Have you ever been at the end of a chess game and felt like your opponent is one or two moves away from checkmating your king?
In such cases, you might be tempted to move your king closer to your opponent’s king to capture it. But is this legal? Can a king kill a king in chess?
Technically, no. The kings can’t be placed in a position where they directly attack each other, because this would put one of the kings in check, which is illegal.
While chess rules may seem simple, strategies are far more complex. In this post, we’ll delve into the king’s role and movement in chess. We’ll also explain why a king can’t capture another king.
What’s the King’s Role in Chess?
In chess, every piece has its unique value, which reflects its strength and influence on the chessboard.
Surprisingly, the king doesn’t even have a point value, even though it’s the most important piece in chess. Let’s explain why.
The primary objective of the game is to checkmate your opponent’s king. That means putting the enemy’s king under attack with no legal moves to escape. So technically speaking, the king can’t be captured, it can only be in check.
Since the king’s mobility is limited, it’s not a valuable piece when capturing other pieces or checkmating your opponent’s king. The value of the king lies in its utmost significance to the game.
The King’s Movement in Chess
Every chess piece has its unique role, and the king is no exception. Since it’s the most important piece on the chessboard, it’s critical to understand how it moves, its strength, and its constraints. This will help you strategize better and protect your king.
The king can move in any direction, but it has a limited range of movement. It can only move one square horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.
Note that there’s only one case in which the king moves two squares at a time, which is “castling.”
It’s a unique strategy in which the king moves two squares toward the rook on the adjacent square the king crossed. This happens on either the Queenside or the Kingside. But some conditions should be met to be able to castle:
- The king and the involved rook haven’t moved since the start of the game
- There are no pieces between the king and the rook
- The king isn’t in check
- The king doesn’t move into or through a square attacked by an enemy piece
If your king is in check, you must protect him, or you’ll lose the game. To do so, you have three options.
- Move the king to a safe square
- Block the enemy’s attack with another piece
- Capture the opponent’s attacking piece
What Happens When Kings Face Each Other?
Since the king can move one square at a time, it can capture any opponent’s piece one block in any direction. So why can’t a king capture another king?
First, chess rules forbid a player from making a move that would put their king in check. Thus, kings aren’t allowed to be on adjacent squares.
To capture the opponent’s king, the attacking king has to be in a threatened position before the capture, which is illegal.
When a chess game starts, it’s unlikely that players move their kings early, and that’s for two reasons:
- The king is already protected by pawns, so you don’t need to move it anywhere
- The majority of the squares adjacent to the king are already occupied by ally pieces
As the game progresses, players move their kings to safer positions. For example, players opt for castling in the early game to protect their kings and develop their rooks to more central positions.
From midgame to late game, players trade or exchange pieces for several reasons. That includes escaping complex situations, moving pieces to better positions, and avoiding positional disadvantages.
As a result, by the endgame, both players have fewer pieces left, and the chances that both kings get near each other increase.
So generally speaking, kings get near each other during the endgame phase. When fewer pieces remain, players shift their attention to promoting pawns rather than threatening kings.
In these situations, kings play a vital role in guarding key squares and protecting the advancing pawns.
Direct opposition refers to a situation where kings are directly opposite to each other, with only one block separating them.
In general, the player who has to move is at a disadvantage. Because he has to place his king away from the opponent’s king, so he loses control over critical squares.
In pawn endgames, direct opposition can be a game changer, as it determines if a pawn can advance safely and promote other pieces.
Diagonal and distant oppositions are other cases where kings get near each other. Diagonal opposition occurs when two kings are positioned diagonally from each other, with one square between them.
Meanwhile, distant opposition refers to the situation where two kings are on the same rank or file, but there’s more than one square between them.
Direct, diagonal, and distant oppositions are all critical techniques in chess endgames. Because understanding these situations can help a player control important squares, block the enemy’s pawns from promoting, or force the opponent’s king to give up control of key areas.
To Sum Up
So you’re asking: can a king kill a king in chess? The quick answer is no. Because chess rules dictate that it’s illegal for a player to make a move that would put his king in check.
Since the king can’t move into a square that’s under attack by an enemy piece, the two kings can never stand in adjacent squares. As a result, a king can never capture another king in chess.