Can you take back a move in chess?

Chess is an elaborate game where mistakes are normally made throughout one’s experience. It will be really convenient if there’s a rule that allows undoing (moves) every now and then.

But does that exist? Is there a way to take back moves in chess? That is what we’re going to find out in this discussion.

Taking moves back is not allowed in tournament chess unless an illegal move is performed, once a player lands a piece/pawn to a legal square then it is played indefinitely.

This question was surprisingly more detailed than what it sounds like, chess after all is not only played in tournaments. I also would want to go to the intricacies of the tournament setting regarding this idea.

Every beginner should have had this question at some point, it is my responsibility then to answer it. Let’s go.

Is taking back allowed in chess tournaments?

Generally, taking moves back is not allowed in tournaments even if the move is really preposterous. It is used to settle disputes regarding the validity of some games (occasionally).

It’s safe to say that takebacks are just not allowed except for the discretion of chess arbiters. There are special occasions where it may apply, it definitely happened before but only for clarification.

You can’t ask or demand a takeback in a tournament game, the arbiters are the only one that can do that. Even if the moves just completely blunder the game, that is still not enough to justify cheating your opponent from a win.

It is your responsibility to commit moves that don’t lose the game, the regulation wouldn’t adjust because of the player’s mistakes.

Once a piece/pawn is touched, it needs to be played (touch-move), unless you say “I adjust” where you need to adjust a piece. There are no take-backs that you can do even at this point of your turn, you have to play the piece that gets touched.

Consequently, once a piece/pawn landed on a particular square it can never be taken back (the move will be considered final). Again, there are no take-backs allowed even reaching this phase of you choosing a move.

And this is just a fair proposition, after all, games wouldn’t be interesting if participants can just change the position all the time. The game wouldn’t be decisive either, we are already facing the issue of excessive draws which you can view here (will open in a new tab) and this is just too much.

Take note though that you can face penalties with varying severity especially in formal settings. Players take the matches here very seriously, this rookie mistake (although acceptable to me) can be disrespectful for some people.

It is cheating to take back a move in a rated game, it even looks foul. Some advanced players don’t even think of this as a question, therefore considering it an automatic.

I have briefly mentioned above that you can take back moves when illegal moves are performed. For example, if you have moved a knight like that of a bishop, you need to take back that move and replace it with a legal one.

Of course the intensity of penalties will differ depending on the time control, but the punishments do exist. Another case would be when a game was found out to have brought about by an illegal move, where the authorities may decide to replay the moves until that point.

In longer time controls (at least 10 minutes for both players) the penalty for illegal moves are added two minutes for the opponent’s time. In faster time formats though the decisions are usually unforgiving.

In faster time controls (at least 5 minutes for both players or below) illegal moves are considered instant loss. At this time format the conditions just don’t allow that much margin to add time.

Any disputes that can occur in this field is already enough to delay the match significantly. The directors just made it so that the players lose entirely when committing illegal moves.

If take-backs were allowed, the game wouldn’t be as fair as it currently is. You need the opponent to make mistakes in order to win a game of chess.

If people can undo the thing that gives you chances, how are you supposed to win?

If you really want to move a piece back, you can move the thing to its original square legally (when it’s your turn). It’s just not allowed on the turn that you are treated to have already played a move.

Where to play if you want to be allowed to take back moves?

So take backs are not allowed in tournaments, so sad, but what if you want to do it anyway? Are there settings that allow players to undo their mistakes?

Most chess computers permit some sort of takeback when playing against, as well as some online servers that can be used to practice that includes the take-back feature.

If the formal setting does not allow us to play in a particular way then we play on our own. If you’re gonna take back, just play against a computer.

A lot of chess programs involve this particular feature which should not be hard to find. If it makes you really comfortable to do this then why not, just make sure that you are playing against stronger levels.

Take backs are considered a form of “odds” which gives a player some sort of an edge. This will allow you some opportunities to beat stages beyond your reach initially.

It is a good method to practice, but be aware that there is a time to completely drop-off these support wheels. It’s like riding a bike with support wheels, you can drive yes but never truly until you are on your own.

Nevertheless, if it gives you enough interest to start playing chess then you should do that. There are some online servers which allow some take-backs, find those by just googling some forums.

Can you take-back in informal games?

Take-backs are not allowed in tournament chess but can be in informal settings if both parties agree (usually as a form of odds).

This is a usual practice in street chess if you”ve literally spent time looking at any informal game. Most of the time, one player is significantly stronger than the other and this is to balance things out.

Keyword there is as long as both players agree, if not, it is by default treated as unlawful (undoing moves). So don’t think that you are allowed to take back just because it’s not in a tournament make sure about the agreement first.

Unrated games are those that usually have takebacks since both parties can afford to lose some games. Do this before the game where one side does not have a significant edge over the other otherwise it can cause conflicts.

What implications does being used to take-backs give to a player?

Yes, there are ways to still play take-backs away from the influence of a tournament setting. But should you do it? What are the effects of someone being used with the support wheel?

A player who is used to taking back moves usually doesn’t develop chess skills as quickly, there is a time where undoing moves should be completely eliminated.

That’s because the individual is never put in a situation to actually seek out improvement, they can just take back the moves. With this leniency it is more likely to take the game less seriously and is therefore detrimental long term.

It is only useful for practice, sort of a punching bag so you don’t need to redo if you mess up. It can only be useful in a very specific time (not that long in fact), where the player has to move on at some point.

In chess you have to avoid blunders not take them back. It will be harder to absorb learning this way since you don’t have to, it never affects your future games eliminating the need.

Of course, there will be a time where you can’t take back anymore (if you want to progress). This is when the toddler removed the supporting wheels and head forward trying to take the high road.

Learn to absorb defeats instead of taking back things to solve them. It will help you remember the mistakes that you have committed rather than just magically poofing them away.

You can never play competitively if you don’t take these considerations away. Practicing without take-backs is the real form of chess and always be, in my opinion taking back moves even as a practice by beginners is not that helpful (it works for some though).

Can you use take-backs to teach someone chess?

This is something I want to add as supplemental information. Is allowing take backs good when trying to teach someone chess?

Allowing the aspirant got take back moves can be a smart way to teach chess, as the concepts can be discussed without requiring do-overs constantly.

Allowing take backs can be a good tool to teach a beginner since you can spit the information throughout the process rather than just the beginning. Chess after all is a long game and you don’t want to play over and over just to teach someone the endgame.

Consequently, you can practice with a stronger player by having the option to take back. You can be taught to deal with specific problems in your game from multiple angles.

You can use it as a form of odds just to make things more challenging and interesting. Maybe there’s a limitation to how many you can take back moves and see if you can beat them.

Will you take back moves in chess?

Taking back moves is just not a part of the rules in tournament chess (which is considered the real rules of chess). But there are definitely occasions where you can modify things a little bit to serve a specific purpose.

But again I will repeat, I don’t recommend someone even attempting to learn chess by undoing their moves. It should only be used when you want a challenge or just having fun.

For the most part it will just impede your progress from what it should be. Sleep well and play chess.

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