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If you have a question regarding the rules of chess ask the Arbiter. Answers to your questions will be provided by Myron Lieberman, who is an International Arbiter for FIDE (the World Chess Federation) and a National Tournament Director for the USCF (The US Chess Federation).

 

Please e-mail your chess rules questions to the Arbiter.

 


Your Questions and Answers

 

There is no such thing as a silly question. If a chess rule is not clear in your mind there are probably many other people who aren't sure about the real meaning of the rule or who may have received incorrect interpretations from well meaning but poorly informed friends. Don't ever be too shy to ask a question, even on some of the most common rules.

 

Our first questions are typical of myths regarding chess rules. Players who have only played informally often have misconceptions because someone else (usually their opponent and sometimes deliberately) claims the existence of a rule that doesn't exist. If you have a question about whether or not a rule exists it is welcome here just as much as questions about the meaning of rules or what rules apply to given situations.

 

Q. My friends have been playing chess, and a problem came up with a move called "flanking" which involves the pawn. I was wondering if this was a made up or actual move.

 

A. There is no move called "Flanking". It is either a made-up move or a made-up name for a real move, such as en-passant.

 

Details: See the en passant rules (FIDE Law 3.7D and USCF Rule 8F5) quoted below.

 

Q. If your opponent makes a false statement about a checkmate that is proven wrong, is that an automatic defeat?

 

A. No, a false announcement of checkmate is not an automatic defeat according to the rules of chess. Players are not required to announce checkmate. In fact, players are not even required to announce check.

 

Details: If someone claims that a position is checkmate that is just his or her comment and has no more status than a spectator making a comment. If a player claims checkmate and it is checkmate, it would have been checkmate whether or not the comment was made. If a player claims checkmate and it is not checkmate, the game continues. Most of the time someone really thought it was checkmate but miscalculated. There is no penalty for that. Sometimes a player deliberately does make a false claim in order to try to get his or her opponent to think it is checkmate and stop playing without looking at the board. That is considered bad sportsmanship and the player who falsely announces checkmate frequently may be subject to sportsmanship penalties if there is any indication that it was done deliberately. Such penalties can be as severe as loss of the game, but it is not automatic. Usually the tournament director will warn the player to stop doing it or adjust clock times before considering forfeiting the game. Article 3.8b of the FIDE Laws of Chess indicates that "Declaring a check is not obligatory". USCF rule 12F states "Calling check is not mandatory".

 

Q. My opponent said that there was a 13-move rule if you don't have a pawn.  I had a pawn, he did not. He also said that you did not start the count over each time a pawn is moved. 

 

A. You are right and your opponent is wrong. There is no 13-move restriction regardless of whether or not there are pawns on the board. The 50-move count starts over each time a pawn is moved.

 

There are three points that affect many chess games here.

 

Many forced mates against a lone King will take more than 13 moves against best play, so a 13-move rule would be illogical. There is no reason to allow a claim of a draw when someone has a forced win or even a clear win and knows how to deliver it.

 

The reason for a 50-move rule is that if 50 moves have been made without an irreversible change (no pawn moved or piece captured) there is no evidence of progress. Either neither player has a winning advantage, or, if they do, they don't know what to do with it. The game could go on forever if a draw couldn't be claimed. One player can have all of his or her pieces on the board and the opponent has only a lone King, but if the player with the winning material can't make progress towards a win in 50 moves, a draw claim is reasonable. The player may have the material but doesn't know what to do with it.

 

Whenever a pawn is moved, that is evidence of progress towards the strategy of promotion of the pawn to a Queen or other piece that could win the game. That is why the count starts over. Many, if not most, games at the master level are decided when it becomes obvious that one player will be able to promote a pawn. Often the player's opponent will resign then rather than play the game out. Promotion of a pawn is a primary objective in the endgame because it usually gives the player a winning advantage.

 

Details: See the FIDE Laws (5.2 and 9) and USCF Rules (14) for draws quoted below.

 

Q: Must a pawn always capture an opposing pawn or is there the option of not doing it, and allowing oneself to be captured by the opposing pawn?

 

A. Pawns, just like any other pieces, do not have to capture. If a pawn does not capture the opponent's pawn, there is no requirement that the opponent's pawn capture it either.

 

Pawns can be in a position to capture each other for most of the entire game without a capture being made by either side.

 

The only time that a capture is forced for any piece is if there is no other legal move possible. Other than that no capture is forced.

 

The USCF's "Official Rules of Chess" is the primary reference for the rules of chess as played in the US. The fifth edition is effective as of January 1, 2004. The USCF rulebook also includes FIDE's rules for International chess, which became effective in July 2001. Except for some tournament administration issues, the rules are essentially the same. FIDE's most current rules can also be found in a chapter called "The Laws of Chess", which can be found in their entirety online in the FIDE handbook at www.fide.com. Simply select "Handbook" from the INFO menu at the top of the current FIDE home page and select chapter "E.I - The Laws of Chess" from the Handbook's table of contents. Please note that web page designs may change frequently. Regardless of the design of the page at the time you should be able to access the handbook from the FIDE home page. Articles of the FIDE Laws of Chess will be subsequently referred to as FIDE Laws.

 

Our next question is a good example of how the rules for a very common move can be - and often are - misunderstood.

 

Q. Let's say that White is castling long - according to the exact text of the FIDE laws, if b1 is under attack, then it does not threaten either K or R, and neither piece moves to that square. Is it permissible?

A. Yes, white may cross b1 with the rook in order to castle long. The restrictions on castling are based on the king, not the rook, as long as the rook has not previously moved.

 

Details: According to both the USCF and FIDE rules, castling is permitted if a square over which the rook travels is under attack. It is only the king that cannot move from, across, or to a square under attack. Long castling for white moves the king from e1 across d1 to c1. None of those three squares can be under attack. The rook moves from a1 across b1 and c1 to d1. There is no problem with the rook crossing b1. There is a problem with c1 and d1 only because the king must cross or end up on them. The only restriction on the rook during castling is that the rook with which the king castles may not have previously moved. Yes, this means a1 and h1 and a8 and h8 are also OK if the rook has not previously moved. A rook can even castle out of danger if the king is not endangered in the process.

 

FIDE Law 3 and USCF rule 8 deal with the moves of the pieces. FIDE Law 3.8 and USCF rule 8A cover the moves of the king. FIDE Law 3.8aii and USCF rules 8A2, 8A3, and 8A4 define the castling move. Castling is considered a move of the King, not a move of the Rook, but restrictions on the rook in castling are also covered in rule USCF rule 8C, which covers the moves of the rook.


Rule 8C1 Several restrictions on the king in castling do not apply to the rook.


a. A player may castle with a rook whose original square is under attack.


b. A player may castle with a rook that crosses over a square under attack by an opponent's piece.


c. There is no prohibition against the rook occupying a square attacked by an opponent's piece at the conclusion of castling, but this is impossible as the king would have to illegally cross an attacked square to bring it about.

 

Other Questions About Castling

 

Q: There are some questions going on at 'ychess', about whether you can capture an opposing piece on c1 [with the King] while performing 0-0-0 [as white].

 

A: Castling cannot be done when there is any piece (white or black) between the King and the Rook with which castling is to be done. Since you cannot castle with an opponent's piece on c1 you cannot capture the piece by castling. The rule deals with whether or not there is a piece between the King and Rook before castling is done, not whether or not a piece remains there after castling.

 

Details: USCF Rule 8A4b and FIDE Law 3.8Aii both state that castling is not possible when there is any piece between the King and the Rook with which it castles. This applies to pieces of either color.

 

Q. When your king and rook have correctly castled does that mean your king can no longer move two spaces as his first move or can the king still move two spaces as his first move?

 

A. The only time that the King can move two spaces is during castling. The King cannot move two spaces on its first move except to castle and castling can only be done on the King's first move. Once castled, the King can not move two spaces again (and, of course, it is no longer the first move either).

 

Details: USCF rule 8A reads as follows:

 

8A1 Except when castling, the King moves to any adjoining square that is not attacked by one or more of the opponent's pieces.

 

8A2 Castling is a move of the King and either Rook, counting as a single move and executed as follows: the King is transferred from its original square two squares toward either rook on the same rank, then that rook is transferred over the king to the square adjacent to the King on the same rank.

 

8A3 Castling is illegal for the duration of the game if the King (a) has already moved or (b) with a rook that has already moved.

 

8A1 shows that except for castling the King cannot move two squares whether or not it is the first move of the King, 8A2 describes the only time that the King may move two squares, and 8A3 shows that castling must be done on the first King move if it is to be done at all.

 

FIDE Law 3.8 provides the same information.

 

Q: When one is castled, how does one undo the castle?

 

A. There is no special move to "uncastle". If you really wanted the King to go back to its original square and the Rook to go back to the corner you would need to do so with a series of several legal King and Rook moves (and also pawn moves if the pawns on the second rank prevent the necessary King and Rook moves from being played).

 

Q. Can the king be checked and/or checkmated while in the castled position?

 

A. Yes. In fact you should always look out for "back rank mates" where a Rook or Queen attacks the castled King with pawns blocking all escape squares and no piece in a position to capture the attacking piece or block the check.

 

Q. If a King is put in check, but does not move (ie. The checking piece is captured or the check is blocked) may the King still castle later, assuming that all of the other castling requirements are met?

 

A. Yes. A check only temporarily prevents castling until the King is no longer in check. If the King can get out of check without moving and all other requirements are met it can still castle at a later time.

 

Questions about other King moves

 

Q: When a piece puts a king in check, can the king take the piece that has him in check?

 

A: Yes, as long as the move is legal and gets the King out of check. There are three ways to get out of check. They are to move the King, block the attack by interposing a piece or pawn, or capture the piece that is giving check. If the piece that is giving check is not "protected" by another piece or pawn, the King can capture it. On the other hand, if the piece that gives check is protected by another piece or pawn the King cannot take it because the King would still be in check after taking the piece.

 

Details: FIDE Law 3.8A states that "The King can move in two different ways. (i) moving to any adjoining square that is not attacked by one or more of the opponent's pieces, or (ii) Castling (which has already been discussed).

 

The key point is that the King cannot move to a square that is attacked but that it can move to any adjoining square that isn't attacked, whether or not it captures anything in the process.

 

FIDE Law 3.8B states that "The King is said to be 'in check' if it is under attack by one or more of the opponent's pieces, even if such pieces cannot themselves move. Declaring a check is not obligatory."

FIDE Law 3.9 states that " No piece can be moved that will expose its own king to check or leave its own king in check."

 

USCF Rules 12 A through F describe exactly the same rules regarding check, but include more details. Please refer to the USCF "Official Rules of Chess" Article 12 for the exact wording.

 

FIDE Law 3.8B applies to another question, which has not yet been asked, so I'll address it now.

 

Q: Does a pinned piece give check?

 

A: Yes, it does. Even if it is pinned against its own King and cannot move (and therefore cannot capture the King on the next move).

 

Details: Per FIDE Law 3.8B "The King is said to be 'in check' if it is under attack by one or more of the opponent's pieces, even if such pieces cannot themselves move. Declaring a check is not obligatory". A player must not make a move which places his own King in check.

 

USCF Rule 12D addresses another way to look at this situation. It states: "A piece blocking a check to a King of its own color, commonly referred to as 'interposing', can itself give check to the enemy King." This, of course, creates a piece that is pinned against its own King, and therefore the USCF and FIDE rules use different words to say the same thing.

 

Q: Can a black king on e7 move diagonal to the white king on f5 (and thereby occupying e6)?

 

A: No King can move to a square that is adjacent to the opposing King for any reason, in any position at any time. Since a King can move one square in any direction a King covers every square around it. If the opposing King tries to move next to it, that would be moving into check, which is illegal. This is very important in an endgame. The King is actively used in the endgame to cover the squares between itself and the opposing King, which can then be attacked by another piece with the King preventing escape in its direction.

 

Details: Per FIDE Law 3.8B "The King is said to be 'in check' if it is under attack by one or more of the opponent's pieces, even if such pieces cannot themselves move. FIDE Law 3.9 states A player must not make a move which places his own King in check." Since a King attacks every adjacent square no King can move to a square adjacent to the opposing King because to do so would be a violation of 3.9.

 

Per USCF Rule 12E "A player may not move the King to a square attacked by one or more opponent's pieces." In the example specified in the question the King on e7 cannot move to e6 since e6 is attacked by the White King on f5.

 

Our next question brings out a semantic point as well as another frequently misunderstood common move.

 

Q. I am in a local chess club and a friend of mine brought up a new rule...I don't think this rule is official at all but I thought I should ask you. Can you trade your bishops for pawns???? I know it sounds weird but I just want to make sure.

 

A. In chess the word "trade" is commonly used to mean an exchange, where a player captures a piece and the capturing piece is then recaptured.

 

(1) If that is what you mean (Can you capture a pawn with your bishop and allow the bishop to be captured in return, thereby trading a bishop for a pawn?) the answer is yes. There are times when a bishop can and should be sacrificed for a pawn, but keep in mind that the value of a bishop is normally considered to be slightly more than 3 times the value of a pawn. In other words you should have a good reason for doing it.

 

(2) If, on the other hand, you want to know if you can replace your bishops with pawns as part of some move, the answer is no.

 

The only piece that can become a different piece during the course of the game is the pawn. If you can get a pawn to the eighth rank (all the way to the far edge of the board) it can become a bishop - or a knight or a rook or a queen (of the same color). It cannot remain a pawn and it cannot become a King. This is called pawn promotion. The piece that it becomes does not have to be a piece that was previously taken, so it is possible, by pawn promotion, to have two or more bishops on the same color or to have as many as nine queens.

 

Details: According to both the USCF and FIDE rules a pawn must be exchanged for a queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color as part of the same move that advances the pawn to the eighth rank. The move is not considered complete until the exchange is made and the piece for which the pawn is traded is notated in to the right of the notation of the actual move that advanced the pawn.

 

FIDE Law 3.7E states: When a pawn reaches the rank furthest from its starting position it must be exchanged as part of the same move for a queen, rook, bishop or knight of the same colour. The player's choice is not restricted to pieces that have been captured previously. This exchange of a pawn for another piece is called 'promotion' and the effect of the new piece is immediate.

 

USCF Rule 8F6 as found in USCF's "Official Rules of Chess" is essentially the same as FIDE Law 3.7E, but it provides additional clarification.

 

"On reaching the last rank, a pawn must immediately be exchanged, as part of the same move, for the player's choice of a queen, a rook, a bishop or a knight of the same color as the pawn. This exchange of a pawn for another piece is called "promotion", and the effect of the new piece is immediate. For instance, it may give check or serve to block a check. The promotion piece is placed on the eighth rank square to which the pawn was moved. See also USCF Rule 9D (which specifies when the move is considered complete).  Note that promotion is in no way related to other pieces remaining on the chessboard; for example, a player may have two or more queens or three or more knights, or two or more bishops on diagonals of the same color. The choice of the piece is not final until it has been placed on the board and released.

 

Appendix E to the FIDE Laws of Chess, item 11 (Algebraic Notation), states: "In the case of the promotion of a pawn, the actual pawn move is indicated, followed immediately by the first letter of the new piece. Examples: d8Q, f8N, b1B, g1R. Please note that the real meaning is the alphabetic symbol for the piece, not always the first letter (such as N for knight)".

 

It should be noted that USCF's preferred notation is slightly different as it places an "=" between the move and the name of the piece. Examples: d8=Q, f8=N, b1=B, g1=R. Either method is acceptable.

 

Q. If you get a pawn to the other side of the board what are the rules describing the placement of the piece you get in return for promoting your pawn. ie do you have to place it on the same square or if it could be killed immediately can it be moved somewhere safe?

 

A. The piece must be placed on the square on which the pawn promotes regardless of whether or not it can be captured there. It cannot be placed on any other square. The piece can be a N, B, R, or Q. It cannot be a P or a K. There is no limit to the number of pieces that can be added to the board by promotion (it is technically possible to have nine queens on the board).

 

Details: See the rules quoted above.

 

Q. When an opposing pawn reaches my side of the board can it be traded for a queen even if I have not captured his queen?

 

A. If you can get a pawn to the eighth rank (all the way to the far edge of the board) it can become a bishop, a knight, a rook, or a queen (of the same color). It cannot remain a pawn and it cannot become a King. This is called pawn promotion. The piece that it becomes does not have to be a piece that was previously taken, so it is possible, by pawn promotion, to have two or more bishops on the same color or to have as many as nine queens.

 

The full potential of a pawn is to be promoted to a more powerful piece when it succeeds in crossing the board. At the master level, probably most games are decided by whether or not a player will be able to promote a pawn and thereby either gain a more powerful piece or require his or her opponent to give up a more valuable piece (or other advantage) to prevent the promotion. When it becomes clear that a pawn cannot be stopped, the opponent often resigns. If the game continues and the pawn promotes to a more powerful piece, which eventually delivers mate, it is still the pawn that decided the game. Choice of moves at the end of the game often are the result of calculations as to who will win the race to the promotion square. Each pawn has the potential to become as powerful as a Queen. What has happened on the board to other pieces has nothing to do with a pawn's power, so captures of other pieces mean nothing.

 

Details: See the rules quoted above.

 

Other Questions About Pawn Moves:

 

Rules must be precise. Often rules are so basic and well known that it seems like everyone knows the rule. Please keep in mind, however, that someone learning chess for the first time can get the wrong idea legitimately if they simply read the rulebook. The following question is an example of a very basic and common rule, used every day, that can be misinterpreted because of imprecise wording by both FIDE (in both the 1997 and 2001 versions of the Laws of Chess) and USCF. This is a classic example of the fact that there is no such thing as a silly question. This question is very reasonable for a newcomer to chess. Thanks for the question. Hopefully FIDE and USCF will find a way to improve the wording in the future.

 

Q: Is it true that a pawn may not take on its first move?

 

A: No, it is NOT true that a pawn may not capture on its first move. Any pawn may capture on its first move if there is something on an adjacent file to capture. It cannot, however, capture a pawn or piece that is two squares from it. The first move two square option is for moves only, not captures. Any pawn, on its first move may (1) move one square forward, (2) move two squares forward, or (3) capture one square diagonally forward, as long as those moves are possible in the position on the board.

 

In other words if there is an opposing pawn or piece located one square diagonally ahead of your pawn, such that it can be captured, you can capture it whether it is the first move or any other move. If it is two squares diagonally ahead of your pawn, however, it cannot be captured on any move.

 

Details:  The only difference between a pawn's first move and any subsequent move of the same pawn is that on its first move the pawn has option (2) above (the ability to move forward two squares). The pawn does not have that option for its subsequent moves, but it still has options (1) and (3) for its subsequent moves. It also will have a fourth option (en-passant) on its 3rd or 4th move (depending on whether its first move was 1 or 2 squares - it must have moved exactly three squares forward for en-passant to be possible). It can only capture en-passant when it is on the 5th rank and only immediately after the opponent's adjacent pawn moves two squares on its first move.

 

FIDE Law 3.7 states:

 

"a. The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or

 

b. on its first move the pawn may move as in (a); alternatively it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied, or

 

c. the pawn may move to a square occupied by an opponent's piece, which is diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, capturing that piece."

 

d. A pawn attacking a square crossed by an opponent's pawn which has advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent's pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square. This capture may only be made on the move following this advance and is called an 'en passant' capture.

 

Please note that the FIDE law might be better understood if a, b, and c are read as a single sentence (which is the intent). It would read "The pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file, or on its first move the pawn may move forward to the unoccupied square immediately in front of it on the same file; or alternatively it may advance two squares along the same file provided both squares are unoccupied, or the pawn may move to a square occupied by an opponent's piece, which is diagonally in front of it on an adjacent file, capturing that piece."

 

Rule 8F of USCF's "Official Rules of Chess" has a similar imprecision. USCF Rule 8F states:

 

8F1 The Pawn may only move forward (toward the opponent's side of the board).

 

8F2 On its first move, it may advance either one or two vacant squares along its file.

 

8F3 On its subsequent moves it advances one vacant square along its file.

 

8F4 The Pawn is unique among chess pieces that it captures and attacks differently from the way it moves. When capturing, it advances one square along either of the diagonals on which it stands; it attacks these same squares.

 

As is the case with the FIDE rule, you can see what is meant if you look for the intent. 8F2 and 8F3 address moves other than captures, while 8F4 addresses captures.

 

Q. If I advance my white pawn to the sixth rank, and my opponent then moves his black pawn two spaces past my white pawn to the 5th rank, can I then use en-passant?

 

A. No, the en-passant move can only be made in a situation where a player tries to move a pawn two squares to pass an opposing pawn that could have captured the pawn had it only moved one square.

 

Details: Whether or not avoiding capture was the reason for the two square move, the idea is that the two square option for a pawn's first move cannot be used to avoid a capture that could take place if the pawn was only moved one square. 

 

If your pawn is on the fifth rank and your opponent moves an adjacent pawn two squares you can choose to (but are not required to) capture it as if it had only moved one square (the capture is made on your sixth rank).

 

If your pawn is already on the sixth rank, your opponent can move either one or two squares without risk of capture. The two-square move would be no different from a one-square move as far as captures are concerned. Your pawn on the sixth could only capture on the 7th, which is its home rank, so if your opponent's adjacent pawn moves at all (one square or two) it is not subject to capture.

 

The en-passant move can only be made in immediate reply to the adjacent pawn moving two squares. Once another move is made, the en-passant possibility no longer exists.

FIDE Law of Chess 3.7d states "A pawn attacking a square crossed by an opponent's pawn which has advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent's pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square. This capture may only be made on the move following this advance and is called an 'en passant' capture.

USCF Rule 8F5 states "A Pawn by-passed by an opponent's pawn, the latter having advanced two squares in one move from its original square, may capture the opponent's pawn as if the latter had only moved one square. This capture may only be made in immediate reply to such advance and is called an "en passant" ("in passing") capture. Note that only a pawn that has advanced exactly three squares from its original square is in position to make such a capture."

 

Our next questions lead to clarification of how a game can be drawn.

 

Q. There was only his king and his bishop left. Is there a rule the bishop be exchanged for pawns to keep the game going or would that be stalemate?

 

A. No, there is not only no rule that the bishop be replaced by pawns, but it is not legal to do so. Whether or not the game will be drawn depends on what resources both players have, but it cannot be stalemate unless neither the bishop nor the king have any legal moves. Usually in a situation like this at least the bishop can move.

 

Details: Stalemate is a very specific method of drawing a game. For stalemate to occur one player must have no legal moves with any piece on the board, including the king, but the king is not in check. A player who only has a king and a bishop cannot checkmate and therefore cannot win. If the other player has a sufficient amount of material to win (a lone king, a king and a bishop, and a king and a knight are examples of forces that cannot checkmate a lone king, but a king and a pawn can if the pawn can be promoted) the game continues. If neither player has a sufficient amount of material to checkmate, the game is drawn. The game can also be drawn if each player has made fifty moves without a pawn being moved or a piece being captured. The game can also be drawn if the same POSITION (not move) appears three times during the game with the same player to move. There is no requirement that the three times be consecutive. Players can also agree to a draw.

 

The easiest way to think about draws is to use common sense. Draws are the result of games where there is no progress being made. In some cases the lack of progress may be due to imprecise play (or worse) on the part of one or both players. In other cases the lack of progress may be intentional (Example: If I stop checking I get mated). The specific rule that allows the draw is almost immaterial. Most drawn games may officially be drawn under any of a number of rules, but it is the game that creates the draw, it is not the rules that create the draw.

 

K and R against K is not a drawn ending. In fact it is an ending that leads to an easy forced mate. Yet there are literally thousands of K and R endings drawn every day because the player with the Rook doesn't know what to do with it and usually keeps checking rather than restricting the opposing K. Some of these games end in stalemate. Some end in repeated positions. Some end in 50 move rule draws. Some end in insufficient material (the player with the R hangs the R), and some are agreed-to draws. In these cases the game situation created the draw and the game was drawn by the first rule that applied.

 

Full information on the drawn game can be found in Articles 5.2 and 9 of the FIDE Laws of Chess and USCF rule 14 (The Drawn Game).

 

FIDE Law 5.2A The game is drawn when the player to move has no legal move and his king is not in check. The game is said to end in 'stalemate'. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the stalemated position was legal.

 

USCF Rule14A. Stalemate …note that it is incorrect to refer to all drawn games as 'stalemate'. The draws described in 14B through J are not stalemates.

 

FIDE Law 5.2C (and USCF Rule 14B) The game is drawn upon agreement between the two players during the game. This immediately ends the game. Note: The words "during the game are missing from the USCF rule, however other rules make it illegal to offer or accept draws before the game.

 

FIDE Article 9.1 and USCF Article 14B provide details regarding the offer of a draw.

 

FIDE Law 5.2D The game may be drawn if the identical position is about to appear or has appeared on the chessboard at least three times. Article 9.2 provides details regarding the claim of a draw by repeated position.

 

FIDE Law 9.2 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by the player having the move, when the same position, for at least the third time (not necessarily by sequential repetition of moves) is about to appear, if he first writes his move on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move, or has just appeared and the player claiming the draw has the move.

 

Positions are considered the same if the same player has the move, pieces of the same kind and colour occupy the same squares, and the possible moves of all the pieces of both players are the same.

 

Positions are not the same if a pawn could have been captured en passant or if the right to castle has been changed temporarily or permanently.

 

USCF Rule 14C1 states: "There is no rule regarding a draw by "repetition of moves." The draw is based on repetition of position. The three positions do not need to be consecutive and the intervening moves do not matter. There is also no rule regarding 'Perpetual Check'. It is irrelevant whether the claimant of 14C is delivering check or whether the thrice occurring position involves check.

 

FIDE Law 5.2E The game may be drawn if the last 50 consecutive moves have been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without the capture of any piece. Article 9.3 provides details regarding the 50 move rule draw.

 

FIDE Law 9.3 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by the player having the move, if he writes on his scoresheet, and declares to the arbiter his intention to make a move which shall result in the last 50 moves having been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without the capture of any piece, or the last 50 consecutive moves have been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without the capture of any piece.

 

USCF Rule 14F is the USCF documentation for the 50 move rule.

 

FIDE Law 5.2B. The game is drawn when a position has arisen in which neither player can checkmate the opponent's king with any series of legal moves. The game is said to end in a 'dead position'. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the position was legal. Similar wording exists in FIDE Law 9.6.

 

FIDE Law 9.6 The game is drawn when a position is reached from which a checkmate cannot occur by any possible series of legal moves, even with the most unskilled play. This immediately ends the game.

 

USCF Rule14D The game is drawn when …the possibility of a win is excluded for either side. Among positions listed in this category are K vs. K (14D1), K vs. K with B or N (14D2), and K and B vs K and B with bishops on diagonals of the same color (14D3). USCF's 14D4 is equivalent to FIDE's 9.6. It states: "There are no legal moves that could lead to the player being checkmated by the opponent."

 

USCF 14E indicates that the game is drawn when a player exceeds the time limit if one of the following conditions exists. Opponent has only a lone K (14E1), Opponent has only K and B or K and N and does not have a forced win (14E2), Opponent has only K and 2 Ns, the player has no pawns, and the opponent does not have a forced win. (14E3).

 

USCF 14G through 14 J deal with draws in sudden death time controls and unusual situations (such as a Director's ruling.)

 

Q. During tournament play, if both players fail to claim the draw after the conditions for the 50-move rule have taken place, is it permissible for external parties [TDs/teammates/bystanders] to actually point out the draw? Or must either player ask for it before it comes into effect?

A. Part of the 50 move rule (and the triple repetition rule) is that the draw must be claimed by a player. Any spectator, teammate, coach, TD, or anyone else who calls a 50 move claim possibility to a player's attention has interfered with the game and may be subject to severe penalties. If a player makes a move rather than claiming a draw at the time the 50move rule claim would be valid the game continues, but until a pawn is moved or a piece is captured either player can claim the draw on their move. Once a pawn is moved or a piece is captured the count starts over and neither player can claim a draw from an earlier time in the game when the 50 move rule would have applied.

 

Details: FIDE Law 9.3 states "The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by the player having the move, if he writes on his scoresheet, and declares to the arbiter his intention to make a move which shall result in the last 50 moves having been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without the capture of any piece, or the last 50 consecutive moves have been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without the capture of any piece

 

USCF Rule 14F1 states "The game is drawn when the player on the move claims a draw and demonstrates that the last 50 consecutive moves have been made by each side without any capture or pawn move. If the director wishes to allow more than fifty moves for certain positions, details must be posted at the tournament before the first round.

 

USCF Rule 20M5 states "Spectators, including parents and coaches, may point out irregularities to the director in a manner neither heard nor noticed by the players, but have no right to make claims of any kind on behalf of players. … A spectator who makes a claim may be ejected.

 

FIDE Law 13.6 states " The arbiter must not intervene in a game except in cases described by the Laws of Chess. He shall not indicate the number of moves made, except in applying Article 8.5, when at least one player has used all his time. The arbiter shall refrain from informing a player that his opponent has completed a move.

 

FIDE Law 13.7 states " Spectators and players in other games are not to speak about or otherwise interfere in a game. If necessary, the arbiter may expel offenders from the playing venue

 

FIDE cautions that the Arbiter must also refrain from calling attention to claim situations as they are entirely the responsibility of the players.

 

Both USCF and FIDE have additional applicable language as well.

 

Our next question applies to chess competition.

 

Q.   Can a Tournament Director play in a tournament that he or she directs?

 

A.    There is no rule that forbids it, but it is strongly discouraged. Generally it is not allowable for major events, but is acceptable and sometimes even necessary for small local events. The important thing is that if a tournament director is playing and directing the tournament, there must be a disinterested third party or appeals committee named before the tournament starts in order to rule on possible issues that could affect the tournament director's role as a player. Appearance of conflict of interest is to be avoided just as much as actual conflict of interest.

 

Details: USCF Rule 21E (The Playing Director) states: "A tournament director must not only be absolutely objective, but must also devote full attention to directing duties. For this reason a director, in principle, should not direct and play in the same tournament. However, in club events and others that do not involve substantial prizes, it is common practice for the director to play. A director may also serve as house player. Those who choose this double role should be especially careful to maintain objectivity. If possible, a playing director should appoint another director to make rulings involving his or her own games.

 

The following questions are very timely due to the rapid increase in popularity of sudden death time controls and online chess.

 

Q. Can you explain the sudden death time control?

 

A. The "Sudden Death time control" is a time control where instead of having to make a specific number of moves in a given time, you must complete the game in a given time.


Conventional time controls used in OTB tournaments typically would specify a primary time control of 40 moves or more in 2 hours, followed by successive time controls of 20 moves per hour. The actual number of moves and time allowed could be higher or lower. This is an example. This type of time control allows games to go forever as long as the necessary number of moves is made by each player. This is one of the reasons that most OTB tournaments would require an entire weekend for 5 games, for example, but it allows for the best chess, especially in the ending.


Sudden death time controls such as Game/60 for third or even secondary time control periods started to become popular in tournaments many years ago, primarily because they would allow a specific maximum time for each round to be completed. For example, a tournament with time controls of 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by 20 moves per hour, followed by SD/30 allows for the players to play 60 moves each, followed by 30 minutes each to complete the game. This would allow up to six hours before the sudden death time control even starts. Games that are not over by that time must finish in the next 30 minutes, regardless of the number of moves. That way no game will take over 7 hours.


Still, five 7 hour games takes a whole weekend, so sudden death time controls have become common even as first time controls. When used as the only time control sudden death time controls are abbreviated with a G/ instead of SD/. Example: Time control 40/2, SD 30 allows for 40 moves in the first 2 hours, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game. Time control G/30 allows for the entire game to be completed in 1 hour (30 minutes per player). You can play a five round tournament in a single day if the time control is Game/40, etc.


Details: USCF Rule 5B states "Sudden Death Time Controls: If the final or only time control requires all moves to be made in a specified time, this is considered a "sudden death" time control. The abbreviation "SD" is generally used for a final such control, the abbreviation "G" for an only such control. For example "40/2, SD/1" indicates 40 moves in two hours followed by the rest of the game in an hour, while "G/30" means each player has 30 minutes for the entire game.

 

FIDE Law of Chess 10 describes "Quickplay Finish" regulations. Quickplay Finish is the usual FIDE nomenclature for Sudden Death time controls.

 

Q. How is a player's time measured?

 

A. There are both analog and digital chess clocks. Chess clocks consist of two separate clocks, one to track White's time and the other to track Black's time. When one clock is running the other is stopped, so at any given time it is only the player who is on the move that risks overstepping the time control. Chess clocks have an indicator as to when a player's time has expired. Traditional mechanical clocks use a flag that is pushed up by the clock's minute hand. When the time passes the hour marker, the flag falls, giving a clear indication that the time has expired. It is because of this tradition that the expiration indicator is called a flag even if, in the case of some digital clocks, it takes a different form. When setting the clock it is to be set so that the time for the first time control expires at 6:00. If, for example the first time control is 45 moves in 2 hours, the clock should be set to 4:00, whereas if the first time control were 40 moves in 2.5 hours the clocks should be set to 3:30, etc. In 35/90 SD/60, for example, The clocks are originally set to read 4:30.  The players must be at move 35 by the time their clocks read 6:00 and the game must be over by
the time they read 7:00.

 

Time accumulates. If one player makes the first 35 moves in 5 minutes, that player has 145 minutes left to finish the game.

 

In 35/90, SD/30 an extra 30 minutes are added to each player's clock after both players have made their 35th move. This allows the time for the second time control to expire on the hour and be indicated by a flag fall.

 

When a player's flag falls and the opponent has maintained a reasonably complete scoresheet, the opponent can claim a win on time regardless of the position unless the previous move ended the game or the player who claims the win does not have sufficient material to win the game over the board. For example, Bobby has a king, queen and two rooks and his opponent has a king and a pawn. If Bobby's flag falls his opponent can claim a win on time. You cannot assume best play or even good play. The existence of the pawn makes it possible (even though not probable) for the opponent to win over the board. The game will be a win for Bobby's opponent. If, on the other hand, Bobby's opponent had a king and one knight, but not a pawn, the game would be drawn. It would not be considered a win for the opponent because a king and single knight cannot win over the board.

 

Details: There are a considerable number of rules (both USCF and FIDE) that apply to clocks and time controls. They have been and are still in the process of being rewritten to expand on information about the use of time delays made possible by newer technology digital clocks. FIDE Law 6 and USCF Rule 16 describe the use of the clock. Reasonably well. I'll be happy to quote the applicable rules to cover any specific additional questions.

 

Q. Under what circumstances would a game be adjudicated?

 

A. Ideally never. Adjudication of games is strongly discouraged in serious competition. It is only allowed in "emergency" situations and on a temporary non-binding basis for pairing purposes. Chess is, first and foremost, a game to be decided over the board between two players. Adjudication of a game, even if the result is obvious, does not allow for the players to determine the result of the game. If a game must be stopped before it is completed, it is usually adjourned.  The computer keeps track of the position of adjourned online games, which can be resumed at a time when both players are online. There is a very specific procedure for adjournment of over-the-board games that allows both players to study the position before resuming the game, but the player whose move it would be will not know his or her opponent's last move and will not be able to change his or her own last move.

 

If a tournament game is not completed by the time the next round is scheduled to start, the game may be adjudicated temporarily for pairing purposes, so that pairings for the next round can be made. The game then continues and the only games to be delayed in the following round are those that involve the players that are completing their game. Pairings for the following round have been made based on the adjudication, so that the entire round is not delayed. An alternative is to pair based on the adjudication, but adjourn the game at the actual start of the next round, so that no games in the following round are delayed. The actual result, not the adjudicated result, is used for the players' score and pairings for any future rounds.

 

Details: USCF rule 18G states in part: " Only under emergency circumstances may a director permanently adjudicate a game, that is declare a result based upon best play by both sides." (18G1) "An "emergency" situation could arise, for example, if a player with substantial time remaining and a poor position disappears for more than 15 minutes or is present but shows little interest in considering the position. Such behavior is unsportsmanlike and the Director is encouraged to adjudicate, possibly after a warning."

 

The following question regarding the most basic of rules is still a very important question that is probably thought about by large numbers of beginning players, yet is rarely asked. Thanks for asking. The answer should help many people.

 

Q. Why must a light colored square always be in the right hand corner?

 

A. That is a basic part of the rules of chess. It allows for all chessboards anywhere and anytime to be set up the same way. It defines the identity and properties of each square on the board. For example, it allows for White's King's Bishop to always be on the light squares and Black's KB to always be on the black squares (and the reverse for the Queen bishops).

 

At the time the rules were made it didn't really matter which color the right corner square (h1 or a8) was, only that it is always the same. Since the decision was that the color is to be white it must be white everywhere in the world and always. The same is true with the Q being on her own color. Players have a right to expect that wherever and whenever they are playing chess the board will always be set up the same way.

 

Details: USCF Rule 2C specifies: The chessboard is placed between the players in such a way that the nearer corner to the right of each player is white. Note: Rule 2A defines the term "chessboard" and rule 2B defines "white squares" as the light colored squares and "black squares" as the dark colored squares.

 

FIDE Law 2.1 combines the information from the USCF Rules 2A, 2B, and 2C into a single rule, which states: "The chessboard is composed of an 8x8 grid of 64 equal squares alternately light (the "white" squares) and dark (the "black squares"). The chessboard is placed between the players in such a way that the near corner square to the right of the player is white."

 

The purpose of the rule is to assure consistency.

 

The following question applies to the use of notes during an over-the-board tournament game.

 

Q. I was wondering what is allowed to notate DURING an OTB game. I know you have to write down your moves, some players write the time to next to some moves, or put a little * next to a move to indicate that was crucial move or something, but are you allowed to write your variations on the back of your notation sheet ? I know, on first sight I would also say 'of course not', but is there a rule that says I can't ?

 

A. Yes, both USCF and FIDE prohibit making any notes during a game other than moves and times on the scoresheet or anywhere else to assist memory. Marks such as a *, ?, !, etc. made after a move that has been played (to aid in post-game analysis) are not generally considered to violate these rules unless they can be construed as providing hints for future moves. It is also common practice for players to underline or otherwise mark the final move in a time control period. This is also not generally considered a violation. There are other rules that can be enforced against those who place such a mark on an incorrect move in order to mislead or confuse the opponent.

 

Details: FIDE Law 12.2 specifies "During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information, advice, or to analyze on another chessboard. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, the offer of a draw, and matters relating to a claim."

 

USCF Rule 20B states in part "Use of Recorded Matter Prohibited: During play, players are forbidden to make use of handwritten, printed, or otherwise recorded matter."

 

USCF Rule 20C states in part "Use of notes Prohibited: The use of notes made during the game as an aid to memory is forbidden, aside from the actual recording of the moves, clock times, and the header information normally found on a scoresheet.

 

The next questions refer to the "Touch-Move" rules.

 

Q. If a player makes an illegal move with a piece, must he or she then make some legal move with that piece, if possible, because the piece has been touched?

 

A. Yes, if an illegal move was attempted and a legal move is possible with the same piece, the same piece must be moved.

 

Details: FIDE Law of Chess Article 4.3 provides that "Except as provided in Article 4.2 (which allows a piece to be touched if the player first expresses his intention to adjust rather than move a piece by saying "I adjust" or "j'adoube"), if the player having the move deliberately touches on the chessboard (a) one or more of his own pieces, he must move the first piece touched that can be moved, or (b) one of his opponent's pieces he must capture the first piece touched which can be captured, or (c) one piece of each colour, or, if this is illegal, move or capture the first piece touched which can be moved or captured. If it is unclear whether the player's own piece or his opponent's piece was touched first, the player's own piece shall be considered to have been touched before his opponent's."

 

Per FIDE Law of Chess Article 4.5 If none of the pieces touched can be moved or captured, the player may make any legal move. Please note, however, that distraction of the opponent is forbidden and if a player touches a piece that cannot be moved or captured and there is evidence that it was done intentionally, there are penalties for improper behavior that can be imposed.

 

Article 10 of the USCF Rules of Chess is essentially identical in substance, but it provides additional guidance in situations where a piece may be touched accidentally. It requires the reasonable appearance of intent to move as opposed to touching a piece accidentally. Article 10 E, for example, states "A director who believes that a player touched a piece by accident should not require the player to move that piece. For example, a player's hand moving across the board may inadvertently brush the top of a King or Queen, or a player may hit a piece with an elbow." Here again, repeated or deliberate instances of "accidental" touches can lead to other penalties related to behavior or sportsmanship.

 

Q. Must a piece be moved to the first square it touches?

 

A. No. At one time there was a "touch-square" rule, which required the piece to be moved to the first square it touched. That requirement was removed long ago, but some people think it still applies. It doesn't. It was repealed because many players slide their pieces rather than picking them up and setting them down, and there is no intent to require that a piece be moved only one square if it is slid.

 

Details: Instead, the piece must move to the square where the piece is first released according to both FIDE (Article 4.6) and USCF (Article 10). If a player moves to a square, pauses but doesn't release the piece, then continues, that's OK. If, on the other hand, a player accidentally releases a piece on a square that would be a legal move, it must remain there per Article 10G, which states "A player who deliberately touches a piece and then accidentally releases it on an unintended but legal square is required to leave it on that square."

 

Q. If a player promotes a pawn, must he or she promote it to the first piece that is touched off of the board?

 

A. No. The pawn is promoted to the first piece that is released on the promotion square. What happens off of the board is irrelevant.

 

Details: USCF Article 10H addresses touching pieces off of the board in the context of completing a move. It states "There is no penalty for touching a piece that is off the board. A player who advances a pawn to the last rank and then touches a piece that is off the board is not obligated to promote the pawn to the piece touched until that piece has been released on the promotion square."

 

 

 


 

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