Changes in the Laws of Chess - What Should You Know?
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Bringing a phone to the playing hall may lead to a loss, an illegal move will lose the game also in rapid chess, and two illegal moves lead to a loss in classical chess. These are some of the changes in the new rules of chess, which come in effect today. The July 1, 2014 FIDE Laws of Chess, as they are officially called, were adopted at the FIDE Congress in Tallinn, Estonia in October 2013 and are now the rules that chess arbiters (and players!) need to follow.
Even though the game of chess hasn't changed much since the middle of the 19th century, the rules are a constant subject of change. Basically, every couple of years the world chess federations attempts to improve the regulations to the game, with mostly small, but sometimes more significant updates.
During the last five years we have been playing the game under the rules that were adopted at the 79th FIDE Congress in Dresden, Germany in November 2008, which came into force on 1 July 2009. In the coming years, starting from today, we will be playing the game under the rules that were adopted at the 84th FIDE Congress in Tallinn, Estonia in October 2013.
So what are the biggest changes? According to Shaun Press, an International Arbiter from Papua New Guinea and member of the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulations Commission, these are the most important changes:
- The rule on how to promote have been added (previously it was just a definition of promotion)
- Rules on electronic devices have been altered
- Zero default has been removed
- Two illegal moves lose (and only 1 at rapid and blitz)
- Arbiters must flag and call illegal moves at rapid and blitz
Let's look at these changes in more detail.
1. Promotion rule
The definition of a promotion can be found in paragraphs 4.6 and 4.7:
The act of promotion may be performed in various ways:
the pawn does not have to be placed on the square of arrival,
removing the pawn and putting the new piece on the square of promotion may occur in any order.
If an opponent’s piece stands on the square of promotion, it must be captured.
When, as a legal move or part of a legal move, a piece has been released on a square, it cannot be moved to another square on this move. The move is considered to have been made in the case of:
promotion, when the player's hand has released the new piece on the square of promotion and the pawn has been removed from the board.
Sub-paragraph 7.5a, which falls under the secion irregularities, also mentions promotion:
If the player has moved a pawn to the furthest distant rank, pressed the clock, but not replaced the pawn with a new piece, the move is illegal. The pawn shall be replaced by a queen of the same colour as the pawn.
This means that there cannot be any discussion anymore about a pawn on the eighth rank, and which piece it represents, after the clock has been pressed. In that case, from now on it will always be a queen.
2. Electronic devices
Under article 11, about ‘the conduct of the players’, a new subparagraph has been added:
During play, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone and/or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player brought such a device into the playing venue, he shall lose the game. The opponent shall win.
The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty.
The arbiter may require the player to allow his clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorised by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player. If a player refuses to cooperate with these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9.
This is probably the article that will affect the average tournament player the most. Especially when tournament organizers decide not to use a less severe penalty (or simply don't pay attention to the new rules!), you can actually lose a game when you are holding a mobile in your hand - even just for switching it off.
3. Zero default
Subparagraph 6.7a deals with what is called the ‘default time’:
The rules of a competition shall specify in advance a default time. Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the default time shall lose the game unless the arbiter decides otherwise.
This is a subtle difference with the old rule, which specifically mentioned a default time of 0 minutes.
4. Two illegal moves lose
Also under the section about irregularities, a new subparagraph can be found about illegal moves. You can do it only once, but not twice:
After the action taken under Article 7.5.a, for the first completed illegal move by a player the arbiter shall give two minutes extra time to his opponent; for the second completed illegal move by the same player the arbiter shall declare the game lost by this player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.
5. Arbiters must flag and call illegal moves at rapid and blitz
A big change is that, starting from July 1st, the rules for rapid chess and blitz chess are almost the same. This means that, for example, also in rapid games an illegal move will lead to an immediate loss. Besides, from now on arbiters must flag and call illegal moves:
An illegal move is completed once the player has pressed his clock. If the arbiter observes this he shall declare the game lost by the player, provided the opponent has not made his next move. If the arbiter does not intervene, the opponent is entitled to claim a win, provided the opponent has not made his next move. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves. If the opponent does not claim and the arbiter does not intervene, the illegal move shall stand and the game shall continue. Once the opponent has made his next move, an illegal move cannot be corrected unless this is agreed by the players without intervention of the arbiter.
Some of the other changes (with the relevant paragraphs between parentheses):
- If a player cannot execute his moves, write down his moves and/or push the clock for some reason, an assistant may do so (4.9).
- In case of a draw claim based on a threefold repetition or the 50-move rule, the arbiter may now also stop the clock; not just the player (9.5).
- A player may now appeal against any decision of the arbiter, even if the player has signed the scoresheet (11.10).
Paragraph 9.6 is new altogether:
If one or both of the following occur(s) then the game is drawn:
the same position has appeared, as in 9.2b, for at least five consecutive alternate moves by each player.
any consecutive series of 75 moves have been completed by each player without the movement of any pawn and without any capture. If the last move resulted in checkmate, that shall take precedence.
The phrase “the game is drawn” basically means that in such cases the arbiter may (should?) stop the game and declare it a draw. So this basically avoids the situation that the defending player doesn't know that he can claim, and his opponent keeps on trying.
A completely new paragraph has been added for a quickplay finish (when all the remaining moves must be completed in a finite time). This only applies to standard play and rapidplay games without increment and not to blitz games:
If the player having the move has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may request that a time delay or cumulative time of an extra five seconds be introduced for both players, if possible. This constitutes the offer of a draw. If refused, and the arbiter agrees to the request, the clocks shall then be set with the extra time; the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue.
Hopefully after reading this you will be fully ready to start a game of chess under the new rules!