We studied the relation between support in conflicts and side-directed behaviour (i.e. non-agonistic behaviour displayed by one of the combatants to an outsider) in two captive colonies of chimpanzees. Side-directed behaviour was not a precondition to acquire help in fights, since most support was obtained without preceding side-directed behaviour. Besides, side-directed behaviour was rarely followed by the receipt of support and there was no indication that it increased the chance to receive help. Only between females side-directed behaviour was aimed more often at those from whom support was also received more frequently. This suggests that although females were seldom successful to enlist support from one another, this might still have been the aim of their behaviour. Side-directed behaviour was not performed at random: per conflict it was shown more often by females than males; both sexes performed it especially when receiving a conflict rather than starting it themselves and during conflicts with their own sex; both sexes directed it more often to males than females. Further, more side-directed behaviour was directed to partners the higher the rank of the partner. This means that side-directed behaviour brings a threatened individual in the proximity of a high ranking individual, which may function as a protective zone and thus thwart the aggression of the opponent. Although in periods with an unclear alpha-male position males reciprocated support, there was no evidence that this reciprocation was mediated by side-directed behaviour. In these periods males may benefit directly from attacking common rivals. If this is true, both helping and reciprocation may be unintentional.