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Chess Merit Badge Tips: Chess Etiquette

Chess Merit Badge Tips: Chess Etiquette

Mar 9, 2016, 2:17 AM 0

Several traditions and rules in chess reinforce the ideal of treating your opponent with respect.

The U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess (6th Edition), edited by Tim Just, describes the rules that govern tournament play in this country. These are designed to guide tournament directors (TDs) in running an event and help players to understand what is expected of them.

Sections include a discussion of the conduct of players and spectators as well as a code of ethics. Scouts should understand that chess etiquette occurs before, during, and after a game and reinforces the ideals of fair play. Some of the questions below reference tournament play but some can be applied to even a friendly game of chess.


Starting the game, here are some questions to consider.

What does a player need to do prior to the start of a tournament game? (For example, when sitting down at the board.)

Sample answers:

Make sure you are at the correct board assigned from the pairing chart.
Begin filling out the top portion of the result sheet if one is provided.
Determine whose chess clock will be used.
Fill in the appropriate sections of the notation sheet.
Why do players shake hands at the start of the game?

Sample answer: To show respect.

Who determines what color pieces will be played?

Sample answers:

If this is a large tournament, the computer pairing program will determine the board number, the opponent, and the color of the pieces.
In a friendly game of chess, this is usually done by mutual agreement or by some agreed-upon method such as putting a different colored pawn in each hand and asking the other person to choose which hand.
Why is talking to your opponent forbidden during the game?

Sample answers:

This shows disrespect.
This disturbs your opponent and the players sitting nearby.
What does “J’adoube” mean and why do players say it (or its English equivalent) during the game?

Sample answers:

“J’adoube” means “I adjust.” If you simply want to move a piece into the center of a square, you would say this before touching that piece.
If you do not, the touch-move rule applies – that is, if you touch it, you must move it!
Why do tournament directors require players to turn off their cell phones?

Sample answers:

To avoid cheating.
Also to prevent the phone from disturbing the concentration of players.
Why is it important to call a tournament director (TD) to the table if there is a dispute about the rules at your board?

Sample answers:

The TD normally has a greater understanding of the rules and can help players avoid arguments (which will be a distraction to other players).
The chief TD of the event will be the final appeal for tournament related disputes.
Ending a game, here are some questions to consider:

How many ways can a game of chess end?

Answer: Win, loss, or draw. Draws can be reached by one of several ways: by mutual agreement, insufficient mating material, three-fold repetition of the position, stalemate.

Why might players agree to a draw?

Sample answers:

They might see that one of the situations described has been reached or will be reached in a few moves.
They might simply be tired or not sure they can win with the time remaining on the clock. See the diagram below:


In this position, after Black captures White’s rook, there will be insufficient mating material on the board (a bishop is not enough to deliver checkmate). So the players might agree to a draw here.
Why do players shake hands at the end of the game?
Answer: The handshake at the end of the game signifies that both players agree that a win, loss, or draw has occurred. Be certain that you know why your opponent has offered his/her hand before shaking hands! Make sure that you agree with the outcome of the game. The handshake also signifies respect for the other player.
How do players record the winner of the game?
Answer: If a result sheet is provided, the players circle one of the results – White Won, Draw, Black Won – and then sign their names. If a result sheet is not provided, there is likely to be a place on the pairing chart to record who won.
Here are some questions to consider about writing your moves:
In a tournament, what can a player write down on the notation sheet? Why is this important?
Answer: Once the game has started, you can only write your moves on the notation sheet. You should make your move, then write that move down. Making any kind of notes on the sheet can be considered cheating. A player will be warned about making notes on their paper and, if he persists, the player may forfeit the game.
If you have made a mistake in recording your moves, can you ask for help from the other player?
Answer: Yes, you may ask your opponent to see his/her notation sheet while your clock is running.
Here are some questions to consider about the chess clock:
Who determines on which side of the board a chess clock is placed?
Answer: Normally, the player of the Black pieces determines which side of the board the clock is placed. In some tournaments, the TD will require all clocks to be placed on the same side of the board.
With which hand does the player press the clock?
Answer: You press the clock with the same hand that moved the piece on the board.
When can you pause the clock during a game?
Answer: You cannot pause the clock to go to the bathroom. You can pause the clock if there is a question about the rules and you need to call a TD to your board.
Ask two players to sit across a chessboard and demonstrate the rules of etiquette as you list them.
With friends, write and present a real life situation in a chess game that illustrates an aspect of chess etiquette.
Create a poster that emphasizes chess etiquette, respect, and fair play.
Create a poster or bulletin board that connects respect and fair play in chess to family and school situations.
Study to become a tournament director and share what you have learned with other Scouts and classmates.

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