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What moves not allowed in chess?

Chess is a game with a long history and well-established rules. While the basic moves of each chess piece are straightforward, there are some specific moves and actions that are not permitted according to the official rules of chess.

Illegal Moves

There are several types of moves that are considered illegal in chess:

Moving Into Check

One of the most fundamental illegal moves is moving your king into check. Your king cannot make any move that would put it under attack by your opponent’s pieces. For example, if moving your king to a certain square would allow your opponent’s rook to capture it, that move is illegal.

You cannot move other pieces in a way that exposes your king to check either. For example, you cannot move a piece that is shielding your king from an opponent’s attack. All pieces must move in a way that continues to protect the king from being placed in check.

Ignoring the Need to Get Out of Check

If your king is in check, you must get out of check immediately. You cannot make any other move until the king is out of danger. Ignoring a check and moving a different piece instead is illegal.

To get out of check, you must either:

  • Move the king to a safe square
  • Block the check by placing a piece between the king and the opponent’s threatening piece
  • Capture the opponent’s threatening piece

If it’s impossible to do any of these, the position is considered checkmate and the game is over. But you must attempt to get the king to safety before making any other moves when in check.

Castling Into or Through Check

Castling is the special king and rook move that allows you to move them simultaneously. However, all the normal chess rules still apply during castling.

You cannot castle if:

  • Your king would end up in check
  • Your king would have to pass through a square that is under attack

Your king’s safety must be maintained during castling, just like any other move.

Illegal Actions

In addition to illegal moves, there are some chess actions that violate the rules of the game:

Knocking Over Pieces

Intentionally knocking over pieces during a game is not allowed. Any displacement of pieces must be accidental or you risk forfeiting the game.

If pieces are accidentally knocked over, the position should be reconstructed as accurately as possible before play continues.

Illegally Adjusting Pieces

You cannot adjust the position of any pieces on the board during a game, unless correcting an accidental displacement. Once you have intentionally moved a piece and released it, that move is final.

Pressing the Clock Without Moving

In timed chess games, players must make a move before hitting the timer. Just pressing the clock without playing a move is illegal and can result in a penalty.

Deliberately Distracting the Opponent

Unsportsmanlike behavior such as crowding the opponent, unnecessary talking, or making distracting noises is prohibited when playing chess. Any tactics deliberately aimed at disrupting the opponent’s focus violate the rules of proper conduct.

Move Ambiguity

Occasionally a move can be ambiguous if it is not executed properly. In these cases, the move generally does not count:

Touch Move Rule

If you touch one piece, then move a different piece, the first piece touched must be moved if possible. There is no takebacks once a piece is deliberately touched.

Adjusting with Intention to Move

If you deliberately adjust a piece with the clear intention to move it, you must then move that piece as long as it is a legal move. You cannot adjust with intention then change your mind.

Physical Impossibilities

Naturally, any move that is physically impossible on a real chess board would also be illegal, such as:

Non-Standard Moves

Knights cannot move in an L-shape of more than two squares. Rooks, bishops and queens cannot jump over other pieces. Pawns cannot move backwards. Pieces must move according to their defined movements only.

Off the Board

Pieces cannot be intentionally moved to squares off the board. The 64 squares define the allowable playing area.


While the list of illegal chess moves and actions may seem extensive, most are logical extensions of the basic rules. Memorizing these guidelines helps ensure all players abide by the formal regulations of the game. Both players are responsible for observing all rules, maintaining proper decorum, and respecting the integrity of the position on the board. Knowing what not to do is key to playing chess legally and enjoying the game to its fullest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the king move into check?

No, the king cannot legally move into check. This is one of the most fundamental rules of chess – a king cannot make any move that places it under attack. If the king is in check, you must get out of check immediately before making any other moves.

Can I castle if my king is in check?

No, castling is not permitted if your king is in check. You cannot castle to get out of check. Your king must first move out of check or be shielded from attack before castling can occur. Castling also cannot move the king through or into a threatened square.

What happens if a player intentionally knocks pieces over?

Intentionally displacing pieces results in a violation of proper conduct. This can result in penalties ranging from a warning to forfeiture of the game, depending on the severity and context. Accidentally knocked over pieces are reconstructed, but intentionally tipping them over damages the integrity of the game.

Can I press the timer without moving in a timed game?

No, just pressing the clock without making a move is illegal in a timed chess game. This unfairly uses the opponent’s time without playing. Some penalty time is usually added to compensate for this illegal clock press.

What if my opponent distracts me during a game?

Any deliberately distracting, annoying, or unsportsmanlike behavior is prohibited. Distracting the opponent violates proper decorum and can result in penalties. Spectators should also avoid interfering with the players or games in progress.

Key Takeaways

  • The king cannot move into check and must immediately get out of check.
  • No piece can move if it exposes the king to check.
  • Castling is illegal if it would move the king through or into check.
  • Intentionally knocking over pieces is forbidden.
  • Once touched, a piece must be moved.
  • Adjustment of pieces with intention to move is binding.
  • Pushing the timer without moving is not permitted.
  • Deliberate distractions violate proper etiquette.
  • Moves must adhere to the defined movements of each piece.
  • Pieces cannot be moved off the board.

In summary, any move or action that threatens the king, disrupts the expected play, takes advantage of touch move rules, or shows unsportsmanlike conduct is not allowed. Knowing the legal limitations helps ensure fair chess games that abide by all the official rules. Both players share responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the game.