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.
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.