Shake Hands with National Tournament Director Tim Just


Retired Lake County school teacher and US Chess National Tournament Director Tim Just hasn't let retirement slow him down. 

Since then he's co-edited the Fifth Edition of the US Chess Rulebook, edited the Sixth Edition, co-authored with Wayne Clark "My Opponent is Eating A Doughnut" and authored "Just Law". "Doughnut" and "Just Law" deal with the idiocyncracies of tournament life and chess rules beyond the formal rulebook. Copies of both books are available through the ICA -- or through this thing called Amazon.

Now US Chess is providing another outlet to enjoy the wisdom and experience of Mr. Just through their posting of snippets of "Rulebook Tactics" -- an effort with the national organization when it was still known as the USCF. The September posting discusses the idiocyncracy of that time-honored ritual which begins and ends many chess contests: the handshake.

When is a handshake not a handshake?  Historic ritual suggests that the handshake provides proof to the participants that the hand is free of weaponry -- but in chess it's a bit like "Aloha" in Hawaiian or "Shalom" in Hebrew.

At the onset of a match, it confers a modest suggestion of wishing your opponent good luck -- but also it portends that both players will conduct themselves with sportsmanship and manners.

But at the conclusion it's a frequent shorthand for the agreement on a draw -- or perhaps the acceptance of defeat and confering of a resignation.

Alas, sometimes the message is not clear!

In the exerpt, Mr. Just recommends BOTH players are responsible for immediate reporting of the outcome.  But what are the consequences for failure to do so?

Mr. Just reports on a scenario involving the entry of a double forfeit -- which may or may not be correctable. As he points out, if players delay, the incorrect score may alter subsequent pairings -- and experienced directors are loathe to reward players who received a few rounds against lesser opponents before reporting the discrepency.

As a tournament director I had an "ambiguious handshake" scenario a few years ago at an Elite Chess tournament.

The two players shook hands and proceeded to analyze the game.  Only when they'd done so extensively did they get around to reporting the results on the pairing chart -- and realized their diverging realities:  one thought it was a draw, and one thought it was his victory.

What's a director to do? 

Even if the two could reconstruct the position from notation and players' memory, what was the point of resuming the contest after they've analyzed it to death?

Ever the helpful directing mentor, Mr. Just offered this insight, "Pray for guidance!" (I did -- I begged for a book like "Just Law" and my prayers were answered!).

Mr. Just continues, "I suppose you could adjudicate, but I never did this." (Then again he admits, "I never had the two players analyze before the error was discovered!")

Adjudication is a process where the tournament director -- perhaps with consultation from top players -- evaluates the likely outcome of the game and reports the result accordingly.

He concludes that an option exists of calling it a draw for one player and a win for the other.

So the bottom line to ALL chess players, make sure you know what the handshake means before you leave the board -- and BEFORE you analyze your game with your opponent!

And don't assume your opponent posted on the pairing charts -- it is BOTH players' responsibility.

Stay tuned at for more exerpts from "Just Law".

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you might like to purchase a copy of either the books -- we'll try to have them onhand at ICA events for the foreseable future.