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With all the questions lately about pieces being knocked off the board, being forced to adjust a fallen piece, etc., it made me think of this common scenario.

Players often adjust more than their own pieces if one is particularly off-center. Is it OK per the rules to adjust your opponent's pieces, and what if he objects?

Can you do it anyway, and then when it is his move, he can readjust them to be off-center?

In practice, I doubt many people would have a real problem unless one player is constantly doing this, but it made me wonder.

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Is it OK per the rules to adjust your opponent's pieces?

YES

The rules are clear:

4.2.1 Only the player having the move may adjust one or more pieces on their squares, provided that he first expresses his intention (for example by saying “j’adoube” or “I adjust”).

4.2.2 Any other physical contact with a piece, except for clearly accidental contact, shall be considered to be intent.

When it is your turn, you may adjust the pieces. There is no distinction between your pieces and your opponent's pieces.

The next article makes it clear by implication that both your and your opponent's pieces are covered by this:

4.3 Except as provided in Article 4.2, if the player having the move touches on the chessboard,with the intention of moving or capturing:

4.3.1 one or more of his own pieces, he must move the first piece touched that can be moved

4.3.2 one or more of his opponent’s pieces, he must capture the first piece touched that can be captured

4.3.3 one or more pieces of each colour, he must capture the first touched opponent’s piece with his first touched piece or, if this is illegal, move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured. If it is unclear whether the player’s own piece or his opponent’s was touched first, the player’s own piece shall be considered to have been touched before his opponent’s.

If you touch one of your opponent's pieces without saying "I adjust", or the equivalent in your language, then you must capture it. By implication, if you did say "I adjust" or "j'adoube", then you may adjust it.

What if he objects?

Call the arbiter. Make sure you ask for extra time (2 minutes) for the disturbance your opponent caused you. A good arbiter should give you this automatically unless there were extenuating circumstances.

When it is his move, he can readjust them to be off-center?

As long as he first says "I adjust" or "j'adoube".

Once, in a mischievous mood, when helping the arbiter set up the room before playing in a competition I deliberately positioned the knights, on all the boards I set up, either one facing forward and one backward or the left knight facing left and the right knight facing right (i.e. both knights facing away from the action). Most of the players, being at least mildly OCD, would have adjusted the pieces before the game, regardless, even if the pieces were perfectly placed :-).

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You are permitted to adjust any piece when it is your move.

If one opponent was careless and never centered a piece after a move there should be no problem if you adjust it.

If the piece was reasonably placed and you did it anyway, or if you adjusted it for some quirk like wanting the horsies to face forward or sideways then the arbiter might consider that as an attempt to annoy or upset the opponent.

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