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PRO Chess League Official Rules

PRO Chess League Official Rules

Jan 1, 2017, 12:00 AM 0 Other

PRO Chess League Rules as of 3/9/2017:

  1. Eligibility and Team Makeup

  A.1. Team rosters

  1. A lineup is the four players you are using each match. A roster is the total list of players you have on your team that you can use in an upcoming match.
  2. The roster size for each team is unlimited. Before the season you may have up to ten players and a minimum of four.
  1. Once the season begins you can add any new player to your roster at any time. We understand that it may be surprising when a team suddenly has a new player on their team, but we are doing this to ensure that teams have flexibility to field a legal lineup each week, as tournament schedules and other issues could interfere with player availability.
  2. If we believe that a team is adding someone to their team without any legitimate plans to use them in a match, we reserve the right to not place this player on the roster until such time as they are officially scheduled to play in a match for the team in question.
  3. If you add a new player, they must sign the Chess.com release form before they are allowed to play.
  4. If a player is on a roster but has not played a single game, they are still eligible to play for ANY team in the league. This is to stop teams from trying to stash players with the goal of making them unable to be used by other teams. However once a player has played a single game for a team, they are no longer eligible to compete for any other team during that season.

A.2. Team ratings

  1. We will use the September 2016 FIDE rating list to determine league ratings for the season. We are using the Standard FIDE rating (not Rapid or Blitz).
  2. Players under 2000 FIDE can play in the league, however their rating will always count as at least 2000 towards the team’s average rating.
  3. The highest any player will count towards the rating limit is 2700 FIDE (Therefore if your FIDE rating is 2800, when calculating the average rating, it will be considered 2700)
  4. Players who have no FIDE rating will be assessed by the Commissioner’s Office and we will err on the side of assigning them higher ratings than one might expect. If we are having trouble finding accurate information on any player, we may restrict them from competing in the league. With provisional FIDE ratings we will also err on the side of assigning higher ratings, and will sometimes use their rating that is more recent than September if it results in a larger sample size of games.

 A.3. Local players and free agents

  A.3.1 Local players

  1. A local player is someone who meets one of the following requirements:
    1. Lives in or near the team’s home city.
    2. Lives within an approximate two hour drive of the team's city, and has some ties to the community (plays in occasional chess tournaments in the area). In less densely populated areas, we may accept slightly longer drive time than 2 hours. In areas that are extremely densely populated with high rated chess players, we reserve the right to consider that a player who needs to drive 2 hours is no longer a local player.
    3. Has extremely strong ties to the community but may not currently live there. This applies to people who were born in a city, or have spent much of their life and chess career there, or who have a history of playing in tournaments or for a club team in a given city. If someone is a local legend in your chess playing community, they are likely to be considered a local player for league purposes.
    4. Please note that it is possible for a player to be considered local in more than one location. The aim of the above rules is to allow some flexibility for teams but to make sure there is still some local connection involved.
    5. We will be somewhat more strict regarding local designations made to players added once the season has begun. We will be extremely strict on this distinction during the playoffs, and the approximate “two” hour drive listed in 1b, will be amended to a “one” hour drive. However if a new player, who is within a 2 hour drive, but not within a 1 hour drive, is actually able to show up at the playing site of the team in question during the playoffs, we will likely allow them to count as a local.
    6. While we use the term “two hour drive” in 1b, we recognize that different cities and areas have different modes and speeds of transportation, and that two hours may be 200 miles in some places or 100 miles in others. We will adjust accordingly and will take into account the population density of the region, especially as it regards to how many strong chess players are in that given region.
  2. Teams may be required to give a detailed explanation on why a certain player should be considered local, along with references from key local chess figures. The closer the player lives to the city, the more likely they will be approved.
  3. Please note that unless you are from a relatively small country, these teams are city-based and not country-based. So if you formed a team in Paris for example, your local players cannot simply be any French players, but should be close to Paris.
  4. The more densely populated your city is, and the more strong Grandmasters that are already in the area, the less likely we are to allow players who live far away to count as local.
  5. Once a player is designated as a “local” player, it does not matter from where they play their match, they will still count as local. For example, a player who is classified as “local” for New York, could still play as a local player from London.
  6. The league has absolute and final authority on what constitutes a local player.

  A.3.2. Free Agents

  1. There are absolutely no restrictions on who can be a free-agent player, as long as they keep your lineup’s rating below the 2500 average.
  2. If a free agent player is in your team’s hometown, and is able to play at the same location as another player on the team, they may be able to count as a local player for that match. The only provision is that this free agent must have already completed one match (a minimum of four total games) with the “free agent” designation. The reason for this restriction is so that teams cannot just sign anyone who happens to be in town for a few days, and then classify them as “local” players.
  3. In order to qualify for the above “local” distinction, league officials must be notified in advance via email, and when the lineup comes out, the other team will be notified of this designation.
  4. You can have as many local players and as many free agents as you want on your roster; however only one free agent can play in your lineup at a time.
  5. League structure

  B.1. Divisions

  1. The 2017 season of the PRO Chess League will have four 12-team divisions (Red, Orange, Green, Blue).
  2. The top 6 teams (after seven matches)from each division qualify for the playoffs. Tiebreaks for those with the same win/loss record will be covered in section E.

  B.2. Schedule

  1. The regular season will last seven matches and seven weeks. The playoffs will then begin and last for five matches and four weeks (the Semifinals and Finals will all take place on the same weekend).
  2. The first six weeks of the schedule are preset, meaning that league officials create the schedule in order to produce fair and interesting matches.
  3. The seventh week is the week before the playoffs, and we will manually create the formula after Week 6 to ensure that teams fighting for playoff spots will play each other and we will attempt to do so in as fair of a way as possible.


  1. Weekly Lineups

     C.1. Makeup

  1. Your lineup can consist of 3 “local players” and 1 “free-agent” or 4 “local players” and 0 “free-agents”. More information on local players can be found below.
  2. Players can play from any location. The average FIDE rating must be under 2500.00 (2499.75 is legal, 2500.00 is illegal)
  3. You must play the four players who begin the match in order of rating. What this means is if you are team A, whoever your highest rated player is will be paired as A1. Your second highest rated will be A2. If two players have the same exact rating, you can decide their order, although you cannot change it in later matches. If you make substitutions to your lineup (as described in C2), it is possible and legal for the players to no longer be in rating order.
  4. Female players will give a 10-point bonus to the average rating. So if you have a woman in your lineup, your team’s average rating can now be 2510 FIDE. If you have two women in your lineup, your team’s average rating can now be 2520 FIDE. This rule is in place solely because it is good for chess and the PRO Chess League to have more women playing, and so we would like to encourage teams to sign women to their rosters.

     C.2. Substitutions

  1. After each round in a match, teams may substitute any players from their roster for any players on their lineup, provided it fits within the rules of both keeping their average rating under 2500, and that there is still just one “free agent” in the lineup. These substitutions need to be announced in advance, at the time when the final lineups are due, and therefore your opponents will also be made aware of them. Teams cannot plan ahead to substitute players for a tiebreaker match, and are therefore committed to use the four players who played the final four games for their team if a match goes to a tiebreaker.
  2. You can sub a player out of a match, yet have them sub back in later in the match. If someone returns to the match after being subbed out, they must return on the exact same board they started on.
  3. Any new player that you sub in, has to directly take the spot of the player they are replacing. For example if one player was player A2 in the pairings, any sub would now be player A2 for pairing purposes. If you sub in two or more players at once, the highest rated one will replace the highest rated player for pairing purposes.
  4. You can only have one free-agent playing at the same time, however a free-agent can substitute into the match, as long as the result is that there is just one free-agent in the lineup after the substitution.

     C.3. Deadlines and penalties

  1. The lineups are due by 8pm GMT (3pm ET) on Monday for matches scheduled on Wednesdays. For all other matches the lineups are due 2 days prior at 8pm GMT. For the Semi-Finals and Championship Match, lineups for both matches are due 4 days before the Semi-Finals.
  2. If we feel that we need lineups one day earlier in order to properly promote the matches, we reserve the right to push this deadline up by one day at any time during the season. If we do so, we may also adjust the penalties listed in C5.
  3. In order for anyone to play in the league, we must have both their username and email in advance. Also they will have to sign the legal form that will be sent to them before competing in any match. A player put into the lineup who has not signed the form before 8PM GMT on the day before their match, will be forfeited in every game. The league reserves the right to extend this deadline in extreme cases, but it will never be extended past the scheduled start of a game.
  4. Teams will have the option to use different lineups for the Semi-Final and Championship Match, although they must both be announced at the submission deadline. However we will allow teams to change one team member in their lineup for the Championship Match, within two hours of completion of both Semi-Final Matches. This allows teams to continue to use one player who performed very well in the Semi-Finals, or to replace someone who didn’t.
  5. If you need to make a change to the lineup at any time 12 hours before the scheduled start time of your match, you will be allowed to do so, but will face a half point penalty for each affected game. You will need to directly contact league administrators to make sure this change goes through. If you have to make a late substitution after the deadline has passed, the substituted player will directly replace the player they are substituting for. In these cases, the boards will be reordered based on rating.
  6. If you need to make a change to the lineup less than 12 hours before the start of your match, the penalties will be more severe. Because our staff is working very hard to keep the league moving smoothly, any last second change will cause a lot of extra work for them at a time when they don’t have time to spare. In these cases where a change is needed on the day of the game, we will first subtract an automatic half point for your team, and also an extra half point for every game that is affected. If the change is requested and our staff considers that it’s so close to the start of the game that it will cause delays in the matches, then you will be forfeited for the first game that you need to change (but we will waive the automatic half point penalty in the case of this game). This will be solely in the discretion of our staff who will have a better understanding of the delays that a last second change will cause. However the future changes after that one will result in the usual half point penalty per game, on top of the half point penalty for making a lineup change on the day of the game. For example, if one player found out they couldn’t play at all, and their game was set to begin in 2 minutes, they may get forfeited for that game, yet you could replace them for the next three games. In that case you would face a half point penalty for each game. So in this case you would face a forfeit loss in Round 1, and three half point penalties in Rounds 2-4. In all of these cases of day of substitutions, boards will NOT be reordered based on rating, and instead any substitution will be a direct substitution for the player who is being removed.
  7. The first time during the season that your team has to make a late lineup substitution, the penalties will be less serious. If made a day before the match, they will be a half point total penalty, regardless of how many games are affected. If made on the day of the match, the penalty will be one full point, regardless of how many games are affected. However note that chess.com staff still reserves the right to forfeit your team for one game if the substitution request came to close to the start of a match and they determine that going forward with the game would cause leaguewide delays. In the playoffs, the penalties solely in C.3.6 will all be doubled (1 point penalty for a change the day before and automatic 2 point penalty for a change within 24 hours of the match starting time) and teams will face the more lenient penalty of C.3.6 or C.3.4/C.3.5. This rule is in place because we know that once per season something unforeseen could come up. However the second time it happens, or if it happens in an important match such as the playoffs, we believe it is prudent to enforce strict penalties.
  8. If your team does not submit your lineup in time, you will face an automatic penalty of a half point, which will ensure that your team loses on any drawn match. In these cases we will also set your lineup to be the same exact lineup used in the previous match, and you will not have the option to change it without incurring the usual penalties. The only exception is on Week 1, in which we will make an effort for 2 hours after the deadline to contact your team and request your lineup. If we fail to receive it by then, we will simply give you a legal lineup using some combination of your players, and you will have no choice but to use those players and will also be given a half point penalty.
  9. In cases where you accidentally submit the wrong lineup and it's clear it's an accident, with the prime example being that on one of the rounds you accidentally put one person in the lineup by mistake and then never used them again, we may allow your team to change the lineup after the deadline if we are notified quickly. As an example, if you put player A on board 3 for Rounds 1,2,3 and then Player B for Round 4, and you quickly tell us that this was an honest mistake and that player A is supposed to play all four rounds, we may allow a change without penalty the first time it happens. Any time after that there will be the normal penalties applying.
  10. League officials have the unilateral right to postpone matches or give exceptions to the team in extreme circumstances. (Natural disasters, medical emergencies etc). Internet connectivity issues, traffic, normal bad weather conditions or standard power outage issues are not included in these exceptions. They must be extremely severe for any consideration to be given.
  11. The PRO Chess League is an enormous undertaking and will be extremely difficult to run from our end. Therefore the following rules will be in effect. Your player will be responsible for being logged in to the Chess.com live chess server. Chess.com staff will attempt to start your game (which will only be possible if you are logged in). They will continue trying for 2 minutes past the start of the match. So if the match is set to begin at 12:00, they will continue attempting to start your game until 12:02. Once 12:03 hits, our staff member will make one last attempt to begin the game, and if it fails because you are not logged on, you will be forfeited. We will be using the clock at worldtimeserver.com/current_time_in_GB.aspxas our official timer. Using the start times above, because this clock will require manual monitoring by the staff member in charge of your game, there is some chance that a game may begin past 12:02 because the staff member hadn’t checked the clock once it became 12:03. Therefore you cannot claim that a player must have been forfeited if a game began at 12:03 or later. Every player will get one final attempt to have their game started once the deadline has passed. There will be no time penalties in any of the above cases because it is too time intensive for our staff to change clock times for minor lateness. If a team's manager is active and engaging with us in the PRO Management Chat Room, we may also give some small amount of leeway while we try to figure out what the problem is together. However at any time 3 minutes after the scheduled start team, your player is open to being forfeited if our staff deems it appropriate.
  12. In the rare case that both players are not logged when Chess.com staff makes their final attempt to start the games, the game will be declared an automatic draw.


  1. Match Format

     D.1. Pairings

  1. Each match will consist of four players on your team facing off against four players on the opposing team. It will be an all-play-all format: Each player on your team will face each player on the other team.
  2. The pairings go as follows: A1 = First board on team A, B3 = third board on team B etc. Team A will be the one that is listed first in the pairing table. 0:00 refers to the listed start time of your match. 0.40 means 40 minutes after the listed start time of your match, and so on. This pairing system is NEW as of Week 4 in the 2017 season.
  • Round 1 (0:00): B4-A1, B3-A2, A3-B2, A4-B1
  • Round 2 (0:40): A1-B3, A2-B4, B1-A3, B2-A4
  • Round 3 (1:20): B2-A1, B1-A2, A3-B4, A4-B3
  • Round 4 (2:00): A1-B1, A2-B2, B3-A3, B4-A4
  1. We have the right to change the above pairing system at any time during the season if we believe that transposing the rounds would make for a more interesting show. For instance we may not want Board 1 to play against Board 4 in the final round every time. Teams will be given plenty of advance notice if any such change is made.


    D.2. Time controls

  1. The time control will be 15-minutes with a 2-second increment.
  2. Round 1 will begin at 0:00, round 2 at 0:40 (after the start of the match), round 3 at 1:20, and round 4 at 2:00.
  3. If a game is still in progress from the previous round, the next round only begins when all games have completed. If Chess.com staff is unable to start the next round on time, due to a game that lasts too long, every round from the match in question will be pushed back exactly five minutes.
  4. A full match should take about 2.5-3 hours to complete.

     D.3. Miscellaneous

  1. Once your team scores 8.5 points; your team has won the match. However the remaining games of the match will still be played.
  2. Your players can play from home or they can also all play together from a central location
  3. Matches start at the scheduled time, any lateness results in the late player losing time on their clock. Exceptions are at the discretion of the arbiters and could include reasons such as site outages or clerical errors made by Chess.com in starting the matches.
  4. If there is a sitewide outage in the middle of a round, any game that had not already concluded will be considered void and restarted. Position on the board or time situation is an irrelevant factor in this case. Note that this is only for a sitewide outage that affects everyone on chess.com, not outages that only affect your team or a few select players.


  1. Playoffs

     E.1. Qualification

  1. The top 6 teams (after seven matches)from each division qualify for the playoffs.
  2. The most important statistic to determine standings is total number of match wins. So if Team A has won 3 matches and lost 4  while Team B has won 4 matches and lost 3, Team B is always ahead in the standings, even if Team A had a much larger margin of victory in their matches. A drawn match counts as half of a match win.
  3. Ties are broken in the following order:
    1. Combined win/loss record of your regular season opponents (e.g. if all seven teams you faced had 4 wins, your tiebreak score would be 7*4=28)
    2. Total number of game points your team scored throughout the season
    3. Total number of game points by your opponents
    4. Average FIDE rating of opponents faced. (unrated FIDE rated opponents will be calculated based on the rating assigned to them by the league)
    5. Combined win/loss record of the opponents of your regular season opponents.
    6. In the extremely unlikely event that the above five tiebreakers are tied, the fifth tiebreaker for a playoff berth or a first round bye will a quick impromptu blitz match between the two teams in question, with specific rules to be decided at that time.
    7. If [an unbroken] tie only determines playoff seeding in which a bye is not at stake, we will simply flip a coin.

     E.2. Playoff format

  1. Seeding is determined by their standing in the division. So the first place team will be seeded #1 while the second place team will be seeded #2 and so on.
  2. In the playoffs, the top 2 teams in each division receive a first-round bye, while team 3 plays team 6 and team 4 plays team 5. The winner of the 3 vs 6 match will play team #2, and the winner of the 4 vs 5 match will play team #1.
  3. In the Semifinals the winners of the Green and Orange division will play each other, while the winners of the Red and Blue divisions will play each other. The two winners will then advance to the Championship Match.
  4. In all playoff matches, including Championship Weekend, the team with the better record during the Regular Season will get to choose whether they would like to be “A” or “B” in the PRO Chess League Pairing system listed in section D2. We will not specifically ask every team for their input in these cases but instead if we don't hear from the team with the better record before 12:01 PM GMT each Thursday, we will assume that they are choosing to be the team listed as pairing "A". For the Championship Weekend Matches, we will specifically ask the team with the better record to make their choice by 12:01 PM GMT on the Thursday after the Final Four teams are known.
  5. com will set the starting time for all playoff matches.

    E.3. Playoff tiebreakers

  1. The team that performed better during the Regular Season advances on an 8-8 tie in all matches until the League Semifinal, at which point tiebreak games will be played on any future 8-8 ties. For clarification, the team with the best performance during the Regular Season (the first 7 weeks of the season), will be given a seed number of 1, the second best team will be given a seed number of 2, and so on down to number 6.
  2. The tiebreaker in the Semifinal and later is a replay of the entire match at a time control of 3 minutes plus 2 second increment, with colors reversed from the original match. Whichever four players are playing in the final round will also be required to compete in every game of all the tiebreakers. The league reserves the right to have some of these tiebreak games played one or two at a time to help with the quality of the broadcast.
  3. If the 3 2 portion is a tie, the teams continue to play 4 game mini matches of 3 2 until one team is ahead. This will continue until there is a winner. Each mini-match will follow the normal structure of league matches, so that the opponents and matchups change each time there is another tie. However these matchups will begin starting with the fourth and final round of regular match structure and then go in reverse. Therefore for the first match of this type it will be the standard Round 4 pairings starting with A1-B1 and in the second match if the first one is tied, it will be the standard Round 2 pairings starting with B1-A2. Colors will again be reversed every time a pair of players plays each other.
  4. Anti-cheating policies
  5. All teams and their players will be subject to Chess.com's anti-cheating measures (link will be provided soon)
  6. All teams have the right to appeal if we suspend or ban a player due to the findings of our Fair Play Team. However no teams have the right to appeal when we require a player to use a webcam or have a proctor present.
  7. If we think a player may be cheating, but we aren’t certain, that player may be subject to increased scrutiny. For instance we may require that they have a league-approved arbiter at the playing site, or that the player uses a webcam to broadcast the physical playing site. Or we may require the player travel to the home of another player to play from there. A league approved arbiter does not need to be an official FIDE arbiter, but instead simply someone that the league trusts to ensure fair play.
  8. Anyone who has had results that greatly surpass their strength in chess.com or other online tournaments may be required to have an arbiter present. This by no means indicates that we suspect foul play but is simply done to ensure that players and the public can relax and know that we are taking security seriously.
  9. Some players, chosen at random each week, may also be required to have an arbiter present, use a webcam or play in a public location. We will ensure that there is proper notice in these cases.
  10. If a player is under suspicion or is someone we feel qualifies under section F4, the manager of the team will be notified by Chess.com privately via email and that player is likely to be required to play with a league approved on-site proctor for all remaining league matches.
  11. If a player is found to be cheating, we will discreetly remove them from the league.
  12. League standings may be discreetly adjusted after the fact in cases where the Chess.com Fair Play Team has determined that someone has cheated.
  13. Teams who have been determined to have cheated may face hidden penalties. These penalties may be a lowered rating cap, the elimination of any rating bonuses for their team, the inability to use free agents, the requirement that all players play in the same location and in almost all cases will require all players on the team to play with a trusted on site proctor. We will not be announcing these penalties publically, but teams who have had a player who cheated in previous matches will be penalized in a way that severely hurts their chances of succeeding in future rounds, while at the same time not publicizing the conclusions of the Chess.com Cheat Detection team.
  14. Teams who we determine have made every reasonable effort to curb their player from cheating, such as having extreme close and verifiable scrutiny of the players in question during their matches, will get more consideration than usual. This scrutiny would usually involve a public playing location, an involved arbiter and extensive video+photo evidence. If a player is able to cheat under such levels of supervision, the penalty your team will face is likely to be less severe than a team who doesn't provide all of these controls.
  15. In the playoffs, especially the later rounds when the stakes are high, all players may be required to have an approved arbiter present or to play their games in a public space.
  16. We reserve the right to increase security league wide based on our analysis throughout league play.
  17. Any concerns with cheating need to be addressed privately to league officials. Public accusations will not be tolerated per Chess.com’s user agreement.


  1. Appeals
  2. The appeals committee will have 8 representatives, with 2 coming from each division. For our first season these representatives will be sought out by the league. If over half of the team representatives in the division (1 representative per team) would like different representatives, they will have the right to veto the appointments and instead vote for their representatives amongst themselves.
  3. In the case of a dispute, the Appeals Committee will convene to resolve the issue. The committee members will examine the details of the complaint with strict adherence to PRO Chess League protocols and without bias.
  4. In the event that a team feels that the rules and regulations have not been followed by their opposition, or that the PRO Chess League made an incorrect ruling, a petition may be sent to the Appeals Committee within 24 hours of the match’s conclusion.
  5. The PRO Chess League is dedicated to running a fair and professional league for all teams involved. In order for any formal complaint to be considered it must be agreed upon by at least 75% of the appeals committee.
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. If you mouseslip or resign accidentally, the move or results stands. There is no protection against mouseslips in the PRO Chess League.
  8. All players should upload a photo to chess.com, and provide a good photo for our website and for promotional materials.
  9. There is no protection for players who are experiencing a “bad” connection, unless it is specifically a server outage on Chess.com
  10. All teams are strongly encouraged to test their connections to ensure they are not experiencing frequent interruptions.
  11. It is highly recommended that teams have an alternate on standby in case of emergency or in case a player is experiencing serious connection issues. That alternate could substitute in although would still be subject to the penalties listed in section C3
  12. Any attempt to look for “loopholes” in the rules that are an obvious violation of the spirit of the league, may be disallowed.
  13. A match that seems to have been pre-arranged as a draw, will instead be counted as a double forfeit.
  14. If there is any clear evidence that a match or game was thrown, the league determines the right to dole out an appropriate penalty.
  15. If the rare case that team stops playing its matches before the season ends, any team scheduled to play them gets an automatic win. The following changes occur:

9a: No team may receive two wins, during the Regular Season, in this fashion and we reserve the right to change the schedule if necessary to avoid this

9b: The opponent will be considered to have had 0 wins as a tiebreak score if a team wins by forfeit

9c: This match won’t count for a team’s total game points in regards to tiebreakers, and instead we will determine their average game points per match (not counting the forfeit), and compare that to any other team in which this tiebreak needs to be compared.

9d: We will not go back and award victories to all teams who played the withdrawing team. In most cases all of their previous results will stand. 

9e: We also reserve the right to find a suitable “alternate” team, who would take the place of the withdrawing team. If this is possible, it would likely be our first option.

9f: In an extreme case where a team who is faring very well was supposed to play a team that "drops out of the league", we reserve the right to change that week's pairings so that a team that is doing very poorly in the standings receives the automatic win instead.

  1. A team manager is allowed to communicate to a team member as to the current score of the match. This should not include predicted scores of games that have not yet concluded
  2. It is quite likely that a situation could occur that we have failed to list in the rules. We reserve the right to update these rules as the season continues.


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