Illegal Moves (Revised 2018)

This is an article that I had to completely revise after the changes in the laws of chess (2017/2018). The main reason to this was the fact that illegal moves no longer can be defined as those that are not in accordance with article 3. Also, illegal positions do not produce illegal moves.

In the past we had different regulations for illegal moves in Blitz/Rapid and Standard chess but now there is uniformity.  However, there are still some subtle differences between the regulations of illegal moves in standard and in blitz/rapid chess.

With the new laws we have two types of illegal moves: those that are violating article 3 and those that are penalized as illegal moves but are not violating article 3.


  • Moves that violate article 3. Meaning any move that your chess program does not accept. However, illegal positions do not automatically produce illegal moves. In Standard chess, one would have to go back and correct the irregularity. In blitz chess though, the illegal move has to stand once the next player makes a move, and that move is not considered illegal, simply because it is done in an illegal position.
  • Making a move with 2 hands. That is now penalized as an illegal move.
  • Pressing one’s own clock without making a move. That is now penalized as an illegal move.
  • Promoting a pawn and pressing the clock without replacing the pawn with a new piece.


In standard  and rapid chess, the penalty is to add 2 minutes to the opponent for the first illegal move. The second one loses the game (provided that the opponent has a series of possible moves that leads to checkmate). In blitz chess the same is valid but the penalty for the first illegal move is 1 minute instead of 2.



The difference is that in a standard game of chess, you have to go back and correct the first illegal move. Which in rapid/blitz, an illegal move can be claimed only once it has been completed and before the opponent makes a new move. Otherwise in Blitz/Rapid the illegal move shall stand.



  • Remember that an illegal move is completed once a player presses his clock. If he/she doesn’t press the clock, the player is allowed to correct the illegal move according to article 4 (move what he first touched in a legal way).
  • Promoting a pawn to an upside-down Rook is not an illegal move, but the arbiters shall consider the upside Rook as a Rook and not a Queen. The player has to be told of this.
  • A queen promotion of a wrong color is an irregularity, not an illegal move.
  • Touching a piece and moving another one, is not an illegal move and is not penalized as such one. However, such a move is against article 4. When the arbiter sees this violation, he/she must force the player to play the first piece touched. The opponent also has the right to call the arbiter and claim this violation. However if he makes his move, he forfeits the right to claim the violation.
  • In case of a forfeit, if the opponent cannot checkmate by any series of legal moves, the game is drawn. This is valid for the penalties of illegal moves as well.
  • There are still some differences to Blitz/Rapid games with adequate supervision (1 arbiter per 3 games). The main difference is that in this case the first illegal move can be corrected just like in standard chess. Meaning that one does not lose the right to claim it if a new move has been made.

An illegal move is when you have the move and play something. If you don’t have the move and you play then its not illegal and it does not get penalized!

  • If a player plays a legal move and then does not wait for the opponent to reply, but moves again an illegal move, then that move is not penalized as an illegal move, because he didn’t have the move. However, playing twice is not in accordance with the laws of chess, so the action should be penalized as a general infraction with the penalties of article 12.