Just the Rules: Wouldn't It Be Nice If...

just the Rules by Tim Just

It is said that those hand-held communicators in Captain Kirk’s Star Trek universe were the inspiration for those first generation “flip phones.” Here is my list of inspirations of what yours truly would like to see at tournaments. It is a list devoid of any notion of being doable or affordable. Nor is there any thought given to the unintended consequences that may arise from their implementation. I have faith that those who excel at creating technological miracles can find a way to create these niceties:

Improved Tournament Entry System: Using an online format -- or an at the site form -- tournament officials can look up the data they need to make sure you get to push wood at their events. At some point that data gets transferred to a computer pairings program, or to a paring card. That data transfer is an opportunity for error infection.  

Wouldn’t it be nice if that data could instead be directly entered into the pairings software -- via an app perhaps? That could reduce the number of errors that creep into the current data transfer system. Right now, a TD can sit there with a computer and directly enter player data into a pairings program for their on-site entries. That works well for small to medium-sized tournaments, but not so well for those Super Swisses. A direct data entry system might also reduce those long lines for on-site entries.

Adding phone contact info to that data would also be a plus. Some sort of privacy concerns would need to be addressed, but it would up the ante for the next item on this list.


Your Pairings Via Text: Actually, this sometimes happens right now. Wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t so clunky and expensive? The entire process needs to be easier to use for the player and organizer/TD; it needs to be more automated. It should be just as easy as to request a bye. The pairings software could receive and log that request automatically, with no extra data entry required from a TD. Of course, the traditional posted pairings sheet would still be available.


Game Reporting Made Easier: Wouldn’t it be nice if chess generals could report their game results (text? online?) and get them instantly recorded by the pairings software? And once again, traditional ways of reporting your win-loss-draw results would still be available.


Audio Chess Clock Setup: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell your chess clock the info it needs to be set properly? You would be able to set those time controls using just your voice! Wood pushers that like setting their timers by hand should still be able to do so.


Notation Without Effort: Nowadays, that is possible with the purchase of a special game board. Those boards don’t come cheap — and they don’t roll up for travel. Wouldn’t it be nice if games got notated on every board without any special equipment?

Recent electronic devices that offered a substitute for paper and pencil notation had their fans -- and their critics too. But they still required humans to do the data entry for every move. The idea here would be some system where all of the tournament games get notated without any human effort at all. Traditional scoresheets would be optional.


Claimless Rules Enforcement: Cheating at chess online is a serious concern. Rules enforcement is not. Without any human involvement at all items like stalemates, mates, touched pieces, triple repetition of position, illegal moves, etc. all get the watchful eye of online software -- the rules get enforced automatically. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get this process to work over the board?

The philosophy that players only are responsible for making their own claims over-the-board Vs not needing to make any claims online seems a bit like believing two opposite things at the same time (cognitive dissonance). Enforcing simple straight forward rules like threefold repetition of position, checkmate, touch move, stalemate, etc. is, in my opinion, better done by non-humans.

Video Recorded All Games: If the “Claimless Rules Enforcement” idea isn’t workable, then wouldn’t it be nice if the use of video (surveillance cameras?) could validate a rule’s claim? No more bickering at the board next to you regarding a simple rule’s enforcement issue. Of course, it would also add a huge expense to the tournament bottom line. Future gizmos might make this an affordable idea?

What else can we add to this list?

US Chess informed me that I will receive the 2022 Tournament Director Lifetime Achievement Award. A big THANK YOU to the chess universe is in order. I have said often that as a player in a five round tournament, I can make five people happy. As the TD of a five round event, I make a great many more people happy.

  • 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 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.