A question of rulebook pedantry:

Effective July 2014, the FIDE has revised its Laws of Chess. As you know, the Laws have long allowed a player to claim a draw by repetition. The July 2014 Laws, sect. 9.2, however append this curious sentence:

When a king or a rook is forced to move, it will lose its castling rights, if any, only after it is moved.

Sect. 9.2 does not explicitly link this sentence to the draw by repetition. The sentence floats alone.

Because there seems to be no other reason for the sentence to be in sect. 9.2, one tends to read it to imply that, at game's start, four castling rights exist—White's kingside, White's queenside, Black's kingside and Black's queenside—and that these castling rights are as much features of the position as, say, a white pawn on b3 is a feature of the position. White's kingside castling right vanishes when Rh1 or Ke1 is first moved, or when Rh1 is captured (though, actually, sect. 9.2 does not mention the rook's capture), and cannot vanish at any other time or in any other way. Specifically, White's kingside castling right vanishes neither (a) when White is temporarily prevented from castling kingside nor (b) when no legal continuation exists in which White could castle kingside.

In other words, a castling right exists even if it can never be used; and this affects when a draw can be claimed.

Could one read sect. 9.2 in any other way?

For example, this (nonsensical but technically illustrative) game is not yet a draw:

[Title "White to open, illustrating sect. 9.2"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 b6 6. Bxa8 Bd7 7. Qh5 Qxh5 8. Rb1 Nc6 9. b3 e6 10. Na4 Bd6 11. c3 O-O 12. Nh3 Qe5+ 13. Kf1 Qf5 14. Ke1 Qe5+ 15. Kf1 Qf5 16. Ke1 Qe5+

After 12... Qe5+, three castling rights have already vanished, but White's kingside right remains, even though no continuation exists in which White might eventually castle. On the other hand, after 14... Qe5+ or 16... Qe5+, all four castling rights have vanished. Therefore, triple repetition has not yet occurred.

Is my understanding correct? Or is an alternate, reasonable interpretation possible?

Further reading:

  • 3
    I believe your interpretation is correct and I can't see any other one. – David Richerby Aug 27 '14 at 19:01
  • 2
    I agree with the conclusion but if we are in pedant mode then "White's kingside castling right vanishes when Rh1 or Ke1 is first moved, or when Rh1 is captured" is not correct. Castling rights do not vanish when a rook is captured only when it moves. If the rook is captured without moving then the previously unmoved king may still castle with the virtual rook with the usual provisos about not being in check, moving to be in check, or moving over a checked square. – Brian Towers Dec 20 '14 at 18:44
  • Thanks Brian for that key point which had never occurred to me. However I don't agree about the virtual castling. – Laska Mar 5 '18 at 14:30
  • 2
    "If the rook is captured without moving then the previously unmoved king may still castle with the virtual rook" - wait, what? Is this true? Has this ever happened? – Max Oct 20 '19 at 15:58
  • 9.2 Also allows for the possibility. 15 Be3 {Illegal} h6 {Fails to flag illegal move} 16. O-O when Black cannot claim move 16 is illegal, and already lost his opportunity for a claim on move 15. – BaseZen May 26 at 21:16

My interpretation of the rules (which in this aspect I believe to be correct) is the same as yours. Although the example you provide with castling rights is conceptually a little more challenging, the problem is exactly the same as the one arising when the "en passant" rule is allowed on the first move:

[Title "White to open, illustrating sect. 9.2"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[Result "1/2 - 1/2"]

1. e4 e5 2. d4 Nf6 3. d5 c5 {First time this position happens.} 4. Qf3 Ng8 5. Qd1 Nf6 {Second time this "position" happens, but now white cannot take the pawn en passant, thus making actually this the first time this position happens.} 6. Qf3 Ng8 7. Qd1 Nf6 {Second time this position happens. This is not yet a draw.} 8. Qf3 {EDIT: As the OP pointed out, technically this is the first time a threefold repetition occurs in the game.} Ng8 9. Qd1 Nf6 {Now this is a draw.} 1/2 - 1/2

However, nowadays the FIDE rules are very clear and misinterpretations on this subject should (fortunately) no longer be a problem. Article 9.2 now covers both cases, and reads:

9.2 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by a player having the move, when the same position for at least the third time (not necessarily by a repetition of moves):

  • is about to appear, if he first writes his move, which cannot be changed, on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move, or
  • has just appeared, and the player claiming the draw has the move.

Positions areconsidered the same if and only if the same player has the move, pieces of the same kind and colour occupy the same squares and the possible moves of all the pieces of both players are the same. Thus positions are not the same if:

  • at the start of the sequence a pawn could have been captured en passant.
  • a king or rook had castling rights, but forfeited these after moving. The castling rights are lost only after the king or rook is moved.

So, your (our) interpretation is the correct one, and there is no other possible alternative interpretation.

  • 1
    To make correct technical examples, like yours, is hard, isn't it? Please note this detail: a draw can be claimed 1.5 moves earlier, after 8. Qf3. However, except for the one detail, your example is both sound and illuminating. – thb Sep 21 '14 at 16:20
  • 1
    True, true, the post has been edited accordingly. In fact, if it is white claiming the draw (as the claim has to be correct), he must do so before moving 8.Qf3: write it on the score sheet, call the arbiter, move and then it's a draw. I'm glad it was helpful! – Pablo S. Ocal Sep 21 '14 at 16:31
  • I wonder if it would have been good to say that positions are the same if all present and future move possibilities would be identical except that fewer moves would remain until a draw due to a lack of captures or pawn movements. – supercat Mar 15 '20 at 17:15

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