Rules And Fair Play

The news last week that Wesley So was defaulted for ‘using notes’ during one of his games came as a shock to many chess fans, and especially when the full story emerged. Here are details of what happened from Chess24 with So being interviewed:

Q: What happened yesterday?

A: I wrote something beside my scoresheet on a piece of paper – just to focus during the game, which was a reminder for me to play hard – but apparently the rules don’t allow it so I lost the game yesterday.

Q: According to the arbiter he had warned you about it before…

A: I wrote it on my scoresheet before. He told me you can only write draw offers or the times or the results on the scoresheet, so I brought a piece of paper with me this time, but my logic didn’t work out.

Q: Is that a normal habit of yours?

A: Yes, unfortunately it has been a habit for me for a long time – for years actually – and I did it a lot in the past, in Tata Steel, almost all my tournaments. Nothing was working for me in this tournament, so I thought I’d go back to my old habit. This tournament has been a nightmare for me, so I just want it to be finished.

Was what So did illegal and deserving of a forfeit? Well the FIDE regulations can be seen here, with the following being the relevant rule:

“12.3: During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse on another chessboard.”

Is it just me in thinking that this would this seem to be about chess notes, such as a file of opening variations? Was the arbiter being sensible and measured in giving a forfeit when lesser penalties such as a time deduction were possible? And was it fair of So’s opponent to seek arbitration rather than just playing the game? I will leave it up to the reader to decide.

As far as chess improvers are concerned I’d suggest trying to stay on the right side of the law wherever possible so as to avoid hassle during your games. Meanwhile it’s better not to distract or lower oneself by trying to use technicalities unless you have been genuinely affected by your opponent’s actions. It should be the moves that should count with the rules serving the goal of fair play.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.