King (chess)

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In chess, the King (, ) is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent's king so that its capture is unavoidable (checkmate). If a player's king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in check, and the player must move so as to remove the threat of capture. If it cannot escape capture on the next move, the king is said to be in checkmate, and the player which owns that king loses the game. Although it is the most important piece, it is one of the weakest pieces in the game (until the endgame).

Contents

Movement

In a conventional game of chess, White starts with the king on the first rank to the right of the queen. Black starts with the king directly across from the white king. With the squares labeled as in algebraic notation, the white king starts on e1 and the black king on e8.

A king can move one empty or enemy-occupied square in any direction (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) unless such a move would place the king in check. As a result, the opposing kings may never occupy adjacent squares (see opposition), but the king can give discovered check by unmasking a bishop, rook, or queen. The king is also involved in the special move of castling.

Castling

In conjunction with a rook, the king may make a special move called castling, in which the king moves two squares toward one of its rooks and then the rook is placed on the other side of the king. Castling consists of moving the king two squares on its first rank toward either one of the original rooks, then moving the rook onto the square over which the king crossed. Castling is allowed only when neither the king nor the castling rook has previously moved, when no squares between them are occupied, when the king is not in check, and when the king will not move across or end its movement on a square that is under enemy control.

Status in games

Check and checkmate

If a player's move places the opponent's king under attack, that king is said to be in check, and the player in check is required to immediately remedy the situation. There are three possible methods to remove the king from check:

  • Moving the king to an adjacent non-threatened square
  • Interposing a piece between the king in check and the attacking piece in order to break the line of threat (not possible when the attacking piece is a knight, or when in double check).
  • Capturing the attacking piece (not possible in double check, unless the king captures)

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