this post when it first was posted, with 0 comments, and come back and find 54. I'm also able to empathize with virtually everyone who posted here, for one simple reason.

I, like every other chess player, have played in at least a swiss or 2 when I meticulously calculated my last round pairing to be a move downward to play a lesser player with class prize money at stake, and instead through a TD decision paired up instead. I know the sinking feeling of both the kids on Sunil's team and the kid on your team when they saw the effects of what they felt were flawed pairings, just as I would in my last round hypothetical.

Yet I don't hear you saying that pairings will all work out perfectly always. What I hear you saying is that contested decisions about pairings should be consistent and transparent. That's the key to any TD decision, I believe--consistent and transparent.

Being a TD is a thankless task, and I'm not going to be strident about criticizing TDs. I instead merely suggest that consistent, transparent adjudication is the soul of being an arbiter of anything. Chess is no different.

Anonymous said...

People should not say negative things about other people's kids if they don't want other people to say negative things about their kids. People also shouldn't comment if they don't have all the facts and weren't actually there. Elizabeth's commentary about what happened is not totally accurate and is missing some key facts.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments.

1. First, please note that, as predicted, this blog no longer comes up when you google Spencer's name.

2. If I left out some facts, anon 8:13 am, feel free to state them. I don't think it makes any sense to call me a liar and not say why.

3. I called Benjamin Moon lucky, because they let him keep his tiebreak points even after they changed the result of his second round game. In contrast, James, who also won, originally had his tiebreak points taken away. I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek, but actually not really. (in response to anon May 12 10:16)

4. I don't think I've insulted (or said anything even slightly negative about) anyone's kid. The only thing I said about any kid was Kevin, and that was to call him a "very strong player."

5. I would not and have not criticized anyone's parenting. I think it's inappropriate and unhelpful to do so. But I think the mothers' make themselves look less than reasonable when they call mentioning a pairing "cyber-bullying" or blame me for the situation without providing any rationale for doing so. In what way am I partially responsible for the situation, Mrs. Flanagan?

6. I post this here because I don't think the USCF will do anything about the situation. I do not think the tone of the post is inappropriate. In fact, I think it would be maybe good for kids to see someone who feels aggrieved and chooses to write about it in a calm and factual tone. It's fine if you disagree with that, but there is a lot of terrible stuff on the internet; if you are concerned about your kid's internet use, you should monitor it.

7. I encourage everyone to post under their own name. Anonymous comments turn discussions both nasty and confusing.

Anonymous said...

Weibel says "lets forget about the rulebook" Great argument. what the rule shoul d be is quite diffrent to what you believe it should be. The TD needs to enforce existing rules, not what the rule should be.

If you are arguing that in the future players should not be re-paired, I might agree. However, once they are re-paired, which was done in EVERY nationals in EVERY section.....how can you still argue that the results shouldnt count? If the Weiberl player had defeated James Black in round 1, would you still fell the same way....or is your argument based solely on losing?

Anonymous said...

"She has felt that she has had unlucky pairings at the Nationals every year..."

This comment is quite revealing.

Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with Ms. Vicary - except for her use of repairing over re-pairing.

Kapalik

Anonymous said...

Sunil W. does have a nasty reputation and seems ultra-aggressive. I wonder if some of that has rubbed into his step-son and could explain similar behavior by him.

Kapalik

Anonymous said...

Ms. Vicary:

I believe some of the comments posted were not directed at you, but at others who posted comments.

Weibel_Room1 said...

Weibel says "lets forget about the rulebook" Great argument. what the rule shoul d be is quite diffrent to what you believe it should be. The TD needs to enforce existing rules, not what the rule should be.

If you are arguing that in the future players should not be re-paired, I might agree. However, once they are re-paired, which was done in EVERY nationals in EVERY section.....how can you still argue that the results shouldnt count? If the Weiberl player had defeated James Black in round 1, would you still fell the same way....or is your argument based solely on losing?


well the issue is one of ignorance on my part, and I mean it in a non-negative context. I had zero idea that the re-paring rule existed. None of our coaching staff knew either, and the head coach is a well-known and respected coach nationwide. The only time I have ever seen re-pairings done in the first round is at smaller events, where they are more or less considered to be practice tournaments and kids should play all games and not sit out. After I had expected my kid to be out within an hour or so and not seeing him out until well over 3 hours later, he had explained to me that he got re-paired with the top seed. We thought that that was crazy, to have someone near the top quarter match up with the top seed in the very first round, when noboby else got the same similar "privilege", so we all assumed that it was an extra-rated game. So that was our argument going in. Once the decision was made after Round 1, whether correct or incorrect, should have stood. That was where everything went wrong, since pairings in subsequent rounds were based on the results of Round 1.

Whether my kid won or lost was a completely moot point - our thought was that he should get a forfeit point regardless because his opponent did not show up. End of story. I only knew about the re-pairing rule after asking Franc just before Round 4 when my kid lost a point.

Mark Ginsburg said...

In round one, eight players did not show up, including the opponent of my student, James Black (2070). James was repaired with Kevin M** (1450), who was 250 points stronger than the original opponent. James won, but we noticed in the standings that his win was recorded as a forfeit. No one came to us to explain why this played game was not being counted. John Galvin, my school’s assistant principal went to inquire, and was told that Sunil had complained about the repairings and that floor chief Wayne Clark (the same section chief who misapplied the en passant and touch move rules in the last round on a top board at the high school nationals two years ago) had “felt” the rule was unfair and decided not to count 3 of the 4 already played games for the tournament. The fourth game he allowed to stand. (The three games that were not counted would be rated as a separate tournament.)


A TD can't do that. He should be put on probation and there should be a specific rule that this can't happen. Rated re-paired games have to stand in a tournament.

It would also be good to yellow-card abusive complainants. If they keep up their nonsense, red-card them (ban them from the playing room and the TD room and the hallways between). Violation of the red-card leads to their students forfeiting.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

The repairing rule is described in the scorebook they give the kids-- bottom of the first rules page to top of the second.

Anonymous said...

u realize almost no one would comment if they had to put their name

Check2Check said...

Sounds like a whole lot of corruption, ineptness and ego mixed together with a few dashes of urgency. It's kind of interesting how a persons true character is oftentimes revealed in crises. Anyway it really sounds like the whole structure needs to be overhauled from the frame up. Sounds like a job for Greg Shahade.

Oh way to stand your ground and fight for what's right btw!

anjiaoshi said...

I have Sunil Weeramantry's Best Lessons of a Chess Coach and find it to be an excellent book -- very well-written and appropriate for players who think sequentially rather than in mental images. From what I've read here, I'd like to express my wholehearted wish that he take a long break from scholastic coaching to write more books.

Steve Immitt said...

The downside to getting a forfeit win is that the player gets no tiebreaks for that round. If he or she was in the top half of the tournament, he would probably have won the game against a real opponent anyway, and then would receive tiebreak points for that game as well.

Maybe a slight adjustment in the tiebreak rules might help. In the first round (the only round to allow repairings), a forfeit win receives the same tiebreak points as a player scoring an even score. In the Nationals, that means that players who get 1-F in Round 1 would get 3.5 Median tiebreak points, the same tiebreaks as if their first round opponents scored 3.5-3.5. In the normal first-round pairings, that might not be that far off from the averagae tiebreaks for the opponents of the players in the top half anyway.

Under this system, the players in the bottom half might be expected to get more tiebreaks from their higher-rated opponents than just an even score. but the lower-rated players who win on forfeit in the first round would not have been expected to win against a higher-rated opponent.

This would need to be coded into the pairing software, but that shouldn't be insurmountable.

This doesn't address the issue of whether repairings should be done in the first place, but at least it offers a slightly bigger upside if you wanted to consider not doing them.


Steve Immitt

Anonymous said...

This is all well and good, but let's stay focused on important matters - did you get your teeth extra sharp?

Anonymous said...

anon. 3:12 are you frickin serious?

J.A. Topfke said...

This is all your fault, Vicary! (just joking)

There shouldn't be re-pairings in the first round, at least not in the Championship section.

That point aside, Guadalupe is an incompetent, as are most (but not all) of the people involved in running these tournaments. To make or support a bizarre decision without consulting a rule book simply radiates with incompetence.

Anonymous said...

i hate guadalupe. he shouldnt be working for the uscf.

Anonymous said...

This conversation has faded. All I can say is that it's been about time... It was a stupid topic to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I think this was an interesting topic even though I am not involved in the scholastic chess community. I'm glad this controversy was brought to light.

Anonymous said...

We should just thank God Justus Williams is the 2010 K-6 National Champion. Because if it had been any of the kids involved in this issue, it would have probably ended up on the news lol. Congratulations Justus ! He had some really tough pairings almost every round and is a very talented player. Keep up the great work 318

Anonymous1 said...

This is somewhat flogging a dead horse by now, but it seems Sophia's pairing violated section 18.3 of the USCF National Scholastic Chess Tournament Regulations which states in part :
"Players from the same state shall not be paired together in the first round unless more than 50% of the players in a section are from the same state."

See http://main.uschess.org/images/stories/scholastic_chess_resources/NationalScholasticTournamentRegulations.revSept2009.red.pdf

This does not seem to have been the case for any of the other games
however.