Halt’s Maul!

 At a tournament in Germany in the early 20th century, spectators were give a 60-page book entitled How to Watch a Chess Game. Each page contained only one sentence: Halt’s Maul! (Shut your mouth!). – Apocryphal

As often happens, the round started and all was quiet at the Denver Chess Club. Almost.

Our truly beloved tournament director is a basso profundo. In the long, high-ceilinged basement event room of our hosting church, a room designed for acoustics, what our TD calls a whisper rattles the windows. “Are you two having an interesting conversation?” I finally called out. Abashed, the two decamped for the analysis room.

I turned back to the board and sought the calm center, but still managed to play the weak 5. d6-d5. Fortunately, I was not entirely tuned out of chess and into sound distractions and won the game over my rapidly improving category 2 opponent.

After the round, another expert player commented, “You could wear earphones.”

“Why should I?” I smiled. “It’s hard to count the number of times I’ve delivered the boilerplate speech to my elementary school chess students: ‘You’re not children at a chess tournament, you are full equals with your adult competitors under the Laws of Chess. But it comes with a price, which is that you must observe those Laws and exhibit the manners of chess players. You must not make a disturbance, hardly a sound in the tournament hall.’

“My students learn over time to be silent when the Tournament Director speaks and to maintain silence except for necessary declarations such as j’adoube during the round. After training them on Tuesday afternoons, I come down to the Denver Chess Club and witness players ranging in age from their 20’s to their 70’s babbling on while the TD is trying to make announcements. Then the TD himself, week after week, forgets himself and rumbles  in the nave.

“If my kids can behave themselves for me, so can the Denver Chess Club!”

Jacques Delaguerre