Explained: 4 Things To Do After Castling In Chess

Castling can be a super powerful move in chess, and you should know how to make effective use of it. The big problem most players face is “when to castle” but then after they have castled, they’re often left scratching their heads over what to do next. So, we’ve got a simple strategy guide that can help you make the right decisions after you’ve committed to castling.

What to do after castling? If you are castling on the king’s side, you should probably bring your rook out on to the board and pay the tempo for doing so. If you are castling on the queen’s side, you should either unleash your rook immediately or move the king into a more defensible position.

There is a genuine strategy to castling so let’s look a little further.

4 things to do after castling in chess - ChessPulse.com
4 things to do after castling in chess – ChessPulse.com

What Exactly Is Castling In Chess?

Castling is a “special move”. It is the only move in chess in which you may move two of your pieces in the same turn. It involves the king and either rook.

The way it works is this:

  • The king and the rook you wish to castle must not have moved previously – if either of them has, you cannot castle to this side.
  • The rank between the king and the rook must be empty of material – no pieces of yours or your opponent’s may sit between them
  • The squares that the king begins on, moves through or ends on must not be in check – that is you cannot castle out of, into or through check
  • You begin the move with your king – you pick up the king and then move it two squares in the direction of the rook along the rank, this is very important. There is a rule in chess known as “touch a piece” move a piece and if you touch the rook first, you will not be able to castle because castling is considered to be a king’s move not a rook’s move.
  • Then you end the move with the rook – you pick up the rook and move it to the square adjacent to the king on the opposite side of the king from where the rook started

The first rule of castling also means that you can never castle twice in a game as the king will already have moved even if you drag it back across the board to its original position.

The First Thing You Do After Castling

The first thing you do after castling on the chess board is to write down which side that you castled to on your score sheet. Because you are moving two pieces, this is an awkward thing to do with the standard algebraic notation and thus, there is special notation just for castling.

A castle to the king’s side (sometimes known as “short castling”) is written on the sheet as O-O. This is meant to represent the fact that the two pieces end up either side of each other with the king travelling a short distance of 2 squares.

A castle to the queen’s side (which is sometimes known as “long castling”) is written on the sheet as O-O-O and that’s meant to represent the pieces swapping sides but with the rook travelling an extra square on the board while the exchange takes place.

What To Do After Castling In Chess?

To determine what to do after castling, you need to prepare for it before you castle. That means you need to learn the strategy of castling. This begins with a study of your opponent’s intentions and moves.

Chess Is A Game For Two

You don’t play chess on your own (at least, not if you want the game to be interesting) you play against an opponent. This is true, even if the opponent is a computer program or online bot. That means you need to examine their strategy as you formulate your own.

The biggest question for castling is whether you intend to go king’s side or queen’s side? The earlier in the game that you castle, the less information you will have to hand to make this decision. Now, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to castle early and, indeed, if you leave it too late to castle – you may find that the ability to castle is taken from you by your opponent.

Castling King’s Side Early: Getting The Rook Out

So, to begin with you want to see how your opponent is massing his or her or its forces. Then you want to react to that.

Generally speaking, castling to the king’s side is seen as a defensive move. It puts your king farther into the corner and assuming you haven’t been pushing pawns very much on that side, it also leaves the king behind a defensive line of pawns with a rook guarding his flank.

If you are castling early to the king’s side, the odds are pretty good that you’re not thinking of the move as a completely defensive one. You’re going to want to open up that king’s side rook and get it out into the battle in the center of the board. This is going to cost, in most circumstances, one more move than it costs to get your queen’s side rook into action after castling.

However, the price for this may be more than worth it if your opponent is amassing his forces on the queen’s side, you’ve just disrupted their plans and their assault is now in the wrong part of the board.

Castling Queen’s Side Early: Instant Rook Availability

Most people that go with a queen’s side castling opportunity do so because they can immediately release their rook onto the center of the board.

This is an extremely powerful technique and if you can see how your rook might help you gain control of the center (this is the key objective in chess during the opening and midgame – the more pieces that you can pack into the center, the greater the area on the board that you control – this is how computers score positions, in terms of area controlled) then castling queen’s side can make sense.

However, you need to remember that your king is more likely to be exposed after castling to the queen’s side. If you want the king to enjoy the protection of a strong pawn structure, you’re probably going to have to expend a move to get it there.

Be Aware Of The Problems Castling Can Bring After The Move

It is also worth considering that while castling can be hugely advantageous in a game of chess. It can also bring about problems.

Your king can end up very vulnerable after castling and worse, it might end up being sidelined in the endgame. Because the game is over if our king ends up in checkmate, many chess players forget just how strong the king can be in the endgame. If we gave the king a points value – it would be worth more than your knights and bishops and just less than your rooks.

In the endgame the king is particularly good for protecting and attacking pawns – especially those that your opponent is trying to promote.

There’s also the minor issue of castling too early. If you don’t have a good reason to castle, it’s probably better to leave it until later and develop your pieces elsewhere. Castling doesn’t provide any protection if you castle too early because your opponent won’t have had the chance to build up their forces on either side of the board.


What to do after castling? There are 4 things that you might want to do after castling. The first (and mandatory if you’re in tournament play) should be to write the move down. It really does make it easier to analyze your games if you record them and it’s good practice even when you’re not playing in a tournament.

In addition, you may if you have castled to the king’s side want to spend a move and release your rook into the center of the board. If, on the other hand, you went to the queen’s side then you may wish to make use of your now center aligned rook immediately or alternatively, let the king slink away into the relative safety of the corner of the board.

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