Sportsmanship in Chess

I have had many chess games in which my opponent did something that was not quite sporting. I remember seeing and hearing about other occasions while I was in high school. I heard a story about a friend of mine who was playing in a rated event.  A fight broke out near him and my friend had to move around to the side of the table that his opponent was sitting at in order to finish his game. There was a player in the Tampa area that has schizophrenia. The player’s behavior was often annoying, but he was a strong player otherwise. Many of the other players in the Tampa area would push the buttons of the schizophrenic player in order to get him to act out and thus be kicked out of the tournament. We did have to suspend him from play for a couple of months because of complaints about his behavior. Why aggravate someone that you know is unstable? That is extremely poor sportsmanship! I also helped to run a scholastic event in which the player who lost claimed a win. The organizer tried to get the cheater to admit his lie and ended up with the real winner withdrawing from the tournament because he was too upset to play! I truly think that parents need to teach their children some ethics and manners! However, some of the parents are just as bad! The father of one boy was accused of intimidating the son of the complaining mother. The accused father had done nothing wrong. He was simply watching his own son play from the far end of the table! Some parents are worse than their children when it comes to bad behavior!

The quote below is from the December 2013 issue of The Check is in the Mail.


In international correspondence play there is an unpleasant form of play known as the Dead Man’s Defense.  The idea is to play quickly at first, gaining a lot of reflection time that then enables the player to delay making any moves for a considerable length of time hoping that the opponent will die or become disinterested and drop out.

This technique does not, or should not, work in USCF correspondence chess. When your opponent is late (7-10 days) and a repeat is sent, contact me.  I will send a late notice to the offending player.  This Late Report carries the possibility of forfeiture, and that will get the game restarted.  Too frequent tardiness may also lead to a forfeiture.  You do not have to suffer the Dead Man’s Defense.”

I have had opponents on ICCF play too quickly in the openings and then stall when they realize that they are losing. One opponent took at least 20 days on every move including forced ones! Another was one move away from being checkmated and refused to move or resign until his clock ran out! I  complained about the stalling to the TD and he admitted that this behavior was “unfriendly”, but he could do nothing about it until his clock expired. When the clock did expire he made a Knight sacrifice which I ignored and checkmated him.

The game below is an example of when I went from winning to losing in just one move. I have lost count of how many times that this has happened! In this case, I was distracted by the mother of my opponent. This distraction was not intentional, though. Her opponent was making illegal moves and she got tired of calling him on it. The assistant TD was trying to settle it, but he failed to take the discussion outside of the playing room and thus the entire room was disrupted for about five minutes. Instead of pausing the clock until this was over, I played on and blundered away my Bishop. I resigned and then complained about the distraction to the TD that was involved.

Mike Serovey

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About Mike Serovey

Mike Serovey, MA, MISM is a USCF certified local chess tournament director, candidate master in correspondence chess and an avid chess player. Mike won the Under 1600 section of the state of Florida chess championship in 1986, won several Walter Muir sections and is currently ranked in the top 100 correspondence chess players in the USA.