[Retros] Illegal moves by grandmasters

Kevin Begley kevinjbegley at gmail.com
Wed May 11 06:16:55 EDT 2011

Interesting argument... in that the entire matter is absurd.

At first, I was prepared to agree that games should be published exactly as
they were played (leave it to editor/annotator/program to note the
illegality of continuing in dead positions).
After all, there is some history of illegal moves, and it would seem wrong
not to annotate the full story of the game.
But, upon further reflection, I had to abandon this completely absurd
position (and the unfortunate terms it generated -- such as "fundamental

The main flaws are:
1) the full story of a game need not necessarily be told in annotation
(there are comments!), and,
2) rules are rules, after all.

Most chess programs today opt to allow movement beyond "dead" positions,
because it requires an added programming effort to detect dead positions
(which may -- unnecessarily -- slow the alpha-beta search).
Besides, there are alternative forms of this game (FIDE has no monopoly on

However, when it comes to games in a FIDE tourney, I find no merit for this
"fundamental rules" argument.
Suppose my opponent moves after I have delivered checkmate, and I capture
his King -- should we include the capturing of the enemy King as part of the
official game score?
It was played after all, and my opponent and I might easily claim that
capture of the enemy King is the true form of official termination (the
"fundamental rule").
Thus, the extra (illegal) moves (his into check + my capture of his King)
should be part of the game's annotation.

This is no less absurd than the argument for allowing extra moves (from dead
positions) to creep into the game score. Even if two super-GMs record such
moves on their score sheet, it does not make them legal moves.

In my view, such "illegal" moves should be welcomed in comments (as they may
relay interesting information about the full story of a game); however,
they should be excluded (at least in FIDE tourneys, played after the rule
became official) from the official game score.

That said, I must also admit, I find this argument both misplaced (in a
problem forum -- and, a retro forum at that!) and misguided (full agreement
here, either way, would have little impact on published chess games).

Long before we problemists go preaching to chess players about extremely
trivial matters in their game scores, we are responsible to tend carefully
to flaws in our own rules.

There are titled problemists who can not even agree about the definition of
an aim/stipulation/fairy condition (to say nothing of the countless
disagreements which stem from our ambiguous fairy rules). We can not even
agree what constistutes a dual (especially in selfmates)!

What gall we problemists have: we lecture the super-GMs about a lose
shoestring, while our pants are all ablaze.

Good show,

On Tue, May 10, 2011 at 11:29 PM, Francois Labelle <flab at wismuth.com> wrote:

> I agree that my title is provocative, but I think that the logic behind

> it is sound, so why not? :)


> Yefim Treger wrote:

> > IMO: an illegal move is a move, which breaks fundamental rules of

> > chess (piece movement, etc.)


> So according to you, some rules are "fundamental" and others are not,

> and breaking a fundamental rule would be illegal, but breaking a

> non-fundamental rule would be called something else (called what?). The

> FIDE rules make no such distinction.


> > Mathematically: Imagine the tree of all positions (including dead

> > ones, etc.). Each position is a vertex, edges between them are the

> > legal moves. The Illegal moves do not correspond to any edges.


> Rephrasing the rules of chess as a graph doesn't change anything.

> Actually I like it because it forces a black-and-white interpretation of

> the rules. In that graph, Article 5.2b says that dead positions have no

> outgoing edges, so playing a move from a dead position does not

> correspond to an edge and so according to your logic it is illegal.


> Noam Elkies wrote:

> > This kind of "illegality" is a fun addition to the arsenal of a

> > problemist, but doesn't change the outcome of over-the-board games,

> > as long as "dead" draws are still not affected by the clock.


> It's true that A1.3/A5.2b/A9.6 don't change the outcome (win/draw/loss)

> of over-the-board games much, but that's irrelevant. The rules are there

> so Mamedyarov's 69.Kd4 is illegal. If FIDE had wanted 69.Kd4 to be

> legal, then those rules would not be there or they would have been

> written differently.


> Guus Rol wrote:

> > The reverse however is not true. The (composed) dead positions

> > published by Andrew Buchanan are indeed illegal as no legal game

> > can be construed to arrive at them. The "law" does not allways look

> > the same in forward and backward direction.


> I don't follow your logic. Andrew's chess page shows a problem with 2

> kings and the caption "Who moved last?". The answer is supposed to be

> White, but here's a game


> Hermansson Emil (2432) vs Nilssen John Arni (2372), Tvoroyri, 2005


> http://chess-results.com/partieSuche.aspx?art=36&tnr=2381&rd=9&weiss=5&lan=7


> which shows that it's possible for Black to have moved last. So either

> that game is illegal or Andrew's problem is flawed. I don't see how you

> can have it both ways.


> Francois


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