Check

Check

Check is an extremely important concept in chess. The term gets thrown around a lot, but what does it mean? Let's find out! 

Here is everything you need to know about check:


What Is Check?

When a king is attacked, it is called check (written as "+" in chess notation). Check can be viewed as saying "Watch out! The king is attacked!" Since a king can never be captured, the term "check" is used when a king is threatened.

If a player is in check, they must get out of check! In the position below, White has just moved their bishop to the b5-square which attacks the black king. This means that Black is in check.

check
The bishop on b5 attacks the king on e8, placing Black in check!
When playing games in person, it is customary to say "check" to your opponent when you attack their king (although this is rarely observed in tournament games). Here is a famous (and silly) chess quote regarding checks: "Always check, it might be mate!"

Always check, it might be mate!
— Unknown

Now that you know what a check is, you may be wondering: "If I am put in check, how do I get out of it?" There are three ways.

How Do You Get Out Of Check?

The three ways to get out of check are to move out of check, block the check, or capture the piece putting you in check.

In the position below, Black has just played Qxf2+. How do we get out of check?

check
How can White get out of check?

Yes! We must capture the queen with our king! There is no way to block the check and no way to move out of check, so we must capture on f2.

check
White is no longer in check!

We can now see that White's king is no longer attacked, so White is no longer in check. It doesn't hurt that White is up a queen now, either!

Let's try another position: in the diagram below we can see that Black has been put in check by the white queen on c8. Since the black king can't move out of check (the knight on g5 covers the f7-square) or capture the queen, Black must block the check. How can Black block the check?

block the check
Black to move and block the check.

You got it! Black can block the check by playing Rf8. After Rf8, Black is no longer in check.

blocked check
Black is no longer in check after Rf8.

What happens if you are in check but cannot move out of check, block the check or capture the piece putting you in check? If you are in check and cannot get out of check, then checkmate has occurred and the game is over!

Test

Now that you know what check is and how to get out of check, let's see if you can recognize check! Black has just played Ngf6. Is either side in check in this position?

no check
Is either side in check? 
You are correct! Neither side is in check! What if we play one more move in the same position? Is Black in check in the following diagram?

smothered checkmate
Is this position check, checkmate, or neither?

Yes! Black is in check from the knight on d6! Bonus points if you realize that this is checkmate! Even more bonus points if you recognize this is a smothered mate!

Conclusion

You now know what check is, how to get out of check, how to put someone in check, and how to recognize check! Always keep king safety in mind, both for your own king and for your opponent's king. Enjoy your new knowledge of check, and may all of your checks lead to mate!


Watch the Video Lesson

Reading an article is a fantastic way to learn the material! For some of us, watching a video lesson can be even more helpful! Check out the short video lesson below to reinforce your understanding of check! Try it out!