Do you have to say check? A complete yet simple overview

A check is a phrase usually indicated in a situation where the king is in a threat of being captured by a pawn or piece, a lot of beginners may wonder why this is the case and what happens if they forget to say it.

I have created this article to fully answer this question about the check, I think it is a pretty important reminder that beginners should not be worried about not saying a check.

There have been a lot of proclamations claiming that saying a check is necessary, yet further inspection tells otherwise. There is more to this than meets the eye, I can give you a complete answer since I have been playing chess for years now.

As a chess player here is what I know:

In casual (non-competitive) games, announcing “check” may occasionally be permitted as long as both players consented before the game. In formal (competitive) settings, saying “check” is considered a form of distraction, or even intimidation that may be eligible for technical penalties.

I have played both formally and informally so I know the answer to this, I have experienced both worlds and is willing to share my knowledge on this topic. This is a complete overview so pay a close attention.

It is permissible to say check in a chess game played casually

Casual chess can be defined by the engagement with any chess-related activity that is not
supervised officially by an arbiter, nor follow the official rule of chess.

By rule of chess I mean the recognized handbook offered by fide containing regulation to deal
with specific scenarios used for competitive purposes.

The book deals with more complicated structures of chess endeavor, basically rules beyond how
the pieces move.

Which bring us to the next point, why do people insist that saying check is necessary?

Couple of reasons, which includes the following:
● Expertise-people who play casually are usually not committed to the game, therefore
needing a guide to identify a check.
● Ambiguity- the lack of existence of an actual rulebook (in street games) proliferate the
rise of more suspicious rules.
● Cheat- players often distort the rules to take advantage of beginners, often introducing it
as another way to victory.
● Distraction- used to confuse opponents during intense phases by having the check turn
into a verbal obligation.

All of these are consequences of either the lack of written and unwritten regulations agreed by all
players, or just the very fact that it’s played in a different environment (from a formal setting).

The function of fide rule book is to exactly solve this dilemma, since convulated rules are
popular that it can be used to have an unfair advantage.

Still, saying check in casual games is ok if the players agreed; since this is the field where it’s
likely to have more beginners.

But losing for not saying check is downright ridiculous! Let’s talk about that.

A player cannot lose just because they have missed saying the “check”

This could take into two forms, either such trickster would say the failure to declare check as the
actual “loss”, or the position stays, giving room for the checking piece to capture the king.

Scenario number one is a complete cop-out, announcing check should only be considered a
guide for players, not a prerequisite for losing.

Scenario number 2 is even more absurd, capturing the King in itself is illegal as it can only be
checkmated (it can never be taken).

So if a player attempts to capture a King due to the missed check, they are actually trying to
perform something illegal after something illegal (they can’t possibly capture the King if the
opponent didn’t make an illegal move of not reacting to check).

Knowledge is power, especially against cheaters.

Let’s move on to official chess tournament protocols in order to paint the picture more clearly.

It’s easy to make up rules when no one knows about them in the first place.

Tournament chess does not allow saying “checks”

In tournament chess, there are two reasons why saying check is prohibited, distraction and
provocation.

Saying checks can be a form of distraction in competitive chess tournaments

Official games are played in a solemn silent atmosphere where players can focus and perform
their absolute best.

Any form of noise except when proposing a (reasonable) draw or making permissions to adjust the pieces are considered a distraction, which may be eligible for penalties.

It’s on Fide article 12.6 which you can see below:

Fide Article 12.6 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.
This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a
source of noise into the playing area.

fide.com

Saying check over and over again can be a form of distraction that “throws” a player of their
rhythm to stay within the game, therefore it is forbidden.

But another reason is just simple provocation.

Saying checks can be a form of provocation in competitive chess tournaments

Provocation can be defined as a taunt that challenges a player into an emotional fight rather
than an objective one (over the board).

As you may noticed, this is prevalent in street chess where it prompt tension and conflicts in an
unhealthy way.

The loudest dog barks come from the smallest mouth.

Any form of provocation both verbal or non-verbal is up for sentence of the arbiter, saying check
after all implies that your opponent may not see such a simple threat.

Something like this could lead to emotional attacks, therefore a simple act of saying “check” can
actually be bad.

But what if you did say check and called for distraction? What steps are taken then based on
the official rules?

What happens if you say check in competitive chess tournaments (as a beginner)?

Penalties given to novices who just entered their first tournaments will of course differ from
someone whose more seasoned in the community.

Competitions that have lower-rated players, played in high school, or non-rated are examples
where this may apply.

A level of tolerance is put forth on the table since the level of this field makes it more likely for
the players to make mistakes, warnings are usually applied first with only punishment for
repeated offenses.

For higher classed tournaments however the opposite is actually pursued, where the arbiter is tasked to remove beginners by implementing the rules.

Let’s look into the usual practice of dealing with distractions.

Penalties for distraction which may apply when saying a “check”

The article 12 of Fide (International body handbook is specifically targeted to deal with issues of
player conduct, which is what we’re talking about.

If you have similar concerns, then just type into Google “fide laws of chess” and you likely find
what you’re looking for.

Let’s pull up the quote from earlier again, also from article 12:

Fide Article 12.6: It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.
This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a
source of noise into the playing area.

fide.com

This of course pertains to general noise that could potentially veer a player away from the
intensity of the game, which includes saying check (since it’s not a requirement).

As I scroll to the list, I’ve seen a clue from the near corresponding article about the thing that
we’re looking for (penalties).

Article 12.7 indicated a statement where the settlements of the rule’s violation can be found:

Fide Article 12.7: Infraction of any part of Articles 12.1 to 12.6 shall lead to penalties in
accordance with Article 13.4.

fide.com

Here is article 13.4:

Article 13.4: The arbiter can apply one or more of the following penalties:

  1. warning
  2. increasing the remaining time of the opponent
  3. reducing the remaining time of the offending player
  4. declaring the game to be lost
  5. reducing the points scored in the game by the offending party
  6. increasing the points scored in the game by the opponent to the maximum available for that game
  7. expulsion from the event.

The arbiter would be tasked to identify which penalty suits the situation, and is decided by
multiple factors.

The standard of the tournament, harshness of the foul, behavior of the player, etc. are all
legitimate considerations of the penalty.

As you can see, there’s an increasing level of severity starting from the lowest as a simple warning (no penalty), up to the ultimate punishment of expulsion.

Although expulsions very rarely happen since it could cause a controversy, it is still possible
if the situation calls for its appropriateness.

There has to be a way to control the conduct of the players in any sport.

Most measures are only taken up to number two, where depending on the time control would be
increased by 1 (for blitz) and 2 (for classical).

Of course the increase in time can be way above what is stated, again depending on the
rationale of the situation.

Saying check once or twice can be quite acceptable in some instances, but still gets sanctions
through repeated verbal expressions.

So you could actually get away with some, but why even risk at all? It’s just better to follow the
standard procedure of not saying check, as a matter of respect to the tournament and the
opponent.

Final thoughts

Variations of the official rule in any type of activity can emerge when played in an informally based setting, and chess is not an exception.

It might be acceptable to declare a “check” customarily, while doing so competitively may
appear as causing a distraction.

This is why it’s important to get used to not speaking in any chess games at all, since you’d still get to master it anyway on the road to competitive play.

Sleep well and play chess.

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