In chess, a king has the power to move one square in any direction. Its power increases when the game reaches closer to the endgame. But, can a king kill a king in chess?
No, a king can’t kill a king in chess. Moving the kings next to each other is not allowed in chess as it also puts the first king in check which is illegal. However, a king can checkmate another king indirectly.
This can be done by either castling or moving the king away from the way of the attacking chess piece. All these concepts are explained ahead in more detail. So to clarify all the concepts continue reading till the end!
What do you mean by putting your king into check?
In simple words, putting the king into check means the king is in the threat of being captured on the opponent’s next move.
Note that I said, the threat of being captured in the opponent’s next move. The game of chess ends just before the king is actually captured, at the point when it gets checkmated. So technically a king can’t be captured in chess.
A check occurs when the king is in threat but has ways left to get out of the attack. But checkmate is a position in which the king is in threat and has no legal ways left to get out of it.
Also remember a golden rule of chess:
You are not allowed to put your king in check or make a move that exposes it to check.
A king can get into check in various ways and there are actually three ways the king can respond to get out of check.
- Capturing the attacking chess piece.
- Putting a chess piece between the attacking piece and the king in threat.
- Moving the king to a safe square.
See Related: Can A King Kill A Queen In Chess?
So these were some basic concepts you need to know. If you understood everything properly up till now, then further reading will be much easier for you. Let’s start!
Why is it illegal to checkmate a king directly with your king?
When you try to capture the opponent’s king directly you are actually moving your king to the immediately adjacent square of your opponent king. And by doing this, you are intentionally moving your king into check. Hence this is considered an illegal move.
Let’s understand this concept of king vs king in chess with an example.
Here as you can see the red spot mark in the image highlights the square controlled by both kings.
Now if suppose the white king tries to jump on the red spot square in order to checkmate the opponent’s king, I ask you will it be a legal or illegal move?
Yes, it will be an illegal move for white to do this because then it will be in check. And we already know that you cannot move your king into check.
Thus, it is illegal to checkmate the opponent’s king directly with your king.
So now you know, it is illegal to checkmate the opponent’s king with your king directly. But is there any legal way to do it? Yes, let’s discuss about that!
How to checkmate the king in a legal way?
The legal way to checkmate the opponent’s king with your king is ‘checkmating indirectly with your king’. Here are the two ways:
1. King checkmating another king by castling
Checkmating the opponent’s king by castling is very rare and I guess you came to know this for the first time, right? Anyways, this is possible, although occurs very rarely.
Here’s a famous game played between Paul Morphy and his opponent where he checkmated the opponent’s king by castling. Let’s understand this game pointwise.
- It is white’s turn to move.
- White’s king is on e1, the rook on h1, the white king is not in check and there are no chess pieces in between the king and the rook.
- All the conditions for castling are fulfilled. Thus, white can castle.
- Now black’s king is on c1.
- White’s queen is on e2 and controls the c2, d2 squares.
- So, as soon as the white castles the rook comes on e1 square and thus gets checkmated.
Read Related: Can You Castle Out Of Check? (Explained With Rules)
This way you can checkmate your opponent’s king. But as you have noticed, you are actually checkmating the opponent’s king in an indirect way. Now let’s see the other method.
2. Checkmating a king by moving your king away from the way of the attacking piece
Another legit way of checkmating the opponent’s king is by moving away from the way of your attacking chess piece. Here’s the position of a game and let’s understand this as well, pointwise.
- It is white’s turn to move.
- The white king is on d4, the queen on d2, the knight on g6, the bishop on f7, the rook on f8.
- Black’s king is on d6 square.
- If you carefully notice, all the surrounding squares of the black king are controlled by white’s chess pieces.
- But this is not a stalemate condition because at this point black still has a move left, that is to d7 square.
- Now, since it is the white’s turn, the white decides to move the king to c4 square and that move proves to be very lethal for black.
- White’s queen is now directly attacking the black’s king plus, all the other chess pieces of white are assisting the queen.
- So as you can see, after the white king move on d4 square, the black king gets checkmated.
Thus in this way you can checkmate the opponent’s king with your king by just moving away from the way of the attacking chess piece. Although this method is also indirect.
Now after discussing everything, let’s see a real life incident when a player tries to capture the opponent’s king by mistake.
Also Read: Why Is The King So Weak In Chess?
Incident when a Grandmaster tried to capture a king in chess by mistake
We generally think that grandmasters are highly superior and they rarely make any mistake, right?
But this is not the case. They are also humans. They also make mistakes. In the following game (GM Vidit Gujrathi vs GM Hikaru Nakamura), Vidit was playing all fine but then during the endgame, he made a mistake.
He tried to capture the king of Nakamura which was totally illegal move.
Nakamura immediately noticed this and asked the arbiter for help. Then after that, the game was set up again as usual.
Here’s a video of this game by ChessBase India which you watch to know more about this incident.
Now let’s summarize all the important rules about the king in chess, how it moves and captures so that you never get confused again.
Chess Rules for King
#1. A king can move vertically, horizontally as well as diagonally in any direction but only up to one step in a single turn.
By the way, if you are new to chess, then you can check out my in-depth article on how does the king move in chess.
#2. A player is not allowed to make a move that puts the king in check or exposes the king to check.
Read Related: Can The Kill In Chess? (Explained Case-By-Case)
#3. The ultimate goal of a player is to attack the opponent’s king in such a way that there are no legal moves left for that king and this condition is known as checkmate.
#4. The player who checkmates the opponent’s king wins the game while the player getting checkmated loses the game.
#5. The game immediately ends whenever there is a checkmate.
#6. If a player’s king is not under attack but still there no legal moves left for that player to make then this condition is known as a stalemate.
You can read more about it in my article: Stalemate Vs Checkmate: Helpful Guide for Beginners!
So these are some of the basic chess rules for the king.
Also, there are some rules you need to know other than these ones which you can check out in my detailed article on important checkmate rules.
In a nutshell, you can’t check or checkmate your opponent’s king if that puts you in check. Rest, in all the cases you can check or checkmate the opponent’s king with your king.
Every move you make in chess is governed by certain rules and regulations. If you violate any of those rules then definitely, your move is considered an illegal move.
Read Related: What Happens When Only The King Is Left?
But, if you follow all the rules and regulations then you don’t have to worry about anything. Now below are some related frequently asked questions which you should read to clarify the concepts more easily.
Can a king check a king?
No, a king can’t check a king because that would put the first king in check which is illegal. However, there are indirect ways to check a king like castling or moving the king away from the way of the attacking chess piece.
Can a king kill backwards in chess?
A king can kill a chess piece up to one step in any direction as long as that doesn’t put the king in check. However, a king can’t kill another king because a king can only be checked or checkmated but not be killed or captured.
What happens if you kill the king in chess?
In chess, you can’t kill the king but can only check or checkmate it. So after you checkmating your opponent’s king, you win the game. However, killing or capturing the king would be considered an illegal move.
Can a king capture a king?
No, a king can’t capture a king because they are not allowed to stand next to each other. If two kings stand next to each other then the first king also gets into check which is illegal in chess.
Can a king attack in chess?
Yes, a king can attack in chess as long as doing that doesn’t put it in check. If the opponent piece is supported by another opponent piece, then the king can’t attack it because doing that would put the king in check which is illegal.
Who can kill king in chess?
No chess piece can kill a king because a game of chess ends just before the king is captured. However, all the chess pieces can give check and checkmate to the king with the exception of another king which can do it indirectly.
Can a king take a king in chess?
No, a king can’t take a king in chess because whenever a king tries to approach near another king, the first king gets into check which is illegal. As per the standard rules, it is not allowed to make a move that puts the king in check.
Can a king stand next to a king in chess?
No, a king can’t stand next to a king because that would put the first king in check which is illegal. However, both kings can be next to each other with a gap of one square between them which is known as opposition in chess.
Can 2 kings face each other in chess?
Yes, two kings can face each other in chess with a square between them which is known as opposition. However, two kings can’t move immediately adjacent to each other because that would put the first king in check which is illegal.
Can a king put a king in checkmate?
Yes, a king can put a king in checkmate but only indirectly by either castling or moving the king away from the way of the attacking chess piece. A king can’t check or checkmate another king directly because that would also put the first king in check which is illegal.
Can you checkmate with a king?
Yes, you can checkmate with a king as long as your king is not in check, or by doing so it doesn’t get into check. However, you also require the support of other chess pieces as you can’t checkmate with just a king.
That’s it! Hope you liked reading this article. Please do share if I was able to solve all your all doubts. Thanks.
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Hi! I’m Pritam and I’m a huge chess enthusiast! I know the actual problems that chess players face. I created this site to make chess easy to understand for newcomers, and also to help players of all levels of ability to improve their chess-playing skills. Read more about me here.