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. 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.
In addition, see Tim’s latest revision of 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.
It happens. There is an empty chair across from you where your opponent should be. Opponents sometimes don’t appear for their scheduled games. You sit there with their clock running and anxiously await their arrival, but they just don’t show up. The rules allow you to claim a forfeit win after an hour—don’t forget your equipment must be set up. You paid your entry fee and expected to play all of your games. You spent time and money on travel, food, and perhaps lodging. Your opponent’s no-show conduct is borderline disrespectful. And, you can put a stop to it for the rest of the tournament by reporting your forfeit win properly.
To report a forfeit no-show, win you typically enter the results on the pairings sheet with a “1” followed by big “F” in the space for your score and a “0” followed by a big “F” in the space for your opponent’s score (see Illustration below). That way your opponent will usually not be paired for the next round—and not cause any other player to sit around waiting for a no-show opponent. There are no rating points involved, but you do get one point added to your total tournament score, which counts for cash prizes and for pairings. In a tie for non-cash prizes—typically trophies or titles— that forfeit win often has little or no mathematical value when tie-breaks are calculated.
What if you start your clock and wait for your opponent to arrive, and they appear with seconds left on their clock before that one-hour deadline? They sit down, make their move, and press their clock before their 60 minutes are up. They made it in time. The game continues with you having a huge time advantage.
You may also be tempted to allow your opponent to be more than one hour late for the game while not making a claim with the TD—you are being a good sport. If you opt for this, make sure that your opponent’s clock is running while your own clock is idle, or else you may end up delaying the start of the next round for everyone. If your foe does show up after an hour you still get to essay a rated game with a huge time advantage—remember, if you had claimed a forfeit win at the 60 minute mark your contest would not get rated. The downside is that your adversary may not show up at all. Or, if they do appear at the board past the forfeit time and you let them play, they may still beat you—even if they are way down on time.
When the time control is less than one hour—for example, G/45, delay 5 (each player gets 45 minutes for the entire game with a 5-second delay), check with the TD about how long you need to wait for your opponent to show up before claiming your one point.
Watch out for special situations. Sometimes the TD has publicized, posted, or announced a different policy regarding late opponent arrivals, or you were mistakenly paired against an opponent that requested a bye for that round (it happens?!). TDs typically have ways to deal with those circumstances.
When a tardy opponent shows up at the tournament site but not at your board and their flag falls at the 60 minute mark, stop the clock and get a TD to help you sort out this predicament. The question becomes: Did your opponent really “appear” in time for their game— as per the rulebook wording?
Note: If you win a game via a forfeit no-show, see if the TD can rustle up a rated side game for you.
Unfortunately, there is little anyone can do about those missing last round opponents. You still get your free point, but officially dealing with those last round drop outs has had little success in the past—and, yes, there are rules about this rude behavior but enforcing those rules on an absent player is problematical.
Locally, we had a fellow that continually did not withdraw properly and became a no-show. Since we knew this was a strong possibility when he entered an event, we started requiring a deposit from him before he played even one game. His deposit got returned only if he avoided becoming a no-show.