Just The Rules: Tardiness 101

You come late for your G/90,d5 contest. After finding your assigned playing spot you notice that there is no equipment and no opponent anywhere in sight. You set up your equipment—yes, equipment must be set up before the game clock can be started. By the time you get your equipment set up twenty minutes have passed since the start of the round. From your timer and your opponent’s timer, you need to subtract ten minutes (half of the twenty minutes since the start of the round) so that each of you has eighty minutes left to complete your game. Now start your opponent’s clock and let it tick off minutes until they arrive. If you are unsuccessful in following this procedure, then your game may end up going longer than expected. That can cause the next round to start late for all the other players. TDs can help you set your clock using this procedure.

Tick tock, tick tock: Come late to a game and lose time on the clock.

If you come late to your game and your opponent has no equipment set up yet, then you both equally split the amount of time you were tardy to the game. Without equipment it does not matter if one or both players are present—you need at least a set and board to start the contest. Did you know that you can let your opponent eat their tardy time and not make a time forfeit claim as long as their clock is running? How does that work? There is a time limit for your no-show opponent to appear (ask the TD). When that time is up you can claim a time forfeit win, or not. You can let your opponent’s clock continue to count down the minutes past the forfeit time with the hope that they will show up before their flag falls. If they do materialize, you can offer to let them play the game with whatever time they have left on their clock; i.e., theoretically the clock odds are in your favor. In practice those clock time odds may not work out as well as one would expect—you can still lose the game. And remember, if your opponent is tardy (no matter which color they are playing) they also forfeit their right to use their equipment—unless the equipment you set up is substandard (as judged by the TD). In a G/60, d5 time control the TD tells the players to start their clocks. You have no opponent, but as a good sport, you feel you should wait for them to arrive before starting their timer. They arrive 20 minutes late. The game clock finally gets started. The contest is an interesting back-and-forth game that uses up almost all of the time on both clocks. Your game finishes well after what was supposed to be the start of the next round. Your good sportsmanship gesture—of waiting to start the game clock until your opponent arrived—has now inconvenienced all of the other participants in the tournament; i.e., at the very least the next round is probably going to start late.

If your opponent is there or is not, start your clock on the spot.

Properly start the clock when the TD begins the round, even if your opponent is not there. Many tournaments schedule the rounds to start at specified times, and that timetable is very often not flexible. And remember that if you are the general of white pieces then start your clock, make your move, and then start your opponent’s timer. The leader of the black pieces can simply start white’s timer.

Have no timer for your game? It’ll work out; you’ll get one later, there is no doubt.

In a G/30, d5 contest, you were unable to secure a clock, so you started to play without one. After you and your opponent have led your chess forces around the board for a total game time of 50 minutes, the TD places a properly set clock at your board. You and your opponent each get five minutes to finish the game (base time control of thirty minutes each totals sixty minutes of game time). The TD is splitting the remaining 10 minutes of total game time between you and your opponent equally. You protest that your adversary took a lot longer to move than you did, so you should have more time on your clock than he does. Sorry, without a clock on the game from the start, you have no proof of how much time either you or your rival took to push wood. You now each have five minutes to complete your struggle. Occasionally neither you nor your opponent have a clock to use in your game—even after trying to borrow one. Tell the TD. If they don’t have an extra clock to loan out, then start playing. If a chess clock becomes available later, it should be set so that both you and your opponent split equally the time that is left in the game. You may need the TD’s help in doing this. Next month those scribbles that we call notation will come under the “Just the Rules” microscope. Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th & 6th edition 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 and his new column exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There is a rule which elaborates on what Tim said about your opponent forfeiting the right to use his own equipment if he is late and you are using non-standard equipment. If you arrive late to a game where your opponent has started a non-standard clock, you have the right to substitute your own delay clock in your game, providing 1. You absorb the time elapsed while you were late; 2. Black has not determined his first move; 3. The time for losing on forfeit has not elapsed; 4. Your clock can be set to the correct time control while reflecting the required adjustments; 5. If the time control uses increment and not delay, then the above would apply to a late-arriving player who has an increment-capable clock instead.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I should have said "if he is late, unless you are using non-standard equipment," at the end of the first paragraph above.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great article - thanks Tim. Always learn something from your articles. Been a long time since I played with you all at CLC back in the 90's...

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Typo: "lone" should be "loan" in the second-to-last paragraph. Pedantic? Yes, but so are the rules! :) -Matt

In reply to by Matt Phelps (not verified)

I notified Jen about the typo. Thanks. Jeff W also found it.

In reply to by Matt Phelps (not verified)

Fixed :)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

In the 2014 Canadian Open chess tournament the organizers supplied sets boards and clocks. Should the organizers of the U S Open tournament in any given year do likewise?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

US Chess does indeed provide sets and boards at the US Open and National Scholastics. Clocks are a bit more expensive to use from a purchase, storage and transportation standpoint. That said, the 1997 US Open in Hawaii was partially sponsored by Saitek who donated clocks for each board. Unfortunately the clock could not do the dual time controls and had to be reset after move 40. Since very few people had the clock, very few knew how to reset it so that task was left up to the TD's. In looked silly when grown-up patzers to GM's had to raise their hand and wait for the TD to appear to reset their clock.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Tim, Rule 13D states: "13D. Late arrival for game. The player who arrives at the chessboard more than one hour late for the beginning of the game or arrives after the expiration of the first or only time control period, whichever comes first, loses the game. The absence countdown begins at the actual starting time of the round, which is not always the scheduled starting time. A director who learns that a player is unavoidably delayed may waive the one-hour forfeit rule. See also 13F, Late arrival by both players; 15H, Reporting of results; 16K, Both players late; 16M, Equipment needed to start clock; 22A, Games forfeited due to nonappearance; and 28P, Unplayed games." Probably around 30 years ago you and I witnessed a situation where two brothers forgot about the spring time change, and they arrived together for the Sunday morning round of a master/expert tournament about an hour late for the game. One reached across the table and punched his clock before his flag fell for being one hour late, but the other walked around the table and his flag fell before he started the clock. But given this wording today (I am uncertain if it was the same wording back then) I have to wonder if EITHER player should be forfeited, since they both arrived at the board. The rule clearly states when the starting time for the countdown begins, but its not quite as clear as to when the countdown time ends. What are your thoughts on this today? Does a player need to have moved or taken other action (such as punching a clock) to be deemed to arrived? If not, if he is immediately at the board has he/she arrived? In the tournament hall? etc. For example, a player might get within 10 feet, sees he needs a scoresheet and step away - if the hour is up before he sits at the board, is he subject to a time claim? I tend to think if the player has shown up directly at the board or is in the vicinity and has shown action that clearly demonstrates the intent to play then I would rule that the player has arrived. As I note, my thoughts are tainted by the events of decades ago

In reply to by Kevin Bachler (not verified)

The current wording for 13D has been around since at least the 4th edition (1993). The 3rd edition has similar wording with an additional emphasis on tardy arrivals to adjourned games. IMHO the key words in all of those editions are: “A director who learns that a player is unavoidably delayed may waive the one hour forfeit rule.” Is this a situation where the player was “unavoidably delayed?” And until the law givers change the wording of the rule, the TD also gets to decide what the definition of “…arrives at the chessboard…” means. . Were there announcements about the Spring time change? Is just being in the tournament room the same as being at the chess board? And, everyone else made it to their game on time. My advice to players is to be like the first brother and not leave any claim ruling up to the TD; i.e., determine your own fate and keep your eye on the prize. BTW, this tale also appears in "My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut." When the wife of one of the brothers read this tale (names changed to protect the guilty) she instantly knew it was about her hubby and his brother?!

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