Touch Move Rule in OTB Chess
I haven’t played much over-the-board (OTB) chess in my life, as I’ve mostly played in my adult years online. One of the nice things about playing online is that you can pick up a piece and start to move it, but, if you change your mind, you can simply put the piece back and make another move. Because your opponent can’t see what you’re doing before the move is made, he can’t claim “touch chess,” also called the “touch move rule,” meaning that you have to move the piece that you touched.
Touch Move Rule in Online Chess
Actually, I don’t know why online chess allows you to get away with this. It must be fairly simple to code in a restriction whereupon, if you touch a piece, no other pieces may be moved on that move. Perhaps I’ll write into Chess.com on this. I’m sure they’ve thought about it. Maybe they decided against it because online chess has worked this way for so long. Do any other sites enforce the touch-chess rule? I’m not sure. If you’re aware of this, please let me know!
The Brutal Consequences of Touch Chess Blunders
Well, in OTB games, if you touch a piece, then realize you don’t want to move it–tough luck. You have to! This is usually devestating, because, if you touch a piece and change your mind, it’s usually because you realize that your move was going to be a mistake–either because you have no good moves with the peice that you touched or because you really should have made a key defensive or offensive move with a different piece. However, once you touch the piece, you are forced to move it. (Relatedly, if you touch one of your opponent’s pieces, you must capture it, assuming that it is legal to do so.) The problem is that you usually don’t have a good move to make with the piece that you touched. This is exactly what happened on the highest stage of chess today.
Nakamura Blunders the Touch Move Rule
In Round 6 of the Candidates Tournament, in a drawn Rook endgame (not a winning position as Aronian argued in the postgame press conference), Nakamura touched his King when he really had to move his Rook (see video at bottom of official World Chess post). His hand pauses on the King for a moment, and then, once he realized his error, he began to adjust the piece so that he could claim that he was just adjusting.
In OTB chess, you are allowed to adjust a piece, but you have to say “I adjust” first, before you touch the piece. It is clear from the video footage that Nakamura was not planning to adjust the piece when he initially touched it. And, usually, you adjust a piece right after a move is made, when the piece is sitting poorly on a square, not after you have thought about your own move and are about to make it. In any case, even if you don’t agree with that, in this instance, Naka simply blundered.
If you are interested in the position, take a look at the board below:
Aronian added to the controversy of whether Hikaru was really adjusting the piece by walking way smirking, which wasn’t the most sportsmanlike thing to do. But Hikaru is a ruthless player himself, so I’m sure he would have forced Aronian to make the touch move had roles been reversed. I don’t know if he would have thrown it in his face though. It was a bit weasily of Aronian–he looked a bit like Eric Gordon’s character in Billy Madison. He also looked a bit silly in the postgrame press conference, with his statement, “I love teaching this lesson” while making some mistakes, as later shown by other analysts (e.g., see Chess.com video at the top of this post). Hmm maybe we should start to call him Erronian? Regardless, this win put Aronion at 4.0, tied for points with Karjakin but slightly behind in the tiebreak.