Thursday, June 30, 2022 11:11

Tools of the Trade, Part 6 (Rulebook!)

These series of posts are geared at providing players (or parents) new to the game with some of the things a new player should consider having.

We are actually past the ‘requirements’ now. At this point we’ll begin looking at optional gear.

So, you know the rules of chess? Sure – you know how to castle, en passant is vieilles nouvelles, and you can push pieces around with the best of us Club Players. But do you know when a touched piece cannot be moved from the square you put in on,* when touch move does not mean the touched piece must move,** or when you can legally receive position analysis/advice and help about a game in progress?***

The answers to these questions, for play governed by the United States Chess Federation, are in the fifth edition of “U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess,” edited by Tim Just and Daniel B. Burg. (When I refer to ‘the Rulebook,’ this is the book I’m referring to.)

Do you have to own the rulebook to be able to play? No, not at all. (You do have to have one if you’re going to be a Tournament Director.) But, even though not absolutely necessary, it is a very good idea to have the rules. There are many situations where players might believe they know what a rule is, but can be wrong.

For example, I used to think that if you touch any piece on the board you had to move it, even accidentally. But the actual rule 10E states that accidental touching of pieces does not make a “touch-move.” One has to touch a piece in a way that is reasonably interpreted as beginning a move. (There are other exceptions for disabled players in the rulebook, as well.)

There are still players, I am told, who believe that a promoted piece must become an already-captured piece. Not even close to a rule anymore in U.S. play. Nor are things like accidentally knocking over a King means you have resigned, forgetting to say “Check” (which is discouraged at high levels,) or that not being able to move means you lose.

Now, in international play (or internationally-rated games,) the rules of FIDE control. Those rules are available online. (It tickles me that, in the FIDE Handbook, the Laws of Chess are filed under, “Miscellaneous.” :D )

FIDE, however, allows national federation to have different variations of FIDE rules. The United States is a country where there are differences. And the publication of the USCF Rulebook has been and is under long-term contract to a particular publisher. Thus the complete set of rules are only available in book form. The cost is $18.95 at U.S.C.F. Sales. Updates to the rules are published at the USCF website.

Also, players should know that some variations of the main rulebook are allowed. Major changes have to be announced pre-tournament, minor changes may be announced prior to round 1. (Not to mention some local scholastic organization have local rules / rules variations which are legal.)

I can’t guarantee your chess will improve by owning the rulebook. But reading it may help you understand the rules of the game more deeply. Studying the rulebook can also be a way to…

…enjoy your chess!


* Rule 9A. – when the player’s hand has released the piece the move has been irrevocably determined. (So long as the move is legal.) You can pick up a piece and move it among several squares – I’ve saved many pieces from destruction when I set it on its’ square and saw it was en prise in that square. But I shifted it away and saved it. :)

** Rule 10D. If a touched piece cannot legally be moved (or an opponent’s touched piece cannot legally be captured,) then a player is free to make any legal move. Most often this occurs either because the player is in check, in pins whereby moving the touched piece the King will be put into check, or a touched opponent’s piece has no piece actually attacking it.

*** Most players may think, “Never!” And good for you! Rule 20E does state advice, whether solicited or not, is not allowed. But Rule 20F1 notes that during an adjournment of a game any form of help is allowed. (Adjournments are rare, but can potentially happen in longer time controls.) And in Correspondence Chess, most regulatory bodies state that databases, books, etc. are allowed (though consulting other people or using playing programs are usually disallowed on the honor system.) Correspondence rules are Chapter 9 of the rulebook.

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