Just the Rules: Rulebook Judgement Calls

Tim Just
If annoying acts cause a migraine, see a TD and make a claim. Your opponent complains to the TD that you are eating a sandwich at the board. The TD observes that you have a fast food burger that you are holding below the table. There are no crumbs or food on the board or table. You are observed taking a discreet nibble from your food occasionally. But what if you had you been eating a crunchy snack from a noisy cellophane bag and getting crumbs all over the board? And then there is the shirt that another player wears with slogans that supported a cause that you have spent a lifetime opposing--no offensive language or immoral suggestions, just words of support. Do things change if the language on the shirt is offensive? Your opponent keeps tapping his pencil… If the TD gets involved it is a judgement call on their part if any of these scenarios are annoying. Typically unobtrusive eating, unless a no-eating-at-the-board rule is announced, is not annoying. Crinkly, messy, and loud eating is probably going to get labeled as annoying. A tapping pencil often gets the heave-ho from many TDs; however, T-shirt babble is a close call and very subjective. Sometimes just wearing the disputed shirt inside out solves that problem. Check with a TD if your opponent's behavior, or anyone else’s, is annoying you. Once you contact a TD about what is annoying you, the TD gets to decide how big of a concern the alleged annoyance really is. Remember, what annoys you may be just normal behavior for everyone else. Before you file an annoyance complaint, politely ask the person to stop their bothersome behavior. Making this kind of complaint should be a last-ditch effort on your part. Do you have any tales of annoying behavior at a tournament? You can tell your story in the comment section at the end of this post. Playing black, have no fear: you get to choose the gear—or do you? You are playing in a tournament where you are expected to provide your own equipment. You are managing the white pieces. Your opponent, as the general of the black pieces, wants to use his equipment. His board has bright polka dot pink and red squares, while his chess army is turquoise and red. You object. Or, your opponent—playing the black pieces—claims the player with the black pieces gets to choose the equipment. They choose the Bart Simpson memorial chess set. If you have to provide your own chess equipment, then the player of the black pieces gets to choose what standard set, board, and clock to use. Of course, if the player of the black pieces is not there at the start of the game, then they forfeit their right to choose, unless their opponent sets up substandard equipment. What kind of substandard equipment?—substandard standard clocks for one. If either player is using a clock that is not appropriate for the tournament time control, then the other player may be able to swap out that substandard timer for a more appropriate clock before move one. You may need a TD to help you with this. And if there is a dispute over equipment, then the TD gets to decide what will be used. Most TDs would rule the Bart Simpson pieces and the oddly colored board & pieces do not meet the “standard equipment” test. If You Touch it, then Move it or Take it.  There was no thinking involved. It was intuitive. It was obvious to the most casual observer. Your Bishop move simply wins your opponent’s knight on the other side of the board. You grab the cleric and reach across the board to claim your loot. In the process you brush up against your opponent’s guarded pawn. Your adversary claims you touched that pawn and now you must take it. Or, the wood pusher across the board from you touches the top of his queen with his finger tip for a few seconds. Suddenly he switches gears and grabs his rook. “He touched his queen and must move it,” is your claim. He retorts that he did not deliberately touch the queen and intended to move the rook all along. If you touch your piece, you will have to move it. If you touch your opponent’s piece you have to take it. Accidentally bumping or brushing up against a piece is not considered “touching a piece.” Using the “no intent, so it is not deliberate” argument muddies the waters of “touch move” but not enough to avoid moving the first piece touched—even with the tip of a finger. However, when there is a dispute the TD gets to decide whether a piece was touched or not—a judgement call to be sure. 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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