Chess Terms


The king is not the most powerful chess piece, but it is the most important one! If a king is put in checkmate, then the game is over! 

Two very important aspects of the game of chess are attacking your opponent's king while also keeping your own king safe and protected. Let's learn more!

The King

The king is less powerful than almost every chess piece, but it is also unique: the king is the only piece that can never be captured! If a king is attacked, it is in "check." At the beginning of the game, the white king starts on the e1 square, and the black king starts on e8.

The king the kings in their starting positions e1 e8
The kings in their starting positions.

The pawns on the second and seventh ranks protect the kings, but always be mindful of the f2 and f7 squares—these squares are usually involved in very quick checkmates, as pawns on these squares are the only ones protected solely by the king when a game begins! 

f2-square f7-square weak squares f2 f7
Always be mindful of the squares f2 and f7!

How The King Moves

The king's movement is limited compared to other chess pieces. It can move one square in any direction. In the following position, the king can move to any of the highlighted squares.

How the king can move the king moves the king movements
Squares where the king can move.

Please note that the king can never move into check!

The King And Check

When a king is attacked, it is in check. A king cannot move into check (that is considered an illegal move), and if a king is put in check, it must get out of check. 

There are three ways to get out of check: 1) move the king out of check, 2) block the check with another piece and 3) capture the piece putting the king in check. If a king is in check and none of these options are legal, then a checkmate has occurred and the game is over!


Let's test you to see if you can recognize if the king is in check. Is the white king in check in the following position?

The king is the king in check is the white king in check?
Is the white king in check?

No! The white king is not attacked by any piece, so it is not in check! What about the position below? Is the white king in check?

The king is in check is the king in check
Is the white king in check in this position? 
Yes! The bishop on f2 attacks the white king and puts it in check (but there is nothing to fear as the white king can capture this bishop)!


You now know where to place the king when a game is started, how the king moves and when it is in check. As a parting note, the king is used when a player resigns an over-the-board game. Resignation is indicated when someone tips their king over—the official sign of defeat!

Watch the Video Lesson

Reading an article is a wonderful way to learn ideas and concepts, but watching a video lesson can help even more! Below you will find a video lesson about the king. 

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