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In Round 9 in the US Chess Championship 2015 Men, Wesley So (2794) was forfeited by the arbiter in his game against Akobian (2622) since So took notes that were not chess-related but contained "general encouragement and advice to himself".

The game be seen here.

I think that is absurd. I think a chess player can write whatever they want as long as it does not offend anyone.

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    "i think a chess player can take whatever they want as long as it does not offend anyone" Do you mean that players should also be allowed to write down thinks like "remember that Ne4 would allow Bxf2+" and similar? – JiK Apr 11 '15 at 12:57
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I can't claim to know for sure what was going through the minds of the authors of the FIDE Laws of Chess, but I think the intent is to ensure that the players use only their unaided intellect to play the game. Players aren't allowed to make/use written notes during the game. At all. About anything (chess-related or not). If they're allowed to make notes about things other than chess, or the game in progress, you then put an arbiter in the position of having to determine if such notes are chess-related or not. It would certainly be possible for a player determined to cheat to come up with a system in advance to disguise the nature of what they're writing.

It's worth pointing out that So wasn't forfeited for making the notes - he was forfeited because of rule 11.7 - "Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game". He had been warned twice before during the tournament that he wasn't permitted to make written notes, and the second time was warned that a third infraction would result in a forfeit.

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The FIDE Laws of Chess, in section 11.3.a, say, "During play the players are forbidden to use any notes".

As for why they forbid notes entirely, as opposed to, say, allowing motivational statements while disallowing the writing down of variations, we can only guess, but I can see two reasons not to allow some notes but disallow others:

  1. There's always going to be some point in the middle of the spectrum where it's ambiguous whether it should be okay or not; and

  2. If your opponent is writing things down, you'd have to either take his word that everything he was writing was legal, or summon an arbiter and demand to see it. Neither alternative is that appetizing.

By the way, So's notes were arguably chess-related in that they addressed things like time usage.

  • Recording time spent per move is actually specifically allowed by the rules. 8.1(b): "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." – kahen Apr 11 '15 at 20:19
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    Yes. By "things like time usage" I meant that they were reminders to himself to use time wisely, not records of time spent. – dfan Apr 11 '15 at 21:01

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