I was playing in a tournament once, during a sequence of captures, my opponent could recapture my Knight about 4 different ways. He just removed it and carried on thinking.

What should I have done?

  • 5
    I've seen people do that in tournaments. It's kinda rude, if that isn't too strong a word. You could see where the capturing piece could accidentally end up on the wrong square. Why invite this? Instead move, take, and punch the clock with one hand, in one action.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:17
  • How aggravating!!! Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:25
  • 5
    I think Greg's answer below is spot on. As long as your opponent's clock was still running, and he ultimately completed a capture of the knight, then it all sounds kosher, if somewhat unusual.
    – ETD
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:34
  • I was thinking perhaps you could claim that your opponent was distracting you and get the piece put back on the board?
    – AndyM
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 9:14
  • 1
    I think it is allowed, but in addition to being a bit rude, I think it is also a bit stupid. What if, after he has removed the knight, he sees a better move? Why limit your options in such a way?
    – firtydank
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 12:59

5 Answers 5


The mere act of touching one of your pieces obligates your opponent to capture it (if legally permitted) on his current move (at least according to USCF standards), unless he explicitly declares his intent to adjust the piece beforehand. Assuming the clock continued running on your opponent's time and he did eventually choose how to capture the knight, I suspect that what he did would be considered legal (though somewhat unorthodox). However, if he didn't end up properly capturing the piece after touching it and before punching his clock, you would've unquestionably been justified in complaining to the official arbiter.

  • 1
    I agree with Greg that it likely would not have been ruled against. I would add that if you ever face a situation like this and it is a club you play in regularly, ask the arbiter after the game. Then you have an idea of what to do. If it is a clear infraction of the touch-move or other, pause the clock and call the arbiter. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:29
  • I do this when playing with my brother, I actually do this to help him start thinking in a response
    – ajax333221
    Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 22:56

If you are playing with clocks and he sticks to the rules then it is fine. So if he takes the knight off the board and can capture it then the rules oblige him to do it. The move is finished when the capturing piece is placed on the square and the clock is pressed.

It is a bad habit though. Normally, you shouldn't touch any piece on the board until you have decided which move you want to make. If he removes the knight first, he is obliged to take it. Thinking about it afterwards could lead to the conclusion that taking the knight is not the best move after all, but it is already too late.

Another bad habit is the "eagle claw". The players is about to move, but continues thinking while his hand hovers over the board, sometimes for minutes.

Best thing is, think about your move, make a decision, write it on your score sheet and make the move without interruption.

  • 7
    Isn't it illegal now to write your move down before playing it as it is a form of note-taking?
    – AndyM
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 11:56

According to the rules it is allowed to first remove the opponent's piece and then move your own piece to that square and then press the clock. Ideally, placing your own piece should be done directly after removing the opponent's piece. It is a bit strange to first remove the opponent piece and then sink down in deep thought. This is not considered as good manners. Yet the rules do not seem to prohibit this method of capturing.

If this happens to you again, you can consider calling the arbiter and say that this type of capturing is disturbing. It is not allowed to do things that disturb your opponent during play (talk, each chips and spill some of them on the board, make funny faces, click a million times with your pen, etc.). The other option is to ignore this and focus on your own game.


There is no time limit (except for the over all limit) on any one move. If you have two hours to make X moves, you can take one hour and fifty nine minutes to make one move, and use the last minute to make X-1 moves.

If you touch one of your pieces, you must move it. If you touch one of your opponent's pieces, you must capture it. (In both cases, it must be legal for you to do so). If you have multiple possible moves or captures, you can take as much time as you want to think about it, subject to the time constraints above.

But it is "unprofessional" to start a move and take a long time to finish it.

  • WHY IS THAT UNPROFESSIONAL? Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 16:07

Depends upon how big a fuss you want to make over it. I’m less sure than some others here that it’s legal; there’s enough grey area around it to have grounds for a complaint, though not enough to be sure you’ll win the ruling.

It flows from the fact the rules specifically state captures are made by moving a piece unto a square occupied by another, and then immediately removing the captured piece from play (7C USCF, Section 4, I think, FIDE).

Your opponent clearly is not simply touching the piece, he is removing it from the board. As such, he is performing the actions out of order. That can be the first part of your complaint.

Under USCF rule 20G, players are prohibited from conduct that annoys their opponent. TDs/Arbiters have discretion as to what can be considered annoying, but pairing the out-of-order factor above with the fact you find it quite disconcerting to be staring at an empty hole where your piece was could carry it through.

For added weight, you might add the claim that your opponent’s early removal of your piece constitutes an illegal aid to his analysis, since he is, in effect, using a physical view of the chessboard that does not reflect the current position while thinking about his move.

I’m not going to claim those three points taken together will guarantee the Director/Arbiter will side with you, some will and some won’t, but if you find the behavior annoying enough, it might be worth a try next time.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.