In chess, there are 16 chess pieces on each side. Out of them, the king is the most valuable chess piece. But do you know, how does the king move in chess?
The king moves only one square at a time in any direction. It also has a special move called castling. A king can capture any enemy piece as long doing that doesn’t put it under attack.
Now ahead, I’m going to explain what is the position of the king, how do the king capture and attack, how does the king moves in castling, what is check, checkmate and stalemate and how it is related to the king.
In the end, I would be also with you all the king rules in chess that you need to know. So this is going to be a very helpful article for you especially if you just started learning chess. Let’s start!
What is the position of the king in chess?
A king is the tallest chess piece and can be identified by the crown with a cross on the top. There is a total of two kings in chess and both of them are placed on the e file, one on the first row and another on the last row, facing each other.
As you can see, the white king is placed on the e-file square on the first row while the black king is placed facing exactly opposite of it, on the last row. Also, the king is placed between the queen and the bishop.
In chess, the horizontal rows are called ‘ranks’ whereas the vertical columns are called ‘files’. There are 8 ranks denoted on the side of the chessboard using the numbers from 1-8.
While the files are denoted by the English alphabets from a-h. So on the e-file square of the first and the last rank, the kings are placed.
How does the king attack and capture in chess?
A king can attack and capture any opponent piece standing next to it as long as doing that doesn’t put it in check. However, one king can’t capture another because doing that also puts the first king in check which is illegal.
This concept of one king can’t approach another king is also known as ‘opposition’. So in simple words just remember that one king always opposes the enemy king.
I have already written an in-depth article on can a king capture another king in chess, which you can check out for further reference.
⭐ Golden rule of king in chess: Always remember you can't leave you own king in check (under attack), neither you are allowed to make a move that puts the king in check or exposes it to check.
Here’s an image that shows of when a king can attack and capture and when it can’t.
As you can see in case – 1, the king can’t capture because doing that, would not put the king in check. So no rules will be violated.
But in case – 2, the king can’t capture because the white queen is supported by the white rook. So the king would be in check if it tries to capture the white queen, which is illegal.
You can read more about this in my article can the king kill in chess.
How does the king move in castling?
Castling is a special move in which the king moves two steps on either the right or left side, while the corresponding side rook moves just the opposite side of the king.
This is the only move in chess in which two pieces move simultaneously in a single move.
There are two types of castling, one is kingside castling and another is queenside castling.
Kingside castling is a type of castling in which the king moves two steps on its right side while the rook on that side just moves one step beside it on the left.
Queenside castling the king moves two steps on its left white the rook on that side moves one step beside it on the right.
I have already written an in-depth article on Kingside castling And Queenside castling, which you can check out for further information.
Now note that the king can’t move always in case of castling. There are four rules of castling you need to know.
- You can’t castle if the king or rook has already been moved once.
- You can castle only if the space between the king and the rook is vacant.
- You can’t castle if your king is in check.
- You can’t castle if the squares through which the king is going to pass through is under attack or the squares on which the king is going to land is also under attack.
If you follow the above four rules then only the castling would be considered as a legal move. Also, remember that you can’t do castling with two hands as it is illegal.
Some important concepts related to king
In simple words, check means when the king is in threat. So whenever you are in check that means you are being attacked by your enemy pieces.
Here in the above image as you can see, the white queen has attacked the black king. So in chess terminology it would be said that the black king is in check
However, you don’t need to worry because there are three ways to escape from this check.
- Moving the king away, out of the danger zone
- Blocking the attack by keeping a piece between the attacking piece and the threatened king
- By capturing the attacking piece.
In the above image as you can the only way left for the blacking to escape from the check is to move the king away to a safer square (the safer squares are marked in the images with green ticks).
Here blocking the check or capturing the attacking chess piece is not possible.
You can read more about all these in my article do you have to move your king in check.
It is a situation in which the king is in attack (check) but it is not possible to the king out of it. So whenever a checkmate occurs then it means you have lost your all hope of saving the king.
As you can see the black king is attacked by the white queen (which means the black king is in check). But there are no ways left to take the black king out of the threat.
Think of the three ways to escape check I discussed with you earlier and analyze why they are not applicable. If you are thinking that the black king can kill the attacking chess piece, the white queen, then you are wrong!
This is because the white queen is supported by the white bishop (refer to the image). So as soon as the king kill the queen, the king would again get into check due to the white bishop.
And as we know it illegal to move your own king in check, so here the black king can’t get out of check. This is how here checkmate occurs.
Whenever a king checkmated the game ends immediately. The player who gets checkmated loses while the player does the checkmate wins the game.
You can read more about checkmate rules here.
Now there is another case that occurs in which the player’s king is not in check but the player has no legal moves left to continue the game. This condition is known as a stalemate.
Whenever this occurs, the game ends in a draw immediately. As you can see in the image the black king is not in check. But there are no squares left where the black can move can move the king.
Also the black pawns are also blocked. Since the pawns can’t move because there is an enemy piece in front of each one of them.
So in all, there no moves left for the black to make, isn’t it? Thus the game end in a draw.
King Rules In Chess
▪️Whenever the king in threat then it said to be in ‘check’.
▪️There are three ways of escaping from check.
- By moving the king to a safer square
- By blocking the check.
- By capturing the piece giving check.
▪️One cannot move one’s own king in check nor make a move that leaves the king in check.
▪️Once the king is in check it is mandatory to first take it out of check and then only make any other move. Leaving your king in check is also considered an illegal move.
▪️When the king is in attack and there’s no way to save it then this condition is called checkmate.
▪️A king cannot be captured but can only checked or checkmated.
▪️If the king is not in threat (check) but still the player doesn’t have any legal moves to make then this condition is called a stalemate. The game ends in a draw immediately whenever it occurs.
▪️A king can’t castle in check, through a check, or into check. Also, a king can’t castle if the king or rook has been already moved once, or if there is a chess piece between them.
You can read more about this in my article can you castle out of check.
So that’s it! I hope now you exactly know how does the king exactly moves in chess. If you still have any doubts then feel free to contact me and ask me your doubts. Till then, Thanks and have a nice day. 🙂
You may also like to read my Chess Basics Series in which I teach you how to play chess, step by step in various lessons. It is the only guide you need to learn chess, especially if you are beginner.
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.