ECU: What should the arbiter do?

3/8/2021 – This position occurred in a standard game in the presence of the arbiter. Black played 46...Rc1+, but failed to press his clock on time. White claimed a win. Does he get it? What do the FIDE rules decree? IA Prodromos Gerontopoulos tells us the answer. In addition the February issue of the ECU E-Magazine gives us four fun problems to solve.

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Forced moves in arbiter practice

By IA Prodromos Gerontopoulos (GRE)

In a standard game (90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one), the following position (diagram 1) occurred in the presence of the arbiter after white's 46th move.


The player with the black pieces played 46...Rc1+ but his flag fell before he had the chance to stop his time. The player with the white pieces immediately called the arbiter and claimed a win. What should the arbiter's decision be?


In this position all moves are forced. Thus, if Black’s flag had not fallen, the sequence of moves would have been: 47.QxRc1 QxQc1 48.KxQc1, leading to a stalemate position. Taking into consideration article 5 (completion of a game) and in particular point 5.2.2 which states: "The game is drawn when a position has arisen in which neither player can checkmate the opponent’s king with any series of legal moves. The game is said to end in a ‘dead position’." This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the position was in accordance with Article 3 and Articles 4.2 – 4.7.’’ (FIDE Laws of Chess, 2018, 5.2.2)

The correct decision on the part of the arbiter would be to declare the game drawn.

Fun problems to solve

For this edition of the ECU E-Magazine we prepared for you four positions where White mates in three moves! You can move the pieces in the following diagrams – Black will play defensive moves and only stop if it is mate. Have fun!


Puzzle 1: 1.Qxg7+ Kxg7 2.Nf5+ Kg8 3.Nh6#
Puzzle 2: 1.Nxa7+ Bxa7 2.Qxc6+ bxc6 3.Ba6#
Puzzle 3: 1.Rh8+ Kxh8 2.Qh1+ Kg8 3.Qh7#
Puzzle 4: 1.Qxf7+ Nxf7 2.Nf6+ gxf6 3.Bxf7#

Source: ECU E-MAGAZINE February 2021

A mag created with Madmagz.


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Makis Ichti Makis Ichti 3/21/2021 05:18
Lectures an Topics for Chess Arbiters:
Peter B Peter B 3/15/2021 12:13
In my opinion: No IA judged this as a draw, because the story is made up. The position is a composition, because the sequence of moves to arrive at it is too far-fetched to be real. (Also, where is the game score, if it is real?)
TheDock TheDock 3/13/2021 11:34
tcbull wrote: "I am sure no Arbiter will decide for a draw here in a practical game." There is at least one who will decide for a draw-- the Inernational Arbiter who wrote this article. I am sure that all arbiters IA, FA and NA would judge it as a draw. I always find it interesting how many chessplayers don't know the rules and always tries to argue despite the rules. And always get angry due to their ignorance.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/12/2021 05:24
Ah, you found out yourself, comments crossed.
But the 'fine distinction' you mentioned (between making and completing a move), is still there.
The only problem left is when 'a position arises'. Of course it is not a problem arbiters will regular be confronted with. As a player, I encountered it only once (in over 50 years of playing): I took the last piece of my opponent from the board, but before releasing my piece on the square I flagged. The move wasn't even 'made', according to the rules (although I could not have played anything else). When I put the situation to Rules Committee president Geurt Gijssen (he had a Q+A column on the chesscafe site), he disagreed this should be a draw.
But whenever the situation 'arises' again in one of my future games, I will if necessary go to the highest court!
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/12/2021 05:12
Last week I found something that's called Muphry's Law (no, not Murphy's law) which says that any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself...
In my second comment I quoted directly form the FIDE Handbook (E. Miscellaneous / 01. Laws of Chess / FIDE Laws of Chess taking effect from 1 January 2018). 'Determine' is on no place in this section used in connection with the act of executing a move. 'Making' a move is not only used in the quotes I gave, it is also explicitly defined in the glossary at the end of the Laws ('determining' is not...)
For the rest I agree with you, although with a difficult subject like this some lenience is in place. Although people could also take a bit more trouble to find out how the rules exactly are. The article above gives a link to the Handbook.
By the way, I of course made an error in defining Muphry's Law – it's more a variation on Skitt's Law.
adbennet adbennet 3/12/2021 04:50
One amazing thing that happens when people discuss chess rules is the proclamations that run counter to facts already presented. One can only presume the proclaimers are in such a hurry to make their summary judgments that they can't even be bothered to read the previous arguments.

Here I made a false accusation against malfa...
malfa wrote: "a position arises whenever a move is made (or detemined, as you say), even if not yet completed." You now introduce a fourth word, "made", into the discussion. The point is, determined and completed are both explicitly defined in the rulebook. Arising and made are not defined - with respect to chess rules - anywhere but in common usage, which can vary from person to person. Using undefined words like this cannot resolve disputes but only lead to additional disputes.
I was wrong to say malfa introduced this undefined word "made", in fact FIDE itself did this in rule 4.7. The problem exists, but it's not malfa's problem. Sorry about that. The FIDE laws used to be clearly written, that's no longer the case.

tcbull wrote: "I am sure no Arbiter will decide for a draw here in a practical game." There is at least one who will decide for a draw-- the Inernational Arbiter who wrote this article.

newdeem wrote: "So white king is still not in check and White wins on time" You just totally made up the idea that white is not in check until the clock is pressed. Wow! The actual rulebook will contradict you on that thought in many places.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 3/11/2021 08:17
This last explanation makes much more sense. So it's similar to not being able to win on time if you only have king and bishop.
TheDock TheDock 3/9/2021 10:47
Of course draw is the correct decision. When the flag has fallen it immediately finish the game. So it doesnt matter if the player pressed the lever or not. Same goes for mate and stalemate. Furthermore the main rule is that the game is lost when the time is out. Exception, if there is no way with legal moves to win. In the above example are draw. Without increment with second on the clock the rook move would be the best move! The rules are crystal clear and easy to use for arbiters. The only easier rules would be when time is out one loses regardless.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 3/9/2021 09:58
This ruling seems peculiar. Is it really required of the arbiter to look ahead 3 moves to determine the game is a draw? Rc1+ does not end the game. Kxc1 at the end of the line would end the game. I wonder if all IAs would rule similarly here?
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/9/2021 09:19
The case was made for situations where touching a piece would leave you with only one legal move, leading to a position that can't be won by either player in a legal way. That might go a bit farther than intended by the rules committee, I agree; and, besides the efforts of Michael Jones and Phillidor below, not very likely to occur in practical play.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 3/9/2021 07:12
I think draw is the correct result. As white, you (or anyone on your behalf) must be able to give a path to mate. If you can’t, draw.

Touching a piece cannot be enough though, in my opinion. After all, One might still intend an illegal move.
Phillidor Phillidor 3/9/2021 02:33
Frits Fritschy,
I thought for a moment about the case of just touching the piece leading to an inevitable draw. At first I tried some sophisticated ideas that did not work, but then I came up with a quite trivial example. White has: Ka8, d7, black has Kg6 and Qc7. It is black to move, he plays Qc8+ and white touches the d7 pawn. The only way to prevent check with the touched pawn is to take the black queen, leading to the position where white technically cannot lose anymore.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/9/2021 10:01
Peter B,
What about 46 Kc1xBd1 45... Rb2xBc2+? But I agree we are in the realm of composition here...
Michael Jones,
Of course, you are completely right, I was too lazy to check what I wrote. It is fairly simple.
Anyone is free to debate rules, but of course not at the moment an arbiter is following the rules.
As has been written here before two times, in this special case the move is completed. See art
newdeem newdeem 3/9/2021 09:33
i Think this ruling is incorrect . Rc1 Ch is not complete until clock pressed by player . Please see completion of move . So white king is still not in check and White wins on time
Morphy1984 Morphy1984 3/9/2021 07:48
And what if Black started with Qc1+ Qxc1 Rxc1+ is it draw again or White wins because he is not forced to take the rook and can play Kd2 instead?
satkul satkul 3/9/2021 07:09
The first part ,what the arbiter should do was vey interesting ,let there be more of such stuff.The puzzles for solving disappinted,they were far too easy.
Peter B Peter B 3/9/2021 06:39
Actually, what was white's 46th move? I can't see any plausible white move to get to this position, so I am calling "fiction" on this. It's a nice composition which someone has retold as if it actually happened. Just like many stories on the internet! :)
Peter B Peter B 3/9/2021 05:20
@rgorn True, but it is a 30 second increment, so they have at least 30 seconds. I think that even at my club level, most players could find and play RxQ in well under 30 seconds.
rgorn rgorn 3/9/2021 02:46
As another aside, if black played RxQ+ in time but did not manage to press the clock before flagging, he would have lost on time. :)
genem genem 3/9/2021 02:34
On a decade ago, I recall debates about whether a player should have to press his clock after achieving checkmate with the physical move of his piece on the board. The majority opinion was that the player instantly wins by releasing his piece and thereby delivering checkmate. But my argument was there is no clear objective proof that the checkmate move was released Before his clock expired - unless the player proceeds to press his clock so that all can observe whether his flag has fallen.

It is simply cleaner to require the clock to be pressed.
Peter B Peter B 3/9/2021 01:37
As an aside, it must be a pretty low level of competition for black not to find RxQ in 30 seconds.
rgorn rgorn 3/9/2021 12:58
6.7.a says that a move is not considered to have been completed until one has stopped one's clock, _unless_ the move that was made ends the game. And Rc1+ ends the game in the sense of 5.2.b with a draw.
tcbull tcbull 3/8/2021 11:44
I am sure no Arbiter will decide for a draw here in a practical game. The argument that no other moves are possible does not count if you are not able to finalize it in time. And here is no doubt about it. Another case would be if you stop the clock before flagging and claim.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 3/8/2021 09:23
Frits Fritschy - a slight advance on my previous suggestion. White king on c1, knight on b2. Black king on al, pawn on a2, queen on d1. If White touches the knight, his only legal move with it gives stalemate, but if he does not do so before his flag falls he loses since the alternative Kxd1 Kxb2 wins for Black. No doubt proper problemists could devise more sophisticated examples.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/8/2021 08:24
No, if black has made the move (i.e. he has released it), he could never make an other move. It is mainly a matter of definition. When you have made the move, you can't change it anymore, but you can lose by running out of time. When you have completed your move in time, you can't (on this move) run out of time. Rules should be precise. Making 40 moves in 1,5 hours is not enough (if that is the time control). You should complete them.
If you make an illegal move, you are allowed to correct it. If you complete an illegal move, you can be sanctioned.
malfa malfa 3/8/2021 08:10
adbennet, I posted my previous message without first reading yours. I think you make a point, but IMHO your proposed addition is unnecessary: a position arises whenever a move is made (or detemined, as you say), even if not yet completed. As Frits Fritschy pointed out, the rules state that castling is not yet made until both the king and the rook have occupied their final positions, but every other move is made as soos as the moved piece is released and this is enough to determine a new position, regardless of having pressed the clock or not.
malfa malfa 3/8/2021 08:01
Frits Fritschy, in light of rule 4.7.2 it seems that you are absolutely right as regards castling. As regards your supposed ambiguity of the sentence "a position has arisen", instead, I still disagree with you: the sentence to me is clear, as it is clear *when* a position arises, i.e. (obviously) as soon as it physically appears on the board, regardless of when the clock is pressed. Otherwise, as I meant when giving my Rxd2/Rc1 example, it would not be possible to appeal against the illegal retraction of a move.
chessdaddio chessdaddio 3/8/2021 07:49
Since the clock was not hit, isn't the move not complete since black could have technically decided to play RxQ instead for example)? This is a technicality of course since rc1 was made and was the best in that case, but still a possibility especially in a time scramble.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 3/8/2021 07:48
Frits Fritschy - black king on h8, white queen on g7, white king on any square where it isn't defending the queen. Black only has one legal move and playing it leads to an immediate draw, so I presume the game would be drawn if Black's flag fell at any point after the completion of White's previous move - whether he'd touched the king or not. That much is trivial - finding a situation in which the player to move has other piece(s), but there is only one such that every move by that piece leads to a forced draw, is rather trickier. I'm not a problem composer!
adbennet adbennet 3/8/2021 07:36
Yes, it's amazing how many disagreements we can get into about rules which seemed clear to the people who wrote them. I think the FIDE rulebooks of long ago were models of clarity, lately that's not the case. There used to be a fine distinction between a move that was determined and a move that was completed, as well as which mattered when. "When a position has arisen" is hopelessly muddled, and should be amended by adding "after a move which has been determined/completed", depending on which was intended by FIDE. If the rule said determined, it would be a draw. If the rule said completed, it would be a time forfeit. From the article, the arbiter thinks determined is correct. The rules should say that explicitly.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/8/2021 02:44
We seem to agree. Your last line would be nice for problem composers: find a situation where just touching the right piece inevitably leads to a position where your opponent can't win by legal means...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/8/2021 02:37
Like you, in both my examples I feel it should be a draw. I would define 'position' as 'a situation in the game that can't be changed anymore'. There are other instances in the rules to back this up. For instance, positions where one of the players can castle are not the same for the threefold repetition rule as when that right has been lost. So a position can be different depending on what has happened in a game. In the threefold repetition case, something is added to the concept of 'position' (castling rights), in my castling example something has been added as well (a not retractable move).
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/8/2021 02:33
See the FIDE Handbook:
"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:
4.7.2 castling, when the player's hand has released the rook on the square previously crossed by the king. When the player has released the king from his hand, *the move is not yet made*, but the player no longer has the right to make any move other than castling on that side, if this is legal."
So the castling move is not yet made by playing Ke1-g1.

In the Handbook, there is a clear distinction between 'making a move' (art. 4.7) and completing a move (art. 6.2.1). Here are the relevant sentences:
"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: [follows a list of situations]"
"6.2.1 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."
However, see also art.
"[6.2.1] (...) A move is also completed if: the move ends the game (see Articles (...) 5.2.2 (...)"
So in the example of Mr. Gerontopoulos, the move is both made and completed.

However, the sentence in the Handbook 'a position has arisen' is not defined. So at least my second example seems applicable. I don't know if that was intended by the Rules Committee.
Phillidor Phillidor 3/8/2021 02:03
I think IA's interpretation is correct. Once black has played ... Rc1+ he is not entitled to j'adoube this move anymore. If the flag had fallen before he released the rook, time would have to take precedence in my opinion. The point is, at that exact moment it would not be clear is black had decided for ...Rc1+, he could change his mind and play Rxd2+ for example. But having played Rc1+ (and releasing the rook) before flag fall it is a forced sequence - I actually don't see the difference between this position and the position K+B vs. K, which is also 100% technical draw.

Frits Fritschy's examples seem to be tough nuts to crack. I actually have no idea what is the correct solution to these problems, but once player's flag falls, I'd say it cannot be assumed what move he would play (the worst legal moves?). If all legal moves lead to the Rome (i. e. at least a 'draw' for the player with the fallen flag), I'd suggest it's a draw. So I'd argue both cases being drawn, but probably it's all about interpretation. Just an idea- maybe it's not necessary the move to be made (completely), in some cases it could be enough just to touch the correct piece before the flag fall.
Frederic Frederic 3/8/2021 01:52
@psamant: Sorry, I gave the solutions to last month's puzzles. I was too occupied with the formatting (two columns, engine defence, hidden solutions, ECU Magazine display). Now corrected.
malfa malfa 3/8/2021 01:45
Istinctively I would agree with the previous commentators, were it not for further reasoning: let us suppose that, after playing 1...Rc1+, releasing the rook, Black changed his mind, grabbed his rook back and played the winning 1...Rxd2+ in time to press the clock. Then obviously White would call the arbiter and request that 1...Rc1+ be played, exactly because that move was completed *before* pressing the clock. The same applies here: if Black had released his rook on c1 before pressing the clock the move should be considered as completed and therefore the drawn position must be considered as already occurred.

This applies also to example 1 by Frits Fritschy: if the king was released on g1 before pressing the clock, since castling is characterized as a king move, it must be assumed that it is the move that was played and that the stalemate position occurring after it is already on the board.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 3/8/2021 01:23
The FIDE laws of chess should give a definition of 'a position has arisen'. The interpretation given by IA Gerontopoulos is that a position has already arisen when a move is made, which is not quite the same as when a move is completed (then the player also has pressed the clock). And what about the following situations?
- Player A moves his king from e1 to g1 which will force him to castle if this is a legal move. Castling would lead to player B getting stalemated, but player A's flag falls before touching his rook.
- Player A takes the last piece of player B from the board but before he can put his own piece on that square, his flag falls.

In the first situation, you could argue that the 'position' has not yet arisen, as the rook is still on h1 and there is only stalemate when the rook is on f1. In the second situation however (which is a bit more likely to happen), you could well argue that the position did arise, as player B's last piece has gone from the board and that can't be undone (art. 4.3.2).
You would expect a sentence, for example at the end of art. 4.6 or art. 5.2.2, saying something like 'A position [as meant in art. 5.2.2] is considered to have arisen only when a move has been made [according to the definition thereof in art. 4.6]'.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 3/8/2021 12:56
Sorry, but I could not disagree more with the IA's ruling here. "The game is drawn when a position has arisen in which neither player can checkmate the opponent’s king with any series of legal moves."

Technically, that position has not yet arisen, and thus, the flag falling takes precedence. It is a basic tenet of tournament chess that you have to reach the time control or you lose (assuming that checkmate/stalemate/agreement has not preceded it, or clear draws like K+N vs K).

You cannot take into account positions that will occur a move, or two, or three ahead when making such an absurd ruling. The IA interpreted the rules incorrectly, in my opinion, because you cannot just ignore the grammatical tense of the verb. "has arisen" means it is on the board RIGHT THEN, and it was not.

The IA rewarded the player for taking too much time earlier, when maybe had the player played fast enough then, he might have lost.
psamant psamant 3/8/2021 12:19
All four fun problems are nice tricks to solve. Unfortunately all four solutions given at the end do not match with the actual solutions to these problems! Please correct the solutions part.