Yorkshire Chess News





The Vexed Question of Mobile Phones


On the basis of what was recorded on LMS, Yorkshire League matches scheduled for 17th February 2024 resulted in 4 defaulted matches, exactly 25% of the scheduled 20 matches.  Is this a “record”?


Additionally, the result of one match as recorded on LMS on Sun 18/02/2024 at 00:32 hours differed from that submitted by one of the captains!  The difference between the two captains’ submissions related to a board on which a dispute had arisen.


In fact, there were (at least!) three matches that day in which disputes arise.  One related, apparently, to one of the Rules not being applied by the Competition Controller in connection with a defaulted match, and the other two apparently involved that old chestnut which has not raised its head for a long while, namely the mobile phone.


FIDE introduced into the Laws of Chess coverage of mobile phones, or “electronic devices” as they tend now to be referred to under a wider umbrella term.  At the outset it was clear the FIDE Laws were unsatisfactory for recreational chess and both national and local organisations (ECF, Counties, local leagues, congresses) introduced their own rules, overriding the FIDE Laws, which action FIDE recognises as being legitimate.


The pertinent part of the FIDE Laws of Chess (for whole body of Laws see here) is a section of Article 11: The Conduct of the Players, specifically:



During a game, a player is forbidden to have any electronic device not specifically approved by the arbiter in the playing venue.

However, the regulations of an event may allow such devices to be stored in a player’s bag, provided the device is completely switched off. This bag must be placed as agreed with the arbiter. Both players are forbidden to use this bag without permission of the arbiter.

If it is evident that a player has such a device on their person in the playing venue, the player shall lose the game. The opponent shall win. The regulations of an event may specify a different, less severe, penalty.”


The term “the arbiter” (not “an arbiter”) refers of course to a person officially designated by the event to act in this function.  FIDE recognises that recreational chess at its lower levels often does not have appointed arbiters and permits organisers to make their own provision to cope with the consequences of the absence of event arbiters.  (The ECF has from time to time addressed the issue for the benefit of affected organisations.)


The YCA’s League Rule A30 covering mobile phones, as allowed for by above, reads as follows:


“Mobile phones and other electronic devices should be switched off prior to the start of the match.  If such a device makes a sound while the match is in play the player concerned shall be warned.  If the device then sounds for a second time the game will be forfeited.  Dispensation from this rule can be agreed by the controller or by mutual agreement between the captains prior to the start of the match.  The controller reserves the right to apply a more severe penalty for gross breaches of this rule.”


That seems clear enough, but problems arise where those involved suspect there exists a relevant Rule but do not know what it is!


Arguably, every match captain should have with them a folder containing the rules of the competition concerned and a copy of the FIDE Laws of Chess.  A set of dualling pistols seems a less appropriate idea.


So, if a mobile phone sounds in some way, and the players are unsure of the Rules, what then?  Well, the YCA’s provision to cope with the consequences of the fact that arbiters are not appointed to oversee matches is its series of Rules A25 to A27.


A25   The Captains, if possible, shall settle disputes between individual players but may refer such disputes to the Competitions Controller for decision.  If the dispute concerns the Laws of Chess the captains should record the position concerned together with the clock times and submit this together with any subsequent moves.  Captains should attempt to familiarise themselves with the Laws of Chess, particularly those relating to draw claims, and prevent interference by other players.  Disputes can only be submitted to the controller by team captains, not individual players.


A26   The Competitions Controller shall make an initial ruling in all cases of dispute between teams.  Subject to appeal by either or both parties this decision shall be binding.


A27   Appeals procedure. In the event of a C.M. being dissatisfied with the decision of the Competitions Controller there shall be a right of appeal to a Committee of the Principal Officers.  This committee shall hear the submissions of the parties to the dispute and any decision they make shall be binding. Three Principal Officers, excluding the Competitions Controller, shall constitute a quorum.”



The first and last sentences of A25 are relevant to these YCA League match mobile phone disputes as these disputes concern YCA Rules, not FIDE Laws of Chess overridden by the Rules.


Rule A25 limits the process of initial local settlement of disputes to the two captains and the players in the game.  It also mentions “interference by other players”.  Experience is that intervention by others tends to occur, this in fact being in breach of the wider FIDE Laws of Chess.  Such third-party intervention is covered within Article 12 as follows, where the second and third sentences apply irrespective of the presence of an appointed arbiter:


“12.7   If someone observes an irregularity, he/she may inform only the arbiter.  Players in other games must not to speak about or otherwise interfere in a game.  Spectators are not allowed to interfere in a game.  The arbiter may expel offenders from the playing venue.”


For what it’s worth, players from games already finished are brought in scope of 12.7 by the earlier 11.4:


“11.4   Players who have finished their games shall be considered to be spectators.”


YCA Rules do not cater explicitly for intervention by third parties and setting a penalty would be difficult in many cases.  Occasionally, people belonging to neither team may conceivably intervene, when no penalty on teams or players is likely to be feasible.


Rule 27 excludes the Competitions Controller from the appeal committee yet does not preclude participation of an interested partly such as a member of a club involved.  In the writer’s experience such parties recognise such a clash of interests and exclude themselves from such committees.