What happens if a player dies at the board? What is the ruling? I am interested in both FIDE and/or USCF rules.

I seem to recall about 40 years ago, when reading my first copy of the USCF rule book, that per USCF rules the position would be adjudicated (a result ruling was made based on the position on the board at the time), but of course, it was so long ago, I could be remembering that incorrectly now. I can no longer find anything about that situation for either USCF or FIDE anywhere.

The deceased person does not care, so it would seem natural to award the other player the win since eventually the flag would fall anyway.

During the game CM Kurt Meier versus Alain Patience Niyibizi at the 2014 Olympiad, CM Meier died at the board, but the game was a draw, and I am not sure why, whether it was an act of sportsmanship, or rules.

In another more publicized case, Nikolaos Karapanos played a brilliant game against Israeli IM Dan Zoler, and died during a time scramble. Remarkably, Zoler, is a medical doctor, who tried to revive his opponent, and who was lost on the very final move, graciously resigned the position later in an act of truly commendable sportsmanship.

So if anyone knows, I would appreciate any light you may shed on this situation, which has happened all too often.

  • 4
    Interesting discussion Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 10:28
  • 1
    @TheSimpliFire Nice link. I somehow did not find that one. I like the guy on pages 4 and 5, who quoted the games where someone passed away at the board, and what happened. It is certainly not the norm, but it happens enough that if there are no clear rules, there should be. Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


Clock runs out and they lose on time if it is the move of the dead player.

Otherwise the opponent could resign or move; unless a draw was offered before the death in which case they could accept the draw, resign, or move and wait for the clock to run out on the now dead opponent.

  • If a player's opponent doesn't show up, I would think the player would generally receive a "bye" rather than a win. I would think that if a player has to withdraw due to physical inability to continue play, the opponent should receive a win if a win would be plausible given normal play, and either a draw or a bye--whichever would be more favorable--in other cases. Other players in the tournament should not be unfairly disadvantaged by their opponents' failures to die during a game where those opponents would otherwise have had clearly winning positions.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 19:26

USCF rules. This is a case that is decided by the director's discretion.

18G. Adjudications. Only under emergency circumstances may a director permanently adjudicate a game; that is, declare a result based upon best play by both sides.

An interesting rule is: 15G. Ownership of scoresheets The scoresheets of all games in a tournament are the property of the sponsoring organization(s).

This means that even if you bring you own scoresheet, once you take notation, it belongs to someone else, and you taking it home is theft.

  • The sponsor organization provides the blank scoresheets. But the player can copy it later. Just remember that the winner is whom usually gaves the signed scoresheets to the arbiter.
    – djnavas
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 10:56
  • It must happen fairly often in correspondence chess, and the major organizations must have definite rules about it.
    – bof
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 10:43
  • @MikeJones I'm not so sure about it being theft. The USCF can claim a transfer of ownership in its rulebook, but I don't think that alone makes it a binding contract, and violation of a contract isn't generally considered theft even if it was. Might be a question for Law.SE.
    – D M
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 18:29
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    @MikeJones I think you should probably just get rid of that part of your answer; it's not clearly correct and it's not really relevant anyway. The answer would be better without it.
    – D M
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 18:58
  • @bof when I played real correspondence people disappeared. you file a MIA and they check. mail does get lost. then move is resent and game continues. but else you win on forfeit if the opponent does not answer the event sponsor. .
    – chessie
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 23:05

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