Forum Archive : Tournaments

Recording matches

From:   Chuck Bower
Date:   15 September 2003
Subject:   Ruling Issue #2
Forum:   GammOnLine

I've seen the following occur at least once in the past two
tournaments I've attended (Michigan Summer Championships and Indiana

1) In the midst of playing a match, a player snaps a digital photo of
a checker play or cube decision before announcing his choice or making
his play.

2) (same as 1, except instead of photographing, player writes the
position on a "position card").

3) A player records (by videocam) the entire match.

4) A player records (by hand, at each turn, his own) entire match.

What do you think? Is any or all of these allowed without permission?
With opponent's permission? With director's permission?

If you feel more can be said as to when to allow and/or disallow any
of these kinds of chronicling, please elaborate.

Dean Gay  writes:

I guess chess clocks help address some of these things, assuming the
activities are done on one's own time. Beyond that, it seems to me
that it's polite to ask permission, and to respect the opponent's
answer. Personally, I would allow most of these things as long as they
weren't a distraction and were done only ocassionally. If the player
wants to videotake the match, I would ask for a copy. I think I would
object to a player recording each move by hand, however, as that
interferes with the natural flow of the game.

Mary Hickey  writes:

Regarding #1 and #2:

I have no problem with either method of recording, but I have been
insisting that everyone who does this announce their move or decision
ahead of their recording the position. Otherwise, they are buying a
significant amount of extra time to continue "processing in the
background" as they write it down or photograph it. What I'm doing is
more or less saying they have to do their recording after the move. Of
course if I'm writing a position down, I also announce the move first.
I don't have a digital camera so that one doesn't come up. I do ask
that the person e-mail me their later analysis of the positions
(usually Snowie files). Everyone has been happy to do this, so no
problem there as yet.

The only time I see any need for the director to overrule this is if
the match where people are photographing and recording frequently is
slowing the tournament down. The director could first just request no
more recording, and if the match still goes too slowly, put a clock on
it. My own experience, admittedly limited, is that the very slowest
players at my home state clubs (Columbus and North Canton) and also at
most out-of-state tourneys where I've played never record positions,
so this doesn't tend to be a problem.

Regarding 3:

Again, I never object as long as they send me the match log or Snowie
file. Videotaping doesn't take much time out of the match, since the
player typically has the camera set up before I get there anyway.

Regarding 4:

You gotta be kidding. Tell him to spring for a paid recorder, if there
isn't anyone interested in doing it for their own benefit. I've never
run into this, so I'm not sure what I would do. If the match was
clocked and they did it on their own time, I guess I wouldn't care
enough to make an issue of it. If it wasn't, I would be concerned this
might slow the match down excessively. Accordingly, I would want to
know in advance what options I had after say, 2 or 3 games, if in fact
the match had gone into tortoise mode.

Just another set of opinions to toss around--

Mary Hickey

Neil Kazaross  writes:

> 1) In the midst of playing a match, a player snaps a digital photo
> of a checker play or cube decision before announcing his choice or
> making his play.

I can tolerate this, but honestly it only should be allowed when
clocks are used and then only with the opp's permission. Even this
slows down the game which is often MUCH too slow anyhow.

> 2) (same as 1, except instead of photographing, player writes the
> position on a "position card").

Hell no, unless he can do it by code and NOT slow up play.. I have a
quick code I use for bearoff's bear ins but will do it after the game
and not slow up play. If clocked, the player is free to do this IMO
since he uses his own time and doesn't distract the opp. A picture may
be distracting.

> 3) A player records (by videocam) the entire match.

No problem with this if both players agree. No one is allowed to
record me playing for any reason without giving me a copy of the

> 4) A player records (by hand, at each turn, his own) entire match.

OMG HELL NO!!! This slows down the match and also the natural tempo of
play. I let Steve Sax do this when we played the Masters 1st round (I
think Pittsburg) but won't allow this again unless overruled by a
director (depending on my mood I might then withdraw if overruled).
Steve and I did have fun, did finish reasonably quickly and commented
on the match for GV. But that is beside the point. I know I was
somewhat distracted by the tempo but feel he was more so. However, the
other players in the event shouldn't be subjected to our match taking
longer than it should of (we could've played a very long match

You can quote me on this. I will NEVER play another match where a
player records the entire match (himself) by hand.

In the event the director will not enforce my objection, I will
withdraw from the tourney and ask for my money back if first round. If
later, I have no choice but to play, but will be very UNLIKELY to play
in events run by that director in the future.

The pencil/pen should only be used to keep score in backgammon.

I can deal with someone slowing play a bit to record an position a
couple times during a match preferably from memory after the game is

Those that want to record their matches..

1) Film it or
2) Get someone else to do it or
3) Play on line and record a bunch of your matches to study.


Douglas Zare  writes:

> If it's clocked, I say you can do whatever you want with your time.

I disagree. I don't think a player should be able to perform
calculations on paper, or to write out notes to look at later in the
match. I also don't think a player should be able to stroll around the
tournament hall, looking at other matches while deciding on a cube
decision, although it is hard to prevent a player from looking at
adjacent boards. Less controversially, I don't think a player should
be able to read a backgammon book between games, even when using up a

I think it is easier for some people to take a pip count as they write
a position down, in which case there is reason not to allow them to
write down a position even after making a decision, since the pip
count is likely to remain relevant in the future. I think it is also
relatively easy to calculate the pip count, or at least the difference
in pip counts, by looking at the game record.

Douglas Zare

Daniel Murphy  writes:

(March 1990) apply to the two tournaments Chuck mentions. Not that
those rules have much to say about the actions he describes, apart
from 1.5 AIDS ("Once a match is in progress, neither player may use
mechanical or written aids except to keep score. Player may forbid his
opponent from wearing headphones.") and the catchall 1.1

Are video cameras, still cameras, blank position cards and
self-transcription of a match record considered to be "aids"? If so,
they are explicitly illegal. If not so considered, then they are not
illegal, are not mentioned at all in the rules, and whether or not
they are "allowed" with or without opponent's permission would seem to
be entirely up to directors Carol Joy Cole in Michigan and Butch Meese
in Indiana.

As Chuck is probably aware, the Danish federation's rules, which were
once almost identical to the March 1990 rules, were completely
rewritten in 2001. The Danish rules are somewhat more explicit about
the situations Chuck describes.

"Danish Rule 3.8 Notation og filmoptagelse. Turneringslederen kan, på
eget initiativ eller efter opfordring fra en spiller, udnævne en
tredje person til at notere eller filmoptage kampen."

(Translation: The tournament director can, on his own initiative or at
the request of a player, name a third person to transcribe or film a

I understand this rule as primarily a protection of whatever interest
the tournament leadership may have in recording matches played at the
tournament, As I recall in 2001 there was a suggestion made (perhaps
by me) that the rules specifically grant a player the right to film
his own match or have it recorded by a third person, but such language
was not included in the revised rules.

The Danish equivalent of the U.S. "Aids" rule is:

"1.7 Hjælpemidler, signalering og anden hjælp. 1. GENERELT. Når en
kamp er begyndt, må ingen af spillerne gøre brug af elektroniske,
mekaniske, skriftlige eller andre hjælpemidler, udover hvad der er
nødvendigt for at føre scorekort."

(Translation: 1.7 Aids, signaling and other help. 1. GENERALLY. Once a
match has begun, neither player shall make use of electronic,
mechanical, written or other aids, other than what is necessary to
keep score.)

Beginning in 2003, the federation's Tournament Committee began
publishing on the federation's website a page of rules
interpretations. The Committee has published an interpretation of Rule

"Fortolkning: Når en kamp er begyndt, er det ikke tilladt at anvende
propkort, hovedtelefoner, mobiltelefoner, kamera eller andre
hjælpemidler, som ikke er nødvendige for at føre score. Det er dog
tilladt at anvende de nævnte hjælpemidler, hvis modstanderen i hvert
konkret tilfælde giver tilladelse. Turneringslederen kan til enhver
tid annulere en spillers tilladelse til anvendelse af de nævnte
hjælpemidler. Mht. anvendelse af propkort skal nedskrivning af
positionen, i kampe afviklet uden brug af spilleur, ske efter at
spilleren har afsluttet sin tur. I kampe afviklet med brug af spilleur
skal nedskrivning af positionen ske i egen tid, dvs. før splleren har
afsluttet sin tur. Det er ikke tilladt af ændre sin handling efter
nedskrivning af positionen er begyndt."

(Translation: Interpretation: Once a match has begun, it is not
allowed to use prop cards, headphones, mobil phones, camera or other
aids, other than those required to keep score. It is however allowed
to use the named aids, if the opponent gives his express permission.
The tournament director can at any time annul a players permission to
allow the named aids. With regard to prop cards, the writing down of a
position in matches played without a time clock shall occur after the
player has finished his turn. In matches played with a time clock, the
writing down of a position shan occur on a player's own time, before
he has ended his turn. It is not allowed to change one's play after
the writing down of a position has begun.)

It is generally recognized that the March 1990 rules are incomplete,
sometimes vague and are not inclusive of all the "rules" that are
followed in practice at U.S. tournaments. Revision of those rules has
been the topic of intermittent discussions for years. I was briefly
(and abortedly) involved in that discussion a couple of years ago.
What progress has been made since then I do not know.

I would, however, suggest that in the absence of any revision to the
March 1990 rules, the ABA directors might consider following the
practice of the Danish federation in publishing accepted
interpretations and useful decisions by ABA directors. These could be
published on the website of the Chicago Point, where the U.S. rules
are now found, and where (in the printed version of the newsletter),
Danny Kleinman's "Ruling the Game" has long been a popular column.

With regard to photographing or writing down a position "before
announcing his choice or making his play, I endore the Danish
interpretation of the Danish rule that this should not be allowed. A
player should finish his move or cube action, then record the
position, and then end his turn by picking up his dice or hitting the
clock, and not change his action once he's begun recording it.

It is my own opinion that a player ought to have the right to record a
position occurring in his own match, to videotape his own match, or to
have a third person write it down. However, under Danish rules there
is no such right, and a player may do these things only with
opponent's express permission. My guess is that the same is true in
practice at U.S. tournaments: one should ask first and opponent may

As to a player recording "by hand, at each turn, his own entire
match", I imagine that many opponents would find this intrusive and
annoying, even if done on one's own clock time or without drastically
slowing the game. It also strikes me as falling (barely, perhaps) into
the category of illegal aids since, for example, the process of
writing one's own match down may remind one of the many matches one
has reviewed and studied. As a director I would be sympathetic to any
opponent's objection to a player writing down his own match, even if
the player was myself or (remembering a previous discussion on this
topic) David Montgomery, or anyone else fully capable of recording his
own match in good tempo.

Chuck Bower  writes:

Nice response, Daniel. I agree with it 99%. (Well, maybe 98%, since
you didn't give sufficient sentiment to the telekineticists. :)

I really like the Danish rule here. Allow me to elaborate on my

A few years ago in a match with Harry Cohn, I asked if I could write
down a position and his reply was "yes, but only after making your
play." It immediately occurred to me that this was based upon sound
reasoning. I play lunchtime matches with a colleague and have for many
years recorded (initially by hand, but lately by Snowie) interesting
positions. Having done that I do feel that there is an advantage in
making one's decision, and that recording a position by hand *before*
making the play/cube decision should be considered an illegal aid.

At the Indiana Open, playing an accomplished player (highly ranked in
the all-time ABT), I found him hand recording positions. I told him it
was fine with me, but that he should announce his inteneded play
before writing it down. (This isn't quite as foolproof as requiring
the actual move.) He never complied. Possibly he didn't understand me,
although I actually told him why I felt this way. Maybe I should have
called the director at that point, but I didn't.

When Bill Davis and I discussed these issues in INDY, he felt that
banning position cards and/or cameras would be detrimental in that
these practices further our knowledge of the game (especially
individually, but even collectively). I wholeheartedly agree. But I
think the Danish rule alleviates the problem of outside aid (at the
99% level) and still allows us the further our learning.

Neil's suggestion of writing down the position *after* the game would
be an equivalent alternative IF we all had memories as good as Neil's.
In my case I often only vaguely remember the positions of interest. I
do think people should exercise disgression in not recording too many
positions in a match. Don't overdo your welcome. Also, as the rules
now stand, technically if the opponent objects I think the director
will have to rule that positions cannot be recorded, even with a

Concerning hand-recording an entire match, this happened at the
Michigan Summer Champs. I told my opp that this could slow down the
match considerably and he mildly disagreed! At least he said it
shouldn't interfere with the typical time limits (which aren't stated
at Michigan, but 2 - 2.5 hours is typical for a long UNRECORDED match
there, in my experience). I told him that the directorship would
likely frown upon this and that I would allow it but reserved the
right to call them later in the match if it looked like it was
dragging things out. (As it so happens, the match went quickly, with
me losing. :(

I've asked a few directors since that time and I was right: frowns all
around! In the future I will only allow this if played on the clock.
This was Monty's suggestion here a few years back -- if someone wants
to record on their own time, then let them. I agree. I'm willing to
put up with the small likelihood that hand recording actually helps
one in a game. I can imagine it causing more disruption in one's
concentration than helping, at least in some individuals.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



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