The King is the most important piece on the chessboard. It can never be captured and if it is in danger then it must be made safe immediately. If it is not possible to make the King safe then the game is lost. The King may move one square in any direction. In the diagram the King is able to move to one of the highlighted squares.
However, the King must never move on to a square that is being attacked by her opponents pieces. In the diagram the King cannot move onto the squares marked with a cross because the Black Bishop is attacking those squares.
If a piece is on a square that the King can move to then the King may capture that piece. In the diagram the King may capture the Rook
This position below is almost the same as in the diagram above. However, there is one very important difference. The Bishop is now protecting the Rook so that if the King captured the Rook the King would be attacked by the Bishop, we say the King would be in check, and Black would be able to capture the King on the next move. The King can never move himself into danger like this so he is unable to capture the Rook.
Consequently, because the King must never move on to a square that is being attacked by enemy pieces, two Kings can never stand next to each other on the chessboard. The position in this diagram is illegal.
Now you know how all of the chessmen move you can play chess with all of the pieces. Remember that the player with the White pieces always goes first. To decide who should play with the White pieces, one of the players hides a Black pawn in one hand and a white pawn in the other and holds out her fists in front of her. Her opponent chooses a hand and if the white pawn is in that hand then the opponent plays White. If it is a black pawn the opponent plays with the Black pieces. After the first game the players switch colours.
Check and Checkmate
When the King is being attacked directly by an opponent's piece we say that the King is in check. In the diagram the Black King is being checked by the White Bishop.
If the King is in check it must be made safe immediately.
There are three ways to get out of check:
1. The King may move to a square which is not being attacked by an enemy piece.
In the diagram below the King has moved out of check.
2. A piece may be moved in between the King and the enemy piece to block the check.
In this diagram the Black Bishop blocks the check with her Bishop.
3. The piece that is attacking the King can be captured.
In this diagram the Bishop can be captured by the Black Rook.
This is the new position after the Rook has made its capture. The King is no longer in check!
If the King is in check and cannot get out of check then we say the King is checkmated and the game is lost.
In the diagram below, the White Queen checks the Black King.
Black is not able to do any of the following:
1. move to a square which is not being attacked by an enemy piece.
2. move a piece between the King and the enemy piece to block the check.
3. capture the attacking piece.
so Black is checkmated and has lost the game!
The chessboard can be divided vertically into two parts. Looking at the board from White's side, the left side we call the Queen's side and the right-side is the King's side. These terms are important because the King has a choice of which corner he goes to; he can castle to the King's side or to the Queen's side.
When the King castles, he moves two squares to the left or right and the Rook is moved to stand on the opposite side of the King. When castling, the King must always be moved first otherwise your opponent could claim that you have moved the Rook instead of castling! In the diagram below neither Kings have castled yet.
In the diagram below the White King has castled King's side or castled short. It has moved two squares to the right and the Rook has come to stand on the square immediately next to the King on its opposite side. This way of castling is written O-O.
In the next diagram the White King has castled Queen's side or castled long. Again it has moved two squares but this time it has moved to the left and the Rook has come to stand on the square immediately next to the King on his opposite side. This way of castling is written O-O-O.
There are certain conditions which prevent either player from castling:
|Castling is not possible if either the King or the Rook has moved. In the diagram the King cannot castle Queen's side because the Rook has moved. |
All of the squares between the King and the Rook must be empty.
In the diagram the King cannot castle Queen's side at present because the Knight is between the King and the Rook.
If the King is in check it cannot castle out of check.
In the diagram the Rook is checking the King. The King cannot castle on this turn but as long as White does not move the King to get out of check it may be possible for White to castle on a later move.
The King cannot castle if doing so would put it in check.
In this diagram the Black Bishop is attacking the square (the highlighted square) the White King would rest on if White castled on the King's side. Consequently the White King would be in check. However, White can castle on the Queen's side and perhaps later she could castle on the King's side.
The King cannot castle if it has to cross a square which is being attacked by an enemy piece.
In this diagram the Queen is attacking one of the squares (the highlighted square) the King would have to cross if it castled Queen's side so the King cannot castle on this side at the moment.
It is generally a good idea to castle early in the game to get the King to safety before attacking and opening up lines in the centre. Remember - those lines could lead directly to your king and leave it open to attack by your opponent!