The Directive of the Preface

The greatest difficulty that a new arbiter faces is to learn and interpret the laws and believe me, it is not possible to do this, simply by reading the regulations. One needs to attend seminars and ask questions. The language used in the laws is sometimes not clear. Even when something is clearly defined, another article may nullify it without really specifying that the other article is not valid. Take the example of castling. Even though the move of castling is clearly defined in article 3.8

This is a move of the king and either rook of the same colour along the player’s first rank, counting as a single move of the king and executed as follows: the king is transferred from its original square two squares towards the rook on its original square, then that rook is transferred to the square the king has just crossed.

And an illegal move is defined as one not abiding to article 3. Castling with two hands or by moving the rook first is not considered to be an illegal move. A wrong execution of castling is considered to be a violation of article 4, regarding touching a piece and moving another.

This is only an example of the obscurity of the laws. The truth is that the language of the laws has improved and some cases have become clearer now, for example regarding the act of promotion. Do we really need clarifications and more detailed descriptions? Is it an intellectual limitation of an arbiter who stubbornly sticks to the rules for not allowing a promotion without pushing the pawn to the latest rank for example (before the 2014 change)? Maybe it is. And maybe we do need more clarifications. It depends how broad and open our perspective is.

That is why the solution to every problem lies within common sense, and as we all know, common sense is not that common! The preface comes to stress the importance of common sense and gives the arbiter the freedom to apply fairness according to the special factors of a situation.


The Laws of Chess cannot cover all possible situations that may arise during a game, nor can they regulate all administrative questions. Where cases are not precisely regulated by an Article of the Laws, it should be possible to reach a correct decision by studying analogous situations which are regulated in the Laws. The Laws assume that arbiters have the necessary competence, sound judgement and absolute objectivity. Too detailed a rule might deprive the arbiter of his freedom of judgement and thus prevent him from finding a solution to a problem dictated by fairness, logic and special factors. FIDE appeals to all chess players and federations to accept this view.

However, using the preface as an excuse for not knowing the regulations well, and not knowing what is accepted as valid by the FIDE Arbiters commission, is not going to give one license to “kill”. The importance of the Preface becomes paramount there where the laws end and not where they start. That is why, it would “maybe” be more relevant to turn the preface into the epilogue. The final directive of the laws. Only then, nobody would read it for sure, after the appendixes…

Some arbiters are afraid to take decisions that may cause appeals and try to find ways to justify controversial or rather mean decisions, that do not really serve anyone, but the arbiters sense of control. This fear is a guide and an alarm itself. The arbiters stand should be dictated by fairness and logic and the decisions should emanate from a place of psychological balance. Deep down, everyone understands what is fair and logical. It is only when the judgment is clouded by psychological instabilities and emotional gaps that seek fulfillment in judging and punishing others, that an arbiter will not be able to produce a sound decision.