Can you use the toilet during a chess game? (Discussed!)

Over the board games in tournaments usually last for an inhuman amount of hours where the body needs some time to function properly. One of the issues that have been constantly being brought up is the topic of restroom breaks.

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We of course need to do “the deed” every now and then which is pretty normal for someone healthy. But what exact regulations go around this idea? Let’s talk about it in detail.

Here is what I know as someone who have played in tournaments before:

Competitors of a formal chess tournament can go to the toilet before, during, or after their games. Restrooms are considered a part of the playing venue, therefore permission from the arbiter to leave the playing venue is not necessary.

There are different practices though that you should know before taking this moment in time. After all, we don’t want to cause some trouble for the game just because we want to go to the toilet.

Let’s start immediately then.

Is there a Fide rule regarding bathroom breaks?

There is a fide rule (fide rule 12.2 to be exact), that acknowledges the player’s right to use the bathroom.

For context hear it is:

Fide article 12.2: Players are not allowed to leave the ‘playing venue’ without permission from the arbiter. The playing venue is defined as the playing area, restrooms, refreshment area, area set aside for smoking, and other places as designated by the arbiter.

So this is definitely not something that would only apply to higher-level competitions but is a general standard. And it makes sense since the inability to do this would affect the playing capability of participants in nasty ways.

Especially if there is a health concern regarding a player, it may turn into something serious. So it has been a general practice to actually allow this in the general side of things.

Should I play a move first before going to the bathroom?

So we can go to the bathroom, but should we play a move first before doing so? Are there reasons (rule wise) to play a move first?

There are a couple of tournaments that restrict going to the bathroom by making you play a move first, since it may be considered a delay in the match (as stated in the fide rule 11.2) that will disrupt the event.

Do not worry though even if you have failed to play a move before going since the worst that you can get is a warning. Occasionally there might be some time penalties but nothing major (and even this is rare).

Yeah still bad, but it’s not something crazy like losing the game by default. For context here is fide rule 11.1 and 11.2

Article 11: The conduct of the players

11.1 The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.

Fide rule 11.2: The ‘playing venue’ is defined as the ‘playing area’, restrooms, toilets, refreshment area, area set aside for smoking, and other places as designated by the arbiter. The playing area is defined as the place where the games of a competition are played. Only with the permission of the arbiter can

a.) a player leave the playing venue.

b.) the player having the move be allowed to leave the playing area.

c.) a person who is neither a player nor arbiter be allowed access to the playing area.

It is clearly stated that you can only be eligible to leave if it is not your time to make a move. Otherwise, you should let the arbiter know if there is a reason for doing so.

Again there’s just not any reason to do this, it will appear as delaying the match annoyingly in hopes of intimidating the opponent. For good practice, just make a move before going to the restroom it will be to your benefit anyway.

Think about it while you are there the clock is ticking, and you don’t want to lose time when using the restroom. So just play a move before taking off not only to follow a rule, but to also conserve time.

Can I stop the clock before going to the toilet?

But what if we want to save time while doing our “break” are we allowed to stop the clock for a while? After all, we’re doing it for reasonable grounds of the rules right?

No, you are not permitted to stop the clock while going to the restroom, the game should continue as it is.

Any toilet breaks can only be done while the clock is ticking; this is why you should be careful before doing so. The opponent is of no concern for your lack of preparation before the game (since you can use the bathroom before the match).

Plus the timer is set to make you finish to act as fast as possible, you can’t take your time if the clock is going down. This would also limit the cases of leaving the playing area which may be a possibility for cheating.

This is why it is impractical to go to the bathroom if the time control is short, since that would be over quickly while you are doing this. If this is the case though you don’t have an excuse for not using the bathroom earlier.

Plus the games don’t last that long anyway (since the time control is short) so it should be reasonable that you can endure it all the way through. The possibility of going to the bathroom exists for the purpose of accommodating long games, not short ones.

So you should practice taking the bathroom before games especially in faster time controls.

Generally, the clock can only be paused if a resignation or a dispute is being settled. A “bathroom break” is not enough of a reason for the interruption of the match.

You of course are permitted to do so, just in a way that doesn’t affect the actual game. You should be fine as long as you are quick on your feet and do things normal (bathroom breaks don’t usually last over 5 minutes) which may seem a lot, but not for games that extend for hours.

Is there a limit to how many times you can go to the bathroom?

So yes, we’ve already established that there is permission to go to the toilet between games. But how often exactly are we allowed to do it? Is there some kind of limitation? 

There aren’t any exact limitations to the number of times a player can go to the bathroom, although should be controlled in some way since it is a trace of cheating.

The bathroom after all is a legal area that players can take their time with, therefore it has been a focal point of a lot of cheating controversies. Hiding a tablet that contains an engine to analyze occurring games is not that uncommon in these cases.

If you repeatedly head off to the bathroom at more times than you should, then everyone will have a burst of suspicion. Of course they would still be tasked to find the evidence of the deed before delivering any penalties, but it is just a hassle of an experience to go through.

And frankly, it is a reasonable allegation that has some grounds based on how other people did it. So I recommend not going to the bathroom excessively even though there technically isn’t a limit in doing so.

You won’t need to spend that much time in there anyway since it’s just useful for the “right time”.

Getting back on track, taking a bathroom break is actually a norm even in top tournaments. Most prestigious playing halls have more than two stalls if there are a lot of participants.

So if this is commonly done with the top-tiers, it makes sense that it should also apply for most people.

It is just unrealistic to play 7+ hour games without taking a bathroom break, science cannot be escaped from at some point. It would be then a test of mettle than the actual playing skills on the board.

Health issues may also be a problem since the environment will prompt the rise of such defects, there has to be a regulation that permits players to take these breaks. Even at the cost of occasional cheating here in there, the potential risks to the players is just too much (if it is not allowed).

Conclusion

Bathroom breaks are just a normal process in all tournament settings that you shouldn’t worry about. Personally I didn’t even know this during my first tournament, but it wasn’t really long (the time format) so the issue didn’t come up.

I’ve just used the bathroom before the official time for the next rounds which you should every time. Even if it is technically “legal” you will waste time by being there (toilet). 

Of course you shouldn’t hold it in, but there’s also no reason for you keep going out between games (if it is not necessary). That is all, Sleep well and play chess.

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