Contact players who are absent at start of round?

Scenario: the start time of a tournament round arrives, some players are not (yet) present, and their opponents have started their clocks. Is it proper or even legal for the TD to contact the missing players to ask if they’re on their way?

There’s been a running discussion at our club over the propriety or legality of this idea. Supporters of doing this say that it’s simply a courtesy to the missing player in case he forgot or if something unexpected came up, and add that there are no provisions in the USCF rulebook prohibiting this practice.

Opponents counter that contacting a player who has not arrived constitutes the same kind of TD interference in the outcome of the game that is prohibited in other circumstances, such as calling a player’s flag or declaring threefold repetition without being asked to, and so contacting the player runs against the spirit of these rules.

In case it makes a difference, bear in mind that ours is a weeknight community club with many members of long good standing who generally consider one another as friends. Our tournaments run one night a week, usually one round per night, and people drive up to an hour to play at the club.

A compromise might be for the TD to ask the player who is present if it’s all right to try to contact the missing opponent.

What do you think – is it kosher to text a player who hasn’t arrived for that night’s round?

At a club I belonged to the TD paired only players that checked in or showed up on time. Would that work for you?

In weekend scholastic tournaments held in a school it is normal in my stretch of the woods to send runners to the various rooms assigned to schools (and the common skittles room) with reminders that the next round has started.

For weekly events with one round per week and a long drive time I can understand the desirability of either checking shortly before pairing the round to see if somebody will not be there or shortly after the round to see if somebody will not be coming (allowing either a quicker forfeiture claim so that somebody can get home earlier in the evening or an extra rated game between players with absent opponents).

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There’s nothing in the rulebook to prohibit the TD from contacting players absent from their boards at the start of a round, whether they’re elsewhere on-site or off-site.

With cell phones and email, it’s far easier now than it was years ago, too.

But I have also used the ‘pair only those present’ policy for one-game-a-week events, making it clear in the pre-game publicity that it would be used.

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Thanks, that’s an interesting idea. I’ll pass it along. But one of our TDs prefers to post the pairings ahead of time, in the interest of getting the round going as soon as possible, and he may not want to hold off on doing the pairings.

That same TD supports the idea of contacting the missing players. In your view, would you say that this doesn’t run against either the spirit or the letter of the rules?

Agreed. If there are two players waiting for their opponents to arrive, we’d rather pair them with each other (if necessary as an extra rated game) than make two people who are present just sit around for an hour.
We just want to make sure that this is OK to do under the rules.

I’m getting the sense that the experts have no real issue with contacting players who are missing – thanks!

We’re thinking of adopting a house rule with a 30-minute forfeit time, or 60 minutes if the player contacts us or we contact them and they say they’re running late.

(BTW apologies for not putting all my replies together in a single post. This is the first time I’m using the new forum software and I have a lot to learn.)

Your method will work well in a Club situation. The real problem is when a TD checks on a late player and there are $$ or a title at stake–and the missing player is an associate of the TD.

That could become a concern. The club has been growing thanks to an enhanced online presence, and so we’ve been getting new participants who don’t have a history with us and could end up taking something like this the wrong way.

How about if we made it a policy to ask the player who’s present if the TD may contact the missing opponent?

Sure, why not?

Nonsense. Nobody wants to sit around and win by forfeit. It is reasonable (normally) to assume that a player would want the TD to step in here.

The exception might be if the player will win money if a high-rated opponent doesn’t show. In that case the player conceivably might prefer a no-show opponent. Even then, though, a TD might want to consider trying to contact the opponent, for the good of the tournament. Otherwise the player may be getting an unfair advantage over other players with the same score who still have to struggle against their high-rated opponents.

Bill Smythe

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That might work at the club level very well.

It makes sense if your club policy is going to be that you do NOT call if the opponent doesn’t agree. Otherwise, it doesn’t. Given the statements above indicating there is nothing in the rules keeping the TD from making the call, wouldn’t this policy grant power to the opponent which they do not possess in the rules?

That’s the scenario that has come up in our internal discussion about contacting a missing opponent. Does the player who’s present want the prize, or the challenge?

I guess the bottom line is that while there are no hard-and-fast rules, the most prudent policy is to be consistent about it, whichever way we go (calling or not calling).

Good point, we hadn’t thought of that. I think the assumption all along has been that we would honor the preference of the player who is present. But we could put a notice in our tournament flyers and TLAs that if a player is late, we will try to contact them.

Thanks! @Mulfish’s point about giving the opponent power they don’t have in the rules does give me pause, though. Maybe the best policy would be to announce ahead of time that we’ll try to contact the missing player, how does that sound?

Hey Jorge - In our area there is always heavy traffic (metro DC), so I always give folks 15-20 mins leeway, then call/text to see if I can figure out what’s up (contact info is part of reg). And some folks I know are always running late. For later rounds, USCF rules have a SOP, so use that. Any whiff of gamesmanship gets folks a discussion, and possibly a warning - have never had to go to the penalty phase. Its all handled matter-of-fact in my club/events. Anyone who has an issue with it, moves on (its like loaning someone $10 and they never pay you back - its the price of getting them out of your hair/events). Everyone else appreciates the due diligence.

Well, I think whatever method is chosen is a minor variation at best (not sure if the game has started if only one player has shown up). As such, it should be adequate to post signs to that effect around the site.

I’m worried, though, about what “as soon as possible” means. If the round starts at 7, you can require players to be there by 6:55 or even 6:50 or 6:45 to be paired. It should take only a minute to pair and post if the TD is ready to assess byes in advance. Or do we mean that if I arrive at 6:30 and my opponent arrives at 6:38 our 7:00 game is expected to begin at 6:38?

An ASAP schedule has pairings made for the next round the moment all the results have been entered and validated. Then they are posted and players are rounded up to play, with the round often started once at least 75% of the games can start (clocks only started in those games with other games starting once both players arrive - maybe five minutes after the first game starts is the point to start clocks in games with missing opponents).

I get the feeling that Jorge is simply saying that he wants the games to start on time and the club generally has people milling around and setting up for maybe five to fifteen minutes after the pairings are posted. In that case a 7 PM start time would require pairings posted by 6:45 PM to still be able to start on time.

In some scholastic events parents don’t want their kids sitting long with missing opponents and thus they wait until the last moment to bring their kids in, with the resulting crush causing a delayed start. I’ve addressed that by finishing my announcements maybe five minutes before the scheduled start and then allowing any game with both players there to start early if they both agree. It gets the last-second parents to bring their kids in earlier and to get everything started on time.

Thank you, that makes sense.

Sorry for the delay in replying, it’s been a hectic week at work. I’ve only had a brief chance to look in the USCF rulebook, but didn’t find anything real quick about contacting players who are running late in the later rounds?

When we do Game/30 quads (always in the evening, we meet on a weeknight), we post the pairings for the next round as soon as possible. Fortunately, we haven’t yet run into the problem where a player left the playing site between rounds and is nowhere to be seen for the next round. Typically, our problem is with people running late for the first (or only) round of the night.

But we’re thinking of running Saturday quads, where a lot of scholastic players and their parents could show up. If we do, I’ll definitely take your advice about making announcements 5 minutes before the scheduled start.