Guidance on FIDE Rule 10.2

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The interpretation of this law has caused much controversy, so this page is intended to clarify its use. This is a work in progress and not an authoritative work to be referenced during games. It is a summary of best practices collated from a number of experienced sources. The FIDE laws can be found on their Web site, but the main clause is as follows:

"10.2: If the player, having the move, has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may claim a draw before his flag falls. He shall stop the clocks and summon the arbiter."

Historically, the classical game was played over a very long time and after reducing the duration of play (with clocks), trying to win purely on the basis of time was considered to be against the spirit of the game. In the Blitz variant of chess (see Appendix C), time pressure is an acknowledged feature and 10.2 is explicitly excluded.

Conditions for Claim

Under this rule, a draw can only be claimed if the game is a rapidplay game or a standard game with a quickplay finish. A claim cannot be made until the claimant has less than two minutes remaining on their clock. Also, a draw cannot be claimed after their flag has fallen. A player may claim a draw under one of the following circumstances:

  1. The opponent is not making any effort to win. This becomes evident when the opponent starts to shuffle their pieces, moving without plan. The opponent's intention is to try to win on time, which is not considered to be "by normal means".
  2. The position is a book draw. There is no standard reference book, so in more unusual cases, the claimant must be prepared to demonstrate their knowledge of the endgame.
  3. Neither side can make progress. After eliminating possible sacs, zugzwangs and King opposition manoevers, this situation becomes evident when either player starts to shuffle their pieces, possibly starting to repeating moves. This situation can be encountered with pawn blockades and opposite-bishop endgames etc.
  4. The opponent has insufficient mating material. The player who is winning but running out of time, may claim the draw on the grounds that the opponent cannot possibly win.
  5. The position is a book win, but the winner is running out of time. There is no standard reference book, so in more unusual cases, the claimant must be prepared to demonstrate their knowledge of the endgame.
  6. The player running out of time has an overwhelming material advantage and their opponent has no immediate mating threats. The player can claim the draw on the grounds that the opponent would not normally win. Note however that there are rare cases when an overwhelming material advantage does not necessarily lead to a win or draw.

There have been a number of comments suggesting that a player might play one move, then wait until the last two minutes and claim a draw on the grounds that there is no advantage to either side. Firstly, this scenario does not meet any of the criteria mentioned above and secondly, arbiters aren't stupid, they will be quite happy to let the game continue and let the offender lose on time.

Claiming a Draw

The player should stop their clock immediately after their opponent's move and summon the arbiter. Under the rules, the claim is also an offer of a draw, which the opponent can accept immediately. If the opponent declines the offer and the arbiter continues play, the opponent risks losing the game because according to rule 5.1a, checkmate wins immediately. If the opponent's position over time is worsened, the opponent in turn, should offer a draw. If the claimant now refuses the draw, the claimant risks losing on time because they have negated the protection given by 10.2.

Observation

Rule 13.3 requires the arbiter to observe all games especially when players are short of time. During, or even before a 10.2 claim, the arbiter should be looking for evidence pertaining to the players' understanding of the position. In the situation of a book draw or win, the arbiter should observe a number of crucial moves in the correct sequence before making a decision. The arbiter's powers are somewhat influenced by the type of the game.

Quickplay Finish: The arbiter has to make a decision when he observes a flag fall and because of this the arbiter has to keep one eye on the clock and the other on the board.

Rapidplay: Appendix B.7 states:

"The flag is considered to have fallen when a player has made a valid claim to that effect. The arbiter shall refrain from signalling a flag fall."

When a flag falls, the arbiter should not immediately make a decision unless a player points out that the flag has fallen. Because there is no need to make a decision when the flag falls, the arbiter can devote nearly all their attention to the board position.

Ruling

The arbiter may not make a 10.2 ruling unless one of the players has made a draw claim under 10.2. The offer of a draw is not to be confused with a claim under 10.2, the stopping of the clock being a key differentiator. Upon receiving the claim, the arbiter can perform one of the following actions:

  1. Immediately accept the claim and award the draw. This is useful when the position is considered trivial, or when the arbiter has been observing in advance of the claim.
  2. Ask the opposition to explain there winning plan, or ask the claimant for their winning/drawing plan. This is useful when the claimant is short on time.
  3. Continue play looking for evidence (as described below). This is useful when the arbiter needs to satisfy themeslves that the claimant is capable of a draw.
  4. Reject the claim. If the arbiter rejects the claim, the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes of time.

Some consideration should be given to the strength of the players. Very strong players might find having to explain a trivial endgame insulting to their intelligence. On the other hand, many juniors give the study of endgame theory low priority and could easily lose.

The arbiter's decision is final. This rule is intended to limit the heated debate that can follow a "close call". Since there is no room for appeal, the arbiter should not make a decision that will bring the game into disrepute. If after consultation with others there is still some doubt, the draw should not be awarded.

Continuation

If the arbiter requires more evidence, there are a few options:

  1. The arbiter can optionally add 2 minutes to the opponent's clock and continue the game, observing the play. The arbiter shall declare the result after the flag has fallen.
  2. More time shall be added for both players and the game continued until the arbiter has made a decision. If digital chess clocks are available, the preferred method of adding time is to use time increments.
  3. If the play continues using time increments, rule 10.2 no longer applies -play continues until the game reaches a natural conclusion, or until time runs out.

Option 1 is the official FIDE position, options 2/3 are improvisations used in practise. Note however, that 2/3 is not currently endorsed by the Chess Arbiters Association -their position is that adding time is unfair on the opponent. Of course, when deviating from the FIDE rues, organisers should publish their methods up front.

It is in the interest of the player running short on time, to avoid the longer endings. The arbiter will look unfavourably on play that errs from the shortest path to a draw.

Without Arbiter

In the case where no arbiter is present at the venue, Appendix D applies. In summary:

  • If a player claims that his opponent cannot win by normal means, they must submit the final position to an arbiter, having verified it with their opponent.
  • If a player claims that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means, they must submit the final position and an up-to-date scoresheet to the arbiter.

Since the scoresheet is the only evidence presented, the claim should be made with this in mind. A claim based on time wasting is unlikely to succeed.

Examples

1. The following is a trivial (and relatively common) example of not being able to make progress. White to move:

Here it is still possible for either side to win, if their opponent blunders. If played correctly, the moves will eventually repeat, but this will ultimately take some time. The technique is of course to always meet the King's entry into f4 or f5 with opposition on f6 and f3 respectively. The arbiter should observe the opposition being met (or wandering of the Kings) before awarding the draw.

2. A slightly more involved example of not being able to make progress. This one actually occurred in a club match:

Black claimed a draw a number of moves earlier, before their King was positioned on d5. Black clearly described their plan, but white insisted there was still some way to go, especially since a pawn exchange is still possible. The game was allowed to continue and in that time white manoeuvred their King over to black's side, hoping to push the Bishop into an awkward position and take one of the pawns. Black demonstrated the correct positioning of the Bishop and white's King was starting to wander. Time ran out and the draw was awarded, albeit to some controversy.

3. The position below simplifies to a book draw. White to move, claimed a draw.

The claimant told the arbiter that when the pawn moves to c2, they would sacrifice the Bishop for that pawn so that black would remain with a Bishop plus Rook's pawn of the wrong colour, resulting in a game that is a book draw. Considering the experience of the players, this was accepted and the draw awarded.

4. This is a trivial example of not making an effort to win, from David Welch's article on the Quickplay finish.

Play continued 1. Rb4 Kd5 2. Ra4 Ke5 3. Rb4 and black’s flag fell. The arbiter correctly awarded a draw, because white was artificially prolonging the game, hoping to win on time.

5. As an interesting historical case from around 1880, the following position arises after considerable sacrifices made by Katherine O'Shea vs Charles Parnell:

Black, anxious to maintain his position, claimed a draw in accordance with 10.2 on the basis that he had an overwhelming material advantage (an exchange and three pawns) and that there was no immediate threat. Despite the material advantage, black being boxed in on the Queen side, is unable to keep it. This is clearly winning for White.

TODO - please send in more real-world cases.