King (chess)

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White king
Black king

The king (♔, ♚) is the most important piece in the game of chess. It may move to any adjoining square; it may also perform, in tandem with the rook, a special move called castling. If a player's king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in check, and the player must remove the threat of capture immediately. If this cannot be done, the king is said to be in checkmate, resulting in a loss for that player. A player cannot make any move that places their own king in check. Despite this, the king can become a strong offensive piece in the endgame or, rarely, the middlegame.

In algebraic notation, the king is abbreviated by the letter K among English speakers. The white king starts the game on e1; the black king starts on e8. Unlike all other pieces, each player can have only one king, and the kings are never removed from the board during the game.

Placement and movement[edit]

The white king starts on e1, on the first file to the right of the queen from White's perspective. The black king starts on e8, directly across from the white king. Each king starts on a square opposite its own color.

A king can move one square horizontally, vertically, and diagonally unless the square is already occupied by a friendly piece or the move would place the king in check. If the square is occupied by an undefended enemy piece, the king may capture it, removing it from play. Opposing kings may never occupy adjacent squares (see opposition) to give check, as that would put the moving king in check as well. The king can give discovered check, however, by unblocking a bishop, rook, or queen.


c8 black king
d8 black rook
h8 black rook
a1 white rook
f1 white rook
g1 white king
White has castled kingside (0-0); Black has castled queenside (0-0-0).

The king can make a special move, in conjunction with a rook of the same color, called castling. When castling, the king moves two squares horizontally toward one of its rooks, and that rook is placed on the square over which the king crossed.

Castling is permissible under the following conditions:

  • Neither the king nor the castling rook have previously moved.
  • No squares between the two pieces are occupied.
  • The king is not in check.
  • None of the squares the king would move across or to are under enemy attack.

Castling with the h-file rook is known as castling kingside or short castling (denoted 0-0 in algebraic notation), while castling with the a-file rook is known as castling queenside or long castling (denoted 0-0-0).

Status in games[edit]

Check and checkmate[edit]

f8 black rook
h7 black queen
g6 white knight
c5 black cross
d5 black cross
e5 black cross
b4 white pawn
c4 black cross
d4 black king
e4 black cross
c3 black cross
d3 black cross
e3 black cross
f3 white queen
a2 white bishop
d1 white rook
g1 white king
Black's king cannot move to squares under attack by the white bishop, knight, queen, or pawn. Since White is checking Black, and Black can neither move, capture the checking piece, nor block the check, Black is checkmated.

A king that is under attack is said to be in check, and the player in check must immediately remedy the situation. There are three possible ways to remove the king from check:

  • The king is moved to an adjacent non-threatened square. A player may not castle to get their king out of check. A king can capture an adjacent enemy piece if that piece is not protected by another enemy piece.
  • A piece is interposed between the king and the attacking piece to break the line of threat (not possible when the attacking piece is a knight or pawn, or when in double check).
  • The attacking piece is captured (not possible when in double check, unless the king captures).

If none of the three options are available, the player's king has been checkmated, and the player loses the game.

In casual games, when placing the opponent's king in check, it is common to announce "check", but this is not required by the rules of chess.


f3 black queen
h3 black king
f2 black cross
g2 black cross
h2 black cross
f1 black cross
g1 white king
h1 black cross
White to move: White cannot move legally because of the black queen and king. Since the king may not move into check, White is stalemated.

A stalemate occurs when a player, on their turn, has no legal moves, and the player's king is not in check.

If this happens, the king is said to have been stalemated, and the game ends in a draw. A player who has very little or no chance of winning will often, in order to avoid a loss, try to entice the opponent to inadvertently place the player's king in stalemate (see swindle).

Role in gameplay[edit]

In the opening and middlegame, the king will rarely play an active role in the development of an offensive or defensive position. Instead, it will normally castle and seek safety on the edge of the board behind friendly pawns. In the endgame, however, the king emerges to play an active role as an offensive piece, and can assist in the promotion of the player's remaining pawns.

It is not meaningful to assign a value to the king relative to the other pieces, as it cannot be captured or exchanged and must be protected at all costs. In this sense, its value could be considered infinite. As an assessment of the king's capability as an offensive piece in the endgame, it is often considered to be slightly stronger than a bishop or knight. Emanuel Lasker gave it the value of a knight plus a pawn (i.e. four points on the scale of chess piece relative value),[1] though some other theorists evaluate it closer to three points. It is better at defending friendly pawns than the knight is, and it is better at attacking enemy pawns than the bishop is.[2]


The Indian chess King represented here by the Maharaja seated upon a tall Elephant in a Howdah

The king's predecessor is the piece of the same name in shatranj. Like the modern king, it is the most important piece in the game and can move to any neighboring square. However, in shatranj, baring the king is a win unless the opponent can do the same immediately afterward; stalemating the king is a win; and castling does not exist.

Name translations[edit]

Overview of chess piece names

King Translation
Afrikaans K Koning king
Albanian M Mbreti king
Arabic م مَلِك (malik) king
Azerbaijani Ş Şah shah
Armenian Ա Արքա (Ark῾a) king
Basque E Erregea king
Belarusian (Taraškievica) К кароль king
Bengali R রাজা (rājā) King
Bulgarian Ц цар tsar
Catalan R rei
Chinese K (wáng) king
Czech K král king
Danish K konge king
Dutch K koning king
English K king
Esperanto R reĝo king
Estonian[3] K kuningas king
Finnish K kuningas king
French R roi king
Galician R rei king
Georgian მფ მეფე (mep'e) king
German[4] K König king
Greek Ρ βασιλιάς (vasiliás) king
Hindi R राजा (rājā) king
Hebrew מ מלך (Melech) king
Hausa S sarki king
Hungarian K király king
Icelandic K kóngur king
Ido R rejo king
Indonesian R raja king
Interslavic K kralj king
Irish R king
Italian R re king
Japanese K キング (kingu)
Javanese R raja king
Kannada ರಾ ರಾಜ (raaja) king
Kazakh Кр патша (patşa) king
Korean K 킹 (king)
Latin R rex king
Latvian K karalis king
Lithuanian K karalius king
Lojban Na noltrunau king
Luxembourgish K Kinnek king
Macedonian K крал king
Malayalam K രാജാവ് (raajavu) king
Marathi R राजा (rājā) king
Mongolian Н ноён noyan
Norwegian Bokmål K konge king
Norwegian Nynorsk K konge king
Odia K ରଜା (rôja) king
Persian ش شاه king
Polish K król king
Portuguese R rei king
Romanian R rege king
Russian Кр король (korol') king
Scottish Gaelic R righ king
Serbo-Croatian K kralj (К краљ) king
Northern Sotho К Kgoši
Sicilian R re king
Slovak K kráľ king
Slovene K kralj king
Spanish R rey king
Swedish K kung king
Tamil K அரசன் (arasaṉ) king
Telugu రాజు (rāju) king
Thai ขุน (khun) king
Turkish Ş/K şah / kral shah / king
Ukrainian король (korol) king
Urdu بادشاہ (bādshāh)
Vietnamese V vua king
Welsh T teyrn / brenin lord / king


Unicode defines three codepoints for a king:

U+2654 White Chess King

U+265A Black Chess King

🨀 U+1FA00 Neutral Chess King

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Lasker 1934:73)
  2. ^ (Ward 1996:13)
  3. ^ The Estonian chess terms were coined by Ado Grenzstein.
  4. ^ "Handbook". Retrieved 22 March 2019. The pieces bear the names: Koenig, Dame, Turm, Laeufer, Springer, Bauer


External links[edit]