Wikipedia's article on threefold repetitions gives a story about an incorrect threefold claim by Karpov against Miles:

The clause about the right to capture en passant and the right to castle is a subtle but important one. In a game between grandmasters Anatoly Karpov and Tony Miles (Tilburg 1986), Karpov had less than five minutes remaining on his clock in which to finish a specified number of moves or forfeit the game. He claimed a draw by repetition after checking his scoresheet carefully, whereupon it was pointed out to him that in the first occurrence of position, Black's king had had the right to castle, whereas in the second and third it had not. Tournament rules stipulated that a player be penalized with three minutes of their time for incorrect claims, which left Karpov's flag on the verge of falling. By then, Miles had taken the draw ...

What if, instead of five minutes left, Karpov only had two minutes? Does he instantly lose on making the incorrect claim?

  • 2
    FWIW, in American (NFL) football, if the penalty includes a time runout which moves the game clock to zero, the game's over. The big difference is that, unlike chess, there's only one clock. Nov 21, 2019 at 14:54
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft Not quite correct. The game cannot end if there is a penalty on the defense. Erm... what does the NFL have to do with this? What is next, water polo? ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 22, 2019 at 14:03
  • @DevSolar So far as I know, there is no penalty on the defense which incurs a time runoff. Yeah, nothing to do with chess but just felt like tossing it in. Nov 22, 2019 at 15:52

4 Answers 4


As the game took place in 1986, the 1985 version of the FIDE Laws of Chess is applicable. You have to consider Art. 10.5, 10.11, and 10.12.

Art. 10.12 (b) states: if the claim is found to be incorrect, the arbiter shall then add five minutes to the claimant's used time. If this means that the claimant has overstepped the time limit, his game will be declared lost. Karpov was lucky that the Tournament Rules reduced time penalty to 3 min.

Today’s decision would be: The opponent would be rewarded a 2 min time bonus.

There are no automatic time reducing penalties anymore. The arbiter may decide, however, in the case of 12.9 to subtract an amount from a player’s time of reflection (12.9.3). Of course, he would not subtract more than the remaining time, but to declare the game lost (12.9.6). But you never know ... some arbiters might feel otherwise, and they are allowed to, unless you claim a violation of the preface of the LoC (sound judgement) :-)


According to the FIDE Laws of Chess:

12.9 Options available to the arbiter concerning penalties:

12.9.1 warning,

12.9.2 increasing the remaining time of the opponent,

12.9.3 reducing the remaining time of the offending player,

12.9.4 increasing the points scored in the game by the opponent to the maximum available for that game,

12.9.5 reducing the points scored in the game by the offending person,

12.9.6 declaring the game to be lost by the offending player (the arbiter shall also decide the opponent’s score),

12.9.7 a fine announced in advance,

12.9.8 exclusion from one or more rounds,

12.9.9 expulsion from the competition.

In such situations, for a first offence, the arbiter would always add time for the opponent. He would never reduce the time for the player. Only if it were a third or later infraction of the same rule and the player had been warned would more serious action be taken like defaulting the player.

There is a general principle in the arbiting world, which is seen in the move away from allowing quickplay finishes, that the actions or decisions of the arbiter should not decide the game. Reducing the player's time to less than zero would do just that and would never be done.


I don't know how it was done back then. He'd probably had lost the game.

Nowadays, time penalties are always applied by adding time to the opponent, rather than taking it from the penalized player


I know the game mentioned in the question was played under FIDE rules, but if it had been played under USCF rules, there are a few places in the rule book that specifically call for a penalty of a time deduction for some infractions. They all either state, or imply, that a player's time should never be reduced to zero by means of a time penalty. The most severe is for disturbing noises during play (such as a cell phone ringing), where "First offense standard penalty is to subtract 10 minutes or half the remaining time from a player's clock, whichever is less". There is a time subtraction penalty for making an incorrect draw claim, which the rules state is "up to one minute from the claimant's remaining time" - I don't think a tournament director would subtract a full minute if the player only had one minute or less on the clock, though.

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