Capturing In Chess: Is It Compulsory? (When & When Not!)

You may have learned the chess basics and how to capture the pieces. But a question may have come to your mind that I would be discussing in this article and that is, do you have to capture in chess?

In general, it is not compulsory to capture any chess piece and a player can also choose to not capture it. However, there are some situations where capturing a piece becomes compulsory because either the king is in check, or the player doesn’t have any legal moves left.

Now let’s dive in and discuss in detail when capturing is compulsory, when it doesn’t become compulsory, and some other related questions.

But before moving ahead, I also recommend you have a look at some of the best chess sets here available on Amazon.

When Is It Compulsory To Capture In Chess?

There are mainly two situations when it becomes compulsory to capture in chess:

#1. When Your King Is In Check And Capturing Is The Only Way To Save The King

In chess, when your king is attacked by one or more of your opponent’s pieces then your king is said to be in check. And there are basically three ways by which you can save your king from that check as follows:

  • Capturing the piece that delivers check.
  • Moving king to a safe square.
  • Blocking the check by keeping a piece between the king and the piece giving check.

Now, when your king is in check the first thing you have to do is to take that king out of check.

In simple words, when your king is attacked you have to first save your king from that attack. Why? Well, it is because you have to do as per the standard rules of chess,

“No piece can be moved that will either expose the king of the same colour to check or leave that king in check.”

FIDE Laws Of Chess

So as you can notice you are not allowed to move a piece that will either expose your king to check or leave that king in check.

To better understand this point let’s take a look at an example. Here’s a chessboard position I created and it is white’s turn to move.

capturing-in-chess-is-it-compulsory

So now tell me,

  • Is it compulsory for white to capture any piece in this turn?
  • Or is it allowed for white to make any other legal move?

The correct answer is it is compulsory for white to capture in this case. Why? Well, the white king is in check (the black rook is delivering the check), and capturing is the only way in which the white king can be saved from the check.

Here in the above example, out of the three ways to save the king from the check, the two ways are already eliminated.

There’s no way you can block the check by moving a piece between the white king and the black rook that is delivering the check.

Also, if you notice, there are no safe squares where the white king can be moved to get out of check.

Also Read: Can You Castle Out Of Check?

So the only way that remains is to capture the piece delivering the check that is by capturing the black rook using the white bishop.

Hence, in this kind of situation where the king is in check and capturing is the only way to save the king from the check, you have to compulsorily make that capture.

The other situation when it becomes necessary to capture any piece is when you don’t have any legal moves left to make except to capture that piece.

Remember, in chess, you can’t skip a turn in chess. Once it is your turn you must make a legal move.

If you are not able to make any move in a particular situation then it is either the condition of checkmate or a stalemate and in both cases, the game will end.

So in short, you have to make a move when it’s your turn. So let’s say a position has come on the chessboard where you only have the option to capture your opponent’s piece and no other move.

Then in such a situation, whether you like it or not, you have to capture the piece.

When Is It Not Compulsory To Capture In Chess?

Except when capturing is the only legal way to save your king from the check and when you don’t have any legal moves other than capturing, in all the situations it is not compulsory to capture. You are allowed to choose whether or not you should capture any piece.

So let’s say in any given position you have two choices:

  • Either you can capture your opponent’s piece to gain an advantage
  • Or move your own piece that puts you in a better position on the chessboard

Then you can choose to do either of the two things, as long as capturing the piece isn’t the only legal way to save the king from the check, and capturing isn’t the only legal move you are left with on that turn.

Also Read: Can You Put Yourself In Check?

When Is It Compulsory To Not Capture In Chess?

There can also be some situations when you can’t capture in chess even if you want to. In other words, it becomes compulsory to avoid capturing a piece in such situations.

So do you know about such a situation? Well, if you said that when the king is in check and it has to be saved not by capturing then you guessed it right.

Here’s an example to better explain to you what I’m trying to say. Let’s say the position of the chessboard is as follows and it is the white’s turn to move.

capturing-in-chess-is-it-compulsory

So in the above position of the chessboard,

  • Can the white queen capture the bishop?
  • Or is it compulsory for white to first save their king from check by the black rook in that move?

Yes, the correct answer is to save the king. As I already told you. You can’t move a piece that exposes or leaves your king in check.

So if the white player went to capture the black bishop by its white queen then white would actually leave its king in check which is not allowed.

Instead, in order to save the king from the check white has to either block the check or move the king away to a safer square. (In order to block the check, white can move the white bishop or white queen and place it between the white king and the black rook which delivers the check)

Hence, in this kind of situation where your king is in check and you have to save in a way other than capturing, then you can’t capture any chess piece even if you want to do so. It becomes compulsory to not capture in such a case.

You May Also Like To Read: Can You Kill To Get Out Of Check?

Can You Win Chess Without Capturing A Piece?

A player can win chess even without capturing a piece because in chess, to win a player has to only checkmate the opponent’s king and not necessarily make any captures. For example, in fool’s mate, black deliver’s checkmate on the second move and wins the game.

fool's-mate-example-of-winning-chess-without-capturing-a-piece

In the above image, I have shown the Fool’s mate in which the black delivers checkmate to the white king in just 2 moves. Here’s how the game occurs in fool’s mate:

  • White moves its pawn to f3 square, in response black moves its pawn to e5.
  • White moves its pawn to g4 square, and in response, the black moves its queen to h4 square, and boom! Checkmate occurs.

So as you see in all the above move sequences nowhere did the black capture any of the pieces of white and directly deliver the checkmate to the white king moving its queen to h4.

Thus, this is an example where you can win chess even without capturing a piece.

Remember, capturing in chess is not always necessary and if you can deliver checkmate quickly to your opponent after just a few sequences of moves then you might not even need to capture any chess piece to win the game.

Checkmate itself means the end of the game. The side that delivers the checkmate wins the game and the side that gets checkmated loses the game.

Note that checkmate doesn’t mean capturing. In chess, we don’t capture a king actually. Instead, we are only able to checkmate it which simply means a position where the king is attacked and we can’t protect it from the attack.

Recommended Read: How To Win Chess In 2 Moves?

Conclusion

In short, generally, it is not compulsory to capture any piece in chess. However, if capturing the piece is the only legal way to save the king from the check or if capturing is the only legal move the player can make in that turn then it becomes compulsory to capture the piece.

So I hope now you have a clear idea of when you have to capture any piece and when not. If this article has helped you to learn about the topic then please share it with others. Thanks!

Also Read:

Do You Have To Capture The Queen In Chess?

In general, it is not necessary to capture the queen in chess and the player can even choose to not capture it. However, if capturing the queen is the only way to save a king that is in check or if the player doesn’t have any legal moves other than capturing the queen then it becomes compulsory to capture it.

Is Pawn Required To Capture?

In general, a pawn is not required to capture. However, if capturing the piece with the pawn is the only legal move left in that turn or if it is the only way to save the king from check then the player has to capture that piece with the pawn compulsorily.