What Direction Can A King Attack In Chess?

Once you know how a king moves in chess, it’s time to learn about how a king attacks other pieces. It’s not very complicated and quite similar to its movements on the board.

The rules of chess allow a king to attack in any direction (horizontal, diagonal, or vertical). Since a king is allowed to move one square each turn, he can only capture pieces that are positioned one square next to him, under the condition that the piece is not protected.

Obviously, protecting the king on the board is the primary goal a player should be concerned about. They are meant to survive: a king cannot be sacrificed. Never risk an attack if it makes the position of the king vulnerable in the upcoming turns.

That being said, let’s look at some examples of a king on the offense.


A King Can Attack In Any Direction

Attacking pieces with a king might seem simple on the surface, but there are some conditions for attacking and capturing an opponent’s piece with a king. The most important things to remember are:

  • A king may attack in any direction he is able to move;
  • A king may only attack pieces that are not actively being protected by another piece;
  • A king may only attack pieces that he can reach with his limited range of movement;
  • If the king is put in check, he can take out his attacker (in range), or take out another piece;
  • You can’t attack with the king while doing a special castle move;
  • Only attack with the king if you are certain you don’t put it in danger (or risk losing the game).


King Moves Horizontal Vertical Diagonal
Where a king can move, he can attack undefended pieces


A Can King Attack Diagonally

As a beginner in chess, diagonal chess moves might be a bit confusing. The king can go up, down, left, or right. But he can also go left-up, right-up, left-down, or right-down.  That’s what we call a diagonal move.

Diagonal moves are essentially a single step on a board, just not in a straight line. Wherever the king can move, he is allowed to take an undefended piece from the opponent.

For example, the ♔ King is allowed to move to the right and up from his current position (square d5) in the diagram below, to capture the ♜ Rook on his top-right (square e6):


King Attack Diagonally
A king can attack diagonally, within movement range


You can also attack diagonally with a king while in check. If an opponent’s piece attacks you, you can escape by attacking another undefended piece. Or you can attack and capture the piece that is putting you in check.

In the example below, we make the same diagonal move as before. But now we are being attacked by a ♝ Bishop. Because the piece is currently not being protected by any other pieces of his own color, the king can move diagonal and capture it:


King Attack Diagonally In Check
A king in check can also attack diagonally (under conditions)


Remember to always refer back to the conditions for attacking with a king. Ask yourself the following three questions before attacking:

  • Is the piece you want to take being protected by another piece?
  • Is the piece you want to take outside of your movement range?
  • Does taking that piece put the king in danger in the upcoming turns?


If you answered all three questions above with a firm no, you are good to go. Feel free to attack and capture that piece with your king.


A King Can Attack Forward

The rules of chess allow a king to attack forward one square, as long as the opponent’s piece is not being protected by another piece. The king can attack forward in a straight line, but also diagonally forward to either side.

If the king is in check, it may also attack forward. In general, the same basic rules will apply when capturing chess pieces straight ahead, as they would in any other direction. The example below shows a basic example of a ‘forward king attack’:


King Attack Forward
A king may forward-attack unprotected pieces (within range)


A King Can Attack Backwards

Chess rules allow a king to move and attack backwards on the board. A king is able to attack pieces within his movement range, which is one square backwards from its current board position. Backward attacks are only allowed on opposing pieces that are not currently being protected.

Beginners will often question the ‘backwards king attack’, because the pawn is not allowed to attack backwards. The king also moves slowly, which is where some confusion might come from. However, just remember the basic rules of attacking for the king to learn that backward attacks are permitted:


King Attack Backwards
A king may backward-attack unprotected pieces (within range)


A King Can Attack Sideways

The rules of chess allow a king to move and attack any unprotected pieces sideways, with a maximum range of one square. Horizontal attacks are permitted to both the left and right of the king, even if the king is currently in check.

The basic rules for attacking sideways are similar to a diagonal, forward, or backward move. An example of such an attack is shown in the example below:


King Attack Sideways
A king may sideways-attack unprotected pieces (within range)


Capturing Pieces With The King

The flexibility and the possibilities within the limited movement range make kings effective short-range attackers. There are no chess rules that forbid a king from capturing another piece on the board. However, there are some conditions that should be met.

We discussed the conditions extensively in this overview. The main takeaway is this:

  • Only attack pieces that aren’t protected
  • Capturing is only allowed on neighboring squares
  • Since kings move in any direction, an attack is allowed in any direction


Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, sideways, backward, forward, up, down, left, right? It doesn’t matter! As long as the conditions above are met, killing an opposing piece is fully permitted. Just make sure you don’t walk your royal piece off the board while doing it (because that’s against chess rules). Other than that, feel free to go for the kill if the board situation allows for it.


Also Read: Can A King Take A Queen In Chess?

Leave a Comment