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Why Do Chess Players Shake Hands? (Explained!)

You might have seen chess players doing handshakes. But do you know why do they shake hands?

Chess players shake hands at the end of the game to solidify the fact that the game is over. It is, essentially, a non-verbal agreement that both players understand the end results whether it is a win, lose, or a draw.

That being said, let’s dive in deeper and discuss this topic!

When Do Chess Players Shake Hands?

Chess players can and often do shake hands both before the game and after the game. It can look quite odd seeing two players shake hands twice in one game but it is a formality done in the world of competitive chess where players are competing for rank and prizes.

Before the Game

Generally, shaking hands is a common greeting. Typically, it’s more on the formal side.

In chess, it is used before the game as a greeting, much like it is in other situations. However, there is a handshake controversy in chess that you should know.

Here’s a video from the Chessdom YouTube Channel about Cheparinov refuses handshake. I highly recommend watching this video because you will really understand the situation!

So during a match between Ivan Cheparinov and Nigel Short. Cheparinov’s game in the eighth round of Group B against Nigel Short was stated as a forfeit. 

The two players were competing in the Corus tournament and, before the game, Cheparinov refused to shake Short’s hand.

After Cheparinov refused to shake hands, Short called on the arbiter and informed that in such cases according to the rules there should be immediate forfeit.

On the other hand, Cheparinov’s team claimed the arbiter was not aware of the rule because no such rule existed.

Now as per the FIDE’s behavioral norms,

[a]ny player who does not shake hands with the opponent […] before the game starts in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do it after being asked to do so by the arbiter) […] will immediately and finally lose the relevant game.

Later, the Appeals Committee of the tournament overturned the decision to forfeit the game. It was decided that Cheparinov should apologize to Short, the game should be replayed the next day. Also, the game should start with a handshake.

You can read about the handshake controversy here on Wikipedia.

In addition, though, shaking hands before the game also solidifies the fact that both players are ready and willing to compete. In this way, it can almost be taken as the green light that means go. 

After the Game

After the game, players shake hands to signify that a win, loss, or draw has taken place and is fair. This being said, it’s important to know why your opponent is extending their hand because it all comes down to meaning.

For example, one player extends their hand to the other, intending for it to signify a draw (a tie in chess terms). You can read my articles on why chess players offer draws and how to offer a draw.

The other player shakes his opponent’s hand, assuming that he is resigning.

You can also read my articles on why chess players resign and how to resign in chess.

So that’s why it’s important to know exactly why your opponent is extending their hand before extending yours.

Which Opponent Extends Their Hand First?

Before the game, either opponent can extend their hand. It is perfectly reasonable for either party to make this first move since the pre-game handshake only signifies a greeting and nothing as critical as the end of a match.

At the end of the game, maybe the player who extends their hand first is the one who wants to offer a draw or wants to resign.

Final Thoughts

So I hope now you fully understood why chess players shake hands. Please do share this article if found helpful. Thanks!

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