Just the Rules: The Bye Zone

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When it comes to byes, we are all pretty familiar with the half-pointers and one-pointers. You can ask for a half-pointer when you need to skip a round. Some tournaments have limits on how many half-pointers can be requested, and when you can make this request. The hoop-jumping for getting a late-round half-point bye is typically early on in the event.

You can pick up a one-point bye when you are left without any opponent after the pairings have been made. The pairings require an even number of players. When there is an odd number of contestants, someone ends up without an adversary. Your one-point reward is compensation for not having someone to push wood against.

Buried in rules 22, 28L and 28M are some ideas of what you can expect if the TD chooses to apply an alternative to your one-point bye award. You can also add a free point to your tournament score when your opponent is a no-show, but this is technically not a bye Rather, it is a forfeit win; however, for all practical purposes there is no difference. A free point is a free point.

Then there is the zero-point bye. Like Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect.

Zero-pointers are not prohibited via the rules: indeed, they are not even discussed. They do exist but are not common. They have limited uses. That zero-point option might be all that is available if you need to miss a round and are out of requested byes. They also come in handy when you are assigned a one-pointer for being the odd unpaired player. You can ask the TD to give you a zero-point bye when you get stuck with an unwanted one-pointer. Why? 

It has been noted that awarding a left-over wood pusher a full point — for being the lowest-rated player in the lowest score group — is not really compensation, but more like a punishment. Sometimes no point at all — or even a half-point — is a more desirable benefit. Why? As a struggling player, that one-point “award” kicks you up several score groups for the next round, where your struggle becomes even harder. Keeping yourself in the same score group with a zero-point bye — or even moving up one fewer score groups with a half-point bye — might be a better deal; however, your extra point does give you a huge leg up on claiming a tournament prize. While you are receiving that freebie, your rivals have to earn their points. Beware, TDs are not required to honor your request for a zero-point bye.


Welcome To the Bye Zone

Sometimes there are unintended results to picking up those free bye points.

Meet the Dubber. Dubber is his official nickname. He is rated 1325. At one time, he claims, he was a class A player; however, there is no evidence of this that anyone can find. Dubber decided to essay games in his state’s Senior Chess Championship. Little did he know he was about to enter the Bye Zone.

It was a decent time control, five round, two-day, one section (open) contest. The top scorer would earn the title of State Senior Chess Champion. There were separate championship crowns — and cash prizes — for lower-rated classes. A total of two half-point requested byes were allowed, which is an extremely generous event benefit. In fact, it is a benefit that the state organization senior players had requested over the years. Dubber paid his entry fee and took advantage of this excellent offer. He asked for half-pointers on the last round of each day: rounds three and five.

On day one he scored a victory in his first contest. His round two game was a barn-burner that only netted him a goose egg. Round 3 was his first half-point requested bye, so he headed home. The next morning he picked up a free point when his opponent for round four bailed and became a no-show. The last game, round five, was one he had previously requested as his last half-pointer.

Dubber’s early victory netted him one point. His round two goose egg added nothing to his tournament score. His first half-point bye request came in round three. The forfeit win in his round four morning match-up added another point to his total. His last round was the second of his requested half-point byes. That equals a five-game total of three points (1 + 0 + 1/2 + 1 + 1/2). His 3/5 score awarded him the Class D/E senior crown, title and some pocket change. The final count of his closest rival in the event was a mere two points. Dubber chuckled a lot about his prize… all the way to the bank.

Only in the Bye Zone could a wood-pusher win only a single game to become the State Senior Class D/E champ.

This Bye Zone tale was based on an actual tournament.

Want more? Past columns can be found here or by searching the Chess Life Online archives.

Plus, listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”

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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 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. US Chess awarded the 2022 Tournament Director Lifetime Achievement Award to Tim. He is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee plus the Tournament Director Certification Committee (TDCC). His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.