Just the Rules: The Draw Offer Blues

Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th & 6th edition 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 and his new column exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.

There you are, staring at the board. The position is stagnate, and it is your opponent’s turn to move. You offer a draw. Your adversary goes into a deep think and is trying to decide what to do about your draw offer. You continue to evaluate the position. Then it hits you: you see the winning move—for you! Your opponent can do nothing to stop it. Victory is in your sights. You inform your opponent that you are retracting your draw offer. Then, your adversary notices the same winning line that you just found for yourself, so they accept your draw offer. Of course you protest—you took your half-point offer off of the table. Besides your draw offer was made improperly—it was not even your move!? The TD rules that the game ends in a draw. There is nothing you can do about it. Why? You can’t rescind a draw offer after it is made—even if it is made improperly.

So how do you properly make a draw offer? What is the right sequence?

Make your move, offer the draw, and then press your clock—it’s the law.

Make your move—while it is still your turn—on the board before offering a draw, next offer the draw, and lastly press your clock. That is the correct procedure for you or your opponent when splitting the point by agreement. It does not matter whether you have tons of time left to play the game or are scrambling to beat the clock. Either way, these are the exact steps that should take place when you are offering a draw. And even if a draw offer does not follow these steps (an out of sequance draw offer), it can’t be taken back.

If you offer a draw while your clock is counting down without moving a piece, your opponent can compel you to make a move before they decide what to do with your offer. They get to see what was on your mind before making up theirs. Unfortunately for them, you may find a checkmate move that instantly ends the game; thus, the draw offer is moot.

And remember to say, “Thank you for agreeing to a draw.” That-a-way you are sure that your rival does not think your handshake is a sign of resignation. Handshakes really don’t mean a thing, though they are a nice gesture of sportsmanship.

Knowing how to offer a draw is only one part of the equation. Knowing how to reject a draw is the other part.

To reject a draw, let your opponents know—touch your piece or just say “no.”

You offer a draw. Your opponent mentions that the game indeed looks “drawish.” You both make a few more moves, and you checkmate your rival. Your opposing general claims that the two of you agreed to a draw and that you were just analyzing, not playing on. First, the two of you should not be analyzing in the tournament room. Once a game is over, stop the clocks and leave the tournament room. If there is a difference of opinion regarding the game result, get a TD to help both of you sort things out. Playing on after the game score is determined creates a lot of problems.

By the way, most TDs will probably rule this game a draw, because both of you said the magic word “draw.” So, be careful how you reject any draw offers.

If you want to reject a draw offer, you can just say, “No thanks,” or simply touch one of your own pieces before you move it. That draw offer is now gone. It does not stick around move after move.

But how can a draw offer turn into a loss?

Thinking about a draw offer may cause the blues: If your flag falls, you can still lose.

You and your opponent are both short on time. They offer you a draw. While you check over the position, your flag falls—you are out of time?! Your opponent claims a win. You accept their draw offer. After all, it took place before your time ran out. Sorry, you lose. You have no time left to accept the draw offer.

Next time, we will travel deeper into the maze of US Chess draw law.


  1. As always a very well written piece especially on the draw offer. This area is still a problem child for many players rated all the way to the top(even many TD’s). I had a 14B3 draw offer a few weeks back “player offering draw before moving”. Black offered white a draw immediately (without making a move on the board first), after white pressed his clock after moving (I was present). White just sat there in stony silence and said nothing while black’s clock is now ticking away to zero. Black then reoffered the draw the second time apparently thinking white never heard the draw offer (black’s clock running off a lot of time). White looked at me and claimed he had heard the draw offer the 1st time. I warned black your opponent knows you offered the draw you must therefore wait until white responds. White had listened the week previously as I explained to the club an opponent does not have to accept,or reject the 14B3 draw offer, nor does the opponent even have ask the player to make a move first if an offer of a 14B3 draw is made(the worst way to offer a draw). The fourth option allowed is the opponent may simply remain silent and just let the player’s clock run out and win on time. Which is exactly what happened to black. It may “seem” unfair but the law is the law and this 4th option of remaining silent was exercised legally. I think this article in particular concerning the draw offer is a very important one and needs to be understood correctly.

    • Well, black could just move, rather than waiting and letting his time run out, when it became clear that white wasn’t going to respond.

      • John Doe is correct. Just make the move, press the clock, and wait for the response on your opponent’s time (not your own). There is no stated penalty for offering the draw on your own time before making the move. There is no reason you cannot move after making the offer. You do not need to get a response before moving.
        “I warned black your opponent knows you offered the draw you must therefore wait until white responds.” This statement by a TD is misleading. It sounds like the TD is telling the person who offered he must wait and must do nothing (not even make his own move). That is not the case. Black may certainly make a move and press the clock.

  2. Way back in the early 80s when the Kaisha clock was becoming popular (the first countdown clock, if I recall correctly) I was playing GM Benko in a World Open-associated event (possibly the weekend before). When the time remaining went under 10 minutes, the clock would then show minutes and seconds. As always the GM was low on time and he panicked. “If I only have seven seconds left, I offer a draw,” he said. “You have nine minutes and seven seconds left, ” I said, “but I accept your offer”. He then attempted to retract the offer but the TD agreed with me that the offer could not be retracted and that my acceptance was valid. I subsequently drew with him another time in New York.

  3. I must disagree here with the 14B3 draw offer responses from Tim and Dave. Black has the move and all the rights of the chessboard since white just moved and pressed his clock. White just made his decision at the board and has now given that right back to black. Black then offers a draw to his opponent but does not move a piece first which is breaking the rules. Therefore anything done after this improper action is another breaking of the rules. At this point black abrogates his rights at the board to do anything but wait as he has given the rights of the chessboard and the next subsequent action to his opponent. Black cannot press his clock as he cannot make a move, he cannot make a move predicated on the fact he just offered his opponent a choice of action by his own action of offering a draw before moving. Allowing black to move as well in this type of draw offer (without penalty) gives black two separate and distinct actions in one move. That cannot be legal. Black has now taken himself out of the game after offering his opponent to make a decision about the game before even moving a piece on the board. This transfers control of the game to the opponent and must be answered before the player can make a move. White is in control of the game (even though black’s clock is running)as per the rule. Two players cannot have rights of action on the board at the same time. Since action can only belong to one player at a time, and, only one player can make a move or decision at a time. Black made his decision (action) by offering a draw without moving. White now has the decision making authority on the board. White has no obligation to do anything if so inclined as his clock is not running but the players.
    There is nothing inferred in this rule that the player is now allowed to also make a 2nd action of making a move after offering such a draw “before” moving, and then pressing his clock. This is a unique situation and demands a proper interpretation. Since “or remain silent” belongs to the opponent as an option this infers losing on time as well regarding the player.

    Rule 14B3- Draw offer before moving. Scott proposes a draw offer before moving, Scott must allow the offer to stand that Scott just offered to Tim until Tim either accepts or rejects it(states nothing about Scott being able to now arbitrarily make a move and press the clock). Such a proposal offered by Scott while unlikely to annoy Tim can be disadvantageous to Scott, as Scott may subsequently notice a strong move and regret the inability to withdraw the offer. Tim who was offered a draw in this manner by Scott “has the right” to require Scott to “make a move” (which Scott apparently has not done nor has the right to) before Tim decides to accept (or reject) the offer, and Tim “may” respond to Scott “make your move first” (once again no move has or can legally be made) , or words to that effect, “OR REMAIN SILENT” (a totally legal option in this 14B3 rule). A legal option proposes no penalty but a right to act or not to act.

    “or remain silent” means the continued state of a person to perform no verbal action toward a person, place , or thing which is his/her right.

    Four legal options allowed in this rule: 1) accept the draw
    2) reject the draw
    3) make the player move first
    4) or remain silent
    The first three require a verbal action by the opponent, the 4th does not. The opponent can simply sit there and do nothing. It is the player who blundered by offering a draw in this manner. The player may pay for the wrong action but not the opponent who decides to remain silent. In Rule 14B3 the opponent would not lose the game but win it by running the player out of time legally. The wording and structure of the rule is in favor of the opponent making any of the 4 allowable options. Therefore the opponent has the right to say and do nothing. It cannot be interpreted in any other manner.
    I think the rules committee is going to have to discuss this option in Rule 14B3 more thoroughly. I’m looking at this in a totally reasonable, logical, and objective manner.

    I’m presently running a 100+ player tournament in one of my other clubs. I asked players of all ratings and ages to read this rule and tell me what they believed it stated. Many players agreed with my ruling here or were simply confused by the “or remain silent part”. These are players not TD’s who were agreeing with me. This was also a blind exercise as no one knew of my interpretation at the time. Proof needs to be provided to show my interpretation as invalid. I will accept definitive proof to the contrary.

    • If a draw offer is made, but no move is made the proper response is tell the opponent that they need to make a move first. The draw offer is still on the table and can be accepted or rejected after the required move has been made.

      • Scott please read the rules as to what ends a game. For example if a 3 move repetition has been rule to be true that ends the game in a draw. Even if one of the players would prefer a 0 to the half point, the game is over and it is too late to resign rather than have a drawn game. And yes this did happen, but the player wanting to resign rather than take the draw still got a half point.

        How would you rule if checkmate [by white] is played on the board. The player who has played checkmate stops to admire the position and allows the flag to fall. The opponent [black] claims a win on time. So how do you rule on that game?

  4. Hi Larry,

    Obviously checkmate immediately ends the game, same as a stalemate. Nothing after the checkmate or stalemate matters as the game is forever over. In a 3 fold repetition of position the player on move must make the claim, then if correct the game is drawn. A player may resign the game anytime he/she chooses to do so. If the player who does not want the 1/2 point and sees the 3 fold repetition of position coming in time before it actually happens, that opponent may simply resign beforehand and receive the wanted 0 point.
    My explanation above regarding Rule 14B3 is valid. In the very least a penalty is warranted. Rule 14B1 is a proper draw offer; move, claim the draw, press the clock. Rule 14B2 offering a draw while the opponent’s clock is running can be penalized for distraction of the opponent. Rule 14B3 offering the draw 1st(wrong) before moving. Then as Dave says simply move, then press your clock is incorrect. At what point in time after the draw offer in this particular incorrect manner (without a possible penalty?) does the player on move get before moving a piece? 1 second? 10 seconds? I minute? So while the opponent is pondering the draw looking at the board the player just moves a piece anytime he/she wishes, pressing the clock, thereby distracting the opponent? One must read the rule entirely and see it was either written incorrectly or must be modified. In FIDE a player shall always offer a draw in the proper manner during play and must be penalized for not doing so. I’m simply shedding light on a very misinterpreted rule by most TD’s. I only brought this up because it happened in my tournament and I had to make a ruling on the claim. Player A offered his draw before moving; minutes passed by and Player B was simply not going to respond (correctly); does this mean that Player A can now just arbitrarily move after a significant amount of time has passed? No. that is wrong headed chess. All rule infractions must be correctly and fairly penalized if claimed properly. I use Rule 11H1 Director as witness to allow as little TD interference as possible in a game between the two players. A 14B3 rule claim violation was made and was obligated to rule fairly according to the wording of the rule. Long winded here but no one has proven my interpretation incorrect except to simply say I’m wrong. Why am I wrong? That is what’s important here with 14B3.

    • How do you say Player A [draw offer without moving] should be penalized? Most penalties are time penalties, yet by doing and saying nothing Player B is causing Player A to lose time on the clock. So, it could be argued that Player A is being penalized for not correctly making a draw in the proper and proscribed manner. You say it is “wrong headed chess” to allow player A to move after time has pass in the incorrectly offered draw, but that would be like saying Player A is banned from making a move on his turn! Another thing to remember is that the players do not always know all of the rules, which is why these articles by Tim are good and important. By your argument the Player making the incorrect draw offer loses the game, since you want to ban them from moving and then hitting the clock. Rather if the player can’t hit the clock they will obviously lose on time. Are your trying to claim that this rule [proper draw offer] infraction, and all rules infractions should be a lose for the player breaking the rule?? Also, please remember that rejecting the draw offer does not have to be a verbal action. If a player who is offered a draw makes a move, then they have rejected the draw; & possibly without having said anything. I agree that the 4th option should not really exist. Furthermore, it should be noted that for years as a player I had heard that if a draw was offered without a move the player should request his opponent to move. I had this occur a few days ago as a playing in a game, I requested that a move be made, and then I accepted the draw.

  5. Hi Larry,

    I emphatically agree that most chess players do not know the rules of chess. Sadly many TD’s I know don’t either. First I’m very careful about penalizing new and young chess players. They know nothing of chess and just getting them started and motivated to stay is a chore.
    Player A in your response is being penalized already with a time penalty by the sheer fact that his clock is running down as the Rule14B3 permits it. Player A simply cannot move unless Player B allows it by accepting or rejecting the draw offer, or asking Player A to make a move first. But his right “or remain silent” is in full force.
    This is the problem with this 14B3 rule; the “or remain silent” option gives Player B total control of Player A’s destiny in the game without even having to have to do anything. This has to be changed. By the way Player B cannot reject the offer by touching a piece, which would be illegal, as Player A’s clock is running and Player A cannot move unless Player B says make a move first. In Rules 14B1, and 14B2 it’s the opponent’s clock that is running and must accept, reject, or touch a piece before his own clock runs out of time. In Rule 14B3 Player A’s clock not the Player B’s clock is running out of time.
    I suggest the Rules Committee get rid of Rule14B3 and rewrite Rule 14B2 just like Fides Article “A player wishing to offer a draw SHALL do so after having made a move on the chessboard and before pressing his clock……Article 11.5 Distracting the opponent must be applied to ALL incorrect draw offers” This Article applies thru the entire game. This also makes a lot more sense and covers all incorrect draw offers period. It’s an inherently unfair and unsporting way to lose a game to just sit there and watch your clock run down to zero.
    Unfortunately until the 14B3 rule is changed (like today already!) I will be forced to legally allow this to happen if it is claimed by a player who knows this rule. That is that players legal right. A mess.

    The TD never has the authority step in a game and say to any player “accept or reject the draw offer, ask the player to make a move, and don’t sit there and remain silent”.

    I was in a tournament years ago paired against the top seed and I was the lowest seed in the 1st round. Wrong of course but that’s what happened. Well we got to the endgame and I had the better game. I moved and pressed my clock. My opponent instantly offered me a draw before moving Johnny on the spot. I knew I could just run his clock out but chose not to. I asked him to move first which continued the game and I did win. I wanted to win, but, win with good sportsmanship and my own play.

    • Dear Scott C Hunt,

      Nothing in the rule 14B3 prevents Player A from moving, even though Player A made a draw offer before moving. There is no black-text that says Player A cannot move; this is your interpretation of the rules, which is incorrect.

      Notice, “…the opponent of a player who offered a draw in this manner has the RIGHT to require the player who offered the draw to move before deciding whether to accept the offer, and may respond, “make your move first,” or words to that effect, or remain silent. In any case, the offer may not be withdrawn.” (emphasis mine, Rule 14B3, Just, US Chess 6th edition Rulebook)

      The emphasis here is that the opponent has the right to see Player A’s move before deciding on the draw offer, but this does not prevent Player A from making a move. This would be a contradiction if Player B wants to see a move but then say Player A cannot make a move – i.e. bad logic. Yes, it is possible that Player A loses on time via Rule 14B4 but not by Player B and a TD intervening saying Player A cannot make a move after an improper draw offer sequence.

      Do note that Tim Just wrote this article for US Chess members following US Chess Rules, e.g. the 6th edition Rulebook. But since you have brought up the FIDE Laws of Chess (FLOC) with the Articles, please read the full text of the articles, not just the parts of the rules that support your incorrect interpretation.

      Article states, “A player wishing to offer a draw shall do so after having made a move on the chessboard and before pressing his clock. An offer at any other time during play is still valid but Article 11.5 must be considered. No conditions can be attached to the offer. In both cases the offer cannot be withdrawn and remains valid until the opponent accepts it, rejects it orally, rejects it by touching a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it, or the game is concluded in some other way.”

      First, we see that nothing in Article states Player A cannot make a move after making an improper draw offer. Therefore, using the Preface of the FIDE Laws of Chess and the US Chess 1A. Scope, this should tell you that Rule 14B3 does not prevent Player A from moving.

      Second, let’s see what Article 11.5 states to find out the penalty. FLOC Article 11.5 states, “It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a source of noise into the playing area.” Barring a lone king of Player A versus Player B’s entire army or something that is considered “unreasonable” draw offer, Player A’s incorrect draw offer sequence CANNOT be interpreted as a means to distract or annoy; simply just an incorrect draw offer sequence.

      Hence, there is no reason to exercise Arbiter’s option concerning penalties listed in FLOC Article 12.9.1-9 where the arbiter may give a “warning” to “exclusion from one or more rounds” to “expulsion from the competition”.

      Therefore, “Player A simply cannot move unless Player B allows it by accepting or rejecting the draw offer, or asking Player A to make a move first. But his right “or remain silent” is in full force,” (Hunt) is an incorrect interpretation of the rules. Rule 14B3 does not need to change; your interpretation of the rule 14B3 must change or players will be at a disadvantage to find out they are playing an different set of tournament rules.

      Brian Yang

      • Hi Brian,

        I was only using the Fide rule as an example not trying to prove my point.

        I’m not disagreeing with you really except for the Player A being able to move. Player A has definitely broken Rule 14B1 Proper Draw Offer move, claim, press clock. Otherwise we are allowing an improper move order 14B3 claim, move, press clock to be equally correct with Rule 14B1 with zero repercussions of any kind for Player A.
        Now since player A implied a draw offer, it was predicated on the position of the board at that precise moment whether or not Player A intended to offer the draw correctly or not. Player B now looks at the board as it is and starts to analyze or think about the draw offer. Suddenly Player A says “whoops I forgot to move” and makes a move, presses the clock with a new position on the board for Player B to think about. What if Player A didn’t make that move until 5 minutes, or 10 minutes later, or whatever time Player A takes before making that move and then pressing the clock? How much time are you “legally” going to allot to Player A before making his out of proper draw offer sequence move? That is a broach of proper chess.
        Now that Player A decides to make a move, Player A’s clock which was ticking away, is now stopped, and Player B’s clock which was not ticking away is now ticking away(now Player B can no longer exercise his “or remain silent option). So which board position does Player B accept, reject? The first position before Player A moved , or the 2nd position after Player A moved? See the inconsistency?
        By the way where does the option “make your move first” even have any value if Player A can move any point in time after the draw was offered? Yes as I did in my game I chose to ask mu opponent to make his move first so we could continue the game.
        Consider also Player B is looking at the board thinking about the draw offer while Player A all of a sudden makes his move which is a mating move and declares the game over. Which is correct the draw offer which is still pending or the mate which just ended the game? There are other examples.
        I’m looking at fairness for the players of the game of chess.
        Another problem here is when Player A offered the draw as in my own game, it stops the game for Player A. Why? Because Player B must answer (or not) according to the position on the board the moment the draw was offered. Player A gave up his right to move or do anything by giving Player B the rights of the game thru breaking Rule14B1 and instead invoking Rule14B3.
        That is the simple reason Player B may simply remain quiet. Player A put himself in a very bad situation by “NOT” following the rules. No player must ever be allowed to gain an advantage when a rule infraction has occurred.
        I’m not trying to be correct but to interpret a difficult rule.

  6. First of all, I do not own a recent edition of the rulebook. I should probably fix that. So in advance, please pardon my ignorance… Tim Just writes: “If you want to reject a draw offer, you can just say, ‘No thanks,’ or simply touch one of your own pieces before you move it.” Does the current rulebook state as one of the rules(*) that touching a piece means rejecting the draw offer? Many years ago this came up in an appeal. Player A offered a draw. Player B touched a piece with the intention of moving it, then changed his mind and accepted the draw, which he said he was entitled to do before he had made his move. Player A then pointed to a completely different rule that said a player who touches a piece is required to move it. Regardless of which way the TD decided (I actually don’t remember), it inevitably ended up with the appeals committee. To repeat my question, does the rule on draw acceptance mention touch move? (*)I had to flag this because my old “rulebook” contains many things, such as advertisements, propaganda, friendly advice, “interpretations” (the worst, because they masquerade as rules), the laws, and finally the actual rules.

  7. I *love* this “or remain silent” tempest in a teacup. The amazing thing about the rulebook is that any two TDs can look at a rule, both agree that *obviously* there is only one possible meaning of the rule, yet 180 degrees disagree with each other on what the meaning is…. The problem lies not with either TD(*), but with the fact that those who wrote the rules also believe that *obviously* there is only one possible meaning of what they wrote. Thus they are not precise enough with their wording. Hint: sometimes additional words make the problem worse. (*)Okay, some TDs are pretty far out, but the issue is so universal that the fault must lie with the rulebook.

  8. Under Section 14 Draw offers… touching any piece on the board of yours or the player’s who offered the draw while your clock is running is the same as saying no to the draw offer. You must also move the piece you just touched as well unless it is has no legal move. You still have said no to the draw regardless and now must move another piece legally.
    You should buy the 6th Edition of The Official Rules of Chess by Tim Just, and get the updates as well which are many at USChess.org.
    For us TD’s who really want to know the exact interpretation of the rules we have to really study. Sometimes we will find an inconsistency and then bring it to the light and hopefully it gets the proper interpretation or treatment.
    In my opinion anyone (player, TD) who just disagrees to a proven valid argument without providing any kind of refuting evidence is answering in a biased and unintelligent manner. A rule cannot contradict itself, or any other rule, and I agree with you that some of the rules have been poorly worded.
    Good luck in your chess.

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