This is the touch move rule:

If a player deliberately touches a piece on the board when it is their turn to move, then they must move or capture that piece if it is legal to do so.

Where did this rule come from?

3 Answers 3


Chess historian Edward Winter devotes a whole article to "J'Adoube".

He notes various early references to a "touch-move" rule before gviving a clue to the answer to

Where did this rule come from?

As Winter's consideration of the Matulovic affair shows it comes from an attempt to thwart natural tendencies to cheat when there is a lot at stake. In that case it happened in the 1967 Sousse Interzonal competition. This was a qualifier for the Candidates competition to decide the challenger to the World Champion.

Winter quotes Winning with Chess Psychology by Pal Benko and Burt Hochberg (New York, 1991):

The behavior of Grandmaster Milan Matulovic of Yugoslavia during his game with Bilek at the 1967 Interzonal in Tunisia stands as one of the most outrageous violations of tournament rules ever perpetuated at an event of such importance. Matulovic moved his bishop, pressed his clock, and suddenly saw that he had made a mistake. So, he took back his move, made a different move, and only then said "J'adoube". Bilek jumped in protest, of course. "But I said j'adoube!" Matulovic exclaimed. A big argument ensued, during which the tournament director, having only Bilek's word to go on, refused to require Matulovic to make a move with his bishop as the rules provided. Although Matulovic never denied taking his move back, the tournament appeals committee, amazingly, refused to punish him. The game ended in a draw.

Until that game, all the Yugoslav players customarily took their evening meals together in the hotel, but henceforth Matulovic dined alone, shunned by his own compatriots. And ever since that incident, he has been sneeringly refered to as "J'adoubovic". A final note of poetic justice: A few days after his game with Bilek, Matulovic choked on a bone during dinner and had to be taken to a doctor. From then on, the joke of the tournament was that the doctor couldn't find a bone but the word "j'adoube" stuck in Matulovic's throat.

Winter gives several other reports of the incident including by the Chief Arbiter, Diaconescu, which are also worth reading.

Here is the game:

[Title "Matulovic - Bilek, Sousse 1967"]
[fen ""]

 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 h6 7. b3 Bc5 8. Nd6+ Ke7 9. Nf5+ Kf8 10. Bc4 Bb4 11. Bd2 Qa5 12. Qf3 d5 13. exd5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Nb1 Bxd2+ 16. Nxd2 Bg4 17. Qf4 Re8+ 18. Kf1 Qc3 19. Rb1 Qxc2 20. f3 Bf5 21. Qxd4 Qxa2 22. Ra1 Bd3+ 23. Bxd3 Qxd2 24. Qc5+ Kg8 25. Bc4 g6 26. Qf2 Qc3 27. Rd1 b5 28. Be2 Re3 29. g3 Kg7 30. Kg2 a6 31. d6 Rhe8 32. Rhe1 Nd7 33. f4 Qb4 34. f5 g5 35. f6+ Kg8 36. h3 Qc3 37. Kf1 Qc6 38. Kg1 (38. Bf3 {moved it back to e2 and then said "J'adoube"}) Qe4 39. Rd2 Re6 40. h4 Rxf6 41. Qg2 Qxg2+ 42. Kxg2 Rfe6 43. hxg5 hxg5 44. b4 R3e4 45. Kf1 Rf6+ 46. Kg2 Rfe6 47. Kf1 Rf6+ 48. Kg2 Rfe6 49. Kf1 Rf6+ 50. Kg1 Rfe6 1/2-1/2
  • 2
    Game format not working
    – Fmbalbuena
    Dec 28, 2021 at 20:53
  • 2
    Works fine for me
    – Ian Bush
    Dec 29, 2021 at 7:07

The rule was established in the Middle Ages because many people would play with stakes and people would often touch pieces and then not move the piece for example the. As chess got bigger federations like FIDE and USCF adopted the rule which was created to stop people from confusing the players and to save time.

  • 4
    Are you saying FIDE invented the touch-move rule? So in all the tournaments and matches played before FIDE was organized in the 1920s, players were free to handle their pieces before deciding which one to move? Seriously?
    – bof
    Dec 28, 2021 at 5:00
  • 16
    FIDE had nothing to do with it except for codifying a long-standing rule of chess. According to Wikipedia: The touch-move rule has existed for centuries. In the Middle Ages strict rules were considered necessary because chess was played for stakes. Luis Ramirez de Lucena gave the rule in his 1497 book Arte de Axdres (Sunnucks 1970:462). Benjamin Franklin referred to it in his 1786 essay The morals of chess.
    – bof
    Dec 28, 2021 at 5:08
  • 4
    Could you provide some references to back up the assertions in the answer, please?
    – Ian Bush
    Dec 28, 2021 at 9:35
  • 2
    I'm sorry but to my mind that's not a reference - it's just some asserting the first half of what you say above in a forum, and I can't see anything about FIDE at all on that page.
    – Ian Bush
    Dec 28, 2021 at 15:59

It might be worth noting that so far as the FIDE laws are concerned the full touch move rule is the main rule that dictates that each player may move only his own pieces. In the FIDE rendering the full touch move rule is art. 4.3, stating:

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.

The full touch move rule refers to both the player's own pieces and those of his opponent. The general result is that a player may not move an opponent's piece, because as soon as he touches it he is obliged to capture it rather than move it (which can be achieved only by moving one of his own pieces).

There are some peccadillo's in the FIDE laws (unintentional I believe) that limit the effect of art. 4.3.

The first is that it applies only to the player having the move.

In normal English this would mean the player who's turn it is, but the FIDE laws contain a definition of the term, so this should take precedence. The definition occurs in art. 1.3.

1.3 A player is said to ‘have the move’ when his opponent’s move has been ‘made’.

Art. 1.2 dictates that White moves first, but at the start of the game his opponent has made no move so White doesn't have the move under the definition. On the other hand, since the constraints of art. 4.3 apply only to the player having the move, there is nothing in the remaining laws to stop White making a legal move with a black piece on his first move (e.g. g7-g5).

This would not generally be regarded as valid, which is why I believe it's unintentional in the FIDE laws.

The second is that the FIDE laws express rules variously in terms of both the colour and ownership of the pieces. Art.2.2 assigns ownership of the white pieces to White and the black pieces to Black at the start of the game, so this would be fine so long as there are no remaining rules that could reassign ownership.

The en passant rule could introduce an ambiguity in this regard, depending on whether "capturing" a piece is assumed to transfer ownership of the piece to the player making the capture.

Normally this is immaterial because

art.3.1.1 If a piece moves to a square occupied by an opponent’s piece the latter is captured and removed from the chessboard as part of the same move.

ensures that a captured piece is removed from the board at the time of capture and the ownership is then not relevant.

But the en passant rule

art. A pawn occupying a square on the same rank as and on an adjacent file to an opponent’s pawn which has just advanced two squares in one move from its original square may capture this opponent’s pawn as though the latter had been moved only one square.

states only that a pawn my be captured as if it had moved one square, not that if may be captured and removed from the board as if it had moved one square. In this case the move doesn't accord with art.3.1.1.

It could be interpreted as meaning the capturing and captured pawns both remain on the board after the capture and further that the captured pawn is then owned by the player making the capture. (It's common in other games that things that are captured and remain in play become owned by the player making the capture; for example a captured territory in Risk.)

In practice the pawn captured en passant is also removed from the board, so again I believe the ambiguity in the FIDE laws is unintentional.

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