Can you undo a move in chess?

By Gary Flores •  Last Updated: 5 months ago •  9 min read

Want to learn about touch move? Or do you find yourself having difficulty avoiding touch move rules – a lot?  

When I was still learning about chess, I always knew somehow that this rule could affect your strategy in a chess game and your opponent's strategy as well… 😉

If you're just getting started, you should learn about proper chess board setup.


My daughter gets to touch every chess pieces, and I allow her to do that (I don't recommend you teach that) – she even undoes a chess move… lol  

Now, it's fine with me since we're just trying to teach her!   But can you do that in a real game?

Is it possible to undo a move in chess?

No, you cannot undo a move in chess. It's not allowed except maybe if you are playing a computer game and take back is permitted.

But for tournament chess games this is not allowed before you make a move you have to be very sure. You'll be able to learn how to develop a strategy well if you can follow this rule. This will eventually help you with strategic thinking when it comes to chess.  

Every strategy and move you make happen inside your mind. I believe that playing chess helps your brain to stay sharp and avoid sudden mistakes.  

So, before you touch your chess piece be sure that you are going to move it or leave it on a specific square. This is commonly called a touch move.

What is touch move in chess?

Here's a simple rule…   If a chess player deliberately touches a chess piece, and it is the chess players turn, then it has to be moved – as long as there is a legal move. The same thing with touching an opponent's chess piece, it has to be captured if it is legal to do so. That is the touch move rule.  

Accidentally touching a chess piece does not count as a touch move...  

A funny thing happened during a game with my friend when it was my turn to move I accidentally bumped the chess board, and my rook fell. And he was laughing because he told me that it's a touch move, well I know he was just joking around.  

Here's the thing…   I did touch the Rook to pick it up, but my intention was not to move it to any square…(besides it's too early on with the game and there's no way I can move the Rook) 🙂  

Just to let you know, we can touch a chess piece without moving it… 🙂

Can you touch a chess piece without moving it?

You can make a mistake during a chess game and lose by a touch move…   I've watched this happened with a Grand Master, and he loses the game, he moved the chess piece to a square and undid that move and tried to move it on another square.

Eventually, he made an illegal move and lost!   But…that's a different case.   You can touch a chess piece on the board if it's your turn, without moving to any other accessible square by merely saying “adjust” beforehand.

So, what I'm saying is if you want to adjust your chess piece from its square, you can do so by saying the French j’adoube (“I adjust” is the other meaning”) then touch the chess piece.  

What is “adjust” in chess again?   The “adjust” statement prompts your chess opponent that you are going to touch a chess piece on the board, mainly to keep that chess piece at the center of its square, with no intention of moving it as part of your game.  

So, what's the point?  

Every person who may or may not have an interest in the game of chess understands that if you touch a chess piece, you are going to move it to some square (again, as long as it's legal to move that chess piece).   Except if you say “adjust”… 🙂

Two biggest touch move mistake that can happen

Don't even try to misuse the j’adoube or adjust to avoid committing an error or losing a game. You don't want to be labeled as a cheater right?   Ok…  

Like what I said before, the strict rule of following touch move rule in chess can develop your strategic thinking.  

A mistake can happen anytime when playing a chess game, and two biggest mistakes can happen when you make a touch move mistake.  

1. You can lose a valuable chess piece.
2.You can lose by a checkmate instantly.  

Now, wait a minute…   How about if unknown to me and I touched a chess piece that will leave my King under check?   Is that even possible?

King under check because of touch move rule

Basic rule says that you cannot place your King in a square under attacked or a move that will put your King under check.

When it comes to touch move rule -when you have touched a chess piece that will leave your King under attacked or under checked is considered an illegal move. We call this “open check.”  

You may encounter this a few times, and most of the time your opponent will remind you that your King will be under check if you move your chess piece. At least that should be the case… 🙂  

I know I sometimes I want my opponent not to noticed that mistake…lol!   Moving into check is not allowed otherwise you'll have to move another chess piece that has a legal move.

Also, you may want to check out the “best strategy in chess castling

The basics of a touch move rule

I would strongly advise that you teach your kids to play chess following a touch move rule.   I do believe It will force kids to think strategically and learn how to behave properly, based on my own experience. 🙂  

Kids will follow a proper tournament rule at a very young age, in case they will enter chess tournaments.   Preparing kids to play in any tournament will require them to follow this rule anyway… It's better they start the right way…

A bit of history

Now I'm not sure how accurate the third one is, but I've experienced the second rule before.   If you happen to make a mistake moving a chess piece then you have to abide by these three rules:  

1. Make a mistake then your opponent can compel you to leave the chess piece where you have placed it

2. Your opponent will allow you to correct your move

3. Make a mistake with your move then your opponent will ask you to move your King  

The rules have changed as you have found out by now 🙂   Today, you need to either move, capture or move another chess piece as long as it's legal to do so.   Let's get into the fun stuff…

So, what should you do if you touch a chess piece and suddenly realize that the intended move is not good?

We're not talking about a serious chess tournament right here ok…   Just to be clear… 🙂   How to avoid touch move rule playing with friends

Remember, chess should be fun playing with friends!

You may want to check out our article about “backward pawn in chess

Wrapping Up

I'm not sure, but this is the only article that I keep on repeating myself…lol – mistakes can happen during a game, but I can honestly say that a touch move rule can be prevented.  

How? Set the rules from the start of your game. Mention to your opponent the touch move rules you have learned here before starting the game, and you can politely remind your opponent if you do encounter some touch move mistakes during the actual game.  

What's the bottom line here is…  

The intention here is never cheating your way into winning a chess game by just taking advantage of some of the rules above. Prove that you can win, prove you have superior skills and most of all you are sincere.   Hope you enjoyed this article.

Have fun learning chess games with touch move rule! 🙂

Check out the recommended resources here.

Gary Flores

Gary is a chess enthusiast and has three children who also enjoy learning the game. He is a co-author of the "Chess Fundamentals" book's ChessDelights Edition. He founded ChessDelights.com in order to brush up on his understanding of this tactic and strategy game. He also enjoys encouraging those who are learning, re-learning, or instructing their children in the game of chess.
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