Just the Rules: How to Get an Entry Fee Refund

just the Rules by Tim Just

Refunds are good things. Some businesses have a “no questions asked” refund policy. Remember the old Sears policy? You know the one—they replaced their Craftsman tools if they ever broke or stopped working—forever. In general, most retailers allow a refund if what you purchased does not meet your expectations (broke, too big, too small, the wrong color, etc.). All you need is to prove you bought the product, returned it in a timely fashion and mostly unused.

Refunding is harder to deal with for concerts, movies and most other participation events. The event goes on despite a no-show patron. So, what do the US Chess rules say about entry fee (EF) refunds?

1. Refunds go to players that withdraw before registration ends.

Example 1: Registration for the State of Confusion Open ends at 10:30 a.m. on day one of the event. You pre-registered two weeks ago to take advantage of the less expensive entry fee (EF). Now you find you can’t play in the tournament. The event’s ad (and online) displays a phone number—and an email address—to use if you will not be attending. You call and email by 9 a.m.—the night before is even better. You get your EF refunded.

Example 2: Your friend puts off doing things until the last possible moment—taxes, bills, dishes, shopping, etc. He calls the cell phone number listed in the ad to withdraw from the State of Confusion Open at 10:35 a.m.. Remember registration ends at 10:30 a.m. He also sends an email five minutes later—at 10:40 a.m.—to make sure he has withdrawn. Technically, he is too late. The rule says he does not get his EF back.

The bottom line here is the tournament staff wants to make pairings AND avoid pairing an intended no-show. Of course, the current rule was written years before e-mail or cell phones were the norm. Now-a-days some TDs will bend the rule and refund an EF as long as the round one pairings have not yet been made. After that, players can’t count on getting their money back.

2. No refunds after the tournament starts.

Example 1: In the State of Confusion Open your friend notifies the staff after the round 1 games have started that he will not be able to play any round, including the first one. If a player withdraws after being paired then they have participated in the tournament. Your friend left a fellow chess general sitting there waiting for a no-show opponent; thus, no refund

Example 2: You pushed wood in round 1. Afterwards, you decide to withdraw. The rulebook says there is no whole or partial refund available. An EF gives wood pushers the opportunity to play in the event. If you withdraw and play in only part of the event, then no refund.

3. No refunds for players giving the TD, or organizer, bogus information—ratings, IDs, etc.  

This is self-explanatory. Don't do it.

4. Refunds are available if the tournament staff trip over themselves in processing a player’s data.

Example: You did everything right when you registered for the event. Along with your EF you included your name, rating, and contact info. When you checked the pairings for the section you registered in, your name was missing. Oops, you got paired into the wrong section. The tournament staff at the State of Confusion Open simply got your info wrong. Your name was right. Another player with the same name, but a different ID number and a different rating, was entered in your place. You decide to withdraw due to that miscue. At that point you can opt to receive all of your EF back. You might even be able to negotiate a reduced EF if you stay and push wood using your corrected data.

SOME NON-RULEBOOK ENTRY FEE REFUND VARIATIONS can often be found in the advanced publicity for the tournament:

  • Events may offer a free or a reduced EF to their next tournament(s) instead of a cash refund.
  • Organizers, or TDs, might set a time limit much earlier—or later—than the end of registration to withdraw for a player to still qualify for a refund.
  • There may be a service charge for processing EF refunds. 

A NEW REVISED CHAPTER 7 (TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR CERTIFICATION) is now available online. If all you are looking for are the changes to the old Certification document check this out.

AND A PAT ON MY BACK FROM MYSELF. FIDE’s new Arbiters’ Manual now includes "advice." That “advice” is enclosed in gray boxes within the manual. First there were "TD TIPS" (my lightbulb idea) appearing in the fifth edition of the rulebook. Now we have FIDE’s copycat version—“advice.”


  • The free, updated US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2 + 9 + 10 +11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available online.
  • Want more? Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here.
  • Plus, listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”

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.