What Can a King Do? – Questions About The King in Chess


Often the King in chess is thought of as a helpless artifact that has to be defended at all costs. Whilst the defense line might be right, the king is far from helpless and can be used effectively in many attacking shows of strength. Can a king attack? You bet they can!

In chess, the King possesses the ability to play an integral part of an attack strategy, becoming stronger in the end game than pieces such as the Knight or Bishop. Despite the single square movement limitation, the King is an effective attacking force in chess games.

Whilst many a chess player will often keep our king protected on the first rank, even castling to gain extra cover, let’s not forget how we can use the king to our advantage in finishing off an opponent. Join me as I go deeper into the attacking aspects of the most royal of chess pieces.

There are many questions about chess, hence the chessquestions.com website, and many of those queries revolve around the value, the ability, and importance of the King.

Whilst some of these questions are answered in various posts, so numerous are they, that I thought I would bring everything together in one page, so you can find out everything there is to know about the King in chess in a single visit. There will be links to other pages where the king is referenced, where I think there will be further information you may gain from in your gathering of information about the wonderful game of chess.

Limited Movement Doesn’t Mean Limited Ability

Ok, well it does a bit, the king does have some limitations, with the exception of the special move called castling. I shan’t go in that here as we are looking at the king in attack, so check out the how chess pieces move article if you need to learn all the king moves.

The King is an Effective Attacking Piece

A king can be a very effective attacking piece, providing more value and threat than a knight or bishop in the end-game thanks to the range of movement, albeit a single square at a time. In the end game, the king becomes a powerful piece if open and free to move.

Once exposed, a king can move freely in attack but can also be a very effective defender of his own army too.

Learning end game tactics to use the king as both defender and attacker will help improve your abilities and get better at chess. Especially at the point where it really matters.

The King can Take the Queen in Chess as Long as It Is a Legal move

I always find it interesting that the question of Can a King take an enemy queen comes up as often as it does. Every piece on a chess board can capture any other. (But Kings don’t get captured)

The king is able to capture any other enemy piece on a chessboard including a queen. The only time a king is unable to take the queen is if the move would place the king in a check position, This is impossible as it would be deemed an illegal move.

As we have seen the King can be a formidable and effective attacking piece in chess, and even the mighty queen, the most powerful piece on the board, is unable to avoid capture from the king, should she be left in such a position.

If it comes to the end game and you have the opportunity to take the queen with your king, tread carefully, it could be a trap, and your opponent may be using the queen as a decoy to get your king just where they want it for a final assault.

Kings don’t Capture Kings in Chess

Do not worry about asking this newbie question. You ask it once, get the answer and that knowledge will remain with you for your entire chess playing life, but there is an easy answer as to whether a king can kill a king in chess.

Kings can not kill other Kings in chess because of the full range of movement of a King it is impossible for one king to maneuver within one square of another king without putting himself in check, which of course is illegal. Besides you do not kill in chess, you capture.

Let’s just clear that one up, pieces are captured in chess, with the exception of the King who is never seen as captured. No one suffers any fatal outcome in the game of chess.

Can The King Capture?

The King can capture any other piece in a game of chess with the exception of the enemy king. The king can become both a valuable defensive or attacking piece and is versatile with all-round movement if a little limited by single square possibilities, but can still capture an enemy piece.

How to get a King out of Check

Something you will inevitably experience in a game of chess, and possibly on several occasions if you are not careful is finding your king in a check position. Ideally, your defense will strong enough to avoid it but your opponent will put your king into check, and once there, you have no choice to make a move to get out if not in a checkmate position. It is a standard rule that you have to get out of check when placed in it. There are several ways to get a king out of check

  • Move the king a single square
  • Place another piece in the path of the checking piece
  • Capture the piece placing the King in check

What if the check is from a knight

Note that if your king is in a check position from an enemy knight, blocking is not possible, and capturing the knight with the king can not be achieved either, as the knight will be too far away for the king to move a single square closest to capture, you have to find a safe square.

When a knight is checking your king, you have only the option to move the king one place to an adjacent square out of the check position, if possible, or to capture the knight with one of your other pieces.

Blocking

In blocking the path to your king from any opponent piece that is not the knight, you should try to do so on a protected square so that the blocking piece is protected. In some cases, the piece you block with may not threaten the checking piece in which case, you may find that it has now become pinned and will not be able to move without exposing the king to check once again.

The King Can Move When Not in Check

Another question that comes up from time to time from players just beginning to learn chess is asking if the king can move even when not in check.

The king is free to make any move at any time even if not in a check position as long as the move is legal and does not place the king in check. Either as a defensive move or an attacking one, the king can move its single square at any time in a game of chess.

Summary

I hope this article has answered some of the basic chess questions about the king. You’ve probably arrived on this page by asking one of these questions of google, and I understand that some of these questions seem very obvious, but you would be surprised how often they are asked.

There are a lot of rules in chess that once learned are taken for granted, so if playing someone new at chess and teaching them, don’t forget that they may not be aware of some of the most basic move, capture, and strategy capabilities of any piece yet. Help them learn and get better at chess, and you will enjoy many more games, watching them improve and taking some of the credit for it too.

Please take a look at how each chess piece moves to find more information on all the pieces in the game of chess.

Happy Chessing!

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