The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Franklin Campbell

I wrote on the subject "The Rules Define the Ethics" in my September and November 2003 columns in the APCT News Bulletin. My friend and fellow CC.COM webmaster Ralph Marconi suggested an interesting idea ... ask the readers for examples that may contradict my idea that, unlike real life, chess ethics is completely covered by the rules of play. Following are excerpts from my two columns on this subject. This article is provided so that additional contributions could be made by the Internet cc community before my next column deadline. If you have examples or ideas that fit my challenge below, please email them to me as soon as possible. My deadline is 10 December 2003, but earlier contributions are requested, since I try to finish my column before the deadline arrives.

If you have something to contribute to this discussion I ask that you follow these guidelines:

  1. Keep to the subject, provide a specific example of something that is not against the rules of play (I suggest the ICCF playing rules to keep us all on the same page). Your example should demonstrate something you feel is unethical, even though within the rules of play

  2. Be concise. I don't want to have to throw out a good example because it is too long for my article. I also would prefer to use your exact words and not do any editing. I want to present your example as you state it, but to do so it must be short, clear and to the point.

  3. Sign your email with your correct name and provide your location. If you don't want to give your city/state/country of residence that is acceptable, though I like to include location with name in my column, where possible.

  4. Send it as soon as possible. The closer it is to my deadline when your material arrives the more likely it will be unused or used in a later column. Of course, good ideas sent later will still be useful for future columns, since this is a subject I'll return to more than once. My deadline: 10 December 2003. Your deadline should be considered more like 5 December 2003. Send it to J. Franklin Campbell.

Material that contributes in a useful way to this subject (in my opinion) and that isn't already covered by other contributions will be used in my January 2004 APCT print column and posted at my site later. It's possible I may get material too late for the January column or may get too much to put into a single column. In this case some material may be used in the March 2003 (or a later) column.

- J. Franklin Campbell

The Rules Define the Ethics
by J. Franklin Campbell

(posted 29 November 2003)

I invite readers to review what I've already published on this topic in the APCT News Bulletin (these columns are later posted on this site at APCT Columns). Then, if you have a useful addition to this subject, answer my challenge at the bottom of this page for inclusion in a future column. If you reply by Dec. 5, 2003 I'll try to include your remarks in my next column. Thanks to everyone who can add something useful to this interesting subject.

Following is an excerpt from my column "The Campbell Report" in the Sept-Oct 2003 issue of APCT News Bulletin:

The Rules Define the Ethics

Many will agree with the viewpoint that rules that cannot be effectively enforced should be avoided. Some even say that such rules contribute to undermining respect for the rules. The feeling is that the mark of good rules is effective enforcement. This is a powerful argument. However, there is another viewpoint I would like to express, namely that the rules aren't just a set of laws to enforce, but rather the rules of the game define the game.

For instance, is it ethical to receive advice from another player? This cannot be answered in a vacuum. Recently there have been several on-line contests between experts and teams of consultants, such as Dave Taylor (10th USA Champion) vs. a team made up of visitors to the TCCMB message board and IM John Knudsen vs. Rest of World. Not only was it correct for the team to consult one another, but it was central to the contest. Some players have expressed great pleasure in participating in such a consultation match. How about computer use? There have been a series of matches played using "Advanced Chess", a system allowing a player full access to the chess engine of his choice. No one would argue that these players were being unethical … it was just part of the contest. So, what makes the use of a computer engine or consultation unethical in other circumstances? It is the rules, of course.

Carefully crafted rules will clearly set forth what is legal (ethical) and what is illegal (unethical). Chess is a game, a competition, not life. In real life we are often faced with ethical decisions not covered by laws. A cashier gives us too much change. We think, "this makes up for the times I've received too little change and didn't notice" or some such thing. Is it ethical to keep the extra change? I think not. In OTB our chess opponent doesn't notice his flag is about to fall. Do we point it out to him? Would it be unsporting to just sit there and watch him lose on time? In cc our opponent writes down a conditional move, but he leaves out an exchange of pawns in the string of "if" moves. This loses a piece. Are we obliged as ethical chess players to point out his mistake and not take advantage of his oversight?

I think in competitive chess it is completely appropriate to take advantage of our opponent's mistakes, whether it is misjudging his position or writing down the moves incorrectly. In OTB chess it is our opponent's job to watch his clock, not ours. In life, if a cashier makes a mistake and gives us too much change, the situation is completely different. There are no written rules for life (of course, the legal system offers a limited set of rules, but we may legitimately disagree with some of them). Life isn't a game defined by rules of living. Chess, on the other hand, is a competition that is defined by the rules of play.

In the case of the ICCF rules where it was decided to not have a rule against using computer engines, I say there is no ethical problem with using computers. However, many people believe it is inappropriate to use computers … it goes against the spirit of the game, at least the way many care to contest it. I think there is a place for competition with computers and without computers, but the rules should be clear in either case.

Are rules simply something you shouldn't be caught violating? If so, then the ICCF situation may be correct. However, if the game is defined by the rules, then the rules should reflect our vision of the game … how it should be played. If our vision of the game is a one-on-one competition without consulting with humans or computers, then the rules should so state, whether or not it is practical to enforce any specific rule. Then people can choose the organization, or specific competition within an organization, that specifies in the rules the manner in which we wish to play the game. There's nothing inherently unethical about using consultation during the game … many people quite enjoy it, I understand. However, if the rules forbid such consultation, then it isn't the same game. The competitor who uses consultation when the rules forbid it has chosen to play a different game and to pretend it is the same game the opponent is playing. I don't understand the motivation for playing in this unethical behavior. What satisfaction is to be gained by cheating?

The rules should specify our ideals for the game. I will not join those who say, "Everyone uses computers … I expect it." In APCT play I expect my opponents NOT to use computers. That is my expectation. The fact that there are cheaters in this world does not affect my expectations of my APCT opponents or those of any other organization. To expect people to violate the rules is a form of corruption of the game, I believe. Expecting violations is a form of approval.

Following is an excerpt from my column "The Campbell Report" in the Nov-Dec 2003 issue of APCT News Bulletin:

The Rules Define the Ethics (Revisited)

Last time I published an opinion piece titled "The Rules Define the Ethics", where I stated that chess is a game completely defined by the rules of play, unlike life which is much more complex and has no well-defined rules. I concluded that if the rules allowed you to use a chess engine (note: APCT rules do NOT allow such use) then there was no ethical reason not to do so, only a matter of personal choice. This same argument holds for not allowing take-backs and taking full advantage of notation errors by your opponent. Not surprisingly, I got some mail on this topic from Stephan Gerzadowicz, who now lives in Crossville, TN. Following is his opinion on this subject.

Rules Do NOT Define Ethics -- by Stephan Gerzadowicz

I bet you KNEW you would hear from me. [Of course -- JFC]

I'm just going to keep quoting George Will until everybody gets it:

A society is disoriented when proper moral judgment is supplanted by a morally constricted legalism, the notion that whatever is legal -- whatever there is a right to do -- is morally unobjectionable. … In sports, as in life generally, comportment should be controlled by a morality of aspiration more demanding than a mere morality of duty. A morality of aspiration should elevate people above merely complying with elementary rules.

March 15, 1982

Your mistake, I think, is to try to separate Chess from Life. Sure, Chess and Sports are defined by their rules, but we players are still moral beings! "Life" does not go on hold when we take up ball and bat, or Rook and Pawn. A second baseman can tag a base runner in a perfectly legal way -- that knocks out teeth. Legal, not ethical.

A chess example -- I was playing a fine old gentleman, struggling in a double rook ending. He (Black) sent …Re3. It was a ridiculous move; I had a Pawn on f2. He had used DN all his life and still thought in it. He clearly meant …R-K3. …Re6 was a good and obvious move, one I expected. I acknowledged his move as …Re6 and sent my reply. When he responded he said, "I was glad to see that I had sent …Re6. I had mistakenly recorded …Re3 on my score sheet." I made no comment and the game was drawn (I think).

Taking his Rook would have been legal. It would not have been ethical. We were playing a game. But I was (still) living my life.

Mr. G. went on to say, "May we agree to disagree and always be friends." Of course, I accept this view and consider Stephan a good friend, and I always respect his opinion. I must consider the possibility that I am mistaken in my opinion about chess being completely defined by the rules. Above, Stephan wrote, "Taking his Rook would have been legal. It would not have been ethical." The view I had stated in my previous column was that there was nothing unethical about capturing the Rook. However, I understand Stephan's approach very well. His preference was to continue the game with the bad notation being corrected. I think there is disagreement in the cc community about which is the correct viewpoint, and there are probably people who would find themselves somewhere in between.

"My friend Ralph Marconi wrote me, "Yes, it does boil down to individual beliefs and this mystical realm of unwritten rules." I have considered the so-called unwritten rules as a very bad thing, something that leads to people being unjustly labeled as unethical or as cheaters. Am I mistaken?

Ralph went on to say, "It would, however, be interesting to try to come up with a concrete, unequivocal example of something, within the narrow confines of the rules of a game, which is legal and yet at the same time unethical. I can't think of anything off hand. It would probably be quite difficult, if not (impossible), to find such a situation. Maybe this would be a good question to pose on the TCCMB for discussion."

I'm going to take his advice, but I'm going to my readers here instead of TCCMB (the on-line cc message board). Read on and see if you can offer something in answer to my challenge.

Challenge to the Readers

Based on the suggestion of Ralph Marconi stated above, here is my challenge to readers:

"Come up with a concrete, unequivocal example of something, within the narrow confines of the rules of chess, which is legal and yet at the same time unethical."

Give this challenge serious thought, present your example(s), and explain why you consider the legal situation you describe to be unethical. Try to be concise and very clear so I can publish your statement(s) in a future column with minimal editing. I consider this a serious issue which requires serious thought. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful replies. At my discretion, everything sent to me will be considered for publication.

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