Just the Rules: US Chess vs. FIDE

Sometimes change sneaks up on us. Ever so slowly FIDE (the world chess organization) rated tournaments are arriving on the U.S. tournament landscape more often. How big of a deal is that rules wise? All of the pieces still move the same way in both organizations. But there are some tournament procedures that are markedly different. Ken Ballou is an NTD (National Tournament Director), an IA (International Arbiter) and the current chair of the U.S. Chess Rules Committee. He has compiled a detailed summary of those differences. FIDE requires FIDE rated tournaments to follow FIDE laws. So, every player and arbiter (the FIDE term for TD) should be familiar with these FIDE tournament variations to US Chess tournaments. How different are some of these tournament procedures? Let us take a peek at the more common showdowns (click on the summary link for Ken’s complete detailed list of major and minor rules differences): The TD/Arbiter Job US Chess: Our Federation has a “hands off” policy when it comes to TDs interjecting themselves into a game. Only the players can make claims like “flag falls,” “draws,” etc. TDs may correct illegal moves up until the last five minutes of the game—then we are back to the “players only make claims” rule. FIDE: Arbiters have a lot more wiggle room when it comes to breaking into a game. They can call “flag falls,” “touch move violations,” “draws,” etc. at pretty much any point in the game, even during time pressure. Electronic Devices US Chess: Devices are allowed into the tournament room if they are completely shut off. Penalties are pretty much left up to the TD. FIDE: No devices are allowed in the tournament room. The player violating this rule can pretty much expect to lose their game. The wiggle room here is that at FIDE events the organizer may allow electronic devices if they are powered off and in the wood pusher’s bag throughout the contest. But I would not count on this wiggle room for an event that awards a FIDE title. Scoresheets US Chess: Make the move and then record it is the basic rule. There is a paper scoresheet variation that allows for writing the move and then completing it on the board. When either player has only five minutes left on their clock, both contestants can stop recording their moves. A complete scoresheet (minus only three move pairs) is required to prevail in a game winning claim. In non-sudden death time controls a wood pusher can even call his own flag to stop his opponent from filling in any missing moves on the claimant’s score. Only the claimant’s scoresheet can be used to determine if the claim is valid. FIDE: Without any variation at all players MUST make the move on the board and only then record it. Contestants can stop taking notation ONLY if their own clock displays five minutes or less. An incomplete scoresheet can win on time. There is no “calling your own flag” rule that stops either player from filling in any missing moves on their scoresheet. Both scoresheets can be used to determine if the claim is valid. Arbiters are allowed to take score for the players in time pressure and then “call the flag.” Odds and Ends US Chess: TDs can penalize a player for making illegal moves—as many times as necessary. There is no rule requiring the use of only one hand to make moves (except for Blitz). Touching the king first is the rulebook norm for castling. There is a variation that allows chess players to touch the rook first. Inverted rooks can be used as queens when a pawn promotes. FIDE: The first time a player makes an illegal move the opponent receives an additional two minutes of playing time. The next time the same player makes an illegal move, they lose the game. Using both hands to make a move is illegal. Castling requires that the player touch the king first. Touching the rook first is a rook move, not castling. Inverted rooks CANNOT be used as queens when a pawn promotes. 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.

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The differences between US Chess rules and FIDE rules are pretty small these days. There's really no reason we can't use FIDE rules and get in line with the rest of the world.

In reply to by Matt Phelps (not verified)

It will probably take 20 years for that to happen, for the current group of old chess fogies who resist change, to pass on to the next generation.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I prefer USCF rules. For whose benefit is it that placing an upside down rook on the board an illegal move? There's no attempt to deceive here. The main reason to allow it is that most sets come with one queen of each color. Imagine running a scholastic in which the second illegal move loses. Anyone directing a K-1 section is going to have a lot of crying children before the first round ends. The residual effect would be that their parents who just paid an entry fee for a day of enjoyment may never bring their child to another chess tournament. I recently witnessed a young player yell at a TD calling him a "cheater" because during a blitz playoff the 5-0 player made an illegal move and lost. While it was only one illegal, imagine how many illegal moves those finishing near the bottom are making.

In reply to by Harold Stenzel (not verified)

I've worked K-5 blitz tournaments. There are usually a few illegal moves each round, and some crying, but less than a handful per round at the VA State Championships.

In reply to by Harold Stenzel (not verified)

I would argue that any player who is unable to consistently make legal moves might not be ready for tournament chess. By all means keep them playing, but wait until they move the pieces correctly most of the time before bringing them to tournaments. As far as promotion is concerned, similar to castling,this is an easy fix. If someone is penalized once, he won't make that mistake again. With the haf life of our membership, it won't take very long before almost everyone knows the (new) rule and has always done it that way.

In reply to by Alex Relyea (not verified)

Two points: 1) While there will be a change in behavior as a result of penalizing an upside down rook, it leaves unanswered my question "For whose benefit is it that placing an upside down rook on the board an illegal move?" There's no need for this being against the rules. This is not a "fix" because it's not broken! 2) This rule makes it more inconvenient to play the endgame. In 1977 I played an adult who never resigned. We were the last game in progress. When, on move 71 I promoted to my second queen, he refused to accept my upside down rook, restarted my clock, and told me to find a queen. Everyone else (with their sets) were gone. It was just the TD, my opponent, and me. The TD permitted my upside down rook. The point is that had this rule been in effect, I would have been prevented from playing my intended move. Should this rule require one to bring extra queens when an upside down rook declared to be a queen serves the same purpose? I say "NO".

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

FIDE pairing and arbiter ratio rules are larger differences. One TD for 50 players doesn't fly with FIDE rules. You need at least twice as many arbiters for the amount of players under FIDE rules.

In reply to by Karl T Heck (not verified)

Please show me in the FIDE rules where it says you need an arbiter for each 50 players. This is a persistent misconception.

In reply to by Matt Phelps (not verified)

The misconception likely comes from the US Chess Scholastic Regulations, which do call for one TD for every 50 players in the National Elementary Championship. However, that does not necessarily mean one *floor* TD for every 50 players. For example, the back room pairing TDs count in the total. (If memory serves me correctly, the requirement is one TD for every 75 players in the National Junior High Championship and one TD for every 100 players in the National High School Championship. Yes, I am too lazy to go read the regulations to confirm these numbers. But I am rumored to have a halfway decent memory. :-)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Most big open tournaments have many sections. Usually the top section is FIDE rated, so it should respect FIDE rule. The left sections respect USCF rule. The same behavior may lead to different results in two sections, which makes things complex unnecessarily. Indeed, all elite tournaments in the world (including US) are FIDE rated. If we want to have/raise more elite players, USCF rule shall be very close to FIDE rule.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Here is an updated link from Chris Bird regarding the US Chess Rules VS FIDE rules differences. I suspect one may need to do the copy-paste thing for this link to work here. http://www.uschess.org/images/stories/FIDEInformation/uschess-fide-rules-twocolumn-comparison-feb2020-rev.pdf.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It should be noted that under both US chess and FIDE rules, if there is an increment of at least 30 seconds each player must record moves even under five minutes (there is some confusion as to whether this is required if there is a delay of at least 30 seconds).

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

US Chess staffer Chris Bird gives an updated link for the "summary" of the rules comparison: http://www.uschess.org/images/stories/FIDEInformation/uschess-fide-rules-twocolumn-comparison-feb2020-rev.pdf

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The US Chess Rules discuss the use of an independent witness to support a claim of a rules infraction (or to verify a lack thereof). Under FIDE Rules, there appears to be no reference to the use of witnesses. Some Arbiters have apparently taken the position that the Arbiter must observe a rules violation in order to penalize it. This is contrary to US Chess Rules.

In reply to by Steve Immitt (not verified)

FIDE does state: "12.7 If someone observes an irregularity, he may inform only the arbiter. Players in other games must not to speak about or otherwise interfere in a game. Spectators are not allowed to interfere in a game. The arbiter may expel offenders from the playing venue." But this does not appear to address specifically that the testimony of an independent witness can override a player's denial of a rules violation.

In reply to by Steve Immitt (not verified)

"No reference" is not correct on my part, as FIDE does allow someone to inform the arbiter if witnessing an irregularity.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Plain Text Comments

Share Your Feedback

We recently completed a website update. If you notice a formatting error on this page, please click here.