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Do FIDE and USCF require Writing Notation in Tournaments with Short Time Controls? When is Writing Notation Not Required?

We are planning to organize a monthly 30+30 tournament (30 minutes for the entire game plus 30 seconds of increment per move), valid for the United States Chess Federation (USCF). One member of our club, who is a lawyer, suggested that if the tournament is 29+29, players can stop writing notation when they have 5 minutes in their clocks. Is that correct?

Additionally, in which time controls writing notation is optional in FIDE and USCF chess tournaments?

Can the tournament director use his/her discretion to make writing notation optional?

It has sense to enforce writing notation in 120+30, 90+30, or 45+45 games. However, in my perspective, without considering the official rules, it seems more logical that writing notation should be optional in short time controls.

Additionally, we are also considering 30+20 and 15+10 because those are time controls that are available and popular on lichess.org in the section "Quick pairing." The advantage of those time controls would be that potential players of our tournaments can play training games on lichess.org for free. I also noticed that the FIDE Rapid World Championship uses 15+10. What can you tell me about the differences, about writing notation, for FIDE and USCF between 30+20 and 15+10?

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I can't answer this question with relation to FIDE rules, but I can tell you what the USCF rules are.

From the perspective of the USCF rules, neither of the time controls you propose (either 30+30, or 29+29) are really considered to be "short time controls", and the tournament will be dual-rated (rated in both the USCF Regular and Quick rating systems). As such, scorekeeping is required, and is not optional. Only in events that are solely Quick or Blitz rated is scorekeeping optional. For an event to be solely Quick rated, the sum of the number of minutes in the base time control, plus the number of seconds of increment or delay, must be greater than 10, but less than 30, and the number of minutes in the base time control must be at least 5.

If you use the 29+29 time control, then any time either player's remaining time is less than 5 minutes, neither player is required to keep score; in a time control with an increment of 30 seconds or more, both players are required to keep score at all times (USCF Rule 15C). If there was a secondary sudden death time control in your games (for example, in a time control that was something like 30/30, G/30 with a 30 second increment), a player who stopped keeping score in the first time control period because one or both players had less than 5 minutes remaining may be required to bring their scoresheet up to date once the players make the time control, but the tournament director may waive this (USCF Rule 15F4).

The tournament director's discretion to waive the scorekeeping requirement is limited to accommodation for players "unable to keep score" due to physical handicap or for religious reasons (when there is no assistance available to permit scorekeeping), and "beginners who have not learned to keep score may be excused from scorekeeping, at the director's discretion" (USCF Rule 15A1). The rule also notes that "Players who are excused from scorekeeping are not entitled to make claims that require scoresheets". Players who are excused from scorekeeping may have time deducted from their clocks, since the time they would have otherwise spent on keeping score would become thinking time for them - this is especially notable if one player is excused from keeping score but the other is not.

One of Tim Just's "Just The Rules" columns from a few years ago, on the USCF web site here, has a quiz on when keeping score is required, and when it is optional, that you may find informative.

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Here is what the FIDE Laws of Chess taking effect from 1 January 2018 have to say. There are two relevant sections, one for the general rules and one for special rules for rapid and blitz time controls.

Article 8: The recording of the moves

Amendments regarding electronic scoresheets effective from August 1, 2022.

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 one of the following ways:

8.1.1.1 by writing in the algebraic notation (Appendix C), on the paper ‘scoresheet’prescribed for the competition

8.1.1.2 by entering moves on the FIDE certified ‘electronic scoresheet’ prescribed for the competition.

8.4 If a player has less than five minutes left on his clock at some stage in a period and does not have additional time of 30 seconds or more added with each move, then for the remainder of the period he is not obliged to meet the requirements of Article 8.1.1.

Appendix A. Rapid chess

A.1 A ‘Rapid chess’ game is one where either all the moves must be completed in a fixed time of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player; or the time allotted plus 60 times any increment is of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player.

A.2 Players do not need to record the moves, but do not lose their rights to claims normally based on a scoresheet. The player can, at any time, ask the arbiter to provide him with a scoresheet, in order to write the moves.

So, if the players get less than 60 minutes for the game including increment calculations then there is no need to record the moves and the first time the player's clock goes under 5 minutes they can stop recording if the increment is less than 30 seconds. I phrase it like this because after the player's clock goes under 5 minutes they can make a few quick moves leaving them with more than 5 minutes. In those circumstances they don't have to start writing again.

In a FIDE rated tournament where the players have 60 minutes or more, e.g. 30+30 there is still no guarantee that they have to write the moves down. This is because FIDE has "holes" in the time controls where it only rates the games of stronger players.

Here is what FIDE Rating Regulations effective from 1 January 2022 have to say:

1. Rate of Play

1.1 For a game to be rated each player must at the start of the tournament have the following minimum periods in which to complete all the moves, assuming the game lasts 60 moves.

Where at least one of the players in the game has a rating of 2400 or higher, each player must have a minimum of 120 minutes.

Where at least one of the players in the game has a rating 1800 or higher, each player must have a minimum of 90 minutes.

Where both of the players in the game are rated below 1800, each player must have a minimum of 60 minutes.

Hence for a FIDE rated competitions both 120+30 and 90+30 games would be FIDE rated and writing the moves required regardless of the strength of the players. However for 45+45 only games where both players were rated below 2400 would be rated and only those players required to write the moves.

The 2400 rating restriction is new this year. It used to be 2200. I kind of understood the 2200 restriction. It was because players above that level could compete for IM title norms and the restriction meant that the games they played that could qualify for a norm had to be at least 2 hours. Extending the range to 2400 means that IM norms could be gained by playing 90 minute games but GM norms would require 2 hour games.

For the lower restrictions for >=1800 and <1800 it doesn't make much sense to me. The USCF rules seem more logical.

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