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Rules of Chess - Frequently Asked Questions

This is a starting collection of questions about the rules of chess, and their answers.

See also:

This page is in the process of being updated. As I work on the other Rules of Chess FAQ pages, I am moving some questions from this page to other pages.

Knights

Can the knight move when it does not jump over a piece?

Yes. See in the diagram below.

Can the knight jump over pieces of the same player?

Yes. See in the diagram below.

Can the knight jump over pieces of the opponent?

Yes. See in the diagram below.

Bishops

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 can only go diagonally.

Queens

Can the queen move like a knight?

No.

Is it possible to have more than one queen?

Indeed. When a pawn reaches the last row, it promotes. For example, it can promote to a queen, even when the player already has a queen. So, in theory, a player could have nine queens (when all his pawns promote), but this is very unlikely. However, I've seen several games played in the youth chess club where some players had three queens.

Is there a webpage that explains the moves of the queen?

Yes. See www.chessvariants.com/piececlopedia.dir/queen.html

Can a queen jump over another piece?

No. Queens cannot jump. The diagram below marks the spaces the queen may legally move to. It may continue moving until it runs into a piece, and if it is an opponent's piece, it may move to that piece's space and capture it.

Are you required to say check, or en garde, or something similar, when you attack the queen?

No. Nowadays, this is not done. It had been a habit in the UK in the 19th century, but if you did it now, people would think you are weird.

Can queens castle?

No. Castling can only be done with rooks and kings.

Kings

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

Kings may face each other. What is not allowed for kings is to be at adjacent positions. Moving a king next to another king would move it into check, which would be illegal. But it is perfectly legal for kings to be on the same rank or file with no pieces between them.

It is legal for kings to face each other on the same rank.

It is legal for kings to face each other on the same file.

It is illegal for kings to be adjacent to each other.

Confusion may have arisen from a rule of Xiangqi - Chinese Chess. In that game, there is indeed a rule that forbids kings from facing each other on the same file with nothing in between them.

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.

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 is never allowed to take one's own pieces.

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.

Rules

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 way to lift the check is to capture. In all other cases, the player can decide whether or not to capture.)

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

There is no rule in Chess to this effect. Chess does have a rule known as the 50 moves rule, but the countdown is from the last capture or the last pawn move, not from the time when a player has only one king left. Whenever a new capture is made or a pawn makes a move, this countdown gets reset. The rule is that if each player has made 50 moves in succession without moving a pawn or capturing a piece, the player to move can claim a draw. For more details, see our 50 moves rule FAQ.

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.

Does a player win when his king reaches the opponent's 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 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.)

Does it mean that you lose the game when you accidentally 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, accidentally 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.

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.

Miscellaneous

What is the least number of moves a game of chess can be won in?

Many questions have an answer that depends on what is meant with the question. First of all, one could say: zero. For instance, when the opponent doesn't show up for the game, or when he resigns before the game starts, then one wins the game of chess before any move is played.

If one means: what is the least number of moves before a game of chess is one by a mate, then: would a move of white following by a move of black be counted as one, or as two moves? Often, chess players count this as one: we say: at the 23rd move, I made a mistake, and then in total 45 or 46 moves have been played at that moment.

So, I would say: two. The well known series of moves leading to a quick mate are:

1. f2-f3, e7-e5
2. g2-g4, Qd8-h4 mate.

What is the point value of each chess piece?

In order to evaluate a chess position, and to determine whether certain piece exchanges are a good idea or not, people have introduced point values to pieces. Of course, chess isn't won by collecting points, but by mating the opponent. So, even when you are many points ahead, but your opponent can mate you in one turn, your position is very bad. So, the point values should be taken only as a guideline. Also, some people have slightly different values.

  • Pawn: 1 point
  • Knight: 3 points
  • Bishop: 3 points
  • Rook: 5 points
  • Queen: 9 points (some people say: 8, others say: 10)
  • King: infinitely many points

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.