The game of Chess is a contest that pits two players against each other as they each work to come up with the most effective strategy for victory. It is a game that is a lot of fun to play and one that also has benefits for the human brain. Chess is also a game that is growing in popularity around the world.
Related: If you want to go straight to the official FIDE Chess rules about illegal moves, here is the PDF of the Laws of Chess you can download.
This rising chess popularity has provided players with the opportunity to test their skills against one another in competitive tournaments across the globe. Though fair play and good sportsmanship are generally the rule of thumb you will also find that players sometimes make illegal chess moves. The majority of the time these illegal moves are not intentional but they can give a player an advantage in a tournament if they are not caught by the other participant or the arbiter.
What are the illegal moves in chess? This is certainly an interesting question and one that is worth looking further into.
What is an Illegal Move in Chess?
In Chess, an illegal move is when a piece moves outside of the boundaries of its defined abilities. Illegal moves include ones that are otherwise legal but expose that player’s King to check. It is also an illegal chess move to leave your king in check. There are also chess moves that have to meet certain criteria to be legal. This includes moves such as promotion and castling.
Important Things to Know About Illegal Chess Moves
To delve further into the world of illegal chess moves, and to get a better understanding of the topic, there are some important things to look at. These points include:
Knowing the list of illegal chess moves
Knowing what to do if you make an illegal chess move
Knowing what to do if your opponent makes an illegal chess move
Understanding how many illegal moves are allowed in the game of chess
Understanding these points will help to shed further light on the question about what moves are illegal in chess. Beyond this, it is fascinating to look at real cases of illegal moves being made in the world of competitive, tournament chess.
List of Illegal Moves
As previously noted, the main things that constitute an illegal move in the game of chess are those where pieces are moved in ways that are not within their abilities according to the rules. Some of the most common illegal chess moves include:
Advancing a knight five squares forward on the chessboard
Moving a piece into check
Jumping chess pieces with a bishop
Moving a pawn to its furthest distant rank and then pressing the clock without replacing the pawn with a new piece
Failure to retract an illegal move
What To Do If You or Your Opponent Made an Illegal Move?
Though it might be the case that a player in a chess game will make an illegal move on purpose, it is more often the case that these illegal moves are made unintentionally and have to be called out by the other player or the arbiter who is observing the match. The right thing to do when you have made an illegal move is to retract it It is often considered to be a proper protocol to complete a new move using the piece that was moved illegally. This often falls under the rule known as the touch-move rule. The rule states that a player must move or capture a piece if they have touched it during their turn and it is legal to do so.
It can often be the case that an illegal move can cause a player to immediately lose the game. The arbiter of the game might also decide that the match must be restarted. There are various ways that this can go depending on the event and the arbiter in question who is overseeing it. An illegal move will often result in the other player winning automatically.
While many might think that chess played at the highest level would be free of illegal moves and always played completely above board it does not always work out that way. Though this is often the case, it is not always true. There are plenty of cases of high-level, renowned chess players making illegal moves within tournament play. Many of these cases have been caught on camera.
One of the most infamous and legendary instances of a highly regarded chess player making an illegal move in chess was when Grandmaster Veselin Topalov received a penalty for putting a pawn on the eighth rank without declaring a queen against Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. The commentators of this chess event noted that only a few years prior, this illegal move would have resulted in an immediate forfeiture but the rules had been relaxed since that time.
How Many Illegal Moves are Allowed in Chess?
How many illegal moves are allowed in chess? This is another common question that comes up within this overall topic. The simplest answer to this question is that it depends on whether the illegal moves are caught. Any illegal move that is identified can cause an immediate pause in the game while a determination is made whether to award it to the opposing player or to restart the match again. The bottom line is the fact that illegal chess moves compromise the integrity of that specific game. It can accurately be stated that a chess player who wins a tournament game by utilizing illegal moves has a compromised victory.
The International Chess Federation, also known as FIDE, has some specific guidelines regarding how many illegal chess moves are allowed in a tournament. Under FIDE rules, the first illegal move that is caught results in a time penalty that allows the opponent two extra minutes of time if it is rapid chess or regular chess. In a Blitz game, they are granted an additional minute. The next illegal move that the player makes will result in their immediate forfeiture under FIDE’s set of rules. It should also be noted that a player can retract an illegal move if they have not pressed the clock in a tournament game.
I hope this guide on illegal moves in Chess helped you. If it did, you might be interested in other guides on Chess rules.