Say you're playing a tournament and your opponent appears to be sick (sneezing, runny nose, etc.)

Can you refuse to play them (to protect your own health) without forfeiting?

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    – BCLC
    Commented Apr 2 at 4:27
  • If anybody knows the answer does having a compromised immune system due to e.g. medication you are taking affect it? (I doubt it - I suspect the answer will be "it's up to the arbiter")
    – Ian Bush
    Commented Apr 2 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


Can you refuse to play them (to protect your own health) without forfeiting?


If you have concerns about the possible contagious risk of another player then the correct course of action is to raise them with the arbiter who should evaluate them and decide whether or not to exclude the player from the tournament.

If the player has a suspected common cold then this will be rejected. If the player has something more serious, perhaps indicated by a high fever, then the arbiter is likely to exclude the player, as much for their health as the health of the other participants, and recommend they seek medical attention.

If you stop and think about it your question doesn't make a great deal of sense. Suppose the arbiter changes the pairing to accommodate you and you end up playing on the board next to the cold-infected player. Your risk is virtually identical. If your concerns are so great then you should not have entered the tournament in the first place.

You should also raise such concerns at the earliest opportunity which is not after the pairings have been done. If you wait until the round is about to start and refuse to play the player the most likely result is that it is you who is excluded from the tournament. The tournament is likely to have terms and conditions which mean you accept the arbiter's decisions as final. The pairings count as an arbiter decision.

  • 13
    Presumably in any large tournament, you would not know if a player is sick until after you are paired against them and observe them close-up.
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 2 at 9:16
  • 14
    In a league match last year I was to be paired with somebody full of cold, something I didn't know until I turned up. I suffer from an auto-immune condition and my immune system is compromised - I would have refused to play due to the medical advice I get, but the opposing captain had some common sense and told the player to go home.
    – Ian Bush
    Commented Apr 2 at 10:02

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