Vertical Castling: Is It A Legal Chess Move?

Out of all the rules of chess, the castling rule is probably one of the stranger ones. While thinking of a ‘vertical castling’ move is very creative, the move can only be done horizontally.

Vertical or Pam-Krabbé castling is no longer allowed as a legal chess move by the international chess organization FIDE. Vertical castling is not considered a legal move in chess tournaments, because the rook has to be “on the same rank” as the king to castle.

If vertical castling were possible, it could only be set up with the king in its original position and a pawn promoted to a rook. That’s arguably in direct conflict with the first (and most important) base rule for this special chess move:

  1. The king and rook have not yet moved from their starting position on the board;
  2. The king may not be in check;
  3. The two squares the king moves through may not be threatened with a check;
  4. All squares between the rook and king must be empty.


Also read: What Are The 4 Rules For Castling In Chess?


Vertical Castling Is Not A Legal Chess Move

With the preconditions for castling in mind, it automatically follows that the special chess move is only possible from a horizontal position. After all, the starting position on the board is always oriented horizontally.

No matter what strange things people claim on the internet, if you want to follow the rules of chess there is no possible way to castle vertically.

That includes the extremely rare situation where e.g. the white pawn on e2 makes it to the end of the board on square e8 and is promoted to a rook. This was sometimes considered to be legal back in the day, but is no longer allowed in the commonly agreed-on chess rules:


Vertical Castling Theory
Vertical castling with a third rook (in two steps)


It’s extremely fun to think about theoretical situations like these! But vertical castling with a third rook is not allowed in chess, even though it would arguably have met all the base rules of castling. The denotation O-O-O-O-O-O would have indicated a vertical castling move, if it would have been a legal chess move.

Under the current rules of chess, the pawn moves are also allocated to the new rook. The pawn moved, but the newly created (third) rook hasn’t moved yet. The theory behind vertical castling would otherwise have made it possible.

After all, it would have checked off all the base rules of castling. Let’s go over them once more for this really cool ‘third rook’ situation:

  • You haven’t moved your king yet, and the newly created (third) rook hasn’t moved either
  • The king is not in check
  • The squares the king moves through aren’t under threat by the opponent’s pieces
  • All positions in between the (third) rook and king on the board are clear


It would have been so fun to do this in a real game. But imagine trying to pull this off. A lot of things would have to go exactly your way. For the sole purpose of pulling off that crazy move!

This isn’t considered a legal way to castle in any way, but I’ve already mentioned that. Then how do we castle properly? In case you haven’t learned it yet, let’s explore the proper (horizontal) castling move.


How To Properly Castle In Chess

A visual example might help you understand the castling move the best. After only three moves from the beginning of the game, the white king and rook are able to castle in the situation below:


Castling Horizontally Is Legal
Castling is only possible horizontally, under strict conditions


Castling is done in a horizontal orientation here. The king moves two steps to the right to ‘switch places’ with the rook. The move consists of two seperate parts, one with the king and one with the rook.

Remember that the white king’s starting position is always e1, which allows him to castle to position g1 here. The rook moves from h1 to f1, essentially ‘jumping over’ the king.

It’s a pretty unique move, but it’s 100% legal, as all conditions for castling are met in this situation:

  • The king and rook both haven’t moved yet;
  • The king is not in check;
  • The squares the king moves through are not under threat from the opponent;
  • There are no other chess pieces in the way of the rook and king.


The four base rules of castling are met, and the castling move can be done. And yes, that is always with both a king and rook. If you would have moved the pieces on the other side (clearing the way between the king and the rook on the left side), that would also allow you to do a castling move.

Castling is always a horizontal move, and is allowed in either direction. As a rule of thumb, remember that it’s the only move where the king is allowed to do two steps in a single turn (instead of one). After moving the king, the rook ‘jumps’ to the other side and is positioned right next to the other one.


Vertical Castling: How To Do It Legally

Here’s a little life hack for the chess lovers that like to get creative with vertical castling. Buy a vertical chess board and hang it on your wall, then do the castling move in the most vertical way possible!

There are a lot of really cool wall-mounted straight-up chess boards like these for sale on Amazon.

If there was ever a time to legally do a vertical castling move, this is definitely it. Not only that, it will also look pretty amazing in your living room. Functional decoration that will definitely result in a few cool chess games with friends and family.

Would you get one of these standing or hanging chess boards for your living room? What do you think about vertical castling theory, should they allow it in chess tournaments? Or shouldn’t people bother with it, because it’s such an extremely rare theoretical situation? Join the discussion below.


Vertical Chess Board
Click here to check out these cool vertical chess boards on Amazon

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