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Rules of Chess - Frequent Asked Questions

This is a starting collection of questions that people have asked me about the rules of chess, and their answers. See also:

If I have only a king left, how many moves does my opponent have to mate me?

The short answer is: 50. The rule has a few details, and is explained on a separate page.

Can kings check other kings?

No. A king may not move to a square next to another king, because then this move would put the king that moves also into check, which is illegal.

It is possible to make a move with a king such that the other king is checked (or even mated): suppose that whites king is between whites rook and blacks king on one line. When the king moves away from the line, he discloses the check by the rook. (I'll add a diagram in the future.)

Can queens castle?

No. Queens cannot castle.

Can you tell me if there is such a rule as king's facing in chess (where both kings are line with each other)? Is this illegal?

Kings may face each other. What is not allowed for kings is to be at adjacent positions (see above): moving a king next to another king means to move the king into check, but it is perfectly legal for kings to be at the same row or column with no pieces between them.

Confusion may have arisen from a rule of Xiangqi - Chinese Chess. In that game, there indeed is a rule which disallows kings to `see each other'.

Can a king moved to square that is attacked by a pinned piece?

On the chessboard, there is the following situation. One player, say white, has a knight, that is `pinned' by a bishop of the opponent, i.e., the knight is between the black bishop and the white king, so if the knight would move, then the king is checked. Is in this situation black allowed to move to a square attacked by the knight?
No, such a move is not allowed. The king would be on a square, attacked by a piece of its opponent. That this attacking piece would put its own king in check when it would take the king is not important here - what matters is that it can move to the square with the king on it.

The logics behind the rule is that the white knight could take the black king, and white would take the black king earlier than black could take the white king.








In the example, the black king may not move to b5 (the square marked with a red circle), even while the white knight that attacks that square is pinned.

Can a king move to a square that is attacked only by a piece that when moved would put his own king in check?

No. A king may never move to a square that is attacked by a piece of the opponent; regardless whether this piece is `pinned' (would cause check to its own king) when moved or not. Such a move would still be regarded as moving the king into check.

See the example to the previous question.

Must I capture when I can?

No. Capture is not obligatory in chess. (There is one case where one must capture: when your king is in check and the only possibility to lift the check is to capture. In all other cases, the player can decide whether or not to capture.)

Can kings stand near each other?

No. Moving a king to a position adjacent to the king of the opponent is considered moving ones king into check, and hence not allowed.

If I have lost everything except the King, how many move I have before chess mate, to make a draw?

The number of moves is 50, i.e., 50 moves for white and 50 moves for black. If there have been (at least) 50 consecutive moves in which neither of the players has moved a pawn, and in which no piece has been taken then a player can claim a draw when it is his turn to move. The rule also applies when both players have other pieces besides their king. So, when the opponent has a pawn, the count starts again when he has moved his pawn.

Can a king castle after having been in check

Can a player castle if his king was checked earlier in the game? (when the player was checked, he responded by placing another piece between his king and the opponents attacking piece; he did not move the king.) Put another way, does being checked automatically disqualify a player from castling later in the game? (Remember, the king has not moved,the opposing piece was simply blocked by another piece.)

The player can still castle in this situation. The rules of chess state that castling is illegal, when the king or rook has moved earlier, and when in or through check. Having been in check which was removed by interposing another piece, or by taking (not with king or rook that is involved in the castling, of course) the checking piece does not prevent the player from castling later.

Can a King attack when he is in check or must he move out of check without attacking?

There are three possible ways to get out of check: the king moves to a square he is not checked (and this may be done with and without taking a piece), a piece is interposed between the checking piece and the king, and the piece that checks is taken, either by the king or by another piece.

So the answer is: the king can attack when he is in check. The only condition is that he is not in check after the move.

If I am in check can I capture the piece that has me in check as long as I don't put my self back in check?

Yes. Consider the following simple situation:

In this example, the black king is in check, but not mated as he can take the queen, and the queen is not defended.

Is it true that at the very first move of the game, you are allowed to switch or castle your king and queen?

No. There is no such move in the standard rules of chess.

Is a pawn allowed to make a non-capturing move when he could capture

Someone said that a pawn cannot pass a kill. If the pawn can kill, it cannot just move ahead one space. Is that true?

No, that is not true. This person may be confused with the rules of checkers: there is no obligatory capture in chess (except when taking is the only possible way to escape check): when the square ahead of the pawn is empty, the pawn may move to that square, even when the pawn could instead make a capture.

If one moves a pawn to the other side of the board while having already a queen on the board, can one get a second queen?

Yes. In this way, one can get two, or even more queens. I've seen games played by young players at the local chess club where a player had three queens (by two pawn promotions).

Is it legal to take the piece to which a pawn is promoted in the next move

Suppose a pawn is promoted to some piece, e.g., a queen. The question is: is it legal for the opponent to take that piece in the very first move after the promotion?

The answer is: yes. The promoted piece can be taken just as any other piece.

I was told that a pawn cannot take a king. Is this true?

No, this is not true. Kings can be attacked by any piece, including pawns.

A confusion may have arisen with the following rule: it is not legal to place a king on a position where it is attacked by an enemy piece. When a player makes by accident such a move, then he must undo the move and make a legal move instead. (Rules for speed-play are actually different, but this is the rule for normal chess games.) But also in this respect, there is no difference between pawns and other types of pieces.

Is it allowed to castle which a rook that is attacked or goes through check?

While castling (on the queen side) ,can I castle if my rook passes through check. I'm allways reading that the king may not castle out of ,(through),or into check. I know the rules allways specify ,the king cannot pass through check,but can the rook pass through.
The rook can pass check, or better worded, through an attacked square. I.e., when all conditions that allow castling are met (rook and king have not moved, squares between rook and king are empty, king does not castle from, through, or to check), then castling is allowed, and it is of no importance whether the rook is attacked or goes via an attacked square.

So, when white castles long, a black attack to a1 or to b1 does not make that castling is no longer allowed.








In the diagram above: suppose white king and rooks have never moved. Castling long is legal for white, but in fact the worst move he can make!

Does a player win when his king reaches the opponents side of the board?

Today I played a game with my friend and he said he won when he moved his king to my side of the board. Is this a real rule or a fake rule?
This rule is fake. There is no rule that tells that a player can win by moving his king to some position.

A game of chess is won by mating the king of the opponent. You can also win if your opponent resigns the game, or when using chess clocks, on time, or in an official match with an arbiter, when the arbiter declares you have lost (e.g., because you refuse to comply with the rules.)

Can a bishop move horizontally?

The computer game program I have allows a bishop to move horizontally. Is that legal or an error of this program?
This is indeed an error of your program. Bishops only can go diagonally.

I accidently left my king in check. What now?

I move an intervening piece that was protecting my king and inadvertantly exposed my king to the opponent's queen or rook or bishop.

The opponent did not point out my king's vulnerablility at the time but moved, when it was his turn, to take my king.

Did I lose the game? What was the opponent's responsiblity, if any? Is there a proper etiquette for this situation?

You did not lose the game. When a player makes an illegal move, and this is noted, the move must be undone, and the player must make another move. The touched piece rule applies however. So, e.g., if it is possible to make a move with the intervening piece that does not leaf your king in check, then such a move must be made. If that is not possible, just another move must be made.

There is one exception, namely when the official speed play rules are used; this uses chess clocks, and something like five minutes per player for the entire game. In that case, your opponent could have claimed a win after the illegal move. Taking the king is illegal under the new speed chess rules, however.

A simple example:








Suppose white moves his queen to c5, where he thinks he can mate the black king. However, as this exposes his king to the black rook on a6, the move is illegal. Thus, he may not play this move, and must play another move. As he has already touched the queen, he must make a queen move if possible: so he must play Qa7 x a6, taking the rook with his queen. While he now sees that taking the rook with the bishop is a much better move, he may not do so: he is forced to make the only possible legal move with his queen.

Is it allowed in the first move to move two pawns one square?

No. The first move of a pawn can be two squares, so while one is sometimes allowed to move one pawn two squares, one never may move in one turn two pawns both one square. The only way to move two of ones pieces at the same time is castling.

Moving from a checked position to another checked position

Playing chess with a friend, I put his King in check with my rook. He then moved his King once to the right and captured my pawn, however, he did not realize that in making that move, he was vulnerable to my queen, so I captured his King. Now, another friend that was watching said that he could not make that move because he put his King in check and that is not allowed. I thought and still think, that if I put him in check and he makes a move that doesn't take him out of check, then I can capture his King. I always thought that the ruling involving a King being in check was that if a King is NOT in check, he cannot make a move to put himself in check, however, if he is in check and makes a move that keeps him in check, then I can capture.
Your friend was right. Chess is not won by capturing kings but by mating the opponent. If a player makes an illegal move, i.e., one that puts his king in check, he must make another move, regardless if he was in check or not. (The `touched piece' rule applies here too!)

Of course, when a player is in check, and all moves lead to a position where he still is in check, then he is mated, so he lost; and when a player is not in check but all moves lead to a position where he is in check, he is stalemated and the game is a draw.

Does it mean that you lose the game when you accidently knock down your king?

I recently played in a high school dual meet. My opponent was beating me and during my turn he knocked over his king by mistake. We stopped the clocks and the game and asked our coaches if this means he resigns because I would accept the resignation. His coach said to keep playing as if it never happened. My opponent eventually beat me, although I said that I accept his mistake resignation. My question is did I or he win the game??
I agree with the coach of your opponent. Knocking down a king by accident while not intending to resign does not mean one loses the game. For instance, when a player reaches to get a cup of tea and when doing so, accidently knocks down his king, this does not mean he resigns, and the game should just continue as if nothing happened.

When a player knocks down his king intending to resign and afterwards see that his position is not bad and wants to continue however, then it is too late: he signified to resign and that is it.

So, indeed, the opponent did win the game.

Is this a mate or a stalemate?

I was playing my dad in chess the other night. I was down to my king and he had a pawn, a queen, and his king. I was backed into a corner and he didn't have me in check. It was my turn to move and all of my possible moves that had would have put me in check. So I couldn't move into check, therefore I couldn't move my piece. I think that it was a stalemate because a player can't move into check, he thinks it was a checkmate, but I wasn't in check. I would only be in check if I moved. Is he right or am I?

You were right. Such a position is precisely what is called a stalemate: draw.

Who starts first in chess? How do we decide, who has the first move?

The player with the white pieces starts first.

In a tournament, the tournament directors decide this: it is always the player mentioned first that goes first (and hence plays white). So, if the list of games to play says: Anna - Bob, then Anna has white and goes first, and Bob plays black and goes second.

In other case, often one of the players takes two pawns: a white one and a black one. In each of his hands, he has one of the pawns disclosed, and the other plays picks randomly a hand, and plays with the color of the pawn in the hand he has chosen.

More information?

See the rules of chess, or The FIDE-laws of chess.
Written by Hans Bodlaender. Thanks to a reader `Bonnie' who noted a mistake.
WWW page created: September 29, 1997. Last modified: December 1, 2002.