Castling is one of the essential moves in chess, but have you ever asked yourself if you should always castle in chess? Or when do you castle? Or do you want to know the rules and mechanics of castling? If you said yes on all these questions, then you are on the right article.
A castle in chess is very much the same as medieval castles. The King hides behind his wall (Pawns) and tower (Rooks) and is safe from the onslaught of the enemy.
While learning about castling in chess, it's also useful to learn more about chess board setup.
You can get to this position with only one special move known as castling. The King jumps over the rook and into the safety of the corner. We'll see precisely how and when you can do this later on.
In chess, should you always castle?
Yes. One of the things that makes chess a fantastic game is the balance between attack and defense. I know it's fun to attack, attack, attack, but you need to be careful with your King at the same time.
This is why every chess teacher will tell you that castling is so essential.
It is a move that you should look to do in all of your games. Too many beginners get caught up in attacking that they neglect to castle.
You shouldn't make this mistake because it will almost always backfire at you.
Always take time to get your King into the safety of his castle. There are, however, some exceptions. There are some situations where it's better to put off castling a little while.
These are rare, but we will take a look at how to judge whether castling is a good idea or not in a bit.
But first, let's take a look a bit about a medieval castling story! 🙂
Castling in medieval times story
During the middle ages, the war was widespread. This is why Kings would build their homes as enormous castles of stone.
They needed a place that was safe from enemy attacks, that could also serve as a base for attacks of their own.
They would fortify their castles with tall walls and high towers. Over time, castles became so fortified, and they were almost impenetrable. It would require something special to take one down. This is why Kings were very safe behind the walls of their castles.
Today, we no longer see Kings living in castles. Times have changed a lot since the middle ages.
However, the concept of Kings and Castles is still very much alive in the Game of Kings – Chess.
We are most familiar with the term “castling” in chess by now. It is, after all, as I said, it is one of the most important moves to make.
What happens when you Castle in Chess?
In the shortest way I can put it, your King jumps over your Rook into safety.
You can choose to either castle on the Kingside or the Queenside.
When you go on the Kingside, your King moves from e1 to g1, while the Rook swaps from h1 to f1, all in one move. Queenside castling is similar, but instead of going towards the right side of the board, the King jumps from e1 to c1 while the a1 Rook swings over to the d1 square.
You can also castle in the same ways as black. The only difference is that black is on the 8th rank.
By now, you surely know that castling is a way to get your King to safety.
But that isn't the only thing there is to castling. Remember that it isn't only the King that moves when you castle, you also move the rook.
One thing that you've surely noticed when playing is that it can sometimes be challenging to get your Rooks involved in the attack.
Most of the action takes place in the center of the board, and the rooks start in the corners.
This is why it's going to take several moves before you can activate your Rooks.
That being said, one of the best ways to get your rooks in a better position is by castling. The fact that you can swap the King and Rook in one move makes castling a very powerful move for attacking as well.
Another thing that you should take note of is what side you choose to castle.
This is going to affect the way the game goes a lot. The rule of thumb is that you want to attack the side opposite of where you castled.
You don't want to get your King to safety only to expose him again by pushing his guard pawns forward.
If you castle Kingside, try attacking the Queenside so that you can use your pawns to join the attack as well.
This is why when both white and black castle on the same side, most of the action will be on the other side. But if white and black castle on opposite sides, you are going to get a pretty intense game with both sides going for the King.
What are the four rules of Castling?
Just like everything else in chess, there are some restrictions to castling. You can't only castle any time that you want to, and you have to meet some requirements first.
There are certain situations where you can't castle, even if you're going to.
All in all, there are 4 things you need to meet before you can castle. Let's take a look at each one of them carefully.
(1) You can't castle if there are pieces in between your King and Rook. There shouldn't be a piece in between the King and the Rook he wants to castle with.
You have to vacate all the squares in between the King and Rook first. The f1 and g1 need to be empty for Kingside castling, and the b1, c1, and d1 squares all need to be free for Queenside castling. You can't just castle right away on the first move.
(2) You can't castle if your King or Rook has already moved. Castling is a special move, and it can only be done on the first move of your King and Rook.
If you have already moved your King, you lose the chance to castle. The same is true with the Rooks. If you move the Kingside Rook, you are no longer allowed to castle Kingside.
Even if you return the King and Rooks to their starting positions, you have already lost the chance to castle. So keep this in mind before you move your King or Rook.
(3) You can't castle if your King has to travel over an attacked square. Think of it this way, and your King has to “walk” over the g1 square to get to the f1 square and complete the Kingside castle.
If that g1 square is under attack, then he can't step there.
The same is true with the d1 square on the queenside. Also, the King can't end up in a checked position, so that means the f1 and c1 squares also have to be free of attack.
If they're not, then you can't castle. Keep in mind though that it is only the squares that the King has to pass over.
If your Rook is being attacked on a1 or h1, you can still castle. You can also still castle Queenside even if the b1 square is under attack.
(4) You can't castle if your King is in check. It would be so nice just to hide away your King whenever he is in trouble.
Sadly, you can't. If your King is in check, you aren't allowed to castle.
You have to capture the piece giving check, block the check, or move your King away. And remember, moving your King means you can no longer castle.
When Should You Castle in Chess?
This brings us to our last question: when is the best time to castle?
The rules of thumb say that it is essential to castle early on. It's necessary to make sure your King is nice and safe before you start an all-out attack.
This way, your opponent's counter-attacks aren't going to be as dangerous.
However, you should never, never castle blindly. You need to judge for yourself when the best time to castle is.
The more you play and study, the better you will be at judging when to castle.
One thing you need to be careful of is castling into an opponent's attack.
Sometimes, your opponent is going to set up their pieces in a way that the moment you castle, they will spring to an attack on your King.
They might make several sacrifices just to expose your King and checkmate him.
So before you castle, make sure you look out for these types of ambush attacks on your King.
If you see one, it's best to hold off castling a little while or to castle the other way instead.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is the opening battle.
Straight out of the opening, you are going to be fighting for those center squares.
If castling is going to cause you to lose out on this early battle, then perhaps you should wait for a move or two.
Remember, if there's something urgent on the board, you can delay your castling a little.
By principle, you should castle early. But the best time to castle will depend on what is going on in your game.
You'll even find that sometimes, it's better not to castle at all!
There you have it!
Castling is very important both as a chess tactic and strategy…Learning when or should you always castle in every game can determine how the game will take place in the early part of the game, especially the middle game.
I do hope you were able to learn some vital lesson about chess castling.
If you find this helpful, please do share this article to your friends or family who are also interested in chess.
Thank you, and have fun learning more about castling… 🙂
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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