Taking Back a Move in Chess


“A man that will take back a move at chess will pick a pocket.”
- Richard Fenton (1837 – 1916)

CTRL Z Threadless Tee

CTRL Z Threadless Tee

So, when ChessCube Version 4 launched this week, it launched without the “take back” option. It’s back (some of you may be pleased to know), but we’ve certainly seen lots of debate around whether it shouldn’t even be an available option!

I asked for some opinions around ChessCube HQ, and John‘s thoughts are worth sharing:

When you take back a move in chess you have had a glimpse of the future and your opponent has not had the same advantage. Except in beginners’ games, it ought not to be allowed in my opinion.

Ultimately it can only harm the chess development of the player who takes back the move. Takebacks can also quite easily bedevil relationships.

The player who is asked for a takeback is placed in an invideous position. If she refuses then she risks being thought of as an ungracious person. And if she accedes then she has set a precedent which will be difficult to repudiate. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Much simpler to simply not allow the possibility at all.

Mouse slips? I have had a few and smarted most mightily for it. I’m much more careful with my mouse these days.

When playing games online, most players wouldn’t want to be at the mercy of their own mouse slips. It’s something we had to consider with the online games in the SA Open. For those games, even though the game was played online, each player also had a physical board to show their moves to the arbiter. That way, a request to take back a move based on a slip of the mouse could be verified against the board.

What do I think? Well, I’m quite the beginner myself, so I were to want to take a move back it would more likely be because I’d made the wrong one, rather than that my mouse had slipped. It would be better for me to learn to play the game without that “ctrl + z” option. For better players, I can understand the frustration of a mistaken move because of a sticky mouse. Take back remains for now.

What do you think?

[Image is detail of the "CTRL + Z" Tee by Ben Devens at Threadless.]

6 Responses to “Taking Back a Move in Chess”

  • Jacques Says:

    I agree completely with John’s opinion that taking back moves don’t allow you to develop as a chess player. You start to ignore the consequences of your moves because they don’t matter if you can take them back.

    Of course mouse slips do happen and beginner’s should be given some assistance. But after you become better you should learn to stop asking for takebacks – resign if you are lost or play on and fight!

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  • Ctbk Says:

    To put it simply, I think the takeback button is maybe the most annoying feature of chesscube. It has to go. Mouse slips are irrelevant compared to the “Oops, I made a terrible mistake” moves. Did you blunder? Your bad. When you learn playing chess, blunders are part of the experience, and being punished for blundering is capital. If you want to really learn, you need to learn that blundering is (often) FATAL for the game.

  • Nel Says:

    Only allow take-back in unrated games.

  • Warfare04 Says:

    We must always remember chess is a fun game where two players meet to play one the most thoroughly engrossing games ever made. The game of chess. Where you move then I move. It’s set the stage for two players to put on there best performance. Most of the time that’s why I approach the battlefield. I want to play against my opponents best. Unless it’s a serious game or Tournament setting I don’t mind the prospect of my opponent exercising the option to take back. It after brings out the best in me

  • Bryan Says:

    I actually sometimes like the idea of *giving* a takeback, instead of *asking* for one. You are sometimes in a great series with a friend or strong opponent and they make an obvious mouse-slip: e.g. instead of QxQ they drop their queen one square before your queen and you can take it for nothing. In such cases I usually try to give them the takeback (they may obviously decline). In this way I think offering a takeback can be more legitimate than asking for one… in OTB chess would you ever drop a piece in this way? Highly unlikely, which is why the mouseslip is unique to online chess and why a takeback *might* be legitimate in certain situations.