Just the Rules: The Tournament Ad Said What?

just the Rules by Tim Just

A lot of the same kind of info appears in just about every tournament ad: dates, round times, time controls, prizes, site address, entry fees, bye info, etc. There are also a lot of non-standard items that you need to watch out for.

Sometimes organizers — often the same person as the TD — like to fine-tune the rulebook. Those tweaks appear in their pre-event ads, or are announced and posted onsite. Their rulebook adjustments might impact your decision to play in a tournament. The rulebook tells us that those modifications — well, at least the major ones — must appear in the pre-event advertising.


My Rating is What?

In the "State of Confusion Thanksgiving Quick Chess Open" there are several sections. You check your rating in the US Chess ratings supplement, the official monthly update of player ratings. Your official Regular Rating for November is 1525. Your Quick Chess number is a bit lower at 1322. Since this event is Quick Rated you enter the Under 1400 (U1400) section. When you arrive, you find you have been assigned a rating of 1525 and are kicked up into the U1600 section. What happened? The TD points out that their ad specifically says that the highest rating that they can verify for you is the one that will be used for pairing and prize purposes; however, only your Quick Rating will be impacted by your game results. The ad triumphs.

TJ Says: Players should carefully read those ads for all sorts of rating assignment procedures that apply ONLY to that one tournament. Some organizers (TDs) intend to assign you the highest rating they can find for you: Regular, Quick, Blitz, Online, Local, State, Club, etc. Some events stipulate which ratings supplement will be used to determine your rating. If an event’s publicity says nothing at all about how your rating will be assigned, then the rulebook kicks in. Your official rating is then determined by the monthly supplement that is the same as the tournament date’s month.

But My Equipment is US Chess Approved!

When they were more popular, you opened your piggy bank and sprung for one of those fancy electronic notation devices. Your game record keeping (but not your playing strength) improved dramatically. When you showed up to the "State of Confusion Fall Open" you find that your approved US Chess notation device is banned at that event. Right there in the advanced publicity it states: “No electronic notation devices allowed.” Score one for advanced publicity.

I Was Allowed to Do That at My Last Tournament!

At the end of round three, on the first day of a two-day five round "State of Confusion Open," your score is disappointing. You need some time to get your head on straight. You reason that by skipping the first game tomorrow  — round four — you will gain the perspective you need to push wood in round five. You ask the TD to give you a half-point bye for your upcoming round four absence. You still plan to play the fifth and final round of the event. The TD understands, but points out that all half-point byes had to be requested by the end of round two, as per the advanced publicity. Your upcoming round four will be assigned a zero-point bye. You object. The last tournament you played in allowed half-point byes for any contest that you were not going to push wood in. The only requirement was to ask for the bye at least 30 minutes before the round was paired. What gives?

TJ Says: There are all sorts of details that can change from tournament to tournament without violating any US Chess rule or policy, as long as those differences are publicized or announced. Not publicized? Not announced? Then the default is the rulebook. Do yourself a favor and check out what is important to you before entering an event. Assume nothing.

  • The free, updated US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2 + 9 + 10 +11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available online.
  • Want more? 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 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. US Chess awarded the 2022 Tournament Director Lifetime Achievement Award to Tim. He is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee plus the Tournament Director Certification Committee (TDCC). His column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.


The vast majority of tournament players have never read the rule book. Players who have been active for nearly 50 years still question me as to why they are receiving a color two rounds in a row. When I point out that that they have played four rounds and have had equal colors and their opponent has only played three and the opponent by rule gets the equalizing color, a light slowly dawns (too slowly IMHO).

I like reading these, Tim, and this one is another great one. You have helped so much with clarification on so many topics and you make it easy for more experienced or new tournament directors to understand. Thank you.

Thank you as always, Tim.

Regarding the electronic score sheet scenario, it is worth noting that an organizer, by rule, may provide a standard score sheet and require its use during play.

If this happens, and the electronic score sheet is not the one specified and provided by the organizer, that's another route to the device being ruled out, whether the ad mentions this or not.

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