Face to Face game rule/courtesy

Curious on some rules/courtesy in real league or club face to face games,

  1. Outside aid: I assume we are supposed to calculate everything in our minds without any outside help, such as simulating moves and variations in a tool like OGS Analyze game.

  2. Self note: how about writing down some thoughts in a piece of paper like I often do with OGS Malkovich? For example, on OGS, I write down things like O6 urgent point to remind myself to consider before next move. This is helpful especially in correspondent games, where it is typical my next move may be in hours and even days. In face to face game, it does not seem to be that useful, but still I am curious if it is allowed or considered abnormal.

  3. Break: I was told people cheat in chess games by going to restroom and plug in their games in software for the next move. It is not a rule, but courtesy, players typically ask “permission” from their opponents to take breaks. I am curious in a formal GO tournament. What is the rule or courtesy?

Anything else around this topic to share?


The American Go Association offers comprehensive resources covering these questions, including AGA Tournament Regulations. For example you’ll learn that you may not prevent your opponent’s access to the board.

To address your points 1 and 2, in AGA tournaments “players may not consult any reference outside their own mind”.


And on topic 3 there are somewhat onerous requirements for asking and getting permission to take a break, that are quite explicit. So it would not be a “courtesy”, actually you are required to ask permission, and go through the hoops to make sure neither side gets “free thinking time” about the next move during the adjournment (the player with the move has to commit to what they will play and the other player doesn’t know what this will be).

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Since I know nothing of IRL tournaments, I shall answer thus:

  • Try to treat your opponent and the game with respect.
  • Where there is ambiguity, attempt to remove the ambiguity with polite communication.
  1. Outside aid: Not only is your opponent ‘your opponent’ but you are ‘their opponent’. To me this would imply you not you+aid unless clearly indicated otherwise by unusual tournament rules.
  2. Self note: As you say, this seems less useful in live games but if I wished to do so, I would ask if my opponent minded first, to avoid a misunderstanding. I guess the need for this vanishes entirely for those that can replay a game immediately from memory. Sigh.
  3. Break: Clearly any attempt to gain an unfair advantage by breaking or abusing the rules is wrong and I would guess that the more serious/significant the tournament is, the more laborious the rules need to be. A good reason to leave money out of the game and just play for pleasure.

Thanks for replies.

I shall clarify my example of break is not a formal adjournment, but rather individual break, with the clock running. So the time loss is always on whoever taking the break.

I don’t know anything about while the clock is running rules for tournies - I didn’t see that in the rules … but I did see in the AlphaGo movie that Lee Sedol went out and had a smoke while the clock was running.


In live tournaments where I participated, you were allowed to use your time as you liked: many used it to take a break from the game, smoke a cigarette, eat something, go to toilet or just simply breath, stretch and relax.

I have no experience of clock stops, except for one single game where both players agreed and (almost) nobody complained.

To take notes should be very simple on paper or kifu. Using tablets or smartphones could be more suspicious but in the last European Congress a lot of people was using tablets and phones to transcribe their games and I heard no complains about that. I did for all of my 5 games (week end tournament) and often my opponents were doing the same.

Ouside aid wasn’t allowed.


I did glance through the AGA rule. Using computer to record games is allowed in general. The rule also says can only use our own minds, thus my idea of noting things on paper to help future moves is not allowed.

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It is entirely normal to leave the table. You can do this at any time - just know that the clocks will still be running. It is not unusual to make a provocative move and then immediately get up and walk away. I use this often in Chess and is a good part of the psychology of the game.

Regarding Chess, there are also further things:

  • Never initiate conversation during your opponent’s thinking time. If you want to say something, such as, “Gosh, this is exciting,” keep it brief and wait until it’s your move and your clock is ticking.
  • You should toggle the clock with the same hand used to make your move. That prevents you from pushing the clock during your move - which is tempting when you’re low on time and rushing.
  • Be still. Nervous energy is one thing, but fiddling with stones or a captured piece is distracting and rude.
  • Leave to be disgusting. If you need to pick your nose, smoke, burp, fart, “re-adjust”, pick your teeth, or anything else - just get up, walk away and do it in privacy. (Then wash your hands even if your clock is ticking down.)
  • Leave your phone out on the table when you walk away. It’s a nice way to reassure your opponent that your not cheating.