Just the Rules: Making Rulebook Magic

Tim Just
“That rule is stupid. I’ve played chess for 50 years now and always done it that way,” exclaimed the player that was warned for touching his Rook first when castling. “That rule needs to be changed.” “That rule is ridiculous,” was the reaction of the player that was penalized for notating his move on his electronic notation device before executing it on the board. “That rule needs to be changed.” “Rating floors are silly,” exclaimed the player rated 2000—his ratings floor—that was not allowed to play in the “Under 2000” (U2000) section at the event he wanted to enter. “That rule needs to be changed.” “I lost because I was one and a half hour late for the game due to someone else losing my car keys?” “That rule needs to be changed”. Players get mad as—well, you know what—and they are not going to take it anymore. Some chess rule or another has finally really ticked them off. Rules can be changed, added, or deleted from the Rulebook—and Delegates Magic can do that. Finding a Delegate. The Delegates are in charge of the rules. They vote on what goes into, out of, and adjusted in the US Chess rulebook—you know, Chapters 1,2, and 11. Other people are in charge of all that extra additional stuff in the rest of the Rulebook. So, job numero uno is to get a rule’s idea in front of any Delegate. Where are the Delegates? Each state has Delegates that attend the annual convention and vote on rules changes—the 2019 list of Delegates can found here. Get in touch with any of them regarding any rules changes—typically one’s own state Delegate is the best bet for gaining support. There are some hoops for a Delegate to jump through. The best hoop is to get a rule’s change motion published in the advanced Delegates Convention agenda. Why? Typically those Advanced Delegate Motions (ADMs) get discussed on the Forums and at the committee level weeks before the meeting. Plus, plans to change a rule get vetted at the workshops held during the week before the Delegates meeting. Given the short time limit for debate at the meeting, advanced agenda ADMs get great sales exposure before word one is spoken at the convention. Be aware that motions added by a Delegate on the floor of the convention get no such long term sales pitch before a vote is cast. No Delegate, No Problem. There is a shortcut to all that early hoop jumping. Attend—or get someone to attend for you—the US Open annual membership meeting (held the day before the Delegates Convention). Present any intended rule change as a motion(s) at that gathering. If the motion passes there, then the next day that motion makes it to the top spot—ahead of the published ADMs—on the Delegates’ agenda. There will be no early sales opportunities using this shortcut. Delegate Convention Magic At their annual get together the Delegates debate rules motions and sometimes change them—and those changes could make one’s head spin. Next, they vote on it. If it passes then the rules motion must wait for one more year (a new procedural change beginning with the 2019 Delegate’s Convention) to be voted on and passed again—with no changes—before becoming chess law. There is a provision that if 85% of the Delegates pass any rule’s motion, then it is instantly effective on January 1 following their August meeting. And rather than vote yes or no on the motion the Delegates sometimes simply send it off to a committee for review. It gets re-evaluated there before being sent back to the Delegates, at their next meeting, where the two year voting cycle starts all over again. Review the Magic: (1) A motion for a rule’s change (or addition or deletion) needs to make it onto the Delegate’s agenda. (2) The Delegates will debate the motion, and then vote on it or send it out for further review. (3) If a rule’s motion passes then it will need to pass again at next year’s Delegate Convention, with no changes before it becomes chess law. But the motion can pass instantly—year number one—with an 85% Delegate approval rate. Making Your Own Magic. But of course if you don’t like how the Delegates make rulebook magic, then you can simply side step them altogether: How? By posting and announcing any rules changes you want to make at the events you organize (or direct). As a player you can encourage the powers that be, at the events you attend, to post, or announce, the rules changes that you desire at their tournaments. And that is how to make your own rulebook magic. The US Chess Rules (Chapters 1-2+11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available on-line. 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.

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