What Pieces Can The King Take In Chess?

If you’ve just started playing chess or are thinking of taking it up and you’ve found that your king doesn’t seem to be there for very much, you may be wondering what pieces it can take? The king, after all, can only move a single square in every direction, are there any other handicaps placed upon it or is the king cruelly dismissed by many chess players who don’t appreciate the power of the piece?

What pieces can the king take in chess? The king can take (or capture) every single one of an opponent’s pieces except for their king, despite its reputation as a weak piece. However, because of the rule that a king may not move into check, there are some limitations on how aggressive the king may be in pursuit of their captures.

So, let’s talk about the king in chess and what you need to know about this underrated piece.

What pieces can the king take in chess? - ChessPulse.com
What pieces can the king take in chess? – ChessPulse.com

The King’s Role In Chess

There is no more important piece on the chess board than the king. You can lose any piece except for your king and carry on but even the threat of capture to the king is enough to sink your plans for good. Thus, there are two objectives in any game of chess.

Firstly, for you to attack and checkmate your opponent’s king and secondly, to keep your own king safely and prevent your opponent from placing them in checkmate. This often leads players to believe that the king is a very weak piece, indeed.

Unfortunately, the truth is that in the early parts of the game and even in the midgame – the king doesn’t have a huge amount of utility for most players and thus, the king can feel like a very weak piece when you’re playing too.

This leads to players discounting the value of their king and treating it as a very fragile piece, indeed, but in reality, once the board starts to clear and the endgame begins – the king can come into its own and have as much value in offense as any other piece.


The King’s Role In Chess Gameplay

In the early part of the game, there are a lot of pieces on the board, both your own and your opponent’s and each piece of your opponent’s is capable of placing your king in check (except, of course, for their king) and this leaves your king vulnerable to attack.

With this in mind, it is fairly traditional to try and keep the king on the last rank where it begins and to try and leave it behind some pawns to protect it. This will often involve castling (more on this in a minute) that allows the player to develop a rook for more offensive play, whilst pushing their king to the corner to reduce the lines of attack.


However, by the time the endgame arrives many of the opponent’s pieces will be gone because the player will have taken them. This means that the king can now emerge from behind those pawns and take part in the final offensive (much as you would expect from a military leader who sees the remnants of their army engaging the remnants of an enemy army).

How good is the king in offense? Well, there is much debate about this. The great chess player, Emanuel Lasker, said that it should be worth 4 points on the traditional chess point scale which makes it the equivalent of a knight (or a bishop) plus a point.

This is because once you reach the endgame, the king is much better for defending your pawns (and by this time, you are probably trying to push these for promotion) than a knight is and it’s much better at attacking the opponent’s pawns than a bishop is.

However, most chess players seem to agree that the real value of a king, due to its weakness in the early stages of the game, is somewhere between a knight and a bishop and thus, it ought to be 3 points too.


How Is The King Placed And Moved?

The king always begins on the white player’s first rank and to the right of the queen. The player of the black pieces then places their king in the square opposite the white king. You can check to see if you have placed the king and queen correctly by checking that the queen is in the square of the same color and the king is in the square of the opposite color.

The king may move in any direction (including diagonally) but may move only one square at a time. He may not move into a square that is occupied by a friendly piece and he may not move into a square that is threatened by another piece (check) and thus, he may not occupy the square adjacent to the enemy king because that would place him into check as well as checking the opponent’s king.

The king may also “castle” and this occurs when there are no pieces between the king and one of the rooks and neither the king nor the rook has made a move before. If these conditions are met, you may move the king two spaces (not one) toward the rook and then you can move the rook to other side of the king on the same rank.

You may not castle if the king moves through check on the square that they have “skipped”. Neither the king nor the rook may capture a piece as a result of castling.


How Does The King Capture Another Piece?

The king captures a piece in exactly the same way as any other piece captures, it makes a legal move (that is one step in any direction) and into the square occupied by that piece and then the opponent’s piece is removed from the board.

It is very important to remember that the king still may not move into check when capturing a piece but apart from this constraint it may freely capture a pawn, a bishop, a knight, a rook or even the opponent’s queen.


Can A King Be Captured?

No. A king may never be captured by their opponent. The game is over if the king is in checkmate (that is they are in check and cannot move into another position which is not also in check and are unable to block the check or take the piece causing check without still being in check). So, the king is never taken. Checkmate means the other player has won.

If, on the other hand, the king is not in check but the only moves available to that player would place her king in check? This is a “stalemate” and is a draw. If you are playing in competition, you would need to ask the arbiter to verify this. In a friendly game, you just need to agree this between the players.


Is The King As Bad A Piece As Many Beginner Chess Players Seem To Think It Is?

No, as we’ve clearly seen – the king is actually a very useful piece in the endgame. It’s just that early in the game, it’s quite anonymous except for moves made to place it in a strong defensive position. Over time, most players will come to appreciate the asset that their king is to their game.


Conclusion

What pieces can the king take in chess? All of them except the opponent’s king. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, while many players consider their king to be useless, in fact, if it were ranked according to its value (as other pieces are) it would be somewhere between a knight and a bishop. Though the king cannot put itself in check or move through check (when castling) the ability to move in any direction is still very useful.

What is important to note, however, is that the ability to only move a single square at a time is a significant handicap on the king’s mobility and the reason you don’t see much movement from the king in the early part of most chess games is that it becomes very vulnerable when there are large numbers of piece capable of threatening it. Later in the game, however, you can see king captures on a regular basis.

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