LONDON. Francois Saint-Amant is known as “L’Enforcer” by his teammates on the Paris Blanc Chausettes, and he has the stats to prove it. He leads the International Chess League in penalty-minutes, high-rooking and other manifestations of a temper that causes opposing players to knock over their kings rather than face his furious “two-minute” endgame drill when he finds himself cornered without a queen.

“He deliberately put one of his bishops down on my right index finger, the one I use to play” said Max Euwe, who bats clean-up for the Serbia-Montenegro Wild Pigs. “I don’t mind rough play, but that’s going after my livelihood.”

Other players around the league agree that Saint-Amant stretches the rules of chess to the breaking point. “I opened up with a Scheveningen Variation against him in a home game last month,” said Mikhail Botvinnik of the Moscow Red Bears. “He gets this pissy look on his face and says ‘Scheveningen-schmenigen’. It disrupted my concentration.”

Because of the hardball tactics of players like Saint-Amant, the ICL says it will increase fines and penalties against chess “goons” in the upcoming season, which kicks off this season with its first national television contract on PBS. “A lot of players get a look at the tote bags and umbrellas they give away during public television pledge drives, and figure the stakes are a lot higher now,” said ICL commissioner Gary Duprovnik. “Throw in a ‘Three Tenors DVD’ and guys are willing to hurt somebody if that’s what it takes to win.”

Duprovnik says players will be charged a pawn for the first instance of unnecessary roughness in a match, loss of a turn on the second infraction, and automatic ejection thereafter. Taunting will be punished by a five-yard penalty, meaning some matches will take on the air of “go fish” game rather than the customary contemplative atmosphere of the game that was founded in India around 600 A.D. when members of the Brahmin class learned that the cable guy wouldn’t show up for another fourteen centuries.

For his part, Saint-Amant says he’s just playing hard and that opponents who complain about him are “les wimps”. “Eeef I reely wanted to hurt somebody,” he says, “I’d grab him by le baguette.”

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