Just the Rules: New Internet Chess Rules—Essential Player Tips

Tim Just, CLO columnist


Here are some “Rules of Thumb” for navigating the new US Chess Internet Rules (Chapter 10):  https://new.uschess.org/news/7th-edition-rule-book-chapters-now-available-download.

Test Your Equipment: Playing online will probably motivate you to get slightly better digital connection equipment—like a more responsive mouse for example, or a better modem, etc. Test out your gear before you essay your first online contest.

Know Your Rating: You have a variety of online ratings from US Chess: Online Quick, online Blitz, online regular, or an assigned online rating from the TD. To make matters a bit more confusing some of you already have earned some sort of rating at your favorite online site. Sometimes the online tournament entry info lets you in on the rating that will be used for the event you are entering. If not, find out what rating you will be assigned—check with the TD. If you don’t have an online rating then ask the TD how they plan to give one for pairing and prize purposes. BTW, there is no “dual rating” for US Chess online ratings.

Know Your Host Site Settings: Each of the major online platforms have slightly different settings available to you—get to know them! Make sure the TD will allow you to turn them on or off.

  • If the host platform you are using for a US Chess online rated game only allows a pawn to be promoted to a queen, that might prove to be the difference between a win or a draw.
  • Are all draw options automatic? Three-fold repetitions? The 50-move rule? No progress? …
  • Are flag falls automatic wins?
  • What happens with disconnects?
  • What is the “mouse slip” protocol?
  • What happens to unfinished, interrupted, or unplayed games?
  • What does the site software do about illegal moves?
  • Can you turn on/off “smart-moves?” (You click on a piece that has only one legal move and that move is automatically completed for you.).
  • Can you turn on/off “pre-moves?” (Your opponent makes a move on your time. That move is locked in and automatically completed for them once you finish your move.).

Know How to Make Online Draw Offers: Offer a draw before you make your move. Once you make your move the online software executes it—after that it is too late to make an offer.

Know the Players with Disabilities Rules: Players that are disabled may make use of Game Assistants—much like they do in OTB chess. An assistant may make a player’s announced move for them. While organizers and TDs can help a disabled player find an assistant, the player is ultimately responsible for arranging their own Game Assistant.

Know the Fair Play Rules—Steps to take if you think your opponent is cheating: Cheating is the bane of chess. It is hard to catch players cheating OTB—it is even harder to catch and prove they are cheating online. Some event organizers may require the use of electronic (or human) monitors at every site. Game service providers typically have proprietary software that analyzes each game and provides and then determines if there is a likelihood that cheating occurred—that software is not the same for each site. Not only are individual games analyzed, but the won-loss record of a typical player with that rating may enter into that determination. Even your opponent’s contests with other players may get analyzed.

If you think your opponent is, or was, cheating contact the TD. You can also file an Ethics complaint, but you will need evidence. The US Chess Ethics Committee only considers the material you present—they do not investigate the claim for you. And don’t be surprised if the on-site proprietary software coding, or detailed reports, are not available to you upon request. TDs may hold off turning in the online tournament to US Chess until they receive the “fair play” report from the service provider.

Using Online Handles: Player’s online handles—used on their favorite chess playing site—are not the same as their US Chess ID and name. Wood pushers have a right to know the US Chess name and ID for everyone registered for the tournament.

What are Acceptable Online Formats: US Chess only allows the Swiss, Round-Robin, Quad or Match Play formats to be US Chess online rated

Tips for Registration: Entering US Chess online events will probably have an earlier cut-off date than you are used to. That-a-way TDs can verify all entry info.

Pairing Systems to Expect: Know which pairing system will be used to match up players. TDs can use the standard pairing software that they own and use in OTB tournaments; however, site platforms also offer their own pairing systems.

Viewing Pairings, Standing, and Wallcharts: All players have a right to view the tournament’s pairings, standings, and wallcharts.

Follow Organizer Directions: Organizers and TDs are currently given a wide berth when it comes to creating online contests. Each tournament may have special rules and options that apply only to that single event. All players should have access to those rules.

Additionally, organizers and TDs are given a truckload of advice in this new set of rules on how run successful online events.

The free, updated as of 9-1-20, US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2 + 10 +11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available online. Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here.

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.