Tournament rules

Chess tournament rules vary with the event, the location, and the particular rules. But there are official FIDE chess rules for a lot of aspects, and there are also a lot of conventional rules that most chess tournaments use.

Common Tournament Rules

Some of the typical types of tournament rules include:

  • Touch Move Rule: You are supposed to move a piece if you touch it, or capture an enemy piece if you touch an enemy piece.
  • Rounds: each game in a tournament is called a “round”. Usually there are many rounds. How is it decided who you play? It may be a “round robin” or a “Swiss tournament” system.
  • Recording the Game: Are you required to write down the game in chess notation on a scoresheet? Beginner tournaments often do not require this, but chess fixtures and adult tournaments usually require a written record. Some tournaments allow you to stop writing the game down once you a low on time on the clock.
  • Illegal moves rules: Depending on the type of tournament, illegal moves may be undone and another move played, or an illegal move may stand as a move (but the player can claim a win). The most common illegal move is leaving a King in check, and the issue is whether a player can “take the King” and win. Generally, longer games require illegal moves to be re-played, whereas rapid play or “lightning chess” tournaments you can win if you take the King.
  • Chess Move Rules: the rules of chess are very standardized around the world. All chess tournaments should have the same rules on the chess board for the pieces and pawns. Even the special rules like castling, pawn promotion, and the en passant rule are standard and typically apply even in beginner tournaments.

Time Period Rules

There are many rules related to the chess clocks, time forfeits, and the timing of the games.

  • Chess clocks: Are chess clocks being used? On some boards but not others?
  • Grace Period: What is the grace period for the late arrival forfeit in the tournament? Often it is 30 minutes or 60 minutes for slow games, and much less for rapid play games obviously!
  • Time periods: What is the timing of the games? Is it 40 moves in 90 minutes? Is it blitz with 5 minutes per player? Or 15 minutes each (“allegro”)? Is it a Fischer clock?

Draw Rules

There are many rules related to drawn games, such as:

Other Rules

And there are many, many other obscure chess rules. There are rules related, cheating, relating to sportsmanship, and to various other things.

  • Tournament Mobile Phone Rule: Usually mobile phones are banned, either they must be switched off, and in some tournaments they must be not on your person (so you cannot cheat by running a chess app, plus it’s really annoying if it goes “ping”). You aren’t supposed to take selfies or use Snapchat when you’re sitting at the board.
  • Half-point byes: In some tournaments you can request a “bye” for one round (or sometimes more than one round), such as if you know that you will have to be absent for that round. Usually it will be a “half point bye”, scoring the same as a draw. Typically you have to request a bye ahead of time, so that you cannot be winning the tournament then decide that a half-point would be good enough for the last round game. Or maybe you might see that your next opponent is a tough match, and ask for an easy draw instead. Usually that’s not permitted.
  • No devices: Often the mobile phone rule is now expanded to disallow all forms of electronic devices, whether smartphones, laptops, tablets, and so on.
  • No cheating: There are various rules against cheating in most tournaments. You cannot be helped by anyone or help anyone. You should not discuss a game until after it has finished.
  • No books or written materials: You cannot bring your favorite chess book and read it while playing. Nor can you have any written crib notes to help you remember your openings. You can only bring your brain.
  • No assistance: You are not supposed to interfere in a game, whether as a player or a spectator, even in a nice way such as to tell a person that they forgot to press their clock.
  • Disputes: The players should stop the clocks and summon a referee with any questions or disputes. Parents or coaches are not supposed to be involved in any disputes; only the official tournament referees.
  • Resignations: There are various rules about the proper way to “resign” a game (if you have lost). Resigning is voluntary; you are not supposed to tell your opponent that they should resign (even when it’s true).
  • Quiet: You are not supposed to intentionally disturb your opponent, especially when it is their turn to move. The same requirement of quiet applies to spectators, coaches, and parents.
  • Signing the scoresheets: You are both supposed to sign each other’s scoresheet at the end of the game, to record the result (win/loss/draw).
  • Courtesy: You are supposed to be polite and courteous to your opponent. For example, it is usual to shake hands before the game and once it has finished (whatever the result).

This isn’t even the full list. There are many more obscure rules in the operation of formal chess tournaments, but most players don’t need to worry about them. But the official arbiter has to learn them!

Related Chess Rules Topics

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