Have you ever wondered why we are never allowed to capture the King, unlike other chess pieces? While all the pieces are interesting, one of them stands out from the rest. This is your King.
The King is the most extraordinary piece in your army. He is the center of chess, and the entire game revolves around him.
Knowing each of your chess pieces like the back of your hand is very important in chess. How are you to use them together if you don't know each of them on their own?
But no matter how big of an advantage you have, it will all be worthless if you lose your King. That's why you wrack your brains over the board just to find ways to protect your King and to checkmate your opponent's King.
This makes learning all about the King so important. You want to know his strengths and weaknesses, and you want to know exactly how to use him.
You might be surprised to find that the King can be a big help in the battle. Some people have this wrong idea that the King is good for nothing except hiding away.
While it's essential to keep him safe, there are times when he can contribute significantly to the battle. To learn how to make full use of your King!
Today, we're going to answer some of the common questions beginners have about the King. You will learn the rules and how to use your King in the chessboard. Especially the question about can you capture the King?
Can you capture the King? or Is it allowed to take the King?
This is a question a lot of beginners, and surprisingly some club players, ask.
The short and technical answer to this question is a simple no, and you cannot. You win a chess game by trapping your opponent's King, not by capturing it.
When your opponent's King has nowhere to escape an attack, the game ends right then and there. There is no time for you to capture the king.
Why? Because by the laws of the game, capturing the King is an illegal move.
You may also want to read an interesting article about “can you undo a move in chess”
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If you somehow capture your opponent's King, you are making an illegal move.
Therefore you will lose the game. This might sound ironic to you, but these are the rules that make chess a fair game, it's placed in for excellent reasons.
Can you imagine your King being utterly trapped, yet your opponent delays taking it? It will be very frustrating and pointless to go on from this point.
That is why it is not the taking of the King that wins the game, but rather the trapping of the King.
By the laws of the game, you are not allowed to expose your King to an attack.
When your King is in check, you have to move it or block the attack. Every other move is illegal and will automatically forfeit the game.
You are also not allowed to move a piece that is blocking your King from an attack. This is known as a pinned piece, and it is something that will come up a lot when you study chess tactics.
Also, read our article about important “chess tactics“
Now you might be wondering what will happen if someone doesn't know their King is in check?
What if they move a piece that exposes their King to an attack? Should you just take the King? In classical chess, where you have so much time to think, this is unlikely ever to happen.
However, in Blitz and Bullet chess, where limited time forces you to make moves quickly, things like these are common. Two things can happen when your opponent makes an illegal move.
It's either you tell him so he can correct his mistake, or you claim a win instantly.
However, if you fail to point out the illegal move and make a move of your own, the illegal move will stand, and you can't do anything about it anymore.
You lose your chance to claim a win. That is why if your opponent exposes his King, you should never, never capture it. If you do this, not only will his illegal move stand, but you will be the one making an illegal move by taking your opponent's King.
Thus, in a wild turn of events, you will be the one to lose the game!
Also, read our article about “what happens in chess when you don’t say check”
So be careful. Whenever you see your opponent make an illegal move, tell him or the arbiter right away.
If you try to embarrass your opponent for his mistake by taking his King, this will backfire hard.
Always remember, the goal is not to capture the King but to trap him. Can you capture the King in chess? No.
How Does a King Move in Chess?
The next question is how and where can a King move in chess. Some people believe that the King is the most limited piece in the game. This can't be further from the truth.
His role in the game indeed limits what he can do, but the King is one of the most mobile pieces in your army. Rooks go straight, and Bishops go diagonally, but the King goes in any direction he pleases!
He is one of only two pieces on the board that can do this, the other being the Queen. Of course, he can only move one square at a time. But never underestimate how agile the King is.
This is what makes it so difficult to trap a King. Their mobility makes it super easy for them to find an escape route. We will also see later that this mobility can be used in the attack as well.
You may also want to check out our article about “who makes the first move in chess“
The King also has a special move with the rooks known as castling.
This special move allows your King to jump over one of your rooks, either the Kingside or Queenside rook. If you choose kingside, your King jumps from e1 to g1, while the rook goes from h1 to f1.
On the Queenside, the King transfers from e1 to c1, and the rook swings over from a1 to d1. This move is designed to get the King out of the center and into the safety of the corner.
It is also super useful for getting your rooks into the action. This move has several restrictions to it, though: you cannot castle if there is a piece in the way, you cannot castle if your King or Rook has already made a move, you cannot castle if your King is in check.
You cannot castle if one of the squares your King has to travel over (f1 for Kingside and d1 for Queenside) is being attacked.
Also, read this interesting article about “can you get out of check by castling”
The last thing you need to know about how Kings move is that you cannot move your King into a square where he can be captured.
This would be, once again, an illegal move.
And we already know what happens when you make an illegal move!
Check out also our article about “50 move rule” in chess
Can the King Attack in Chess?
Yes. There is nothing in the rules that stops you from using your King to lead the charge into the battle. Is this wise? Of course not!
It sure is courageous, but it is also stupid because you are going to lose the game very quickly if you do this. If you know anything about chess, you know that protecting your King is so important.
This is why getting your King into the corner by castling is one of the priorities in the opening.
Here they are going to be nice and safe while the other pieces fight in the center.
So is that the King's only purpose in chess? To hide? Far from it!
The King indeed needs to hide in the early stages of the game. It's now too dangerous for him to go outside when your opponent still has his entire army.
However, as the game goes on, and more and more pieces are removed from the board, things start to change. Eventually, it reaches a point where leaving your King out of the battle becomes foolish.
In the endgame, where there are only a few pieces left, trapping a King can be very difficult. This is why the King transforms from a hideaway into one of the most powerful pieces in the game.
How well you use your King's mobility in the endgame will often be the difference between victory and defeat.
Also, check out our article on “how to get better at chess endgame”
The King can attack and capture, just like every other chess piece on the board.
The only difference is that they can't capture pieces that are protected by other pieces.
The King can never move into a square where he is attacked, whether that square has anything on it or not.
Fun fact, you are never going to see both Kings beside each other on the board because of this. There is no legal move that will ever allow this to happen.
Hey, you might be interested in a cool Chess King Hoodie (Amazon link)
There you have it! I do hope you were able to learn more about the King, especially about capturing the King. This are just some of the rules that we need to be aware of with this chess piece.
Remember that one of the things that makes chess such a beautiful game are chess pieces.
Each chess piece is unique; they all have their strengths and weaknesses. It's up to you to join your pieces together to defeat your opponent.
Do this well, and you'll be creating art on the board. Do this poorly, you'll find chaos and confusion on your side of the board, and this will always lead to defeat.
If you find this helpful, please do share this with your family or friends who are also interested in learning more about chess.
Have fun learning about your King. 🙂
Before you go, do check out ChessDelights chess resources.
Gary FloresGary is a chess enthusiast and has three children who also enjoy learning the game. He is a co-author of the "Chess Fundamentals" digital interactive book a ChessDelights Edition. He founded ChessDelights.com in order to brush up on his understanding of this tactic and strategy game. He also enjoys encouraging those who are learning, re-learning, or instructing their children in the game of chess.
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