The Threefold Repetition Rule

The Threefold Repetition RuleThe threefold repetition rule has been around for quite a while and is often used where chess players cannot progress in their moves. The said repetition occurs when a particular move is played three times or is about to be played for the third time. There is an extra condition to it though, which states that each player must have played the same set of moves in order for a threefold repetition to be valid.

In earlier games before this rule was formulated, it was a common scenario for a game of chess to go round in circles until one player calls it quits to end the game. This was especially when the same kind of moves kept happening frequently which meant the game is on a stand still. The threefold repetition rule was designed to remove this kind of snag, to avoid a game from stalling in progress.

In both the standard chess board together with its variants, this rule is constant save for only how the two players may decide to call a draw in the game. The general way is for the first player to call a draw wins the game; this is after it is evident that both players have repeated the same moves three times. Chess variants however may decide to change how the draws are called to bring out different outcomes.

In the history of grandmaster chess tournaments, the threefold repetition rule has had to be used in some games after no progress was made on the board. It was later discovered that the triple repetition move may happen involuntarily, as the players try to checkmate each other, or it may be a deliberate attempt to buy more time by either of the players. Such a scenario was seen in the 2005 match between Michael Adams against Ruslan Ponomariov. The involuntary threefold happened when both parties lost track on the number of moves while the deliberate part was when both players were stalling to gain time on the clock.

What chess players may not notice is that calling a threefold repetition rule on the opponent is an instant win for them.  The chess championship of 1921 between Emanuel Lasker against Raul Capablanca is a clear proof. By the fifth round, both sides had repeated the same moves three times. However no one noticed the opportunity. Lasker went on to make a mistake in the 46th move which saw Capablanca emerging the winner. What Lasker didn’t know then was that his opponent was repeating moves just to gain more time.

The threefold repetition scenario has occurred in several other games in the history of chess championships. The 1914 game between Lasker and Alekhine had a threefold scenario so was the game between Portisch Lajos against Victor Korchnoi. In 2007, a similar situation happened in a game between Garry Kasparov and the Deep Blue computer from IBM. Both sides called a draw but later in the match Kasparov lost for the first time to computer software.