In chess and chess variants, a bare king (could be called a lone king for one of the players) is a situation in which one player has only the king left on the board, while that player's other pieces have all been captured.
In some old versions of chess for example "Baring chess", as well as the game of shatranj, leaving the opponent with a bare king was one way of winning the game (see Checkmate#History). The relative weakness of the pieces in shatranj may have made this form of a win desirable. A possible exception to the bare king rule was if the king immediately after being bared was able to recapture, leaving the opponent with a bare king as well. This situation, called a "Medinese victory", was often considered a draw.
Under modern rules, a player with a bare king does not automatically lose and may continue playing. A bare king can never give check, however, and can therefore never deliver a checkmate. (A bare king can in some situations play to a stalemate.) Therefore, a bare king can never win. For example, if the opponent of a bare king oversteps the time limit, the game is drawn. If both players are left with a bare king, the game is immediately drawn. Similarly, if one player has only a king and bishop or knight while the opponent has a bare king, the game is immediately drawn.
A quote attributed to Mikhail Tal claims that a game in the 1959 Zurich tournament between Bobby Fischer and Gideon Barcza finished with two bare kings, but this is not supported by the published score of the game in chess books and databases.
- Hooper & Whyld (1987), Baring chess, p. 23
- Pritchard (2007), Baring the king, p. 81
- Shatranj Chessvariants.com
- Hooper & Whyld (1987), Medinese victory, p. 211
- 6.10 in FIDE's Laws of Chess states that overstepping the time limit results in a loss, "However, the game is drawn, if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player's king by any possible series of legal moves, even with the most unskilled counterplay."
- 1.3 in FIDE's Laws of Chess states "If the position is such that neither player can possibly checkmate, the game is drawn."
- Winter, Edward (26 September 2013). "Chess Notes: Fischer in Zurich". Chess Notes. Retrieved 5 January 2016.