Long-winded Motivation

I have recently noticed during my own tournament games that I am not infrequently closing my eyes, or at least looking away from the board, when engaged in in-depth calculation (or what counts as in-depth for me). This isn't deliberate on my part; it's just something I've naturally started doing more often. I know that some well-known players do this quite a lot, e.g. Ivanchuk has a reputation of very often staring up at the ceiling when calculating, and I think it actually makes a good deal of sense:

Having an image of the current position in front of you can be helpful if you're apt to lose track of it. But that's not a problem for someone like Ivanchuk, and so that "plus" is inconsequential. On the other hand, having the full current position right in your visual field might actually interfere (for some folks) with the process of fixing projected future positions in your mind's eye, thus sometimes leading one to look away.

With that in mind, it seems not unreasonable to me that a lesser light than Ivanchuk might possibly benefit from the middle ground of staring at a blank chessboard while calculating like this. The current piece positions aren't there to interfere, while one still gets the image of the chessboard to serve as a potentially useful "frame" for the successful mental imaging of positions. I don't think that I'd actually find it very useful, and perhaps nobody would, but that's neither here nor there as far as my question is concerned.


While one obviously can't use an analysis board when playing tournament chess, do the rules (e.g. FIDE or USCF) actually preclude having an empty chessboard nearby at which to stare while calculating?

Many scorebooks already have scoresheets that look something like this:

Scoresheet with empty diagram

Thus many tournament players already have a small empty board available to use exactly as I've described, if they so desired. So, is it technically permissible for them to place an empty board nearby before the game, and stare at it if they like? (If nothing else, I suppose one could make custom scoresheets featuring quite large empty diagrams ...)

  • 1
    I don't have my rulebook in front of me, but it would be illegal to bring an empty board with you (or potentially even to stare at your Monroi device). However, if the organizer provides a demo board or has extra chess boards setup, then there's nothing that stops you from using those. Many GM's will look at the demo boards showing their games while they're up walking around.
    – Andrew
    Sep 28, 2012 at 13:39
  • 2
    Tangental question - is using a blank board a known method for visualisation? I sometimes close my eyes for calculations, but having just tried this, a blank board seems to distract me rather than help.
    – Daniel B
    Oct 1, 2012 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


FIDE rules 12.3a and 6.14 are relevant to this situation. The former rule is vague, but the latter strongly suggests it is allowed. Let's take a look.

Rule 12.3a

12.3a During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse on another chessboard.

This rule does not define the word analyse, and hence, the verdict would depend on whether "staring at blank chessboard" constitutes analysis.

Rule 6.14

6.14 Screens, monitors, or demonstration boards showing the current position on the chessboard, the moves and the number of moves made, and clocks which also show the number of moves, are allowed in the playing hall. However, the player may not make a claim relying solely on information shown in this manner.

Since a board showing current position is allowed, it is strongly implied (though not explicitly stated) that looking at a blank chessboard is allowed.

Used rulebook on the FIDE website here.


Absent a specific rule I would allow it as tournament director. The rules say you can NOT ANALYSE with another set meaning to move pieces on it to aid your visualzation. So looking at a blank board is fine as you are not moving pieces on it.

Note that blind players are allowed a separate board and get to touch the pieces to know where they are as long as they do not move them for analysis.

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