Common Tournament Rules to Know

The three most important points for new players

If you are new to over-the-board tournament play, welcome! This web page will give you a summary of the rules you need to know. This list may seem overwhelming at first. Here are three key points:

1. If there is an issue or dispute, stop the clocks and call over a tournament director (TD). Directors do not intervene in games unless a player makes a claim.
2. You must record your moves (unless either player has less than five minutes left). Exception: Blitz or Quick chess with game controls where each player has less than 30 minutes (less than G/30) do not require the recording of moves.
3. Touch move applies to tournament games.

If there is a rules issue or any sort of dispute, stop the clock and find a TD. After the game ends, it is too late to claim rule violations. Also, TDs do not intervene in games unless a player makes a claim, even if the TD sees a violation.

Time Controls

All tournament chess games are played subject to time controls. A time control might require a player to make all the moves of the game within a certain period (such as game in 60 minutes, or G/60), or a particular number of moves in a specific time (such as 40 moves in 90 minutes, or 40/90). If there is more than one time control, the last is usually a sudden death time control (such as sudden death in 30 minutes, or SD/30), which requires each player to complete the game within a certain time.

Note that if there is more than one time control, any time left on your clock carries over to the next time control. For example, if the time control is 40/90 SD/30, you have 90 minutes for your first 40 moves. If you complete your first 40 moves in 70 minutes, the remaining 20 minutes carries over to the next time control, and you therefore have 50 minutes left to complete the game.

Each player's time is measured separately. A specially designed timer (a chess clock) tracks each player's time usage. If you run out of time, your opponent can claim a win on time.

Winning on time (time forfeit)

If your opponent oversteps the time limit, you can claim a win. If your opponent does not agree, you must seek out a TD and make your claim. You need a reasonably complete and accurate score sheet to claim the win in a non-sudden-death time control (such as 40/90).

Understand how the clock works

If you are using your opponent's clock, ask how the clock works. Is the clock set for delay? (A delay of five second per move is standard.) How do you stop both clocks, if necessary?

Does the clock count moves? What happens at move 40 (the end of the first time control)? Some clocks do not count moves, but just count down the first 90 minutes. After the 90 minutes runs out, the clock starts counting down from 30 minutes. This is legal behavior for the clock; you need to complete your first 40 moves before the 90 minutes runs out.

Recording moves

You must write your moves (and your opponent's) on a score sheet. This is how you prove that you made the necessary number of moves or make other claims. Also, having your game score lets you go over your game later and learn from it.

Exception: if either player has less than five minutes left in the time control, both players can stop recording moves. (If this happens in a non-suddendeath time control, players must resume writing moves at the start of the next time control.)

Touch move

The touch move rule requires that if you deliberately touch a piece, you must move or capture it. Note that you must make a touch move claim before you touch a piece yourself.

Illegal moves

If there is no dispute, you do not need a TD. If the illegal move was made in a sudden-death time control, two minutes are added to the opponent's clock. No time is added in a non-sudden-death time control.

The touch move rule still applies: the player making the illegal move must make a legal move with the touched piece if at all possible.

The proper way to offer a draw

The proper time to offer a draw is after you have completed your move on the board and before you press your clock. If you offer a draw before moving, your opponent can accept or decline the offer. Your opponent might also require you to move first. If so, you cannot take back the draw offer.

It is best to offer a draw by saying "I offer a draw." It is discourteous to just say "draw" and stick your hand out at your opponent. Similarly, when accepting a draw, it is best to say "I accept the draw" to be clear about your intention. Some players will try to interpret a silent handshake as a resignation.

It is very rude to repeatedly offer a draw to your opponent. Generally, you should not repeat a draw offer unless your opponent has since offered you a draw or the position on the board has changed substantially. A player can make a claim of annoying behavior if the opponent repeatedly offers a draw.

Perpetual check

Although chess players will use the term "draw by perpetual check" there is no such rule. Usually, the relevant rule is "triple occurrence of position." That is, if the same position occurs three times with the same player having the move each time, the player can claim a draw. Note that the repetition does not have to occur on three consecutive moves.

If you are about to make a move that causes the same position to occur for the third time, do not make the move on the board. Write the move on your score sheet, stop the clock, and make a claim to a TD.

The fifty-move rule

A player can claim a draw if both players have made fifty moves without a pawn move or a capture. If you are in time pressure and think the fifty-move rule will apply, find a TD, state your intention to invoke the fifty-move rule, and ask the TD to count moves.

If your opponent is late

If your opponent is not present at the start of the round, set up your board, set, and clock. If you have white, start your own clock, make your move, and then press your clock to start the opponent's. If you have black, just start your opponent's clock.

If you arrive late and there is no board set up

If both players are late, the first player to arrive should set up a board, set, and clock. The time since the start of the round must be divided equally and subtracted from both players' clocks. For instance, if you arrive at 7:50, the round started twenty minutes ago. You must subtract ten minutes from each player's clock. Then, if you have white, start your clock, make your move, and press your clock; otherwise, start your opponent's clock.

Forfeit (no-show opponent)

You must wait one hour before you can claim a forfeit against a no-show opponent.

On the pairing chart, mark your result with a 1F for your score and a 0F for your opponent. Be sure to circle both your score and your opponent's:

Please do not be a no-show player! If you are entered in tournament and you are unable to attend a round, please sign up for a bye in advance.

While You Are Playing

Chess is a timed event with a Clock. Be sure to monitor your clock and your opponent's clock. Be aware of the time controls.

You must write down your moves and your opponent???s moves (record the game).

The touch-move rule applies: if you touch one of your pieces, you must move it if you legally can; if you touch one of your opponent's pieces, you must capture it if you legally can. If you touch one of your pieces to adjust its position on its square, you must clearly say "adjust" (or "adoube") before doing so. You are allowed to adjust pieces only when it is your turn to move. If it not your move, you must leave the pieces alone.

It is illegal to discuss a game in progress, regardless of whether it is your game or someone else's.

If you have a question about the rules or any problems, seek out one of the TD even if he is playing a game.

After Your Game

Both players are responsible to make sure that their game result is recorded on the pairing sheet. If we do not have your result, you might not be paired the next round

At the end of your game, do not discuss your game in the playing room. Take your belongings, mark your result on the pairing sheet, and leave the room. A skittles room is often available for you to go over your game and talk.

Please pick up after yourself. Do not leave trash behind.


Please refrain from talking while games are in progress. If you must say something to your opponent, the TD, or anyone else, please do so as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the players around you.

Please remember that the tournament is often run by volunteers. Try to not create work for others. Do what you can to help out, even if it's just a little thing,.

We are frequently guests at the playing site, so please keep the facility safe and clean.

*adopted from a flyer created by MetroWest Chess Club