ICU Tournament Regulations

ICU Committee

This article part of the series: ICU Bulletins 2009-10 - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Version History

Tournament Regulations

  1. These regulations apply to Swiss System tournaments which are registered with the ICU and which will be submitted to the ICU Rating Officer. They should also be applied where appropriate to other events being submitted for rating, including all-play-alls, knockout tournaments, club championships, etc.
  2. Where a tournament has been registered with FIDE for rating purposes, FIDE regulations take precedence over ICU regulations where a conflict arises.
  3. These regulations are not intended to apply to one-day or rapid chess events. However the organisers of such tournaments may adapt them as they see fit to suit their needs.
  4. These regulations are effective from 1 May 1990.

Tournament Administration

  1. The tournament organising committee should appoint a tournament director who is responsible for the overall organisation and administration of the tournament, and an arbiter or controller who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the event, including: ensuring that conditions of play are suitable, making Swiss System pairings, and ruling on questions of the Laws of Chess. Where the tournament director and the controller are one and the same person, this should be clearly stated in publicity material.
  2. Advance notice of tournaments scheduled for each season commencing 1 May should be forwarded to the ICU Tournament Director by 1 February to facilitate the production of a tournament calendar. Approximate dates are acceptable.
  3. Tournaments which it is intended will be submitted for rating to the ICU rating officer should be registered with the ICU Tournament Director at least one month before the start of the event. The publicity material for the tournament should accompany such notification. No rating fee or tournament levy is payable in respect of registered tournaments.
  4. No tournaments will be allowed on consecutive weekends except in exceptional circumstances such as Chess Festival Weeks or in cases where in the opinion of the ICU Tournament Director there is no conflict between the tournaments. In the case of competing claims, precedence will decide.
  5. Publicity material or entry forms should contain details of the venue, the timetable, the sections, the prize fund, the entry fee, the closing date for receipt of entries, the equipment provided, the name of the tournament director and the controller, and the address for entries. Other information may be added, such as the expected time of prizegiving, details of accommodation available, etc.
  6. Tournaments cannot provide for an overall upper or lower rating limit. Any player must be able to enter one section of any tournament.
  7. Where a tournament contains different sections, players should not be entered in a section where their current rating is in excess of the announced upper limit of that section.
  8. Players whose current rating is below that of the announced lower limit of a section should only be entered in that section at their request in the following circumstances:
    1. if in the opinion of the tournament director or ICU Tournament Director his playing strength is adequate for that section on the basis of his rating history.
    2. if in the opinion of the tournament director or ICU Tournament Director the player's rate of development warrants his entry in that section.
    3. where the tournament director, before a tournament starts, wishes to create an even number of players in different sections in order to eliminate byes, this may be effected by transferring a player from a lower to a higher section, provided his rating is within 50 points of the lower limit of the higher section. Such a proposed transfer is not compulsory on any player.
  9. An "open" section is one which any player can enter irrespective of his rating.
  10. To maintain comparability, the ICU Rating List should be applied to Irish players in preference to the FIDE Rating List. However the FIDE rating of foreign players should be preferred to their domestic rating, where there is a choice.
  11. Where the tournament schedule provides for playing sessions of 3 hours or more, the break between rounds should be a minimum of 1 hour. If necessary, an earlier morning start should be considered to ensure the implementation of this rule.
  12. In principle, a half point travelling bye may be granted for any round except the last. A request for a travelling bye must be made before the start of the tournament and cannot be withdrawn after that time.
  13. One computer may be entered in any tournament, at the discretion of the organisers, provided the number of participants exceeds 50. In this case, the FIDE "Playing Rules for Computers" should be applied. A computer cannot share in the prize fund.
  14. Only ICU registered players should be accepted for entry to any tournament.

Application of Rules

  1. All tournament games should be conducted in accordance with the Laws of Chess, and the allegro finish rules if applicable.
  2. In Swiss System events, pairings should be made according to the FIDE Regulations for Swiss System Tournaments. Pairings may be made by computer; in such cases the computer is regarded as an aid to the arbiter; he may accept or change the output.
  3. Tie-breaking:
    1. It is recommended that cash prizes be shared equally in the event of a tie, however tie-breaking methods may be necessary in the case of deciding who will hold a perpetual trophy or obtain a prize available only to one person. Where tie-breaking is deemed necessary, the following methods should be adopted in order of priority:
      1. Buchholz Score: the sum of the final scores of the player's opponents;
      2. Median Buchholz score: the sum of the final score of the player's opponents, excluding the highest and the lowest of these;
      3. the individual results between the tied players, but only if they have both or all played each other;
      4. the sum of opponent's ratings, excluding the lowest of these. If still tied, eliminate the rating of the next lowest rated opponent(s) until a decision is possible.
    2. In the determination of the Buchholz scores (a) and (b) above, each player's score is adjusted where applicable as follows: 1/2 point is awarded for each unplayed player game whether this is because of a bye, forfeit, or unplayed round because of the withdrawal of a participant. A player awarded a bye counts the bye as an opponent who has drawn his game in every round.
    3. Any tournament committee which wishes to vary from the above standard should state so clearly in their publicity material.
  4. Players' Appeal Committees:
    1. Appeals committees are mandatory in tournaments containing 30 or more players, whether they are divided into sections or not, and in national and provincial championships. The statement "the controller's decision is final" has no validity in registered tournaments.
    2. The Appeal Committee should be chosen by the tournament director or arbiter before or during the first round. It should consist of three players in the tournament, chosen with reference to (a) controlling experience, (b) ICU or provincial union officer, (c) balance of playing strength, (d) regional representation. If any of the three members are materially involved in an appeal to be heard, they should be replaced.
    3. A player may appeal any decision of the arbiter to the Appeal Committee, within one hour of that decision being made. At the discretion of the arbiter, he may pay an appeal fee of two pounds, which is returnable at the direction of the Appeal Committee.
  5. Where a player withdraws before the end of a tournament, his results stand both in the tournament table and for rating purposes.
  6. If a game begins with reversed colours, the mistake should be corrected provided it is discovered within 15 minutes of the start of the round. The arbiter may impose a time penalty if he feels it is appropriate.
  7. If a result is reported wrongly and the pairing for the next round made on that basis, then the result should be corrected. Pairings for any rounds already played should remain, but pairings for all later rounds should be based on the true results.
  8. Unplayed games should not be rated. Only the correct result of games should be rated. Therefore the arbiter should ensure the accuracy of records he submits to the ICU Rating Officer.

Tournament Conditions

  1. The tournament director should ensure that the event is conducted in an environment suitable for playing chess. There should be sufficient space for players and spectators, and adequate lighting, heating and ventilation to ensure the comfort of participants.
  2. All chess boards and sets used in a tournament, whether provided by the tournament organisers or by the players themselves, should be of standard design and size. No player is obliged to use a non-standard board and set, unless through his own omission in possessing suitable equipment.
  3. If players are required to provide their own boards and sets, this fact should be clearly stated in publicity material relating to the tournament. However players should always assume that they are required to provide their own chess clock, whether the publicity material states this or not.
  4. Tournament organisers are responsible for the provision of scoresheets. Where duplicate scoresheets are provided, one copy should be returned to the arbiter by each player, with the result of the game clearly recorded and signed.
  5. Smoking: tournament organisers are free to impose such restrictions on smoking as they see fit, whether for all or part of the playing session. However where they do impose such restrictions or where local ordinances totally prohibit smoking within the premises, players should be provided with a separate smoking area to which they have easy access.

Duties of Arbiter

  1. The duties of the tournament arbiter are as follows:
    1. to make the pairings in accordance with the FIDE Regulations for Swiss System tournaments.
    2. to keep a record of each round, and to ensure that the tournament wallchart is up to date.
    3. to control the working of the chess clocks. These should be set at the start of the game so that the time control is at six o'clock. They should be placed to the right of the player with the black pieces, or to his left if he prefers, with the overriding requirement that they are always easily visible to the arbiter.
    4. to maintain order in the playing room and to ensure the comfort of the participants.
    5. to set up an Appeal Committee.
    6. to see that the Laws of Chess are observed. He should act against any infraction of the laws by one of the players which is against the interest of his opponent or against the interest of the competition. Therefore he should establish, even in the absence of a claim, whether the time-limit has been exceeded, that the touch-move rule is observed, that the players keep score of the game, etc. This requires the continuous supervision of the playing area by the arbiter and his assistants, particularly of games involving time shortage. However he should not intervene in cases where his intervention could be interpreted as aid to one of the players or where one of the players only has neglected his own interest (for instance in failing to press his clock after making a move).
    7. to deal with any disputes which may arise. Where these cannot be resolved by reconciliation, and where they are not specifically covered by the Laws of Chess, the arbiter should use his judgment and competence to arrive at a solution indicated by fairness and logic. In doing so, he has discretionary powers to impose penalties as follows, for infractions of rules and to maintain discipline:
      1. issue a formal warning,
      2. advance the time on a player's clock or give his opponent additional time,
      3. declare a game lost by a player and won for his opponent,
      4. declare a game lost by both players,
      5. cancel a game and rule that a new one be played in its stead, in circumstances such as those outlined in below,
      6. expel a player from the competition,
      7. warn a spectator or expel him from the tournament room if he interferes in the games.
      However the arbiter should bear in mind that the evidence of an independent third party is required to support any claim by a player that his opponent has violated one of the Laws of Chess. An unsubstantiated claim in any single instance must be rejected.
    8. where one or both players in a game receive unsolicited advice, to order the game replayed if in his opinion this is at all possible. He should take into account whether the players are from the same locality, whether a convenient date and venue are available, the effect on the prizegiving, etc. The result of the game if it cannot be replayed should be recorded as a half point to each player but it should not be submitted for rating. The third party may incur penalties even to the extent of expulsion from the tournament and exclusion from the tournament hall.
    9. to submit to the ICU Rating Officer all pairing cards, crosstables or printouts necessary for him to rate the tournament, and to submit to the ICU Tournament Director a brief report on the tournament, including list of prizewinners, incidents or disputes arising, warnings or penalties imposed, players who have withdrawn without notification etc. It is also good practice to submit reports to the Irish Chess Journal and the national newspapers.

Conduct of Players

  1. All players should conduct themselves in a sporting manner, and act at all times in accordance with the Laws of Chess.
  2. Players are responsible for providing their own pens and chess clocks and, where indicated by the tournament organisers, their own chess set and board. Where a game cannot be played due to absence of a clock, the arbiter may declare it lost by both players.
  3. Players are recommended to use the algebraic system of notation in recording games, but use of the descriptive system will not be penalised. In novice events, the arbiter may waive the requirement to keep score for an unrated player.
  4. Players cannot refuse to play an opponent with whom they have been paired, including a computer.
  5. Players who withdraw from a tournament must provide the arbiter with a valid reason for their withdrawal.
  6. Players who withdraw from a tournament without directly notifying the arbiter will incur an automatic one month suspension from ICU events. Any appeal must be made to the ICU Tournament Director.
  7. Players should not seek assistance in the course of their own games, or provide advice to anyone on the course of any games in progress during a tournament.


  1. Any material contravention of these regulations may result in sanctions being imposed by the ICU, including the non-rating of a tournament.
  2. Any queries or comments arising out of the application of these regulations should be addressed to the ICU Tournament Director.

Guidelines for Appeal Committees

  1. The task of the Appeal Committee is to decide whether or not the arbiter has made a correct decision. In some cases it will be a simple matter of establishing if he has applied the Laws correctly or not. But in others he may have had to interpret the Laws in a certain way, or he may have had to deal with a situation not covered at all by the Laws. Here the Appeal Committee is being called on to verify his judgment.
  2. The Committee should appoint a spokesman. It should hear the appelant first, then the arbiter. The arbiter may be consulted as necessary regarding the Laws. The Committee should deliberate privately before the spokesman announces its conclusion to both parties. The spokesman should ensure that the meeting is conducted efficiently in view of the time constraint likely to apply.
  3. The Committee should uphold the Laws of Chess to the best of its ability. It must disregard unsubstantiated claims; the evidence of an independent third party is required to support any claim by a player that his opponent has violated the Laws. In examining an arbiter's judgment it should see if justice has been done as far as possible.
  4. The Committee should direct that the appeal fee be returned if they regard the appeal as being of merit, even if it is not upheld.

Created 2010-04-24 ◦ Last updated 2014-07-23 ◦ Editor MO

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