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Basic Rules of Tournament Chess

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Tournament chess is played mostly with the same rules as casual chess. If you’re not sure how the pieces move or what the object of the game is, you should brush up on the basic rules of chess.

Tournament chess is also governed by a myriad of rules and regulations. Official rule books contain hundreds of pages detailing regulations for every possible dispute or situation one might come across during a chess tournament.

Players aren’t expected to memorize the entire rule book. Simply understanding some of the most important rules is more than enough to confidently play in any tournament.

When in doubt, ask!

Never hesitate to ask a tournament director (TD) to clarify any confusion you may have about the rules. If you and an opponent have a disagreement, stop the clocks, find a director, and ask them to make a ruling.

If you touch a piece, you must move it.

This is known as the touch-move rule, and is often a source of difficulty for players new to tournaments. It also requires you to capture an opponent’s piece if you touch it. This rule only applies if you can make a legal move with the piece you touched.

There are some exceptions. If you accidentally brush a piece, you are not required to move it. If a piece is awkwardly placed, you can adjust it; simply say “I adjust” before touching the piece to make it clear to your opponent that you don’t intend to move it.

Most tournaments require players to record their moves.

This helps provide evidence of what has occurred during the game in case of a dispute. In order to record your game, you will need to learn how to read and write chess notation.

Never interfere with a game in progress.

In most chess tournaments, you’ll be able to walk around the playing area and watch other games, provided you do so quietly. Observers are forbidden from telling players anything about their games, even if they notice a violation of the rules.

Turn off your cell phone.

In recent years, new rules have been written to deal with loud phones, which can break the concentration of chess players. If your phone rings in the playing area, you will likely be subject to a penalty, and may even have to forfeit your game.

Understand how to use a chess clock.

Tournament chess is played with time limits, which vary by event. Time is kept by using a chess clock. Using these clocks can be distracting at first, but will soon become second nature. Most importantly, remember to hit your clock after each move you make – this stops your clock and starts your opponent’s time. Also, be sure to use the same hand to move your pieces and touch the clock.

After the game is over, record your result.

Win, lose, or draw, both players are required to make sure the proper result is recorded. If you’re not sure where to mark down your result, ask a director for help.

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