Just the Rules: Rulebook Updates for 2021-22

Tim Just, CLO columnist


The 7th edition of the US Chess Rulebook brought a long list of individual updates from the previous edition. Most of those tournament-impacting changes are found in the first two chapters and the Blitz section, though one major uptick was the replacement of the old ethics rules with brand new wording in Chapter 6. Additionally, some minor improvements to the Tournament Director Certification list were made in chapter 7. 

The pandemic brought the advent of online rules in 2020-21, rolling out a huge change to Internet chapter 10, which got a complete make over. This time around for 2021-22, correspondence chess in chapter 9 will sport a new set of rules that are scheduled to kick in on October 1, 2021.  

Let’s take a look at the big-ticket changes for 2021-2022: 


Summary of Major US Chess Rules Updates in the Seventh Edition for 2021-2022 


Rule 5B1c: Added a TD TIP that deals with the nuances of simple delays, Bronstein delays and increments.  

TD TIP: There are two forms of delay: Bronstein and simple, which is also referred to as “US” delay. Both are mathematically equivalent and equally acceptable for use, and the only difference is how the delay is displayed on the clock screen.  

Simple delay separates the delay time from the main time, often by showing the delay countdown in digits, or perhaps the word "delay" flashing each second during the delay countdown. Bronstein delay, by contrast, combines the delay with the main time into one single display. If a player uses the entire delay time or more for a move, the clock adds the delay time to the main time. If a player uses less than the delay time for a move, the clock returns to the time that appeared at the beginning of the move.  

What makes a delay different than an increment is that the main time never increases. With an increment, also commonly known as "Fischer" or "bonus,” extra seconds are added to the main time with each move. 


Rule 14G: Added a TD TIP examining the procedure when both players' flags are down.  

TD TIP: If both flags are down, some clocks indicate which flag fell first. That information, however, cannot be used to make a time-claim win. A win must be properly claimed by a player before his own flag falls.    


Chapter 8, Rule 4 Matches: Updated wording to include blitz ratings in matches. 


Chapter 9, Correspondence Chess: All new and effective as of October 1, 2021.  

The rules for this chapter are scheduled to kick in today and may be viewed in full here. Correspondence players registered with US Chess with valid e-mail address should have received a notification of these new regulations already. A summary of those rules can be found here.  

Note that the summary contains some interesting wording: “… will allow for a future where affiliates/TDs can run their own US Chess rated CC events. However, while the rules have been revised with this future direction in mind, affiliates/TDs will not be able to run their own CC tournaments until a mechanism is in place to allow them to submit such events for rating.”  

So, while it sounds like some stars still need to align, the future appears like a TD or an Affiliate will be able to run their own rated correspondence events. I am looking forward to that announcement.  


Chapter 10, Rule 15B: Added two new TD TIPs. 

TD TIP: No players expelled for a “fair play” violation, as well as their opponents, should have any games reported for rating purposes. 

TD TIP: Players removed from a tournament for a “fair play” violation by the host platform are not automatically reported to US Chess by that platform. TDs need to report that violation.  


Chapter 11, rule 17: Added wording to the TD TIP.  

TD TIP: A completed illegal move, for any reason, loses instantly if claimed correctly. The standard one-minute penalty applies to other Blitz rule infractions, but does not apply to illegal moves.  


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 can be viewed here. Plus listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”

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.


The discussion involving "simple" (or "USA-style") delay versus Bronstein delay is complicated further by the inconsistent way FIDE use the various terms in its own versions of the rules.

In some places, FiDE uses "Bronstein" to refer to ANY version of delay (i.e. non-cumulative added time) versus "Fischer" for what we in the USA call increment (i.e. cumulative added time). FIDE then uses "increment" to refer to EITHER cumulative ("Fischer") or non-cumulative ("Bronstein").

But in a new segment just added recently, FIDE seems to have adopted, more or less, the USA-style distinctions and terminology.

We used to have to worry about (actual or apparent) distinctions between FIDE rules and U.S. Chess rules. Now it would seem we also need to worry about some FIDE rules vs other FIDE rules.

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