So Much to Learn: An Important Lesson from the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship

Wesley So alone at the board(photo by: Lennart Ootes, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis)
Wesley So alone at the board(photo by: Lennart Ootes, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis)

In case you missed it, the world of chess was stunned on the tenth of April when Grandmaster Wesley So was forfeited in round nine of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship after being caught “note taking.” Wesley, who is currently ranked number 8 in the world by FIDE, had already been warned twice in his previous games that his habit of writing notes during the game was a violation of the FIDE Laws of Chess. Below is a copy of the rules 21 Year-Old Wesley So was caught violating:

Article 12: The conduct of the players

  1. During play the players are forbidden to make use of any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse on another chessboard
  2. Without the permission of the arbiter a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue, unless they are completely switched off. If any such device produces a sound, the player shall lose the game. The opponent shall win. However, if the opponent cannot win the game by any series of legal moves, his score shall be a draw.
  3. Smoking is permitted only in the section of the venue designated by the arbiter
12.4 The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, the offers of a draw, and matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.
12.5 Players who have finished their games shall be considered to be spectators.
12.6 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims, unreasonable offers of a draw or the introduction of a source of noise into the playing area.
12.7 Infraction of any part of Articles 12.1 to 12.6 shall lead to penalties in accordance with Article 13.4.
12.8 Persistent refusal by a player to comply with the Laws of Chess shall be penalised by loss of the game. The arbiter shall decide the score of the opponent.

When asked about his behavior during the round, Wesley first claimed that he did not realize he was breaking the rules.


However, several witnesses immediately came forward to discredit this claim.

After it became apparent that he knew it was against the rules, Wesley proceeded by blaming his earlier losses and cavalier disregard for the rules on “personal problems” in his family. According to the family he now lives with, So’s biological family and former coaches “conspired to destroy” his chances at the U.S. Chess Championship(an assertion that Wesley So has yet to contradict.)

Regardless of what other pressure Wesley may or may not have been under, the blame for intentionally violating the rules of chess has to be attributed to the player who committed the crime. At 21 years of age, Wesley So apparently lacks the maturity to own up to his own mistakes. Playing by the rules and taking responsibility for your own failures may not make you a grandmaster… but these qualities are prerequisites of adulthood.

For more on the rule violation by Wesley So which result in his forfeit loss to Varuzhan Akobian, please watch the thorough explanation that occurred during the live boradcast of the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship:

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

2 thoughts on “So Much to Learn: An Important Lesson from the 2015 U.S. Chess Championship

  1. So admitted that only he himself is responsible for breaking the rules. He accepted the loss. He wrote the encouraging words this time on an extra paper, not on the scoresheet. Maybe he hoped to get through with this, because this is not directly against 12.3.1. and 12.4.?
    Who could know, that a “good friend” like Akopian, that knows this habit for a long time, would run immediatly to the referee asking for an investigation? Acting like a child to avoid the fight at the board?

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