BREAKING: Wesley So Forfeited In U.S. Championship Round 9
[UPDATE 4/11/15 - The appeals committee has met and decided they cannot help in regards to So's request to not lose points.
The committee consisted of GM Ben Finegold, IM Rusa Goletiani, and IA Chris Bird (joining by phone). Finegold told Chess.com that a unanimous consensus was reached among the trio.
IAs Tracy Vibbert and Tony Rich attended but did not take part on the decision, according to Finegold.
"Wesley didn't want the game FIDE rated," Finegold said after the meeting. "I didn't think we could do this. Everyone agreed with that."
According to Finegold, So was invited to the meeting but did not attend. The meeting was closed to the press.
Finegold said Chief Arbiter Tony Rich even allowed the committee to consider the decision as a whole, even though So's appeal was only an effort to regain any lost FIDE rating points.
In So's letter of appeal, he wrote, "I accept that I lost," according to Finegold, who added that So thought that losing by having one's cell phone ring is also not rated ("Which is wrong" -- Finegold). FIDE rules state that once moves have been made, forfeitures do count for rating.
"It's unfortunate that it happened, but at least it's not the World Championship," Goletiani said. "Rules are rules."]
[UPDATE: Chief Arbiter Tony Rich has verified that So has sent a letter notifying his intent to appeal, but not the outcome of the game. In the letter, So expressed his wish to appeal the loss of rating points.
Additionally, Chess.com verified that in rounds one, two, and three, So was taking notes. In his round one game against GM Daniel Naroditsky, the bottom of his score sheet read, in part, "Use your time you have a lot of it." No official complaint was made (since score sheets are the property of the arbiter, they can still be viewed).
In round two, the score sheet read, "Sit down for the entire game. Never get up." When GM Sam Shankland complained to Rich, So was compliant, volunteering to show the notes and then agreeing to cross them out.
In round three, Rich noticed So again taking notes, and gave So a second official warning, at which time he notified him that a third instance would result in forfeiture.
Today's notes were taken on an actual score sheet, below the "cover score sheet" that is viewable later in this report. They included the phrases: "Double Check and triple check" and "use your time."]
In a stunning development at the U.S. Championship, GM Wesley So was forfeited from today's round nine game against GM Varuzhan Akobian. Chief Arbiter Tony Rich explained that he was "taking notes" on a separate sheet of paper "underneath his scoresheet."
Akobian complained that this distracted him, and Rich had warned So twice previously in 2015 U.S. Championship that this violated the rules. Rich consulted with IA Franc Guadalupe by phone before deciding to forfeit So. Rich said he told So after the second infraction that a third violation for taking notes would result in forfeiture.
"He seemed unclear on the specifics of the FIDE Laws of Chess in regards to note-taking," Rich said. "He was under the impression that he wasn't allowed to take notes on his score sheet but that that did not preclude him from taking notes on a separate piece of paper."
The relevant rules are:
8.1b 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.
11.3 During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (...) The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty.
11.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.
11.7 Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game.
So just before 6. dxc5, his final move. The extra sheet of paper below his score sheet is not visible here.
So's Facebook page posted this explanation:
According to Rich, the notes were words of "general encouragement and advice," and may have been written before the game but were certainly added to during the round. "His notes were chess-related but not moves," Rich told Chess.com. It was notes a player might write if you were nervous. Things like using your time and game management."
Rich advised So that he had the right to appeal if he wished. Rich said the window for an appeal is 24 hours. At the time of this report, which comes two hours after the forfeiture, Rich said he has had no contact with So. [Update: So is appealing the loss of rating points, not the result.]
So's score sheet, which ends abruptly.
The appeals commitee is composed of GM Ben Finegold, IM Rusa Goletiani, and GM Varuzhan Akobian. Rich said that in case of an appeal, Akobian would have to recuse himself.
GM Varuzhan Akobian: "I've never seen this in my life...I feel really bad too, but that's the rules," he told Chess.com.
After the game ended, So left the club and discussed the situation with his adoptive family on the sidewalk beside the front door. Chess.com asked So to explain what happened. He did not reply.
Chess.com reached Paul Truong, the coach of his former college chess team at Webster University. He said he and Webster Head Coach GM Susan Polgar continually warned So not to take notes during chess games. Truong said his teammates also warned him not to take notes.
"This is exactly what we told Wesley three years ago," Truong said. "He always writes notes to himself. We told him this is against FIDE rules...We discussed this issue at least a dozen times. He had a smile and thought nobody's going to complain about it.
"It's our duty to make sure all our players do everything properly."
GM Ray Robson, a former teammate of So, verified that he knew of the behavior and that the team advised him not to do it.
Chess.com obtained this picture of GM Wesley So's score sheet from the 2014 ACP Golden Classic in Bergamo, Italy.
According to Truong, So was taking notes during games at least as recently as Millionaire Chess, a tournament he won in October.
Truong said he has not spoken with So, save a few unreturned emails, since So left Webster in October to move to Minnesota.
IA Tony Rich discussing the events with the assistant arbiter, IA Tracy Vibbert.
On Twitter the situation was heavily debated. Here's a selection:
I. Am. Just. Shocked. Such an amazing day in the #USChessChamps GM So forfeited for "note taking". If you're not watching, tune in now!— Daniel Rensch ( @DanielRensch) April 10, 2015
Whoa! World top-tenner Wesley So was just forfeited by arbiter at US Championship for doodling notes. (Illegal, had been warned.) Amazing.— Mig Greengard ( @chessninja) April 10, 2015
FYI, it used to be legal (& recommended by many coaches) to write down your move before making it. But it's distracting to opp & now banned.— Mig Greengard ( @chessninja) April 10, 2015
@GMRobinVK) April 10, 2015
Is there even a rule about this being illegal? I've seen many players draw on the scoresheet, make time notes, etc. #USChessChamps— Natalia Pogonina ( @Pogonina) April 10, 2015
It seems clear that Wesley has violated the rules - but punishment is not proportionate to the crime. TD has other sanctions than forfeit.— Jon Ludvig Hammer ( @gmjlh) April 10, 2015
@gmjlh The rules of chess allow for the arbiter to take other actions than forfeit = common-sense.— Jon Ludvig Hammer ( @gmjlh) April 10, 2015
@gmjlh Warning So that next time he would take notes, he would forfeit him, and then keeping that promise, seems pretty common sense to me.— Peter Doggers ( @peterdoggers) April 10, 2015
. @gmjlh He warned him THREE TIMES Jon??? And said "you are GOING to be forfeited"! AND SO KEPT DOING IT! Wrong. Rich made right call.— Daniel Rensch ( @DanielRensch) April 10, 2015
@polborta) April 10, 2015
GM Naka: "I have never seen anyone get forfeited for that...If Wesley was warned, then I think it is his own fault" #USChessChamps— SaintLouis ChessClub ( @CCSCSL) April 10, 2015