The King in chess is the most important piece in the game, as its name implies. The game is over if he passes away. To keep the King safe, one must take all necessary precautions!
In this article, we will go over some of the King’s primary features, like King’s chess moves and captures, and then look at a few positions in which we might utilize him in our games.
What is a King in chess?
This game’s primary goal is to conquer the King chess piece. The rest is irrelevant when he falls. Out of all the pieces, he is the weakest and most crucial.
Starting position of the game.
Both sides begin with a bare King. The White King begins at the e1-square. The Black King starts at the e8-square. The game ends with a checkmate if this piece is unable to get out of the check.
King chess moves and captures
The King is able to move in all possible directions by one square. He moves in a way that captures as well. He is unable to move to a square that has been covered by a rival piece, unlike other pieces.
King chess piece movement, he can move one square in each direction.
King cannot move to a square covered by an enemy piece or pawn.
As seen above, the e4-King cannot go d5- or e5-squares because the enemy pawns secured those places.
Likewise, Kings are unable to get nearer to one another. Thus, they are unable to mate one another. The game is declared a draw if the chessboard only remains with two Kings.
The right side is the short side, and the left side is the long side for White.
Castling is one of the King’s unique movements. The King usually finds safety by castling. With just one move, this move executes a significant change in position.
For the King to castle, the King should not be moved before. If the King moves in any direction before castling, he can no longer castle.
The King can castle both on the long and the short sides. Another requirement of this move is the Rook. Whichever side the King is headed to, the Rook also shouldn’t be moved before.
If White King castles on the short side, King slides two squares right (From e1 to g1-square), and Rook is placed right left to it (From h1 to f1-square). If the White King castles on the Kingside, King swifts two squares left (From e1 to c1-square), and Rook is placed right to it (From a1 to d1-square).
King can castle to safety on the short side.
To castle, King and Rook should be looking at each other. Before castling occurs, no other piece should be standing in between.
If the King is in check, he cannot castle.
White King cannot castle because g1-square is assaulted by the c5-Bishop.
If the path of the King is covered by an enemy piece, the King cannot castle. As shown above, the White King cannot castle due to the enemy Bishop. In order to castle on the short side, g1-square must be secured.
White King castled on the Kingside.
If all mentioned requirements are met, the King can safely castle.
The King’s Role in Chess
King plays a critical role as the purpose of the battle is to ‘checkmate’ the enemy King. The word “check” refers to when the King is being assaulted. If an assaulted King is checked, he must flee from the check to prevent the “checkmate”.
There are three ways of preventing the checkmate:
1. The King has to move to a safe square.
2. Or the attack should be blocked by another piece.
3. Or the piece checking the King should be captured.
White checkmated Black.
We can see an example position above where White checkmated their opponent. Since Black cannot meet the requirements we mentioned, it is a checkmate. The game ends with White’s victory.
To avoid being checkmated, King has to stay safe and protected until the danger is no longer out there. Similar to other pieces, King plays different roles during the three diverse stages of the game.
During the opening stage, King typically gets castled to safety.
Once the pieces are developed and the fight begins, the King must be held safe and secure. It is not recommended to play with the King too often during this stage.
The Black King is in trouble.
If the King is not held in safety, the enemy pieces will disturb him. Squares like f2 and f7 are critical for the King’s protection because they are vulnerable.
The pawns in front of the King are the quardians. If they are shattered after he castles, the King can be haunted easily. Hence, moving them without a concrete plan is not recommended.
Perhaps the most critical role of the King gets into action in the endgames. Once he sleeps throughout the game, he wakes up from his beauty sleep and plays an essential part in chasing the victory.
King protects the a-pawn. The game will be won once the pawn is promoted.
As shown above, the King can protect the pawns and help them become new Queens. This often occurs when the Queens are traded off. If the Queens are on the board, activating the King is very risky.
The King paves the way for the e-pawn. This red carpet allows White e5-pawn to promote.
Also shown above, the King can cover the pawn’s path to become a new Queen. By shouldering the enemy King, the White King rolls a red carpet for the passed pawn.
The White King is too active.
When there are few pieces remaining on the board, the King’s activities are crucial. The above game illustrates how active the White King is. The King is close to the enemy pawns, whereas the Black King is far away. Despite being a Bishop down, White will easily win the game with the King’s activity.
The value of the King piece in chess
Unlike other pieces, King is invaluable. To protect the King, every measure should be taken.
Black is threatening Qxh2.
To prevent attacks on the King, moves like h3 or g3 are often helpful to keep it safe from danger.
It’s a theoretically drawn endgame.
Even when the position seems hopeless, players must anticipate the King. Some positions might seem losing, but they can be saved due to the ‘stalemate’ rule.
In the example above, the White King is in the ideal location at the ideal moment, making the game a classic “wrong color Bishop endgame” in which the a-pawn cannot be promoted. Even if Black pushes the pawn all the way down, the White King can shuffle between a1- and b1-squares.
An example of a stalemate.
As the game progresses, Black plays Ka2, and the game peters out with a draw.
The stalemate rule occurs when one side has no legal move and is not in check. If Black possessed a dark-squared Bishop in the above position, they could win the game.
Ke2 can prevent Black’s Rook infiltration.
Kings are great at covering squares. This typically favors the side with the active King at the endgame. By securing the critical squares, Kings can prevent enemies from invading the allied area.
In the position above, White can play Ke2 (K=King chess symbol) to prevent Black’s idea of Rd1. If Black gets the Rd1 move-in, their access to the first rank can give them a slight edge. White King can position itself and cover the critical squares, like in the mentioned example.
What are the King’s weaknesses?
The biggest weakness of the King is its value. The enemy will constantly seek an assault on him. The more pressure gets in its way, the more casualties will be given to preserve its safety.
Back rank mate is one of the most common checkmate patterns.
Once the King is castled, the short side’s default pawn structure prevents it from breathing. Creating a breathing room such as h7- or h2-squares (by moving h3 or h6) is often preferred to prevent back-rank checkmates. These breathing spaces are also called ‘luft‘.
The f7-square is under attack.
The f7-square for Black and the f2-square for White are vulnerable locations because they are only guarded by the King. This typically allows for various tactical and checkmate ideas in these places.
An example of Lolli’s mate.
The pawns in front of the King can create serious weaknesses. In these cases, the King may not be able to protect himself, and the game can be lost. To avoid this, it should be thought through before pushing those pawns.
The above position illustrates a game where the f3-pawn is covering the g2-square. Since White pieces cannot guard the g2-square, Qg2 will end the game in the next turn. The name of this motif is ‘Lolli’s Mate’.
Strategies and Techniques with King
Once the Queens are off the board, the Kings need to be slowly activated near the action. This typically allows them to be rapidly involved in the game once a massive exchange chain occurs.
King needs to get into the action.
In the above position, the Queens are off the board. The White King can be ready for a possible exchange storm. Once the exchanges occur, the closest King to the middle will hold a considerable initiative. To achieve that, White can play Kf1.
The White King is closer to the enemy pawns.
After exchanging the Rooks, the White King has gone on a journey. He played a crucial role in White’s endgame attack by staying closer to the enemy pawns.
Emre’s thoughts on King
The game ends when the King falls. Every master would rather give up a Queen than get checkmated. As long as the King lives, there is always hope. Utilizing King during the endgames is essential to outplaying the opponents. I recommend that readers read Capablanca’s books and examine his games. His endgame play and understanding of the King activity have been game-changers for many players.
Can King move two steps in chess?
No, King can only move one step in every direction.
Is a King powerful in chess?
King is the most valuable piece. However, it is one of the least powerful pieces.