Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Official Opinion on Takebacks

Occasionally I receive a takeback request on FICS.

Basically, my take on it is that unless it's an unrated game or if I know my opponent (if he's a personal friend or on-line acquaintance) then I don't ask or give tackbacks. I assume that my opponents can properly and carefully handle a mouse during an on-line game of chess. Any rated OTB game would never allow takebacks.

Some might argue that the game would be more interesting if I grant the takeback. I agree ... therefore if we want to have a really interesting game, then let's play an unrated game and grant unlimited takebacks on both sides of the board ... we'll do a full analysis of all the positions. Along those same lines, we could finish the game without granting the takeback and afterwards we could go back to the move where the blunder occured and analyze the game from that point on.

Additionally, careful play is part of the game. If you drop of piece because you weren't careful, how can you expect to never repeat that blunder again if you're given a tackback every time? At some point, the line must be drawn.

I Googled "takebacks" and "chess" to see what others' opinions were on the subject.

The first one I found concerns advice to parents of children learning chess.

Finally, my number one recommendation for ALL parents:
always play touch-move and touch-capture, even in offhand games. This is a
critical factor in developing the kind of cause-and-effect thinking that leads
to both improvement and a great enjoyment in a much deeper game. Even a five
year old can learn to play touch move, and it will make everything go much more
smoothly if you always follow this practice. Similarly, discourage the use of
"takebacks" or "undo" options in computer chess games. In the long run, it is
better to resign a game and start a new one if you make a really bad blunder
then to use an undo and play on without the mistake.

The second one comes from the ICC.

IMPORTANT: Nobody, ever, is obligated to grant a takeback.
Refusing to give a takeback is NOT unsportsman-like. Takebacks are NOT in the
rules of chess. You, and you alone, are responsible for making your moves and
avoiding "mousos" and "typos". If you ask for a takeback from your opponent,
he/she is not even obligated to respond to your request. It is inappropriate to
criticize your opponent for not giving the takeback. ICC will not tolerate
harrassment or complaints against an opponent who would not give a takeback.

The third hit came from a site dedicated to chess ettiquette.

This is a subject of great controversy. Nobody--aside from perhaps chess coaches--ever wants to grant a takeback, but, sadly, it is fairly common to hear requests for them in casual games. A good rule of thumb is to move carefully so that you don't need to ask. If you're playing a friendly untimed game against someone weaker than you, it's usually ok to preempt their request by pointing out quietly and without fanfare how they would have hung their rook or queen or stepped into checkmate. I've done this with friends many times and they are usually very happy to be able to continue the game. With strangers, though, they're typically on their own.

So there are a few other opinions on the subject. I also found that one of the variables on FICS is takeback. If it is set to 1, then any takeback request will automatically be declined.

I set mine to 1.

Does anyone else have a hot opinion on the subject?


  1. ICC is wrong. The USCF allowed a takeback last year in one of the USCF League games when it was clear a mouseslip occured.

    The rules of chess were written when people used tin cans and strings for voice communications. Time for them to add rules for internet play and join the 21st century.

  2. I meant USCl . . .

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I agree, I never accept takebacks on rated games, nor do I ask for them. Even obvious mouseslips. Case in point: I attempted to castle but accidently "slipped" and moved the king to f1 instead of g1. Obvious mistake that I did not complain about.
    Also, sometimes the people who make the moves for the USCL on the computer are not the players themselves but a third party, so of course you wouldn't penalize the players because a volunteer "relay-er" got too eager with the mouse.