There you are, in the middle of executing your elegant strategy and then out of nowhere! Boom! Your opponent has put your king into check. This can be super frustrating and it might even throw a spanner in the works of your plans, but do you have to move the king out of check or is there something else that you can do instead?
Do you have to move your king in check? You don’t have to move your king when he is in check. However, you are obliged to get him out of check immediately. When your king is in check, your next move is always to get him out of it. You can move your king to do so, but you can also block the check with another piece, or capture the piece that is putting the king in check.
Let’s take a closer look at the rules of check and what they mean for you as a player.
What Is The Purpose Of A Game Of Chess?
Chess is a competitive sport and thus, while there are three possible outcomes to a game of chess from a player’s perspective: win, lose or draw. The purpose is to try and win the game. This means that the player must fulfil a winning condition under the rules of chess.
There are four ways to win a game of chess but only one way to win via play:
- Your opponent may be disqualified. If you are playing in a competition and your opponent acts against the specific rules of the tournament or in such a manner that they cannot be allowed to continue the game for whatever reason, the arbiter may disqualify them.
- Your opponent might resign from the game. A player in a game of chess may declare that his opponent is the winner at any time. They do this, traditionally, by laying the king down on its side and saying, “I resign”, they may also offer their hand to shake at this point. There is no rule that says a player must be losing at the point that they resign but in most cases, players resign when they feel they are so far behind that they cannot hope to win through further play.
- Your opponent might run out of time. Timed chess tournaments are a standard in order to ensure that players don’t keep a game going for weeks or months. This means that each player is allotted a certain amount of time to make all their moves in. If they use all the time but still have moves to make – their opponent can claim a win.
- Your opponent is in checkmate. This is the only condition that can be reached through the act of play itself. This is when an opponent’s king is placed in check and they cannot move out of check, block the check or take the piece that is causing check.
Thus, the purpose of a game of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king.
What Is Check And What Are The Rules Surrounding it?
Check is what the situation is called when an opponent’s piece threatens the king in such a manner that if the other player does not move their king, take the threatening piece or block the threat with a piece of their own between the king and the threatening piece, that the opponent could take their king on the next move.
The rule of check is pretty simple. If your king is in check, your next move must be to get your king out of check. If this is impossible, you are not in check, you have lost the game and it is checkmate.
There is no rule, however, that requires your opponent to inform you that you are in check and this is important because if they do not and you don’t notice that you are in check, you may spend some of your valuable time examining moves that don’t get your king out of check.
In most friendly matches your opponent will declare “check” after moving but a player in a tournament may not be so generous.
So, Do You Have To Move Your King In Check?
No, you have three options that can get your king out of check:
- You can take the piece that is threatening check – this may be taken with your king (as long as it is a legal move) but it may also be taken by any other piece on the board (again, as long as it is a legal move).
- You can block the check – this means putting one of your pieces, not the king, between the king and the attacking piece. Obviously, you cannot block the check if the attacking piece is a knight or adjacent to the king but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable way to get out of check.
- You can move your king – this means moving the king to a square on which it is no longer in check
Thus, though there are three options to get a king out of check, only one of those options means that your king has to move, though another option may mean that the king has to move, when you block check, however, there is never a time that the king moves.
You should be aware that you cannot castle out of check even if you have not moved the king or the rook and, indeed, you king may not move through a square in which they would be in check during the act of castling. So, castling is not a way out of check.
Remember: If you cannot move your king out of check, then you are in a position of checkmate not check and you have lost the game.
What Happens If A Player Makes A Move And Doesn’t Move Out Of Check?
Assuming that your opponent is playing under tournament rules and has not informed you of check, then you may have missed this and made a move that didn’t get your king out of check.
It is quite common for players to miss “check” when it is a revealed check (that is the piece, that puts the king in check, is not the piece that was moved but rather an intermediary piece has moved opening up the line of attack) particularly if they are not very experienced.
In this instance, assuming your opponent has noticed the situation, they should point out that you are in check. Then you must reverse the move that you made and make a new move that gets you out of check, instead. Any time you wasted on the wrong move, sadly, will not be added back onto your clock.
Thus, it’s in your interests to carefully review the board after an opponent’s move in a tournament and to make sure that your king is safe before you hatch any plans to play other moves.
Do you have to move your king in check? There is nothing in the rules that obliges you to move your king at all throughout the game. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t be forced to move your king when it is in check and this will happen fairly regularly if you play chess at any king of level above pure beginner.
A player who’s king is in check is required by the rules of chess to get out of check on that turn. They may not make any other move while the king is in check. If they can’t move out of check, this is checkmate. That means if you cannot block check with another piece or take the threatening piece with another piece, you will have to move the king if it gets you out of check. So, perhaps the right answer to “do you have to move your king in check?” is “sometimes”?