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  1. #1
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Illegal move/Unlawful move

    We had four amusing situations in the Blitz tourney last Thursday. They all concerned the definition of the illegal move. So what is an illegal move in fact according to FIDE? Upon revising the Laws of Chess again today it is finally dawning on me why I have had problems understanding this concept before. Apparently I thought that an illegal move was a move that was not following all constraints of FIDE Laws of Chess. This is wrong. In fact there are many different actions/moves that are discouraged or forbidden without falling into the category 'illegal move'.

    The laws instead defines in 4.6 "The move is called legal when all the relevant requirements of article 3 has been fulfilled". It follows implicitly that any move that does not comply with all aspects of article 3, is illegal. Also 1.2 if a player leaves his king in check, it is also an illegal move (actually perhaps the most common illegal move) should be considered but is in fact covered in 3.9 "No piece can be moved that will either expose the king of the same colour to check or leave that king in check".

    Case A
    A player in the Blitz tourney had not noticed his King and Queen were reversed in the initial position of a game. The game went on 5 moves before this was discovered and therefore according to A4(a) had to be finished as started. The problem was that the player with reversed king and queen intended to castle. If I understand it correctly, the opponent claimed an illegal move as per this rule that ends "In the case of reverse king and queen placement castling is not allowed". Note that castling is not allowed, but is not defined as an illegal move since it is not considered illegal explicitly and is not covered by article 3. It is clear that castling was intended as defined in 3.8 as "moving king and either rook of the same colour along the player's first rank, counting as a single move and executed as follows: the king is transferred from its original square two squares towards the rook on its original square, then that rook is transferred to the square the king has just crossed."
    So for White 0-0 means Ke1-g1 and Rh1-f1 and for 0-0-0 means Ke1-c1 and Ra1-d1 are legal castling moves. Ke1-d1 and Ra1-e1 would be an illegal castling move because it did not comply with "two squares towards the rook of its original square" and that goes for Ke1-b1 and Ra1-c1 as well.
    Now considering the white queen and king had been reversed, certainly 0-0 as legal as Kd1-b1 and Ra1-c1 and 0-0-0 is legal as Kd1-f1 and Rh1-e1. However, the article A4(a) specifies that it is "not allowed" but not necessarily illegal.
    Of course I suspect that some arbiters would call any attempt of moving king and rook in a single move as illegal based on A4(a) but I disagree. However when a claim is made of illegal move the player should be instructed to return the castling and play another legal (king) move since castling is not allowed in that game for that player.

    Case B
    A player had Queen on the board still and promoted a pawn (he had an overwhelming advantage). Unfortunately he then chose to grab an upside-down rook instead of stopping the clock and summon the arbiter to bring a queen. He at the same time shouted out in the playing hall "Queen!" although that did not make it anymore a queen than it already was. The opponent then claimed that the promotion move was an illegal move. But if we check the article 3 nothing was wrong except of the shouting. However, it is clear that it was not a queen, still a rook. I am surprised that it is not specified how pieces or pawns should be placed on the square they stand. Therefore it seems to be immaterial if they are lying down on the side or standing upside down (a knight could for example stand on the ears if the board material is soft and allows to let the ears stick). It says nowhere that this is not allowed, and much less that it is illegal. It appears that promoting to an upside-down turned rook is permitted? The rule 7.3 says that if a player displaces one or more pieces, he must correct them in his own time, but "displaced" is not defined, and I assume it just means the piece left the square it was standing on. But lying down or be turned upside down is apparently not a displacement? The end result was that the rook promotion was deemed a legal move, and the opponent resigned instantly.
    I know Bill Gletsoe and Geurt Gijssen are firm critics of the upside-down rook. See for instance geurt99.pdf where he confirms that since July 1, 2005 the upside-down rook is not considered to be a queen (where can I confirm that?). Perhaps the earlier rules than July 1, 2005 explicitly permitted the upside-down rook?

    See also
    http://www.chesschat.org/showthread....urned#post9410

    ... about promoting to an upside-down rook and then moving it diagonally ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gletsos
    It is illegal move and loses. If the player requires a piece that is unavailable they should stop the clocks and summon the arbiter.

    Perhaps allowing upturned rooks is ok for kiddie games but it certainly should not be allowed in adult competitions.
    FEN Viewer

    Case C
    My opponent in the following position made first made the move Qa2xb3+ and while holding queen and pawn in the same hand realized this would not be a good move because of Rd3xb3 and so placed the pawn back on b3 and played Qa2-b1+. I protested and called the arbiter and claimed
    an illegal move (wrongly). However, perhaps I did not stop my clock. In any case when the arbiter arrived my flag had fallen, and his time left was 8 seconds. We both explained what had happened and he was also completely
    honest about first and second part of his move. Of course at this point he realized that my flag had fallen and claimed that too. When the arbiter arrived, my clock was showing 0.00 but the pause button was not activated (time was still running).

    The arbiter correctly rejected it was an illegal move. However he did no attempt to adjust the time in any way. According to 6.13 "If an irregularity
    occurs and/or the pieces have to be restored to a previous position, the arbiter shall use his best judgment to determine the times to be shown on the clocks. He shall also, if necessary, adjust the clock's move counter." In this case we had a flag fall but no pause button activated. This means that I might have had say 5 seconds or more when the incident happened, and in the confusion did not stop my clock so it ran out. It is also possible my time had already seized before he played first Qa2xb3+ and then Qa2-b1+. There were no witnesses. But the game was just deemed lost on time for me after confirming that Qa2xb3+ had to be played instead of Qa2-b1+.
    In geurt117.pdf Gijssen describes a similar situation, and concludes that the arbiter should use 13.4 (b) increasing the remaining time of the opponent and (c) reducing the remaining time of the offending player. He writes that a combination of (b) and (c) is possible or only (c). The last one would of course have left me without any time to answer Qa2xb3+. However already from 6.13 it would be possible to reinstate time since it is possible that there was probably time on my clock when the incident happened. Guessing how much would almost be impossible though, except it could not be more than 30 seconds since the arbiter arrived pretty quickly.

    FEN Viewer

    Case D
    In a game against Juan Carlos Gonzalez I made two promotions and went on to checkmate with K+Q vs. K. However, in the first promotion I simply played c7-c8 and failed to replace it with a Queen as intended, I just pressed the clock. He immediately played Nd6xc8 and I played Nb6xc8 and got a winning position. However since the pawn was not promoted to anything perhaps the pawn could now never be converted to a Queen (that would be illegal as it can only happen in the promotion move), so he could play Kc6xb6 and therefore get a winning position, or he could simply claim an illegal move. The second promotion some moves later was of course f7-f8Q and the rest of the game went without incidents. Note that Geurt Gijssen considers 1.c7-c8 without converting the pawn to another piece, as an illegal action, not as an illegal move. But I fail to understand how the continuation could be after this illegal action. Can White later change the pawn to a piece?

  2. #2
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Case A - watch this space

    Case B - An upside-down rook is indeed a rook and if the player moves it on the diagonal then the opponent is entitled to claim a win. The player promoting the pawn should have stopped the clock to obtain another queen. In my view the inversion of such a rook on promotion is not an illegal move but is akin to a displacement under Art 7.3. The promoter should remedy it on their own time.

    Case C - As you say there was no illegal move, however there was an illegal action and the arbiter should not only adjust the clocks but should also penalise your opponent for the infringement and disruption of composure. An award of, say, 30 seconds is reasonable. In your situation I would have appealled the ruling of a loss on time.

    Case D - Failing to meet the requirements of promotion of a pawn was an illegal move in 2005 and 2009 Laws. In the 2001 Laws this was not explict. Geurt made his comments in 2004 before the Laws were changed. It is now explicit that c8=P followed by clock press is illegal and the opponent is entitled to claim a win. If they do not then the pawn remains a pawn and can neither move nor be promoted. A pawn may only be promoted as part of the same rule move.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 09-08-2009 at 09:24 PM.

  3. #3
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Case A - the Laws are imprecise here and the replacement of "is not allowed." with "is an illegal move" would make matters simpler.

    It can be argued that A4a overrides the suggestion of legality in 4.6 but it is unclear whether "is not allowed" is intended to entail that a win by illegal move is claimable. This should be clarified.

  4. #4
    Illuminati Bill Gletsos's Avatar
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    Case A - I agree with Kevin's comments that the current wording is imprecise. However if the case arrived where I was the arbiter I would rule the player who attempted to castle had lost due to illegal move.

    Case B - I agree with Kevin's comments. As far as I am aware the Official Laws of Chess have never permitted an upside rook to be a queen.

    Case C - I agree with Kevin's comments.

    Case D - Again I agree with Kevin's comments assuming his last sentence should be "A pawn may only be promoted as part of the same move."
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  5. #5
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gletsos
    Case A - I agree with Kevin's comments that the current wording is imprecise. However if the case arrived where I was the arbiter I would rule the player who attempted to castle had lost due to illegal move.
    I would too. I think this is the intention of the "is not allowed" and it is just poorly expressed.

    Case D - Again I agree with Kevin's comments assuming his last sentence should be "A pawn may only be promoted as part of the same move."
    Crossed wire in brain while typing. Fixed.

  6. #6
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Case D - Failing to meet the requirements of promotion of a pawn was an illegal move in 2005 and 2009 Laws. In the 2001 Laws this was not explicit. Geurt made his comments in 2004 before the Laws were changed. It is now explicit that c8=P followed by clock press is illegal and the opponent is entitled to claim a win. If they do not then the pawn remains a pawn and can neither move nor be promoted. A pawn may only be promoted as part of the same move.
    Checking the rules closely I think you are completely right. He could win either by claiming the illegal move (I don't believe in Gijssen's construct of "an illegal action" in this case) or by continuing with Kxb6 in which case the pawn c8 is a pawn forever, and I was very lucky that he was either a gentleman to accept this as a queen that will be eliminated right away, or he did not want to go into discussions about if this was an illegal move. Either way what was a winning move (1.c8Q+) actually should have lost me the game (1.c8P??). However, as we agree it is a genuine illegal move, it would only lose in Blitz (in 2 different ways!) but still be recoverable to a win in a Rapid or Normal game - because you can (almost) always claim an illegal move and get the position rewound to that place to issue a correct move, even if the illegal move was your own. The only exception is if checkmate, flag fall or stalemate actually occurred before your claim.

    Perhaps it was a case of mutual hypnosis of the idea that since it could and would be captured, there was no need to bother of the details whether it was a white queen or perhaps a white rook, but this is simply not supported by the rules in Blitz. However, playing f7-f8Q the correct way and a genuine queen shows that at least intuitively I recognized that if it can't be captured, it'll better be promoted to a queen right away! Maybe he just thought that if playing 1...Kxb6 I could somehow use the rules to revive the queen and win with 2.Qc7+ (which is not the case).

  7. #7
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I would too. I think this is the intention of the "is not allowed" and it is just poorly expressed.
    I agree with both of you and would suggest the very straight-forward change to A4(a) ... In the case of reverse king and queen placement castling with this king is an illegal move.

    The legal effect is that you can claim a win based on that move in Blitz, or in a Rapid game that the move can be rejected and corrected, and the claimant will receive 2 minutes compensation as a result of the claim.
    Last edited by Jesper Norgaard; 10-08-2009 at 04:35 AM.

  8. #8
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Case B - An upside-down rook is indeed a rook and if the player moves it on the diagonal then the opponent is entitled to claim a win. The player promoting the pawn should have stopped the clock to obtain another queen. In my view the inversion of such a rook on promotion is not an illegal move but is akin to a displacement under Art 7.3. The promoter should remedy it on their own time.
    In fact I am flabbergasted that there are no rules that concerns how the pieces should occupy their square. That a upside-down rook should be turned around to be a normal rook is in fact not covered by the laws. I can play a game where I choose to put all the pawns on their side, and the rooks upside-down, and apparently there is no article that states that what I am doing is wrong. These pieces just have to be placed in the center of the square, that is all. Perhaps it has not been covered because it never occurred to anyone to play like that. Truely astonishing. One more of the cases where explicit wording would fix the problem for good, especially in the case of the promoting to an upside-down rook.

    I would suggest an article 3.10:
    The pieces must be placed on their square standing up, and must not be lying on the side or (in case of a rook) be turned on it's head.

    If this article were in place, then I would finally agree with Bill that promoting to an upside-down rook is an illegal move (which I disagree is correct under the current rules).
    Last edited by Jesper Norgaard; 10-08-2009 at 04:36 AM.

  9. #9
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    In fact I have once been faced with a pawn lying down in a tournament game. I am not sure if it was meant to be a joke or an attempt to swindle, or even if it was my opponent doing it or not. In any case it was not discussed.

    I had b-pawn and bishop only left, and my opponent had an a-pawn only left. After a toilet visit I came back to a board with my b-pawn lying down on the square. If I had touched it to straighten it up perhaps my opponent could claim that I had touched the pawn and should move it, resulting in that he could play axb5 and obtain the draw. My opponent was not at the board at the time. Aware of this I decided to no touch the pawn for the moment, but executed a King move on the board, wrote it on my scoresheet and then as a valid move had been executed in all senses of a completed move except for the clock press, I now went ahead to set the pawn straight and press the clock.

    Of course I could have brought an arbiter but did not think there was any benefit of doing so (my experience is if you are rude to your opponents it will come back to you with interest). Had my opponent protested at the moment of touching the pawn I could have proven to the arbiter that the king move had been executed on the board and was properly noted on the scoresheet. It would be clear that touch-move for the pawn could not be the case. The game just continued uneventful and he resigned a few moves later.
    Last edited by Jesper Norgaard; 10-08-2009 at 04:55 AM.

  10. #10
    Illuminati Bill Gletsos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    If this article were in place, then I would finally agree with Bill that promoting to an upside-down rook is an illegal move (which I disagree is correct under the current rules).
    I do not believe I ever said that promoting to an upside down rook was an illegal move. What I said was that moving an upside down rook along a diagonal like a queen was an illegal move.
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  11. #11
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gletsos
    I do not believe I ever said that promoting to an upside down rook was an illegal move. What I said was that moving an upside down rook along a diagonal like a queen was an illegal move.
    I looked at the following answer to frogmogdog:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gletsos
    It is illegal move and loses. If the player requires a piece that is unavailable they should stop the clocks and summon the arbiter.

    Perhaps allowing upturned rooks is ok for kiddie games but it certainly should not be allowed in adult competitions.
    I now realize that your first sentence was about moving diagonally with an upturned rook, while your second sentence was about the promotion itself. But you must admit that your third sentence makes it fair to assume that you don't want any more upturned rooks in your tournaments
    I am not 100% sure that it is necessary to make pieces lying down or turned upside-down part of the illegal move collection - but I think it is worthwhile to consider.

  12. #12
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesper Norgaard
    I can play a game where I choose to put all the pawns on their side, and the rooks upside-down, and apparently there is no article that states that what I am doing is wrong.
    I would consider such behaviour to be a case of annoying the opponent (12.6). Indeed the Australian Chess Federation's Code of Ethics considers "persistent sloppy placement of pieces" to fall under the annoyance rule.

  13. #13
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    I would consider such behaviour to be a case of annoying the opponent (12.6). Indeed the Australian Chess Federation's Code of Ethics considers "persistent sloppy placement of pieces" to fall under the annoyance rule.
    I think I would be annoyed if I were to play against such behavior, and would not dream of doing it myself. I already start to frown if my opponent put pieces in a sloppy way or way off the center of the square.

    I am surprised that there is really only the 12.6 article to invoke, since nothing specific is stated in Laws of Chess regarding how pieces should be placed on their square. Sloppy centering on the square is one thing though that is probably left to 12.6 to take care of (and the common sense of the arbiter if a claim is made), but outright putting pieces on the side or upside down from the start position is taking the argument to the extreme. And yet it seems the chess world has survived happily without any regulation in that area. As a matter of fact I got interested in what the rules say about piece placement, only because I was interested to see what is said about rook upside-down in general, and only because this once used to be an accepted way of queening when the queen was busy on the board already, perhaps only on park chess and other lighter forms, but still so that most people have an idea that upturned rook means a queen for the player who turns the rook upside down.

    So my question really is, do we need regulation as in my suggested rule 3.10 (to say that pieces can't be lying on the side or turned upside down)? It seems that it really only is a problem in the promotion situation, while nobody insist on putting pieces on their side from the start position, or start with upturned rooks. So an alternative (to 3.10) is perhaps to have an explicit rule against promoting to a pawn or to an upturned rook, which seems to be the most frequent offenses from promoting. Bad habits are difficult to un-learn. Different laws of chess is perhaps not the answer for this problem.

  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    I don't see any problem with the term "is not allowed" in Art. A4.a. If the action there described is "not allowed" but is nevertheless performed by a player it clearly follows that the action is illegal. There can be no other answer.

    The matter then resolves itself into the question whether the action concerned was a move. Infringement would be punishable by the Arbiter under Article 13 if the action was not a move but under Art. 7.4 if it was.

    Someone may argue that, because castling in the circumstances described is "not allowed" it follows that such castling is not a "move". In my opinion the better view clearly is that it is a move but one that the Laws say is not allowed and hence illegal. All moves that are legal are so because they are not in contravention of the Laws and are thus allowed. An illegal move is one made in contravention of the Laws and, as such, is not allowed. Note also the use of other like expressions as in Art.3.1

    It is not permitted to move a piece to a square occupied by a piece of the same colour.
    It is interesting to note that the term "is not allowed" appears also in Art 4.4.b that likewise relates to castling. That may explain its use in Art A4. The situation in Art. 4.4.b does not involve the execution of a move but relates to the consequences of touching a piece.

    DJ
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  15. #15
    CC International Master Jesper Norgaard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denis_Jessop
    I don't see any problem with the term "is not allowed" in Art. A4.a. If the action there described is "not allowed" but is nevertheless performed by a player it clearly follows that the action is illegal. There can be no other answer.
    I had the same impression as you, but it seems that what I explain in the first two paragraphs of the first post #1 is more correct. A move that is not complying with article 3 is an illegal move, while any move that does something "not allowed" outside article 3 is an unlawful move, not an illegal move. The distinction is there so all other laws that specifies the consequence of an illegal move will only concern article 3. The article A4(a) is thus the sole exception in the sense that we feel it should be an illegal move, not an unlawful move, and thus lead to the loss of the game in a Blitz game, or to be corrected in a Rapid game thereby adding 2 minutes. If it had been an unlawful move, the Blitz game is not deemed lost, and the time penalty is not predefined (the arbiter will have to leave that out or find his own penalty size).

    Quote Originally Posted by Denis_Jessop
    The matter then resolves itself into the question whether the action concerned was a move. Infringement would be punishable by the Arbiter under Article 13 if the action was not a move but under Art. 7.4 if it was.

    Someone may argue that, because castling in the circumstances described is "not allowed" it follows that such castling is not a "move". In my opinion the better view clearly is that it is a move but one that the Laws say is not allowed and hence illegal. All moves that are legal are so because they are not in contravention of the Laws and are thus allowed. An illegal move is one made in contravention of the Laws and, as such, is not allowed. Note also the use of other like expressions as in Art.3.1
    I think it would be quite argumentative if castling is not castling because castling is not allowed. If the castling follows all constraints of article 3 it is castling. So the remainder is to determine if this attempted castling is an illegal move or an unlawful move. I think it should be an illegal move.

    Quote Originally Posted by Denis_Jessop
    It is interesting to note that the term "is not allowed" appears also in Art 4.4.b that likewise relates to castling. That may explain its use in Art A4. The situation in Art. 4.4.b does not involve the execution of a move but relates to the consequences of touching a piece.

    DJ
    If you touch a piece and change your mind and move another, it is an unlawful move, but not an illegal move, so it will not lose the game if it was played in a Blitz game, and it is not predefined what will be the time penalty.

    Just for your convenience, the "unlawful move" is my own definition that is not in any way part of Laws of Chess, but means a move that is not permitted by the laws, but is not an illegal move.

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