Just the Rules: Wouldn't It Be Nice If...

just the Rules by Tim Just

It is said that those hand-held communicators in Captain Kirk’s Star Trek universe were the inspiration for those first generation “flip phones.” Here is my list of inspirations of what yours truly would like to see at tournaments. It is a list devoid of any notion of being doable or affordable. Nor is there any thought given to the unintended consequences that may arise from their implementation. I have faith that those who excel at creating technological miracles can find a way to create these niceties:

Improved Tournament Entry System: Using an online format -- or an at the site form -- tournament officials can look up the data they need to make sure you get to push wood at their events. At some point that data gets transferred to a computer pairings program, or to a paring card. That data transfer is an opportunity for error infection.  

Wouldn’t it be nice if that data could instead be directly entered into the pairings software -- via an app perhaps? That could reduce the number of errors that creep into the current data transfer system. Right now, a TD can sit there with a computer and directly enter player data into a pairings program for their on-site entries. That works well for small to medium-sized tournaments, but not so well for those Super Swisses. A direct data entry system might also reduce those long lines for on-site entries.

Adding phone contact info to that data would also be a plus. Some sort of privacy concerns would need to be addressed, but it would up the ante for the next item on this list.


Your Pairings Via Text: Actually, this sometimes happens right now. Wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t so clunky and expensive? The entire process needs to be easier to use for the player and organizer/TD; it needs to be more automated. It should be just as easy as to request a bye. The pairings software could receive and log that request automatically, with no extra data entry required from a TD. Of course, the traditional posted pairings sheet would still be available.


Game Reporting Made Easier: Wouldn’t it be nice if chess generals could report their game results (text? online?) and get them instantly recorded by the pairings software? And once again, traditional ways of reporting your win-loss-draw results would still be available.


Audio Chess Clock Setup: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell your chess clock the info it needs to be set properly? You would be able to set those time controls using just your voice! Wood pushers that like setting their timers by hand should still be able to do so.


Notation Without Effort: Nowadays, that is possible with the purchase of a special game board. Those boards don’t come cheap — and they don’t roll up for travel. Wouldn’t it be nice if games got notated on every board without any special equipment?

Recent electronic devices that offered a substitute for paper and pencil notation had their fans -- and their critics too. But they still required humans to do the data entry for every move. The idea here would be some system where all of the tournament games get notated without any human effort at all. Traditional scoresheets would be optional.


Claimless Rules Enforcement: Cheating at chess online is a serious concern. Rules enforcement is not. Without any human involvement at all items like stalemates, mates, touched pieces, triple repetition of position, illegal moves, etc. all get the watchful eye of online software -- the rules get enforced automatically. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get this process to work over the board?

The philosophy that players only are responsible for making their own claims over-the-board Vs not needing to make any claims online seems a bit like believing two opposite things at the same time (cognitive dissonance). Enforcing simple straight forward rules like threefold repetition of position, checkmate, touch move, stalemate, etc. is, in my opinion, better done by non-humans.

Video Recorded All Games: If the “Claimless Rules Enforcement” idea isn’t workable, then wouldn’t it be nice if the use of video (surveillance cameras?) could validate a rule’s claim? No more bickering at the board next to you regarding a simple rule’s enforcement issue. Of course, it would also add a huge expense to the tournament bottom line. Future gizmos might make this an affordable idea?

What else can we add to this list?

US Chess informed me that I will receive the 2022 Tournament Director Lifetime Achievement Award. A big THANK YOU to the chess universe is in order. I have said often that as a player in a five round tournament, I can make five people happy. As the TD of a five round event, I make a great many more people happy.

  • The free, updated US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2 + 9 + 10 +11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available online.
  • Want more? Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here.
  • Plus, listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”

Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th, 6th, and 7th editions of the US Chess Rulebook. He is also the author of My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut & Just Law, which are both available from US Chess Sales and Amazon/Kindle. Additionally, Tim recently revised The Guide To Scholastic Chess, a guide created to help teachers and scholastic organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. Tim is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee. His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.


It's worth noting that FIDE's philosophy is in line with Tim's re the Claims. I think it is long past time we bring our rules into sync with the rest of the world, but this is very unpopular with the delegates.

Here are two rules that seem contradictory:

If using a non-delay-capable clock, the clock is to be set to the base time. For example,

G/25 d5 is set to G/25 d0 for a non-delay-capable clock;

G/8 d3 is set to G/8 d0 for a non-delay-capable clock;

G/3 d2 is set to G/3 d0 for a non-delay-capable clock.

The standard rule is, there is no claim of "no losing chances."

Games played with non-delay-capable clocks will be rated the same as all other games in the section.


Yet the "rateable time controls" rule says that the above time controls are not rateable as, respectively, dual, quick, and blitz

But they are rated, respectively, as dual, quick, and blitz.


Contradictory rules invite, at least, expressions of concern.


One possible resolution to the contradition would be  that by default, games played with non-delay-capable clocks would be set to the full (mm + ss) time as the base time:

G/25 d5 would be G/30 d0;

G/8 d3 would be G/11 d0;

G/3 d2 would be G/5 d0.


Tom Worley


I strongly disagree with rewarding players with extra main time if they fail to furnish a clock capable of handling the announced time control. This could lead to dirty tricks, like two players "agreeing" to play G/30 instead of G/25 just because they want a little extra main time.

If one player does not furnish an adequate clock, it is up to the other player to do so. If neither does so, then let them both play with reduced time and no delay -- serves them right.

A game that starts with an analog clock could be handled analogously to a game that starts with no clock at all. The TD could slap a proper clock on the game after it has already started. Then, instead of splitting the elapsed time equally, the players would each get whatever time their respective clock faces had been showing on the analog clock, with the 5-second delay going into effect (for both players) for the rest of the game.

True, and well said.


Another way to avoid the, "it's not rateable, but we're rating it" policy would be to define the blitz/quick-only/dual/regular-only time ranges by main time only, rather than by mm + ss.


Because an old clock is still legal.


Or, just add to the TD Tip after 5C1, "Games played with delay-incapable clocks are set to the main time only, but are rated as if the delay or increment were in effect."


Then the rules would be consistent with themselves.

mm + ss has long been the standard, for a whole bunch of very good reasons.

But your second idea is a good one: "Games played with delay-incapable clocks are set to the main time only, but are rated as if the delay or increment were in effect."

This should be said in the rulebook. It's already being done. Prizes and invitations hinge on ratings. We don't want an aggrieved player asking a judge to rule that he should have been awarded a prize or a title on the strength of what his rating would've been had an unrateable game not been rated. 

"It says right here, your honor, that game's not rateable."

"Yes, I see, plaintiff, it does say that."

Please stop calling it "three time repetition". It's "threefold occurrence", in which case the position in question has been repeated twice.

It's perfectly normal for G25 d5 to be G30 with an analog clock. For a 60 move game, which is usually an upper limit in real life, the same amount of time is expended (60 minutes).

Some of your other suggestions have already been implemented at the Marshall Chess Club, including online registration and pairings available by text/phone. You can contact our Executive Director Lance Yoon at lancey@marshallchesclub.org for further details.

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