Just the Rules: Tim Just on Online Chess

  Our recent virus induced vacation from over-the-board (OTB) chess got me thinking. Online chess exploded onto the scene. US Chess even rates Blitz and Quick games.  Club Swiss events are also possible using pairings (etc.) from offsite US Chess certified TDs—check it out here. It is much more common to participate in a match (even a one game match) or round robin at one of those on-line sites. So, how do the two compare? Those chess playing sites use their programming to replace many traditional TD chores. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek let’s go for a ride: REQUESTED BYES OTB:
  • I’ve traveled a long way and paid a large entry fee. I have expenses. So, don’t give me a bye for any reason.
  • A bye is needed why? There’s no travel for on-line chess. You don’t even need to leave your home. You can play in your most comfortable socially unacceptable cloths—no one will know. Most events have time controls that make them one-day affairs—if not less.
$$$ OTB:
  • I coughed up my US Chess dues at last weekend’s tournament.
  • I’ll pay tomorrow.
  • The on-line mantra would be “No pay, no play.”
  • That pairing will impact my tie breaks negatively.
  • You should know not to pair us!
  • I know I’m late so you should accommodate me (insert reason here) by repairing this round.
  • Fix my pairing this round to make up for the bad pairing I received earlier.
  • I have a better set of pairings.
  • You must accelerate the pairings.
  • You always have to pair me up.
  • I want to re-enter.
  • The software on-line pairs as it sees fit in a Swiss.
  • In US Chess rated games offline/offsite TDs will be allowed to make pairings—I would bet they use the standard chess pairings software. You get notified, in general, about the event start time.
  • You probably know the names of your opponents in the more common round robin or match play. If you don’t want to essay a game with some other player(s), don’t enter that event. There will be another event coming along shortly.
  • The rules don’t say you can’t do that.
  • Where does it say that in the rules?
  • I want to appeal your ruling.
  • Internet sites have their rules just a click away. Look them up.
  • They even have an appeals process—or at least a contact person.
  • My opponent touched one piece and then moved another one!
  • I didn’t mean to move that piece.
  • I claim a three-fold repetition of position. The game is a draw.
  • Illegal move.
  • My opponent is not keeping score.
  • A provable “mouse slip” or disconnect claim might work.
  • BTW, most sites keep score for you.
  • I don’t know how to set my clock.
  • My opponent is not using one of the “preferred” game timers for this time control. He claims he has the choice of equipment because (fill in the blank).
  • The site will set the cyberspace game timer for you.
  • Cheating is a problem that has yet to be 100% solved. Catching swindlers is labor intensive—and labor gets fatigued.
  • Cheating is a problem that has yet to be 100% solved; however, software—chess engines—get to hunt down those gray shadow frauds—and they don’t get fatigued. Match an engine and get tossed off of the site.
Tim Just recently appeared on Chris Bird's weekly "the TD show." You can watch the entire thing here. The free, updated as of 1-1-20, US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2+11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available on-line. Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed 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.  


I was observing an online tournament game. The TC was 75 | 15 (G/75 minutes, 15s bonus). It was a tight game.
Black had a tough position, and was running low on time. When she was down to a minute or two, I saw that she wasn't getting her 15s increment!
She lost on time.
Her opponent hadn't set up the game correctly; he'd arranged it as 75:15 | 0 (inadvertently). Whoops. (This is a one game / week tourney, in which White is expected to challenge his/her opponent to the game. So the job of setting the TC is up to White.)
I realized later (the TD did, too) that chess.com allows one to add 15s to his/her opponent's clock. Had the TD thought of that during the game, he could've instructed both players to add 15s for each move that had taken place, and for each subsequent move. That workaround would've made it much more likely that the position on the board, and not the clock, determined the result.

I hide my name, as I was recently the head TD in which a player "X" walked away from an ongoing game in a lost position (it would be too easy to find out about the names of the players).

I adjudicated the game and award the win to the other player (who was winning anyway) -after some time had passed and I had made sure that the player "X" really left the premises.

The organizer knows player X for many years and I assume nothing will happen to X.

But since X did a similar thing the month before already (just leaving before the next round w/o telling anybody) I fear this will happen again.

(The month before I caught X leaving when he was on his bike already and hence was able to run back to the laptop to "re-pair" his opponent)

I feel I should stop this, should I?

Rule 20H1 is clear in naming the case and the code of Ethics names it clearly as well.
So again shall I leave the case with the organizer or shall I as the TD somehow advance the case?

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