Just the Rules: What Choices Does the TD Have?

Sometimes solving chess rules problems is easy: the answers are all right there in the rulebook. Sometimes the solutions fall into the creative zone. Check out these situations. Are they creative or not?

1. The lowest section at the State of Confusion Open has only two entries and one $30 prize. For a five-rounder, those two spots make Swiss Pairings problematic. Some TDs would simply make that section a match, well, as long as all the constraints for match play are met. Another typical solution is to add those two wood-pushers into the next higher section, bringing their prize along with them. At the end of it all only those two chess warriors can make their respective claims for any tag along cash. When the final scores are tallied neither player could score even a single point: goose eggs are what they earned. The possible solutions:


A) They get no prize money as they scored no points.

B) They split the $30 prize.

C) They play a blitz game to see which one of them gets the $30.


2. Your digital chess clock is ticking away (can one really say “ticking away” about digital clocks?) while you wait for your opponent to arrive. The board, men and clock are all set up to start the game. You’ve parked yourself behind the black pieces (the color you were assigned to essay). All you need is an adversary. After 20 minutes the general of the white pieces appears. The problem is that she claims she is supposed to be in charge of the black pieces, not you. You are seated in the wrong position at the assigned game?! You made a mistake. As the pairing sheet shows, you — not your opponent — are the general of the white pieces. The possible solutions:


A) You and your opponent split the 20 minutes and start your game with your assigned colors.

B) The TD switches the assigned player colors and your opponent is now playing white. They lose 20 minutes of time.

C) You take charge of the white pieces. Your opponent loses 20 minutes of playing time as the new mover and shaker of the black pieces.


3. The contest has started. Your counterpart is not taking notation. You get the TD to come over and make a ruling. Your opponent is warned to take notation. A few moves later your adversary stops notating again. You complain again. This time the TD awards you two extra minutes of thinking time. This scene replays itself several more times — your challenger simply is not willing to notate the game — a G/60 contest. The possible solutions:


A) The TD forfeits your opponent.

B) The TD starts to subtract greater and greater time from your opponent’s clock until their flag falls.

C) You have many minutes of playing time left. The TD sets your opponent’s clock so that they only have five minutes left to finish their game. Now the rules don’t require them to notate.


4. The event’s announced time control is a G/40, which qualifies those contests to be earmarked as dual rated. The games will get rated in both the Quick and Regular rating systems by US Chess. After the round one announcements are finished, the TD takes a moment to deal with any player questions. One enthusiastic wood pusher shoots his hand in the air, “Since the games are dual rated can we choose to not take notation? After all we don’t need to notate in Quick Chess games.” The possible solutions:


A) The TD allows each player to choose whether or not to notate in these dual rated games.

B) No notation is required.

C) Notation is required.



1. The players are tied at zero points and the money gets split between them: B is the solution. The rules only address the fact that there is a tie, not what that tie score is. The Blitz game is a rare solution, it is also often impractical in most situations.

2. Some TDs post that the equipment — set, board, clock and you — must be in place as set to go (if at all) for you to make this tardy claim. If you are parked behind the wrong-colored chess men they consider both you and your opponent tardy. After all your opponent has arrived late and still can’t make their first move due to your improper seating arrangement. Without any posted rules variations, either B or C works as the solution.

3. The TD can choose any of the three solutions. Personally, I would go with C, but that is just me bowing down to creativity.

4. The announced tournament time control is for Regular Rated games, not Quick Chess. The announced time control dictates game notation requirements, not the Federation’s policy to rate the games under both rating systems. C is the correct choice.

Want more? Past columns can be found here or by searching the Chess Life Online archives.

Plus, listen to Tim when he was a guest on the podcasts “One Move at a Time” and “The Chess Angle.”

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 new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.