Death by ring­tone

All mo­bile de­vices are banned from chess tour­na­ments.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - QUAH SENG SUN

IF YOU had been watch­ing the fi­nal round of the Chess Olympiad live via the In­ter­net from Khanty Man­siysk on Sun­day, you would have no­ticed some­thing amiss in the match be­tween Malaysia and Bahrain.

I was greatly puz­zled while watch­ing Mas Hafizul­helmi’s game. Al­though he was play­ing with the black pieces, he had at­tained a com­fort­able po­si­tion af­ter 80 min­utes of play. The game was tran­si­tion­ing from the open­ing stage to the mid­dle game and it was start­ing to get ex­cit­ing when it ended abruptly and a loss ap­peared against our player’s name.

Of course, I couldn’t see what was hap­pen­ing in Khanty Man­siysk. All of us who were logged into the Chess Olympiad web server could only see this ter­mi­nated chess board po­si­tion with the ter­ri­ble 1-0 score.

To make mat­ters worse, I could see that Mok Tze Meng, Peter Long and Gre­gory Lau were all still play­ing as nor­mal. Was there some­thing wrong in Khanty Man­siysk? I was hop­ing that per­haps there was a prob­lem with the or­gan­iser’s chess dis­play soft­ware. But what if there was no prob­lem and Mas Hafizul had in­deed lost his game?

To cut a long story short, our team man­aged to beat Bahrain but it was by the slimmest of mar­gin. Long played out his game to a draw and then Lau uncorked a tac­ti­cal sur­prise to bring in a point and keep the match level. Then, Mok set­tled mat­ters with a win as well.

But what hap­pened in Mas Hafizul’s game? It was not un­til about two days later that word fil­tered back from Khanty Man­siysk that he had fallen vic­tim to what many chess play­ers call the dreaded Nokia Gam­bit: a mo­bile phone go­ing off dur­ing a tour­na­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the rules of chess, all mo­bile de­vices are banned from tour­na­ments. If any mo­bile de­vice – and this in­cludes a mo­bile phone – were to sound dur­ing play, the of­fend­ing player would lose the game im­me­di­ately.

Since 2003, many chess play­ers have found out to their re­gret that the ring­ing mo­bile phone would spell in­stant death. In that year, for­mer Fide world cham­pion Rus­lan Pono­mar­iov was the high-pro­file of­fender when his mo­bile rang dur­ing a game. It was his 20th birth­day and some­one had called him to wish him with­out know­ing that his game was go­ing on.

Two years ago, in an­other tour­na­ment, Nigel Short suf­fered the same fate when his new mo­bile phone too­tled when it ran out of bat­tery juice. An­other im­me­di­ate loss.

And in be­tween those two cel­e­brated cases, count­less other play­ers have also lost their games to a ring­ing mo­bile. But chess play­ers are get­ting smarter. They now re­mem­ber to turn their mo­bile to the silent mode be­fore sit­ting down at the chess board. Mas Hafizul, it seemed, had also done so. He con­firmed hav­ing put his mo­bile into silent mode.

How­ever, he did not reckon on his mo­bile phone’s alarm go­ing off. Ap­par­ently, it doesn’t mat­ter whether or not a mo­bile phone is in silent mode. When it’s time for the alarm to go off, it will. Mas Hafizul had set his alarm to go off daily at 12.20pm be­cause he wanted to be re­minded of lunch time. Un­for­tu­nately, the fi­nal round of the Chess Olympiad had started ear­lier at 11am in­stead of the usual 3pm.

Eighty min­utes into his game, amidst all the si­lence in the vast tour­na­ment hall, Mas Hafizul’s mo­bile sud­denly woke up at 12.20pm.

That ex­plained why, af­ter only 23 moves and in an oth­er­wise strong po­si­tion, the Malaysian team sud­denly found them­selves one game down. It wasn’t that our player was out­played. No, he just be­came the lat­est vic­tim of the dreaded mo­bile phone. White: Mok Tze Meng (Malaysia) Black: Khalil Bukha­laf (Bahrain)

1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 6. g3 Bf5 7. Bg2 e6 8. O-O Bg7 9. Re1 O-O 10. d4 Nd7 11. c4 Nb6 12. Qb3 Qd7 13. a4 Rfd8 14. a5 Nc8 15. Bf4 Ne7 16. Ra4 Ng6 17. Bd2 Rab8 18. Bc3 e5 19. Raa1 exd4 20. Bxd4 b6 21. Qc3 Qd6 22. c5 bxc5 23. Bxc5 Qc7 24. Nd4 Bd7 25. a6 Bf8 26. Bxf8 Kxf8 27. Bxc6 Rdc8 28. Rac1 Bxc6 29. Qa3+ Kg7 30. Rxc6 Qd7 31. Rd6 Qc7 32. Qf3 Rb6 33. Qxf6+ 1-0 (Af­ter 33 ... Kh6 34. Qh4+ Kg7 35. Nf5+ Kg8 36. Qf6, check­mate fol­lows.) White: Gre­gory Lay (Malaysia) Black: Hu­sain Ayyad (Bahrain)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 d6 3. g3 Nbd7 4. Bg2 e5 5. c4 g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. O-O O-O 9. Qc2 c6 10. Rd1 Qc7 11. b3 Re8 12. Ba3 e4 13. Nd2 e3 14. fxe3 Ng4 15. Nf1 Qa5 16. Bb2 Nc5 (The start of an un­for­tu­nate ad­ven­ture) 17. h3 Nxe3 18. Nxe3 Rxe3 19. b4 (An ab­so­lute spiffy tac­ti­cal shot which Black did not see com­ing) 19…Qxb4 20. Rd8+ Bf8 21. Qd2 Re7 22. Nd5 Rxe2 23. Nf6+ Kg7 24. Nh5+ Kg8 25. Rxf8+ 1-0 (It’s check­mate af­ter 25…Kxf8 26. Qd8+ Re8 27. Bg7+ Kg8 28. Qxe8.)

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