Situation: a standard game, 1 hour 40 minutes for the game with 10 seconds increment per move. FIDE rules. White has two minutes left and has stopped writing down his moves, as he is allowed to because he has less than five minutes. Black has an hour left, but is blitzing along with white and has also stopped writing down the moves.

Unfortunately, I (the arbiter) was only made aware of this when the game was over (white resigned); I was there, watching the board and the clock, but couldn't see the player playing black because of other spectators and hadn't realized he wasn't writing.

If I had noticed during the game, I'm not sure what I should have done.

  • Is this something an arbiter can step in for by himself, or should I have waited for a complaint by white? (I think I could have just told black he should be writing down his moves)

  • More importantly, I think the only remedy in the rules is that the player has to repair his notation on his own time. This would probably have been impossible, and certainly nobody had written anything down. How could he do this? How could I check that he had done it, and not written down some random moves? Reconstructing on a second board would be so disastrous to white's concentration that it would not be in his favor.

  • Is there anything else I should have done, had I noticed during the game?

  • Tough one indeed... Would not like to be in your shoes. Have you checked official FIDE rules? What do they say? Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1
    I see they say nothing about consequences, only that the moves must be written. But that's a good thing, I thought they said the player had to repair his notation in his own time. This means the arbiter has some choice between the penalties in article 12.9, and reducing the time remaining if the score sheet can't be repaired may be appropriate. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 7:13
  • If you had observed Black not keeping score, I think it would have been appropriate to step in and warn Black to resume keeping score, based on the arbiter's role of ensuring that the Laws of Chess are followed. I'm not sure what I would have done about the missing moves to that point - the rules would seem to imply that the scoresheet be reconstructed on another board (though they don't refer to this exact circumstance), but as you point out, this could be unfair to White. But I don't think there's any getting around the need to reconstruct the scoresheet one way or another.
    – patbarron
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 4:29
  • The best I can think of (and it's still not good) would be to reconstruct the scoresheet using a separate board, and award some additional time to White to try to compensate. As far as what you could have done differently, only thing I can think of is that the rules require that both scoresheets be visible to the arbiter at all times, so I would have considered relocating the spectators.
    – patbarron
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


The first time you see a player doing this you should warn him and make him catch up on his time. If you are watching the game closely it is likely that there will only be 2 or 3 moves to make up.

Note that he need not write after every move but must not make a move if he has not written his previous move. In that case, particularly with a blitz finish you should immediately stop the clocks and only then issue the warning. If you feel that you have delayed significantly in stopping the clocks to the second player's detriment then you may adjust the second player's clock accordingly.

If he repeats the offence you should give him a final warning, make him catch up again and give his opponent an additional 2 minutes.

If he repeats the offence after your final warning then default him. Award him 0 and his opponent 1 unless it is impossible for his opponent to deliver mate by any sequence of legal moves. In that case (mate not possible) then award each player 0.5

Under the old rules stepping in without a complaint was at your discretion. Under the new rules you are obliged to intervene regardless of whether or not there has been a complaint.

Edit: As Remco points out I have only answered the easy parts of his question above ;-). I've had a long think about the difficult part and this is what I came up with.

This situation is not covered explicitly in the rules. Instead, as the introduction to the rules state, you are left to make your own judgment based on analogous situations in the rules and by fairness, logic and special factors.

I will give two possible solutions which might help you if the situation arise again.

1) 8.1e states the following:

If a player is unable to keep score, an assistant, who must be acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to write the moves. His clock shall be adjusted by the arbiter in an equitable way. This adjustment of the clock shall not apply to a player with a disability

When I have played in competitions where a player has been "unable to keep score" (the opponent of a teammate in a league match) the solution was that the player had 10 minutes deducted from his time before the start of the game. This was with a time control of 90 minutes for the game plus 30 second increment.

Using this as an analogous situation one possibility in the situation you describe would be to deduct 10 minutes (or such time as you deem appropriate) from the offender's remaining time. Of course this runs into the problem of what to do if the offender has less than 10 minutes left or even if he has only 11 or 12 minutes left. In those situations this may be an unjust solution.

2) Another possible solution would be to take the two players to a separate room (so as not to disturb the other players) after first stopping the clocks and noting the times and position on the board. There you could set up the position on one board and play through the game on another board up to the end of the recording of the moves. Set the offending player's clock going and invite him to try and reconstruct the missing moves. He is invited to do this until he has 5 minutes remaining at which point he is no longer required to record the moves. It may be that this added pressure will spur him on to succeed.

A variation of this solution would be to just reset his clock to 5 minutes and resume with neither player recording.

Whichever solution you decide on at the time I would advise you to have a copy of the rules with you and to explain your decisions with reference to the rules so that the players can understand your reasoning process. This should help reduce arguments and misunderstandings.

  • 2
    Thanks! Especially the last paragraph is very helpful. I'm still in doubt what to do when the player isn't able to catch up though. Time penalty? Of course next time I'll notice a lot earlier, I simply didn't realize, was looking at the board and the clock only. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 6:47
  • @RemcoGerlich - Yes, it always boils down to a time penalty, but you need to decide on your solution in advance, not when the situation is already developing. Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 9:45
  • Just a general addition: As an arbiter, you're obliged to uphold all FIDE rules. Not notating when being obliged is a violation. You may even notify the player about an error (but handle with care). Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 19:10

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