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In a amateur game, black offered a handshake and white shook hands with him and neither spoke any word and the game ended. Later they had a dispute whether the game is a draw or a win for white. Black claimed that his offering of a handshake was a draw offer and when white shook hands, white accepted his draw offer. White claimed that black's offering of a handshake was a resignation.

It is an amateur game and there is no game record. So what should the arbiter do in this situation? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Claim this game as a draw.
  2. Claim this game as win for white.
  3. Try recovering the position when the game ended and ask them to keep playing from there. (This option may not be feasible as without a game record, they may not agree with the position)
  4. Order a rematch.

Edit: I do not remember for sure but it may be a position that is obviously a draw but it appears one side is losing to an inexperienced player. For example, King at the corner vs rook pawn + bishop of "wrong colour".

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    A tournament game? FIDE or USCF? – PhishMaster Mar 3 at 2:54
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    Why would you extend your hand for a handshake if you're offering a draw? Your opponent has the right to refuse a draw offer, or to take his time to consider it. Did the player who claims to have offered a draw make his move? If he extended his hand without making a move, I'd take that as a resignation for sure; that's not how you offer a draw. – bof Mar 3 at 3:04
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    @PhishMaster, an informal tournament. They did not even specify whether to apply FIDE or USCF rules. – Zuriel Mar 3 at 3:12
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    When was the last move made, and by whom? A handshake offer in response to an opponent's move could be seen as a resignation (though the person wishing to claim victory might make a toppling gesture toward the opponent's king and and hold off on accepting handshake until the opponent lowers the king). I would not interpret a handshake offer by someone who has just made a legal move likewise, however, since someone intending to resign wouldn't generally make a legal move before doing so. – supercat Mar 3 at 18:04
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    Want to watch out for the virus there! Make sure to bump elbows instead! – Tim Mar 4 at 18:08
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From my experience (small to medium central European Opens), offering a handshake without words is a commonly accepted form of resignation.

The handshake is not part of any official rules. However, there is some reasoning behind it:

You shake hands after the game ended (just as you do before it starts). So you only start extending your hand once that end is "set in stone".

If you extend your hand without a concrete reason on the board for an end of the game (checkmate, stalemate, 3-fold repetition etc.), you silently imply the other possible reason: That you just resigned, which is possible unilaterally. The "silently" part is the reason why this is done this way: It's less disturbing for neighbouring boards than saying "I resign" or laying down your king (in many piece sets, you can't make sure that it doesn't start rolling around).

If you instead wanted to only offer a draw, the game would not have ended (yet), as your opponent still has to accept. Thus, extending your hand makes no sense yet. But conversely, if you (properly by words) offer a draw, now your opponent may offer a silent handshake! Because once they (silently) agree to your draw offer, the game is over, and they can indicate this by stretching out their hand.

Of course, this "implied" way of ending games, even if it is more polite to other ongoing games, has the drawback that lead to the question here: It requires that both players are on the same page of what is actually implied. Even more problematic than the question are for example cases where one side saw a 3-fold repetition and implied "draw", but the other didn't see the repetition and assumed "resignation". Probably not the case here, it sounded like neither mentioned anything else but resignation or free draw offer.


Edit: Because the question came up why the players would act this way, there are some thinkable scenarios:

  • Black was dishonest. He deliberately acted ambiguously to trick White (in the hope that the arbiter would be convinced of his story that he only wanted to offer a draw). (correct result: 1-0)
  • Black was very inexperienced. Sometimes, weaker and especially younger players have the habit of always offering a draw before they resign (sometimes no matter how lost their position is), in the vague hope that the opponent is nice or doesn't see how winning they are. The handshake genuinely was intended to be a draw offer that White misinterpreted. (correct result: 1-0 with a degree of uncertainty. In my opinion, White should not be punished for acting in good faith, while Black with certainty did not offer a draw the correct way and thus has the weaker case).
  • It was actually White who was dishonest. We don't know the position. Maybe it wasn't actually all that winning and White exploited Black's naivete of not explicitly offering a draw by words. (correct result: 1/2-1/2)

All these cases are mostly applicable to amateur tournaments. Top (and even advanced) players know that they just look like fools if they offer draws in lost positions or try to cheat that way.

To know which of these cases applies, we need more information (for example, what was each player's rough evaluation of the final position, how reasonable can we expect both players treat handshakes as resignations/draw offers? etc.).

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    I think real life isn't that clear cut. It might be obvious to one player that the game was about to be drawn and he might assume that this was equally obvious to his opponent. Also he probably didn't extend his hand completely unprompted, there might have been eye contact that was interpreted differently. – BlindKungFuMaster Mar 3 at 9:36
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    Rating does not matter, nor does how each evaluated the position. Even at the lower levels, since a handshake means nothing official, let alone in a tournament that is not really governed by FIDE or any other body, and it is clear that they did not agree on what they thought it meant, to use legal principles, there was not contract since there was no "meeting of the minds", so to award the victory to one side or the other would be a great injustice. All you could do is try to restart the game, or award the draw to be fair. – PhishMaster Mar 3 at 11:29
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    Scenario: Black lays down his king, stretches out his hand and later claims that he intended to move the king, then decided otherwise after touching it, and then intended to offer a draw by the offered handshake? – Annatar Mar 3 at 11:53
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    Threefold repetition or the 50-move rule are not an immediate draw either, as they have to be claimed and either agreed by the opponent or confirmed by the arbiter. However, I would say that offering a handshake after an obvious 3-fold repetition should not be interpreted as resigning. – JiK Mar 3 at 12:44
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    I don't remember which author it was (perhaps Silman?), but in a book I read, the author told a story that he once resigned by offering a handshake, the GM opponent looked surprised and asked "What are you doing?" The protagonist answered that he's resigning because the game is lost. The opponent immediately shook hands and proceeded to point out an immediate perpetual check that should've been obvious to both players. The opponent perhaps thought that the protagonist is offering a draw but suddenly forgot everything about the rules. So a silent handshake can be confusing even in GM level. – JiK Mar 3 at 12:50
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Based on the comments to the question above, there is no offical ruling body governing the rules, therefore, the guy running the tournament is the final authority. It is really up to his judgment.

If I were he, and there were time, I would try to see if we could reestablish the position, and finish from there. If not, I would declare a draw. I would not order a rematch unless there was some other great reason that was not listed above.

Lastly, I would make sure that I taught them the rules.

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USCF and FIDE rules state that a draw should be made after the move but before hitting the clock. If those conditions have not been met, then the handshake could considered a resignation offer.

https://new.uschess.org/news/just-rules-draw-offer-blues/

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  • I asked whether it was a FIDE or USCF tournament, and the OP said "an informal tournament. They did not even specify whether to apply FIDE or USCF rules", so none of that really matters. – PhishMaster Mar 4 at 13:03
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Based on what @Annatar said, it may be interesting to know what was the situation on the board :

1 - Was white obviously winning ? 2 - Was there an obvious draw, such as a pat a few moves down the line ?

If 1, Black is either inexperienced or tried something fishy by asking for a draw while losing. So White wins. If 2, then maybe it was reasonable of Black to ask for what was, to him, obvious. So ruling a draw is reasonable.

It would be weird if it's neither of those situations (obvious draw or obvious loss). You wouldn't offer a draw in a situation where nothing is resolved.

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    I do not remember for sure but it may be a position that is obviously a draw but it appears one side is losing to an inexperienced player. For example, King at the corner vs rook pawn + bishop of "wrong colour". – Zuriel Mar 3 at 17:29
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    @Zuriel, can you add this to your questions, it seems like an important bit. – Akavall Mar 3 at 18:02
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There is an argument to be made that the players simply abandoned the game. As far as the rules go, handshakes don't mean anything. Nothing was said. The players just stopped playing and put away the pieces.

Handing out a 0 - 0 result where both sides lose might be appropriate, at least it won't happen again then.

Often, players resign without saying anything, by just offering to shake hands. This shouldn't happen as it might lead to problems like this question, but it does happen. It also happens that players offer a draw in the exact same way, especially in endgames where only they could win. It can equally lead to problems if a malicious opponent decides to interpret the offer as resignation.

We don't know which of the situations is applicable, so we have to look at the rules. Seen from that viewpoint, the players just stopped playing their game and got rid of the evidence. If there is more knowledge of which scenario is more likely, then we can use that. But with only the question, we can't.

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    This would be totally unfair to white. Offering a handshake as a form of resignation is very very common. If I was an arbiter and a player would try to pull a trick like black did in the question, I would consider something harsher than just merely making him lose the game, as what he did was against the tenets of fair play. Basically he's tricking his opponent into forfeiting the game. – vsz Mar 3 at 11:44
  • @vzs: It is equally possible it was in fact a draw and white is the one trying to trick the opponent. – RemcoGerlich Mar 3 at 12:59
  • In that case black would have claimed that he verbally offered a draw. – vsz Mar 3 at 16:19
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    "a player might offer a draw by extending their hand and saying nothing" - that's not how draws are offered. According to the logic you just presented, we could explain away anything. What if I literally say "I give up", but then later I regret it and try to explain that I didn't mean resigning, I just said that I've given up trying to win and my words meant I was offering a draw instead? – vsz Mar 4 at 5:14
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    @Michael : wow, that argument is so ridiculously exaggerated, that it's not even clear on whose side you are arguing :) – vsz Mar 6 at 5:06

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