Touch-Move Rule Adventures

Touch-Move Rule Adventures

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I am probably a lucky guy, because I never had any "touch-move rule" episodes in my whole chess career.  Don't get me wrong, it happened numerous times in my games that either I or my opponent touched a wrong piece at a wrong time, but in all such situations the game continued according to the tournament rules and no complaints were made.

My personal closest encounter with a touch-move rule incident happened in one of the national junior championships.

A kid named Alexey Shirov played another promising Russian junior, who just like many of the participants of that tournament later became a grandmaster. During his games, Alexey spent most of his time walking around and watching other kids playing.

So, while Shirov was away from the board, his opponent made a move and immediately realized that it was a blunder. The oppoinent calmly returned his piece back and continued thinking like nothing happened. Then he played a completely different move!

There were many witnesses of the incident, but since Shirov himself wasn't there and didn't see what happened, no claim was made.

Shirov via Wikipedia

Moreover, Shirov's opponent had the nerve to show this game to Botvinnik and Kasparov during one of the sessions of the Botvinnik-Kasparov school.  Of course he never mentioned that he took one of the moves back!

I heard about many episodes like this. Some of them were actually very funny, like the next one. The game was played during one of the Chess Olympiads (I don't remember the year or names of the opponents). 

As you can see, it is the regular Bogo-Indian Defense, except in the game Black by mistake moved his king instead of the bishop f8. So, the actual position looked like this:

Well, this kind of a mistake can happen to anyone. In this article we saw how GM Korchnoi was going to play Bc3 x Re1, but instead he tried to capture White's Re1 with his Ba6, so he had to resign immediately. What made the game above unique is that White didn't complain or say anything.

So the game continued:

Only here did Black notice that something went horribly wrong, but I don't remember how it all ended.  Since it was an official event (Chess Olympiad!), I guess, the last two moves were returned back and Black was forced to obey the touch-move rule and play 3...Ke7 (instead of the unbelievable 3...Kb4??!

If you think that this story is too far-fetched (I don't remember where I read it long time ago), then look at the next position from the National Elementary Championship, which ended last weekend. (I think it was IM Greg Shahade who captured this astonishing picture for USCF's Twitter.)


Is the opening 1.Ne3 Nf6 much different from the new Bogo-Indian with 3...Kb4!?

Some of the touch-move stories are both funny and sad, like this notorious game:

In the position on the diagram, Matulovic, being short on time, played a horrible move 38.Bf3?? and immediately realized his mistake. So he took back his move and played 38.Kg1. Naturally, Bilek protested. Matulovic explained that he said "j'adoube," but since he was very nervous in the time trouble, the word "j'adoube" got stuck in his throat and that's why Bilek couldn't hear it.  

Since it was only Bilek's words vs. Matulovic's, the tournament director rejected Bilek's claim and eventually the game was drawn. A couple of days after this game Matulovic choked on a fish bone during his dinner and was taken to a doctor.  According to a joke by GM Gufeld, the doctor didn't find the fish bone; instead he removed the "j'adoube" that was stuck there during Matulovic's game vs. Bilek!

The story is funny of course, but I feel very sorry for GM Bilek who was cheated out of a win.

By the way, in his book GM Gufeld also tells a touch-move story from his own games. It happened in the Ukrainian championship in 1955. Gufeld was playing master Yuri Kots.  The following position appeared in the game:

Here Yuri Kots wrote 6...Bd6 on his score sheet, then suddenly grabbed his Rf8 and played Rf8-d6.  

Of course he realized what he had done upon completion of his move, so he put his rook back to f8 and played 6...Bd6 as intended. When Gufeld demanded that the Rf8 must move, Kots replied that nobody saw him touching the Rf8! Gufeld was very distressed by the incident and naturally lost the game.

But the story doesn't end here! The very next round Gufeld played master Nikolay Kopaev. At some point of the game Kopaev touched the queen, but then changed his mind and moved another piece. When Gufeld insisted that the queen must move, Kopaev yelled at him: "Are you crazy? Yesterday you were harassing Kots and today you are harassing me!"

The tournament director recommended Gufeld to see a doctor.

GM Gufeld was notorious for making up stories, so I am not sure that two well-known masters were cheating in two consecutive rounds of the same tournament vs. the same chess player. As I said before in my whole chess career I never encountered such a blatant case of cheating in my games since breaking the touch-move rule, one of the backbones of the tournament chess, was always something extraordinary. But something happened recently and we witnessed a real outbreak of touch-move rule violations. We'll discuss them next week.

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