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The terror of touch move in Chess

A chess match “loophole”? Understanding Touch Move during your Chess game

It is not unusual for us to get a lot of chess questions here at the store. That’s perfectly fine – when we can help, we’re happy to do it. The fact is, while I may know a lot about chess sets and chess pieces, i’m not a rated player myself and am more into the ‘games’ side of “Your Move Chess & Games”.

That being said, several of my co-workers have either been on a chess team or play chess casually or religiously. AJ frequents chess.com as a great place to play with different people around the world at any time – and that particularly website is free.

In any case, when it comes to questions about chess – while I am hesitant to say we’ve heard them all, we’ve heard a lot. There’s nothing quite like being a defacto tournament administrator on the fly for an intense game of chess on the phone! I thought of writing this particular chess post because over the weekend AJ fielded a common question about touch move, and we thought it would be an excellent thing to discuss in our blog.

Touch move in chess is the rule that states when you touch a piece, you have to move it. Casually, a lot of us don’t use this rule – but if you’re playing in a tournament (or even a casual match with some sort of stakes) be prepared to abide by it. If you’re not sure, you need to ask first – the assumption should always be that you are playing with touch move, not the other way around.

Touch Move in Chess

Here are a couple quick pointers so you know what to expect and what the rules are when you play.

If you touch a piece during your move, you are required to move that piece. If you do not take your finger off that piece, you can move it to a different spot, but once you let go, the move is “locked in”.

If you touch an opponents piece during your turn and have the ability to capture it, you must do so. This is a little less well known to casual players, and can result in some fiery debates (and is the reason for this post!)

If you’d like to adjust one of your chess pieces during your turn, you are supposed to say j’adoube. (French for “I adjust”) Only then can you straighten your piece out.

Under no circumstances is it acceptable for you to touch any chess pieces during your opponents turn. Doing so results in a time penalty.

If you touch a piece that you cannot use (for example when you are in check or you touch a piece that, if moved, would put you in check) you instead take a time penalty.

Castling always must be done king first, but if you touch them both at the same time you are obligated to make that castle (it is also poor form). If you do so and you cannot legally castle, you are required to move the king but not the rook.

Practical considerations for touch move in a Chess Match.

I think it’s also important to remember the general principles of good sportsmanship. These rules serve a purpose but should not be used as a loop hole or trick to win a game if you are playing casually. You could theoretically touch pieces to take a time penalty to rattle your opponent, or touch both king and rook at the same time instead of moving the king first during a castle. If you’re not playing a timed game, you could touch pieces off turn as often as you’d like with no fear of a time penalty. Is it technically allowed? Sure. Are you being a jerk? Probably.

If you are playing someone for the first time in a casual setting, you might gently remind them of the rules as a warning. While you are under no obligation to do so, chess remains a game ultimately of skill and I personally would not want to put efforts in a chess match that I win on technicality.

Till next time!

Quentin

Our Chess Store

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