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Lately, a player of mine caused a minor kerfuffle by his habit of touching a piece to counter blitz even when the opponent had not finished the move.

Interestingly, I found nothing in the rules (admittedly by a quick browse) prohibiting grappling ones own pieces while not having the move, even §4.3 "touch-move" applies only to the player having the move!

To unruffle his rather annoyed opponent (incidentally also the tournament director), after clocks were halted, I politely explained to him that even the allowed counter blitz (not waiting for the opponent pressing the clock) is, even though allowed, at least bad style in my opinion and asking for havoc under Fischer mode (for the record, it was normal 15' quick) - and what he does is asking for a likewise sportsmanship opponent to change his mind where to put the piece and claiming touch-move. I promised him to ask a rule forum what exactly is allowed and what not.

It was always my opinion that a player not having the move should not touch anything, neither for j'adoube nor premove, lest him getting the book thrown at. What should the arbiter do when a player not having the move touches a piece with the intention of counter blitzing?

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  • You know, I looked through the FIDE laws of chess, and I couldn't find where they say that a player is not allowed to even make several moves in a row without paying attention to what their opponent is doing. Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 13:07
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    Nice try :P First sentence of §1.1: Players move alternatively. Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 15:28

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What should the arbiter do when a player not having the move touches a piece with the intention of counter blitzing?

Working out somebody else's intentions when they do something is only possible for mind readers so let's leave that bit out.

The following articles of the FIDE Laws of Chess are relevant:

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

A reminder, a move is made when the player's hand leaves the moved piece or pieces and is completed when the clock is pressed, so starting to move before the opponent has pressed the clock is OK as long as the hand has left the piece. But I will add a caveat later.

11.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever.

Clearly if both players have one of their hands over the board in the process of making a move then there is a possibility of collision and chaos. Even if a collision does not occur, the prospect of one can be very distracting and disturbing. The player having the move has the right to make that move without such distraction and disturbance.

Clearly such action is deliberate. As a non mind reading arbiter I am always going to assume that the intention is deliberate annoyance and punish accordingly. Keep your hands away from the space above the board until the other player has made the move.

I said I would also caveat the second player's right to make a move in reply before the clock has been pressed. The first player also has the right to press the clock. If the move is on the opposite side of the board to the clock and the second player impedes the first player in any way in pressing the clock then I will also treat that very seriously as an infraction of 11.5

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There is a clear difference in the FIDE rules between a move being made and being completed. It's made once you let go of the piece, completed when you have pressed the clock. There are various subtleties (e.g. if you made an illegal move but haven't completed it yet, you can still move something else).

The opponent is allowed to make their move once you have made yours:

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

So it's completely normal that they move when you have not pressed your clock yet! It's expected and what all blitz players try to do.

But they can not prevent you from pressing your clock:

6.2.2 A player must be allowed to pause his/her clock after making his/her move, even after the opponent has made his/her next move. The time between making the move on the chessboard and pressing the clock is regarded as part of the time allotted to the player.

So it's normal for it to go, player A makes a move, player B makes a move, player A presses the clock, player A makes a move, player B presses the clock, that sort of thing.

If you don't press it but instead immediately make a new move, then that also completes the previous move (and means both players miss out on Fischer increment):

6.2.1 [...] A move is also completed if:

6.2.1.1 [...]

6.2.1.2 the player has made his/her next move, when his/her previous move was not completed.

However, what's not allowed is touch a piece or starting to make a move when it's not your move yet. So if they do that when you have not made yours yet (haven't let go of the piece yet), that's a real problem and you should complain to the arbiter.

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If someone plays mostly online, then the instinct to pre-move might become natural and could pop up when playing OTB (Over The Board).

Someone might think that pre-touching a unit has a certain flair. It doesn’t necessarily involve malice or a deliberate intent to annoy or distract.

However it almost certainly is distracting, the arbiter can say ok, very funny, don’t do this again. It does violate FIDE Law 11.5 which prohibits distracting or annoying the opponent.

Pre-touch is not the same as pre-move, so the pre-toucher might get their fingers burnt against a canny opponent. For example, a common pre-move is to a square currently occupied by a friendly unit, which is about to be exchanged off. If the anticipated capture does not happen, the pre-move is simply cancelled and one can make any move. But the pre-toucher OTB would still be obliged to move the touched piece!

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    Is he obliged? The touch-move rule explicitely says "...the player having the move..." Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 15:30
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    @HaukeReddmann: You "have the move" at the instant your opponent releases a piece on a given square. If your hand is, at that instant, in contact with some other piece, then you have touched that piece while having the move, and the touch move rule likely applies.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:19

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