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An Arbiter's Notebook

Geurt Gijssen


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Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part III 1993-2005

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Still Many Things to Explain

Question Can an Italian Regional Arbiter with a FIDE Licence officiate a FIDE Rapid/Blitz tournament in another country? Regards! Arbitro Regionale Vincenzo Zaccaria (Italy)

Answer I refer to Article 0.3 of the Introduction of the FIDE Rating Regulations effective from 1 July 2014 in the FIDE Handbook:

All arbiters of a FIDE rated tournament shall be licensed otherwise the tournament shall not be rated.

Based on this Article, yes it is possible, in my opinion, because I do not see any restriction regarding the nationality of the arbiter in a FIDE-rated event. The only requirement is that he needs to be licensed.

Question Hi Geurt, Regarding the very last question in your August 2014 column where E. Michael White (UK) asked what the result of the game would be if (under the new 01 Jul 2014 Laws) a player checkmates his opponent on move seventy-five, but also in the last seventy-five moves there were no pawn moves and piece captures by either player.

The same applies to the current fifty-move rule (obviously). I would say that the game is won by the player who mates his opponent, not due to the fact that mate takes preference in itself, but for the following reasons:

(a) Article 4.6 (first part): 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 then considered to be made.

(b) Article 5.1 (a): The game is won by the player who has checkmated his opponent's king. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the checkmate position was a legal move.

(c) Article 6.7 (a) - the part: During the game each player, having made his move on the chessboard, shall stop his own clock and start his opponent's clock. A player must always be allowed to stop his clock. His move is not considered to have been completed until he has done so, unless the move ends the game.

So, the scenario is: Player A makes his seventy-fifth move and release the piece. His move (Article 4.6) is now made. Only once he has pressed his clock (starting the opponent's clock) is his move completed (Article 5.1a). Now player B makes his seventy-fifth move, which is also checkmate. His move is made but not completed. However, his move immediately ends the game (Article 5.1(a)) and he is not required to press the clock any more (Article 6.7(a) - "...unless the move ends the game.") - assuming the checkmate move is legal of course.

Thus, it is clear that the game is won by the player who checkmated his opponent and that the game is not drawn, simply because the last move played was not completed and was not required to be.

So, if the very last move (where the fifty- or seventy-five move rule is applicable) is made without a decisive result being reached (e.g., mate, stalemate), then the game is drawn (if claimed under the fifty-move rule or automatically under the new proposed rule).

Do you agree with this interpretation? Best regards, Gunther van den Bergh (South Africa)

Answer Let me begin with a discussion of Article 9.6b. The final, and therefore official, text is now as follows:

If the following occurs then the game is drawn:

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.

With the addition of the last sentence the "problem" has in my opinion been solved.

Regarding the fifty-move rule I would like to mention the following: if somebody likes to make a claim - and to apply this rule, there must be a claim - only the player who has the move can make a claim. But if the fiftieth move is a checkmate (or a stalemate), the game is over and the opponent does not even have the possibility to claim something.

Question One Hello Geurt. Please help me to decide on the this question. In a game between A and B, Player A completed an illegal move. Player B, on his turn made an illegal move also, and thereafter could identify the illegal move of Player A. Player B stopped the chess clock and called the arbiter. What should the arbiter do:

  • Penalize Player A by adding two minutes with Player B since first illegal move stands; rectify the illegal position and continue the game.
  •  Penalize Player B by adding two minutes to Player A since by making a move Player B accepted the illegal move of Player A (and therefore, illegal move of Player B stands); rectify the illegal position and continue the game.

Question Two What if the same situation happens in Rapid Play? Regards, Debobrata Das (India)

Answer One I assume that your question refers to a standard game, and, based on the fact that you mention that the arbiter stopped the chess clock, I also assume that the illegal move was found during the game.

It is clear that the arbiter has to reinstate the position before the first illegal move was completed. And therefore he should penalise Player A by adding two minutes to Player B's time. All that happened after the first illegal move was completed is irrelevant. Therefore, there is no reason to penalise Player B.

Answer Two If it happened in a rapid game the matter is a little bit complicated.

A) I refer to Article A3 of the Rules for rapidplay:

The Competition Rules shall apply if

a. one arbiter supervises at most three games and

b. each game is recorded by the arbiter or his assistant and, if possible, by electronic means.

This means that the arbiter shall act in the same way as in a standard game.

B) If an arbiter has to control more than three games Article A4b is applicable.

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.

In the new rules the arbiter has the possibility to intervene in case he observes a completed illegal move, but only if the opponent has not made his next move. He shall declare the game lost for the player who completed an illegal move. If the opponent has made his next move and the arbiter had not observed the illegal move, the illegal move stands. Please read the last sentence of Article A4b carefully.

Question Dear Mr. Geurt, I found some points about the new rule changes that I want to clarify.

Suppose a game is in Quick Play finish and a player, who has less than two minutes, makes a request under G.4:

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.

Let's assume the game continues because, as in the rule, the opponent refuses the draw claim that is inherent in the G4 request and the player who had time-trouble won the game because of the cumulative time of an extra five seconds. Then what will be the result: is it 0.5 or 1?

I hope you will be kind enough to clarify this matter. Regards, IA Malith Akalanka (Sri Lanka)

Answer If a player refuses to accept a draw offer and the game continues, then the players play under the normal conditions. This means that each result is possible and the player who refused to accept the draw offer can lose the game.

Question Dear Geurt, This position was reached in a blitz game:

Arbiter's Notebook
[FEN "8/8/3B4/8/1K1b4/P7/p7/1k6"]

Question One Black has less than twenty seconds left, and White has more than one minute. Black claims a draw because the players are only moving the bishops and White is not making any effort to win. As a referee I declare the game draw. Was it correct? Thanks.

Question Two In a blitz game, Player A makes an illegal move. Player B calls the Arbiter and claims the win because the opponent made an illegal move. But Player A tells the arbiter that Player B does not have time on his clock. What to do in this case. Wilfredo Paulino (Dominican Republic)

Answer One I am afraid declaring the game a draw was incorrect. I refer to Article G3 of Appendix G:

This Appendix shall only apply to standard play and rapidplay games without increment and not to blitz games.

Answer Two The arbiter was summoned to the board because there was a claim for a completed illegal move. After this claim, the player noticed that the opponent's flag has fallen. In this case the arbiter has to check whether the first claimant was right. If he was right, the arbiter has to declare the game lost for the player who completed an illegal move. The matter is that a flag is considered to have fallen at the moment it is claimed by a player or noticed by the arbiter. And, according to this rule, the flag has fallen after the illegal move was completed.

Question Dear Geurt, in FIDE's rules of chess as of 2014-July-20, I believe that article 5.1 could be improved:

Article 5.1 a. The game is won by the player who has checkmated his opponent's king. This immediately ends the game ...

The weakness is that 5.1, with its word "immediately", intentionally implies that the player who successfully achieves checkmate is not obliged to then press his clock to prove that he did not run out of time before he made his move. I see no worthwhile reason for this exception to the clock press rule that naturally applies to all other moves, other than perhaps the romantic feeling for checkmate. Yet I can easily imagine drawbacks of this rule.

For example, suppose that in the fortieth move-pair Black's flag falls one second before Black physically moves his queen to achieve checkmate. White tries to call the flag fall quickly, but in the brief single second with its sudden burst of activity the two players cannot agree on what happened or in what sequence. They call the arbiter and argue their cases. Unfortunately, the arbiter was busy with another game and did not witness the brief chaotic flurry. Besides, even if the arbiter had been staring at their game, his eyes are only human and he might not have been certain about which event, flag fall or checkmate, happened first. The potentials for bad feelings, mistakes, and protests are all elegantly eliminated by doing away with the special case exception, and insisting that each player always press his clock to complete his turn, even on checkmate. Is there a mistake in my reasoning? Thank you. Gene Milener (USA)

Answer In my opinion, your reference to Article 5.1a is incorrect. Articles 1-5 are the Basic Rules, and, as you can see, the chess clock, and therefore also flag fall, is not mentioned in these Rules.

The correct reference is Article 6.2:

During the game each player, having made his move on the chessboard, shall stop his own clock and start his opponent's clock (that is to say, he shall press his clock). This "completes" the move. A move is also completed if:

(1) the move ends the game (see Articles 5.1.a, 5.2.a, 5.2.b, 5.2.c, 9.6a, 9.6b and 9.7), or

(2) the player has made his next move, in case his previous move was not completed.

I am afraid I have to disagree with you. What will the situation be if your suggestion were accepted?

If a player checkmates his opponent's king and then oversteps the time control, the game is already over after the checkmate move. Then the question is: what is decisive; the checkmated king or the flag fall? Let us analyse the situation: A king has been checkmated. This means a player has created a position on the board in which it is impossible to make a move. The game is finished. In your proposal the player who achieved the goal of checkmating his opponent's king will lose the game, in spite of the fact that he made his move in time. I think it is very unfair.

There is also another reason not to accept your proposal: what happens off the board in your proposal is more important - even decisive - than what happened on the board. This is also quite unfair.

It is of course very important that a player has to stop the chess clock when he notices the flag fall and will claim the game.

Question Dear Mr Gijssen, I would like to address a point in your January 2014 column. In reply to Mr Johnson's question regarding a player using an iPhone with headphones, you stated:

The introduction of a source of noise is forbidden. An iPhone is a source of noise.

In my humble opinion an iPhone is an electronic means of communication and there is no way it may be used during play. Exceptions may be granted by an arbiter in case of emergency only. Yours sincerely, Christoph Hollender (Germany)

Answer Your humble opinion is correct. I meant iPod and not iPhone.

Question Good Day Mr. Gijssen, My question is in regards to Appendix G. In it G.2 states that before the start of an event it shall be announced whether this appendix shall apply or not.

My question: If the appendix does not apply, does it mean that no player can claim a draw when having less than two minutes (old 10.2) under G.5? Some arbiters believe that only G.4 can be waived, but the rest of the Appendix still applies. Can you please clarify this issue for me. Regards, Johan Veldsman (South Africa)

Answer Let us check Appendix G. Article G1 is the definition of Quickplay finish. Then let us go to Article G2:

Before the start of an event it shall be announced whether this Appendix shall apply or not.

It is in my opinion very clear that Article G2 applies to all of Appendix G.

If before the start of the event it is announced that Appendix G is applicable, a player may request the arbiter to apply Article G4. I refer to (a part of) this Article:

The player may request that a time delay or cumulative time of an extra five seconds be introduced for both players, if possible.

The arbiter has the right to refuse this request. The reason can be, for instance, that digital chess clocks are not available or the schedule of the event would be adversely affected.

If the arbiter has refused the request as mentioned in Article G4, then Article G5 will apply. And Article G5 is the old well-known Article 10.2.

Question Geurt, Thanks for your column and insightful answers. This is a long explanation with a very short question. I would like your opinion to see whether I am correct, and whether I have given the correct information to my fellow arbiters.

In a recent tournament I was painted the following scenario by another (junior) arbiter and my immediate reaction was "Illegal Move". But I immediately thought about it again, called him back, and then we went through the rules again in detail, to look at the exact words in the relevant rules:

Definitions: (I like these definitions from Eddie Price.)

  • Committed to move. You have touched the piece, there is only one move possible with the piece, then this move is committed with the piece.
  • Made a move. A move, or part of a move, has been made when the piece has been released on the new square.
  • Completed a move once the above has been done, and the clock has been pressed.

The Situation

  1. Player A makes a move, thus releases the piece.
  2. Before Player A completes the move by pressing the clock he/she realizes that it is an illegal move.
  3. Player A does not stop his/her clock, but undoes the move, moving it back to its original position, and releasing it there.

We now have two scenarios:

  • First: Player A can make a legal move with the touched piece, and does so, and presses his/her clock.
  • Second: Player A cannot make any legal move with this originally touched piece, and proceeds to make a legal move with another piece, and presses his/her clock. (If a piece of Player B was "captured" in the illegal move, this new move includes capturing the piece with another, in a valid move.)

However, no matter which scenario unfolds, Player B stops the clock, puts up his/her hand, and claims an illegal move on Player A's side. (Let's make it interesting, and say that Player A has previously made an illegal move which was reported to the arbiters, thus a second illegal move will now cost Player A the game. For simplicity, the game is still reasonably tied with no clear advantage for either player.)

Player B thus asks that Player A be penalised, since an illegal move was played.

The Rules

I believe the following three rules are at stake here – the highlights are mine:

The "touch move and have-released rule", so to speak:

Article 4.7
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 ...

Article 6.2 a.
During the game each player, having made his move on the chessboard, shall stop his own clock and start his opponent's clock (that is to say, he shall press his clock). This "completes" the move. A move is also completed if:

(1) the move ends the game (see Articles 5.1.a, 5.2.a, 5.2.b, 5.2.c, 9.6a, 9.6b and 9.7), or
(2) the player has made his next move, in case his previous move was not completed

Article 7.5
a. If during a game it is found that an illegal move has been completed ...
b. After the action taken under Article 7.5.a, for the first completed illegal move ... for the second completed illegal move ...

Article 4.7 clearly states that the move/attempted move must be (part of) an illegal move. If a player thus touches a piece but can make no legal move with the piece, then according to 4.5 the player can make any legal move with any other piece. Article 4.7 also defines when the move has been made.

Rule 6.2 clearly defines when a move has been completed (either by the player pressing his/her clock, or making a next move, which completes the previous move if the clock was not pressed for that)

And, lastly, 7.5 again clearly defines that the illegal move must have been completed, both in a) where it speaks about the action to be taken regarding an illegal move, and in b), where it discusses the penalties relating to one or two illegal completed moves.

The Verdict

In my opinion, in these scenarios above, I cannot agree with Player B that an illegal move was indeed completed, and cannot penalise Player A. Thus, my ruling in this instance, since Player A has already correctly made the next move, I will simply inform them to start the clocks and to continue the game.

Of course, had Player A pressed the clock, all the above is evidence and arguments for the opposite, for why Player A should then be penalized.


This did also highlight to me that when we as arbiters do see illegal moves happening, we should in fact wait for the player who made the illegal move to complete the move, either by pressing the clock or by making a next move, before we interfere.

If we interfere (or the opponent claims) too soon the player may, correctly, argue that the move is not yet complete and that he/she should not be penalised, but should simply be allowed to rectify the situation. That would mean that the arbiter actually made a mistake and interfered too soon.

Question Do you agree with my assessment in the above?

Two remarks:

  • A player is committed to play a certain piece is a new definition and I like it. The made and completed move is already defined in our Laws.
  • The arbiters from English speaking countries taught me that an arbiter does not interfere, but intervene.

Regards, FA Marius Ferreira (RS)

Answer My answer will be as short as your final question: you are completely right.

Personal Note

In 1988 I became a member of the Rules Committee and in 1994 I was appointed to be the chairman. A few years ago the Committee was upgraded to a Commission. In 2010, after my reappointment as chairman, I announced that I would withdraw from this position in 2014. I had the opinion that after twenty years chairing a Committee/Commission it would be time to be replaced by a younger person. The new chairman is my good friend IA Ashot Vardapetyan from Armenia. I am very happy that he was appointed to be the chairman and I wish him and his Commission all kinds of success.

© 2014 Geurt Gijssen & BrainGamz, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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