If you spend any time at all watching a chessboard it quick becomes apparent that a king is a very restricted piece when compared to the other (non-pawn) pieces. But does this mean that a king cannot take (or capture) a queen or is this a misunderstanding some players have based on erroneous information? Can the king be more powerful than he first appears?
Can the king capture the queen in chess? The king can definitely capture the queen in chess, though it is not easy. While the king may not be able to move very far in any direction as the queen can, it can certainly take a piece of any nature in any of those directions as long as he doesn’t put himself in check.
If you think about it, it’s obvious that a king should be able to take a queen because otherwise you could get checkmate using only a queen with no other supporting piece. That would make chess tactics and strategies redundant. Let’s take a look at the king and taking queens in more depth.
Let’s Talk About The King’s Role In Chess
The exact value of a king in terms of play is often debated among chess players but there is one thing about the king which is not up for discussion. There is no more important piece on the chessboard than the king.
The game is won when either you or your opponent is in checkmate. This is a state of the board in which the king is under threat of being taken on the next move and cannot move to another square without also being under threat of being taken on the next move or use a piece to take the piece threatening the king or to use a piece to block the threat on the king.
Thus, the entire game of chess is spent trying to do two things:
- Defend your own king and keep it from being threatened or attacked by your opponent
- Attacking the enemy king to force it into checkmate
Sure, there are circumstances, for example in competition, in a series of matches that a draw might be as favorable an outcome for a player as a win but even then, it’s better to play to win using the rules above than to play for a draw.
When one piece is the focus of all your activity, there’s no escaping that it is the most important piece on the board.
The king may only move a single space in any direction, and this often leads to people thinking that it is less important than it is.
However, it would be fair to say that the king is not the most powerful piece on the board, for that we have to turn to his partner, the queen.
Let’s Talk About The Queen’s Role In Chess
Chess is anything but a sexist game. If the king is the most important piece, it is his queen that is the glorious commander of his army and the piece that is able to roam the board nearly at will with the ability to move any number of squares in a straight line, including diagonal lines.
This means that the only moves that a queen cannot emulate on the board are those of a knight, the promotion of a pawn, en passant capture and castling. Otherwise, she has free reign to go where she wants and to reduce the opponent to a quivering wreck in the process.
Oddly, this wasn’t always the case. In the game Shatranj, the earliest ancestor of chess, there was no queen at all and, in fact, no female piece of any kind.
The queen and her powers seem to have been introduced in the 15th century and have taken the place of “the ferz”. This was a piece that could only move on diagonal lines and only one step at a time!
This made the ferz the weakest piece on the board.
Other Peculiar Queens
It is, perhaps, worth noting that though the “queen” is female in most Western European and Asian languages, in Eastern European languages and Arabic and Persian the piece tends to be known by a more gender neutral title of minister or advisor or, possibly, vizier.
The Polish call the queen a “hetman” which is a military rank in their own armed forces and thus, until recently, unlikely to have referred to a woman.
The Estonians don’t see the queen as the equivalent of a human piece at all and their word “lipp” means “flag” or perhaps, “standard”.
The Queen And Check
The queen may threaten “check” on the king at any time that she is able to during the game. “Check” is a state that means that on the following turn, if the king does not escape check, the queen would be able to kill the king.
As the queen may threaten check from nearly any square on the board, assuming that the king is placed in the same straight line, most of the time a queen that places a king in check will be more than one square away from the king.
Long Distance Check
If we think of the queen as more than a single square away from the king, then the king simply cannot take the queen. This is because the king is restricted to moving only one square in any direction by the rules of chess.
He does not gain any additional powers by virtue of being in check, in fact, if anything he loses a power as it is forbidden by the rules of the game to castle out of check.
This may be what leads people to believe that it is impossible for a king to take a queen. However, there is one form of check in which the king may be allowed to take the queen.
Up Close And Personal Check
The queen can move to any adjacent square to the king and call check too. After all, the queen may move in any straight-line including diagonals. If she is in a square adjacent to the king, she can certainly take the king on the next turn if something is not done to stop her.
In these circumstances, assuming that there is no piece protecting the square that the queen occupies (e.g. that would be able to take the king if it was stood in this square) then the king may capture the queen without any problems.
There are no rules in chess which give a queen special powers in these circumstances, in fact, the queen is such a powerful piece already it would seem incredibly unfair if she were to gain more of an advantage in the proximity of the king.
No Queen Only Checkmates
This also means that a queen cannot declare checkmate by herself. This is very important to remember you cannot put, for example, the black king on a8 and then place the white queen in b7 and call checkmate unless the queen is protect by another piece threatening check on b7.
Chess would be a much less interesting game if the queen were able to checkmate by herself.
So yes, the queen can be captured by the king in chess. Though there are certain circumstances in which a king may not take a queen. This is when the queen is protected by another piece so that the act of taking the queen would leave the king in check. A king may not, under any circumstances, move into check but this is the only rule that could prohibit a king from taking a queen.
There is a misconception among some chess players that the king is a “weak” piece. This is not true. In reality, if we gave a king proper credit it is at least as useful a piece as a bishop or knight. It may take in any direction and move in any direction; its only real handicap is that it may only do so one square at a time. In the early game, a king will be strongly defended but, in the endgame, it may become an attacking force in its own right. You just have to learn to get the most out of the piece.