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Pros and Cons

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Tuesday, 10 December 2013, at 3:48 a.m.

In Response To: “Legal Moves” Benefits Everyone (Taper_Mike)

I have been a proponent of legal moves for many years. I believe I was one of the first to make "private" agreements with my opponents to play legal moves. It works just fine in chouettes and money games, which is mostly where I have played for the past 40 years, and I could never see much difference for match play.

At the same time, I understand the excellent arguments made by people I respect who are against legal moves...most particularly Bill Davis and Greg Cattanagh.

Bottom line is that there are some advantages and disadvantages whichever way you go. But here is what greatly swings my vote to legal moves:

1. When you use two pair of dice, it is HORRIBLE not to play legal moves, as you only get the option of correcting an illegal play after your opponent picks up his dice, and if you wait that long, you now have the problem of proving that he truly did move illegally. And if you speak up before he picks up the dice, then you are giving him the option of correcting whether you wanted to or not.

2. There are some errors that fall into the category of an illegal move, such as putting your own checker on the bar, failing to come in when you could have, not picking up a checker that you clearly hit or meant to hit, failing to take your turn and hitting the clock thinking your opponent's board was still closed, that are such horrible, nasty errors that many of us feel very bad to have to enforce those mistakes on our opponents, and some don't. At the same time, if we don't enforce those errors, we are not following the intent of the rules...to allow our opponent to be punished for his technical mistakes...and therefore we are not really doing all we can, within the rules to win. In the name of "good sportsmanship" we are possibly throwing the match. In any other sport or game, if the opponent makes a dumbass move, he is, and should be punished for it, and if we do it ourselves, we should also be, SO LONG AS THAT IS WHAT THE RULES SAY. So with non-legal moves we are put in this nasty position of having to either be known as a prick, as many think Herb Gurland was, or following the rules and expecting our opponent to own up to his stupid mistakes, just as we would do if we made the stupid mistake. (I think Herb was absolutely correct and his is one of the real gentlemen of this game and I respect him completely for respecting the rules.) If we play legal moves, we eliminate this ethical dilemma completely.

3. A major argument against legal moves is that it allows an unethical opponent to take a shot. Well, unethical opponents can take all kinds of shots in all kinds of ways no matter what rules you play. There is no way an unethical opponent is going to take a shot at me unless I am careless, and if that happens, I deserve it. Also, if a guy takes a shot at me, it will only happen one time--ever--for the rest of his life. And I make sure everyone I know will know this guy is not to be trusted so that he will not get away with more shots in the future. But in my many years of playing in the U.S. I have only even suspected 3 people of ever intentionally taking shots, and they are well-known bad actors and everyone is leary of them. Legal moves or not, they will not cheat me or anyone who is careful. But the good news is that if we assume that 99% of tournament players (particularly experienced players in the Open division) are completely fair and honest and even if they might be tempted to be a little shady they care enough about their reputation not to take shots, then there is no more good argument against legal moves because of the fear of being cheated intentionally.

4. And lastly, now that so many matches are recorded, it's nice to eliminate the illegal moves so we can have a clean match file and a good match analysis.

So I continue to vote strongly for legal moves and I am delighted to see more and more directors and associations around the world go to legal moves. Looking 5 years ahead I believe everyone but Bill Davis will adopt legal moves.

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