Sometimes when I'm playing a variation that I'm comfortable with I get bored while waiting for my opponent to move, so I get distracted and start to pay attention to other things around me.

I know that focus is important, and being distracted can put me on short pants when playing, but lets, for the purpose of this question, ignore that.

As an example, yesterday I was playing with my uncle with no time limit, and the Real Madrid game was on. While waiting his moves I took a (sometimes not so) quick look at the TV.

Obviously, my uncle is someone I respect. When doing this I had (and always have) no intention of looking presumptuous or insinuate the game is easy (and I don't think my uncle got me wrong).

But not everyone I play against knows me as well as my uncle. Does this look bad when playing? Can my opponent be offended?

  • 2
    In tournament chess it is perfectly OK. Playing a friend / exhibition match has its own rules, goals. If the point is fun, you shouldn't beat weaker player twenty times in a row watching football game.
    – hoacin
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:51

6 Answers 6


I don't think this question is really chess related. For an informal (no tournament) situation like you describe I don't see much difference in whether you play a game of chess or do some other activity together with somebody.

Whether it is disrespectful depends on your cultural background and also on how well you know each other. For instance some people like (trash-) talking during informal games.

Regarding tournament games you can read about the FIDE rules of conduct in article 11 here, particularly article 11.5 which states:

It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a source of noise into the playing area.

In practice you can do almost anything which does not affect your opponent directly. For instance it is very common that players get up and walk around, as is eating/drinking at the board.


Whether or not your opponent is offended may depend on your local culture outside of chess, and might also depend on the situation in which you're playing the game. In a tournament with slower time controls, it's not uncommon to even see players get up and walk over to watch other games in progress. On the other hand, if you're just playing a casual game with someone then it's probably polite to pretend you're interested in the current position because otherwise your opponent may think that you don't actually want to be playing with them.


In a tournament game, as long as you do not distract the other player and are not consulting help with your game, you may do as you please. The other player will not be able to persuade a tournament director that you are distracting him if you are just looking (or walking) around.

I think the more important question is how well you maintain your train of thought through the game. While you are playing purely on technique, such as in an opening variation, you may be tempted to spend time on something else while waiting for your opponent's move. However, even Grandmasters have misplayed openings because they left the board, and when they returned expecting the "only move" to have been played by their opponent, responded to that move, only to realize that their opponent had played something else.

If you do lose focus on the game while playing a known variation, make sure you double-check your opponent's move when you return to avoid that mistake.


I would say no. There was some training school in the 80s where you were not supposed to look at the board much but try to look anywhere else. The idea was to only see the board in your mind. Some famous players (e.g, Shirov I believe) adopt this method.


The main etiquette rule to follow when playing a game of chess with someone is to not do anything to distract your opponent while he's thinking about his move. I think it's OK to watch soccer on TV when it's your uncle's turn, but I wouldn't do it on your own move.


Definitely be in any profession it is not advisable to pay attention to other details, but sometimes in chess it is important that you look here and there and take your eyes from the board during a tournament play.

When two people play the game of chess sometimes they lose the presence and they enter into a world of illusion. This happens majorly when the game extends for 3-4 hours. During the openings phase it is not advisable but in middle and endgames when you require a definite plan sometimes a few secs of break from the game can re-energize you and can make you think better. Your brain even gets stuck when you are playing a hard game for a long time. Top players do this at their levels in classical chess not in blitz.

Now a concrete rule: Blumenfeld's rule: Here the rule says that "after a prolong deep calculation it is important that you look away from the board for sometime which helps you to skip blunders".

So sum it up, look here and there sometimes during a game but do not make someone else's business yours, and take few breaks during long calculations.

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