Tournament Etiquette

Tournament etiquette is the code of conduct for players in a chess tournament. To some extent it is part of “tournament rules” and to some extent it arises simply out of chess culture.

The general idea is that you can be as horrible, nasty, mean and awful as you like to your opponent on the board, but you have to be “courteous” to your opponent off the board. Play your hardest game on the board, but be pleasant in person.

Tournament Etiquette Rules

Some of the things to consider include:

  • Shaking hands. Most games start and end with a handshake.
  • Polite conversation. You can converse with your opponent prior to the game. Once the game has begun, it should start with “good luck” and end with “well played” or “good game”, but other than that there shouldn’t be much said (except for draw offers and resignations).
  • Draw offers. There is a proper way to offer a draw as part of your move. Don’t make a draw offer on your opponent’s time. And you cannot repeatedly make draw offers, as it becomes a kind of verbal badgering.
  • Resignations. There is a proper and polite way to resign a game.
  • Quiet. Players and spectators should be quiet. Try to be respectful of other unfinished games once you have finished your game. Analyse your game away from the other boards that are still playing.
  • No assistance. The friends, coaches, and parents should not assist. And also no using a mobile phone app (see “mobile phone rule”), laptop computer, or reading a chess book.

Activities Usually Avoided

Some of the things that are thankfully absent in most chess tournaments include:

  • Smoking. Usually smoke-free tournaments these days.
  • Noisy spectators. There isn’t a lot of “go, go, go” chants from the spectators, or any singing of “I’m a raindrop, I’m a raindrop, I’m a raindrop in the sky…” from school chess teams. Maybe junior chess would be better if there was some, but there isn’t.
  • Celebrating Wins. Thankfully most players don’t do any “endzone dance” type celebration throwing their King across the room when they win a game. Or at least, not in front of the poor guy they beat. There’s the occasional “fist pump” but most chess game winners are humble. Nobody’s happy when they lose, so it’s rude to rub salt into it when you win.

Allowed Activities

Apparently there are no official rules against:

  • Eating more food than a mid-sized rhinoceros would need, untidily and noisily, while at the board, on the opponent’s time.
  • Slurping on a sports drink bottle, louder than a pile driver.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Wriggling and squirming in the chair, like a hooked fish.
  • Coughing up a river of phlegm and blowing your nose and then moving your pieces with sticky fingers (no, no, it’s OK, I don’t think I want to capture any of your infested pieces today….how about a draw?)
  • An opponent extending their legs out so far that their feet are under your chair.
  • Having a hairstyle that makes you look like Young Einstein after an electric shock.

And you probably think I’m kidding. Actually some of these items probably are against the rules, if done too much, or in a way that is distracting or disruptive.

Have Fun!

But you know what, despite all the above-mentioned superficial stuff, chess tournaments are fun and chess players are nice people. Have fun playing your tournament games, and do you best to play well.

Related Chess Rules Topics

Read more about these related chess rules, chess puzzles, and other chess tactics and strategies: