Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Karpov’s Illegal Move

In chess, the touch-move rule specifies that when a player deliberately touches one piece in his/her turn, he/she must move or capture that piece if is legal to do so.
If the player touches one of his/her own pieces, he/she has to move that piece if there is a legal move.
If the player touches one of the opponent’s pieces, he/she has to capture that piece given that it is a legal move.

One of the basic rules of chess also states that: “Leaving one’s own king under attack, exposing one’s own king to attack and also ’capturing’ the opponent’s king is not allowed.”
It means that when the opponent checks your king, in your next turn you must save your king.

There are three ways to move your king out of check:

  • a) playing the king to a safe square,
  • b) capturing the opponent’s piece or,
  • c) interposing one of your pieces between the king and the opponent’s piece.
  • Illegal moves appear when not playing according to the rules.
    Chess players learn those rules as beginners but in some circumstances accidentally they play illegal moves.
    Arbiters’ task is to intervene and remedy those situations.

    In a previous post, I discussed a legal trick in which the World Champion Magnus Carlsen was the victim. In that case, no arbiter was controlling the game.

    But in today’s example, the arbiter diligently intervened after the illegal move appeared on the board.

    Anatoly Karpov and Alexander Chernin were playing a blitz competition in Tilburg (the Netherlands) in 1992. Karpov had an advantageous position but was running very short of time. The following diagram shows what appeared on the board after Karpov promoted one of his pawns…

    Confused by his illegal move, Karpov completely lost his attention and lost the game.
    There are other examples where players lost or resigned their games unaware of incredible saving moves.

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