Rules of Speed Chess
From 1990 through 1995 a group of roughly eight chess players, including
myself and Willie Speaks, met regularly during breaks
at work to play 5-minute speed chess. Lightning speed and keen competition made
it necessary to develop a set of rules to settle disputes that occurred during
the thousands of games that were played. The result was the following,
which covered virtually any situation that could occur in our wild games. (Lest
anyone should wonder, each one of the following rules resulted from actual situations
in real games).
Please note that the rules below were devised specifically for our group of
players, and does not make any pretense about being authoritative beyond that
context. Some other "official" speed rules differ slightly on various
points (e.g., rules on "touch-move"). Most others, such as the USCF's
rules on speed chess, seem to be rather sketchy and inadequate. Therefore, whatever
these rules may lack in terms of authority is, in my opinion, amply compensated for
by their value in being much more comprehensive and practical.
- No one point in these rules can be considered independently from other points which
pertain to the same issue; they must all be taken into consideration when deciding a
- All of the rules of the game of chess apply to speed chess, unless specifically
overridden or modified by any point in this list of rules.
- A player loses the game when:
- the flag on his clock falls before his opponent's.
- he is checkmated before either time control has expired.
- he leaves his King in check and his opponent captures it.
- he makes an illegal move.
- A player's move is not considered to be finished until he punches his clock.
- It is a player's obligation to remember to punch his own clock.
- If a player forgets to punch his clock after making a move, his opponent should remind
him, but is not obligated to remind him.
- When a player makes a move which he believes to be checkmate, he must punch his clock,
or stop both clocks, before the move is considered to be completed.
- When both flags are fallen and declared such by either player, the game is a draw.
- It is a player's own obligation to watch the status of both clocks.
- A flag shall not be considered fallen until he or his opponent sees it, declares it to
be fallen, and stops both clocks.
- When a player notices that his opponent's flag has fallen, he should stop both clocks
and notify his opponent. If, in this process, his own flag falls, the game shall be
declared drawn, unless both parties agree as to which flag fell first.
- When a player's own flag falls before his opponent's, he should bring this fact to his
opponent's attention. However, a player is not obligated to declare his own flag fallen if
his opponent does not notice, and may continue playing until his opponent notices. Again,
it is a player's sole responsibility to keep track of the status of the clocks.
- If a player is checkmated, but then notices that his opponent's flag has fallen and his
own flag has not yet fallen, he may stop the clocks and claim a win; in other words, the
status of the clocks takes precedence over the board position in declaring the outcome of
- Similarly, if a player is checkmated, but then notices that his opponent's flag has
fallen and his own flag has not yet fallen, and then stops his opponent's clock, but in
the process his own flag falls, the game must be declared drawn, unless both players agree
as to whose flag fell first. Again, the status of the clocks as observed and acknowledged
by both players must take precedence over all other factors in declaring the outcome of a
- If a player makes an illegal move, punches his clock, and his opponent does not notice
the illegality of the move and then makes a move and punches his own clock, the finished
illegal move shall be accepted as legal; that is, the opponent may not call the game based
on illegal past moves. It is each player's responsibility to watch for his opponent's
illegal moves as they occur.
- When a player makes no move and punches the clock, he loses the game. In other words,
making no move is considered to be the same as making an illegal move.
- When a player checks his opponent's King, he is not obligated to warn his opponent
(e.g., by saying "check"). It is a player's responsibility to maintain the
safety of his own King, and if he fails to parry a check to his King, his opponent may win
the game by capturing the King.
- When a player punches his clock with his King in check, his opponent may win the game by
declaring the fact or capturing the King, and stopping his own clock. This is considered
to be a move, and as such is not considered to be completed until the opponent punches his
clock or stops both clocks.
- Point 18 above holds true not only for leaving a King in check, but also for any kind of
- When a player leaves his King in check and punches his clock, and his opponent either
captures the King or brings the fact to the player's attention, but in the process the
opponent's flag falls, the player who has left his King in check loses the game, provided
that both players agree that neither flag had fallen before the player who made the
illegal move punched his clock; if, however, the players cannot agree as to when the flag
fell, the game must be declared as lost for the player whose flag fell.
- A player may claim a draw on the 3-move-repetition rule.
- The touch-move rule does not apply. However, it is strongly advisable to refrain from
moving the pieces on the board before a move is decided upon, since this may lead to
incorrect board positions.
- Input from bystanders concerning the board position shall not be tolerated.
- Input from bystanders concerning the status of the clocks may be allowed. However, it is
the player's own responsibility to monitor the status of the clocks.
- The outcome of a game shall be determined by the application of these rules by the two
players only, apart from any input from bystanders; this especially applies to the status
of the clocks; i.e., when both clocks fall and the two players cannot determine or agree
as to whose clock fell first, the game must be declared drawn, regardless of statements of
bystanders, since it is the players' sole responsibility to monitor the status of the
- When a player moves one of his Pawns to the eighth rank, he shall declare its promotion
by stating "Queen", "Rook", "Bishop", or "Knight"
in such a manner that his opponent is clearly aware of the nature of the promotion, and
then punch his clock. After stating the promotion and punching the clock, the new piece
shall be in effect.
- When a Pawn is promoted to Queen, Rook, Bishop, or Knight, the player making the
promotion should exchange the Pawn for the appropriate piece at the earliest possible
moment. Since this is often done under time pressure, the player is not obligated to make
this exchange before punching his clock. He may instead make the exchange on his
opponent's time, after punching his own clock.
- When a Pawn is promoted to Queen, Rook, Bishop, or Knight, and explicitly and clearly
declared as such, the player making the promotion, when under time pressure, is not
obligated to exchange the Pawn for the appropriate piece until such time as the promoted
Pawn leaves the eighth rank.
- When a Pawn is promoted to Queen, and there is no second Queen available to make the
exchange, the player making the promotion shall substitute the Pawn with an inverted Rook.
- When a player promotes a Pawn, it is his own responsibility to make the piece exchange
on the board at the appropriate time. His opponent is not obligated to make the piece
exchange for him.
- Captured pieces must be kept within an opponent's reach and sight in the event of a Pawn
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