Chess Terms
King Hunt

King Hunt

A king is naked and running desperately up and down the board. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Learn everything about the king hunt, one of the most exciting pursuits that can happen in chess.


What Is A King Hunt In Chess?

A king hunt happens in chess when a player attacks the enemy king multiple times in rapid succession, forcing it to move out of safety and far from its initial position. A king hunt usually involves piece sacrifices by the attacking player to expose the opposing king.

The king hunt in chess.
Paul Morphy vs. NN, 1858. Morphy sacrifices multiple pieces to lure the king to the middle of the board.

Why Is The King Hunt Important?

King hunts are one of the most exciting pursuits that can happen in chess. Aside from their aesthetic value, a well-executed king hunt also ends the game or gives the attacking player a significant advantage.

King hunt.
Don't let the king get away!

Learning how to spot weaknesses around the opponent's king and using them to lure the monarch out of its home can be decisive. Knowing how to start a king hunt can make you a better chess player and may grant you some spectacular wins.

King Hunt Examples

An excellent example of a king hunt comes from the Romantic era of chess in an encounter between amateur Josef Matschego and chess master Ernst Falkbeer. After six moves, the players faced the following position:

Black will start hunting down the white king.
White's kingside is entirely open. The white king should start tying up its shoelaces because it is about to go for a stroll.

In this position, Falkbeer took his chance to start hunting the white king. Here is the rest of the game, annotated by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

Games were much more aggressive and less precise back then, allowing for extravagant battles like the one displayed above. Still, king hunts are not exclusive to the games of yore. Even long after the decline of the Romantic style of play in late 19th century, wild king chases still happen over the board.

One of the most well-known examples of such assaults on the king comes from a 1912 game between Edward Lasker and George Alan Thomas. Lasker (a distant relative of world champion Emanuel Lasker) was playing White and faced the following position:

White sacrifices the queen to start a king hunt.
Lasker played one of the most beautiful moves in chess history to start a king hunt.

To most people, this position looks perfectly safe for Black. However, Lasker knew that the right move would allow him to start a fabulous king hunt. His next move awarded him a spot in our list of the ten best chess moves of all time. The game continued as follows:

As you can see, king hunts lead to beautiful battles where material count bears little importance, and keeping the king helplessly stranded is crucial for a successful attack.

Conclusion

You now know what a king hunt is and how you can use it to win more games. Head over to our Lessons page to master this concept with the help of GM Simon Williams or read this article by GM Gregory Serper to see other thrilling hunts taking place over the board.