Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Writing Notes

An unusual situation shook the chess world in 2015 during the U.S. Championship.
From March 31st to April 14th it took place at the emblematic Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Sant Louis.
Only two participants had a rating over 2700: GM Wesley So and GM Hikaru Nakamura.
But the principal actor of this story is Wesley So. He stunningly lost his game against GM Varuzhan Akobian in round nine.
Below the moves of that game.

You will wonder why So lost after just 6 moves.
It is because So was taking notes on a separate sheet of paper underneath his scoresheet and the arbiter forfeited him.
Akobian informed the chief arbiter claiming that So was writing in a piece of paper and disturbing him.

Relevant FIDE Laws of Chess on this subject state:

    8.1b The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.
    11.3 During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard.
    11.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.
    11.7 Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game.

Apparently, So was aware that to take notes on the scoresheet is not allowed but that that did not preclude him from taking notes on a separate piece of paper.

After the incident, So wrote, “I have been having trouble concentrating so I wrote a note to myself on a piece of paper (not on my scoresheet)”.

This is not incidental in So’s career. Research carried out by shows that So made the same mistake previously. Even three times in the present event!:

    In round one against GM Daniel Naroditsky, So wrote at the bottom of his scoresheet “Use your time you have a lot of it”. Nevertheless, there was no official complaint.
    In round two, against GM Sam Shankland, So wrote: “Sit down for the entire game. Never get up”. When Shankland complained to the chief arbiter, So accepted to show his notes and agreed to cross them out.
    In round three, the arbiter noticed So again taking notes. He gave him a second official warning and informed So that a third instance would result in forfeiture.
    Even Paul Troung, former So’s coach, explains that he often warned him not to take notes during games. “This is exactly what I told Wesley three years ago,” Truong said. “He always writes notes to himself. We told him this is against FIDE rules… We discussed this issue at least a dozen times. He had a smile and thought nobody’s going to complain about it.”

Dear readers, if you do not want to put your games at risk, then never use the scoresheet to write your comments or feelings. Never make the same mistake as Wesley So did.

Nairobi Chess Club site closed again until further notice due to the COVID pandemic.
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Besides all of that, a new overseas match against the English Camberley Chess Club is scheduled for Jun.6th. 10 members of Nairobi Chess Club will have the privilege to play.
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