What if you messed up your notation a lot?

While playing in an OTB game where both players take notation, it's not uncommon for people to make a mistake here and there. Is there any rule regarding having a lot of mistakes? Furthermore, what if you deliberately make mistakes such as writing in a random move every turn? Is there any penalty for doing this? Perhaps there's a difference between USCF and FIDE rules.

2 Answers

Is there any rule regarding having a lot of mistakes? Furthermore, what if you deliberately make mistakes such as writing in a random move every turn?

There is no obvious rule against this. The obvious place to start for FIDE is article 8.1.1:

Article 8: The recording of the moves

8.1.1 In the course of play each player is required to record his own moves and those of his opponent in the correct manner, move after move, as clearly and legibly as possible, in the algebraic notation (Appendix C), on the ‘scoresheet’ prescribed for the competition.

You must write the moves down but there is no obvious penalty for mistakes, deliberate or otherwise. Which begs the question - Why bother? Why bother writing the moves down at all let alone why try and not make mistakes?

Well, that is answered obliquely in Appendix C:

Appendix C. Algebraic notation

FIDE recognises for its own tournaments and matches only one system of notation, the Algebraic System, and recommends the use of this uniform chess notation also for chess literature and periodicals. Scoresheets using a notation system other than algebraic may not be used as evidence in cases where normally the scoresheet of a player is used for that purpose. An arbiter who observes that a player is using a notation system other than the algebraic should warn the player of this requirement.

Makes sense. If your scoresheet is needed to settle a dispute or make a claim and it isn't suitable (either because you used the wrong notation or it can't be read) then your claim is likely to fail.

Two examples:

9.2.1 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by a player having the move, when the same position for at least the third time (not necessarily by a repetition of moves):

9.2.1.1 is about to appear, if he first writes his move, which cannot be changed, on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move

and

9.3 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by a player having the move, if:

9.3.1 he writes his move, which cannot be changed, on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move which will result in the last 50 moves by each player having been made without the movement of any pawn and without any capture

If you don't have a legible, correct scoresheet then you can't demonstrate a 3 fold repetition or 50 moves without a capture or pawn move for a 50 move draw claim.

A good argument could be made that it is illegal, if it's intentional.

According to USCF rule 15A (similar to FIDE rule 8.1.1):

In the course of play each player is required to record the game (both the player’s and the opponent’s moves), move after move, as clearly and legibly as possible, on the scoresheet prescribed for the competition.

You are required to record the game. If you're not recording the game and are instead recording gibberish, you are in violation. While a lot of leeway is given for accidental mistakes, intentional ones would probably be punished, perhaps after a warning.

Furthermore, under USCF rule 20C (similar to FIDE rule 11.3.1):

The use of notes made during the game as an aid to memory is forbidden, aside from the actual recording of the moves, draw offers, and clock times, and the header information normally found on a scoresheet.

In your scenario, you would be hard-pressed to argue that what you are doing is the "actual recording of the moves".

According to USCF rule 13C7 regarding a "reasonably complete scoresheet":

Minor ambiguities in scorekeeping or errors involving no more than one symbol are of no consequence. The common error of omitting one move by one player and subsequently putting moves in the wrong columns counts as only one error. Moves that are indecipherable or recorded only with check marks are considered missing.

TD TIP: An example of a minor ambiguity would be for the player of the black pieces to write Nf3 on a scoresheet in place of Nf6 in the opening when Nf3 is clearly not even possible.

If you've got non-minor mistakes in more than three move pairs, you can't claim a win on time in a non-sudden-death time control (because you can't prove how many moves were made) and you can't claim a draw by repetition or 50 move rule (because you can't prove how the game unfolded).