History and Tips about Chess Kings

Posted by Wholesale Chess on 20th Jun 2019

History and Tips about Chess Kings

This is part six of our series on how chess pieces move as well as the history of chess pieces.


Chess has been called “The Royal Game,” so it should come as no surprise that the King is the most important piece in the game. The King has been a hallmark of chess since its origin, with its movement nearly unchanged for several centuries. In fact, the chess terms “check” and “checkmate” come from the Persian word, “Shah,” meaning king. While the names for other pieces may vary in modern languages, nearly all of them call the King a king. For example, König in German, roi in French, rey in Spanish, or король (korol’) in Russian.

Moving the King

The king can move one square in any direction. When taking chess notation, we generally indicate a king move with the letter K and the square to which it is moving. E.g. “Kd1” indicates the king moving to the d1 square. The king cannot move into check.Unlike other pieces, it is against the rules to move the king into a square that is attacked by an opponent’s piece. If the king is under attack and cannot be made safe by any legal move, we have a “checkmate” and the game is over.


During a game, a player may make a special move called castling. When castling, the king moves two squares to the side, and the rook is placed beside it. In order to castle, several things must be true:

  • 1.The king has not moved. If the king has been moved, that player loses the right to castle.
  • 2.The rook on the side the player wishes to castle has not moved. If the rook moves, the player cannot castle to that side.
  • 3.There must be no pieces in between the king and rook on the side the player wishes to castle.
  • 4.The king is not in check.
  • 5.The king does not move “through” check while castling.
  • 6.The king does not move “into” check after castling.

Though castling involves moving both the king and rook, it is considered to be a king move. Castling kingside is generally notated as “O-O,” while queenside castling is notated “O-O-O.”

Queenside Castling Kingside Castling