One of the attractions at this weekend’s Yeovil Congress was seeing the latest addition to the English Ladies Olympiad Team, Sarah Hegarty, in action. Going into the final round, she was well-placed, a half point clear of the field, needing only a draw against 13 yr old Felix Ynojosa to be sure of being clear 1st and a prize of £240.
However, she arrived at the board 10 minutes late, rattled off some opening moves, but 15 minutes later her mobile phone went off in her handbag. Felix was untroubled by this and wished to play on, but disqualification in these circumstances is not discretionary – it’s automatic, FIDE having incorporated the rule in the Laws of Chess. So, without much effort on his part, Felix leapfrogged her into an unassailable 1st place.
Sarah was naturally chastened by the experience, but not too upset – it had never happened to her before, and presumably after this, won’t happen again.
Incidents like this are not unusual – they have happened before at all levels. The ubiquitous mobile phone, which has quickly evolved into a miracle in miniature, can be both a boon and a curse to its owner. They are too valuable and “transportable” to be left at a reception area, so must be kept in one’s possession. The majority of chessplayers now have them, and one can imagine what a nightmare it would be if a laissez faire attitude to their use was adopted during play. FIDE have had to be firm, and have introduced an immediate red card penalty. Everyone knows it, of course, but these things are now so small and fiddly that one can think it has been turned off when in fact it hasn’t. In an ideal world, it should be checked, and then checked again.