Can the King capture?

Can the King piece capture enemy pieces in chess? Yes, it can capture, assuming the enemy piece is within the King’s range (1-square in any of 8 directions). But there is an important limitation. The piece or pawn being captured by the King must itself be unprotected. If any other enemy piece or pawn is protecting the first enemy piece, then taking the enemy piece will cause the King to move into check from the second piece, and it is then an illegal move. A King cannot capture a protected piece.

A common example in beginner games is for a player to place a Queen up to the King, squashing the King against the board, like a valid checkmate. Except that this occurs sometimes with an unprotected Queen. The King can simply capture the Queen! It’s only checkmate if the Queen is itself protected by a second enemy piece, so that the King cannot capture the Queen.

Can the King capture the enemy King? Well, not in any legal way! It is actually illegal for a King to approach another King closer than having 1 empty square between them. If the Kings are next to each other horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, that’s actually an illegal position because both Kings are in check, and an illegal move must have been played. Only in chess tournaments where “taking the King” is allowed (i.e. illegal moves are “allowed”) can the King walk up to the other King and threaten the King. Of course, the threatened King can actually take your King first, and they win!

Related Chess Rules Topics

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