Just the Rules: Rulebook Speedbumps

Castling: Moving the Rook First—Maybe?

The TD listened carefully as the player made his claim: “My opponent touched his rook first and then they castled. They must move that rook, and they can’t castle on this move. That is the rule!” The TD denied the claim. He pointed out that this tournament was using the “Rook touched first” rule variation from the 7th edition of the rulebook. That rule variation is clear: there is no penalty for touching the rook first. “But,” the player pointed out, “that rule states an announcement to that effect needs to be made at the start of the tournament.” The TD reminded the player that the rule variation announcement was made just before round 1 began. “I was not here at the start of that round,” declared the player. The TD then further pointed out, “We also posted all of our rules variations here at the event and on-line. That rule variation you are referring to only requires us to make an announcement about its use at the start of the event—which we did. By the way, that web page address for all of our rules variations was publicized in all of our pre-event publicity.” The player’s opponent gets to castle this move.

Which Deleted Rule Still Has A Variation?

The tournament was using sudden death time controls. The two weekend chess warriors were using an old style analog clock. The player’s clock showed less than two minutes of playing time left for him to complete his game. He was a piece up in a superior position. He made a 14H claim—Insufficient losing chances. When the TD arrived at the contest he let the opponent know the claim was the same as a draw offer. The offer was rejected verbally. The player’s opponent further pointed out that the 7th edition of the rulebook deleted rule 14H. The player interjected: “But rule 14H—despite being deleted—is alive and well and labeled as a variation! In fact that variation is exactly the same as the old, deleted, rule 14H.” As the TD noted, the variation use does not need to be announced in pre-event publicity. And the rule givers did not mention any requirements to announce the 14H variation at the start of the tournament. The TD ruled: “The 14H variation is being used at this tournament, so I uphold the claim—the game is a draw.”

Like Rodney Dangerfield: Analog Clocks “Can’t Get No Respect.”

When the general of the black army is late for the start of his contest, he forfeits his right to choose the equipment—or does he? The player of the black pieces is 5 minutes tardy for the start of the round—G/30, increment 10 seconds. His opponent has already set up the equipment, including an analog clock. The player assigned black insists on using his digital increment capable timepiece. The TD agrees and the increment capable clock—properly set and reflecting black’s tardiness—is placed on the game. In this instance, white’s analog device would even get undermined by his opponent’s delay-only capable clock. The TD would simply set the delay clock for 10 seconds, the amount of increment time. BTW, if the game sported a delay time control, and not increment, the TD still would have made the same decision—with black’s delay capable timer replacing white’s analog clock. Now-a-days analog clocks are at the bottom of the pecking order—the rule of thumb here is that a digital chess clock is preferred over an analog clock—even if the captain of the black pieces chooses all the other equipment. The US Chess Rules (Chapters 1-2+11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available on-line. 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.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The first third of this month's column -- the part about castling by moving the rook first -- just goes to show why U.S. Chess should increase its efforts to align its rules with FIDE rules whenever possible. There is no good reason to force players who play on both sides of the Atlantic to learn two different rule sets. How bad can the FIDE rule be in this case? The first time a player is denied the right to castle because he touched the rook first, is the last time he will ever touch the rook first when castling. After that he will straighten up and castle in the proper manner, by moving first the king and then the rook.

In reply to by Bill Smythe (not verified)

I could not agree more. Moving the rook 1st is not decisive in proving castling was intended. Moving the King it's 1st two moves towards a rook gets rid of ambiguity. I cannot tell you how many players at tournaments come to me and ask why this variation is allowed. I can only comment it's a stupid rule but it's the organizer's right to use it. US Chess should just get rid of it and yes fall in line with FIDE here and get rid of wasted time by confused players who have to make these ridiculous claims. The original 1st set of FIDE rules which USCF used as well originally explained that the two moves the King makes to start castling is a legalized illegal move to allow and prove castling was intended, and moving the rook 1st was never allowed.

In reply to by Scott Hunt (not verified)

USCF originally had king-first and was at odds with FIDE, so it changed to allow rook-first. FIDE then changed and USCF was out of step again. USCF then changed back to FIDE and caused a major outcry, with the final result that USCF then retained the base rule but bowed to the outcry by allowing the rook-first variation. Next August maybe a sunset clause could be passed on the variation (Jan 1, 2022?) that is far enough out to reduce the outcry of those saying players would be blind-sided and soon enough to to reduce the outcry of those wanting an immediate change.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Player touches rook first and seconds later before hitting the clock realizes its a bad move and castling is better. A spectator has gasped or smiled perhaps. Player then finishes the move by moving the King 2 squares. There’s got to be a penalty- at the least it’s distracting and it might even be changing what move is being played when it’s too late to change. And the penalty needs to be significant like moving the rook only to where you dropped it. No insignificant penalty like adding 2 minutes when opponent doesn’t realize a check has occurred. The penalty there should be to allow you to capture the King.

In reply to by Mark Ashland (not verified)

Your really stating that touching the rook first was an intent to move the rook to f1 and keep the king in the center?

In reply to by Fabian (not verified)

Frequently Rd1 is a reasonable move instead of O-O-O. Your thought process is supposed to be over by the time you touch things, not changing until you touch the clock.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Moving the rook first when castling is simply incorrect, announced exception or not. Analog clocks have not been standard equipment for a quarter century this December (when the Chronos came on the market). Luddites who still use them are entitled to no relief resulting from their use.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Regardless of the rules, one should get in the habit of castling with the king first.

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