Can The King Attack In Chess?

The king is the most important piece in chess. You spend the game attacking and capturing pieces until you can take your opponent’s king. So, can the king attack in chess? 

The king can attack and capture other pieces. However, the king cannot attack if the attack leaves him in check. Players rarely use the king to attack due to his importance and limited movement. 

Can the King Attack in Chess?

While the king can attack other pieces, you typically want to keep him away from your opponent’s pieces. Placing the king in a position where he may attack another piece may leave him more vulnerable to attack himself.

Here is a detailed look at what the king can and can’t do in the game of chess.

How Does the King Move in Chess?

The king can move in any direction but may only move one square. The square cannot contain another of your playing pieces. However, it may contain one of your opponent’s playing pieces. 

As a king can only move a single square per turn, it is rarely used for attacks. However, you may find yourself in a situation where capturing an opponent’s piece is the only way to get out of a check. 

If an opponent’s playing piece is adjacent to your king at the start of your turn, you can capture it. The king can capture any adjacent piece as the king moves and attacks in any direction.

For example, your opponent moves his queen to a square adjacent to your king, achieving a check. In this situation, you may capture your opponent’s queen if the move does not leave you in check due to the position of another piece. 

How Does the King Attack in Chess?

The king attacks in any direction but can only capture adjacent pieces. As the king can only move a single square per turn, it can only capture pieces that are in one of its eight surrounding squares. 

Understanding the Castling Rule

The one exception to the king’s movement is the castling rule. Castling allows the king to move two squares to the left or right. After moving the king, you move the rook to the opposite side of the king. 

You can castle using the rook from the king’s side of the board (kingside) or on the queen’s side of the board (queenside). If you move the king to the right, the queenside rook jumps to the left of the king. If you move the king to the left, the kingside rook jumps to the right of the king.

You can only use the castling move under specific conditions. You cannot use this move if you have already moved the king or the rook that you plan on castling with. The spaces between the king and the rook must also remain vacant.

What Does It Mean to Attack in Chess?

The word “attack” has several meanings in the game of chess. Players may attack another piece when it threatens to capture their own piece. For example, moving a piece to a position where it can capture an opponent’s piece the following turn is an attack.

A “capture” occurs when you remove one of your opponent’s playing pieces by occupying the square with one of your pieces. The “attack” occurs the previous turn when you move the piece into position to capture your opponent’s piece.

An attack may also refer to a coordinated effort to eliminate a specific target or reach a specific area of the board. For example, a player may plan an attack by positioning several pieces to achieve a check or checkmate

There are very few situations where a king may be placed in a position where he can capture an opponent’s playing piece the following turn. The king needs to finish the turn adjacent to the opponent’s piece. The opponent then needs to leave the piece in place, allowing the king to capture it on the following turn.

Rules That Keep the King from Attacking

The king can attack other pieces in most situations. However, the following rules may limit your options:

  • You cannot leave your king in check
  • You need to move your king out of check

A king can attack other pieces during your turn, but you cannot attack with the king if the attack leaves him in check. Under the standard rules of the game; you cannot make any moves that leave your king in check.

You also need to move your king out of check. If your opponent’s previous move left your king in check, your only legal move is to get the king out of the way of the attack. If you cannot get your king out of check, your opponent wins with a checkmate. 

Certain moves may also result in a stalemate. For example, the only available move may involve capturing a piece with your king while leaving him in check. Leaving your king in check is not allowed, which results in a stalemate, as you are left without legal moves.

Can You Move Your King into a Check?

Leaving your king in check is an illegal move, as it violates the standard rules of the game. If you are playing a tournament or competition game, you automatically forfeit the game after two illegal moves. In fast chess and blitz chess, you may forfeit the game after making a single illegal move. 

In early versions of chess, the game ended when you captured the opponent’s king. The Persians changed the rules to include a warning that the king is in danger, which is called a “check.” The Persians later added a rule that prevented you from leaving a king in check. 

When your king is under attack, you only have three potential moves:

  • Moving your king piece to a safe square on the board
  • Capturing the attacking piece
  • Placing a piece between your opponent’s piece and your king
King move into Check?

The first option when dealing with a check is to move your king to a safe space. The king can move one square in any direction, which may allow you to get out of the check. 

The second option when dealing with a check is to capture the attacking piece. This option only works if the attacking piece is adjacent to the king. Capturing the opponent’s piece must also not place the king in check due to the position of another piece.

You need to pay attention to the risk of leaving the king in check, whether you use the king or another piece to capture the attacking piece. For example, you cannot capture an opponent’s piece with a pinned piece.

A pinned piece is a piece that cannot move without exposing a piece that is considered more valuable, such as the king. You may have a bishop that can attack the piece checking your king. However, moving the bishop may open a line of attack from another of your opponent’s pieces. 

The third option is to place another piece between the opponent’s piece and your king to block its path of attack. For example, your opponent may place their bishop in an unobstructed diagonal line from the position of your king, resulting in a check. 

Moving another one of your pieces in front of the bishop blocks it from capturing the king this turn. However, your opponent may choose to capture the piece blocking the path, which may result in another check.

Why Is the King the Most Important Playing Piece in Chess?

The king is the most important piece in chess as the goal of the game is to trap your opponent’s king while protecting your own king. The game revolves around the king.

Scholars and historians believe that chess is based on chaturanga, which is an Indian strategy game that existed at least two thousand years ago. As in chess, chaturanga includes a king that can move one step in any direction. 

The board also includes horses/knights, infantry/pawns, chariots, and elephants. The chariots became rooks. The elephants became bishops. 

Instead of a queen, chaturanga included a counselor called the Senapati. Unlike the queen, the Senapati only moves diagonally. In modern chess, the queen moves diagonally, vertically, and horizontally. 

Monarchs ruled the world throughout most of the history of chess. The game has been played by nobility and common people in a number of countries. While there are some variations of chess in different cultures and regions, the game has always revolved around capturing your opponent’s king. 

Can You Capture a King in Chess?

You technically trap your opponent’s king instead of capturing it. However, most people use the words trapping and capturing interchangeably when it comes to chess. 

You win the game of chess with a checkmate, which means that the king is in check and has no legal moves left. The king has been threatened by an attacking piece but is not technically captured. 

Can Any Piece Attack the King in Chess?

Almost any piece that can reach the king can attack him. However, a pawn rarely ends up in a position where it can attack the king. 

After an initial move of two steps, the pawn can only move forward a single step. The king can also move one step but in any direction. The chances of a pawn cornering and checking the king are slim but possible. 

The one piece that cannot attack a king is the other king. A king cannot check another king, as reaching the other king would place your king in check at the end of your turn. 

Is the Queen More Powerful Than the King in Chess?

While the king is considered the most important playing piece, the queen is arguably the most powerful. A king can control a total of nine squares, including the square that he sits on. The queen has the power to capture pieces across 28 squares. 

As mentioned, the queen is based on a playing piece called the “Senapati.” This piece could only move one step diagonally. The game was revised after its introduction in Europe. Sometime in the 15th century, the queen’s movement increased.

The king and queen could both now move diagonally, vertically, or horizontally. However, the queen can move across the entire file, rank, or diagonal of the board instead of moving a single square. 

Can You Promote a Pawn to King?

No, you cannot promote a pawn to the king position. Pawn promotion occurs when a pawn reaches the last row on the opposite side of the chessboard. 

When you advance your pawn to the last rank, you can replace it with a rook, bishop, knight, or queen. Promoting the pawn to a queen is called “queening.” Promoting the pawn to a rook, bishop, or knight is called “underpromotion.” 

Lonely pawn

The pawn may be replaced with a captured piece or an added piece. For example, you can promote a pawn to obtain a second queen, a third rook, a third bishop, or a third knight. However, the pawn can never become a king. 

Can the Rook Attack in Chess?

If you are not familiar with chess, along with wondering whether the king can attack, you may wonder whether the rook can attack. The rook resembles a castle and starts in the corners of the board. 

As with the other playing pieces on the board, the rook can attack. It can capture any piece in its path. The rook captures pieces in its path when moving in a straight line horizontally or vertically across the board. 


Players typically try to protect the king at all costs when playing chess. The king is the most important piece on the board, but you may occasionally need to use him to attack other pieces. 

The king can attack in chess when placed in the right position. If a player begins the turn with an opponent’s piece directly adjacent to the player’s king, the player can capture the piece with the king. However, the move cannot leave the king in check or result in a stalemate. As long as the move does not cost you the game, you are free to attack with the king. Due to the king’s limited movement, this does not come up very often.

Jenna Ostria
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