Forfeit in Chess

by Bill Wall


In 1882, James Mason (1849-1905) became the first person to forfeit a chess game by losing on time.  It happed at Vienna where everyone played with a chess timing piece.

In 1889, James Mason lost to David Baird at a chess tournament in New York after 8 moves.  Mason had visited a barroom just before the game and was unable to play any further because he was too drunk.

In 1895 at Hastings, William Steinitz was about to checkmate Curt von Bardeleben.  Bardeleben, rather than resigning, got up from his chair and left the room.  He didn’t come back.  Tournament official found him outside the hall pacing angrily.  He would not return to the game and 50 minutes later, Bardeleben was forfeited and Steinitz won the game on time.

In 1913, at Schevenigen, Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) lost his game to Frederick Yates after failing to show up an hour after the game had started.  Someone telephoned the hotel in time to reach Breyer, but the message came back that Breyer had left the hotel and was on his way.  It turned out afterwards that the hotel person who received the message mistook Alekhine for Breyer (they looked alike), so nothing else could be done but let the clock run out.  Breyer said afterwards that he would never stay with Alekhine at the same hotel.  In the same tournament, Arnold van Foreest forfeited his game against Alekhine when he did not show up.

In 1927, at Kecskemet, Hans Muller waited until it was time to seal a move.  Instead of sealing a move, he wrote “I resign” on his scoresheet and never showed up for his adjourned game.  He forfeited his game.

In 1935, at the Warsaw Chess Olympiad, Isaias Pleci (1900-1980) of Argentina claimed his game on time forfeit against Miguel Najdorf.  Najdorf made his move just before time control, but before he could press the button on the chess clock, Pleci picked up the chess clock and ran away with it.  Pleci said he could not forcible stop Najdorf from making his move and writing it down on his scoresheet.  The arbiters were unable to determine who was telling the truth, so they let the chess clock decide the issue.  Najdorf lost the game on time and forfeited.

In 1939, the Intercollegiate chess title went to CCNY when Yeshiva failed to show up for the last match and lost on forfeit.

In 1942, the flag of Samuel Reshevsky’s clock fell against Arnold Denker in the U.S. chess championship in New York.  This should have resulted in Reshevsky forfeiting and losing on time.  However, the tournament director, Walter Stephens, who was standing behind the clock, flipped it around and, looking at Reshevsky’s side of the clock, now appearing as if it was Denker’s side of the clock, announced that Denker lost on time.  He refused to correct his error explaining, “Does Kemesaw Mountain Landis reverse himself?”  The crowd demonstrated its disapproval with boos and jeers.  Denker filed a protest as Reshevsky was not keeping his own score and the players were using a battered chess clock that had no flag indicators.  If there were no flag indicators, how did Stephens know who lost on time?  The erroneous ruling allowed Reshevsky to tie for 1st place with Isaac Kashdan.  Reshevsky then won the play-off match to become U.S. champion six months later.

In 1957, International Master Donald Byrne was playing Samuel Reshevsky in a match.  The referee, Hans Kmoch, was watching the game.  In the first game, both players got in time trouble, and Byrne’s flag fell, which should have forfeited Byrne.  All the spectators, as well as Hans Kmoch, saw the flag fell but no one said anything.  Reshevsky, who was not paying attention to the clock, then offered Byrne a draw, which Byrne accepted right away (he knew his flag fell).  After the agreed draw, Kmoch then told Reshevsky that he could have claimed a win on time forfeit.  Resheveky then replied, “I claim it.”  But it was too late.  In the second game, Byrne’s flag fell first, and then Reshevsky’s flag fell.  Neither player had noticed that the other‘s flag had fallen.  Seated in the front row was Mrs. Reshevsky who suddenly rose to her feet and shouted, “I claim the game on behalf of my husband.”  Samuel Reshevsky, who heard this and now noticed the fallen flags, made a claim of his own.  Then Byrne, seeing Reshevsky’s flag down, made his own claim.  The matter was referred to a committee for a ruling, which Byrne protested and temporarily resigned the match.  Reshevsky’s claims to both the first and second games and Byrne’s claim to the second game were all disallowed.  Play eventually resumed and Reshevsky won the match.

In 1961, Bobby Fischer forfeited Game 12 against Sammy Reshevsky over a scheduling conflict.  Fischer then withdrew from the match and resigned in protest.  At the time, the match was tied after 11 games.  The 12th game was scheduled for a Saturday, but was pushed forward to Sunday afternoon, due to Reshevsky’s unwillingness to play on the Sabbath.  However, Mrs. Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the sponsors of the match, had a Sunday afternoon commitment that she didn't want to miss (her husband was performing in a concert), and so intervened to have the game scheduled for Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon. Reshevsky agreed to play then, Fischer didn't want to, and so sat in his hotel room as his clock ran out, deliberately forfeiting the game.  Eventually, Fischer took the matter into the courts and sued Reshevsky over the incident.

In January 1962, Lisa Lane forfeited her games from a tournament in Hastings, saying she was homesick and in love and could not concentrate.

In 1962, Mikhail Tal forfeited his games in the Candidates tournament at Curacao due to illness.  He had undergone a major operation shortly before the tournament and had to withdraw three-quarters of the way through.

In 1966, Walter Browne failed to show up in one of his games against Paul Robey in the US Junior championship and forfeited a game and lost the play-off.

In August 1967, Bobby Fischer forfeited his game against Milorad Knezevic in Skopje, Yugoslavia.  However, he appealed and was able to play the game.

At the Sousse Interzonal in 1967, Bobby Fischer asked for a free day to ease his tough chess schedule due to postponements.  After his demand was not met, Fischer did not show up for his game against Aivars Gipslis, and was forfeited.  Gipslis did not want to win on forfeit and wanted to play Fischer at Fischer’s convenience.  But Soviet officials told Gipslis he was not to play Fischer and to take the win on forfeit.  Fischer forfeited a second game, then withdrew from the tournament.

In 1970, Oscar Panno forfeited his game with Bobby Fischer at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal.  Fischer played 1.c4 and went to find Panno, not wanting to win on forfeit.  Panno eventually came to the board, but did not make a move and lost on time.  Panno refused to play to protest the organizers’ rescheduling of the game to accommodate Fischer’s desire not to play on his religion’s (Worldwide Church of God) Sabbath on Saturday.

In 1970, at the chess Olympiad in Skopje, Yugoslavia, Viktor Korchnoi overslept and missed his round against Spain, forfeiting his game.  The round started at 3 pm and Korchnoi showed up after 4 pm.

In 1971 Robert Huebner forfeited his quarterfinal candidates match against Tigran Petrosian in Seville, Spain because he said the playing conditions were too noisy.  Petrosian won the match with 1 win and 6 draws.

In 1972, at the World Student Team championship in Graz, Austria, German Grandmaster Robert Huebner was playing American GM Ken Rogoff.  Huebner did not want to play the round so that he could rest as he still had several adjourned games to play.  So he played 1.c4 and offered Rogoff a draw after the first move.  Rogoff accepted.  Both players signed their score sheets and presented them to the tournament director, who refused to accept a one move draw.  So the players went back to the board and played a game where they sacrificed all their pieces, leaving just kings.  Again they signed their score sheets and handed them in to the T.D.  The matter then went to the tournament committee, which threatened to declare a double forfeit unless the players apologized and sat down to play a real game.  Rogoff agreed, but Huebner refused to comply and was forfeited.  The Russians wanted a double-forfeit, but Huebner insisted that he alone bore the penalty.

In 1972, Fischer forfeited his second game against Boris Spassky in the World Chess Championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Fischer demanded that all cameras in the playing area be removed.  When they were not, he refused to appear for Game 2, giving a default win to Spassky.

In 1975, Bobby Fischer forfeited his world champion title to Anatoly Karpov by refusing to play a world championship match.  Fischer demanded that the match be won by the first player to win 10 games, with no limit to the number of games.  The champion would retain the title in the event of a 9-9 score.  FIDE’s rules were a limit of 24 games, and the reigning champion retain the title in the event of a 12-12 tie.

At the 1976 World Open in New York, a stronger player used the identity of a weaker friend in one of the lower sections.  The stronger player was winning all his games until his identity was found out.  Director Bill Goichberg had a talk with the person who forfeited the rest of his games and left the tournament.

In 1980, Robert Huebner forfeited his Candidates Match with Viktor Korcnoi due to a dispute over intolerable conditions.

In 1982, the Ugandian chess team forfeited their first round match at the 1982 chess Olympiad in Lucerne, Switzerland because they showed up late.  They went to the wrong city, thinking the chess Olympiad was at Lugano, Switzerland instead of Lucerne, Switzerland.  Lugano was the home of the 1968 chess Olympiad.

In 1983, Kasparov forfeited his match against Viktor Korchnoi, which was supposed to be played in Pasadena, California.    The decision was later reversed and the match was played in London, where Kasparov won.

In 1983, Anna Akhsharumova defeated her main competitor, Nana Ioseliani, in the 1983 Soviet Women’s championship.  The next day, Ioseliani filed a protest alleging a malfunction in the clock.  Anna refused to play.  The result of her game was arbitrarily reversed by the All-Union Board of Referees in Moscow, thereby forfeiting her title and ending up in 3rd place.

In 1988, at the Saint John International in Canada, GM Kamran Shirazi was forfeited while he pondered his next move.  An arbiter reminded him of his obligation to record the moves of the game when not in time pressure.  Shirazi forgot to write down the last move and a half.  Under FIDE rules, players must keep score unless under extreme time pressure.  Shirazi had ½ hour on his clock.  Shirazi was reminded again, and he balked, arguing he would think first and write later.  The arbiter then deducted 5 minutes from Shirazi’s clock.  Shirazi then stormed over to another arbiter for second opinion.  By now, he was forfeited and the appeals committee upheld the arbiter’s decision to remind Shirazi and deducting 5 minutes from his clock.

In July 1993, an unrated African-American player named John von Neumann (the name of a famous computer science pioneer) was accused of cheating in the Open section of the World Open after defeating a 2350-rated player and drawing his game with a grandmaster.  The player wore headphones and seemed to have a suspicious bulge in one of his pockets, which appeared to be making noises at important points of the game.  When he was quizzed by Bill Goichberg, the tournament director, he was unable to demonstrate very much knowledge in some simple chess concepts.  He was accused of using a chess computer and cheating and his games were forfeited.  He was never seen again.

In 1996, during the 12th European Cup at Budapest, the Israeli team withdrew to protest its 6-0 forfeit to another team that refused to alter the playing schedule from 2 p.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday in order to finish their games before sundown.  Orthodox Jews are forbidden to work or even write down chess moves on their Sabbath.

In 1999, world woman champion Susan Polgar refused to accept the match conditions between her and Xie Jun, and forfeited her title.  She did not want to play the world championship match in China.

In 2002, at the World Open in Philadelphia, a Russian player was caught going outside and getting advice from another player.  His opponent followed the Russian player outside and caught him speaking in Russian to the same man intently watching the game.  They had been discussing the last move of the game, which was heard by 30-40 onlookers.  The Russian then said he would forfeit his game.

In October 2003, Russian GM Ruslan Ponomariov and former world champion became the first grandmaster to forfeit a chess game because of his mobile phone.  It rang during his game in round 1 of the European Team Championship in Bulgaria.  He lost his game to Swedish GM Evgeny Agrest (who lost a game in 2004 when his cell phone rang) in his Ukrainian team match versus Sweden.  Ponomariov protested and refused to sign the scoresheets indicating his loss.

In 2004, Evgeny Agrest was forfeited in his game when his cell phone rang.  Was it Ponomariov calling?

In 2004, top seed Christine Castellano was playing in the Philippine Women’s National Chess Championship when her cell phone rang.  The rest of her games were forfeited and she was disqualified from the event.

In 2006, GM Vladimir Kramnik was forfeited his 5th game of the match against Veselin Topalov in the world championship match in Russia.  Kramnik arrived for the game and discovered that his bathroom was locked.  He staged a sit-in outside of the bathroom and, after an hour, FIDE forfeited the game to Toplaov.  Topalov had earlier filed a written protest with the organizers charging that Kramnik was going to his private bathroom too many times during the games.  The insinuation was that Kramnik might be cheating by consulting a computer while in the bathroom, the only room with no cameras.

In 2006, at the World Open in Philadelphia, Steve Rosenberg  was leading before the final round in one of the sections.  He was playing for $18,000 if he won his last round.  But he was caught using a wireless transmitter and receiver in his ear (Rosenberg claimed it was a hearing aid).  His last game was forfeited and he was disqualified from the event.

In January 2008, GM Ben Finegold won his game at the Mid America Open chess tournament when his opponent’s cell phone went off during their game, and he was forfeited.

In 2008, Ivan Cheparinov forfeited his game with Nigel Short at the Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee when he refused to shake hands.  The decision was later overturned.  Short ended up winning the game.

In August 2008, a chess player in Malaysia forfeited and lost a chess game because his phone rang due to a birthday reminder.

In September 2008, GM Nigel Short (2655) lost a chess game in the second round of the European Union Individual Open after his cell phone beeped (it did not ring) because it was low on battery power.  He forfeited his game to Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (2448) from Scotland after 26 moves.  The Nokia cell phone had been a gift from a sponsor at a previous chess tournament and Short had only started using it.  Short actually turned off his cell phone, but there was a ring tone that went off when the phone had a low batter.  The phone played a theme to remind the owner to charge it.  Short was unaware that the cell phone beeped when it was low on battery power.

In 2009 at a Chinese tournament, Wang Chen and Lu Shanglei both lost a game in which they played no moves, but agreed to a draw with each other.  The chief arbiter declared both players were forfeited.

In 2009, at the World Chess Cup in Russia, two top Chinese grandmasters, Wang Yue and Li Chao, showed up a few minutes late for their tie-breaker games and was forfeited.  They were late because they took a break to go out and smoke a cigarette.  The forfeits cost Wang and Li their matches, and they had to go home.

In 2009, Aleksander Delchev of Bulgaria lost against Stuart Conquest of England when Delchev’s cell phone rang at the 2009 European Team Championship, leading to an immediate forfeit of the game.

In September 2009, French Grandmaster Vladiislav Tkachiev appeared for his round 3 game at Kolkata in an intoxicated state.  He could hardly sit in his chair.  He fell asleep during the game a number of times, resting his head on the table, Attempts to wake him up appeared futile.  He was ultimately declared the loser after 15 moves.  He had to be carried off.  He forfeited his game to Praveen Kumar.

At the 2010 chess Olympiad, the Yemeni team forfeited all their games and lost scored 0-4 after refusing to sit down across from the Israeli team.

In 2011, Grandmaster Eshan Ghaem Maghami was disqualified from a chess tournament in Corsica after he refused to play his 4th round opponent, Israeli FIDE master Ehud Shachar.

In 2012, the Berkeley team forfeited their games in the US Amateur team championship when they got disconnected from the Internet.

In 2012, six players from Soviet Georgia were all forced to forfeit their games at the 13th European Individual championship.  They failed to arrive at the boards on time after setting their clocks wrong at Daylight Savings Time.

In 2012, Grandmaster Mamedyarov was forfeited his game at the European Chess Championship when he arrived at his board 10 seconds after the officially stated start time.  Later, he and his opponent were forfeited for agreeing to a draw in 19 moves.  Mamedyarov then immediately quit the tournament and left.

In 2013, Peruvian Jorge Cori was two minutes late to his game and was forfeited at the World Chess Cup.  Cori has misheard the start time of 6:15 as 6:50 and forfeited round 1.

In 2013, Borislav Ivanov was forfeited for not taking off his shoes when asked during a tournament at Blagoevrad.  Before the tournament, all participants had agreed to undergo such procedures.  Ivanov refused to do this, saying he had smelly socks. 

In April 2015, GM Wesley So was forfeited against Varuzhab Akobian in the 9th round of the US championship after 6 moves for writing notes to himself.  So was reminded twice not to take notes and that a third violation would result in forfeiture.  So continued to take notes on a separate piece of paper and was forfeited by the arbiter Tony Rich.