The Most Unusual Check In Chess

The Most Unusual Check In Chess

| 52 | Tactics

I run a chess club in a local school, and whenever I ask my students if a king can check another king, I hear a loud "No! Kings cannot kiss each other!"

Of course, I know what they mean. Even beginners are well aware that this is the closest a king can come to another king:

For a long time, I thought that one square apart was indeed the closest that the kings can come to each other. However, thanks to the constantly changing rules, I am no longer so sure!

Look at the new USCF official blitz rules, specifically 3b:

"If an illegal position is created or an illegal move made without the opponent making a claim, the position stands and a claim (is) not allowed when the opponent has determined a next move."

I don't like this rule! It can lead to a situation in which a dishonest chess player tries a dirty final trick in a position like this:

White is completely lost. White's previous move was e4-e5. Now Black expects White to play e5-e6 after which Black is going to queen one of his pawns. Cleverly, White plays 1.Kh3??!, and Black automatically queens a pawn. Suddenly, it is too late to claim White's illegal move and, per the aforementioned rule 3b, the illegal move Kh3 stands. Therefore, White simply captures Black's king and wins the game! I know it sounds absurd, but so does a rule that permits an illegal move to stand!


Jokes aside -– a king can legally check another king! We discussed such a situation in the article, A Chess Player's Best Friend. Yes, that's right, a king can create a discovered check! A discovered check with a king is by far the most uncommon check in chess, but it is still a very important tool. The following game is the most famous example. In the very unlikely case that you've never seen this game, try to find the winning combination:

Discovered checks with a king are more common in endgames, when the kings become active participants in the battle. In the following game, GM Aron Nimzowitsch was able to play a strategically desirable move, thanks to a lurking discovered check from his king:

A similar idea enables White to win in this study composed by GM Nicolas Rossolimo. Can you find the solution?


GM Nicolas Rossolimo giving a simultaneous exhibition.

Finally, let me show you a game that must hold the world record for consecutive discovered king checks. In the following grandmaster game, Black plays two such checks in a row!

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