King safety is one of the most important factors in a chess game.
Learn why and how to castle in chess.
Table of Contents
What is Castling?
Castling is a legal move that involves tucking your king in a safe square usually protected by pawns and minor pieces.
In castling, the king is able to move away from the center of the board where it can easily come under heavy pressure to the sides of the chessboard.
Here, it moves away from enemy pieces and it becomes properly guarded.
How is Castling done?
Castling is carried out by altering the position of the king and the nearby rooks ( either the rook on a1 or the one on h1).
Before going further, it is necessary to know that there are two types of castling: We have Kingside Castling and Queenside Castling.
As the name implies, Kingside Castling is done on the kingside.
The king already on the e1 square moves two times to the right, landing on the g1 square, and the kingside rook on h1 is transferred to f1.
In other words, Kingside castling is said to be done when the king moves from e1 to g1, and the rook on h1 moves from that square to f1.
Similarly, Queenside castling is done on the queenside.
This type of Castling is also known as “Long castling” while the former (Kingside castling) is known as “Short castling”.
Queenside castling is called long castling because of the noticeable distance between the king on e1 and the queenside rook on a1.
This type of castling is similar to kingside castling with few differences.
To castle Queenside, the king moves from the e1 square two times to the left and lands on c1 whilst the queenside rook on a1 moves all the way to d1 at the right-hand side of the king.
In other words, the king moves from e1 to c1 while the Queenside rook moves from a1 to d1.
In this way, we say castling has been carried out.
Rules of castling
Castling like other chess special moves has some rules to be followed. These rules include:
- To be able to castle either kingside or queenside, the rooks and the king must have not moved at all. This is a very important rule to take note of. If the rook on a1 has moved already, then queenside castling is not possible. In a similar vein, if the rook on h1 has moved too, then kingside castling is not possible, and if the king has moved in any way, then it’s not possible to castle either kingside or queenside.
- The king must not be in check at the start of the move, though it may have been in check previously in the game. Lots of beginners make the mistake of trying to castle when the king is suddenly under attack. To castle successfully, the king must not be under any sort of attacks such as check or checkmate.
- You can’t castle when an enemy piece is covering the castling squares. For example, If black has a white squared bishop on a6, then white won’t be able to castle kingside as the bishop already covers the f1 square. In other words, the square over which the king passes must not be under attack (‘in check’) from an enemy piece.
- In as much as the king must not be under some sort of check or under attack from the enemy pieces, the king must not place itself in check after it has castled. For instance, if castling kingside would put the king under check immediately when it is done, then it’s not possible to castle that way. This rule can be confusing but by playing regularly, you would be able to deduce whether it’s possible to castle at that moment provided that the enemy pieces are not obstructing the castling squares.
- The king must be the first piece moved; not the rook. In tournament play, If the rook is moved first, then the king must stay where it is. This mainly applies in “strict rules of chess” where if a piece is touched, it must be moved. This thus calls for care in handling and touching pieces during tournament play.
- The squares between the king and rook must be vacant. You can’t just simply castle when there are other pieces between the king and the participating took, the squares must be vacant for castling to be done.
Why should I castle?
Many beginners tend to ignore the precarious position of the king in the center leading to quick losses most of the time.
The aim of chess is to capture the opponent’s king i.e. once the king is captured, the game ends.
For this reason, the king must be kept as safe as possible from enemy pieces, and in order to achieve this, learning how to castle in chess is quite necessary.
Many beginners who prefer keeping the king in the center do not see the need for castling and this invariably leads to them losing games most of the time.
Every experienced chess player knows that castling is a very important move, this is why castling occurs in almost every chess game among experienced and titled players.
Castling helps to keep your king safe from immediate danger and it also allows you to develop your pieces quickly.
For example, In kingside castling, the inactive rook on h1 is transferred to the f1 square activating the rook.
Chess is an unpredictable game, so sometimes we may find our king stuck in the center and not been able to castle probably due to the fact that the king has moved before.
In this case, we can adapt what is unpopularly known as “Artificial castling”.
It’s just like castling but the difference is that this one is quite manual and takes several moves to be achieved, unlike the normal castling which can be done in just one move.
One classic example of artificial castling in a game of chess occurs in Benko gambit accepted opening. After 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 g6 7.e4 Bxf1, The king is forced to take the bishop on f1 and can’t carry out the normal castling.
However, the king can maneuver his way to g2 by playing Nf3,g3, and finally Kg2 while the rook on h1 can then be transferred to f1 or e1.
In this way, we can say ” artificial castling” was done.