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How to play chess: The King

The king is the most important piece in the game. You must keep your king safe at all costs, because if your opponent traps your king, it's checkmate and you lose the game. Don't worry though, the king is not completely helpless and he has an army of loyal pieces and pawns to protect him! Each player starts the game with one king, and unlike the other pieces and pawns, the king is never captured and stays on the board for the whole game.

Movement

The king's movement is limited to one square in any direction, so he's not the fastest piece in the box. Still, he is more powerful than a pawn, and he can give bishops and knights a run for their money too! The king's legal moves are displayed on the board below:

As usual, here is your chance to try it yourself - grab the white king and make a move on the board below:

Incorrect Move Sorry, that's the wrong answer. Click 'continue' to try again.
Nice Try Your move was good, but there is a better one.
Solved! Well done, that's the correct answer!

Despite his limited mobility, the king can still capture an enemy piece if he can catch up with them! Make a capture with the white king on the board below:

Incorrect Move Sorry, that's the wrong answer. Click 'continue' to try again.
Nice Try Your move was good, but there is a better one.
Solved! Well done, that's the correct answer!

Because the king is so important, you must never move him onto a square where he could be captured. This is called moving into check, and is against the rules. If an enemy piece could move onto a square next turn, then that square is off limits to the king. On the board below, the squares marked with an X are threatened by black's bishop, so the white king may not move there:

Now try it for yourself - make a move with the black king on the board below, without moving him into check:

Incorrect Move Sorry, that's the wrong answer. Click 'continue' to try again.
Nice Try Your move was good, but there is a better one.
Solved! Well done, that's the correct answer!

This also applies when the king is capturing a piece. If capturing an enemy piece would put him into check, then that piece is off limits. Try making a capture with the white king on the board below, without moving him into check:

Incorrect Move Sorry, that's the wrong answer. Click 'continue' to try again.
Nice Try Your move was good, but there is a better one.
Solved! Well done, that's the correct answer!

Note that because the king can never move into check, this means that the two kings may never stand next to each other - then both of them would be in check. The position on the board below is illegal:

That's not quite all there is to know about the king - he has a special move called castling, which we will look at later on.

Suggested Books

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