The king is one of the slowest moving pieces in the game of chess. Usually, the king will only move a single step at a time. However, there is one exception beginners should know about.
The rules of chess allow a king to move one step in every direction (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). One exception is the castling move, where a king moves two horizontal steps in one turn. Castling is the only move in chess where two pieces can move in one turn.
The castling move is always performed with not one, but two pieces. These should be the king and either one of the rooks. Castling is a unique move that is only allowed under specific conditions.
Castling: Move Two Steps With A King
While castling might seem a bit strange to beginners, the move was actually introduced centuries ago to help speed up chess games. While castling will always involve a rook, the move is technically considered a king move.
If you wish to castle with your king and rook, the following conditions must be met:
- Both the king and rook have not moved yet (for the whole game)
- If the king is currently in check, a player may not castle
- If the spaces a king moves through are under a check threat, a player may not castle
- Other pieces shouldn’t block the path of the king or rook
To castle, move the king two horizontal spaces, either to the left or right. The direction depends on the position of the rook you chose to castle with. After moving the king, the rook “jumps over” the king and is positioned one space to the other side of the king.
If you’re still a bit confused after that explanation, our friends over at Chess.com have a great video lesson explaining the move, which you can check out in the YouTube video below:
A King Can Only Move One Space
New chess players are usually a bit confused when they see someone castle. Undoubtedly, castling is a very special chess move. While the castle move is not uncommon in chess, most king moves are ‘pretty normal’. One step in any direction on the board, that’s the normal way of life for a king:
The lack of movement can feel a bit restricting — a single space each turn is not very fast. That’s why making the most important piece in the game walk two steps in one turn is so exciting. It’s like an old grandpa trying to run, we can only cheer him on.
Can A King Move Two Spaces To ‘Kill’?
While a king is always allowed to take an opponent’s undefended chess piece, it can only take out another piece by moving one space. The rules of chess do not allow the king to ‘kill’ an opponent’s piece two or more spaces away, not even with a castling move.
Attacking another piece with the king can happen, but it should not be the primary strategy of a beginning chess player. The king is the most valuable piece in the game, and losing it means losing the game.
If you’d like to take out or ‘kill’ other pieces, the best course of action is the choose the offense with your pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, or queen!
Tips To Walk Two Spaces With A King
If you’re new to the game of chess, let me motivate you with a challenge. Are you able to make the king walk two spaces? Here’s what you should focus on when trying to castle for the first time:
- Move your knights and bishops out of the way at the very start of the game
- Try not to walk with your rooks or king — at all!
- Block any incoming threats to your king with your pawns, queen, knights, or bishops
- If the coast is clear: make your move and let the king walk two spaces
It might take a bit of practice to learn unique moves in chess. If you have any questions about how to pull off a castle move with your rook and king, feel free to join the discussion below. Also let me know if you pulled off your first one ever, because it can really motivate other newcomers!