As a continuation of my previous question (Rated Tournaments in France - For a Poor French Speaker), I have taken part in my first tournament in France.

While I can get by in the French language, I am unsure of what some common chess phrases for tournament play may be. A direct English to French translation is likely incorrect.

Could anyone enlighten me with either some phrases or a link to a resource (unable to find so far) for the below questions?

  • offering a draw / claiming a draw via repetition
  • calling for an adjudicator
  • claiming an illegal move has been made

plus anything else that springs to mind.

The last thing I want is to offend anyone in a tournament by coming across rude or ignorant, and adhering to the etiquette of tournament play.

2 Answers 2


Native French speaker and regular tournament-goer (pre-Covid) here. The comments under the other answer are correct.

Some background tournament etiquette (probably not France-specific but necessary for what follows):

  • Calling the arbiter: stop the clock, raise your hand and say "arbitre" (once, but loud enough to be heard). Do not leave your place.
  • (pre-Covid, this may have changed) You shake hands with your opponent before and after the game.

Now for the French sentences:

  • Offering a draw: see Evargalo's comment, "je propose (la) nulle" is IMO best; just "nulle ?" sounds quite rough to me but it is not offensive either. Refusing such as offer: "non" (no); accepting: "oui" (yes); or any other non-verbal variant (for instance, extending the hand over the board after such an offer = let's shake on it = yes).
  • Claiming a draw by repetition: "nulle" (as an affirmation, not a question). Should the opponent disagree (I have never seen that happen), call the arbiter: "la même position a été répétée trois fois" (the same position has been repeated three times). "Je réclame la nulle par répétition" (I claim a draw by repetition) is correct, but formal.
  • Illegal move: if you feel nice, you can point out that the move is illegal and allow the opponent to retract it ("ce coup est illégal", this move is illegal, or something more precise, for instance "on ne peut pas laisser le roi en échec", you cannot leave the king in check). The officially-correct thing to do is to call the arbiter who will apply whatever the rules say (if memory serves, in longer time controls, the opponent gets extra time for the first two offenses).
  • Resigning: "j'abandonne" (I resign). Common non-verbal alternatives: tipping the king over (which some people consider mildly rude, but IMO it is not if you do it calmly and with a smile), or extending the hand over the chessboard (to shake it, implying the game is over).
  • Reminding someone of the touch-move rule: "pièce touchée, pièce à jouer" (a touched piece must be played). Less useful: "pièce lâchée, pièce jouée" (a dropped piece has been played = you cannot change the square you put it on). (Only for intentional contact - if the opponent reaches for their glass across the board and accidentally touches a piece, it does not apply.)
  • Adjusting pieces: "j'adoube" (must be said before touching a piece)
  • Pairings: "appareillement(s)"
  • Leaderboard: "classement"

Game notation is algebraic, with the following abbreviations: R=roi (king), D=dame (queen, literally "lady"), T=tour (rook, lit. "tower"), F=fou (bishop, lit. "fool"), C=cavalier (knight, lit. "rider"). For instance Alekhine's defense is written 1.e4 Cf6 instead of 1.e4 Nf6.

  • thank you very much for your detailed explanation. Even though I am in a chess club, it was hard to ask how you say something very specific in french while speaking 'franglais'. I hope you have started playing in tournaments again. Our league started up again in 44. Bonne chance.
    – Owen Rees
    Oct 7, 2020 at 16:12

There is an official translation of FIDE Laws of Chess into french where you will find most phrases.

  • Offering a draw: Je propose nulle.
  • Calling for an adjudicator (=arbiter): Je demande l’aide d’un arbitre.
  • Claiming an illegal move has been made: Je constate qu’un coup illégal a été achevé.

There has been a dictionary edited by Chess Informant with the most relevant chess phrases in English, French, German, Russian and a fifth language. But it is out of print. If you find one in an antiquarian bookshop, buy it, it might help a lot.

  • Also, if you don't have a sense of how French is pronounced, you might look it up; it doesn't have to be perfect but if you pronounce "Je constate qu'un coup" as English "Jay con-state kwon coop" you might not be understood. Oct 4, 2020 at 23:21
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    I don't think "J'offre de nulle" is grammatical French. The phrase "L'offre de nulle" is indeed used in the translation of the laws, but in that context "offre" is a noun not a verb. The other phrases are grammatical but rather formal, as if one were to say "I request the help of an arbiter" in English. I hope a French player can come to the OP's aid here and let us know what phrases are actually used in those situations. Oct 5, 2020 at 10:04
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    Grammatically, it should be "j'offre la nulle". But I am editing in the idiosyncratic sentence that we use 70% of the time in France , " Je propose nulle". The other 30% are for the concise but slightly less polite: "nulle ?". Just making eye contact while crossing your forefingers will be well understood if need be.
    – Evargalo
    Oct 5, 2020 at 12:29
  • many thanks for all your input. I would have marked the above answer as solved had someone else not given a very detailed explanation. And those who commented, thank you to you as well.
    – Owen Rees
    Oct 7, 2020 at 16:09

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