22 November 2008

Touch Move: It's the Rule

My game with David Griffin ended badly. He won.

I had Black in this position.

White to move

White has many ways to win, but he chose one of the few moves that let me back into the game. 39.Ke1??

White gives it away.

39...Na4+ 40.Ke2 a1Q 41.Ra6+

I had been looking at the board while my opponent contemplated his move, thinking that I could play Nc3+ if the rook remained on the a-file with a discovered attack on the rook. I had been losing a difficult game and now had an elementary win. This rapid turn of affairs calls for calm reorientation. I needed to spend some time looking at the board. At least long enogh to notice that I needed to move my king.

Instead, I reached out almost instantly and played 41...Nc3+.

This move is illegal: my opponent pointed out that I was in check, and could not play Nc3. But having touched the knight, I could play Nb6 and thus was required to do so. He apologized for telling me this.

“Touch a piece, move a piece”

A few years ago, I created a flyer for a scholastic tournament. It had a photo of a hand moving a chess piece, and the headline: “Touch a piece, move a piece,” followed by this text:
“[except when adjusting pieces in their squares after saying ‘I adjust’ (Rule 10A)]…a player on move who deliberately touches one or more pieces, in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured.”
USCF Rule 10B

“A director who believes a player touched a piece by accident should not require the player to move that piece.”
USCF Rule 10E

It's the Rule!
I printed the flyer on red paper and scattered copies around the tournament site--on tables, on walls, a small pile at the check-in table.

I assured my opponent that there was no reason to apologize. We are both tournament directors. We know the rules, and we enforce the rules.

I resigned the game.


  1. Hiya James,

    I am so sorry. That must leave a bitter taste.
    But I have to say, you seem to accept it in an admirable fashion.

    Set it out of your mind for what it was: a slight hitch in your career.

    Anyways, back to the present (and the future) and look back at the game below, as you haven't touched on the most exciting part of it:
    the shadow-boxing betweeen moves 6 and 13. Phenomenal twists and turns with the required moves.

    I have to say: Navarra hang in there beautifully, but then tripped in the middle game.

    BTW: If you are going to follow a game later today, may I invite you to the discussion on nxd4.com for a change?
    It will make me happy, to have at least a few comments on my site, after so many months of nothing.
    Go on, make a girl happy ;-)

  2. You s... (censor by the author of this comment)

    If it was a blitz game i would have said nothing but in a long game, with probably much time on the clock one always, and i say it again, always check the position after each move, a quick threat, capture, standing in check scan must be always performed.

    It's a harsh lesson you got there. When a position changes from lost to won and you have enough time on the clock take some time to get used to the new circumstances. That's why i (since october) use a pen with a cap, that way it takes a little longer for writting the moves down (which i do after my own move and the opponent's move). It's my way of not flashing out moves since my brain is now used to start thinking after i wrote down the move played (it's a psychology thing).

    Anyway, i know that you will be doing a quick scan for awhile now after this bad experience of playing a blitz move in a slow game.

  3. joco,

    Thanks. I'm reminded of a t-shirt slogan I've seen at high school cross country meets: "pain is weakness leaving the body; what remains is strength."

    I agree that the transpositions in the early game yesterday are cause for some excitement.


    Go ahead and heap up the abuse. I deserve it. It was a senseless blitz move with thirty minutes remaining on the clock.

    In any case, I've already made the cure a habit, but rushed anyway. I usually write down the move and the time on the clock, but I made my move before writing down my my opponent's move. This practice must cease (even though it is already rare).

    The nice thing about Mr. Griffin: he will be reminding me of my embarrassment yesterday for many years to come.

  4. Shit happens.