I witnessed this: a player who burnt the candle at both ends fell asleep during the game and his friend woke him up. His opponent vehemently objected. How should this have been handled?

I do not recall if his friend simply shook him awake or used the pretext of bringing him a sandwich -- the latter I do not think could be objected to nor if a phone call had been made to the site asking for a player (Does a director tell the a player during a game if a non-emergency call is received? this was pre-cell phone.)

I do not recall how the director handled things. Forfeiting the sleeper seems extreme -- a warning, which does nothing except if the director said, "if this happens again and your friend wakes you up I consider this illegal aid and I will forfeit you."

The opponent wanting to win that way seems more than a little unsportsmanlike but if the official rule is that not only can a third party not wake someone but even his opponent can't, then rules should be observed.

My opinion: I think the rulebook should explicitly say that waking someone should be allowed and even the director can do this. Maybe the rules do this.

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    "Wer schläft, sündigt nicht." (German proverb) So rather the friend is the one to throw the rule book at... Jul 13, 2023 at 8:03
  • On SCTV, there "Chess sunrise semester" said that "Next time, we will discuss the strategy of eating your lunch on the board" ... sandwich reminded me of that! Jul 13, 2023 at 17:59
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    @HaukeReddmann: Das stimmt, but the friend could have at best been kicked out (not so easy in a college cafeteria IIRC where was held). Could a spectator have "legally" gotten the TD's attention or should the TD have to be informed by only the sleeper's opponent or another player? I think chess could have one overriding principle: sportsmanship, goal to produce a good game, not time forfeit.
    – releseabe
    Jul 13, 2023 at 19:29
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    @JosephDoggie: More extreme to me and this really happened is a large, unkempt opponent flossing -- he did stop when I asked but why he started, I will never know. Have these guys ever been on a date??
    – releseabe
    Jul 13, 2023 at 19:36
  • I'm always amused by the weird intricacies and rules in professional chess (yes, touch-move is also a weird rule), although I can see why those rules are in place. Intuitively, it's always feels like "just play fairly like a normal person!" but of course, "fair" and "normal" is what the rules are trying to define here.
    – justhalf
    Jul 14, 2023 at 4:59

2 Answers 2


A player falls asleep during the game and his friend wakes him -- illegal?


In fact article 12.2.6 of the FIDE Laws of Chess suggests that the arbiter should do so if they see a player asleep:

12.2 The arbiter shall: ... 12.2.6 take special measures in the interests of disabled players and those who need medical attention,

Falling asleep at the chess board is not normal healthy behaviour. It may be innocent but it could also be the result of a medical condition.

In any case it should be a worrying event for the arbiter. The last thing the arbiter wants is for a player to die during the tournament. The arbiter should urgently attempt to wake the player to see if medical intervention is required.

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    > Falling asleep at the chess board is not normal healthy behaviour. If you're tired, especially after hours of thinking, sleeping at the chessboard is like when sleeping at your car Jul 13, 2023 at 15:17
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    It feels like this rule wouldn't apply if the TD was reasonably confident there wasn't an underlying condition and the player had simply stayed up too late. In some settings (schools), it's much more likely a player would fall asleep because they'd stayed up late a lot, than that there was some underlying issue (depending if the player otherwise appears healthy, and if their teammates seem concerned for the game than for their health).
    – user7868
    Jul 14, 2023 at 2:21
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    "Reasonably confident" doesn't remove liability. If there is an underlying medical condition, the TD declares that the sleeping player is fine, and then the sleeper dies during the game, he's going to need to prove where his confidence came from. If the game is somehow a "24 hour no-sleep chess tournament", then sure, but if not... a random player falling asleep is exceptional enough to warrant caution.
    – Nelson
    Jul 14, 2023 at 8:53
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    I imagine he was yawning a lot, maybe he even told people that he'd stayed up late. I think most observant people can tell when someone is really tired. The friend probably knew what was going on.
    – Barmar
    Jul 14, 2023 at 13:45
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    The rule says that the arbiter shall etc. But the question asks if the player's friend may wake him. Is not the distinction important? My first thought on reading the question was “no, the sleeper's friend should not have woken him; the friend should have asked the arbiter to do it”. (And then the arbiter should have done it.) Jul 14, 2023 at 22:20

In chess, it is generally considered illegal for someone to physically wake a player who has fallen asleep during a game. According to the FIDE Laws of Chess, specifically Article 12.9, "During the game, a player is not allowed to have any electronic device in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player has such a device on their person in the playing venue, the player shall lose the game." While falling asleep during a game is not explicitly mentioned, it is typically considered the player's responsibility to remain alert and attentive. If a player is found asleep, it may be considered a violation of fair play and could result in penalties or loss of the game, depending on the specific tournament or competition rules.

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    Singularly uncompelling. No idea how cell phone relates.
    – releseabe
    Jul 17, 2023 at 16:48
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    "In chess, it is generally considered illegal for someone to physically wake a player who has fallen asleep during a game." No downvote but Citation Needed. Jul 18, 2023 at 15:21

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