Just The Rules: No Claim, No Fame

Your opponent’s flag is about to fall in a US Chess sudden death time control. The TD comes over to the contest to observe. They see that your opponent has run out of time—their flag is down, but the TD says nothing and does nothing. You look up at them with a quizzical expression, and still there is no response from the TD. To get the TD to act, you must point out the flag fall and say something—like “Flag” or “Flag Fall” or “Time.” You and your opponent are locked in a position where your king gets checked over, and over, and over. The TD is watching this little dance contest; yet, says nothing. Why? There was no claim by a player. Note: the TD can declare a draw without a claim if the same position appears five times in a row. Your opponent touches their queen but moves their knight instead. They do this right in front of the TD; yet, the TD does nothing?! But if you make a claim, what do you think the TD will do? Rarely will a TD intervene in your game without an invitation by you or your opponent to do so. TDs rarely rule on a claim that you don’t make, even if they observe a violation of US Chess rules (FIDE rules are a bit different and there are some rare exceptions in US Chess.) So if you want to claim a flag fall, draw, illegal move, touched piece, etc., then you have to make that request—verbally. One notable time a claim does not need to be verbalized is when 75 moves have been made with no pawn move plus no piece has been captured—then the TD can simply declare the game drawn. If a TD sees an illegal move early in the game—the US Chess rules have some wiggle room here—a TD may, unannounced, step in and correct the miscue (even though US Chess advises against it). They positively cannot do a thing about an illegal move in the last five minutes of a time control unless you or your opponent makes an illegal move claim--aloud. Coaches, friends, relatives, spectators, teachers, and all others cannot make any claim in the game you are playing. Having someone summon a TD for you is not the same as making a claim. When the TD does show up, you have to state your claim yourself.

House players may get a free game by telling the TD their name.

If you can only play one round of a tournament, ask the TD if you can be paired as a house player. A house player offers the TD a way to find a game for a player who would otherwise receive a bye (because there are an odd number of contestants in the section). Since there are several good ways that a house player can be used in this situation, check with the TD to find out which method they prefer—and you get to play a rated game for free!

Equipment is not provided as a rule, so bring your own and be cool.

Most tournaments don’t provide sets, boards, clocks, or any kind of chess equipment. So to be safe, bring your own gear. If the equipment is provided by the organizer or TD, then you should expect to use their stuff. You can then use your standard set, board, and clock in the analysis (skittles) area. A FREE on-line downloadable version of the rules, chapters 1+2+11 only, digested from the upcoming 7th edition rulebook are available 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.

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