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At a casual club where I play, one guy insists on playing five minute Blitz games (most of us play untimed games otherwise). Since a player's move isn't complete until they press their clock, he claims that touch move doesn't apply. As such, he sometimes picks up and moves a piece, but then takes the move back when he realizes it would be a mistake, or thinks there is a better move - all before pressing his clock button. Sometimes he ends up moving a different piece than the one he originally touched.

Thus I ask: Is his interpretation of the rule correct, i.e. in Blitz, can a player touch and even move a piece but then take that move back as long as they don't press their clock button? Or is a player still required to move a piece once they have touched it (clearly intending to move it)?

Update: Folks seem to be focusing on the "casual" nature of the games I mentioned. However, I'm more interested in the rules aspect of this question.

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    Are these games rated? Jul 6, 2023 at 19:48
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    @SecretAgentMan: No - that's what I meant by casual. Nonetheless, the guy is always insisting that we stick to tournament rules; e.g. if I leave my king exposed to an attack, he won't let me correct the move, he just takes it, claiming the win.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 6, 2023 at 19:52
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    @SecretAgentMan: IANATD (I am not a TD), but it's my understanding that in Blitz USCF allows the king to be taken as a means of claiming a win after an illegal move.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 6, 2023 at 19:57
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    You are right. USCF Rules, Chapter 11, Para 7.d. Jul 6, 2023 at 20:05
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    It's best to use touch move because you must practice it. It should become a habit to think before you move. Your opponent needs to acquire that habit if he wants to play seriously. But if you agree to play his way, that's the rule for the game.
    – Wastrel
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:45

3 Answers 3

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TL;DR: He is playing "clock-move" which is an alternative to "touch-move." Players should agree to the "move rules" at the start of a casual game.

Alternatively, "In casual games, the rules are whatever the players agree to." (comment by bof)


There is no required "move rule" for blitz, or any other time control. Official USCF and FIDE tournaments I've seen employ the touch-move rule as you point out.

In casual, non-rated games one can play any time control (including none) with any "move rule." In clock-move games, one can touch a piece but change one's mind about which piece to move as long as one hasn't yet hit the clock.

In my chess club, it is common in unrated games (even with a clock) to allow a player to take back a particularly poor move so one gets a better game (even if you have to point out the opponent's blunder).

The key is having expectations established by the players before the game (or by the event rules).

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    Our club is pretty casual (and social) for the most part; we meet in a cafe. Many folks are novices. By USCF rating I'm considered a beginner (and I like to think I'm underrated - don't we all?! ;-) ), but many folks in the club seem to think I'm good. As such, I ignore touch move (even though I stick to it myself), let others take back blunders, etc. So this guy stands out and seems to bring up tournament rules, especially when it helps him.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 6, 2023 at 20:15
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    In casual games, the rules are whatever the players agree to. Personally, I dislike "clock move" because, if I'm trying to analyze on the other guy's time (especially in blitz), I find it very distracting if he is blocking my view of the board with his hands and even moving pieces around.
    – bof
    Jul 6, 2023 at 22:21
  • @bof I've edited my answer to include your quote. Jul 6, 2023 at 22:33
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    @bof: That is nice in principle, but you're never going to be able to cover every contingency (witness the fact that in the 1980's - when I played my first tournaments before a 3+ decade hiatus - the USCF rule book was a little over 100 pages, and now it's over 300 pages as more and more things have to be covered). Further, hammering out agreements on rules makes the occasion a lot less casual.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 7, 2023 at 18:45
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Since this is about casual games, you don't have to play chess with him if you don't like it. It doesn't matter that you are better or not; basic courtesy applies even in games, meaning that both of you should try to make the games enjoyable for both parties. In a comment you said "this guy stands out and seems to bring up tournament rules, especially when it helps him", which clearly indicates that he is being discourteous. I would also note that this isn't just about you and him; his behaviour would have negative effect on the whole club (unless he is targeting you, which seem to not be the case).

Another answerer says that players should agree to the rules before starting a casual game. I agree, but I think the above consideration is more fundamental. For most people, courtesy suffices and so neither player needs to even mention "rules". For some people like this guy, it is probably the best to insist on the standard touch-move rule before playing with him. Don't let his behaviour ruin the fun for everyone just because no one feels like being a bit firmer with him.

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  • While your point is valid (and the fact is that I usually avoid playing him, but sometimes there is no one else available), this isn't really an answer to the question I asked.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 7, 2023 at 18:37
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    @GreenMatt To be fair, it's not terribly clear what your question is. If you want to know something specific, ask about something specific. There isn't one single thing called "the rule", which is why you are getting a whole range of answers including those discussing how (or indeed whether) you should fix the rules of the game before playing it. Jul 7, 2023 at 23:14
  • @JamesMartin: I thought what I was asking was clear, I just gave some background for why I was asking. Nonetheless, I have attempted to clarify the question.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 8, 2023 at 3:33
  • @GreenMatt Your question, as clarified, still asks: what is "the rule"? Several people have now replied to say that rules vary, and have explained what particular rule-sets say. And that for a casual game, it's up to you to agree in advance what rules apply (or, if you prefer, don't, and leave it vague). Is there anything further in your question that you don't think the answers have covered? Perhaps it's time you accepted one :) Jul 8, 2023 at 8:57
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[This answer applies to FIDE rules. I don't know about USCF.]

Since a player's move isn't complete until they press their clock, he claims that touch move doesn't apply.

By this language, it seems that he's not just stating a rule but actually trying to give an argument based on some ruleset. So you can either ask him what ruleset he is following, and possibly answer to him using the official rules.

In FIDE, touch-move rule applies fully in blitz, and when the clock is pressed does not matter. FIDE laws of chess make a distinction between a move being 'made' and a move being 'complete. In brief:

  • A move is made if it's legal and the player has released his hand from the piece.
  • A move, legal or illegal, is complete when the player presses the clock (or the move ends the game, e.g. a mate, stalemate, or another draw rule.)
  • After player A has 'made' a move, i.e., released a piece after a legal move (but not necessarily pressed the clock), player B 'has the move' and can start moving a piece, and the touch-move rule starts applying to them.
  • There is no special blitz rule about touch-move not applying in some instances, only when the touched pieces have no legal moves.
  • Pretty much the only case when the time between releasing the piece and pressing the clock matters is when the move player A made was illegal – then the move has not been 'made' and player A can take the illegal move back and play another move. But the touch-move rule 4.5 still applies for player A.

Some relevant parts:

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

[...]

  • 4.4 If a player having the move:
    • 4.4.1 touches his/her king and a rook he/she must castle on that side if it is legal to do so
    • 4.4.2 deliberately touches a rook and then his/her king he/she 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/her 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.

[...]

  • 4.7 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: [see 4.7.1–4.7.3 for capture, castling, promotion]

[...]

  • 6.2 Handling the chessclock:
    • 6.2.1 During the game each player, having made his/her move on the chessboard, shall pause his/her own clock and start his/her opponent’s clock (that is to say, he/she shall press his/her clock). This ‘completes’ the move. A move is also completed if:
      • 6.2.1.1 the move ends the game (see Articles 5.1.1, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 9.2.1, 9.6.1 and 9.6.2), or
      • 6.2.1.2 the player has made his/her next move, when his/her previous move was not completed.

[...]

  • 7.5 Illegal moves:
    • 7.5.1 An illegal move is completed once the player has pressed his/her clock. If during a game it is found that an illegal move has been completed, the position immediately before the irregularity shall be reinstated. If the position immediately before the irregularity cannot be determined, the game shall continue from the last identifiable position prior to the irregularity. Articles 4.3 and 4.7 apply to the move replacing the illegal move. The game shall then continue from this reinstated position.

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