I read the whole document issued by FIDE containing the Laws of Chess, but nowhere does it say how (or even if) the rules of chess can be amended.

Is every change to the rules supposed to yield a new variant? But then, what about minuscule changes like allowing the king to castle out of check, or slight tweaks on how en passant works? If, for example, the double-advance rule for pawns had never been invented, would there really be no way of introducing it into chess now? Would we just end up with "standard" chess and "pawns-can-move-two-squares-forward-on-their-first-move" chess?

Plus, a way of changing the wording of the rules must exist—when the rules where amended to explicitly disallow vertical castling with a pawn that had just been promoted to a rook (which the rules accidentally allowed previously), someone did manually rewrite a portion of the rules in a way that was binding for everyone else.

So what is this way, and who can do so? Is it FIDE? Are there any meetings that take place according to a regular schedule where potential changes can be submitted and discussed? Who can submit these proposals, and once they are approved, are they binding for all national federations?

  • 3
    How is allowing the king to castle out of check a minuscule change? That would change the dynamics of many open games. – John Coleman Jul 21 '20 at 16:44
  • That example is mentioned here, along with others. – J.G. Jul 21 '20 at 18:46

FIDE has a Rules Commission (https://rcc.fide.com) which reviews the Laws of Chess every four years according to their FAQ. I don't know about the process itself, but if I had to guess I'd say it involves lots of committee meetings and emails. :-) One interesting detail, though, is that they have a form you can fill out with suggested changes to the Laws: https://rcc.fide.com/form-of-loc-change-proposal/

But like the FAQ also says,

Considerable changes were made in the 15th century. The scope of the queen and bishop in particular were increased then. This made it a much faster game. The Laws are reviewed every four years, but these are either just tidying up, or changes to the Tournament Rules.

So don't expect any changes to things like how the pieces move, other than possibly closing of loopholes like the one about vertical castling which you mentioned (are there any loopholes left? That's a separate question).


According to the FIDE Charter:

7.5 FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Code, Electoral Rules, Financial Rules, Rules on Laws of Chess and Zonal Council Rules are approved and modified by the General Assembly, by simple majority, and cannot be superseded nor derogated by rules of an inferior level.

FIDE in general is run by a number of non-elected commissions which have individual responsibility for governing different areas and driving change in those areas. The commission in charge of updating the FIDE Laws of Chess is the Rules Commission.

Usually once every four years the Rules Commission draws up changes to the FIDE Laws of Chess which it recommends and presents them to the General Assembly for consideration. The next set of changes is due in 2021. In the run-up to the 2017 changes there was a call for FIDE members to email the commission with suggestions. I haven't seen that so far this time round but maybe it is still too early. The new commission also looks different under the new head of FIDE, Arkady Dvorkovitch, so no guarantee that it will work the same way.

once they are approved, are they binding for all national federations?

According to the FIDE Charter:

7.10 Each FIDE organ can approve Internal Rules, concerning its functioning, by majority of its components. Internal Rules cannot supersede nor derogate other FIDE rules, in accordance with the hierarchy listed in 7.1.
7.11 All FIDE members, organs and officials must observe FIDE rules and regulations.
7.12 All FIDE members must include, in their statutes, the obligation for their members to observe FIDE rules and regulations

So, yes, this is quite tightly specified.

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