This week you are the arbiter

Last week’s question was: ‘Is it reasonable to award the title of World Champion after a knock-out tournament?’ The readership is of (almost) one mind on this issue: 88% say ‘no’. To be a real World Champion you must win a match. I hope FIDE is paying attention.


We move on from the World Championship to a blitz game at Jacob’s house-warming on Saturday night.


In the position above, White was almost out of time (2 or 3 seconds) and stopped the clock, claiming a draw. It was a five-minute game, with no increment. There was a discussion. It was a friendly beer-and-pizza event, so Black sportingly agreed a draw.

But what’s your view? How would you have reacted if you were the arbiter? Is a claim of a draw reasonable here in a blitz game? Would you have awarded the draw, or instead asked the players to play on, which would almost immediately lead to White losing on time?

32 thoughts on “This week you are the arbiter”

  1. I do not even understand the question.
    Why should it be possible to claim a draw here?
    I do not have the slightest idea.
    If you don’t like losing on time – play without clocks.
    Or play faster.
    Especially do not play blitz.

  2. Neil Sullivan

    As a young player, I had this exact situation arise in a blitz trmt. against an IM. He pushed the pieces to the middle of the board and declared a draw by triple repetition. I thought at the time it was absurd to even try without witnesses or a score sheet. However, the TD, also the club owner, sided with the IM over the snotty-nosed kid. I thought it was unfair then and still do.

  3. This is exactly why I wont play without increment anymore. Just 2 sec increment and there would be a chance to end this like a real chess game and not like some (childish) clock hacking game. Seems to depend on personal taste though. Looks like there are still people around that enjoy clock hacking more than playing a game of chess.

  4. Complaining about running out of time when playing blitz is like complaining about getting wet while swimming.

  5. You can’t just say “I claim a draw” without saying _based on what rule_ you do. It seems white simply didn’t want to lose on time, so he should have spent less of it. Losing on time happens in blitz.

    That said, any draw claim is also automatically a draw offer, so if the opponent agreed, an agreed draw it is.

  6. > That said, any draw claim is also automatically a draw offer, so if the opponent agreed, an agreed > draw it is.

    Not quite in the common case, since one claims a draw to the arbiter, and offer a draw to the opponent. We had an OTB clock incident where a player lost on time but claimed the clock didn’t work properly, which is not easy to disprove. That player bullied a draw offer to his opponent, but the arbiter cut that short, saying that the game was already lost.

    Back on topic, I have a feeling that the whole point of this entry is to shame someone ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. er this has been the easiest poll ever. play on. can’t see how anyone can make a reasoned argument for a draw with 2 pawns and a rook left for black. white has obviously provided the beer and pizza and it was a gentleman’s agreement

  8. It’s fine to sportingly “agree” a draw in the lost position.
    But “claiming a draw” is not correct!

    I agree with everyone else to bring on the increments and lets see if White can win it or if Black would win on time = better solution.

  9. Playing on is obvious for me. I think there were enough curiosities in chess history(and I’m not talking amateur level) of the side being down material in such positions ending up winning to justify it. And adding the time factor Black must have been in a really good mood to agree on a draw.

  10. As most readers – I do not see any rule connected to the “draw rule” based on the “I am losing on time and I am winning – what should I do? Is there any escape route?”.

    Play on. If you lost the game – do not blame anyone other then YOURSELF. It is your task to manage the time properly. And if you do not want to lose on time – play with an increment. If this solution still does not work to you – do not play blitzes.

    Anyway if I were an arbiter at this “P&B” (pizza and beer) event – I would ask if Black agrees on a draw. If now – play on until there is a reasonable explanation (based on the rule or common sense) you wnat to claim a draw.

    BTW. If there would be any kind of fortresses – we can discuss if it is a draw or not. However this position does not belong to ANY group of positions they deserve a “peaceuful finish”. At least I do not see any rule (excluding ‘playing on time’ without the effort to win) to this situation (and position).

  11. In USCF(understand not the rules you would have played under) in a non-increment/delay game one could declare insufficient losing chances if a C player(1400-1600) would draw a master.

    Having seen a lot of C players play rook endings, this is totally lose-able.

    Never mind that I don’t think(don’t quote me, not a TD or arbiter) that those rules don’t apply in blitz. And most assuredly don’t normally apply in blitz for fun in my club. Losses happen all the time up a queen, rook, and 4 pawns, etc because of the clock.

  12. @Cowe: if you claim a draw to the arbiter, then the opponent is allowed to accept the draw offer regardless of what the arbiter does. The claim is automatically an offer too.

    Say it’s a draw claim on the 50 move rule or threefold repetition and the arbiter has to start the procedure to decide whether the claim is correct (by playing out all the moves on a second board, often), it is often smart for the arbiter to point out to the opponent that this is the case.

  13. Play on.
    This is why 5+0 is an exciting and stupid time control.

    If you don’t want blitz to devolve into whack-a-mole, play 3+2.

  14. And this is why we play with increments nowadays ๐Ÿ™‚

    More serious, claiming a draw as white here will probably be awarded in a long-play game. You can let them play on, and even declare a draw after white’s flag falls (probably after 5 moves max) claiming black isn’t trying to win. In any case white should obviously claim much sooner than with a few secs to go.

    However, in blitz you should just play on (unless white is the host, and you want to avoid getting kicked out ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

  15. Soviet School

    This is why I do not like increments, with increment this game is over as an easy white win.
    Without increment there is still the excitement over whose meta strategy Time vs Position will be rewarded. In this sort of position it is quite exciting if white can mate black before white’s time runs out.

    Where I see increments have a role is in stopping situations like players playing on and on damaging the clock in dead drawn opposite bishop endings or Rook v Rook when say one player has a 30 to 25 sec advantage, though there can’t an arbiter call it a draw? What happens in official tournaments with no increment? Not everyone has electronic clocks.

  16. A question to John:
    Can black claim a draw in the King’s Gambit / Bishop’s Gambit after white’s move 3. Bc4 ?

  17. @ Hilmi M

    White is clearly NOT winning, since he only has a few seconds left and thus will lose on time. The clock is an integral part of the game, especially when you’re playing blitz.

  18. @ Ray
    If material is equal (i even mean the game) i should keep the game go on.
    yes if a player is winning and it is a game with no-increment he can claim a draw to arbiter.
    and arbiter should decide if black is playing for a win or just to draw (and this should be for only really even games, not a clearly lost game for black)

    But Ray, may be i am wrong. as you wrote this is a blitz game:( Then, i should watch argument here. i didnot see that was a blitz game.

  19. This is not ‘Nam, there are rules ๐Ÿ™‚ e.g. Fide rules ยง9, 10.2 & Appendix B. Blitz
    in short : a player can claim a draw if she has less than 2mn on her clock, opponent makes no effort to win etc, but this doesn’t apply to blitz. Same for draw claim and draw offer (ยง9.1.c, app. B).
    Now, on Playchess or such sites, who hasn’t lost on time with extra Queen and Rooks ? but go figure, there’s no button for “automatically claim draw when having a better position but not enough time to win”.

  20. Of course it’s not a draw. White had to spend the time to get the position, and if he had played as quickly as Black had he might have had a worse position on the board. He isn’t entitled to just claim a draw as a magic insurance policy. This is just one small step above cheating.

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