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Noob question: I am aware of the no-touch rule, but can I point or hover my finger over a chess piece in a major tournament? To clarify, let's say it's my turn and I am thinking about which piece to move, and part of my thinking process is to move my finger from one piece to another without actually touching any of them, thus not violating the no-touch rule. To me, it appears that in spirit, it is very much like touching the piece except there is no touching; so is it legal to do that? Spirit aside, is there any law in the book or in any of the major chess tournaments addressing this concept?

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Hovering your hand over the pieces does not violate the touch-move rule, but it is bad etiquette and arguably violates the rule against annoying your opponent ("It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.", say the FIDE Laws of Chess, §11.5 in the 2018 edition.)

Here's the explanation given in Chess for Dummies:

Furthering the touch-move rule, a frequent cause of complaints is the hand hover. The hand hover occurs when a player positions his hand over a piece and leaves it there. The hand hover is a distraction, and you shouldn’t do it — so goes the warning by José Capablanca. You should never obscure your opponent’s sight of the board unless you’re in the act of moving, so don’t reach for a piece until you’ve decided to move it.

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This has pretty much been covered by the other questions: there is no rule specifically forbidding this practice, but it might be considered distracting or annoying.

One thing the other answers didn’t cover: hovering your hand over the pieces when it’s your opponents turn. I saw, in a club tournament, a player did this when they were low on time and the arbiter warned them to keep their hand away from the board until it was their turn.

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There are tournaments that have a "touch" rule that indicates that if you touch the piece you must move the piece. There are tournaments where if you touch a piece as long as you don't let go of the piece (unless moved back to its original position), does not constitute a move, eg; I could hold my hand on my queen, pick it up, then put it back down in the same square, and then move a rook.

Tournament rules are largely up to the tournament to decide but most refer to the FIDE rulings.

Pointing to pieces etc does not indicate a touch or more importantly intent to move. The biggest issue I can see arising from this is that you could be indicating ideas to someone watching who could validate a if a move is good or bad.

I would suggest referring to the FIDE handbook. However please refer below to the relevant section

From the FIDE handbook (https://handbook.fide.com/chapter/E012018)

Article 4: The act of moving the pieces

4.1 Each move must be played with one hand only.

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.

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. 4.4 If a player having the move:

4.4.1 touches his king and a rook he must castle on that side if it is legal to do so 4.4.2 deliberately touches a rook and then his king he is not allowed to castle on that side on that move and the situation shall be governed by Article 4.3.1 4.4.3 intending to castle, touches the king and then a rook, but castling with this rook is illegal, the player must make another legal move with his king (which may include castling with the other rook). If the king has no legal move, the player is free to make any legal move. 4.4.4 promotes a pawn, the choice of the piece is finalised when the piece has touched the square of promotion. 4.5 If none of the pieces touched in accordance with Article 4.3 or Article 4.4 can be moved or captured, the player may make any legal move.

4.6 The act of promotion may be performed in various ways:

4.6.1 the pawn does not have to be placed on the square of arrival, 4.6.2 removing the pawn and putting the new piece on the square of promotion may occur in any order. 4.6.3 If an opponent’s piece stands on the square of promotion, it must be captured. 4.7 When, as a legal move or part of a legal move, a piece has been released on a square, it cannot be moved to another square on this move. The move is considered to have been made in the case of:

4.7.1 a capture, when the captured piece has been removed from the chessboard and the player, having placed his own piece on its new square, has released this capturing piece from his hand, 4.7.2 castling, when the player's hand has released the rook on the square previously crossed by the king. When the player has released the king from his hand, the move is not yet made, but the player no longer has the right to make any move other than castling on that side, if this is legal. If castling on this side is illegal, the player must make another legal move with his king (which may include castling with the other rook). If the king has no legal move, the player is free to make any legal move. 4.7.3 promotion, when the player's hand has released the new piece on the square of promotion and the pawn has been removed from the board. 4.8 A player forfeits his right to claim against his opponent’s violation of Articles 4.1 – 4.7 once the player touches a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it.

4.9 If a player is unable to move the pieces, an assistant, who shall be acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to perform this operation.

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    "There are tournaments where if you touch a piece as long as you don't let go of the piece (unless moved back to its original position), does not constitute a move, eg; I could hold my hand on my queen, pick it up, then put it back down in the same square, and then move a rook." Really!!!? Certainly this would not be allowed in any tournament I have played in in the UK since I came back to chess 7-8 years ago. For me this would be just about OK in a game with the 6 year old daughter of my friends, but she would still get a warning, but nothing else. It just feels entirely wrong.
    – Ian Bush
    Oct 31, 2020 at 20:48
  • @ian bush it's quite rare you tend to see it more at club levels and not at fide sanctioned tournaments
    – Merenix
    Nov 1, 2020 at 0:25
  • @IanBush Carlsen-Karjakin, World Blitz Championship 2012. Karjakin picked up the knight and moved it, but didn't release it, and then he put it back and thought about it for 10 more seconds. According to a comment, "In blitz you can do that unless you press the clock". Carlsen didn't object, so I guess it's true. Nov 1, 2020 at 8:44
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    @FabiosaysReinstateMonica: You can touch a piece and then put it back on its original square; but you are then obliged to move that piece when you decide on your move. This is the case in all forms of the game, not just blitz. Karjakin did, in fact, move the knight; moving any other piece would have been illegal.
    – TonyK
    Nov 1, 2020 at 10:21
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    Note also that he touches the h-pawn at about the 20-second mark, and doesn't move it! But if you look at his lips, he appears to say "j'adoube" before he touches it -- see article 4.2.1 above.
    – TonyK
    Nov 1, 2020 at 10:25
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Is pointing at pieces during your turn okay? Regardless of whether or not such gestures are permitted I try to avoid them during play. A chess player should avoid providing any insight into their thought process or mood during the game. Sharing such information may give the opponent an edge. As others have said, attempting to distract or confuse the opponent by presenting false information by gesturing towards pieces could cross the line of proper chess etiquette during tournament play. However, I have seen this done in casual games.

Now touching pieces is an entirely different matter. I thought that touch a piece, move that piece, was standard practice.

...There are tournaments where if you touch a piece as long as you don't let go of the piece (unless moved back to its original position), does not constitute a move, eg; I could hold my hand on my queen, pick it up, then put it back down in the same square, and then move a rook.

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