Just the Rules #25: Law and Order

In the TV series Law & Order we get the crime, arrest, and trial all in 60 minutes minus the commercials. In real life, even in the chess universe, it does not work that slick. It is not a short process. While the three most common committees have some minor differences in dealing with complaints, they all have some procedures in common:
  • Complaints require a $50 good faith deposit. If the complaint is found to be non-trivial—not correct or incorrect, but non-trivial—by the ruling committee then the deposit is returned.
  • All complaints should be typed. Why? If they can’t read it, they can’t deal with it. Make sure to cite any pertinent rules or regulations in your grievance. Focus on the incident at hand, not earlier instances from other tournaments. And make sure you are a party directly involved in the incident—yes, the parent(s) of young children, or the coach of a team impacted by the episode, can also file the complaint. Spectators can’t typically initiate this process.
  • Include all evidence with a complaint including first-hand person typed witness statements. Committees and the US Chess office are not investigators—they’re not equipped for it.
  • The complaint will be forwarded to the respondent for a rebuttal, with a due date for a response. Committees sometimes, but not always, need more information. They will then request that the office forward those committee questions to the appropriate individuals. The Ethics Committee typically does not ask for further information from either party.
  • The committees will discuss the complaint and all evidence amongst themselves. They will then issue a recommendation(s) including: rejecting the complaint, sanctions, re-education, etc.
  • Any party involved has 30 days to appeal a committee recommendation.
For the step by step filing procedures for each committee check out the following links: Ethics, Rules, and TDCC (Tournament Director Certification Committee). One thing those documents don’t mention is that after a committee issues its report on your complaint-appeal they may also refer the case to another committee for further deliberations. Sample TDCC Complaint You are pretty comfortable in your last round Sudden Death game. Your clock shows that you have 15 minutes before your flag falls. Your opponent has a mere 6 minutes before their flag goes south. It is your move. The TD steps in and halts your clock. He explains that the tournament has to vacate the premises in 10 minutes. He grabs the game timer and sets both your time and your opponent’s at 3 minutes each—with no delay. Despite your protests he starts your reset clock. Sample Rules Complaint You really enjoy your Thursday night rated chess club meetings. The club provides the space and the players provide the equipment. One player continues to bring his oversized medieval pieces that rest on an undersized chess board—with the squares being too small. It is a tight fit for those pieces—they seem to touch the edges of each square. And right there on the pairings sheet you see that you are in charge of the white pieces against this fellow. You complain to the TD that your opponent’s equipment is not standard while yours is. You want to use your set and board. The TD points out that your opponent is playing the black pieces and gets to choose the equipment. He rules against you. Sample Ethics Complaint Recently there has been a player at every local event you have been at that continues to drink alcohol to excess during the event—flasks are the vehicle of choice here. By the end of the day this player becomes rude, loud, and verbally combative. The TDs and organizers have counseled him about changing this behavior to no avail. Event after event, chance after chance, he becomes disruptive. In desperation they ban him from their events. Sidebar: Sometimes a TD will use a tournament on-site appeals committee or a special referee to initially hear an appeal of his ruling. On site appeals committees typically have a disruptive impact on many events, so they don’t get used much now-a-days. Special referees can be contacted instead. A list of experienced TDs that do that job can be found on-line. And even if an appeals committee, or a special referee, rule against you, you can still file an appeal (complaint) with US Chess within 7 days after the event has ended. The US Chess Rules (Chapters 1-2+11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available on-line. Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here. 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 column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations. Find all archived columns here.   


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great explanation, Tim!!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There is also a FIDE Events committee for complaints coming from FIDE rated US Chess tournaments. TDCC, Rules and Ethics complaints can also be shared by FIDE events Committee and done solely by FIDE Events if the issue is more related to FIDE rules and procedures or norm tournaments.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Then there are the specious complaints where the $50 filing fee would be forfeited. Sort of hypothetical examples: A spectator is sitting at a table with his laptop set up and complains about being made to move because the board five game is scheduled to be played at that table in a few minutes; A parent objects to his kid's opponent being able to use en passant because that had never been taught to his kid and he had never heard of it; A player objects to the final round pairings because the two top-rated players leading the tournament were not paired against each other, but were instead paired against lower rated players with the same score.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just a note about appeals committees. Remember that the members of the appeals committee should be TDs certified at the level of the TD being appealed (or higher). For example, if a Senior TD is being appealed then the committee should consist of Senior, Associate National and/or National TDs (Club and Local TDs should not be on an appeals committee for a Senior TD. Special Referees are always available for those times when an appeals committee cannot be formed on site. PS If a Senior TD is a section chief and a Local TD is the overall chief then the Local TD would still be in the line of appeals (as chief TD) even though a Local TD would not be qualified for an appeals committee. One way of mentoring is for higher-certified TDs to serve as assistants to lower-certified and make sure the lower-certified TDs actually do the tasks they need to learn. Usually a lower-certified chief TD will discuss a ruling with the higher-certified assistant before overturning a decision, but that is one of the duties of the chief TD when necessary (judgement calls would be an example of a reason for making such a decision).

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What should the TD have done in the TDCC complaint hypothetical if presented with that situation -- adjudicate?

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