Just the Rules: Mysterious Missing Move Pairs

FLAG! That is the word that moved your opponent’s brain right out of the time scramble zone. He had 90 minutes to make 40 moves (40/90,d5) in the game’s first time control, and your claim is that the general of the black pieces only made 39 moves before his time ran out. You have a scoresheet to prove it—or do you? Your adversary pauses the game timer and challenges your claim. He does not believe that your scoresheet is complete—reasonably complete scoresheets are a must for this claim to be valid (in general single time control games, quick chess, and blitz don’t count here). “I can prove,” he exclaims to the TD, “that I made enough moves before time ran out. Give me a moment so that I can replace my check marks with accurate notation—I remember all of the missing moves.” The TD immediately points out that once the claim has been made neither player may fill in missing moves or correct any previous notational errors. Those missing or corrected moves need to be scribbled in by both players before the claim is made. The TD finds your score is accurate up to: 37.Kd5 ___ 38.___ ___ 39.___ ___. Are those five missing moves or three missing move pairs? And does it matter? The rule allows for no more than a total of three missing or inaccurate move pairs. Move 37 is missing one move for black; thus, creating one missing move and one missing move pair. The two missing individual moves, one for white and one for black, for move 38 count together as only one missing move pair (while 37.Kd5 ___ 38.___ ___ is three missing moves, it is only two missing move pairs)--ditto for move 39. The TD upholds your claim. Missing moves are not always the same as missing move pairs.
Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, studying scoresheets post mortem in the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, Photo Lennart Ootes
A scoresheet missing more than three moves is a scoresheet aiming to lose. When your opponent runs out of time before making the right number of moves in the allotted time (you know, stuff like 45 moves in 90 minutes with a delay of 5 seconds, or 40/90, d5—sorry, in general single time control games, quick chess and blitz don’t count here)—you may claim a win aided with a complete scoresheet. The scoresheet has to be accurate. It can’t have more than three missing or inaccurate pairs of moves—three missing or inaccurate moves can be something entirely different. Some slick players like to point out that when a score is off by one move for many moves in a row that all of those one-off notations count as multiple errors. Check this out. Score 1: 1.e4 e5 2.Be2 g6 3.d4 d6 4.d5 c6 5.c4. … Score 2: 1.e4 Be2 2.g6 d4 3.d6 d5 4.c6 c4. Compare the two scores. Score 1 is how the scoresheet should look. Did you notice on Score 2 those bold faced notations? White forgot to write down black’s first move (1…e5) and instead just wrote down their own second move (2.Be2) in that empty space. This repetition went on move after move after move with that same one-off pattern. The rulebook only counts the first one-off notation (Score 2, 1…Be2) as a single error and nothing more. The three moves that follow the initial one-off error (2.g6 d4 3.d6 d5 4.c6 c4) are not considered as three additional errors—or errors of any kind. And minor notation miscues typically don’t count as errors at all; i.e., when the scoresheet says 1.Nf6 and the move on the board is obviously 1.Nf3 that is a minor notational error. Of course the TD gets to give the thumbs up or down on defining minor scoresheet errors.

Checkmarks on a scoresheet can bear the blame for TDs’ rejecting many a claim.

It is a common practice to use checkmarks in place of notation during time trouble, but it is still not acceptable as notation. Those checkmarks are good for keeping track of the move count, but nothing else—and remember clock move counters don’t count at all and are worthless in making claims. If you have the time left on your clock before your flag falls, you might try fixing your scoresheet before making a claim. Move on the board then write your score, this avoids the claim that you may find a bore. The main rule is that you must make your move on the board first, and then notate it on your scoresheet. This rule has a variation that allows wood pushers to first notate their move before making it on the chessboard. This variance never applies to electronic scoresheets. Since this variation is allowed to be unannounced, you should check with the TD to find out if the main rule or the variation applies to the tournament you signed up for. The concept in the main rule is that when a move is written, erased, written, erased, etc.it is considered note taking—and note taking is against the rules. So the line was drawn in the sand by the law-givers to not even allow the process to start when even one notation was written down before a move was played. The main rule caused a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth; thus, the variation. Besides the header info, only actual game moves, draw offers and clock times are allowed to be written on a scoresheet. Are you missing moves on your score? Use your rival’s to get more. You may fill in your own scoresheet using your opponent's scoresheet while your clock is running and both of you have at least five minutes left on your clock displays. If your opponent objects, get a TD. 
Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th & 6th edition of the US Chess Rulebook. He is also the author of My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut & Just Law, which are both available from US Chess Sales and Amazon/Kindle. Additionally, Tim recently revised The Guide To Scholastic Chess, a guide created to help teachers and scholastic organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. Tim is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee. His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.

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