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There is a rule of playing the game of chess that a touched piece of one's own should be the one to move. I have always been taught by professional trainers from early childhood that this is the official rule to be followed in tournaments, but not necessarily in friendly games.

However, I find that online interfaces for playing rated games do not enforce this rule. I often find myself starting to make a move in blitz and then opting for another, possibly with a different piece. The interface always allows that in all the sites I have played.

Is this an omission on the part of the designers or rather an indication that chess players really do not care about this rule (mindlessly repeated from generation to generation)?

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    I suspect that many online chess protocols would not have a standardized way to communicate "this player touched this piece but hasn't moved it." Even if there were, it would be easy to write a chess client that didn't communicate such data. – David Zhang May 27 '16 at 11:15
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    From an technology accessibility standpoint it could be a bit challenging to do this. If you are playing chess with a keyboard and not mouse it gets a bit more tricky to figure out a 'touch' vs a 'I'm moving past the rook to get to the knight' – Reinstate Monica May 27 '16 at 14:26
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    @DavidZhang +1 Please post that as an answer! – David Richerby May 27 '16 at 18:48
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    @DavidZhang are there standardized online chess protocols? – user253751 May 28 '16 at 6:09
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I think the reason becomes more apparent when you consider why the rule is in place for OTB games - an opponent constantly moving their hands around the board and moving the pieces around can be very distracting while the other player is likely still trying to concentrate on the position.

By contrast, in online chess both players are using their own screens and the fact that one player starts moving one piece, decides against it and then moves another is not even conveyed to the other player - they see a static board until the final move is made.

Another factor (but not the main motivation IMO) might be that, as you hinted at in your question, most online games are seen as 'friendly' games - it has only been very recently that the idea of officially rated online games has been accepted by FIDE, for example.

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    Might also be worth mentioning that it's pretty easy to grab the wrong piece in some clients, before you get used to where you have to click to select a piece. (For instance, whether an isometric game looks to see whether the mouse is over the square, or over the piece itself.) – Patrick M May 29 '16 at 17:17
  • As well, there's the fact that (usually) you probably can't prove absolutely that a physical board's pieces haven't been at all rearranged after having touched a piece, whereas that's not so much of a problem with GUIs. – Charles Rockafellor Jun 22 '16 at 14:25
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    @PatrickM Not to mention how bad this would be on mobile clients that use a touchscreen. – eyeballfrog Sep 25 '17 at 23:57
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There are three issues here: regulation, time control and technology.

The FIDE Laws of Chess cover over the board play. They do not cover correspondence, simultaneous displays, handicaps, variants (other than chess960), computer chess and anything else which is not strictly OTB, although you are free to use a suitable subset for these other forms.

Even if you are playing OTB there is no obligation unless you are playing in a formal competition which is governed by FIDE or an association of FIDE like your national chess federation. When I taught my kids to play, the touch-move rule came very late in my priorities.

The first time I played in a formal blitz tournament I had been playing competitions with standard rates of play for about 30 years. I was very familiar with touch-move. However the informal rule I was used to for blitz was that touch-move did not apply. Your move didn't become "fixed" until you pressed the clock even if you moved a piece, let go of it, moved it back and moved another one.

It is interesting that in the recent St Louis event in the Nakamura - Kasparov game where Kasparov violated touch-move quite blatantly, the commentators were unsure, Kasparov claims he was unsure and says (which you can actually see on the video) that he looked around at the arbiter for guidance to see if what he was doing was wrong.

In OTB chess played at standard time controls (each player having at least an hour for all their moves, more for stronger players) touch-move makes a lot of sense. Calculate your move in your head without touching or moving pieces around on the board and then make it.

In chess played online via a computer interface the vast majority of games are played at blitz rates (each player having 10 minutes or less for all their moves). Time controls go all the way down to bullet - just one minute for all the moves. That it is even possible to play a sensible game at these rates is down to the technology: there is no clock to press (the technology handles that), you can make moves (with practice and the right mouse) much quicker and you can pre-move.

The last one of these is key. There is a lot of skill (and even character) in pre-moving and in a format where speed is vital pre-moving can make a big difference.

FIDE laws regarding which hand you press the clock with, touch-move, how you capture a piece or castle (use one hand only, please!), how you promote a pawn just don't make sense in correspondence chess or in online chess.

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I believe that it is forbidden because you can touch a piece and see the other players reaction. Was that a hint of a smile? Maybe I better not move that piece.

This is not an issue in online chess, because as others stated only the final move is seen by the opponent.

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    I think this is an extremely minor consideration. – David Richerby May 27 '16 at 18:50
  • Junior players sometimes "try out " a move, to see its effect on their opponent. It's not common, but it's certainly not minor. I had this happen in a game I played, and I reminded my opponent of the rule. She said she was familiar with it. If that's true, why did she move the piece in the first place, and then attempt to replace it and move another? Clearly, because she expected me not to object. – jaxter Oct 18 '16 at 3:22
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The rule doesn't make any sense in an online game. The rule is that you cannot touch your own piece on the shared board. In other places accessible only to you, such as in your head, you are free to touch and manipulate pieces as you wish. In an online game, there is no shared board to make rules about. So there's no coherent way the rule could apply.

  • It would be trivial to enforce in an online game. Of course it makes sense; it's applying an OTB principle to an online medium, and there's no reason not to enforce it, other than the objections of players who prefer not to be forced to move the first piece they touch. They could just avoid a client that implemented this, and pick another. So, it's more about how rigidly the sites enforce the rule, and whether they feel it would discourage players. I've certainly had a few mouseslips, though, and that problem would increase dramatically. – jaxter Oct 18 '16 at 3:24
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In OTB chess, the touch move rule prevents moves from being retracted, while in online chess, the software prevents this.

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    if you explained why that is, you'd have an answer to this question – undergroundmonorail May 29 '16 at 17:40
  • The question was not about retraction; it was about being obliged to move a piece that was touched, even though it may not have been moved from its original square. – jaxter Oct 18 '16 at 3:19

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