Confused About Draws Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
June 21, 2007
Dear Joel,

At a recent tournament, I played a move that resulted in a triple repetition of the position and claimed a draw upon completing my move. It was later pointed out that such a triple repetition should be claimed before the move is made by first writing the move down then making the claim without actually moving - or - after the move is made but before the clock is pressed. This seems confusing and probably is not truly understood or adhered to by the masses of amateur players, especially since writing moves before playing them is now discouraged and computer programs and online servers will not recognize a draw by repetition until the move leading to the triple repetition is actually played.

Also, it seems possible for someone knowledgeable of the "letter of the law" to swindle a game here or there by having an opponent's claim denied, resulting in at least a psychological advantage. What procedure is recommended by professional etiquette? Do the FIDE rules differ in this process? Should the USCF rules be changed to better reflect actual game conditions, lest games be decided by a technicality rather than by technique?


Confused about Draws

Dear Confused,

The triple repetition rule is misunderstood more often than not. Many do not realize that it is a three-time occurrence of a particular position with the same side on move (like three identical snapshots of the board) and not about moving back and forth. The repetition can occur later in the game via different moves. I drew with Kamsky in the 2004 U.S. Championship in that manner.

For that matter, you can claim that the position with you on move is a three-time repetition and not have to give any move at all.

The USCF rule is consistent with the FIDE rule. Professionals understand the rule and should have no qualms about disputing an improperly made claim, though it would be bad form if they don't intend to deviate anyway.

The procedure seems counter-intuitive, but it actually protects your claim. What would happen if you made your move and started to claim the draw just as your opponent made a move to avoid the repetition? The rule also prevents a player from claiming the draw long after the opponent has started thinking.

The rule is obviously different when playing on Internet servers. As for the rule prohibiting players from writing down their moves before playing them, the USCF deserves that kind of conflict for making such a stupid rule in the first place.

Joel Benjamin