Yes, the king can move diagonally. This piece can move one space in any direction, either forwards or backward, to either side on its left or right, or in any direction diagonally.
As you likely know, the king is the most important piece on the chessboard. Without a king, the game of chess would have no purpose.
For this reason, it is crucial to make the king the top priority on your board at all times. Before moving any piece – including the king itself – you must ask yourself: how will this move benefit the monarchy?
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the oh-so-important king and how to make the most of this slow-moving but essential piece. From how the king moves and captures to maneuvers that can save you from defeat: get ready to take your knowledge of the king to the next level.
Table of Contents
What is Chess Without its King?
When learning how to play chess, you are told of the importance of the king. The tale goes that kings longing for the days of war invented the game to keep themselves busy.
If this was the case, I argued, why did the kings make themselves so weak? We’ll discuss this more in-depth in a sec, but you likely already know that the king can only move one square at a time.
If you’re a king inventing a game, why wouldn’t you give yourself immense power? To smooth-sail like a rook or to jump over the opposition like a knight. Imagine if the king could move like every piece on the board combined: oh the immense power!
It is thus safe to say that the king was never my favorite piece on the board. Who would want to pick the king if you have the moves-like-an-arrow bishop on your side? Even the pawn, in essence, has more moves to its availability when it starts the game.
Then one day, while expressing my dismay towards the king’s capabilities during chess practice, a teacher told me the following:
“Think of the king as an old ruler, slowly walking along his kingdom square by square.”
This statement really got me thinking. Is the king worth more than I originally thought? Of course, now I know that the game of chess would have no purpose without the king, but just humor me for a bit.
The king is basically the head of a 15-piece army. From each and every pawn to the knights and queen by his side: just as they have the responsibility of protecting the king, he has to rule over them. If the king falls, so does the entire army.
When you’re 10 years old and like to think that everything is just a little bit more realistic than it actually is, this is quite the revelation! Today, I am much more fond of the king, and no longer see him as an unworthy burden, but as a piece worthy of protection.
Look, the king is still not my favorite piece – I mean, have you seen the queen move? – but I do respect the king, as one should when playing the beautiful game of chess.
I hope you enjoy learning more about the king as I have! Let’s check out (see what I did there?) the stately king.
How Does the King Move?
The king can move in any direction, but only one square at a time. That is to say, the piece can move one step forward, one step back, one step to either its left or right or one step in any direction diagonally.
As previously mentioned, the king moves slowly. The only other piece that moves in a similar way is the pawn, which can only move one or two squares forward, depending on where in the game the pawn is.
For this reason, it is crucial to think wisely before moving your king. One wrong move could cost you a variety of other moves to get your king back to safety. These moves could, instead, have been used to develop your pieces to attack the opponent.
When it comes to the king, always think twice before moving it!
Can the King Move Diagonally?
Yes, the king can move diagonally in any direction but only for one square at a time.
To explain further, the king can move diagonally to the left, to the right, or in the same direction but only backward.
Unlike the queen and bishop, who can move diagonally for as many spaces as they like as long as the board allows it, the king can only move diagonally one space at a time.
How Does the King Capture?
Like most chess pieces, the king captures in the same way that it moves. For example, the king can capture in any direction – forwards, backward, to the side or diagonally – but only for one space.
If the king intends to capture a piece, that piece must be on the square that the king lands within its reach.
The only piece that does not capture in the same way that it moves is the pawn. This piece moves one square forward (or two when first starting the game) and captures diagonally for one space forward to the right or to the left.
Related: Can a King Capture a Queen?
What should the king consider before capturing?
Before moving at all, the king should always ensure that it is not in danger of check or checkmate.
If a king does set out with the plan to capture another piece, this must be done very carefully. As the king moves very slowly, it is an easy target for opponent pieces on the prowl.
What is check and checkmate?
When a piece threatens to capture your king, you are in check. A player must then move their king or move a piece in front of the king to get out of check.
When a player is in check, they may not move any other piece if it is not to get their king out of chess.
When a player has no way out of check, they are in checkmate.
Checkmate indicates the end of a game. If this occurs, either you or your opponent has lost, depending on who was in checkmate
What Happens if a King Puts Itself In Check?
It isn’t uncommon for chess players to accidentally put themselves in check. This can happen when a player doesn’t see a lurking opponent and moves their king until it is exposed.
This can also happen by moving another one of your pieces and accidentally exposing the king to a threat.
Related: Can a King Capture a King?
Do you then immediately lose the game? Not to fret, all hope is not lost! When a player accidentally puts themself in check, this is considered an illegal move. The player is then given a do-over, to make a move that will not put their king in imminent danger.
As you can see, chess is all about politeness, and we’re definitely not complaining!
What if My King Has No More Legal Moves Left?
If your king is unable to make a move towards safety, the piece is in checkmate and you have unfortunately lost the game.
For this reason, it is so important to protect your king as much as possible. When no other pieces are available to shield the king, it is an easy target for your opponent. They may then use the strategy of sending forward as many threats as possible, until you know longer have any moves to make.
If this is the case, your opponent will state checkmate, indicating the end of the game and your loss.
If your king is NOT in check, and you have no more legal moves available to you, it is called a stalemate. A stalemate position results in a draw.
What Do I Do After Losing a Game of Chess?
As you are likely well aware of, the game of chess is all about class and politeness towards your opponent.
Whether you’ve won or lost a game, it is common courtesy to shake hands with your opponent and congratulate them on a good game. Always be sincere, and never boast when winning a game.
These are, of course, the rules of a formal game. No one is saying that you can;t boast a little (or a lot) when beating your loud-mouth uncle Frank at a holiday party.
What Does Knocking Your King Over Symbolize?
Turning your king on its side indicates that you resign from the game, giving your opponent an automatic win, if they accept your resignation.
Over the years, chess players have had mixed feelings towards resignations, with some seeing it as poor chess manners and others arguing that it is a form of respect to show your respect to another player. The latter is especially relevant if you know that you will not win a game, and you do not want to waste your opponent’s time.
In many tournaments, winning as a result of a resignation will only give a player half a point, as opposed to one point when winning the game fair and square.
A famous example of a chess resignation is that of Oscar Panno, who resigned against Bobby Fisher after one move during a tournament in 1970.
What is Castling?
During castling, a player moves their king two squares towards a rook on their home rank. The rook then moves to the square that the king crossed.
This is a way of protecting your king from opponents, by giving the piece an added layer of protection.
What are the rules of castling?
Before castling, double-check that you are able to complete the move. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- The spaces between a king and rook must be empty.
- The king and the rook may not have moved prior to castling.
- The king cannot be in check when attempting to castle.
- The square that the king lands on may not be under attack. The squares that the king passes over may also not be under attack.
Like multiple pieces on the chessboard, the king can move diagonally in any direction, but only for one square at a time.
When attempting this move – or any move – the king may not put itself under threat. This is considered an illegal move, and the player will have to re-do the move until the king is safe.
In this article, we also discussed other factors of the king, such as how the piece moves and captures, what castling means and everything you need to know about checkmates and surrenders.
Veronica is a Green Bay-based freelance writer and editor with extensive experience with board games. When not busy scribbling her thoughts, you might find her in her garden, hiking out in the woods, or exploring new food joints.
Veronica is a die-hard board game and chess hobbyist by night. She likes to try out new games and is always on the lookout to recruit new players for her game night (so beware!). When not playing board games or throwing darts, she is usually busy painting miniatures (or doing other nerdy stuff).
She is the CEO & Content Writer of Indoor Games Zone. She shares her expertise from years of playing chess, board games, and darts.