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I was asked for first time to help at a non federated tournament for kids to arbitrate their games, played at 30 minutes with no increment time. It was a scholar tournament and they made mistakes as leaving checkmates in one, let the queen to be captured etc.

At one game both kids arrived to a K+R K+R endgame. There was not a way to quickly gain the rook and win the game and both kids had time. One kid claimed it was a draw. We were two arbiters (not experts, just two 1900 helping a bit at the club). We claimed draw.

Was it a correct decision or we should have left the kids play?

  • 2
    Now the question is: Why on Earth don't you give time per move? – David Jun 2 at 21:57
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    There was no increment at the tourney @David they both have 25 minutes on his clock anyhow so I guess I should have asked the kid that had not offered draw if he wanted to play the 50 moves – Universal_learner Jun 2 at 22:08
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    Finish games are a source of trouble when players reach "zeitnot". It is also hard to keep track of the 50-move rule when players are not writing the moves. If all big tournaments have moves away from no-time-per-move games, that may be for a good reason – David Jun 2 at 22:13
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    Yes I was wondering myself it would have been a task to count the 50 moves with no notation. – Universal_learner Jun 2 at 22:14
  • @David at blitz 5+0 I had seen at a fed tourney a player winning by time a k+n vs k+pawn. The player with the knigth didn't capture to win on time (there is mate chances with the pawn) and the arbiter in this case didn't claim draw. – Universal_learner Jun 5 at 15:46
25

You can declare a draw and in fact you are required to declare a draw but only after you have counted 75 moves by each side without a capture or a pawn move. This is according to the FIDE Laws of Chess article 9.6.2:

9.6 If one or both of the following occur(s) then the game is drawn:

9.6.1 the same position has appeared, as in 9.2.2 at least five times.

9.6.2 any series of at least 75 moves have been made by each player without the movement of any pawn and without any capture. If the last move resulted in checkmate, that shall take precedence

Of course the players are also free to agree a draw between them.

EDIT: blues makes the following comment:

III.5.1 may also apply. If the arbiter agrees that the opponent cannot win by normal means, or that the opponent has been making no effort to win the game by normal means, he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim. This does not require 75 moves or fivefold repetition

I will answer that here since there is insufficient room in a comment to do so.

Guidelines III.5.1 almost certainly does not apply in this case. III.5.1 is not standalone. It is part of section III and is dependent on earlier parts of III.

Let's take a look.

Guidelines III. Games without increment including Quickplay Finishes

III.1 A ‘quickplay finish’ is the phase of a game when all the remaining moves must be completed in a finite time.

III.2.1 The Guidelines below concerning the final period of the game including Quickplay Finishes, shall only be used at an event if their use has been announced beforehand.

III.2.2 These Guidelines shall apply only to standard chess and rapid chess games without increment and not to blitz games.

First, according to the OP, the time control was all moves in 30 minutes, so a rapid time control and no increments mean it is possible that III applies. However according to III.2.1 these shall only be used at an event if their use has been announced beforehand. They were almost certainly not announced beforehand, else the two arbiters would have at least know of their existence and they appear not to.

Suppose they were announced beforehand. Then we come to:

III.4 If the player having the move has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may request that an increment extra five seconds be introduced for both players. This constitutes the offer of a draw. If the offer refused, and the arbiter agrees to the request, the clocks shall then be set with the extra time; the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue.

The OP in one of his comments seems to say that both players still had 25 minutes left. This would mean this does not apply. Nevertheless supposing the player did have less than 2 minutes left, the arbiters cannot apply this rule unless the player specifically asks for it. The arbiters are not allowed to help the players in any way and may not volunteer this information during the game. They may only make announcements informing all players before the game.

Continuing, we finally reach the part blues references:

III.5 If Article III.4 does not apply and 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 summon the arbiter and may stop the chessclock (see Article 6.12.2). He may claim on the basis that his opponent cannot win by normal means, and/or that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means

First, this can only apply if III.4 does not apply. The only way that can happen is if there are no digital clocks capable of being set with the required time and increment. If such clocks are available then III.4 applies and III.5 does not apply.

Suppose, however, that all the previous counterfactual "if onlys" apply then III.5 can only apply if the player also knows the rule and makes the specific request in the correct manner. Again, even if the arbiter knows the rule he may not help the player by volunteering the information.

Hence my original conclusion that - Guidelines III.5.1 almost certainly does not apply in this case.

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    III.5.1 may also apply. If the arbiter agrees that the opponent cannot win by normal means, or that the opponent has been making no effort to win the game by normal means, he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim. This does not require 75 moves or fivefold repetition. – blues Jun 4 at 12:00
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    IIRC there's a little controversy over the 75-move rule that popped up after some computer sims showed that certain "known draw" endgames with only a couple pieces turned out to be forced mate in 3or 4 hundred moves. – Carl Witthoft Jun 4 at 14:21
  • Yes they both had around 25 minutes of time with no increment. – Universal_learner Jun 5 at 15:39
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It is not a drawn position according to the rules, since there is sufficient mating material. It may be a draw from the point of view of endgame theory, but given players who make lots of mistakes, it wouldn't be all that surprising for one to lose to a tactic.

I would let them play until the player who wanted a draw can claim it based on the 50-move rule or threefold repetition, or someone runs out of time or the game ends some other way. (Were they keeping notation? If not making a proper claim could be difficult, although an arbiter who witnesses the game could rule it a draw after 75 moves or fivefold repetition. Also note that USCF rules allow the arbiter or a deputy to count moves, if requested, for a 50-move claim under sudden death.)

That said, for a "non federated kids tournament", I suppose you may have some leeway, so I wouldn't really fault you for ruling it a draw.

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    No notation they played very basic after some lessons at school. Made illegal moves etc. Well we may have asked the other kid if he agreed with the draw or wanted to play 50 moves. They get a cup as first and second with 3,5 point. They looked happy with the cup so I guess we were almost correct as the second kid was loosing before he loosed his two pawns and looked happy too :) he didn't claim for continue playing and both were happy :) – Universal_learner Jun 2 at 18:47
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    You may want to refrain from mentioning that there's sufficient mating material at a kids' tournament. – Flater Jun 3 at 12:52
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It's better to let them play it out a bit and ideally only draw once reaching 50 moves. But if one of them is low on time (and their opponent is clearly just trying to flag them) then you should claim the draw.

  • Exactly. An arbitrated draw should mean "If I took the clock away and just had you play, I'm confident that the game would be drawn by the 50-move rule or repetition. The only thing the clock is doing is forcing one of you to lose on time." With children who are making mistakes, you can't be confident that the game would be drawn without the clock. But, hey, it sounds like it was just a for-fun tournament so no biggie. – David Richerby Jun 3 at 15:22
  • @DavidRicherby The clock is part of the game though. If one player can force the other to lose on time, why should the arbiter step in to prevent that? – orlp Jun 4 at 18:37
  • @orlp If the clock is so fundamental, why so a lack of mating material and the 50-move rule constitute draws? Shouldn't the players just keep going until one of them loses on time? – David Richerby Jun 4 at 22:34
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    @DavidRicherby Without the 50 move rule drawn positions would end up being an exercise in dexterity rather than wit: who can move their piece the fastest and hit the clock. I do think the clock is fundamental but has that issue in ending games without additional rules. – orlp Jun 4 at 23:20
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    @orlp It depends how trivially simply the theoretically drawn position is. Something like a Dvoretsky exercise is obviously not subject to a draw claim, but Rook vs Rook is trivially simple. – Inertial Ignorance Jun 5 at 14:32
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It is difficult to say what the exact rules should be if you aren't affiliated with a group that publishes rules for such situations. But I think your actions in this case were reasonable.

USCF rule 14H used to state that a player with less than two minutes on the clock (with no delay or increment being used) could make a claim of insufficient losing chances. Officially, that rule is no longer in effect, although a tournament is still allowed to use it as a variation without announcing it in advance.

If this variation is used, then rule 14I4 specifically states that rook vs rook should be a draw unless it is a position where there is a quick win. In general, if a class C player with ample time would not reasonably lose the position against a master, then the draw claim would be upheld, under this variation. This is regardless of the actual strengths of the players involved or how little time is on the clock.

Since there were more than 2 minutes on the clock ("both kids had time") technically this variation could not have been invoked. However, an attempted draw claim also constitutes a draw offer, which the other player may accept even if the claim is not upheld. According to your comment on another answer, you asked the other player if they agreed with the draw, and they seemed happy with it. That would be good enough for me. If neither player wanted to play on, there would be little point in forcing them to shuffle the pieces around for 50 moves. It's possible that novice players would not even be aware of the possibility of simply offering a draw.

The part of the USCF Official Rules of Chess book which contains the rules is now available online, by the way. I found it here.

  • What about a situation where a player and her teammates want to go home at the end of an evening of play, but an opponent who refuses a draw has an hour or more on the clock or would reach the next time increment before the 50-move rule would kick in? While the rules of chess would nominally allow the player to force everyone to either stick around for an hour more or else forfeit, I would regard an attempt to eke a win out of such circumstances as unsportsmanlike conduct. – supercat Jun 3 at 20:02
  • @supercat Whether it's unsportsmanlike to play on in a drawn position is a matter of opinion - certainly novice players are capable of blundering. And it may depend upon the exact position (for example, maybe it's a drawn rook vs rook position, but the enemy king is trapped along the side, and checkmate isn't out of the question if the opponent isn't careful.) If you think that's unsportsmanlike, then you can use the 14H variation. Also, according to USCF rule 18G, the TD can adjudicate the game in an emergency. 18G1 gives the example of a player who is letting his clock simply run. – D M Jun 4 at 5:09
  • Interesting the use of the term "emergency" for that situation. Perhaps the greater emergency would be the fact that if all other games are settled and the result of the last game would be needed to seed the next round, it would be absurd to delay all games that would be affected by the seeding. – supercat Jun 4 at 13:52
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Relevant FIDE rule, appendix G.5:

If Article G.4 [a player may claim extra time for both sides] does not apply and 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 summon the arbiter and may stop the chessclock (see Article 6.12 b). He may claim on the basis that his opponent cannot win by normal means, and/or that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means.

Similar to the USCF rule cited by D M, technically this can only be invoked if the claiming player has less then two minutes on their clock.

  • You are using an out of date version of the FIDE Laws of Chess. There is no Appendix G. See my answer for a link to the current laws. – Brian Towers Jun 3 at 12:48
  • @BrianTowers Ah, you are right.I should have checked for that. Interesting though. Do you know why this appendix was thrown out? Too much ambiguity/power to the arbiter? – Annatar Jun 3 at 13:07
  • What was in Appendix G has now moved to a new section of "Guidelines" at the very end. The "Guidelines" deal with aspects of chess which the English Chess Federation, which is still struggling to come into the 21st century, wants to retain - play without digital clocks / increments and adjournments. It also deals with chess960. FIDE reviews the laws every 4 years. The next review is in 2021 when it is planned to scrap the laws dealing with 20th century anomalies like analogue clocks and adjournments. How can you have adjournments in the age of laptops and engines? Crazy! – Brian Towers Jun 3 at 14:28
  • @BrianTowers Are adjournments with laptops and engines really that much more crazy than adjournments with your buddies, the ex-world-champions, as seen in the days when adjournments were still the norm in matches and tournaments? – David Richerby Jun 3 at 15:25
  • @BrianTowers: Well, the rules on adjournments were designed such that both sides in the game had the same chances at trying such shenanigans. – Joshua Jun 3 at 21:14

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