Taking back a move
Taking back a move, which is not allowed in tournaments, is a controversial issue in all turn-based games. Opinions range from seeing it as a charming ingredient of a friendly game to regarding it as the worst habit, which should be refused, scolded, counted as a loss or otherwise fiercely discouraged. The discussion page shows the intensity of this controversy, as well as some funny stories from real life. It is called "undo" in online games.
Many players’ position depends on the situation, in particular
- the kind of game (face-to-face or online, teaching or lightning games);
- the cause of the undo request (slip of hand or slip of mind);
- the moment when the request is issued (while the hand touches the stone, before or after the opponent moved).
|Table of contents|
Face-to-face games, also called over-the-board encounters, where players are physically facing each other. Some players tend to be a bit more lenient in face-to-face games, but there is no general trend.
In teaching games it can be a great technique employed by the teacher. At a given moment the teacher asks "Undo?" and therewith shows another variation.
There is a special provision for lightning Go, where a stone(s) might fall onto the board: They have to be removed in the player’s own time.
Some conditions for allowing undo:
- only as long as the player touched the stone (in face-to-face games)
- only a couple of seconds (in online games, as long as it takes to realize a clicko)
- before the next player has made his/her move
The slip of mouse is called clicko or misclick. This probably can only occur in online games. Often it is used as an excuse for a slip of mind. Some servers, such as KGS, offer anti-skid or anti-slip features to avoid this. For some people, it still seems to be a problem when playing on a laptop. If this is the case for you, you may want to make your opponent aware of your situation and ask for clicko undos immediately to avoid misunderstandings.
Alex: Actually, I've done this over the board a couple of times as well. Having decided on move, I've gone to play it and accidentally put the stone on an adjacent intersection, noticing only after I've removed my hand. Both times, I was too embarrassed to ask to move my stone to where I really meant to play.
This is the most common reason for an undo request and the source of most controversy. Hawks consider this morally equal to have lost one game, while doves regard refusing it as against the spirit of a friendly game.
A special case of a slip of mind is when a player overlooked that a move was illegal, e.g. playing into a ko. In Japanese Professional Go an illegal move leads to direct loss. In lightning games (Europe) playing an illegal move is followed by having to retake the stone and forced passing in your own time.
Make your position clear to your opponent before you start the game. Some people write "no undo, please" in their profile, but the reality is that few, if any, go servers automatically display your profile to the opponent, so you can not assume that your opponent knows your position. On KGS you should therefore write this in your game invitation.
So what to do if your opponent does ask for an undo?
First: Relax – it’s only a game. And in most cases it's only a simple yes/no question. Just say No. If you want to tell your playing partner what you think of taking back a move then consider the following options, which you may decide ad-hoc according to the situation:
- Wait till the end of the game and offer to review the game. At the move in question, explain why you think your opponent shouldn't ask for undo. The advantage is that your opponent will be calm and more likely to accept your arguments. On the flip side, you may not get the chance.
- allow + say you will refuse a 2nd request,
- allow + count it as a loss of 1 game + continue,
- leave game,
- resign yourself (does not impress hardcore people at all),
- request resignation or
- simply refuse
When you refused an undo request it may occur that your opponent gets upset and hits the undo button again. On KGS you can in that event minimize the undo request window and ignore it. It will remain blocking further requests until you make your next move.
ilan: This doesn't seem to work, window comes back up when opponent clicks on undo again.
If your opponent hassles you for several minutes begging for a takeback, play a move and then have the discussion while his clock runs rather than yours.
tb: I had an opponent do this annoying undo routine. My game invitation said "no undo", and the opponent made a foolish mistake, and then after a pause (!) requested an undo. I said no, and made my play. Sure, the clock was running on him, but he thought that it was tantamount to cheating that I would not give him the undo. I play in the double-digit kyus on KGS; it's not like my game was devoid of stupid mistakes. So he proceeds to whine, play on, whine more, whine, whine, and whine. Then at the end of the game, with only maybe six moves to go, he escapes.
tb: It seems to be the week for me, in fact, because three times this week I've had people request undos at me, in this annoying pestering way. One time, it was despite me having made a similar stupid mistake earlier, after which I said "oops, I didn't even see that was atari!" and the opponent just played on: which is fine by me, but then for him to request an undo later? I said no, he pestered me. At least this one played through to the loss and did not simply cheat.
If your interest when playing go is to produce a game that is about as good as your opponent and you can muster you may consider this tip. When your opponent makes a bad move that you believe he should be able to recognize, ask if he is sure he wants to make that move. Sometimes, in a face-to-face game you don't really need to ask; just wait a bit and look puzzled. When your opponent groans or says "what a bad move I made" (or some such) ask if he'd like to take it back.