Just the Rules: The Handshake

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.

Keeping the Point!

At move 34 your opponent stretches out their hand. You silently engage in the traditional handshake. In the skittles room you analyze your hard fought victory with your friends. You pick up well deserved praise for your excellent tactics and strategy in an unclear position near the finish of the game. When you make your way over to the results sheet you notice your opponent has posted that the game result was a draw. But you won! When you, your opponent, and the TD get together to straighten out this reporting mix-up it is clear your adversary thought you were accepting his draw offer, not his resignation—messy, messy, messy…

Nepomniachtchi vs. Nakamura at the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, Photo Eric Rosen

If an outstretched hand is what you saw, make sure it’s a resignation and not a draw.

Your opponent reaches out and shakes your hand after stopping the clock. Are they resigning? Or are they agreeing to a draw? How about when your opponent mumbles something and stretches out their hand? Is that a resignation or a draw offer? Make sure you know the answer to those questions before you report the game results. Of course, a tipped-over king is good clue—as well as the words “I resign”— that your opponent has quit the game.

Many players don’t realize that draw offers are off the table after (1) a move has been made, (2) a piece has been touched and (3) the draw offer has already been declined. Players frequently incorrectly believe, as the opponent in this situation incorrectly does, that the draw offer may still be accepted many moves later. In this case you might consider saying, “Thanks for the game. You played well, and I am sorry you lost.”

Reporting the Results

After his first game was over Jack and his opponent went to the skittles room and analyzed their contest. This was a five round tournament and Jack’s final score was 4 wins and one loss. When it came time for the prizes to be doled out other players that scored 4-1, like Jack, were given their well-earned money—Jack got nothing. When he checked with the TD he discovered that his first round win went unreported. He and his opponent were forfeited. They were both given zero points. His opponent confirmed losing to Jack. The TD was willing to account for the win on the rating report. He was not willing to allow it to count towards prizes. After all, he pointed out; Jack got easier pairings than the other 4-1 scorers throughout the tournament due to his deflated score. And Jack did not point out this scoring snafu until after the tournament was over. No prize for Jack.

Win or lose, report the result of your game to make sure the right score is next to your name.

When your game is over, immediately make sure you report the results, usually on the pairings sheet. If you are a neophyte here is how to get that job done: In the space provided, place a “1” by the winner’s name and a “0” by the loser’s name, or “½” or “.5” by both names if the game was a draw. TDs usually announce if the reporting procedure is to be done differently, especially at scholastic events. If you miss this step, even if you lost the game, you could be unpleasantly surprised by your next round’s pairing and the long-term effect on your tournament score. Some TDs even double-forfeit the players in games with no reported results.

Example: How YOU Report Your Score

Bd Score White Score Black
119 .5 Rubin, Alex .5 Ricky, Ross
120 0 Flahttyn, Mike 1 YOU
121 0 Blale, Maurine 1 Turtle, Yuri

Next time we will look at those freebies—that one point win that counts towards your final prize winning score, even if you don’t play a game!


  1. I believe it should be imperative that BOTH PLAYERS confirm the accuracy of the result posted on the pairings sheet. Win, loss or draw, it should be incumbent on the two players that they check the correctness of the result.

  2. That’s why I believe when you lose, you should knock your king over and shake hands, and when you want a draw, you should just quietly say “Draw?”, to your opponent. Although those are classic amateur scholastic gestures (which is what I partake in being a scholastic player), I think it is easier to avoid any confusion about the result.

  3. If my opponent reaches out his or her hand without speaking and I think they are resigning, I will politely ask “Are you resigning?” So far, none of my opponents have been offended by this question.

    I also had to remind my wife to always report her score at our tournament this past weekend. She beat an opponent rated 665 points higher than her. Sure enough, when we went to the pairing sheet, there was no result posted yet. I’m certain that the TDs would have assumed (due to the ratings gap) that she would have lost or given them both a forfeit. Of course, she was quite happy to be able to mark her win.

  4. I believe some coaches are mis-educating their students, by telling them to shake hands at the conclusion of the game. A handshake may look like good sportsmanship, but players and coaches should know that the proper way to offer a draw is to make a move, state (as a declarative sentence) “I offer a draw”, and press the clock, in that order, without offering a handshake.

    A handshake is appropriate (a) at the start of the game, and (b) when resigning (should be accompanied by a king tip), and (c) when ACCEPTING the opponent’s draw offer (should be accompanied by “I accept”). A handshake should never be part of a draw OFFER.

  5. Hi Tim!

    This is a terrific column and covers several issues that I have observed since becoming an active player again with regard to handshakes, draws, and resignations.

  6. Hey Tim, Just to clarify your second paragraph for your #1 and #2. The opponent makes his move, offers a draw and starts your clock – the draw offer is still on the board until you touch your piece and/or move it or decline the offer. Once you move, the draw offer is part of the past and cannot be accepted.

  7. In addition to checking the results reported on the pairing sheet, players should also get in the habit of checking the wallcharts to make sure the result was recorded correctly. After all, TDs can occasionally make mistakes. If a player notices an error on the wallchart, the player should notify the TD ASAP of the error. (And TDs should take care to post up-to-date wallcharts promptly.)

    • I agree with your comments completely. Players should get in the habit of looking at wallcharts and pairing sheets (with results) and pointing out to the TD any errors they see.

  8. I’m very glad you’re doing this column! The US Tennis Association has had a rules column in its magazine for years with questions submitted by its members, and I’ve found it worthy reading. I hope you will open up your column for questions from your readers after you get through the basics.

  9. You should be punished for reporting the result as a draw when there is “confusion” its not fair to your opponent or the players expecting a larger prize with one less winner, they should be forfeited from the tournement, also, offering a draw in a clearly losing or almost losing position is extremly rude and is not acceptable. I understand you cannot be punishing offers of a draw, but repered draw offers within short perioda of time should result in severe time loss, or even game forfet because of how rude, annoying, and unethical it is, they know no one would accept the draw ESPECIALLY a higher rated player

    • Hi Tim great article and lots of great information as a returning tournament director and organizer it is great to be aware of situations that may exist during a tournament ,just like the hand shave example you gave.This article has upgraded my understanding and will make me a stronger td and organizer.great info keep it coming !

    • Sometimes repeated draw offers are being made honestly and can be a bit amusing. I had a game where my opponent (500 points lower rated) made a move a firmly said DRAW! (he thought he had reached an easily drawn position). I responded and he made his move again with the quizzical comment “I don’t see how you can win this game”. He resigned five moves later. I understood exactly why he had mis-analyzed the position and calmly played it out.

  10. If I win or lose I immediately walk to the pairin sheet and write down the score. Unless my opponent makes it to the sheet first but I still look to see it was recorded correctly.

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