Back to Basics: Touch-Move Rule

By National Master Evan Rabin








Have you ever played against someone who frequently touches several pieces before making a move? If so, he is probably not aware of the touch-move rule:

  • If one touches a piece, he must move it.
  • If one touches his opponent’s piece, he must capture it.

Of course, if one does not have a legal move with that piece, he will be able to choose another one to move.

Sometimes, beginners will lose games when they do not realize they are in check and the only way to get out is intercepting with their piece. For instance, after 1.e4, d6, 2. Bb5+, if black touches his queen, he will have to block the check with 2…Qd7.

In scholastic tournaments, touch-move disputes are common, when one player accuses his opponent of touching a piece and his opponent insists that he did not. In this case, the director will take these steps to make a claim:

  1. Ask the claimant’s opponent if he touched the piece.
  2. If opponent says “no”, director will ask some discovery questions, asking if it is possible that perhaps he touched the piece for even a split second, with one of his fingers.
  3. If opponent still says “no”, the director will look for non-biased witnesses to see if anyone saw him touch a piece.
  4. If there is a witness that he touched a piece, director will move it. If there are no witnesses that say opponent touched a piece, director will give opponent benefit of the doubt and he will not have to move piece.

I personally, teach this rule to students right in the beginning, even before piece movement.

There is a simple way to prevent touch-move rule from ever causing you to make blunders- one should spend as much time as needed to make a move but by the time one’s hand goes anywhere near the board, his move should should be immediate. As Ray Martinez, Founder of the Brownsville Royal Knights likes to say, “we think with our brain, not our hands.”

As one transitions from playing online to over-the-board, one needs to get used to the touch-move rule. While playing on, and other online platforms, one can click on as many pieces as he wants before making his move; however I suggest mimicking the touch-move rule by only putting cursor on piece when you are ready to move it.

Has touch-move ever cost you a game? If so, how are you going to stop that from happening again?

10 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Touch-Move Rule”

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  2. It is essential for beginners to grasp the concept of check scenarios. Making the right move to intercept the check can completely alter the game’s outcome. Let’s take a look at an example to understand this strategic maneuver better. In this particular situation, blocking the check by playing 2…Qd7 showcases the effectiveness of this move.

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