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A real world example of the touch move law - Brewood B 4-1 Halesowen B

Posted on June 3, 2014 at 8:30 PM

I can only say I felt sorry for both Chris Haddon (Halesowen board 4) and Joyce Evans (Halesowen board 5) as they left Brewood Chess club on Tuesday 11th March 2014.  This was the date that Brewood B played against Halesowen B in the Wolverhampton Chess League 2013-2014 season division 3 match. 


At the time the Brewood B team were still in danger of relegation to division 4 of the Wolverhampton Chess League.  This helps explain the context in which an important decision by myself to enforce one of the most basic laws of chess was made.  We eventually stayed up comfortably and finished 5th with us all wondering what all the fuss was about.  First however here is the match card: 


Board 1:  Mark Keady (132) ½-½ Windsor WA Peck (135)

Board 2:  Andrew Lenz (111) 1-0 Peter S Banks (135)

Board 3:  Stephen Bird (109) ½-½ Martin Hathaway (107)

Board 4:  David Blower (101) 1-0 Chris Haddon (70)

Board 5:  Andrew Davies (96) 1-0 Joyce Evans (61)


Board 1:  Mark Keady ½ - ½ Windsor Peck.  I was walking round trying to calm myself down after my own board had finished and so was not taking anything in about what was said or done at the chess board.  Therefore a match report for this board is unavailable.  If Mark Keady or even if Windsor Peck wants to supply me with some technical chess details about the board, the blog will be edited. 

 

Board 2:  Andrew Lenz 1-0 Peter Banks.  Andrew Lenz had a brilliant checkmate with his opponent’s king trapped in the back row.  A back rank checkmate sounds simple but it was important that Andrew played all the moves he had to make in the right order for it to come off which he did. 

 

Board 3:  Stephen Bird ½ - ½ Martin Hathaway.  A match report for this board is also unavailable as I was trying to calm down after my own match had finished.  If Stephen Bird or if Martin Hathaway supply me with some technical details about the game of chess from this board the blog will be edited. 

 

Board 4:  David Blower 1-0 Chris Haddon.  My own match was the first board to finish and at the time put us 1-0 up.  The ECF grading database will confirm the result once the new grades come out in July and the Wolverhampton Chess League website already confirms the same result.  However the story behind it will only ever be known to those there.  I will do my best to explain it for the website.  


FIDE law 4.3a of chess says:  “If the player having the move deliberately touches on the chessboard one or more of his own pieces, he must move the first piece touched which can be moved.” 

 

This is more commonly known as the “touch move” law.  It is one of the most basic laws of chess which all chess players know.  I first learned of the law when I played at school. 

 

Normally in friendlies at the club I am lenient with this law but this was an important match for the club.  At the time of the match the B team was still in danger of relegation.  With all boards still in progress and all of them in their early stages and with no way of me knowing how the games would play out later on in the evening this law was strictly enforced by myself.  It led to an easy win. 

 

The opening of the game was more normal though.  The chess opening in this match was:  B01:  Scandinavian Defense:  Modern Variation.  It is not an opening I am familiar with, but regardless of that Chris’s moves seemed strange to me.  After Chris played 3… c6 the thought (only in my head) was:  “has he offered me some kind of gambit I am not familiar with or has he just blundered his pawn?” 

 

After consideration I decided to play 4 dxc6 and accept either the gambit or the blundered pawn.  By move 11 I had gained another pawn and had checked Chris with my rook.  The only way out was for Chris to move his King meaning he had lost the right to castle and then he began a long sequence of moves to try and artificially castle. 

 

At move 19 I played Qc3+ with Chris’s King on g7 with nothing blocking the diagonal.  Chris’s queen was on d7 and he then played 19… Qe7 an illegal move as he was in check.  The e file had both my knight and rook on it and Chris’s idea was to double up his queen and rook. 

 

David Blower:  “You’re in check,” I said, pointing at the diagonal on the board.  The queen was placed back onto d7 and Chris said to me that he did not realize he had being in check.  Chris then played Kg8.  I had started to write Kg8 on my score sheet when I remembered about the touch move law.  I saw that if I enforced touch move on his queen, I would win his queen for nothing. 

 

The only legal move Chris had with his queen was Qd4 which would then leave his queen undefended.  And of course once I would take the queen he would then be in check again.  I crossed out Kg8 on the score sheet and wrote Q. 

 

David Blower:  “You can’t do that,” I was aware of the irony of this comment as the Warley Quinborne incident had being fresh in my mind.  “We’re playing touch move and you picked up your queen.  You MUST move your queen.”  Chris stated that I had not announced that he was in check, which of course there was no need for me to do so.  A stronger instruction was needed. 

 

David Blower:  “I don’t need to accounce that you are in check.  We’re playing touch move and you picked up your queen.  You are therefore under instructions to move your queen.  You MUST move your queen.  You MUST do it.”  I am used to empershrasing the word “must” in my everyday life for various tasks so there was no problem with me doing so at the chessboard. 

 

I decided to get Andrew Davies (who was playing on board 5,) involved.  Andrew was the captain for the night. 

 

Andrew Davies:  “If he picked up a piece with the intent of moving it, it must be moved if it has a legal move.”  Well yes Chris had clearly done more than just pick up the piece and the queen did have a legal move.  


David Blower:  (to Chris Haddon)  “Can you get your captain please?”  The non playing captain of Halesowen was called away from his friendly matches against one of our other club players to sort out this dispute!  Oh the joys of being a chess captain! 

 

I explained the situation to the Halesowen captain and Chris said to him that I had not announced check.  “Have you got a rule book?”  Andrew always brings the FIDE rule book with him to the club, and the FIDE laws of chess were checked (no pun intended!)  “Can you stop the clock whilst I check the rules?”  The Halesowen captain directly asked me myself to stop the clock so I agreed. 

 

The “touch move” law was found soon enough, although that was not why the rule book was brought out!  There is no law saying that check has to be announced. 

 

David Blower:  “There is no rule saying that I have to announce check.  The touch move rule will be strictly enforced.  It is an ECF graded match.”  There was to be no getting out of it for Chris.  It might have been less painful for Chris at that moment if I had dropped a ton of bricks onto his foot. 

 

The Halesowen captain agreed with me.  “Yes I mean if you are giving a series of checks, you’re not going to keep saying CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, when it is obvious.”  Kg7.  Eventually the legal move 19… Qd4 was played.  Chris blundered his queen as a result.  20 Qxd4+.  The end came 6 moves after this via checkmate. 

 

Chris losing his queen in the way that he did really affected him badly.  Chris made at least another 2 clear and massive blunders within those 6 moves and then called checkmate on himself one move early. 

 

I suspect everyone reading has made a blunder at the chessboard and if you remember how upset you were, then you are not even close to how Chris was feeling about it.  Only if you were there would you know.  Chris had paid a high price for not noticing he was in check.  This game was an example of how the “touch move” law can work in real matches. 

 

Roger Grainger reaction:  “Well done David.  If a player touches a piece then the rules simply state he/she moves that piece providing it is a legal move.” 

 

In the excitement of winning his queen for nothing I forgot I could claim an extra 2 minutes for an illegal move and therefore did not enforce this law!  I only remembered it a few moves afterwards!  I could have been a bit more ruthless if I remembered that! 

 

I did feel bad about it though and spent the next 10-20 minutes after my match had finished walking round the room getting rid of some nervous energy.  It is over 2 months since the incident happened and it was not really the way I wanted to win a match with my opponent making a mistake such as that.  Of course I felt sorry for Chris. 

 

Nevertheless I can now say for certain having done it once I would not ever hesitate on enforcing the touch move law if a similar incident happened again in an ECF graded match, as it is one of the most basic laws of chess.  But if you are playing me in a friendly at the club I will still continue to let you off from time to time! 

 

Board 5:  Andrew Davies 1-0 Joyce Evans.  This was the last match to finish and at the time we had already won the match.  Joyce managed to get her 2nd loss of the season against a Brewood player.  However Joyce should have probably won this one.  It had everyone crowding round it. 

 

Subject to the game being played out over the board and checked properly I am certain that Joyce was one move away from checkmate.  She made her move and I almost blurted out:  “that’s checkmate,” but did not as it was not!  Andrew had a knight which was useful for forks but had messed up where he had put his king and in the process had trapped it. 

 

All Joyce had to do was move her rook across to give a check which was defended from long range by her bishop.  However she did not do this and a look on the board after I had got over the shock of her not spotting the checkmate in 1 confirmed she has made a massive blunder.  Andrew took her rook.  Later on Andrew used this advantage to get a classic king and rook checkmate with his own rook. 


Andrew had used his rook to check Joyce's king on her 1st row and had blocked off Joyce’s 2nd row,  with his king having the direct opposition on the 3rd row.  David Blower:  "You're not going to like me Joyce but you missed a checkmate in 1 move."  Joyce said she had not seeing it and Andrew said on the way home he had only noticed after I had pointed it out after the match had finished.   


It was overall a good win for Brewood, as it helped us to secure our place in the Wolverhampton Chess League division 3.  I can only imagine what the Halesowen players said to each other on the way home about my incident.  A rematch againt Halesowen is on Tuesday 15th July at 7:30pm at the club in the Wolverhampton Chess Summer League division 3.  Mark Binfield is the captain. 

Categories: Brewood B team, Halesowen

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