Just the Rules: Things Change

Tim Just, CLO columnist


We all know that things change. Sometimes that change takes place in small increments, or your life is simply turned upside down with a surprise visit. COVID-19 turned the face of the OTB chess universe upside down, but the virus was not the only change in our corner of the world. Let’s check on some of the situations in which we will need to adjust.  


Membership Categories and Dues 

Let’s begin by saving you some hard-earned cash. An increase in US Chess dues is headed our way on June 1, 2021 via the delegates meeting from last year. Some membership categories will be jettisoned, while other categories will see a boost in membership dues. The paper copy of Chess Life will be an add-on and not automatic, in some cases. By renewing or joining now (before June 1), you can lock in the old rates.  


New FIDE Rating Fees 

FIDE, the International Chess Federation, has also changed the fees charged to its member federations – US Chess in our case – for rating FIDE tournaments. Don’t be surprised by slightly higher entry fees for those events.  


New Correspondence Rules 

US Chess correspondence rules haven’t changed since 2004. Back in those ancient times, email was not yet the medium of choice for transporting moves, and post cards were mostly still the rule of thumb. A task force committee updated many of the old terms and old rules, and their recommendations reflect today’s reality. One of the new innovations appears to be that tournament directors will be able to run their own US Chess correspondence events. When the delegates approve, or at least tweak, those recommendations, the next rulebook will be updated with a new chapter nine.  


Fair Play Rules 

There you are in the middle of a US Chess online tournament. One of the event’s requirements is that you must have access, typically some sort of membership, to the host site so that you can utilize their interface to play your games. And then it happens: WHAM! The site removes your access, having allegedly violated their “fair play policy.”  

You believe it must be a false positive, but the TD does not have the ability to get you reinstated. You can’t finish the tournament. And the TD must retroactively adjust your opponents’ scores, upward from earlier rounds and typically to unrated results. If the TD hands in the impacted games as rated, that might fiddle with the accuracy of the rating system. The TD might also decide to report the incident to US Chess. So, how can you untangle this Gordian Knot?  

For each online platform, there is a set of proprietary “fair play,” or anti-cheating, rules. In different ways, they all determine if a player is consistently performing well-above their expected norm. Being able to outshine Grandmasters move after move, in game after game, is unlikely for most of us.  

The only fly in the ointment is a false positive. In the middle of a US Chess-rated event, an online platform may simply close a player’s account. Guilt or innocence aside, that player is barred from taking part in any more games in that event. Players may file protests after the fact with US Chess; however, US Chess has zero control over what a platform does—much like when a hotel bans a player from their site during an OTB tournament. To completely unravel your “false positive” problem, appeals are needed to both US Chess and the online platform.  


Is OTB’s Fresh Face the New Normal?  

As more OTB tournaments resume, an increasingly familiar disclaimer says it all:  

Please note, entering or attending this event constitutes acceptance of the US Chess COVID policy. Plans are subject to change based on federal, state, and municipal policy/guidelines in effect at the time of the event. US Chess will update this site as needed to reflect such changes. 

With every state having their own COVID policy for group meetings, the hoops that a tournament organizer must jump through are variables at best: from the number participants allowed, to masks or no masks, to proof of vaccination, and on and on.  

If you plan on attending an event, it is probably wise to find out what those regulations will be before showing up. After all, you may not be able to meet one.  


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 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.”