# Checks by pieces pinned to their King

First, some background and definition. When we refer to ‘Check’, what we are really saying is that a piece is lined up on his opponents King creating the potential on the next move to capture the King. The piece is said to be ‘attacking’ the King. When this occurs, the player with the ‘checked’ King is compelled to remove the potential for capture either by capturing the attacking piece, moving his King to an un-attacked square, or blocking the attack with another piece. This is a zero-tolerance rule; if your King is in check, you must remove the check.

Logically, since you must immediately remove a check, it follows that you can never make a move which results in your own King being checked. This is also a zero-tolerance rule. So far, so good.

Now, consider the special case of a piece which is ‘Pinned’ to his own King. The pinned piece can not move such that it exposes his King to check. Now, this is where the logic breaks down, because the rules  (FIDE 3.1) state that even though a piece may be pinned, it still exerts it’s attacking influence. Let’s examine the effects of this rule a little closer. Any of the opponents pieces could be placed in a position ‘Attacked’ by the pinned piece, and be completely safe from capture, but he could not do the same with his King.

Why is the King not allowed to go where it is completely safe for his pawns and pieces to go? Even more incredible, it’s possible that a ‘Pinned’ piece could deliver a checkmate, as in the case where it is moved into a ‘Pinned’ position to block a check, and at the same time ‘Attack’ his opponents King.

I understand that the answer may be “Because that’s what the rules state”. But shouldn’t the rules be based on logic and consistency? Let’s consider the impact if the rule was changed so that a King could move into a square ‘attacked’ by a King-Pinned piece. The King would occupy the square with impunity, because his opponent must respect the rule of not moving into check. If the piece was ‘Un-pinned’, the result would be ‘Discovered Check’, and he would be immediately obliged to escape, attack, or block.

In my opinion, this would be a more consistent and interesting way to play the game.

I would appreciate any comments or counter-arguments on this topic.

• 18 months ago

Necromancy rears its rotting skull-head yet again!  Can a pinned piece not only check but check mate an opponent?  Has this happened in tournament play to anyone's recollection?

• 4 years ago

I feel that in an honorable game, if my oppenent knowingly left his King open to capture in such a situation, I should have the option to capture it, but with the understanding that to do so would result not in a win, lose, or stalemate- but in a debatable ending position.

Would you, as a King, sacrifice yourself in a dire situation in order to take the opposing King with you? For me, only if the sacrifice would turn the odds in my favor. For example- if his death dealing piece was his Queen, and I could (hypothetically) recapture.

Tournament play? I'm not sure, maybe it's for the best that the rules are so.. Or maybe, although I'm less than satisfied with this idea, point value could determine the winner; it may be more favorable than keeping the rules as they stand.

• 4 years ago

It seems that it all boils down to whether you define check as attack on one's king by an enemy piece, or as potential capture of one's king by said piece.
If you say "attack", then the absolutely pinned piece can still give check. This is strange since it means that in addition to the ability to move to certain squares, each piece exudes a separate, aura-like "attack field" which extends over those exact same squares and which only the king, for some strange reason, can feel and must avoid.
If you say "potential capture", then the absolutely pinned piece cannot give check. This, too, is pretty absurd, since it means the king can move about as though the pinned piece doesn't exist. By this interpretation it would be possible to capture a queen with your king, as long as that queen is subject to an absolute pin!
It looks like both are viable, both produce some kind of nuttiness, but FIDE has decided the idea of the queen-killing king is just more horrifying and so there you have it ;)

• 7 years ago

If people would be allowed to move their King into check rather than letting the idiots know (and making it an illegal move) then the games we play against people who suck would go a lot faster. I suck because I have done that with my Queen too many times than I can remeber....... I just gave her away!

• 7 years ago

Thanks for the Note Qukslvr

What I have discovered from this is that for 35 years I have looked at the game incorrectly. Partly this is because of the way I was taught the game and also the way the rules are formulated. Let me explain this near-epiphany:

If you are taught that the goal of chess is checkmate, then your perception of the game is different than if your goal is to capture the king. If your goal is merely checkmate, and the Kings always stay on the board, then the rule 'you may not move into check' makes sense and appears to be a fundamental principle. In reality, there is no need of such a rule. If you move into check, the king will be captured on the next move by the oponent; the game is over.

FIDE 1.2 uses a lot of words to convey a concept. Would it not be simpler to just say, 'The goal of chess is to capture your oponents King?' All of the other words in this paragraph can be omitted.

Once you understand this, then the illusion of a piece 'pinned' to his King goes away.

'Check' is just a code word for 'I will capture your King' and 'Checkmate' is the code word for 'I will capature your King and you can't prevent it'

FIDE 3.9 is superfluous.

~B-)

• 7 years ago

there isnt any excuse for why a pinned piece still retains the power to check other than laziness.

The great game of chess is now flawed in my mind now that I found this very bad situation in the game. The laziness comes in when the rule is not fixed because they would have to change every piece of chess software out there but instead choose to ignore the problem.

It is a problem with the game...... a big problem. This is the most intellectual game on the planet and it has a rule that makes no sense!!!!!!

• 7 years ago

Slimcheffy,

That was a well written, well reasoned argument. I am ashamed to have written so much previously and yet accomplished so little.

Bravo

[Slimcheffy wrote]

"If you were to allow the black King to capture the rook and place itself in Check, then the "fundamental rule" of not moving into check has been thrown out the window, therefore you would have to allow the White pawn to capture the black King.

Also, the following check on the white king would be irrelevant because the Black King has already been captured and the game is over.

If the game didn't end with the capture of the king......where would you draw the line at continuing ?"

• 7 years ago

Hey Philip, great topic and interesting point you make. However, I do see a flaw in your reasoning, you say : "the attacker must still respect the fundamental rule that you can not move into check".......if that rule applies to White, it must also apply to black.

If you were to allow the black King to capture the rook and place itself in Check, then the "fundamental rule" of not moving into check has been thrown out the window, therefore you would have to allow the White pawn to capture the black King.

Also, the following check on the white king would be irrelevant because the Black King has already been captured and the game is over.

If the game didn't end with the capture of the king......where would you draw the line at continuing ? Would you allow only one more move for the opponent or would it go on to the last man standing ?

• 7 years ago

hmmm ... Black to move after Rf3+ is an interesting scenario to examine:

If the Black King is capable of taking the Rook at f3 (since the g2 Pawn could not take the Black King without endangering its own King), then the white King must move out of the g-file in order to "activate" the g-Pawn's checking power (a discovered check). Also, moving the King out of the g-file removes the White King from the threat of the Black Rook down the g-file.

Continuing on, the Black King must respond to the discovered check by either moving, blocking or taking the checking attack, and Black can do so with Rxg2. Now, Black has a Rook right in the face of the White King, which is also backed by the Black King and also, Black has an approaching Pawn along the h-file that is three moves to promotion: a much different scenario than how the game ended (with the Black King being denied the Rook-capture at move #43) and then the game continuing on to completion.

Whether or not the White King moved to h1 or f1 to create the discovered check, when Black's Rook takes the White Pawn at g2, White's Queen must now divert her military goals and rush around the center pieces (taking 2 moves) to aid in the White King's survival, again ... a much different game than what turned out ... since in 2 moves, Black is capable of putting together a final and decisive attack with White's King push to the corner (or close to it).

Despite many of the creative and innovative definitions and opinions posted on a King capturing a pinned-piece, it appears that the FIDE rule book (FIDE 3.1) mandates a strict interpretation of the rules for not placing one's King in check regardless of the situation. However, perhaps the FIDE rule-book-makers have not as yet encountered a scenario such as the one present by run-along-now-honey.

That is understandable (for the rule-book-makers to be unaware of the presented scenario). I've heard and read comments that the game of chess possess over a million, or a billion or a google (whichever) of possible moves, some of which have yet to be played, and most of which are often repeated.

I think like Disneyland, the FIDE Rule Book for chess should be ever inclusive of new and exciting scenarios so that the changes made allow for the growth of chess into an even more intriguing game. Otherwise, much like a spokeperson said for Disneyland after the renovation of It's a Small World Ride: "If we don't change and constantly seek to accomodate the shifts in trends and customs, then Disneyland will stagnate, fail to grow and will ultimately become nothing more than a mechanized museum of out-dated artifacts."

Please, all of you out there !! Don't let this happen to Disneyland !! ... ...
uh, I mean chess.

Peace

• 7 years ago

Here is the game which prompted this blog...

The key move occured at 43, Black wanting to take the rook in the shadow of the pinned pawn

• 7 years ago

Thanks Interrobang and RiannoB for the replies

It appears that the key to understanding the rule is to carry out the game to the final (theoretical) capture move of the King. You can't ever move in to check because the next and (final) move would be to capture the King. And this final (theoretical) move does not have any limitations on moving into check or leaving the King in check because it is the last move.

• 7 years ago

If White were to move into check to deliver mate, that would mean that a black piece is attacking the white king, and a white piece is attacking the black king.  But now it is Black's move...  And so if we are playing to the king's capture, it is Black who gets the fatal attack in first.

• 7 years ago

RiannoB-

"The fact that it would leave its own King vulnerable next move is irrelevant because there is no next move, the game is over."

If one follows this line of reasoning, then why are we not allowed to move into check to deliver a mate move?

• 7 years ago

Well, as Interrobang has just explained, it's about taking the King, so the pinned piece would take the King.  You can't move the King to a square "owned" by an opposing piece, because the King would get taken first.  The fundamental rule does not therefore apply in this case.  If you would move a pinned piece during the game under any other circumstance, the opponent's next move would be to take the King: game over, which is why you can't normally do that.  In this case, however, the move, in theory (if we were actually playing the final move of taking the King), would be that of the pinned piece moving to take the adversary's King.  The fact that it would leave its own King vulnerable next move is irrelevant because there is no next move, the game is over.

• 7 years ago

Um, because that would only prolong his suffering?  Hah, that would be the correct move to postpone mate! Any example in which the pinning piece taking the pinned piece would not be sufficient to forestall mate would have to include some kind of double check, which it would seem can't be forced to happen to the losing side on their own move...  At any rate, I was having difficulty coming up with an example that would make the point without including that possibility, so I conveniently ignored it for the sake of argument.  I should have said so though.  Thanks for keeping me honest!

• 7 years ago

Hi Interrobang,

Thanks for your comments and examples. Very creative. In the second example, why does the white rook not take the bishop?

• 7 years ago

When my grandfather was first getting me started with chess, he taught me that the ultimate objective of the game is to capture your opponent's king; however, as this Game of Kings is a gentleman's game, one endued since its inception in times immemorial with the virtues of honor, respect, and chivalry, it is enough to end the game without actually inflicting on your opponent the ignominy of slain monarchy when you have proven that you can in fact capture their king on your next move, regardless of what they do to stop you - this condition is called "checkmate".

Under this reasoning, there is no need to have a rule which forbids putting one's own king in check, for the simple reason that, were you allowed to do that, you would have your king taken and instantly lose the game.  It also illuminates the motivation for pinned pieces being able to deliver check: a piece is only "pinned" for the sake of protecting its own king (so that king won't get captured once you move it away), but if you move that piece away to capture the opponent's king first, the game is immediately decided without fear for your own king's safety.

Let us adopt the rule that kings can move into the attack of a pinned enemy piece.  Here is one way such a game could end.  Note: chess.com's software unfortunately doesn't let me actually move a king into check, even by a pinned piece (apparently it's against some rule or other =P), so in the games below I have replaced the kings with queens and sequestered the real kings at the corners of the board - they are to be disregarded.

Interestingly, the knight that swoops in to block the pin ends up delivering mate even without checking the white king!  But this kind of thing is possible in normal games too, in the form of a discovered mate: one piece moves away and the one behind it delivers mate.  Fundamentally, that's what this situation amounts to, except that the piece that will actually seal White's fate is behind the knight not with respect to the king but with respect to the rook...

Here is a quirkier and more interesting one.  Again, ignore the kings and treat the queens as kings.  We see here how disregarding a pinned piece's check can have bizarre consequences.  The white king is forced into a pinned check, which is fine.  But after Black's harmless next move, White has nowhere to go...except with the rook, which unpins the bishop, causing White to put himself not just into check, but into checkmate!  What we have here is a forced mate for Black, which Black gets to deliver on White's move!

This is the logical conclusion of allowing pinned checks to be ignored.  This doesn't seem to me to be in any way internally inconsistent - you would just have to keep a sharper eye out for forced selfmates!  I personally think the possibility of this situation arising in a game is very interesting ("Black to move and mate in two and a half"?!), but I think we can also agree that the alternative, treating checks by pinned pieces as just as immediate a threat to the enemy king as a check by any other piece, does in fact make for a significantly more straightforward ruleset.  Of course, if you ask me, the simplest option would be just to say that the game is over when one side has captured the other's king, but after all, this Game of Kings is a gentleman's game.

• 7 years ago

Thanks for the feedback RiannoB. This is my point, that the King would not be killed on the next move, because the attacker must still respect the fundamental rule that you can not move into check. You are not allowed to break this rule to capture a Queen, or counter-attack, so how could we justify this to capture the King? ~B-)

• 7 years ago

Interesting point but the King would be "killed"  by the pinned piece one move before its own King was killed, thus ending the battle, within the context of the situation you describe, if we were assuming the end of the game to be brought about by conquering the King.