Chessboxing is a combination sport and includes rules for both the chess element, boxing element and some rules which deal with both together. There are a number of ways to win and lose a bout but usually they are decided by checkmate, time penalty or boxing stoppage including knockout. Broadly speaking the chess element of the sport follows the FIDE rules of Rapid & Blitz Chess and the Box England Rule Book (amateur).

Version 5 – Last updated Saturday November 2022


  1. Summary of RULES
  2. Enforcement of Chess Rules – Tournament vs. Social games
  3. Chess Penalty for Rule Breaches
  4. Chess Clock Malfunction
  5. WCBA Chess Rules for Chessboxing
  6. Chess Draw in Relation to the Chessboxing Bout
  7. How Chess Pieces Move – Finer Points that Confuse Beginners
  8. First Round Loss

1.   SUMMARY of RULES.  Main points.

TOUCH MOVE rule strictly applies.

  • If a piece is touched, then it must be moved (if a legal move is available)
  • If an opponent’s piece is touched, it must be taken (if legal).

COUNTDOWN IF STALLING FOR TIME. In general a player manages how much or little time to take for each move.  However, if a player clearly plays far too slowly for the specific position, for example when they are facing unavoidable checkmate, the arbiter will do a countdown.  The arbiter will point at the board, and warn the player by counting to 10 with his hands (just like a boxing referee).  If the player has not moved by the count of 10, he loses the game and the match. Even if there is only 1 legal move, the player should be allowed some time to compose themselves and consider the implication of the move for the future game.  It should be considered that a weak player may not realise he only has 1 legal move.

CHESS CLOCK PROTOCOL.  The chess clock must be pressed with the SAME HAND that moves the piece.

PRESSING CHECK CLOCK.  It is the player’s responsibility to press his or her clock between chess moves. The competitors may agree in advance to allow the arbiter to issue reminders – especially if both fighters are new to chessboxing.

PIECES KNOCKED DOWN OR NOT PROPERLY ON A SQUARE.  If a player knocks down a piece whilst making a move or does not put it properly on a square, they should properly re-position or re-centre the piece on their time.  An offence that puts off the opponent could be punished by adding 20 seconds to the opponent’s clock.


  •  Resignation protocol.  For the benefit of the audience, players are strongly encouraged to play until checkmate. If you want to resign (submit) prior to checkmate, do this by knocking over your king and offering a handshake.
  • Illegal move.  An illegal move must be retracted.  The arbiter has the discretion to punish with a time penalty, or disqualify after 3 illegal moves.  Extra allowances can be made for novice players.
  • Speaking to the arbiter.  If a player needs to speak to the arbiter during the chess game, he should remove his headphones.  The arbiter will then stop the clock to listen.
  • Playing to win on time.  If a position is a completely drawn position, and the arbiter believes a player is quickly moving pieces only to win on time, then the arbiter can declare the game a draw.
  • Chess Draw.  A chess draw will be followed by one boxing round (unless the maximum number of boxing rounds has already happened). The chessboxing bout will therefore be won by whoever has amassed the most boxing points – judged by punches thrown and overall aggression.
  • Drinks  Fighters are allowed to bring water to the chess table.
  • Cuts In most cases, except for the most superficial examples, a cut will lead to the fight being stopped and a TKO declared.
  • General Advice Competitors are reminded that they do not need to move quickly, even if their opponent moves quickly. Adrenaline drastically changes your sense of time.  Experience shows that a player is OK until he has 2 minutes of time remaining on the clock, when moves should be speeded up.




2.   Enforcement of Chess Rules

 In the event of a breach of the rules a penalty can be imposed at the arbiter’s discretion.


3.  Penalties for Rule Breaches

A chess penalty could take the form of:

  • The offence will act as a tie-break if both the boxing and chess are drawn.  This is the minimum (default) penalty and applies if there is no other penalty.
  • 30 seconds is subtracted from the offender’s clock.
  • Forfeit of the bout. This could occur for a serious disciplinary offence, deliberate foul play or a repeated breach (e.g. a total of 3 illegal moves).


4.   Chess Clock Malfunction

In the unlikely event the electronic chess clock ceases to operate during a chess round, the arbiter will do one of following, depending on the estimated disruption to the players and spectators:

  • Stop the clock and resolve the problem.
  • Stop the clock and replace it with a new clock.  This action is most likely if there is a repeated malfunction, or it’s one of the later chess rounds where a player is short of time.


5.   WCBA Chess Rules for Chessboxing

Chess tournament rules have legal points that casual players may be unfamiliar with.  The official laws of chess are on the website of FIDE, the chess governing body

Highlighted below are legal points that cause most disputes in tournament chess situations.

In addition, some chessboxing laws differ from FIDE rules in order to (i.) ensure the paying public is entertained, (ii.) keep the game flowing with minimal disruption, and (iii.) minimise verbal communication with the competitors. These differences are highlighted where they occur.


Touch move

  • Once a piece is touched it MUST be moved, unless “J’adoube” is indicated before touching the piece.  If no legal move is admissible, then any other piece can be moved without punishment.
  • Once an opponent’s piece is touched it must be captured if there is such a legal move.  If it cannot be captured the offender receives no penalty and is free to move without restriction.


Castling touch move

When castling you MUST touch the king first.  If you touch the rook first, then you cannot castle, but you must move the rook because of the touch-move rule.


Hand is taken off a piece

When a piece is moved and the hand taken off the piece, the move cannot be retracted – the piece cannot be moved to a different square.


Illegal move

The arbiter will point out the illegal move if it goes unnoticed.  Since the punishment for an illegal move is not as severe in chessboxing as in FIDE blitz chess laws, the arbiter will not allow the possibility of an illegal move going uncorrected.


“J’Adoube” rule.

Normal Chess Rules

  • If a piece is off centre and is annoying you, state “j’adoube” or “I adjust” BEFORE adjusting its position on the square.  One of these phrases should be used regardless of the player’s home language
  • If you state “j’adoube” after or during the piece adjustment, then it counts as a touch move.
  • You should only adjust pieces whilst your clock is running. Adjusting during your opponent’s time is forbidden as it is a distraction.

Chessboxing Rules (adapted because both players have headphones)

  • With headphones on it is simplest if players don’t try to J’adoube.  Pieces will be nicely centred by the arbiter between each chess round.  However, if the urge to J’adoube becomes irresistible, follow the below procedure…
  • Clearly turn to the arbiter and mouth “J’adoube” AND give the J’adoube hand signal specially developed for chessboxing.  Then adjust the piece as in a normal chess game.
  • The j’adoube hand signal is the ‘OK’ hand gesture, creating a circle with the thumb and first finger.


Pawn promotion

A key difference between casual chess and tournament rules.  When promoting a pawn to a second queen, do NOT use an upside-down rook (as the electronic chessboard will not recognise it).  Even if you shout “queen” as you do so, it is still a rook!  The chessboxing arbiter will ensure a spare queen is on the table for you to use.



  • The clock MUST be pressed with the same hand that makes the move
  • Running out of time.  If a player has no time remaining, then he is lost if his opponent can checkmate him assuming the most unskilled play, otherwise the game is a draw.  For example, if Player A has three queens and a king, and Player B has one pawn and a king, then Player B wins if Player A runs out of time.
  • A player should not start to make his move until the opponent has physically pressed his clock.
  • Time scramble – disputes can arise when 1 or both players are short of time and moving extremely quickly:
    • A player should not start to make his move until the opponent has physically pressed his clock. i.e. you should not rush to move a piece in the brief time between your opponent moving his piece and pressing his clock.
    • If a player knocks down pieces during a move, he should reset them in his own time before pressing his clock.  If he presses his clock without resetting the pieces on their squares, then the opponent can immediately bounce the clock back without making a move, whilst pointing to the offending piece(s) that have been knocked down. The first player should then properly reset the pieces in his own time. [This completely differs from FIDE laws, where the innocent party should stop the clocks and inform the arbiter].  The same action can be performed if a piece is not clearly on a square but significantly overlaps another square such that its position is ambiguous.  The arbiter can stop the clocks if there is a flurry of poorly placed pieces, and intervene to reset the board.  The arbiter can penalise the offender.
    • Drawn position – playing to win on time
      • If the arbiter judges the position is a dead draw (e.g. opposite colour bishop ending, or R+K vs R+K), then the arbiter can intervene and declare a draw if a player is simply trying to win on time and not making a concerted effort to win the game.  The defender does not need to request the arbiter to make such a judgement; the arbiter will assume the request exists as soon as a player has less than 2 minutes remaining.  [This differs from the FIDE laws, which requires the defender to stop the clocks BEFORE he gets into critical time trouble, and ask the arbiter to observe whether the attacker is making a concerted effort to win the game or is just aiming to win on time in a dead drawn position.]
      • Losing position – playing to win on time
        • Note that if a player is in a winning position but is close to losing on time, the arbiter will not intervene in his favour.  If he loses on time before he checkmates the opponent, this is more a consequence of time mismanagement than having to make countless moves shuffling pieces in a dead drawn position.
      • Slow playing a lost position – a rule developed for chessboxing to prevent stalling for time.
        • If a player takes too much time in a lost position where he would be expected to play much quicker in a normal chess game, the arbiter can give him a count of 10.  The arbiter will visually count with his hands.  If no move is made on the count of 10, the player forfeits the game.


Draw by threefold repetition

  • If the same position occurs 3 times (and with the same player to move), the player can claim a draw ONLY WHEN IT IS HIS MOVE.  He should stop the clock after the opponent’s last move, remove his headphones and TELL the arbiter what move he WOULD play to get into the 3rd repetition.  DO NOT PLAY THE MOVE, DO NOT PRESS THE CLOCK.  If the player is unsure how to pause the clock, then he can take off his headphones and claim the draw.  The arbiter will stop the clock as the headphones come off.  If the draw claim is correct and the claimant runs out of time after removing his headphones, the draw will hold.
  • A draw by repetition normally occurs by perpetual check so is easy to identify.


50 move rule

A draw can be claimed if neither a piece is taken nor a pawn moved in 50 moves (i.e. 50 White and 50 Black moves).  As players are not writing a game score, the arbiter will monitor on their behalf – this is most likely to occur in an ending B+N+K vs. K.


Draw Offer

  • Contrary to FIDE rules, players will not be able to offer a draw unless the position is a ‘dead draw’, as judged by the arbiter.
  • The offer of a draw must be made through the arbiter.  Make your move, do not press your clock, and then remove the headphones to speak to the arbiter.  The arbiter will stop the clock and judge whether a draw offer is acceptable.  If so, he will convey to the opponent for consideration and restart the clock (as the opponent can consider the draw offer until he makes his next move).


Verbal Communication with the arbiter

  • If a player wants to speak to the arbiter during the game he should remove his headphones.  The arbiter will stop the clock to talk.  The other player can remove his headphones to listen to the conversation.


Arbiter’s decision

  • The arbiter’s decision is final.  The finer rules of chessboxing will no doubt evolve with the sport.  Any unanticipated circumstances will be judged considering the official FIDE chess laws, the need for sporting fair play in relation to the tournament chess experience of the chessboxers, and the need to entertain a paying audience.


6.   Chess Draw in Relation to the Chessboxing Bout


 If a chess draw is declared in any round, there will be at most only one boxing round thereafter.  If the chess draw occurs in the final round, then there will be no further boxing round, in line with the original schedule.

In the unlikely event that the chess game is drawn AND the boxing is a tie on points, then the player with the fewest chess penalties is the winner. If these are equal the bout will be declared a draw.


7.  How Chess Pieces Move – Finer Points that Confuse Beginners

The complete official laws of chess are on the website of FIDE, the chess governing body

The Appendix on the above link explains chess notation, and instances where ‘blitz’ or ‘rapid’ chess rules differ from normal ‘long play’ time controls.


  • Castling is one move
  • The king always moves 2 squares, and the rook then goes next to the king on the other side.
  • All squares between king and rook must be clear.  Castling cannot capture a piece.
  • White Kingside castling moves the King from e1 to g1, and the Rook from h1 to f1.
  • White Queenside castling moves the King from e1 to c1, and the Rook from a1 to d1.

Castling is not a legal move when…

  • …the king is in check
  • …the king moves into check
  • …the king crosses over a square that is attacked (many players are unaware of this subtle point)
  • …a piece is on a square between king and rook
  • …the king has previously moved, even if it has since returned to its original square
  • …the rook to be castled has previously moved, even if it has since returned to its original square

Pawn Promotion
A pawn reaching the eighth rank is 99% of times promoted to a queen, but it can also be ‘under-promoted’ to a knight, bishop or rook.

En Passant
A special type of pawn capture. A pawn attacking a square crossed by an opponent`s pawn which has advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent`s pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square. This capture is only legal on the move following this advance and is called an `en passant` capture.  ‘En passant’ is French for ‘as it passes’. See for visual examples.


7.  First Round Loss

It is not possible to lose a chessboxing bout by checkmate in the first round. If a player is checkmated in round one then one round of boxing will follow. If either boxer is able to deliver a K.O., T.K.O or other stoppage allowing them to win the boxing in this final round then they will win the bout. However, if no such victory is obtained by either fighter in this final round then the bout is won by checkmate and the first round result will stand.