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Bonaparte at Marengo Tournament Rules


Bonaparte at Marengo is well suited for tournament play, but some additional rules are helpful to ensure that the matches are fair and that play proceeds expeditiously. To that end, these tournament rules exist. The tournament rules cover three main areas: bidding for sides, clock play, and rule enforcement. It is of course perfectly possible for players, by mutual consent, to use any or all of the tournament rules even if they are not playing in a formal tournament (adding a clock, in particular, is an interesting experience).

Bidding for Sides

Before play begins, each player each secretly writes down a number. This number is their bid for the right to choose the side they get to play. The bids are revealed at the same time and whichever player has written down the higher number gets to choose which side to play, but he also has to lower his demoralization level by the number he bid. In the event that both players wrote down the same number, a coin is tossed and the winner of the toss gets to choose which side he wants to play (the winner of the toss still has his demoralization level reduced by what he bid).

Understanding Chess Clocks

Tournament play requires the use of a chess clock. For those unfamiliar with chess clocks, a chess clock is actually two clocks, one for each player. Each clock is a timer – before play starts the clock is set to count down a particular length of time; the time can be the same for both players, or it can different so that one player has more time than the other. When the players are ready to start, a button is tapped on top of the clock to start the clock for the player who moves first in the game; when that player finishes his turn, he taps (slams is sometimes a better word) a button which stops his clock and starts that of his opponent. When his opponent is done, he taps the button that stops his clock and starts that of his opponent. In this way, each player is not only playing against his opponent, but against the clock as well: if a player’s clock runs down before the game is over, he forfeits, regardless of the situation on the board (use in chess matches can be a little more complicated than the above, but this gets the basic idea across).

When a player’s clock is running, he is said to be “on the clock”. Critical to the use of chess clocks is the principal that only one player is “on the clock” at any given time. Adapting Bonaparte at Marengo for use with a chess clock requires clarifications not present in the basic rules as to which player is on the clock at any given time, and how and when roles are switched.

Clock Usage

There is no hard and fast rule as to how much time is put on the players’ clocks before the start of the game. In general, tournaments will have between 30 and 90 minutes for each player. For cases where two players are using the tournament rules for enjoyment, they can set it however they like, including using unequal times for the two players to balance a game between players of unequal skill.

Neither clock is started until the game is set up. This means that all of the French pieces have been deployed and both players have had a chance to shuffle their reinforcement pieces so as to conceal their identitites from their opponent. Once both players have done this, they are ready to go. The start of the Austrian player’s first turn is when the clock starts.

In general, a player goes on the clock at the start of his turn (which is also the end of his opponent‘s turn). By default, he stays on the clock until the end of his turn, except when he carries out specific actions that cause his opponent to go (temporarily) on the clock. For purposes of these rules, the player whose turn it currently is is called “the attacking player” and his opponent is called “the defending player”. The times when the attacking player puts the defending player on the clock are as follows:

A player ends his turn by saying “your turn” and putting his opponent on the clock.

The Austrian player is responsible for keeping the Time Track up to date. He should make sure that the time is correct before moving any of his pieces.

The player who assesses a loss is responsible for updating the Morale Track to reflect that loss. The morale track should be updated immediately after a loss is assessed, before any other action is undertaken.

While a player is on the clock, his opponent should be silent, keep his hands away from the board, and be reasonably still. A player may not touch any pieces (even his own pieces that are not yet in play) while his opponent is on the clock.

In general, playing with a clock can take some getting used to. It is recommended that players try practicing with as many of the tournament rules in force as they can manage prior to actual tournament play. If they have never played under tournament rules prior to doing so in an actual tournament, it is recommended that they go slow at first to ensure that they don’t make so many mistakes as to tempt their opponent to bury them under an avalanche of challenges.

Rule Enforcement and Penalties

Prior to the start of play, a time penalty will be announced by the tournament director for use in rule enforcement.

If a player believes that his opponenent is violating a rule (either a standard rule or a special tournament rule) he should say the word “challenge” and pause both clocks. He should then explain the nature of his challenge. If the players cannot agree between themselves as to who is right, they should call over the tournament director for a ruling. If the challenge was valid, the action is reversed and the time penalty is applied to the player whose action was overturned. If the challenge was invalid, the time penalty is applied to the player who issued the challenge. Penalties can be assessed for acts of commission (such as performing an illegal move) or of omission (such as failing to update the Morale Track).

Players should try to remember that although tournament play is more competitive than casual play, it is still supposed to be enjoyable for both players. They should not issue challenges where friendly words would suffice. For example, if the Austrian player starts to move pieces without updating the Time Track, the French player should first try just reminding him to do so rather than immediately resorting to a challenge. Challenges should be reserved for serious problems or for minor problems that have become chronic (for example, if the French player had to remind the Austrian player to update the Time Track before moving three turns in a row, he would be fully justified in issuing a challenge if it happened a fourth time). If by mutual consent players want to halt the clock to talk things over without a formal challenge, they are free to do so.

Players who do not conduct themselves in a way that keeps a tournament enjoyable for those participating and watching are subject to a warning, possibly followed by expulsion.