The king is the most valuable piece on the chessboard. Once your king is checkmated, you lose the game. So for most of the game you want to keep king safe and away from the action.
But the king is not a weak and useless piece either!
A king can attack and capture the opponent’s pieces on the chessboard, just like any other piece. The only difference is that a king can’t capture pieces that are protected, because that would place your own king in danger.
Let’s go into detail a little more and look at a few examples, so you can start playing attacking chess even with your king!
How the king moves and captures
The king can move one square in any direction as long as that square isn’t occupied by friendly pieces and the move doesn’t place the king in danger.
The position below shows the white king on an empty chessboard. The king has 8 squares it could move to.
So the king can move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, but only one square at a time.
Moreover, you can’t move your king into a check because that would put your own king in danger. But you can move your king out of a check!
In the diagram below, the king only has two possible squares it can move to. The pawns on d5 and c4 and the rook on c3 prevent the king from moving to those squares. Moreover, due to the black rook on e7, the white king isn’t allowed to move to e5, e4, or e3 because it would move itself into a check.
Can the king attack backwards in chess?
Yes, a king can attack forwards and backwards in chess. The only piece in chess that can’t attack backwards is the pawn.
In the position below, the white king can attack forwards by capturing the black bishop, or it can attack backwards by capturing the black knight.
Can the king attack diagonally in chess?
Yes, the king can attack diagonally both forwards and backwards. Capturing diagonally counts as one move, not two moves.
In the position below, the white king can attack and capture either of the two black rooks diagonally.
Can the king attack while in check?
The king can attack other pieces even while in check, as long as the king moves out of the check by capturing and doesn’t move into a new check by capturing.
In the position below, the black queen is checking the white king. The white king can still attack the black knight and escape the check at the same time.
Can the king attack to get out of check?
In the first position below, the white king is checked by the black bishop. Since the black bishop is in range of the white king, the white king can attack the bishop and get out of check.
In the second position, the black knight is giving a check to the white king. Since the white king can’t reach the knight, it can’t attack the knight to get out of check. Thus, the white king will have to move to safety.
Can the king attack into a check?
No, a king cannot capture a piece that is defended, because that would place the king into a check. So in the positions shown below, the white king can’t capture the black rook on d5, because it’s defended by another rook on d2.
Can the king attack the queen in chess?
A king can take a queen in chess if the opponent’s queen is moved directly next to the king and is left undefended. However, the king can never approach or capture a queen on its own, since it can’t move close enough to an opponent’s queen.
The first important thing to notice is that the queen always keeps an eye out on the 8 squares directly surrounding it. In the diagram below, I illustrated this by highlighting these squares in red.
So as long as the black queen stays on the same square, the white king can never approach and attack it no matter how many moves you make.
Moving the king close enough to the queen to capture it means placing your own king in check, which is not allowed in chess.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can never capture a queen with a king!
You can attack and capture the queen if your opponent moves the queen next to your king and leave the queen undefended.
So in the first position below, black just moved the queen to d4 on the last move and the white king can now attack the black queen. But in the second position, the black queen is defended by the black king, so the white king can’t attack the queen and has to retreat to safety.
For more information, you can read the article on whether a king can take a queen.
Can the king attack the other king in chess?
A king can’t attack another king in chess. You are not allowed to move your own king into a check, so it’s impossible for your king to move close enough to your opponent’s king to capture it.
When two kings meet face to face on a chessboard, you get a situation that’s referred to as opposition.
In these positions, neither king can move forwards because that would place them in a check by the opponent’s king.
The diagram below shows what happens when two kings meet on the board. The kings can only move sideways or backwards, but they can’t directly approach each other.
So both the kings are basically staring each other down. Whoever moves the king first allows the opponent’s king to move forwards and gain ground.
For more information, you can read my article on whether a king can kill another king.