Just the Rules: Hybrid Chess

Tim Just, CLO columnist


The world chess organization, FIDE, recently published its own set of online chess rules. There are some differences from the US Chess rules, which is chapter 10 in the rulebook, and free online. One major addition to FIDE’s set of regulations are the rules for Hybrid Chess competitions — that is, the offspring of over-the-board and online chess.  

It is nearly impossible to effectively monitor online chess at every site. There are not enough FIDE arbiters or US Chess tournament directors to watch each game individually at every single location. So how did FIDE solve that problem? Hybrid chess.  

Hybrid chess works like this: Players play in a room, or any area, on computers that have online access. Two local arbiters are required at each of the event’s various sites -- one is site chief, the other is technical arbiter. Now, check out these highlights:  


•    Only players and the arbiters can be in the playing area.  

•    Players must remain in the playing area unless an arbiter gives them permission to leave. 

•    The site must be monitored by cameras. 

•    No communication devices are allowed.  

•    The organizer provides internet connection. 

•    Players can use their own playing equipment (computers) if the organizer allows it. 

•    No extra programs are allowed open on the computers. 

•    The event rules must tell the players how irregularities will be handled. 

•    The minimum number of arbiters is two. 

•    Arbiters can modify game results and override some platform automated results. 

•    Arbiters may adjust clock times. 

•    The organizer may require the use of scoresheets.  

•    Traditional boards and sets can be used in games that include at least a 30 second increment, if the organizer allows it. Moves must be made on the digital screen before being executed on a physical board. 


FIDE’s new setup sounds a lot like what US Chess uses for the unrated online Amateur Team playoffs. In that event, which pits the four regional team winners against each other, there is one onsite TD present at each playing site. There is a lot of food for thought here: 


•    How will the tournament deal with the COVID safety of the players—both real and imagined? There will be regional legal restrictions on the room setups and capacities. Will that meet FIDE requirements? 

•    It may be possible for players at the same venue to be paired against each other, instead of a rival sitting at another far away location. 

•    A typical hotel gets a nice big fee for internet connections to their meeting rooms. That is a cost consideration for the organizer which may impact the entry fee. 

•    Sites don’t necessarily have to be located at a hotel—there are plenty of other spaces that could work out just fine.  

•    Do we have enough FIDE arbiters in this country to meet the minimum of two per site?  


One last note here involves an often-seen phrase in FIDE’s Hybrid Chess document: unless the competition regulations say otherwise. That wording gives a FIDE Hybrid tournament organizer a lot of wiggle room in the rules, and similar US Chess rulebook wording gives organizers that same right. Either way, it is a good idea for players to check those special tournament rules before they sign up to push electronic wood.  



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 and 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. 

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


You aren't considering a possible option: only one site, all players are using computers instead of boards thus spacing of players can be increased.

Tim, as always - thanks for enlightening us to new rules and clarifying existing rules. Last weekend, as a player made a move in a rated online event, the opponent offered a draw. The Accept button appeared on the exact spot that the player was clicking and a tragic draw occurred. Is there any thought to making this like OTB chess? (you can only offer on your turn). I realize that the recipient of the offer would then be allowed to ignore the offer and consider it after the offerer's non-mating move, but it seems like it should be that way (only offer on your own move), even for online chess. Thanks.

Each of the major platforms have their own way of dealing with these kinds of things. US Chess as zero input to the programing involved. So, it would be up to each individual platform to try and make things closer to OTB chess.

It seems to me that the Accept button should NEVER be on the portion of the display where the board is. It should be underneath it. Actually, the full name of the button should be "Claim or Offer a Draw". The player should click this button first, and THEN make his move. If there is a valid triple-occurrence or 50-move situation on the board, the platform would declare the draw. Otherwise, the platform would then tell the opponent, "Your opponent has just offered a draw. To accept the offer, press the 'Claim or Offer a Draw' button. To decline the offer, please make a move."

Part of the Online rules should be the requirement for all online players to also have some minimum of in-person OTBoard rated play, with the previous 2 years or so. This way, significant differences between any given player's rating for his OTBoard games versus his Online games can be used as a yellow flag to warrant extra scrutiny for patterns of questionable behavior (or cheating).

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