The king and queen – the two mightiest chess pieces on the board. A common question those looking to get into the game have is: Can a king take a queen?
In chess, a king can capture the opposing queen if she falls within his attack radius and is not defended by another piece. The king can capture one square in any direction. If the enemy queen lands right next to a king and gives him a check, he will be able to capture her.
Although on paper, it seems like a king can easily take a queen in chess, there’s much more complexity involved. In this article, I’ll help you understand king and queen dynamics in chess with examples and images.
- When Can a King Take The Enemy Queen? – 5 Examples
- When Can a King Not Take The Enemy Queen? – 2 Examples
- Should You Use Your King to Attack the Enemy Queen?
- Related Questions
- Final Thoughts
When Can a King Take The Enemy Queen? – 5 Examples
Before we jump into it, let’s quickly talk about how the king moves and attacks in chess. If you’ve already played a game or two, I’m sure you know that the king can move one square in any direction – whether forward, backward, sideways, or diagonally – as long as he isn’t stepping into a check.
His attack pattern is exactly the same. The king can capture undefended pieces within a one-tile radius of him. But can he capture the enemy queen?
Yes. No rule prevents him from doing so. However, there is one very important thing to note.
The king can’t creep up on an enemy queen like it can on other pieces. Bear with me for a second.
You can use your king to run down a knight, a bishop, and even a rook in the endgame, given that you have enough space to work with.
However, you cannot use your king to chase down the enemy queen. Like the king, the queen’s attack pattern also covers a one-tile radius immediately around her.
The king can never enter an enemy queen’s surrounding one-tile radius.
So the only way your king will ever be close enough to the enemy queen to capture her is if she lands immediately next to your king of her own initiative.
This also means that anytime your king is close enough to the enemy queen to capture her, he will be in check.
Okay – if that’s a little too much to digest all at once, don’t worry. You’ll understand what I’m talking about once you see the below examples.
1. The Enemy Blunders Their Queen
Just now, I mentioned that for you to capture the enemy queen with your king, she has to be the one move within your king’s attack range.
One of the simplest ways this can happen is if your opponent blunders. You’ll rarely come across a full-fledged queen blunder, even in low elo.
Here, the move queen d7 to d2 is a clean blunder. The white king on e1 can safely capture the black queen on d2. With this move, the fate of this game is sealed. Black virtually has no chance of winning.
In fact, that is white’s only available move.
Now, this is just an example. Again, something like this is unlikely to happen in your own games – you can’t be expecting your opponent to blunder like this.
Although, if they do, you should definitely capitalize on the opportunity and make them pay for their mistake by grabbing their queen for free.
2. There is a Queen Exchange
This is the most common scenario where you’ll get the opportunity to capture the enemy queen with your king.
Any half-decent chess player won’t be giving away their queen for free. They will, however, exchange her for the opposite queen if the exchange helps them get a better position.
The two queens are worth the same, so it’s an even exchange. It can, however, benefit one side more than the other.
For example, when white has an active queen that’s targeting vulnerable squares on black’s position, and black’s queen is hanging around at the back rank, not doing much at all – Black will want to exchange queens.
Here is an example of a queen exchange that ends with a king capturing a queen.
In most cases where you can capture the enemy queen with your king, it will have been the result of a queen exchange.
3. The Enemy Exchanges Their Queen For Your Pieces
Keep in mind that your opponent doesn’t always have to go for a queen exchange to give up their queen. If they can get, say, two rooks for a queen, it’s probably a trade worth making.
Or if they exchange their queen for two of your minor pieces and a pawn (which equates to a 2-point material loss for them) but are able to acquire a much better board position by doing so, it may be worth it.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to trap the enemy queen by cutting off her escape routes with your pieces.
When the enemy realizes that their queen’s death is imminent and unavoidable, they’ll settle on getting as much for her as they can.
In this event, your opponent, instead of waiting for you to capture their queen, will capture one of your lesser pieces and give up the exchange.
The enemy will lose more material than you, but they don’t really have a better option.
The alternative is to let the trapped queen hang around at her spot until you capture her on your terms, which, for obvious reasons, your opponent is unlikely to opt for.
If you can trap the enemy queen and get her to exchange herself for one of your minor pieces or a rook, you definitely should. It’s a win for you.
4. The Enemy Sacrifices Their Queen
Some consider the queen sacrifice to be the pinnacle of chess. After all, sacrificing the strongest chess piece for a higher motive, when done successfully, is quite the spectacle.
An opportunity to sacrifice a queen advantageously rarely ever pops up in chess. When it does, though, you could see your king capture the enemy queen, only to be checkmated by the remaining army mere moments later.
5. The Queen Just Promoted From a Pawn
You’ll run into this scenario from time to time. Endgames are all about escorting your pawns to the enemy’s back rank while ensuring they can’t do the same.
You may delegate the task of preventing enemy pawn promotions to your king. In that case, if the enemy attempts to promote their pawn to a queen on your back rank and your king is close enough to make it there in time, you’ll be able to capture the just-promoted queen.
Here, for example, the white king on f2 can capture the newly promoted queen on e1. Had he been one square further away, the game would have been lost for white.
When Can a King Not Take The Enemy Queen? – 2 Examples
Let’s talk about instances where the king cannot take the enemy queen and why. It’s important to know these so you don’t end up actively moving your king towards the danger.
6. The Opposing Queen is Out of the King’s Attack Range
In this position, the black queen on c3 falls outside of the white e2 king’s one-square attack radius. Therefore, he cannot capture her.
What’s important to realize is that he cannot even attempt to attack her. As you can see from the movement options, the black queen virtually has a 1-tile radius of her own around her that the white king cannot enter. Doing so would be moving the king into check, which is against the rules of the game.
The white king is helpless against the black queen and, barring any blunders from black, will eventually run out of squares to escape to and get checkmated.
7. The Queen Is Defended By Another Piece
The king cannot capture any defended pieces whatsoever. This principle exists as a consequence of the rule that prevents you from moving your king into check.
Capturing a defended piece is the same as moving into check since your king would end up on a square that would put him in check.
So, if a defended queen approaches a king, he cannot capture her, even if she’s within his attack radius. Have a look at this example.
Here, the white king on g1 is being hunted down by the black queen, who just landed on h2.
Even though she falls within a 1-tile radius from the king, he cannot capture her because of the support from the h8 rook.
Unfortunately, white’s only option is to escape while the queen continues her assault.
Should You Use Your King to Attack the Enemy Queen?
While you should certainly capture the enemy queen with your king if your opponent blunders her away for free, this will almost never happen once you’ve moved past the beginner level.
What will happen far more often is an exchange or a trade, after which you’ll have your king to clean up.
Also, it’s important to understand that the king is a rather poor combatant.
- He has a minimal, 1-tile attack radius. This means he can only attack enemy pieces directly next to him. All the other non-pawn pieces can attack long-range.
- He moves one square at a time. This makes bringing him to the frontlines arduously slow.
- He is prone to checks. Your enemy can keep checking you one move after another, eventually leading to a checkmate.
- It’s too risky to bring him to the front lines. Checkmate means you lose the game instantly. Checkmating a king in the open is something even beginners can do.
That is, until the late game – when the major pieces are off the board, and it’s much safer. Until then, it’s best not to use your king to attack the enemy queen and just keep him tucked away in his castle in the corner.
People also frequently ask these questions.
Can a King Kill a Rook in Chess?
The king can kill any piece that falls within his one-square attack radius, be it a pawn, a minor piece, or a major piece, like rooks and queens. The only criterion is that the piece has to be in range and unprotected.
Your king will often be going up against surviving enemy rooks in the endgame, so you should get comfortable playing against them. Rooks don’t cover all the squares immediately around them as queens do, so – one square at a time – your king can get within range to attack.
Can a King Take a King in Chess?
A king cannot take a king in chess. This is yet another consequence of the rule that says a king cannot be moved into check. Since kings have a one-tile offensive radius around them, they can never end up face-to-face with each other. They’ll always at least be one square apart.
Can the King Capture His Attacker?
Yes, a king can capture his attacker, as long as the said attacker is in range (right next to the king) and doesn’t have a piece defending them. The capture will result in the source of the check (the attacking piece) being eliminated, which is one of the three things you can legally do while in check.
The other two are:
- Move the king out of check.
- Block the check by interjecting a piece between the king and the attacker.
The king can indeed take the queen in chess, but this happens rarely.
Your opponent could blunder a queen by moving it next to your king, but this will only really occur in newbie games. What’s much more likely to happen is that your opponent trades queens and you recapture using your king.
The king is a pretty poor attacker, so he should be kept in his castle until the endgame.