Many players have the habit of spinning and flipping captured pieces, e.g. Nakamura, Gelfand, Van Foreest, etc... However, when it is in my field of view, it distracts me and it brings me out of my concentration. Therefore, when playing a rated game and it's me to move, I would kindly ask my opponent to stop. And so far they always do, as they don't have the intention to distract me, it is just a habit of them.

I wonder, is there any mentioning of this in the FIDE rules?

What if my opponent would continue spinning a captured piece, ignoring my request to stop (which never happened so far)? Can I go to the arbiter?

Top players don't seem bothered, are they not distracted by it? Or is it me who is too easily distracted by it?

  • 1
    Is it really such a big deal for you if your opponent, say, spins the pieces, drinks a glass of water or anything else?
    – gented
    Sep 25, 2017 at 10:38
  • When my opponent drinks a glass of water, I'm not distracted at all. But somehow the spinning in my view draws my attention.
    – Maxwell86
    Sep 25, 2017 at 10:46
  • I saw a clock that flashed while in the 5 second delay. I found this distracting, but the clock was required. In another tournament, a player kept replaying a move that would have won him the game. These incidents were at another table, and annoyed me. NOTE: I twirl captured pieces and suck on my pen. Have had one player complain, and I did stop for that game. Sep 25, 2017 at 11:33
  • So, what meaning do your attach to your opponent spinning the piece? Distinguish that and get rid of your annoyance. That is much more powerful than letting a second (opponent) or third party (arbiter) deal with it. As in any game, your interpretations of the facts are what you have to overcome to be succesful.
    – user4378
    Dec 8, 2017 at 11:09
  • You can ask your opponent to stop, but a better solution would be to work on your own focus and ability to concentrate, because it is not always possible to eliminate all distractions in a crowded tournament hall.
    – ddq1708
    Sep 19, 2018 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


Article 11.5 of the FIDE Laws of Chess covers this:

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.

If your opponent distracts you in this way and refuses to stop when you ask him then you should definitely call the arbiter. The arbiter will ask your opponent to stop this behaviour and will keep an eye on your game. If your opponent ignores the arbiter's instructions then the arbiter will penalise him.

Note that when top players do these potentially disturbing things they are careful to do so out of sight of the opponent so it does not actually disturb them. Gelfand spins his piece under the table where even he can't see it.

  • 12
    The arbiter has some freedom to decide what is "unreasonable" and what isn't, so unfortunately you need a bit of luck to get one that agrees with you. From my experience, repeatedly spinning a piece (in a way that the opponent notices) will almost always be considered an unreasonable distraction, though.
    – Annatar
    Sep 25, 2017 at 11:47
  • 3
    In the FIDE rule, the 'unreasonable' criterium applies to claims and draw offers, not to 'distract or annoy the opponent'. The mere fact that some behaviour is considered distracting, makes it forbidden. As an arbiter, I would say that anything one of the players considers distracting is in fact distracting, unless it's something that's generally accepted (such as standing up, walking around and sitting down at the borad).
    – René Pijl
    Dec 8, 2017 at 18:36

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