Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chess Championship: Kramnik, Topalov, and Bathrooms

Whoa, a posting about the referees in the sport of chess?! A dispute? Of course there's a petty dispute, just like in any other world chess championship. The latest dispute with the referees is their decision in the middle of the match (after game 4 out of 12) to prohibit both players from using the pre-arranged private bathrooms. The referees received a complaint from Topalov that Kramnik was using his private bathroom 50 times per game. The referees concluded that Kramnik was using it less than 50 times per game, but ruled that it would block the players from using private bathrooms and they'd both have to use the same bathroom for the remaining games. That's a pretty controversial decision -- Kramnik protested that there was no valid reason for changing the arrangements.

Unlike the NFL, NHL, and NBA, the players are actually given the freedom of speech to criticize the referees in chess. Thank goodness! We can actually know why each player is unhappy and listen to the criticism of the referees. It's too bad, though, that the referees have not brokered a resolution and convinced Kramnik that the change is justified. It makes the public wonder whether the refs know what they're doing and are being fair. If chess had the same NFL, NHL, NBA gag rule, we'd all be in the dark.

As it is, Kramnik refused to play game 5 and the refs forfeited that game to Topalov. They postponed the next game and are trying to negotiate a deal now.

If Kramnik forfeits the rest of the match, the chess world will not crumble. It would have a new champion in Topalov, a disgraced former champion in Kramnik, and a healthy debate about the referee's conduct. If only every sport allowed the same open debate.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Statistical Analysis in Soccer and Refs

Craig Depken posted a statistical analysis of soccer fouls and the World Cup at the division of labour blog:

Craig hypothesizes that home teams get less yellow cards that should be expected and that perhaps referees allow a team frequently fouled to retaliate a bit without being punished. Seems plausible!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

NFL Referees 2006-07

This posting is to discuss the performance of referees in the NFL during the 2006-2007 season.

The NFL is now issuing its game recaps and statistics without listing the name of the referee crew. This will make it much harder to track statistics about how each referee calls the games that it covers. This type of tracking is nothing unusual -- in fact, the BBC web site offers a statistical track of how many red cards and yellow cards referees in the Premier League (soccer) each referee issues in the games he covers.

Week one: Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Miami Dolphins 17. Referee Walt Coleman did not see Dolphins coach Nick Saban throw the flag for a replay review, after his crew made a mistake at the goal-line and called Steeler Health Miller as scoring a TD rather than being dragged out at the one-yard line. Nick Saban later said it was his own fault for not making his challenge more obvious.

Indianapolis Colts 26, New York Giants 21: side-judge Rick Patterson called offensive pass interference on New York Giants wide receiver Tim Carter to negate a 19-yard catch with 4 minute left in the 4th quarter but replays showed minimal contact. With 17 seconds left, the ref called an illegal snap with the New York Giants at midfield trying to spike the ball, but center Shaun O'Hara explained later that the defense was illegally calling out a false snap count and that the Giants pointed this out on previous plays to the refs, who ignored it.