A mobile phone rings…

You’re twenty moves into a complicated game, where material is level; both you and your opponent have good chances of winning.   Then your opponent’s phone goes off.   What happens next (or should happen)?

According to the rules of the Suffolk League (and the Bury Area League), your opponent loses the game.   You get the full point, unless you have insufficient mating material, when the result would be ½ – 0.

But in reality, what actually does happen?   I’ve been in a couple of situations in recent league matches where my opponent’s phone has rung.   In one, he casually lent over to his jacket which was hanging on his chair, turned the phone off and resumed thinking about his next move.   I was in a quandary; should I claim the game, or say something, or what?   On the other occasion my opponent was more generous.   Admitting his fault, he asked, “I suppose that means I lose the game?”   It was easy for me to say, yes, I’m afraid it does.   And that was that; 1 – 0 to me.   But returning to the first instance, it’s embarrassing to have to tell your opponent that he has lost the game, which is why I kept quiet (fortunately, I went on to win, anyway).   It’s absolutely clear from the rules that it’s a loss for the person whose phone has made a noise and he/she should resign on the spot.

OK, that’s the law according to FIDE, which both local leagues have incorporated into their rules.   But I’m going to suggest something rather different and would welcome opinions from other local players.

Whilst in a tournament, where there is a controller/arbiter, the decision is clear: the player loses.   But in a local league, where we all know each other as friends, it does seem a bit brutal to have to concede the game.   I suggest that if it occurs in a Suffolk League match, or any of the competitions organised by the SCCA, then the game continues, but that person is banned from playing in the next match for which he would normally be selected.   So a regular in a team would miss the next match for that team.

That’s it; no loss of game, but perhaps a slight loss of face.   “Why aren’t you playing in the match tonight?”   “Oh, in the last match I forgot to switch off my phone and it rung, so I’ve been banned for this match”.

How does that sound to you?   Let’s hear your views.   If this idea is generally supported, it could be put as a proposal to the Suffolk AGM on 10 June.

11 thoughts on “A mobile phone rings…
  1. How about a 5 or 10 min penalty deduction. If early in game you're inconvenienced, if late in game then maybe lose.

  2. That's feasible, but critical if it happens near the end of the game. If it occurs after a couple of moves, it makes barely any difference. I prefer a penalty that's uniform, whatever time it happens.

    1. I quite like this, but it's the feasibility that bothers me. How many people can reset the digital clocks in the way this would require?

  3. Hello All,

    I write from my lair in Mid Suffolk about the curse of the mobile telephone.

    Am I not correct in saying that it is incumbent upon the host captain to make an announcement reminding all players to ensure their mobile telephones are swtched off immediately before the match starts?
    This announcement is not in the rule book but should be and is in my proposed revision of that inadequate document.
    The announcement should make it perfectly clear that if a player's mobile telephone makes any form of noise during the time the match is in progress.

    There can then be no dispute, question, animosity, embarrassment or discussion about what happens if a mobile phone goes off during the game.

    Remember thati It is not just the immediate opponent of the player whose telephone offends that gets disturbed., We all play in fairly close proximity to the other players in the match and so others can be disturbed just as badly.

    The offending player should have the good manners to immediately resign AND to seek out his opponent away from the board to apologise for ruining his opponents opportunity to enjoy the rest of their game.

    We are not playing just to take points from our opponents, we are there playing because we love the game and thoroughly enjoy the time we spend playing chess to our best ability.

    No we cannot water down this rule. Keep the mobile phone out of chess matches entirely.

    David Green

    Claim the game and shake hands.

    One of the beauties of league chess is that it is one place where the dreaded jangle of mobile telephones is simply considered unacceptable.

  4. The Fire Alarm goes off – Much noisier than a phone, Clacton arrived at Manningtree's Church Hall to play their division three match this week and the fire alarm went off before the game started. We eventually started playing at about 19.50pm. Could we have claimed all four games if the match was not under way by 20.00. As Clacton and Manningtree share players it is most unlikely that this would have happened. We decided to start the game with a curtain stuffed over the siren and then help from above came and the siren fell quiet.

    I don't think we should have a one match ban, who's going to police it ? We couldn't police registrations and fudged a way round it. David is right people should abide by the rules after all if your opponent breached any other rule you would tell him. A captain would as part of his duty remind his players to turn off their phones.

    1. Hi John,
      Your fire alarm scenario: Falls under Acts of God, sorry could not resist. If the place was actually on fire, flooded, falling around your ears or subject to power failure then a postponement is in order. There should be no loss of any points by the home team as these events are beyond their reasonable control. Good to hear that you played on and won well enough to leapfrog my team.

      David Green

    2. Even though it was a Church Hall I don't think Act of God covers burning toast by one of the congregation, it was not a Manningtree Player but some Church thing going on, but we were prepared to start play with the sound of 20 mobile phones going off — John

  5. In order to restore the respect of the "mates" rule, where some players are too polite to claim a win against an opponent where their phone has gone off, the one match ban sounds like a perfect idea. The only problem being down to the policing of it, which I suppose is a problem for the captains to sort out.
    Also, this would mean that the effort put into the position of the game currently being played will be credited.

  6. As the well known saying goes 'The law is an ass'
    I think this perfectly describes this particular rule.
    Although the rule was, I believe, originally introduced to stop the anti social behavior of interrupting a game by the choice of a ringtone, it has since been high jacked to imply a sense of cheating.
    I can understand applying this rule in a tournament or national event where there are arbiters or tournament controllers in attendance but at a local level is this really necessary?

    We all know each other and I would like to think that any suspicion of cheating would not be a consideration. We all understand that if a phone goes off it was not an intentional act but merely an oversight or forgetfulness. Why do we need to draconically penalise anyone for this absentmindedness and bring the game to an early finish?
    I would rather enjoy a game and win it by my ability (or not) rather than spoil it by claiming an infringement of a superfluous rule.

    I am not suggesting that we should abandon etiquette altogether and reverse back to pre-mobile days, however everyone is well aware of the necessity of switching their phone off for a match and in most instances comply with this. I think the embarrassment of forgetting and everyone else therefore knowing that you have forgotten is sufficient punishment in itself!

    I would therefore suggest the radical move of removing the penalty completely, whilst still emphasizing the requirement to switch off. This would eliminate the dilemma that Bob described. If there is an increased incidence of phones going off during play in the future we can always revisit the topic and introduce a suitable punishment. However I do not think that this would be necessary.

    1. I think Ian has summed it up pretty well, for league purposes we don't need this rule at all. How many games have been decided by a phone ringing in our three leagues. If Bob was in a quandary and didn't claim a win then whats the point.
      Put it to bed, scrap the rule and just leave it in place for congresses and 4NCL

    2. Hello John and Ian,

      The rule about mobile phones is a FIDE rule which the SCCA rules use as their default position, see rule 3 of the SCCA rules which reads:- 3. The FIDE Laws of Chess will apply to all games unless superseded by these Rules.

      Whether the rule is assinine or not, we can argue the pros and cons of that elsewhere, to scrap this rule at the FIDE level is clearly beyond the power of the SCCA.

      The SCCA rules would have to either opt out of whichever number FIDE rule covers mobile phone disturbance or in some other way make a rule that will actively condone distrubance due to mobile telephones. I do not think that the SCCA actually want to legislate to permit mobile telephone disturbance, do you??.

      I suggest that instead the SCCA add a rule that requires the home team capitain to make an announcement requiring theh players just before they start the clocks to ensure their mobile communication devices are switched off and reminding them all that the penalty for failure to ensure the mobile devices stay silent is their instant resignation should the mobile device make a noise. This was done without offence being taken or embarrassment caused at all of the home matches where I was captain this season.
      Only the totally inconsiderate or just plain stupid players who fail to silnce their moboile devices after such an explicit reminder can suffer this penalty and they will richly deserve it.


      David Green

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