Electronic Device Policy for National Events Organized by US Chess

The following policy has been reviewed and approved by the US Chess Scholastic Council and US Chess Executive Board.

It applies to all national events directly organized by US Chess, which are:

  • National K-12 Grade Championships
  • National High School (K-12) Championship
  • National Junior High (K-9) Championship
  • National Elementary (K-6) Championship
  • U.S. Junior Open Championship
  • U.S. Senior Open Championship
  • U.S. Open

1. Effective immediately, participants (upon starting their game) and spectators (where permitted) at tournaments directly organized by US Chess must not have on their person in the playing area any cell phone, smart watch, tablet, laptop, or other Internet-enabled device, except the following.

1.1. Electronic scoresheets approved by the regulations governing the tournament.

1.2. Other devices approved by US Chess prior to the event.

2. If a player with a game in progress is found to possess such a device, the game will be declared lost for the violating player, and the game will be submitted for rating purposes. A second such violation during the tournament will result in the same penalties, as well as removal from the tournament.

3. Exceptions to paragraph 2 may be specified for events covered by the Scholastic Regulations.

4. If a spectator is found to have such a device on his person, the offender will not be permitted to enter the playing hall for the remainder of the tournament.

5. If a player wishes to bring such a device into the tournament hall, the device must be turned off (not placed into “silent” or “airplane” mode) and placed either face-up on the table where the player has a game in progress, or placed into a bag that the player does not carry or open during the game in progress.

5.1. US Chess understands that players may not want to risk losing their devices. The recommended solution is to not bring them into the hall at all.

5.2. US Chess is not responsible for devices left in the playing hall.

6. Automatically exempt from this policy are the following.

6.1. US Chess staff with badges for the event.

6.2. Tournament staff with badges for the event.

6.3. Other individuals with badges for the event or prior written approval from the US Chess Director of Events.

7. Any exceptions must be approved by the US Chess Director of Events, in writing, at least three weeks before the event begins.

7.1. To request an exception, contact the US Chess Director of Events at [email protected]

7.2. If the request involves a medical situation, additional documentation may be necessary. This allows US Chess to fully understand the situation and have enough time to ensure the proper accommodations.

For more information contact US Chess Director of Events Boyd Reed at [email protected]

Last edited August 31, 2019


  1. When will you be voting on approval of the ChessNoteR devices? I am really hoping for the tablet sized version to be approved. In addition to helping with visual issues, there are some other physical conditions, I believe it would help with as well.

    • The ChessNoteЯ electronic scoresheet device is already US Chess (but not FIDE) approved. However, an organizer may specify a scoresheet for the competition which might be required to be used in lieu of any other score keeping method.

      • Only the original device is approved. This device is the size of a phone. There are a couple other models that still show pending USCF approval. One of which is more of a tablet size with a bigger display. I believe 8.9 inches. This bigger device would be better for those with visual issues but I believe it would also be better for other conditions. For example, I have a condition called Essential Tremor. When it kicks in, which it often does during play, my writing gets worse so my notation becomes much less legible. The regular device has squares that are too small for me to necessarily click on the correct one. The larger tablet size looks like it would work better for me because I would have a better target area. The ChessNoteR also allows correction of the move so if I do miss my target, so to speak, I can correct it on the device.

  2. i think there’s a serious issue when games are broadcast that spectators outside the playing hall have the game plugged into stockfish and all a player has to do is go to the bathroom and an accomplice or well meaning friend/parent can just say Re5 or whatever and therefore the player doesn’t even need to have an phone on them. i’ve seen many parents/coaches/teammate with positions plugged into their phone in the spectator area or just outside. it’s so frigging easy if someone wanted to get a tip at crucial moments verbally. for non broadcast games it’s much less of an issue. even with delay it’s easy to do.

    • For the Nationals events I’ve been at in recent years (2019 High School, 2018 & 2019 Elementary), the players have had to use designated bathrooms that are off limits for spectators. For the Elementary School Nationals, where the area outside the players bathrooms could be seen by spectators (though there was about a 50 foot long buffer zone), there were also 2 TDs posted outside the bathrooms at all times. Assuming the player is following all the rules and regulations (if they weren’t, that would lead to it’s own set of consequences), it would be nearly impossible for a spectator to give advice to a player without being heard by a TD and any other players & spectators in the vicinity

    • ChessNoteR is already approved for use in tournaments rated by US Chess. However, the 2019-2020 Scholastic Regulations specify that US Chess will provide required paper scoresheets for players in events those Regulations cover. US Chess rules permit organizers to require a specific scoresheet.

      The 2019-2020 Scholastic Regulations have a cover sheet that shows what events are subject to them.

      • See my above comment. Only one model of the ChessNoteR is approved. There are other models pending approval…one of which is tablet sized. My above posts are with regards to that model. Being an adult, luckily I don’t personally have to worry about Nationals. On the other hand, there may be kids that have conditions that it would benefit as well. I have had my condition since elementary school. In that case, they may benefit through a special exception.

        • Paragraph 7 of the policy appears to cover your comments. Also, the policy covers more than just scholastic tournaments.

        • There is an exception built into the scholastic regulations that accounts for accessibility concerns, with a similar procedure of contacting the Director of Events at least three weeks before the event.

          • I don’t believe the large ChessNoteR will be listed for sale until it is actually approved. Might not even be fully manufactured until then.

    • This scenario is difficult to pull off, for several reasons.

      First, for sites where the bathrooms are located inside the playing hall, players cannot leave the playing hall until their games are done. For at least three of the four sites this school year, the bathrooms are inside the playing hall.

      Second, a player on a top board leaving repeatedly is going to be noticed.

      Third, players often don’t know what “moments” are “critical”, unless they’re VERY highly rated. (To give an idea, 2300-2400 is not high enough.) A player who does rely on computer analysis will likely over-rely, and basic move-matching analysis will catch those people. To use that sort of assistance without detection, a player would have to be strong enough to not only understand what truly is the most critical moment, but to also take a single move and understand the position and continuation in sufficient depth to require no further information.

      Fourth, one of the best sources of monitoring top players would be parents/coaches of other top players. Staff at these events are often notified of potential irregularities early and often – and players involved in those identifications get extra attention from the TDs.

  3. I understand the concern and there is a question of balance. The rules for phones ringing makes sense. But phones that are turned off are only a problem in the case ofor a determined cheater. Cheaters will sooner or later be caught and should be suspended for at least a year. BUT this rule goes too far and if I have any time when I retire it would keep me from competing in any such tournament. I doubt I am alone but many active players may not want to say this. I would rather deal with a rare cheater than be in an atmosphere where everyone is treated as a cheater.

    Eugene Meyer, IM

    • i respectfully totally disagree, cheating is an existential threat to chess – plain and simple. most cases where people are caught are swept under the table and the names are known to only a few. do a google search and you’ll see many reports of cheaters who have been caught continuing to play in the next round of the very same tournament or often the next year or the the week. cheater are just not that rare. they is a well known case as detailed in a us chess article about a cheater who was caught at the world open who admitted to cheating, yet was not thrown out of the tournament. the article doesn’t explicitly state this but anywho who was there knew https://new.uschess.org/news/world-open/

      cheating at money events is plain and simple stealing. it should be treated as a criminal offense. it’s no different than holding up a convenience store, except that it’s more profitable and there’s no criminal penalty.

      i assume you haven’t played at many CCA tournament lately, but i’d say in at least in 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 that i’ve been to, a cheater has been caught. most cheaters are not caught, so you can do the math.

      these measures are a step in the right direction.

      What influences me the most when i think about writing a check for a 350 entry fee plus hotel etc is whether i think whether it’s going to be a fair tournament or whether i’m just going to play against stockfish. for this reason i avoid big money events b/c they are often rife with cheaters. i’d rather play online for free than drop money into a cheater’s pocket. not walking around with my cellphone is not even a consideration.

      • to be clear – i mean i’m completely fine with not walking around with my cellphone if it means you have fewer cheaters. thats’ a very small sacrifice for a fair game.

    • These technology rules are pretty standard out here on the West Coast. Given that you are not supposed to speak with anyone while you’re game is active, why would you need your cell phone on? You will just pique everyone else’s suspicion – either that you’re getting assistance from someone else or from a chess program on your phone. Keep the phone in your car or in a bag and use it between rounds.

      • this brings up another issues, talking during around is pretty much routine these days. in fact i’ve seen my opponent chatting away with her boyfriend while both were looking at the position on the board. given that i was under time pressure i didn’t take time to complain but it just looks so bad. i assume they were probably chatting about something else, but it’s very distracting. when you know the boyfriend is an IM what are you to think? the policy against chatting is rarely enforced, although kudos to CCA i know they were cracking down on this at the world open.

  4. I think it’s silly rule #6 automatically exempts anyone with a badge? How can anyone guarantee a player that a TD/volunteer is not in the fix?

    How do I know that the TD with a bad is not helping the player? Maybe it is their second cousin who is playing in the tournament? Maybe it’s a child with different last name? Are we going to do background checks on these people?

    • This comment appears to be a bit behind the times.

      Most national events no longer use volunteers at all. Also, anyone on staff at a national event undergoes a background check. This has been standard practice for a couple of years.

      It is sometimes necessary for floor staff to have/use cell phones during the round. But the use is quite obvious – contact on-site EMT for a player emergency, verifying a result with the pairing chief, checking on a possible lost child, etc. TDs don’t stand around playing Candy Crush – or watching games.

      • Ok… Not behind the times, I live in 2019. Where money talks.

        So just because someone has had a background check, means they are good to go? Hate to say it, but I’m assuming the TD at a chess tournament is not bringing in a high salary. I run background checks on all of the employees my company hires, and guess what? When it comes to money, everything is up for grabs.

        Let’s imagine – last round of a tournament, few college scholarships up for grabs. A parent approaches a TD with a 5k/10k check to ‘help the child with the use of their phone’ . Do you think your useless background checks will tell you that? Will every TD be perfect in that situation when they have a bad credit card debt, or need to make a rent payment? Can you honestly answer me that?

        • I dont think a player/TD could pull that off in the hypothetical situation, and the player/TD would be subject to never being able to play rated chess again under the code of ethics for such a discretion. More credit needs to be given to TD’s who are hired for National Events, many of whom have been working for many years, and at some point the process needs to be trusted.

  5. Re: Cheating due to live broadcasts of games. The solution is to include a 10-20 minute time delay on the broadcast of the games.

    Re: Cheating by having a member of the TD staff conspire with a player — this suggestion strikes at the heart of any tournament. While any scenario has a non-zero probability…if you read the tournament regulations and this scenario still worries you…then the tournament should be canceled. Or all tournaments should be canceled. Let us not go down the path of impugning the integrity of tournament staff members, please.

    • you need a move delay not just a time delay. otherwise you can just wait 10 minutes and then the live board will appear on everyone’s phones. move delay fixes that.

      • I believe there is a 2 move delay built in at the National Events to live coverage, I would advise to directly reach out to Boyd and Pete for these concerns/questions. The Scholastic Council is in support of live coverage, and DGT games. It provides a broadcast feature to the events, and lets look at the positive impact of having it.

  6. Having it off on the table seems the best policy, not sequestered (or not) in a bag. Less to wonder about. I’ve done this voluntarily for years. In the “old” days, we’d also take out our phone battery for good measure. Not possible nowadays, in most cases.

  7. Some items to note:
    -The Scholastic rule where an official scoresheet will be provided also impacts player-owned scorebooks
    -US Chess rules are not clear about restricting the use of ADDITIONAL scoresheets so long as no notes are taken. Recording only standard scoresheet information seems to be allowed, and many TDs have often allowed a player to use their scorebook in addition to a provided scoresheet. However, the provided scoresheet is the official record. See below for why this isn’t a violation of the rules on note-taking.
    – US Chess has a history of being unclear with respect to rules. This rule is no exception:
    – As written, this only limits Internet-enabled devices, but is not clear on “radio” devices that are not Internet-capable, or Internet-enabled. A smart-watch that is Internet-enabled is clearly not allowed; a smartwatch that has bluetooth only and is not connected to a smartphone is not Internet-enabled and as worded is likely allowed since the rule implies the condition of devices being Internet-enabled. So, an FM radio is allowed under this rule.

    I think its reasonable to ask for clarification on this – was the Intent to ban all wireless communication-enabled or capable devices from the playing hall other than approved digital scoresheets, or was the intent to only bad Internet enabled devices? It’s two different things.

    Regarding the use of a second scoresheet and notetaking: from the 7th edition:
    20B. Use of recorded matter prohibited.
    During play, players are forbidden to make use of handwritten, printed, or otherwise recorded matter. While the penalty is at the discretion of the director, a forfeit loss is usually ruled if the material is relevant to the game, while a lesser penalty or warning is common otherwise. For example, a player on move five of a King’s Indian Defense would usually be forfeited for reading a book on the King’s Indian but given a warning or time penalty for reading one on rook endings. See also 1C2, Director discretion and 21K, Use of director’s power.
    An additional scoresheet that records only the game information is not recorded matter that is being used during play.
    20C. Use of notes prohibited.
    The use of notes made during the game as an aid to memory is forbidden, aside from the actual recording of the moves, draw offers, and clock times, and the header information normally found on a scoresheet. This is a much less serious offense than 20B; a warning or minor time penalty is common, with more severe punishment if the offense is repeated. See also 1C2, Director discretion; 15, The Recording of Games; and 21K, Use of director’s power.
    The recording of moves, etc. on a second scoresheet is “information normally found on a scoresheet” and is not a note made during the game as an aid to memory.

    Consequently, under the current rules, if the organizer provides an official scoresheet it appears fine for players to use a SECOND scoresheet if they so choose.

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