The Chess Variant Pages



Rules of Chess: Kings and check

This webpage gives the answers to some frequently asked questions about the official rules of chess regarding Kings and check. For the full rules of chess, see another webpage.

Is this checkmate or stalemate?

The other night my husband was playing with a friend. He had him in check, and the only way he could move out of check was to move his king next to his opponents king, therefore being in "check" by the king. Now was this checkmate or stalemate?
This is checkmate. The king is attacked, and there is no legal move to go out of check. So the game is won for the player that gives the check.

Consider the following position. White to move. White is in check, and the only positions the white king can move to are g1 and g2, but both are not allowed because the king would be in check there as he would be next to the opponents king. So white is mated and black won the game.

Can the king capture to get out of check?

Can the King capture the queen to get out of check, if the queen is in the next block if she is not protected and she put it in a checkmate position?
Yes. There are several possible methods to lift a check, and taking the checking piece (with the king or with another piece) is legal, as long as the king is not in check after the capture.

Look to the following position:

Now, in this position, black is in check, but black can just take the queen:

And the game is a draw, clearly, in this example.

However, when the queen is defenced, then the situation is different:

In this second example, the black king may not take the queen, as the queen is defended, and taking the queen would mean putting the king in check. So, in this example, black is mated and white won the game.

Who has won this game

In the following position, is this a draw or has black mated white? As one can see, the rook that defends the queen cannot move because it guards the black king from check from the white queen.
This is a mate by black: black has won the game: the king of white is attacked and white has no legal move that lifts this check. He may not take the queen, as that would put himself in check.

King promotion???

I've been playing a particular opponent who believes that there is promotion available if you manage to get your king to the other side of the board. Is this a valid rule?
No. This is not a valid rule. There is only promotion when a pawn reaches the other side.

Can kings take the pieces of the opponent?

Yes. Of course, kings may only move to squares where they are not in check; this means that a king is allowed to take a piece of the opponent that is a king move away and not defended by the opponent.

Can kings move next to kings?

No. Kings cannot move to a square that is adjacent to the other king. So, if it is whites turn in the diagram below, white is stalemated as neither his king and his pawn can make a legal move, and the game ends with a draw.

The reason kings cannot move next to other kings is that this would mean that the moving king moves itself into a position where it is attacked.

Can a player in check win the game by checkmating his opponent with one move (a move that does not move the checked king)?

A move that does not lift the check is illegal. So, if this move does not lift the check, then: no.

However, the following could happen: the player can take the piece that gives the check and mates at the same time.

Consider the position above. The white queen can take the black rook, thus lifting the check and giving mate at the same time.

What happens if you make a move that leaves your king accidentally in check?

After completing a move I discovered that I had accidently exposed my king. My opponent discovered it and said "check mate".

I told her my previous move had to be annulled since the king couldn't be exposed. Is this correct?

This is indeed correct. A move which leaves your king in check is illegal, and should be taken back, and another, legal, move should be made. The player that made the illegal move does not lose the game.

The touched piece rule applies however, so, if possible, if there is a legal move with the piece that was first illegally moves, then such a move should be done. See for example the following diagram.

Suppose white moves his king to c1, the square with the red circle. This move is illegal, and the bishop then checks the king. The move should be taken back, and white must instead move his king to a1, the square with the green circle; he is no longer allowed to move a pawn.

An exception to this is when the rules of speed chess are used. In this form of chess, used when playing with clocks with only a few (e.g., 3 or 5) minutes per player for the entire game, the touched piece rule does not apply; a rule is final when the clock is punched, and a player can claim a win when the opponent makes an illegal move. (Speed chess rules apply only when these are agreed on before the game.)

What happens if you touch a pinned piece?

If I have a rook directly in front of the bishop of my opponent, and his king is behind it and he touches the bishop ready to move it which leaves his king expose to my rook which means his king will be in check? Does he have to move it? Being that he touched it. Did my opponent lose the game?

No, he doesn't lose the game. If there is no legal move with the bishop (and moving such that your king is in check is illegal), then he doesn't have to play it. See for example this diagram.
If white touches his bishop, then this has no consequences, as the bishop has no legal move. So, white can instead play his king (e.g., King b1-a2.)

Is it true that you cannot take a piece that gives check?

I was playing a friend. He checked my king with his bishop and I took his piece with a knight. He told me if he checked my king I could not take his piece he used to check my king. I had to move the king or block the check with another piece ( in this case, that piece being my queen). I have not played chess for some time. Is this a true rule?
No, this is not a true rule. When in check, each of the following is a legal way to get out of check:
  1. Moving the king to a position where it is not in check
  2. Taking the piece that checks
  3. Moving a piece between the checking piece (rook, bishop, or queen) and the king
Of course, a condition is that your king is no longer in check after the move. So, taking a checking piece is legal, and common.

How do you determine the winner after a stalemate in chess? Only two kings are left.

There is no winner. The game is a draw: 1/2 - 1/2.

If I call checkmate falsely do I forefeit the game?

No. When done accidentally, there is no consequence; the game just continues.

When done on purpose, then an arbiter could punish you, as this would be a case of distracting the opponent, and/or making unreasonable claims.

If a player moves a piece and places the king in check and fails to announce "check", does the other player win by default?

No. Actually, saying check is not obligatory, but just polite.

Note however that if the other player fails to see he is in check, and moves without lifting the check, that player also does not lose, but has to make a different move. (See other questions on this webpage.)

Can the king move when he is not in check?

Yes, kings are also allowed to move when they are not in check.

The only thing one should be careful about is that the king does not move in such a way that he is in check after the move (such a move is illegal and should be replaced by another move.) In fact, in endgames, kings will often play an important active role.

Are kings allowed to take their own pieces?

I have a computer chess game - Chess Magician 3.0. It allows my king to take any of my own pieces whenever it wants, is this legal?
No, this is not legal. In chess, one never is allowed to take ones own pieces.

Written by Hans Bodlaender
WWW page created: August 5, 2002. Last modified: February 5, 2003.