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The king is the most important piece in the game of chess. It may move one square in any direction as long as it doesn't move to a square where it can be captured. This threatening of capture is called being in check. The player must remove the threat immediately before being able to a different move. If the player is unable to do so, the King is said to be in checkmate, resulting a loss for that player. Both players have one King located in the center of the board next to the Queen. The value of the King is not obvious though it is either 0, an arbitrarily high number such as 200+ or infinite, all of these can be correct as losing the King results in losing the game. The King is represented by the letter "K" in algebraic notation.

Placement & Movement

Placement

Both players start with one King each, located in the center of the board next to the Queen.

White's King starts on e1 while Black's King starts on e8, directly across from each other.

The mnemonic used for the placement of the Queen can also be used for the King but it is reversed. "The King starts on the opposite color of it's own." This means that a White King starts on a black square and vice versa. It is important to note that this only works if the |chessboard is oriented correctly.

Movement

The King can move one square horizontally, vertically or diagonally unless the square is already occupied by a friendly piece or if that square would place the King in check. If the square is occupied by an undefended enemy piece then the King may capture it. Opposing Kings can never be adjacent or diagonal to eachother as it would place them both in check.

Characteristics

Castling

a b c d e f g h
8 a8 rd b8 c8 od d8 xd e8 kd f8 xd g8 od h8 rd 8
7 a7 pd b7 pd c7 pd d7 pd e7 pd f7 pd g7 pd h7 pd 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 pl b2 pl c2 pl d2 pl e2 pl f2 pl g2 pl h2 pl 2
1 a1 rl b1 c1 ol d1 xl e1 kl f1 xl g1 ol h1 rl 1
a b c d e f g h
Castling options:
Circles denote where the King moves after castling.
Crosses denote where the rook moves after castling.

Main article: Castling

The King is able to make a special move in cooperation with the Rook of the same color, called castling. When castling, the King moves two squares towards the Rook and the Rook is placed over the square that the King has crossed. This move benefits the King as it puts it in the corner, away from the center of the board where all the action is happening and protected by Pawns. The King is not able to castle if:

  • No squares between the two pieces are occupied.
  • Either piece has already moved that game.
  • It is currently in check.
  • The squares it crosses or moves would place it in check.


Check and checkmate

a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 rd g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 qd 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 nl h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 xd d5 xd e5 xd f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 pl c4 xd d4 kd e4 xd f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 xd d3 xd e3 xd f3 ql g3 h3 3
2 a2 bl b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 rl e1 f1 g1 kl h1 1
a b c d e f g h
A checkmated King.
Black cannot:
1. Move away from check
2. Capture the checking piece
3. Block the check.

A King that is threatened to be captured is said to be in check and the player in check must immediately remove the threat. There are three possible ways to remove a King from check:

  • The King is moved to an adjacent square that is not threatened to be captured.
  • A piece moves between the King and the piece that is threatening it. This is not possible if:
    • Not possible if the opposing piece is a Knight or the King is in double check.
  • The attacking piece is captured.
    • Not possible if the King is in double check unless the King captures that piece.

If none of the three options are possible then the King is said to be in checkmate and the player with the checkmated King loses the game. In casual games, when placing the opponent's King in check it is common to announce "check" to prevent any rule breaking, though this is not required by official chess rules.

Stalemate

A stalemate occurs when a player, on their turn has no legal moves and their King is not in check. If this happens, the King is said to be stalemated and the game ends in a draw. A player who has little to no chance of winning will often, in order to avoid a loss, attempt to lure the opponent to a stalemating position.

a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 kd e3 f3 g3 qd h3 xd 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 xd h2 xd 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 xd h1 kl 1
a b c d e f g h
Stalemated King.
White cannot move with any
pieces and is not in check.














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